Tag 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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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

Easy Yard And Garden Tick Control

Mow Your Lawn, tick control begins by getting rid of tall grass and brush, especially at the edge of your lawn, to eliminate ticks’ favorite hangout spots. Also clean up leaf litter, and instead of tossing grass clippings and leaves into the garbage, add them to your compost pile and use the rich soil amendment in your garden. Grass clippings make great mulch that can help keep weeds from sprouting and help the soil retain water.

Ticks don’t like to cross areas lined with wood chips or gravel. Place a gravel or wood chip buffer zone between lawns and wooded areas to help keep ticks from moving onto your property.

Flock of chickens is not an option for everyone, but consider investing in a few chickens. Raising chickens not only provides you with fresh eggs, but they’ll also eat ticks on your property. Robins and some other ground feeding birds eat ticks, so a bird friendly yard will help keep the tick population down.

If tick infections become a serious problem you may need to resort to Chemical Warfare. There are a number of insecticides that are effective in killing ticks available at your local hardware and farm stores.

Read and carefully follow all label instructions and warnings when using any insecticide.

Happy and Safe 4th of July holiday.

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Cotton Shower

Rain falling in mid June through July is often called a cotton Shower. Giving the cotton crop the need moisture boost to make a crop.

Well we got one hell of a cotton shower yesterday. An unexpected, unforecast rain storm pact over southwest Oklahoma dropping from 4 to as much as 10 inches of rain in some areas.

Rain caused many so called ‘water rescues‘ that’s really in most cases some idiot that tried to cross a water flooded low area or cross a bridge that was under water. Several vehicles were washed down stream.
Many county roads and bridges were washed out. It will take many months to repair flood damaged roads and bridges.

A farmer north of me spent many hours rescuing his farm equipment. He had left his tractors and equipment parked on a river bottom corn field. The day before he had been cultivating his corn crop. This morning his corn field is under 5 feet of water.

Sad smile… my chickens spent the day on their roost… hen house was filled with 6 or so inches of water.

Crops and gardens that drain off within 48 hours will likely survive but will have much less produce at harvest time. Most if not all unharvested wheat will likely be lost. Once the wheat stems fall to the ground their is no way salvage the crop. Added to flooded fields, damp weather can allow wheat that remains in the field to sprout in the head making it worthless and will be plowed under when fields dry.

As for my tiny farm, I received 4 inches of rain in less than 2 hours.

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Where Do My Breakfast Eggs Come From?

First posted in June 2009 under Flocking Chickens
Photographs have been updated and bad links have been removed.

Having a small flock of laying hens is a great way to save money and have all the ‘Fresh’ eggs you and your family can eat. Excess eggs can be sold helping to off set feeding cost.

How much do they cost? Chicks can be purchased for as little as $2.00 each, slightly more when buying sexed birds. Ten to fifteen week old pullets and laying hens range from $3.00 to $10.00 each depending on the breed, age and availability in your local area.

How many hens do I need? Two(2) to six(6) hens will supply all the eggs an average size family can eat. In general each hen will lay from 200 to 250 eggs a year. That’s about 5 or 6 eggs a week. A flock of 3 hens will produce 18 eggs or more a week. {I have read that a hen will lay one egg every 27 hours.}

White Leghorn, egg laying machine

White Leghorn, egg laying machine

What breed is best for me? Chickens fall into 3 general classes. Bantams, layers and multi-purpose breeds. Generally speaking, Bantams are miniature copies of the standard breeds. They are small to very small in size, fair layers of ‘small’ eggs. Layers are light weight birds at laying age but produce the most eggs for the amount of feed you provide. Multi-purpose birds are the heaviest and also good egg layers making them a duel purpose bird. They provide a good supply of eggs and are good meat birds as well. McMurray Hatchery website contains a ton of useful information on different breeds that I am sure you will find useful.

Barred Rock multi-purpose breed

Barred Rock multi-purpose breed

What do I need to house my chickens? Number one consideration is safety. Almost everything likes to eat chicks, chickens and their eggs. Dogs, cats, rats, skunks, raccoons, opossums, hawks, owls and even snakes. With this said, you will need a chicken coop that is predator proof to lock your chickens in after they go to roost at night.

How-Stuff-Works
Freds Fine Fowl
Back Yard Chickens

What do I feed my chickens? If your chickens are confined to a small coop it will be necessary to provide them with a balanced commercial chicken feed. This is the most expensive method of feeding you backyard flock. If you have a fenced yard they can be allowed to free range over your yard eating weeds, grass, seeds and insects of all kinds as well as ridding your yard of most insects. You will need to provide very little supplemental feed for a healthy happy flock.
Chickens will also consume most if not all of your kitchen vegetable scraps.

Your backyard flock will provide you with eggs, meat and a lot of enjoyment. Providing you do not get any roosters, chickens are very quite, easy to raise and handle and will provide you and your family with many hours of enjoyment. {A rooster is not need for hens to lay eggs.}

Start planning NOW for you small backyard flock. Purchase pullets or laying hens this fall when other growers start reducing their flock size for winter months. Good eating and above all plan to survive on your backyard farm.

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