Photo credit: Tracy Halladay

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cold, Cold, Cold

It has been a while since my last post, I appologize.  I read a lot of info about raising chickens online and sometimes feel reposting what I have learned is redundant because someone else wrote about it.  I will try to do better in sharing information I find valuable.

It's that time of year when I wrap my coop to keep the girls out of snow and blowing wind, and boy, has it blown this year!  I had to re-wrap it twice because the wind tore it all off.  It's not attractive but it provides protection from snow getting inside and cold drafts.  One important thing to keep in mind is ventilation.  I leave the top open to allow for that ventilation.  Decomposing manure gives off amonia and it can become dangerous to the chickens health if it is allowed to build up.  Moisture build up also can lead to respiratory illnesses which can devistate a coop of hens quickly.

One other thing I do in the winter is scooping out manure and wood shavings and throwing them into the run.  I know some people use the deep litter method in the henhouse, mine is so small I feel they are better served with all that decomposing manure in the run.

My henhouse is 4X4 and my run is 4X8.  I have 6 hens, they do a good job keeping each other warm at night.  They roost together and I find it interesting they almost always roost in the same order.  I guess they have their best friends that they like to be with.  I haven't seen any frostbite on combs yet (knock on wood), I've been known to check their feet and I am always amazed at how warm they stay with their breast feathers covering their feet.

I use a little giant 125 watt heated pedestal to keep their water fount thawed.  Boy, is that a life saver.  I know they seem a bit pricey but when I got that and didn't have to thaw water each day I was in heaven.

One other thing I have begun doing this year is making suet blocks for them.  I've read several articles and posts and it is so easy.  Whenever we make bacon or fry hamburger or do anything cooking that produces a melted grease, I'll save that and while in a liquid state, I'll combine it with scratch, maybe some oatmeal...just about anything that you know they will like.  I do focus on some of the higher fat items and will toss in some sunflower seeds as well.  The corn-heavy scratch is good to keep them warm.

Here is a link to a step-by-step way of doing it that you may find helpful:  http://www.communitychickens.com/2013/01/cake-for-chickens.html#.UqiKc-Ia71Y.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Permit Renewal

Well, it is that time of year.  I received a nicely worded letter from Brigham City reminding me that it was time for my annual Chicken permit renewal.

Honestly, I didn't think they would send out letters.  I assumed it was up to the owner to remember.  I was met by a very nice lady who took my $10 and chatted about how nice chickens and ducks can be.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Prolapse #2

Red is suffering from a prolapsed vent again.   I went through the same steps that I talked about in my previous post.  Some days she's better some days worse.  I've bathed her twice now.  The second time she relaxed a lot more.  She was having a hard time pushing out her droppings, but she wasn't plugged.  We got past that hurdle and she seems a bit better.  I am concerned because she was on the nest yesterday and actually laid another egg.  I think she needs time to heal.  I read recently about seperating her from food for a day to break the egg laying...Also, that prolapse can be due to low calcium levels.  I have been more dilligent about filling their oyster shell dish and hopefully that will help.  I found a couple links to articles that may be helpful to others who may have this issue with their hens:



Friday, April 12, 2013


With reports about "Bird-Flu" in the news again, I thought I would share information with you since you may be curious or at some time someone will ask you how it impacts you or your backyard flock.

 First, your back yard chickens don't have a lot of interaction with other chickens do they?  I doubt there are many 'play-dates' taking place between your chickens and other birds in town.  There are those who raise chickens as show birds and they would be ones that get exposed to other poultry that are not under their care.  The rest of us have chickens that spend time in their coop and maybe free ranging around our back yard and that is about the extent.  So, if you think about exposure to birds infected with Avian Influenza, it probably doesn't happen much...but now think about what exposure YOU have with other poultry.  If you visit friends flocks or poultry shows, you may be putting your own flock at risk.  As with human infections, prevention is key.

Below is an article from the North Carolina State University Extension's website with some helpful information.  This article can be found directly at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/poulsci/tech_manuals/preventing_avian_influenza_backyard.pdf.

Another article by Utah State University which discusses various diseases which may impact your backyard flock can be found at http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/AG_Poultry_2012-04pr.pdf

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Olga Update

Olga is one resilient bird.  She has been through an attack twice now.  But, with a little care she's doing well and was very happy when I returned her to the coop.  I kept a close eye on her and how the others responded to her.  No one pecked at her injuries.  She did have a lot to say to the others when I put her back with the other hens.

Spring is here and I give them a little time nearly each night to go around the yard.  They sure enjoy it.  I noticed last night that she has new tail feathers starting to come out.  That made me very happy.

 Olga follows everyone around the yard acting like nothing happened.  You can see the new feathers starting to emerge.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Olga's Injuries - Update

As I explained in my previous post.  Our old Polish hen, Olga, was snatched up in the mouth of a neighborhood dog.  Luckily, my family was to the rescue, retrieved her and scared the dog away.  My wife had me run home from work to assess the damage.  This event reminds me of something everyone should know if they have pet chickens and let them periodically roam free; First, know what potential risks or predators are in your area.  Second, keep an eye on them.  I have heard an eagle or hawk fly by and screech and have seen the girls go to a state of alarm and run for our lilac bushes where they feel protected.  If you have an open area for your chickens to free range, it wouldn't take much for a bird of prey to snatch one.

Back to Olga.  She recovered Saturday, Sunday and Monday in a pen in my garage separated from the other hens while I watched her.  I kept the Wound-Kote nearby and would spray her injury each day to keep it protected.  She seemed alert and not too effected by the event.  Monday night, I decided to try putting her back in the run with the others and see if they remembered her, if she acted healthy and if she was able to get up to the roost that night.

As soon as I put her down, she immediately walked all around the run.  She checked out the feeder, she made sure there was water, she scratched, she greeted each hen.  She was home again.  It was interesting to watch her temperament change.  Once she reviewed everything and knew she was home, she began talking...it was a series of very happy clucks that I have gotten to recognize out of her when things were good.  She had a lot to say (she normally doesn't talk much) but she went on and on to her coop-mates, I'm sure telling them all about her adventure...ok, that is stretching it.  I try not to put human characteristics on animals, but sometimes it just happens.

Olga stretching her wings, happy to be back in the run.

Later that night, after dark, I wandered out to the hen house to make sure she was able to roost.  Frankly, I would have been just fine with her sleeping in a nest box until she healed (but I wont tell her that).  I was very happy to see her on the roost.  Not only comfortably resting on the roost, but she was in between Rosie (who is the mother hen and watches out for each hen's welfare) and Henrietta our leghorn. Now the significance of that to me is the fact that when these hens roam our yard, Henrietta and Olga are always together.  There is some connection, bond or friendship between them- I know, there I go again with the human characteristics.

Honestly, the social dynamics of chicken relationships is quite fascinating.  Watching their interactions with each other and with myself is very interesting.  I generally know who hangs out with whom and when I come out to the run, who will great me verbally, and who will crouch and wait for me to pick her up.

Well, the challenge for me now is just to monitor Olga's injury for healing and infection but I have high hopes.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chicken Injuries

*WARNING*  This post has somewhat graphic pictures of injuries to my pet chicken.

It's not that Olga is unlucky, but the nature of Polish chicken's head feathers makes it difficult for them to see what is going on around them.  They can be skittish because they don't see things until they are right on them.

This was Olga's second encounter with a dog.  The two encounters were many years apart and not even by the same dog.  Earlier today, I was on the phone with my wife and I hear kids scream, a dog bark and she said "you need to come home, now!"  I run home to find Olga in my wife's arms with most of her tail feathers missing and a sizable bite on her back above the vent.

Ok, time for the pictures...

The injury appears small, until you move the feathers aside.

Moving the feathers aside you can see the wound more clearly
 The first thing I did was to isolate her to protect her from the potential pecking of the other hens.  I picked up a product called Wound Kote (I had read about Blue Kote but it wasn't available to me locally).  I will explain more about that product a little bit later. 

I prepared some warm soapy water and wash cloth to wash out her wound and began cleaning it good as I could.  I found she was more comfortable if I held her head under my arm.  She felt more protected and it was a lot easier to see and work on her hind end.
I read it is a good idea to wear gloves because the medicine spray is sticky and hard to remove.

The injury was mostly on her back but some small cuts under her tail above her vent

Wound-Kote is a anti-septic product that cleans the wound and helps to seal it and prevent infection.  I had read about Blue-Kote but it wasn't available.  I don't know about how they compare but I will write later about how well she heals up.

 Here is how the wound looks after spraying it with Wound-Kote.  She was very calm during this whole process.  With the amount of alcohol in it I expected some kind of reaction.  I read about one guy who tried spraying the stuff on a cut of his own.  He said it burned like nothing he felt before!

 Tonight Olga is resting comfortably in her own private room in the garage.  I will keep her separated as she recovers.

These kind of injuries happen.  Unfortunately.  She was in my back yard and the dog came into my yard.  Same thing happened the first time with her.  My yard is fenced with the exception of one part that I need to put a gate on.  As chicken owners, I think we will always be somewhat down the list compared to dog or cat owners.  It may not be fair, but if we want to have chickens and want to have our communities recognize them as pets, I think it is something that we have to accept...for now.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Miniature Eggs

In the 5 or 6 years I have had chickens, I have only received two of these eggs so far.  As I read about miniatrue eggs being laid by standard sized hens, I found it is actually pretty common.  Usually laid by hens who are just starting to lay, mine have been laid by hens who are no longer considered "pullets" (over 1 year old).  Maybe this happened because they are coming out of molt and some haven't laid for a long time.

Miniature egg

Comparing size to eggs laid by other hens recently
One of these things is not like the others...

Last year when I got one of these I was very curious what was inside.  I cracked it open and instead of being a small yolk and egg white, it was egg white only.  I have read that people call these miniature eggs "fart eggs", "fairy eggs", or "wind eggs".

Saturday, January 26, 2013

An Awesome Utah Coop by a Fantastic Utah Artist

You gotta check out this coop and run.  I don't know where it's at but he mentions building the cupola so the windows open to keep it cooler in Utah summers.

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/chris-lil-coop  Is the place to go.  By the way, Backyardchickens.com is a great resource for chicken info and is a thriving community of chicken enthusiasts. 

I want you to go to the website and see ALL the pictures, so I'll only post a couple of the outside, but the inside is amazing.  The artist who built it painted murals on the inside.  It is an amazing work of art!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beekeeping...in Brigham City?

It has recently come to my attention that some residents in Brigham City are interested in urban bee keeping and are working with the planning commission to clarify related city ordinances.

Obviously I am in favor of this, not because I am interested in keeping bees (I am not), but for the following reasons:
  1. Clarification of city ordinances reduces headaches with government and neighbors.
  2. Interest in being responsible for food production educates people about where their food comes from and how it impacts the land, animals or insects that produce it.
  3. Self Sufficiency.  Do NOT confuse this with "I will save money by doing it myself."  Economies of scale have been established and whether it is chickens or bees, you probably wont save money...BUT not relying on someone else and knowing what goes into YOUR food product can be incredibly satisfying.
  4. Bees are docile...especially when compared with the wasps and yellow jackets whose population has been exploding recently.  If bees compete with wasps and discourage them from being in our neighborhoods, I support that. :)
  5. Brigham city is full of gardeners and backyard fruit growers.  Pollination relies on these insects to spread the love so to speak and produce the fruits and vegetables that we love to eat.
I think bees need to be understood before strong opinions make uninformed decisions.  That statement is just as important to the person who wants to begin keeping bees as it is for anyone opposing it.  In a short amount of time one can easily pull up volumes of information that will help educate and inform.  Below is a small list I put together.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Receiving Eggs Again

I don't have a light in my hen house.  Although I love getting eggs, I don't feel the need to push their physiology.  I let them molt, I see it as a physical renewal and preparation for winter.  Are they earning their keep?  Not even close.  I don't think there's anything wrong with adding artificial light to extend the laying season, I just choose not to.  Maybe I'm lazy.  I do have an extension cord out there, It provides heat to keep their water defrosted and powers the Christmas lights that I like to see during the holidays.

After probably 2 months of no eggs one of my hens has begun to lay again.  Sam our "Americauna" Easter Egger has laid two days in a row.  She has been one of my most prolific layers and provides the largest eggs.  Plus they're green...thus the name, "Sam" as in "Sam-I-am".  My son came up with that when we got her.

For Christmas, I got a trail cam...one of those cameras that you strap to a tree and when it senses something walking by it takes a picture of it.  We have camping property that I want to use it at this summer to watch the deer and moose that come by when we're not there.  I've been experimenting with it, mostly learning how to set it up and change settings.  After figuring out the basics, I decided it would be fun to put in the chicken run and see what I get.  The cool thing about this is not only the pictures but it tells the time, date and temperature.  Now, we've been in the 20s and below for the past week so I was interested to see how warm the chicken's run was.  Now keep in mind, the picture below was mid day, full sun and my chicken run is wrapped in plastic (except for a foot at the top to keep fresh air in).  I was very happy to see it was a comfortable 64 degrees inside their run!

In the front is Sam, on the left is Wheezy, behind Sam is Rosie (Rhode Island Red) and Olga (polish).  Henriette and Red are not in the picture...probably up to no good.  My guess is they're sitting in the nest boxes NOT laying eggs and laughing.