Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Would You Do?

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by Taylor Miller

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!

So here's what we're asking, "What would you do ..." if you were in some of the following situations? What would you tell our readers? What is your best advice?

YOU might be the best person in the world to answer someone's question ... and we want to provide you with that ability. So, go for it!

If you'd like to respond to a question, leave a comment, and be sure to indicate to which question you're responding: (e.g., Q1: This is what you should do ...)


Q1: Curt and Marcia Stowell write: I have a hen with a very large crop all the time, even 1st thing in the morning.It does not receed at all over nignt.She is a polish top hat about 14 months old. she has acsess to both size 1 & 2 granite grit. is there any thing that I can do for her?


Q2: Beth writes: After gathering fresh eggs and refrigerating them, I
noticed that when hard boiled, the white of the egg sticks to the
shell and it is very difficult to peel. This does not happen to store
bought eggs. I am wondering if refrigerating the eggs is the reason
because I hard boiled one that I had not refrigerated and it hard
boiled fine and was easy to peel. I have given eggs away to family who
have mentioned that they also are unable to peel the cooked eggs. How
long can eggs remain unrefrigerated and would this have any effect on
peeling cooked eggs?


Q3: Shery McHorne writes: I'm a complete newbie to chicken raising and have a cockerel that NOBODY wants. (I'd keep him but our zoning prohibits it.) I have concluded that this rooster needs to become a roaster, but I don't want/know how to do the deed myself. I have read other folks talking about taking chickens to a processor. Who are these processors and how do you find them?

Also, how does one caponize a rooster? Is it a job for a vet? And, how will that change his temperament (e.g., will he lose his aggressive instincts?) Most importantly, will it mean that he no longer crows? Our cockerel hasn't started crowing yet, so we're still under the
radar. If caponizing would prevent him from crowing, I could still keep him.


Q4: Theresa Porterfield writes: I think my chicken has fowl pox. are the other 4 going to
get it? if there are eggs are they ok to eat? Will I have to "cull"
her? Will I have to start over with the flock? they are 1 year last
April. They are free range in my urban back yard. I have 2 dogs as
well. is it catching. Can I do anything about the others? Is there
prevention. I am trying to have them be organic with the feed ect.
THey got the Mereks shot before I got them from My Pet Chicken.
Thank you for your help.


Q5: Jill Eaton writes: More than half of my flock of egg-layers has lost the feathers on
their head and about 1/4" down from the comb. Funny thing is it has
only affected my Red Stars and my Black Stars. My larger all-purpose
chickens and my barred rock and two Auracanas have not been affected.

Also, I have two Red Stars that have molted all the feathers off their
backs and have been naked for 4-6 months now. No sign of new

They get clean water every day, layer feed, oyster shell and lots of
vegetable matter from my organic garden.


Q6: Gina Burns writes: I live in Oklahoma and we are in the midst of a heat wave.
108 today with no end in sight. We have 11 hens and we are finding
rotten eggs in our yard. We know they are recent because we walk the
yard all day and they won't be there one minute and then the next
there will be four sitting around. Although our chickens have the run
of the yard they have never laid anywhere but their coop. We know it
is not that they go rotten in the heat because they might only be
sitting there maybe 30 minutes before we find it. The chickens have
access at all times to water and shade. Can a chicken lay a rotten
egg? They are light and slosh around when you shake them. Has anyone
ever heard of this? Any suggestions? Thanks


Q7: Barb Donahue writes: I purchased my chi in February 2011. My first purchase was 6
white pulleys and 3 weeks later I purchased 5 red chix. I have been
getting eggs for about a month. Usually four to five a day. All white
but one brown egg. I only ever see the white chix in the nesting
boxes. When can I expect the red ones to start laying or why aren't
they laying. I am a new chix farmer also. Please help...


Q8: Cindy Fonzi writes: I have one chicken who has no feathers on her bottom. It
is also very red. I've tried dusting more and spraying with the blue
medication. Still she is not getting any feathers. Could this be the
lst chicken in the pecking order?


Q9: David writes: Do I have to have a rooster? If I had a rooster I would
not know how to tell which eggs were usable or which had chicks.


Q10: Kenneth Cole writes: The problem I'm having is that all of my hens are losing
their feathers in the saddle area of their backs. They are 14 months
old. I have 14 hens and one rooster. They have appropriate food, fresh
water, and space. I see no picking of each other or other
irregularaties except that the rooster is a proficient breeder. Could
he be the problem? The flock has never been in contact with other
poultry and the coop is new. Egg production is down 50 to 60 percent
of what it was during the winter months. This started occuring in
april when they started to moult and they never grew back their
feathers. They still have voracious appetites and generally are calm
and gentle. They are buff orpingtons.


Q11: Deanna Osborne writes: We've had our chickens since May. My husband built our
coop. It has the nesting boxes in the back with a wire floor in front
and two doors that swing out that has a ramp they can go up to the
that part from the ground. But they can also get under the
nesting/wire floor area and seem to want to make their nest there and
we can't seem to keep the straw in the nesting boxes. Any suggestions?


Q12: Robin Meares writes: My 4
month old Barred Rock has been making the LOUDEST noises at 6:15 am - 9am. The only neighbor to complain is my own 19-year-old daughter whose bedroom is above the coop.

I tried adding a bowl of scratch inside the coop (they have food and
water at all times)last night and the noise did not start until 7:15
am this morning. I need more suggestions. My daughter is beyond upset
to be woken at this hour during her summer vacation. HELP!


Q13: Vianna Engel writes: My adult chickens seem to have a "cold",
they cough some and have a slight discharge from their eyes and nasals
at times. I have had them on Tetracylcine powder for a week now, and
they are much better but just don;t seem quite their perky selves. I
have also been putting vitamin and electrolite powder in their water
too. Any suggestions?


Q14: Zsaneen writes: Hello, we are just getting into the chicken thing, and
think that two of our young hens might be roosters. We have gone
online to compare pictures of young roosters and are wondering when
young roosters get their spurs, because ours haven't yet. They are a
few months old now and making some weird noises and we don't want to
make any close neighbors mad, as we live in town and our chickens are
in the backyard. Thank you!


Q15: Judy writes: At what age should I start switching my bantam chicks from
starter to grower feed?


Have a question of your own? Post it in our forum - or shoot it over to editor@communitychickens.com


  1. Q2: I just boiled some with no problems for the first time last weekend!! I put them in the fridge for 2 weeks -- the fridge soaked some of the moisture out through the shell. I started with cold water covering the eggs plus an inch -- they all stood up straight like soldiers. I put it on high till they boiled, added 1/2 a tablespoon of salt, and continued to boil for one minute. Then turned off the heat and put a lid on for 15 minutes. Finally I ran cold water over them and refrigerated till they were cold. They cooked perfectly, peeled perfectly and didn't have any yolk turn green either!!

  2. In answer to Q2: store bought eggs are older than your fresh eggs right from the start, which is why the shell doesn't stick when you boil them. If you allow your fresh eggs to age a week or two, the thin membrane that surrounds the white and yolk will have separated from the shell, essentially creating a very thin air pocket so that when you boil the eggs, they aren't stuck to the shell.

  3. Q6: Don't know if this is helpful, but we have been suffering through this heat wave in Kansas City too. I am not good at picking up eggs at all - they may sit out in the heat for a full week. Then on my counter for another. I have not had one go bad yet! I would guess that means your birds are ill. I would try to get them to a country or avian vet. I also read an article about how to help chickens with the heat and they recommended frozen peas and cold watermelon as treats for hot chickens - mine love both.

  4. Q3: Caponizing is a job for the vet, but will not stop your rooster from crowing. It's done when they are very young to prevent them from chasing hens, so they fatten up. If you want to turn him into a roaster, find a butcher shop - they may do the deed themselves, or they will put you in contact with someone who will.

    Q9: No, you absolutely do not need a rooster. Hens will lay eggs whether they are fertile or not. However, if you end up with a rooster accidentally (sometimes one gets into a batch of sexed pullets anyway) you do not have to tell the difference - eggs are eggs. Chicks do not begin to form in fertile eggs until they've been sat upon for a day or two (called brooding - and I do mean a day or two - a broody chicken will sit on the nest for 23.5 hours a day, only getting up long enough to eat and drink once or twice, then rushing back to the nest) so as long as you gather your eggs daily, all your eggs will be completely usable.

  5. Q10: yes, that is definitely a sign of an overly assertive rooster. He's pulling the new feathers out before they even get to grow in. Try separating him from the hens for a little while to give them a break.

    Q11: the wire flooring probably hurts their feet, and / or the nesting boxes don't feel as secure as under the coop does. Try putting eggs back into the nesting boxes and leaving them there for a day or two, so there are always eggs in the box - this may prompt them to move back to the boxes. This method has worked for me - my hens wanted to lay under the shrubs in my yard, initially :) Enclosing the boxes a bit more (putting a "ceiling" on them, for example) may also help to make them feel safer. Incidentally, do you live where the weather gets cold in the winter? If so, your wire floor will not only hurt their feet, it will also allow cold air to gust right up into the coop all winter long. A simple tarp on top of the wire would help, along with a thick layer of straw, to act as insulation. Then you can pull the tarp out and dump the contents into your compost heap when the coop needs cleaning, instead of having droppings piling up under the coop.

  6. Q8: My lady with no tail feathers is the bottom of the pecking order. Last fall I tried trimming the beak of the worst abuser and that seems to have helped the abuse, but the damage is done, my bottom girl can't seem to recover. I did see a product which might help if you have caught them early enough... it was like a coat to cover the bald spot with elastic that held it on by streching over the wings. It was made of heavy denim, and I thought a soft fussy inside would be nice for winter. This blocks new pecking and allows the area to heal. I've also heard that if you can figure out which one is doing it you can remove that offender from the flock for a few days and change the pecking order. OR... I have not tried the product that is basically blinders for chickens; which are supposed to keep them from pecking one another. Read this article right here on Community Chickens... http://communitychickens.blogspot.com/2010/10/feather-picking-and-pinless-peepers.html

  7. Q2: Fresh eggs are hard to peel after boiling because there is little to no air pocket inside. Store bought eggs are older and therefore a larger air pocket. If you candle your eggs you actually measure that air pocket to Grade the egg. Your local Dept of Agriculture will usually provide you with a grading card that helps you measure the air pocket. Meanwhile to assist in peeling a very fresh egg add vegetable or olive oil to the water it will enter the shell thru osmosis and assist in peeling. The oil does not effect the taste of the egg.

  8. Q 10. The problem is caused by the rooster mountng the hens. I have seen protective shields online that protect the hen's back, but I don't know how effective they are. The rule of thumb is one rooste to nine hens. I seems you may have an over productive rooster. He may slow down as he ages, but other than making a nice pot of coc au vin, there's not a lot you can do.

  9. Q12: Your hen may be pretending to be a rooster. In the absence of an actual rooster, often one of the hens will take on the job of crowing on occasion - it makes the rest of the hens feel more secure. Alternately, if she's not making a faux crow (you can tell if it's an attempted crow) and is just making a ruckus, it could be a number of things. If she's just laid an egg, she may make a fuss (it's usually done out of instinct, to "distract" any potential predators from the nest, once she's off the egg). Or she may want to lay an egg, and another hen is sitting in her preferred spot. One other thing to check for is if there's a cat or some other animal that comes around that time of morning, that may be scaring her. I am assuming she's not the only chicken - if she is, then she's lonely. Hens should always be kept in groups, never alone. If it turns out she's just making a ruckus, and it's not something scaring her, then add some insulation to the coop, so long as there is still good air circulation. We have a tin roof on our coop, for instance, and have lined it with insulation that we then covered with a tacked on tarp to keep the hens from getting into it, and it helps to keep the coop cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and cuts down on some of the noise, when they're inside.

  10. Q 14. The best way to tell is by the comb. As a rule the combs of roosters are much larger than the combs of hens.(Although rose combs are harder to distinguish.) This trait is visible much sooner than the spurs, which take longer to emerge. Hens have been known to make crowing sounds and approximately one out of 10,000 chicks carry traits of both sexes.

  11. Q15: are you raising your bantams to be layers, or to be broilers? Usually only hens that are going to be butchered are put on "grower" feed - it makes them get very large, very fast - these birds aren't meant to live long. It can cause serious health problems, including bone deformations (from being too heavy for their legs!) for hens that you intend to keep around for a few years while they lay eggs for you. You'll want to switch them to layer feed - 16% protein if they get to forage in the summer, 18 to 20% protein in the winter or if they do not get to forage for bugs in the summer. They will grow slower, but be healthier - making them fatter by feeding them "grower" food will not speed up their beginning laying date, as that is determined by their sexual maturity, not size.

  12. Generally it takes about 20 weeks(five months) for hens to begin laying. Switching them from starter/grower to lay ration at twenty weeks should get them going. Make sure they get polenty of light as the amoundt od light they get affects egg production. Since you got them in February, you should be seeing some eggs soon.

  13. Comment on Q6: I live in Las Vegas, NV and my chickens survive both extremes our summers a normally over 100 degrees right now about 110 and then the winters are 19 degrees. Never let eggs sit out long periods of time in the heat we harvest at least 4 times daily until we know they have all provided today's collection. Then we clean package and refrigerate immediately. If your eggs are sloshy they are bad and the chickens are probably sick it has nothing to do with the high temps. Chickens provided water and shelter from the direct sun or cold then good feed will do very well in the heat and cold.

  14. for Q2: This is always a little tricky with fresh eggs. A friend told me to very gently crack the wide end of the egg (tap it very gently on the counter, just enough to make a hairline crack or two). Then place the eggs in a pan of cold water. I bring it to a gentle boil for a minute or two, then let them sit until the water is tepid, at which point I refrigerate them. Occasionally, you will have cracked an egg a little too hard and it will leak out of the shell, but this method has worked well for me.

  15. Q2: I have found I have good luck with steaming my fresh eggs rather than boiling them. I place a veggie steamer in the top of my pot of water and bring it to a rolling boil. Place the room temperature eggs into the steamer and cover. Allow to steam for 20 min. Turn off the heat and remove the eggs from the steamer and plunge them into ice water. The ice water stops the cooking process and shocks the egg away from the shell. Once the egg is completely cool (refrigerated), I gently roll the egg on the counter to lightly crack the shell. Then I place a spoon, bowl side toward the egg, under the shell and remove the shell with the spoon. I still have an occasional shell that gives me a hard time, but most of the time it comes off very easily.

  16. Q5: Do you have roosters? Roosters will often pull the feathers on the back of a hens head when breeding. They will also pull them off of their backs. Believe it or not, they sell (or you can make) hen saddles to help prevent feather loss off their backs.
    If you don't have roosters, they could be lacking protein. You can feed them cat food for more protein and it will help with feather growth. Otherwise check them for mites, which can also weaken the chickens and cause them to loose feathers.

  17. Q1: ***If this is a recent problem then you may be dealing the beginnings of a sour crop. If this is the case a good flushing is recommended. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of epson salt in 1 ounce of water. Give the hen about half a crop's worth of the clear solution. Massage the crop around to get everything moving. Be gentle you don't want to make her puke. This can cause her to asspirate. Once everything is moving along the crop should return to normal. ***If this is not a recent issue then the hen most likely has a distended crop. The crop cannot draw up leaving food/water in there all the time. This is a problem that cannot be fixed. You can help your hen live a good life if she is a pet. You have to be on watch for a soured crop and check her weight often. A daily massage of the crop to help move old material out and help keep the crop from getting soured. There is a chicken bra for this exact ailment, but most birds will not tolerate it.

  18. Q4: You do not mention which form of Fox Pox. ***The first is the dry form. This where you will get the wort type lesions on the comb and face. This is spread very quickly and mostly likely all your birds have already been exposed. It will take about 2 weeks to run its course in each bird. This is just one of the diseases that they have to get through. You can try to make them as comfortable as possible and help speed things along. To help lesson the impact you can dap each lesion with iodine or betadine. This will help dry the pox out faster and keep it from getting to the eyes. If it gets in the eyes the bird can go blind. Once it has gone through the flock they will be immune to it in the future.
    *** The second form of fox pox is wet and this is really nasty. it is slow moving and can be deadly. With this form you will have lesions in the beak/mouth and throat. The lesions are hard to control and can fill the throat to the point a complete blockage. The bird can die slowly from dehydration/starvation. The lesions can also cover the top of the trachea or form in the trachea suffocating the bird. With this I would recommend separating out each symptomatic bird. Also adding Oxine to the waterers will help prevent the pox from spreading. With Wet Pox I also HIGHLY recommend vaccinating everyone immediately. The vaccine is cheap and easy to give. It can/will prevent alot of heart break.

  19. Q7: Most likely your Whites are Leghorns. They are an early maturing breed that will lay ALOT of white eggs. The others are probably Production Reds or Sex-Links. These should start laying at 6-7 months old. Each individual bird will be different. You also have to take in to account how they are raised, environment, and if they have had any problems(parasites or sickness). All should start laying by the end of their 7th month at the latest.

  20. Q11
    i wonder if they don't like walking over the wire. my hens walk across a perch area to get to their nests and have always used the nest (tho only one, go figure)

    i started feeding "adult" food to my hens as soon as i put them outside and the last bag of chick feed was gone. i also supplement with table scraps, wild berries, and lots of fresh grass.

  21. In regards to question 3 and caponizing the rooster, it is something that has been done by the person raising the chickens, I would compare it to castrating calves. But it may not be something you WANT to do. You might be able to find a large animal veterinarian who would perform the procedure. You need to make a clean incision and be able to find and remove the testicles. I think most people have success with it who have done it often. I covered it lightly in my blog if you want to read about it. My grandparents had done it a few times, that's how I heard about it :) http://thechickenwire.blogspot.com/2011/04/jimmerson-coop.html

  22. Q-11, try pine shavings that have come from untreated wood, do not use cedar products, they smell good to us, but animals hate the odor, straw is a favorite to scratch thru and look for seeds and grains, and gets pushed out of the box in the process.

  23. Q10- this could be one of 2 problems or both, usually one rooster will not do enough feather pulling with he breeds to affect that many hens, it sounds like they are pulling each others saddle feathers, it's a nasty habit and almost unbreakable... "rooster booster' puts out a products called "pic-no-more" apply this to the affected area and see if it stops, also? is the rooster himself affected? if so you definitely have a picking problem.

  24. Q4 and other vet required questions, for any animal owner I highly suggest going to your local book store and purchase the newest addition of the 'MERC" veterinary manual, it covers everything, all the vets use them and they are available to buy even though you are not a licensed vet. a MUST have for any animal enthusiast.

  25. Q2- we have a commercial organic chicken operation, and I pride our sales of very fresh eggs, most folks do not know that store bought eggs can set in the temp controlled warehouse for weeks, before they are even cartoned up... these eggs are what we call 'aged' as the eggs ages the air sack inside the shell begins to grow, as the solids in side begin to shrink, this is what what them easy to peel, for very fresh eggs I keep them in the fridge for 1-2 weeks before I hard boil them so they will peel!... eggs that the albumen (white) sticks to the shell! are very fresh good eggs. "congrats on having great eggs!"

  26. Q8 & 10 - I have had great luck with using an ointment I make out of coconut oil and tea tree oil (1 tbs coconut + 5 drops tea tree). I have had chickens with completely bare backs and/or bottoms get restored when I smear a little of this ointment on the affected areas. I repeat after a week if I don't see much improvement, however, often only one application is necessary before you start to see feathers growing back.

    Q13 Whenever I see a chicken start to look sick in any way, I put a few drops of grapefruit seed liquid in their water (10 drops /gallon). Grapefruit seed extract is a natural antibacterial and antiviral. Their little droopy combs perk right back up and the color goes back to a nice red. You can find it at healthfood stores. Also, to keep parasite loads down, I use diatomaceous earth in their feed (3 lbs/100lbs feed). Keeps them clean and healthy.


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