Tag Archives: chickens

Raising laying hens – first coop or remodel is easy

Maximize egg production and growth rate of your meat birds by installing a coop light. Buy and install a simple timer. Set your timer to provide 16 hours light in your coop. One 60 or 100 watt bulb is all the light your coop will need.

Don’t forget to provide fresh water and an ample food supply inside your coop. Chickens Will Not go out of the coop into the darkness of night to eat or drink.
Hint: What ever you build or buy, make it covenant for ‘You’ to access. To clean, gather eggs and so on without the need to stoop low or crawl around on your hands and knees.
When possible make all gates and doors wide enough to get your wheel barrow in and out of the hen house and chickens runs.

Do it right the first time. Choosing the best coop wire. 1 inch X 2 inch or 1/2 inch X 1 inch utility wire is a good choice. Small mesh welded wire cost more than poultry netting but in the long run will be a cheaper ‘long term’ investment and a better choice. Poultry netting will rust and become useless in just a few years, 2 X 4 welded wire is strong but is not effective in keeping small chicks in nor is it a big obstacle to keep determined animals like cats, dogs, coyote, fox or raccoons out of your hen house.

It seems that after searching the Internet I find end listings on how to build a chicken coop but, most everyone wants to ‘Sell’ you a plan or blueprint.

You do not have to be an architect or construction engineer to construct a chicken coop. Anyone can do it. Keep in mind that you may need to scale any basic construction plan up or down to fit the flock size you want to maintain.
* Hint: Many storage shed plans are free to download and is a cost effective hen house by another name.
Cover windows with strong predator proof wire.

A secure coop is very important, it seems that everyone and everything likes the taste of chicken. Cats, dogs, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, fox and even a hawk or owl will take a small chicken given the chance to do so. Snakes can be a problem eating small chicks and always looking for a chance to take a few eggs. Other than stray dogs daylight predators are few, but after dark your chickens are ‘setting ducks’ just waiting to be eaten by a hungry predator.

What your chickens Really Need. Warm secure chickens produce many more eggs and gain more weight than chickens housed in a cold drafty coop. When building your coop be sure to close up any holes or cracks that allow a cold draft to enter your coop. Do not use calk or spray foam, chickens will peck at and eat calk or spray foam.
Unless you live above the arctic circle supplemental heating is generally not needed.
If you feel the need to heat your hen house consider enclosing a ‘milk house heater in strong wire or add a 250 watt heat lamp located 3 – 5 feet off the floor. Use caution, a heat space heater or heat lamp bulb that comes in contact with hay, straw etc. can catch your hen house on fire!

Some sites say chickens need about 2 square feet of coop floor space for each hen in your flock. I disagree and recommend 3 square feet ‘4 square feet is better’ of floor space for each laying hen. A 4X4 sheet of plywood = 16 square feet and should house no more than 4 or 5 chickens. Remember you will loose a few feet of floor space to nest boxes and roosting areas.
You must decide if 2 square feet or 4 square feet of floor space is best for housing you chicken flock.

Clean water is a must have thing. Don’t skimp, purchase or build large good quality freeze resistant water containers.
Feeders should be designed to prevent them from wasting feed or being of a design that allows them to set / roost on top of your feeders. Chickens Do Not go outdoors to poop! Given the opportunity they will poop in feed troughs and water containers! Hanging style containers work well. They can be raised higher off the floor as your flock grows.

Free Range or Penned hens? A chicken run is nothing more than a fenced in area that attaches to or surrounds your coop. Your chicken run should allow at least 10 square feet of run for each chicken in your flock. Thus 4 laying hens will need a minimum of 40 square feet of run. An 8 foot by 8 foot run will provide you with 64 square feet.
Free range is just what it sounds like. Free range chickens are free to range and forage anyplace they feel like going. Free range chickens seem to be healthier and consume much less store bought feed than penned chickens. However free ranging chickens are more likely to be taken by predators.

Allowed to free range chickens will eat large quantities of grass, weeds and every insect that they can catch! They scratch eating weed seeds worms and grubs.

13 free chicken coop plans
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Sounds of Autumn and Chicken Coops

Summer has given way to Autumn/Fall cooler temperatures and a burst of color. Today has the feel of fall in the air. Cooler weather and the air has the smell of Autumn and a feel of dampness.

Long before first light I could hear the calls of wild geese each carefully following the one ahead as they wing their way south. This is always a sure sign that a cold winter blast is not far away.

Wild sun flowers in pastures and along roads are 4 to 6 feet tall bearing many 3 to 4 inch bright yellow flowers making a cool autumn day feel brighter and warmer.

Gardeners in their hast and busy schedule often fail to truly listen to all the fading sounds of summer and fall as winters cold winds approach. Don’t miss out on this once a year event. Stop look and listen, tune out all the sounds of our modern world and listen to what nature is telling you.

Chicken poop, nothing but poop. Now is a good time to get all that old litter and manure out of your chicken coop/hen house floors, nest boxes and roosting areas. Spread this chicken litter lightly on your garden plot and till it in or pile it on your compost pile. As the weather gets colder and nights get longer your chickens will spend more time in there coop. Now is a good time to sanitize your coop and spray or dust for mite control.

Close your hen house door and cover all windows, look for places you can see light entering your coop. Nail or glue wood trim to cover these holes that will allow the cold winds, rain and snow to enter your coop this winter. Don’t use calk or spray foam, your chickens will peck at and eat calk and spray foam.
Cold weather will send every mouse and rat within 1000 feet to seek winter shelter in and under your chicken coop. Put out mouse/rat bait now. Rat and mouse bait is a poison, insure the bait is in a place that your chickens flock and pets can not gain access to the bait.

Build or buy enough feeders and freeze proof waters dispensers to keep you flock supplied with fresh feed and water. Raise feeders and waters off the floor high enough that your chickens need to reach high to access feed and water. This will help your keep chickens from wasting feed or pooping in their feed and water containers.

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Judge rules ‘ duck’s have the right to ‘Quack’

Ducks have won: French court rules they may keep on quacking.
Ducks on a small French smallholding may carry on quacking, a French court ruled, rejecting a neighbor’s complaint that the birds’ racket was making their life a misery.

The complaint was brought by Douthe’s neighbor who moved from the city around a year ago into a property about 50 meters (yards) away from the enclosure in the Soustons district where Douthe keeps her flock.

City dwellers that move to the country side should be required to certify in writing that they understand poultry, waterfowl cows and goat bells are common sounds that occur when living in the country and city folk will not be allowed to disturb their neighbors life’s with lawsuits that may relate to life in the country or that may effect farmers lives.

Remember Maurice? A judge ruled a rooster named Maurice was allowed to continue his dawn crowing, despite complaints from neighbors who had also moved in from the city.

Maurice the rooster – crowing over judges verdict

French rooster cleared by court after lawsuit accused him of making too much noise.

The 4-year-old rooster’s dawn crowing exasperated its neighbors, a retired couple who moved to the small island of Oleron off of France’s Atlantic coast.

The judge not only decided to allow the 4-year-old rooster to stay with his owner, Corinne Fesseau, but also ordered the couple to pay 1,000 euros ($1,103) in damages to her for reputational harm, plus court costs.

Maurice’s case was the most high-profile. Local residents even brought a “support committee” of roosters and hens from around the region to the trial venue in Rochefort this past July. The case elicited letters of support for Maurice from countries around the world, including the U.S.

Something for ‘almost’ every gardener

April was an unusually cool April for my tiny zone 7b garden.

60 degrees F is kind of, sort of the magic soil temperature needed for many garden vegetable seeds to germinate. It was the last week of April before we approached the 60 degree soil tempeture.

May arrived and my soil has warmed to 71 degrees F and it is still a month until the start of the summer gardening season. Leaving plenty of time for most gardeners to plant summer and fall producing vegetable gardens.

I’m happy with our bamboo project. We planted bamboo in a well contained garden plot about 25 feet long by 12 feet wide near Christmas time 2015 and I have been concerned that I wasted my money on two 6 inch pots of bamboo. However after 2 summers of putting down a good root system this spring bamboo canes have jumped up and some canes are more than 11 feet tall and still growing taller everyday.

I invite new visitors to my tiny blog to search my previous posting. At sometime in the past I have information about almost every vegetable from A – Z as wells as info on raising chickens, rabbits, composting and water saving irrigation ideas.

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Backyard flock of laying hens are good for your health

Nutrition journal guidelines for egg consumption eggs make a healthy, affordable and tasty meal. Research has revealed just how many eggs is safe to eat in a week.

Grandma said “eat your breakfast biscuits with butter, jelly or jam, gravy, maybe a few slices of bacon or sausage patty’s as well in addition to your healthy 2 egg breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day.”

Good news for lovers of a frittata or scramble, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found there were no adverse effects from having as many as 12 over seven days.

They discovered that even participants with type-2 diabetes did not suffer adverse effects from eating a diet high in eggs such as inflammation, cardiometabolic risk levels or raised glucose levels.

Eggs particularly the yolk are high in fat, they are full of vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy omega-3 fats. The yolk is packed with nutrients, so there’s no need to opt for egg-whites only.
Eggs do not significantly raise cholesterol in the blood, the Mayo Clinic reports, and people who replace a grain-based breakfast with eggs have been found to eat fewer calories over the day.

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2017 – Rushing into the history book

Christmas eve fades into Christmas morning and we have had our first really cold temperature forecast to be near 19 degrees. Not that cold by many northerners standards but by my standards, frozen chicken trough water is ‘Cold’.

Looking back I see that my tiny garden has received 1.90 inches of rain during the past 90 days. Getting pretty dry in my neighborhood. The sad part of this story is the long range 30 day forecast looks no better for a good soaking rain.

Colder weather, short daylight hours and chickens in molt my daily egg count has fallen from 6-8 eggs a day to 1-2 eggs. Grin, of course with the colder weather they are eating more and producing less. At present my eggs are only costing me about $1.00 an egg in feed and water cost. It would save me a lot of money if were to have a lot of chicken soup and buy eggs at the supermarket.

It has been a tough year for trees and vines in my tiny part of southwest Oklahoma.
Last June(2017) we had a thunderstorm that packed 104 mph winds along with golf ball size hail. It has taken all summer for my trees and grapevines to recover.
Still trees and grapevines will need pruned soon after new years day to be healthy and productive during the 2018 growing season.

This marks the end of year 2 of the bamboo screening project. So far it has been less successful than I had hoped. Still people that have used bamboo as screens say year 3 is the magic year that bamboo will begin to become an effective screen. Only time will tell.

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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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