Category Archives: Chickens

Broody Hen – What Do I Do Now?

Broody means that a hen wants to hatch her eggs and raise chickens. Broodiness is driven by several factors including genetics, hormone, instinct and lighting conditions.
Almost all breeds will go broody, including Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Silkies and many of the Bantam breeds. Others are less likely to go broody.

If You Only Have Hens the eggs won’t be fertile and won’t hatch, so there is no point in letting the hen sit on those eggs. If you do want to hatch chicks under your broody hen, you may be able to get fertile eggs from someone in your area.

Let a Broody Hen Hatch Chicks
It is best to isolate your broody hen so she is not disturbed by the other chickens. It takes about 21 days for a hen to hatch eggs, and she will be sitting in a nest box for the majority of that time with few trips daily to get a drink, eat, and poop.

As the hatch date draws near, be sure to also have on hand some starter feed for the chicks. Starter feed contains more protein than layer feed and is formulated to help the baby chicks grow properly. Chick starter feed will be fine for the broody hen as well.

As the baby chicks start to hatch, check on them frequently (several times a day) to make sure they are doing okay. Her egg clutch was not laid in one day, so it may take 2 or 3 days for all her eggs to hatch.

Breaking” a Broody Hen
As soon as you notice that your hen has gone broody transfer her into a cage that is well lit and that has a wire mesh bottom. I use an old rabbit cage.
The floor of the cage should be several feet off the ground. The idea is to make the cage not feel very private, she will not have any nesting materials in this cage. Provide her with food and clean water. Within a few days, usually 3 or 4 days, she will cease to be broody, then you can return her to your flock of chickens. .

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Winterizing Your Hen House

Winterizing your chicken coop.
Keeping your chickens safe, dry and warm this winter will insure you have a steady supply of fresh eggs through the cold winter months.

Install a full daylight spectrum, 6500K color temperature CFL light bulb on a timer so your chickens get a full 15 or 16 hours a day lighting from artificial and sun light will keep your hens laying well year round.

The annual cost of operating a 150-Watt Equivalent Daylight (6500K) Spiral CFL Light Bulb 6 hours a day at $0.11 a kilowatt is about $9.50 a year and you can expect you bulb to last 4 to 5 years.Your cost to light your hen house will be about 80 cents a month.

Currently at my location sunset is about 7PM. To get 15 hours of lighting I wake my chickens by setting my time to turn the lights on at 4AM an off about 8:30AM. Every month or two I will adjust the timer as needed to keep 15-16 hours a day lighting in my hen house.

Look for and repair as need rodent damage, places where rats, mice or snakes can gain entry into your hen house.

Clean windows and vent screens to allow winter sun light in and vents to allow fresh air to circulate in your hen house. Chickens will spent a great deal more time in their house during cold, wet or snowy winter weather.

Insure that you have feeders located to keep feed clean, dry and away from rodents.
Fresh water is very important to the health of your flock.
You may want or need to invest in an elect powered heater to keep your chicken watering devices ice free this winter.

Carefully inspect and repair fencing as needed. As food becomes harder to find and catch, predators like raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, stray dogs and cats will be looking to snatch a quick easy meal and your chickens will be high on their menu.

Remove old nesting materials, bedding from nest boxes. scrape sweep and remove old litter materials from hen house floor.

Put straw and old nesting materials on your garden as winter mulch on add it to your compost pile.

Wash hen house walls, floor, roost and nest boxes with a mild mixture of soap water and household bleach.
Mix bleach and soap water at a 1:5 mix rate. That being 1 part bleach to 5 parts warm soap water.
While not an exact 1:5 mix rate, to 1 cup bleach, add water to make 1 gallon of disinfectant wash water.
Keep chickens out of their house until walls, floor and nest boxes are dry.

Hint: There are a number of industrial and household disinfectants what work well. Be sure to follow ‘all’ mixing and usage instructions, warnings and caution statements. Wear eye protection and always wear rubber gloves when using any cleaning chemicals or disinfectants.

Fill nest boxes 1/4 to 1/3 full of new clean straw, grass hay or what ever is your choice of nesting material.
Spread 3 to 6 inches deep straw litter on hen house floor. This will help keep your hen house clean, dry and will also help keep your hen house a bit warmer than a house with a bare floor.

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Naked Chicken

Maybe this post should be Headed with ‘Where have All My Eggs Gone’.
As day light hours are reduced and temperatures drop many times your chickens will go into Molt cycle.

Molting is normal and all birds drop old feathers and grow new feathers every year. Molt is just more pronounced in some types of birds than others.

Molting is a natural process that chickens go through annually so they can replenish and replace their feathers. Chickens need to grow new feathers to allow them to effectively regulate their body temperature especially those in colder environments.

Chickens will molt several times during their lives. The first molt is called a “juvenile” molt and occurs when they are only 6 – 8 days old. During this molt, the baby chickens actually lose their downy covering to replace it with actual feathers. The second juvenile molt occurs for the male when he is about 8 -12 weeks old when his ornamental feathers will come in.

The first adult molt typically starts around 18 months of age and occurs in the late summer or early fall. This molt will last approximately 8 – 12 weeks. However, some chickens can spread the molting process out up to six months.

Adult chickens will either have a “soft” or “hard” molt.
With a “soft” molt, the bird loses it feathers slowly and it is hard to tell that they are molting. With a “hard” molt, the chicken dramatically loses it feathers and can appear rough-looking or naked.

The decrease of daylight coupled with the end of an egg-laying cycle is the most common trigger for molting. Physical stress, malnutrition, lack of water, extreme heat and non-typical lighting conditions can also trigger molting throughout the year.

Molting chickens cannot support both egg and feather production at the same time and this is why chickens either stop laying eggs all together or have a significant reduction. Once feather replacement has occurred, egg laying will begin again.

When your chickens are going through a molt, providing additional protein is beneficial.
Most commercial egg layer feeds are at around 16% protein. When your chickens are molting, you should increase protein feed supply, using a broiler feed, to provide around 20 – 25% protein may be helpful.

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Hen House – Controlled Lighting

There is a gland behind chickens eyes called a pituitary gland. When stimulated by light this produces a hormone that is carried via the bloodstream to the ovary which sets egg production in motion.
This makes it possible to give artificial light to laying birds to ‘trick’ their bodies into continuing to lay in the shorter daylight months of Fall and Winter.

Research shows that chickens lay best when they receive about 15 hours of light daily. In the northern United States, natural daylight drops to under nine hours at the end of December. To optimize egg production, supplemental (or artificial) lighting in the coop is a must for the next three to four months until the days get longer.

Extra few hours of light can be added to the morning by using a light and timer. Adding light in the mornings ensures that birds aren’t suddenly caught out in the dark when the lights switch off not having gone through the natural roosting process. The key point to remember is that once the hens are in lay, their daylight hours should not be decreased.
For example, pullets that come into lay when there are 15 hours of daylight should have this ‘top up’ lighting added to their mornings to keep their daylight hours constant.
You need to ensure the timer remains set correctly after a power cut to prevent your pullets going into moult.
A digital timer with a back-up battery is a good investment.
Hint: Beware of dirty bulbs. They can decrease light output by as much as 15 to 20 percent, so clean bulbs once a week.

* Keep a supply of fresh water; heated waterers save time and labor and assure the birds will always be able to drink
* Make sure a high quality layer ration is always available. Your chickens need to eat to enough to stay warm and maintain egg production.
* Check that the coop is free from drafts, but don’t compromise ventilation as excessive moisture in the coop can lead to health problems.
* Put a little extra scratch grain down for your chickens morning and afternoon. The treat will keep winter birds busy pecking and scratching for hours and will help prevent boredom and give them some extra energy for warmth.
* With the chickens spending more time in the coop, bedding will become damp and soiled. Remove and replace as needed. Clean dry bedding will help the chickens stay warm and keep odors down.
* Let the chickens out into their run as chickens enjoy going outside, even if it’s cold.

Common sense care and a little extra light your chickens will keep up their winter egg production.

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There’s A Chicken In My Coop!

barn yard chickens It’s getting to be the time of the year that many folks that bought 25 or more day old chicks in January now need to deduce their flock size. You can often pick up roosters, pullets and young laying hens at a very reasonable price now. Pullets generally start laying at about 20 – 26 weeks of age. Heavy ‘duel purpose’ birds tend to to be closer to 26 weeks old. If your looking for meat birds or a rooster for your flock start looking now. Many flocks will have far to many roosters and you can pick them up for rock bottom prices.
Don’t get carried away buying fresh off the farm meat birds. Never pay more for an old hen or a young rooster than the cost of a processed ready to cook bird cost in your supermarket.

Any of the Leghorn breeds are excellent layers and do not go broody. They lay large white eggs. Put them in an old store egg carton and the kids will never know the difference. Most other breeds lay lightly tinted to dark brown eggs. Check out McMurry’s Catalog for a ton of useful information on many different breeds, egg colors they lay and much more.

A word about eggs from the USDA.

Brown eggs are better for you than white eggs, is that true?
Does the color of the shell affect the egg’s nutrients?
No. The breed of the hen determines the color of her eggs. Nutrient levels are not significantly different in white and brown shell eggs.
Araucuna chickens in South America lay eggs that range in color from medium blue to medium green. Nutrition claims that araucuna eggs contain less cholesterol than other eggs haven’t been proven.

Answer: Shell color does not affect the quality of the egg and is not a factor in the U.S. Standards, Grades, and Weight Classes for Shell Eggs. Eggs are sorted for color and marketed as either “white” or “brown” eggs.

On average, brown eggs are bigger in size than white eggs, due to the breed of chicken laying the eggs. Brown eggs cost more to produce and is usually reflected in the cost per dozen at retail.

Are Free Range or Cage Free eggs nutritionally better than eggs from hens in a caged environment?
Answer: Free Range or Cage Free eggs denote the environment in which the laying hens were housed. Currently, USDA does not have definitive scientific data stating a nutritional difference in egg nutrition, due to hen housing.

What is the difference between Free Range and Cage Free eggs?

Answer: Free range must be produced by hens housed in a building, room, or area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their laying cycle. The outdoor area may be fenced and/or covered with netting-like material.

Cage free must be produced by hens housed in a building, room, or enclosed area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and provides the freedom to roam within the area during the laying cycle. Access to outdoor areas is not a requirement.

USDA Are eggs safe to eat after the Use By or Sell By date has expired?

Answer: The Use By or Sell By dates stamped on the end of an egg carton denotes the period of optimum egg quality. As eggs age, the yolk membranes and tissues weaken and/or moisture is absorbed from the albumen (white). As a result, the yolk begins to flatten and the albumen becomes watery. This is indicative of a Grade B, quality egg.

For baking purposes, a higher quality egg (Grade AA or A) is preferred. For hard-boiling purposes, a lower quality egg (Grade B) is preferred.

Additionally, retailers utilize the Use By or Sell By dates for stock rotation or inventory control.

USDA Egg grades
There are three consumer grades for eggs: U.S. Grade AA, A, and B. The grade is determined by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the egg shell. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight (size).

U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells. Grade AA and Grade A eggs are best for frying and poaching where appearance is important.

U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are “reasonably” firm. This is the quality most often sold in stores.

U.S. Grade B eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. The shells must be unbroken, but may show slight stains. This quality is seldom found in retail stores because they are usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.

USDA Sizing of Eggs
Size tells you the minimum required net weight per dozen eggs. It does not refer to the dimensions of an egg or how big it looks. While some eggs in the carton may look slightly larger or smaller than the rest, it is the total weight of the dozen eggs that puts them in one of the following classes:

Size or Weight Class Minimum net weight per dozen
Jumbo …………………. 30 ounces
Extra Large …………. 27 ounces
Large ………………… 24 ounces
Medium ………………… 21 ounces
Small ………………… 18 ounces
Peewee ………………… 15 ounces

USDA Should you wash eggs?
No. It’s not necessary or recommended for consumers to wash eggs and may actually increase the risk of contamination because the wash water can be “sucked” into the egg through the pores in the shell When the chicken lays the egg, a protective coating is put on the outside by the hen. Government regulations require that USDA-graded eggs be carefully washed and sanitized using only compounds meeting FDA regulations for processing foods.

Chicken growers have a large selection to choose from. The tiny Mille Fleur to the New Jersey and Black Giants. Everything from plain Jane everyday chickens to award winning Fancy’s. They come in every color in a rainbow to solid whites or blacks. Some breeds are very quite easy to handle others always seem to be a bit stand offish and on the skittish side. With that said, they all have a few things in common. They are always fun to raise, fun to watch, wonderful table meat and produce eggs from thumb nail size to extra large. No mater what breed you select I’m sure you will enrich your life and give your family an experience they will carry through life. You will be blessed having them in your backyard survival farm.

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First Speeding Ticket??

This is just to good not to pass on.

1896 Arnold Benz Motor Carriage is largely held to be the very first car to receive a speeding ticket.

The 19th century was a tough place to have an automobile. The law at the time required drivers to maintain a speed of no more than 2 mph and be proceeded by someone walking in front of the vehicle waving a red flag. For reference, that’s a little quicker than the average speed of an ambling cow.

Exceeding the speed limit, traveling at an estimated 8 mph. To make maters worse, no one was running ahead, waving a red flag. He was convicted of speeding and made to pay a lofty fine of a shilling “plus costs.”

Purple Martins Scouts Checked Out My…

Purple Martin scout birds were seen checking out my house I set up last spring. However the Sparrows have been trying to move in and they are fighting the Martin scout birds away from the house.

In this area we have 3 or 4 different types of Sparrows, but the most aggressive is the common English house Sparrow.

The English house sparrow is native to most of Europe and the Mediterranean region. In North America it is considered a non-native invasive pest and is not protected under U.S. native song bird laws. It has been characterized as a pest, and poses a threat to native birds. It will eat almost any seeds, but where it has a choice, it prefers oats and wheat.
In my case they raid grain in chicken feeders and scratch placed on the ground to feed my flock of chickens.

I remove their nesting materials from my Martin house daily and given the opportunity I dispatch them with my pellet rifle. However this has not deterred them from continuing to attempt to nest in my Martin house.

In an effort to remove them form the area around the house I am building Sparrow traps. The first trap is nearly completed. It is constructed out of 1/2 X 1 inch welded wire and it is 18 inches wide, 21 inches long and 8 inches tall with 2 entry funnels. With luck I will have it in place and baited before noon today.
Total cost for constructing 2 traps will be around $20.00 or maybe $22.00 US dollars.
** Construction Note: Trap size was based on available wire size. Constructing 2 traps from one 30 X 120 inch roll of wire.

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Blogoutist – that’s a real word ?

Looking back to June 2009, my first wordpress blog post(see archives) it seems that at one time or another I have touched on subjects ranging from growing Asparagus to Zucchini. Raising assorted poultry, building coops as well as a few post about Rabbits and building hutches. I have managed to touch on growing and planting berries, fruit and nut trees (search blog to see post that may be of interest to you).

As of late what with all the presidential election stuff, I have fallen far behind my mental plan for 2017 gardening season.

That poor little miniature Apple tree that was to be transplanted into it’s garden spot, November 2016 was the target date, is still setting in it’s large patio pot.

My planned concrete floor for the chicken house has not gone beyond the vision in my mind, target date 15 September 2016.

The large pile of chipped trees to be used as mulch around the grape vines, target date 24 November 2016, is still waiting to be spread.

Chicken update. The Good: Early September 2016 I purchased 11 chicks. The Bad: Well… one died in a wind blown coop door accident, 4 roosters leaving 6 pullets. The Good: The pullets have started to lay and I’m getting 5 some days 6 eggs a day. The Bad: Mmmm … just how many eggs can one old guy and 2 old dogs eat?

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All About Chickens – A Young Persons Observations

This is just to good not to share.

kfc

Eggs – Who Knew?

Eggs are the ultimate hunger buster. Rich in both muscle building protein and satiating healthy fats, studies have shown that people who eat eggs in the morning will consume less for the rest of the day. Plus, their amino acid profile maximizes building and preserving lean muscle mass, which can help your body burn fat. Eggs are also full of B-vitamins and choline, micro nutrients which are important for brain development, muscle health, and energy levels.

USDA 2015 statistics, said “93 percent of all eggs purchased in America come from conventional caged systems known as battery cages.”
A 2011 Poultry Science study conducted over two years found that free range eggs were not all that nutritionally different from the eggs of hens kept in a cage. The only clear difference the Poultry Science study found was that there are higher beta carotene levels in range eggs, which contributes to their darker colored yolks.

Cage Free on egg cartons. Hens are required to have a minimum of 120 square inches per bird. Hens will still exclusively live indoors, either in large barns known as aviaries or in bigger cages.

Free Range These hens have the option to go outside. They are required to have at least two square feet of free roaming outside pasture space, as stipulated by the HFAC Certified Humane standards, which allows them space to engage in natural behaviors like roosting, dust bathing, scratching, and other social interactions.

Pasture-raised hens enjoy a minimum of 108 square feet per bird. They can forage grass, go outside year round (except in extreme weather conditions or under the threat of a predator), and are never given antibiotics.

No Hormones
This claim is misleading because the FDA banned the use of hormones in all poultry production back in the 1950s. That means no chicken meat nor eggs on the market will ever contain hormones.

No Antibiotics antibiotics are rarely used in the egg industry, but you can feel comfortable knowing that there are none administered to your hens.

Farm Fresh has no legal definition. Many brands attempt to get their eggs on store shelves within 72 hours of being laid, there is no regulation on the term “Farm Fresh.”
A better indication of how fresh the egg is would be the grade. Grade A eggs allow for more air space in the egg, which indicates an older egg than Grade AA.

All Natural as defined by the FDA. Natural means “that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.” So it has no real meaning.

Vegetarian Fed Chickens are actually omnivores. In the wild, they’ll eat a diet of omega-3 rich grasses and get their protein from insects, grasshoppers, and worms. Vegetarian fed means they are grain feed which contains no animal by products (as protein) and will be supplemented with vegetarian based protein sources such as soybeans.

Omega-3 enriched eggs are often given feed that has been supplemented with flax seeds and sometimes fish oil. This term is not regulated, so there’s no way to really prove that the eggs you’re consuming will have significantly higher levels of omega-3s.

Eggs are sized and graded before they’re delivered to the supermarket. The USDA has specific guidelines for egg weights per dozen (as there will invariably be differences between individual eggs), which are listed below:

Small: 18 ounces (about 1.5 ounces per egg)
Medium: 21 ounces (about 1.75 ounces per egg)
Large: 24 ounces (about 2 ounces per egg)
Extra Large: 27 ounces (about 2.25 ounces per egg)
Jumbo: 30 ounces (about 2.5 ounces per egg)

Grade AA: These are the finest quality eggs. The whites are thick and firm, the yolks are free from any defects, and the shells are pristine and without cracks.
Grade A: Eggs also have clean whites but they may be less firm, the yolk is less protected by the albumen.
Grade B: These eggs are rarely ever sold in stores. These eggs have such a reduced quality they have flat yolks, thin whites, and blood spots that they will be used commercially in liquid and powdered egg products.

Egg Shell Color The answer to the question everyone always thinks when they pick up a carton of eggs at the store! The difference between brown, white, and blue eggs is… that’s right, the shell’s color!
The real reason eggs are different colors boils down to genetics. If a chicken is raised under the same conditions, there will be no difference in nutrition, taste, or baking stability in different colored egg shells. In particular, the color of the earlobes of chickens (yes, chickens have earlobes) will indicate shell color. Chickens with white earlobes generally lay white eggs, while chicken with red or brown earlobes lay brown eggs.

White. This is the standard color egg you’ll find most commonly in grocery stores.
Brown. Although brown eggs are typically more expensive compared to white eggs, it has nothing to do with their quality. These eggs usually cost more because the hens that lay them are physically bigger breeds than the chickens which lay white eggs. Bigger hens mean more food, which means farmers have to spend more on feed. And that increase in cost per egg gets passed onto consumers.
Blue. These are also from different breeds of chickens.

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