Learn how to keep your hens safe from developing illnesses!
Lately, there have been some negative backyard chicken articles popping up in the mainstream media that I want to address.
What do those words on the egg carton mean? Print your very own chicken-nary here!
You wouldn't spray chemicals in your baby's crib to clean it, would you? Of course not. Nor do you want to use chemicals when you clean your chicken coop, no matter how dirty it gets.
In a rural pocket of the Shenandoah Valley, a 12 year old named Josiah is raising quail, for fun AND profit.
This month's "Cool Coop" is an inspiration to all those folks who choose to embrace retirement and undertake the projects they had dreamed and planned for when they had the time.
Just like it is important to make sure that we are getting all of our dietary needs on a regular basis, it is the same with chickens. Did you know that there are a variety of supplements that you can use in your chicken's diet to help promote their health?
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The first year is usually a cinch. You get your tiny little flock, everyone grows up together and everyone goes out into the coop together. Done! No pecking order problems, no introduction phases, everyone gets along.
But what about the next year? How do you integrate new spring chicks into an existing flock?
Another issue that I face (and maybe you're experiencing this as well) is that I have different birds/breeds coming available at different times. We picked up some Leghorns, Welsummers and Bantams early in the season, they are now (what I would refer to as) teenagers. They're feathered out, but still very tiny compared to our adult hens.
I also have some tiny week-old Buff Orphingtons and Black Jersey Giants in the brooder. I'm waiting for a call on some Partridge Cochins and I even have plans to fire up the incubator later in the season with some Oliver Eggers.
Here's some insight as to what we're doing with our revolving flock, and a few suggestions to make this transition easy!
Why not just place the feathered-out chicks into the pen with your adults? They're all chickens after all?
You would think that they would all just get along, and sometimes, they do. But...sometimes they don't. Pecking order can be a brutal process. Depending on the type of chickens you raise, how much space is in your coop and other magical factors that only chickens understand. Even after following all these careful separation steps, I've still had the rare occurrence of a chick getting injured by a territorial adult. It's usually a head wound. They'll grab the head feathers a little to roughly and it causes a sore. Sometimes, if it's not caught in time, other members of the flock will be drawn to this spot and continue to peck the poor chick. So best to be overly cautious and try to avoid this.
The Dorm Room
There's a few ways to go about separating birds and introducing different groups at different ages. But more than likely you're going to need a second holding pen, we call this the dorm room. It's like the teenage party wing, where the chicks are still learning how to be adult chickens. They're out of the nest, but not quite into the adult world. I'm lucky in that we have a few different pens around the farm where I can set up a teenage wing, or an outdoor brooder if the situation calls for it.
Ideally, this area would be part of your existing coop with some sort of see-through, smell-through partition like chicken wire, garden fencing or a large dog crate. This works best because the adult chickens get used to seeing the chicks. They can interact with them somewhat, but the chicks are still safe.
When to Move?
Raising Chicks and 5 Ways to Better the Brooding Experience.)
Once the chicks are feathered out and getting too old/messy for the indoor brooder, we move them to the teenage wing, which is a sectioned area in front of our turkey pen connected to our coop. I keep them here until they are about 2/3 the size of our adults. It doesn't take long.
They key is that you want them introduced, especially if you have cockerels that will be living with roosters, before the males start crowing. This will prevent cock-fighting. Pecking order is different than cock-fighting, and if done right, the young cockerels learn where they belong in the flock, and you shouldn't have a problem with raising more than one rooster. (For more about raising multiple roosters read my post Keeping Roosters Together.)
How to Introduce
The day you decide to introduce, be willing to spend a good amount of time watching your chicks interact with your adult flock. There will be some pecking and chasing and that's ok. Let this occur to an extent. Sometimes the chicks will be chased to a corner with their heads down, where they will stay for a long time. Some of the hens will give them a good peck on the head if they attempt to eat before other hens, which is why it's smart to have more than one food dish. This is all normal behavior, and although it might be a little sad to watch, it's part of your new flock's dynamic. They're communicating with each other and it should be a short process.
When to Step In
Don't remove a chick unless the pecking/chasing is relentless or dangerous. Each time the chick is removed, it will have to begin the pecking order over again, so if it's not in danger of being wounded, best to let it get done and over with. If you do feel that the pecking is getting out of hand, I've found it works better to remove the aggressor rather than the chick. By removing the adult and placing them in a separate area for a while, this sometimes confuses the territorial behavior and when the chicken returns to the flock, it has to re-adjust to it's surroundings and tends to leave the chicks alone.
Hopefully these tips will help this spring to those of you who are adding to your flock. Do you have any tips on how to introduce new members to an existing flock? I'd love to hear them! Share your comments below or on the Community Chicken's Facebook Page.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Ideally, I wish we had a warm garage or some sort of isolated outbuilding that I could put the brooder in. But we don't have a garage, and I don't like heat lamps in the barn. Even with a heat source, our spring nights get bitter cold, and I'm not sure if it would be enough for baby chicks to keep warm.
So like many of you reading this with a box of chicks in the spare bathroom or basement or in our case, our sun room, our chicks reside in the house till they feather out and the weather warms up.
Now in all fairness, raising chicks in the house is relatively easy especially when compared to other animals that are commonly raised indoors. There is a small mess factor, but all animals make messes. Dogs shed, cats have liter boxes, aquariums need water changes...and though a dirty brooder box may emit an odor, in my opinion, it doesn't hold a candle to a dirty hamster cage.
Here are 5 ways that I've discovered to make your chick's indoor stay less messy, less stinky, and easier for us as chicken keepers. (Also check out my post Raising Chicks to learn the basic needs of chick brooding.)
1. Air Purifier
Ok, so this might be an expensive investment for the soul purpose of brooding chicks for a few weeks out of the year, but we already have one that we use in our bedroom at night. I have terrible allergies and as luck would have it, I'm also allergic to pine. I've tried alternative bedding options, but as far as the absorbancy, ease to clean and over all effectiveness, I like pine shavings the best. So I choose to suffer through my allergies until the chicks go outside.
It dawned on me one day to move the air purifier into the sun room and see if it helped with the air quality of the chick room. I was really, really surprised at how effective it was. Not only do I see a difference with my sinuses as far as the pine is concerned, but there is significantly less "chick" dust in the room and barely an odor, even when the box needs cleaning. So depending on your budget, it might be worth the investment.
A word about using it in the same rooms as chicks. Make sure that the fan isn't blowing directly on chicks. A draft can cause a chill in chicks and make them sick. I feel like it would work best with brooder boxes with solid sides to help block any draft that might be created.
2. Air Diffuser and Tea Tree Oil
This spring I tried the diffuser in our sun room with the chicks and added a few drops of tea tree oil. The nice thing about tea tree is that it's a very purifying and cleansing oil. It also has antibacterial properties. So unlike an artificial room spray, it actually has air cleansing properties and doesn't just mask odors.
My mom came to visit and she's somewhat of a critic when it comes to keeping chicks in the house. But she told me that she couldn't smell the chicks at all and the brooder hadn't been cleaned in several days.
If you aren't familiar with tea tree oil, it has a strong herb-y smell that reminds me of pine or mint. It can be mixed with other oils like grapefruit to make your home smell wonderful.
3. Use The Biggest Container You Can Manage
It might sound counter-intuitive, like a bigger box might seem like a bigger mess. But for those of you who have ever set up a fish tank, you know that a larger aquarium stays cleaner than a small one. Same goes for chicks. The more room you can give them, the cleaner your brooder will be and the less often you will have to clean it.
4. Tablecloth Liner
Now you'd have to take into consideration how many times you clean your brooder and how thoroughly you like to clean it each time. I like to freshen things up each day by adding a new layer of chips over the old ones. Sort of a mini deep liter method. Then once a week I scoop everything out and replace completely.
If I use the table cloth method, This would give me 5 complete cleans for $5. For me, that's not a bad deal.
You have to be careful when removing the table cloth because the ones I found were not made from the best quality of plastic. I've had a couple small tears but I was able to contain the mess until I got outside. The ease was definitely worth it in the end.
For a more earth friendly option you could use a re-useable tarp. Just dump the contents on the compost, hose it off and let it dry in the sun. You're still doing a fair bit of cleaning, but at least the mess can be brought outside. We've done this in the past with our ducklings. (For more about brooding duckings read my post 6 Easy Tips For Duck Brooding Success.)
5. Nipple Water System and a GIVEAWAY!
Chicks love to scratch, and in confined quarters like a brooder box, they can easily fill up a clean waterer with bedding material. And let's face it, it's a pain in the neck to clean in the house. The soggy wood chips have to be scooped out and if you scoop them into the brooder it gets everything soggy. And if you don't get them all out of the waterer, they clog your drain when you re-fill the water. It's just yucky!
Solway Feeders. (Now located in the US!) They're easy to install into a bucket and the whole system is closed so the water stays super clean which is healthier for chicks and easy for you as their keeper. And thanks to Solway, you now have a chance to win a set of nipples for your own brooder!
Simply leave a comment below with your name, email and why you like raising chicks and I will select a winner on Tuesday April 15th, 2014!
For more information about how you can purchase the Side Mounted Horizontal Nipples or other great products from Solway, visit their website.
Also visit the Iron Oak Farm Blog for step by step instructions and a video on how you can use the Solway water nipples to create your own bucket waterer and the chance to be entered in another GIVEAWAY!
Saturday, April 5, 2014
As chicken keeping continues to grow in America's backyards, people are slowly beginning to wonder just what the quality of life is for egg laying chickens raised in the commercial setting. Many hens raised for eggs are sent to slaughter at 18 months of age. According to farmers' their height of egg laying is over. As soon as these hens are whisked away for processing, new chicks are brought in and so it goes. Many commercially raised hens spend their lives in very tiny cages with many other hens. Some have their beaks trimmed to deal with feather pecking. Their combs are pale and their quality of life is dismal. But there is hope.
|Photo Credit: Debeaked battery hen|
|Photo Credit: Typical battery cages with hens|
|Photo Credit Rescued ladies|
Ex-Battery Hen Online Resources
Animal Place (California)
British Hen Welfare Trust
About the author: Melissa Caughey is a backyard chicken keeper, beekeeper, gardener, and cook who pens the award winning blog, Tilly's Nest. She lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with her family of four and her Miniature Schnauzer. She regularly writes for HGTV Gardens, Community Chickens, Grit magazine, and contributes to Country Living Magazine. Her blog was recently named one of Better Homes and Gardens Top 10 Gardening Blogs. Melissa is currently working on a backyard chicken book with Storey Publishing to be released this upcoming year.
Friday, April 4, 2014
|warm cloth on chicken|
|All clean and rinsed!|
Monday, March 31, 2014
Every week at Community Chickens, we get dozens of questions from people across the world, hoping to find someone who has shared a similar experience. We try to answer them all, and forward them on to experts where we can. But many of the questions are unique, and because of this, we realize that sometimes the best people to answer the questions are precisely the people who are or have been in your shoes. This is why we often ask our guest bloggers to tackle questions - and they do such a great job!
|Facebook photo by Michael Lake|
I am wondering how in the world I would manage dust (glass window "walls" may help; coarser, "washed" sand? I don't know about dust bething . . ) , and if I would need to get into the clipping of wings. I would have liked them to roam (the yard is fenced well), but am not willing to risk a public escapee.
I like to work through as many potential conundrums as possible *before* venturing into such a project - so many thanks!
We don't know why this has happened, and was wondering if it was safe to use their manure on our garden this Spring.
If they have a disease or a health problem of some sort, will that translate to the soil from their manure ?
I know this might be a gardening question, but we trust the info from you and your site.
We will have only 1 hen left if this second one expires and we were wondering if she should be culled for butchering, or is it best not to chance eating her ?
We are starting a new flock of 6 chicks that are 2 weeks old and were thinking of using our present coop to house them in in 6 weeks or so.
Do you recommend any specific type of cleaning of the coop that would kill any disease or other problem that might be lurking there ?
Thank you so much for any help you can give us.
|Facebook photo by Dee Waters|
I'd appreciate your comments/suggestions.
at my door step. They free range over 3 acres of grass and wooded areas
and they only place I mind their poop, is at my stoop. Any ideas?
|Facebook photo by Jim Smoot|
1. My backyard neighbor has 3 giant german shepherd dogs that NEVER EVER shut up. the barking is constant. Will that stress a chicken or two too much?
2. My cat is a total predator. She kills and eats everything her size or smaller. Obviously if I get chickens I'll have to keep them in a cage (probably a tractor type thing), but if the cat is always stalking them, will they be too stressed to lay?
3. Are chickens really quiet enough to get away with in a HOA neighborhood with rules against them? As long as I don't start telling everyone I know that I have them, then they should be quiet enough to get away with, right?
Click here to answer.
What's the earliest a cockerel will start trying to crow?
Click here to answer.
|Facebook photo by Kim Mullen|
Q16: Greg writes:
I am building a chicken tractor and want to get something straight. I am planning on buying 5-6 chickens and keeping them in the CT for a week or so and then letting them out to walk around. Shouldn't these chickens come back to the CT toward night to roost without me having to chase them down??
Click here to answer.
Q17: Jonnie writes:
I went out to feed the chickens this morning and noticed two eggs on the floor of the coop. Before I could reach in there to get them, the roo stepped on one and broke it. Immediately, all 5 of my hens jumped on it and started eating it! I was able to get the other one out. I have noticed a SERIOUS reduction in eggs lately, but I don't know if this is due to egg eating. How can I stop this behavior or does this mean doom for my the majority of my small flock?
Click here to answer.
Can a chicken coop be put on concrete or gravel or does it need grass?
Click here to answer.
Anyone have any tips on cleaning sticky bottom chicks?
Click here to answer.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Typically around this time, we start our seeds off indoors in seed trays. Once the seeds have germinated and are a few weeks old, we begin to "harden them off". On warmer sunny days, we bring the trays full of seedlings outside to the picnic table, so that they can acclimate to outside temperatures. We bring them back indoors in the evening. We do this for about a week. After a week or so, we then plant them in the garden.
Soon enough, it's harvest time. When sharing fresh vegetables with your flock, always be sure they have access to chicken grit and fresh drinking water. Also, if you have applied any garden chemicals, be sure to give them a good washing prior to sharing. Here are seven great plants that tolerate the chilly evenings of early spring, are easy to grow and perfect for you and the flock to enjoy.
This vegetable is a relative to broccoli and chickens will not only eat the flowering white portion but also enjoy dining on the leaves and stems as well. Full of potassium, Vitamins A, D, B12, B6, C, iron and magnesium, the chickens get a healthy dose of nutrients.
I love growing Swiss Chard and in the Northeast, it can grow like a weed. Once in the ground, our plants produce all season long until the first hard frost in fall. Swiss chard is rich in Vitamins A, K, C, E, B12, calcium, iron, folate and fiber.
To chickens, this entire plant is edible including the leafy greens. Carrots are a great boredom buster and keep the flock busy as it takes a bit of work to eat them. Carrots of course are known for beta-carotene, but they also are a great source of vitamins A, C, B6, and potassium, Try growing heirloom varieties that come in many gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, purples and pinks. Next time for a little fun, try tossing an entire carrot plant into the run as a treat.
NOW the GIVEAWAY
Friday, March 21, 2014
Thursday, March 20, 2014
We spend a lot of time at the feed store. Goat feed, chicken feed, wormers, buckets, pails, tractor parts, bedding, fencing, vitamins...yeah the folks over at the feed store see a lot of us. As many of you know it's chick season and in my many "ins and outs", picking up things that the farm requires, I've spent a good amount of time hanging over the cattle gates, staring into the red lit troughs filled with adorable chicks and ducklings that the feed stores get in this time of year. This post is meant to be my own light-hearted response to the many battles I've witnessed between child and parent over those unsuspecting brooder boxes, which usually starts out with "PLEASE, PLEASE can we get some!!!" I'm in my thirties, but I'm not so old that I don't remember that same, earnest, childhood plea like it was yesterday. My poor father, on one unsuspecting Saturday trip to get bird seed at the local co-op. We came home with a box of broilers, with no idea what to do with them, no idea that they would get huge and too fat for their own legs. But it seriously changed the rest of my life. And I now live on a farm and write for a living, owing much to that first box of chicks. This post is in no way meant for children to read without their parents permission or a serious attempt to get children to trick their parents into pets or animals that aren't wanted. But I hope that if you are considering getting chickens for your kids this spring (which if you're snooping around Community Chickens, I might not be too far off eh? eh?) that this might help you to think through what might be involved. You might feel compelled to read this to your kids to help them understand what it is they're asking you to commit to. Or you might simply read it yourself and chuckle the way I did, at recalling the memory of child who dreamed of skipping through the grass with a basketful of eggs.
So if you're reading this, you've got some good things on your side. You're old enough to use a computer and to read so you're probably old enough to take care of chickens because it's pretty easy. But you've gotta do it for real. You can't just promise and then back out. Chickens need food and water everyday, they need their pens cleaned often which can be a little gross and stinky and you might even get chicken poop on your hands, yuck! And if you live where it snows, then you'll have to take care of them in the cold. Is that something you can handle? Would you be willing to get up a little earlier before school, get bundled up in the winter and bring them water? Think hard now, really imagine what it will be like. Ok, can you do it? Cool, read on!
Ok, next thing. If you were in a feed store with your parents you've (probably) got some more good things on your side. Feed stores tend to sell stuff that help people who live in the country. So if your parents went to the store in the first place, you might have a backyard big enough, and your neighborhood might allow you to have chickens. You've gotta find that out first. Ask your parents...real casual like, maybe at the dinner table. Comment on your mothers delicious meal, eat your broccoli ...yup all of it, and then mention your curiosity about the rules of keeping chickens where you live. If you're neighbors already have chickens, chances are you're in the clear. So read on.
They need a place to live. Ok, this is the hardest part. Chickens need a house that is safe from wild animals. Foxes, racoons, hawks, even your dog might hurt your chickens. It's not their fault, that's just what those animals eat, like when you eat a chicken sandwich. These animals don't understand that the chickens are your pets so you have to keep them safe. You will probably need your parents help in making a chicken coop. This might cost some money too. So think about how you can offer to help your parents with this. Do you earn an allowance? Can you do extra chores around the house, or maybe help the neighbor rake leaves or shovel their sidewalk, (with your parents permission)? Do you have a birthday coming up? Maybe trade the toy you were hoping for on your list for a chicken home or the supplies to make one for your chickens.
Ok here are the good things about chickens that you need to tell your parents.
1. They're so, so, so cute!
Sometimes mom's can be swayed just with this alone. But you have to remember that they're going to grow up, and they're going to be a big chicken for much longer than they'll be a little chicken. Will you love them just as much when they're not all small and fuzzy?
2. The whole family will get fresh eggs.
Eggs that come from your own chickens taste sooo much better than the ones at the store and they're usually better for you too. This is because you'll take such good care of them, so they'll be very happy and lay great tasting eggs.
3. It will help you be responsible.
Know your stuff before you even mention chicks to your parents. Tell them that you know that you will have to feed them and give them water every day. Figure out how you will do this each morning, and each evening. Make sure you think about nights when you have homework or after school activities like dance or sports. If you have brothers or sisters, they might be on board too and they might be willing to share the responsibility.
Your family will also have to buy chicken food, grit (which is little rocks that help chickens chew their food) and bedding. You could mention that this might be traded for the cost of eggs that your mom and dad won't have to buy at the grocery store anymore. You could also talk to your parents about selling extra eggs to the neighbors. I've heard of children paying for their own college with an egg business. You might not be able to do something that big, but you might be able to save a little money in a piggy bank.
5. It's educational.
Learning about animals helps you learn about life. You will get to see how a bird grows, how it's fluffy baby down will turn into colorful, stiff feathers. You will learn where eggs come from and maybe even learn to cook a few recipes all by yourself. (With your parents permission) You will learn all the sounds that chickens make, how they scratch and flap their wings and live their little chicken lives. And sadly you might learn about death. Sometimes chickens get sick, or have an accident, and unless your family is vegetarian, you might even eat chickens. This can teach you about where our food comes from, how special chickens are and how much we miss them when they're gone. But you can also feel good because your chickens lived a happy life because of you!
6. You could join a club like 4-H.
4-H is a great club that helps kids like you to get together with other kids who like to raise animals, grow gardens and all kinds of other fun stuff. See if there is a group that meets by your house and ask your parents if you can go learn more about the club.
So that's all I got. Good luck to you in your mission. Parents, if you can think of other reasons why raising chicks is a great idea for families to do with their kids, I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or visit the Community Chickens Facebook Page.