Introducing New Chicks to An Established Flock.

As late summer is coming to an end, and spring chicks are now full grown birds, its time to introduce them to an established flock.

I like many backyard chicken keepers, acquired new chicks earlier this spring and are now in the processes of introducing them to my established flock. While this process is rather easy, it takes time and must be approached with care.

It is in a chickens nature to resist any new members to the flock, if done too hastily, it could spell disaster or death for the new kids in the flock. In this post, I will explain why chickens are resistant to new members and how to introduce them so that this process is done successfully.

Why do chickens resist new members?

To understand why chickens are so resistant to new members, we need to get into the head of a chicken using a bit of chicken psychology.

Chickens are highly socially organized creatures. Their entire lives revolve around a hierarchy. Within this hierarchy each member knows their place and what this assignment means in terms of flock activity.

Typically the flock hierarchy begins with the alpha rooster, under him will be any subjugated roosters in the flock, these boys will then assume the beta rooster positions. Following the roosters will start the order of the hens. The head hen or alpha hen will occupy the top position in the order. The Alpha hen is a bit bossy in regards to the other hens in the flock. She is the individual who will often roost next to the roosters at night, and is commonly the “favorite” of the alpha rooster in terms of mating. This may be due to her size, receptiveness to mating, or her fertility as judged by the roosters.

Occupying the hierarchical positions under the alpha hen will be the other hens in the flock. Order and status is determined by the “pecking order”. Members in a flock literally peck each other on the back indicating status. The pecker is above the peckie in flock hierarchy. This competition for position flows from the alpha rooster down to the member that is at the bottom of the pecking order.

Once established, the order is strictly maintained. Any breech of position will be met with a firm reminder of this order and each individuals place within it. Once in a while, a member may challenge and higher hierarchy order individual for their position. This is usually met with a skirmish which will decide if the challenger successfully raised their position, or is put in their place. This behavior is not just found among the roosters in the flock, hens will also fight for position and status in the flock.

Once the flock comes to an agreement on the order, all activities within the flock revolve around this order. Everything from who roosts where, to the order in which they exit the coop in the morning, and the order in which they return at night are all determined by the pecking order. The alpha hens will often eat from the feeder first in the morning. After she get their fill, the other hens will then get their share. The roosters most commonly eat last despite their hierarchical position in the flock. It is by evolutionary design, that the roosters know that the hens need the nutrition for flock procreation. A good rooster will always let the hens eat first, he will then eat any remaining morsels.

As organized and structured that the flock hierarchy may be, it is fluid, always in flux. Many activities can affect the pecking order in a flock. Events such as an illness or death of a member. If a member is injured and can no longer defend their position, they will often times find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order. Once they recover, they can sometimes regain their previous position, although this is not guaranteed. In the case of the death of an individual, the hierarchy reorganization can be quite sophisticated.

For example, when we lost our rooster, Roy, the flock found themselves suddenly without their top member, the Alpha member. It took the girls a while to come to a decision on who was going to occupy the position at the top of the pecking order. After the decision was made, the rest of the girls had to reestablish their position in the flock. It took several weeks for the girls to finally come to an agreement on the new pecking order. Once it was establishesed, peace reigned once more in the coop.

It is for this reason that chickens are so resistant to any new additions to the flock. When a keeper introduces new members to the flock, they interfere with this sophisticated heirarchical social construct within the flock. Knowing this, a keeper needs to take care on how and when to introduce new individuals to an established flock.

There are several things that a keeper to can do to make this transition as least stressful on the flock as possible. I will dedicate the rest of this post to the process I have used for over a decade of chicken keeping.

Brood new chicks in the flock environment or close to their enclosure.

If using broody hen to hatch and rise a clutch of chicks for you, she will take care of the introductions of her new chicks to the flock. In the absence of a broaden hen, it falls on the keeper to make this social transition. The easiest way to do this, is to brood the chicks in the pen if possible or near the established flock’s habit.

When I get a new clutch of chicks, I will keep them inside for the first two weeks. This allows me to monitor them so for health issues, physical issues, or other behavioral issues. Once I am confident that they survived their trip and have acclimated to the brooder environment, I move them outside to the girls pen.

Inside The Kuntry Klucker I have a wood pot shelf that I will set the brooder on. The girls are unable to gain any access to the chicks but are aware of their presence and activity. This does several things, this allows the established flock to get to know the new kids in the flock early on. Over time they will become accustomed to their presence in their environment, they will begin to ignore them and just associate them with the daily hum of flock activity.

Once the chicks are large enough to run in the pen, I will take them out of the brooder, and give them access to the larger pen environment. During the phases, I will cut off the girls access to the pen from the coop, and will open the external access door on the Kuntry KIucker coop. The established flock will then exit and enter through this secondary external access door. Meanwhile, the chicks will be confined to the indoor pen. This allows the established flock to see and interact with the chicks while forbidding any contact.

As the chicks grow, the established flock will be allowed visual access only. Over time, the established flock will once again ignore the presence of the chicks, as they become a daily presence in their lives.

Once the chicks are roughly the same size as the established flock, around 18-20 weeks, I will then, allow the established flock access once again to the indoor pen area where the chicks have spent the last several months. By this time, the chicks have reached egg laying age and are put on the same layer feed that the established flock normally consumes.

By this time, the established flock is so used to the chicks being present in their lives and environment. Thus, the transition is much easier on both flocks.

This method works best if you are introducing a groups of new individuals to your established block. I try to introduce groups of at least 5 or more. This year I am introducing 12 new individuals to my flocks. The larger the new flock the better.

The Pecking Order Begins:

Once the two flocks are allowed to contact each other, the new pecking order begins. The establish flock will begin pecking the new flock members on the back, indicating they are at the bottom of the pecking order. It is for this reason that the new kids in the flock need to be roughly the same size as the established birds. This allows them to handle the pecking order initiation process much better.

The pecking order at first may seem brutal. The established flock is putting in their two cents on the new hierarchical assignments. As long as it is just pecking on the back, I do not intervene. If the pecking order takes on more of a harsher bullying quality, I will then monitor the pecking order assignments for several days till the flock seems to come to an agreement on positions.

The initiation process usually receeds in a few days. At most my flock wrestles with the pecking order decisions for a week. It usually does not take long because the new members generally reside at the bottom of the pecking order. Very rarely do new members challenge established members for a higher position in the flock hierarchy. Even new roosters will often take a subjugated position at the bottom of the pecking order vs challenge the alpha rooster for his position.

Once the flock comes to an agreement on the place of the new members, flock harmony reigns once more. For several month there may be a bit of pecking as reminders of position. But for the most part the hard part is over.

As time goes on, the flock will act more like a single flock rather than two individual flocks. By the 4-6 month mark, the two flocks will work as one. The new members will most likely reside at the bottom of the pecking order for the first year of their lives. After that point they may try to challenge another member for a higher position, but even this is not usually an issue.

At this point, if you have a rooster in the new flock, they may begin to fight. I have had this go both ways. I have had a new rooster after several months challenge one of the established roosters for their position, and I have had new roosters just sit happily at the bottom of the order. This all depends on the temperament of the new rooster. He may assume the beta position well or he may not. It is during this time that you need a plan for your extra roosters. I typically put my roosters in bachelor pens where they bunk with other roosters. I will link the post here where I detail how bachelor pens work.

I hope this has helped many fellow “spring chicken” backyard chicken enthusiasts merge new chicks into an established flock.

Chickens are very simple creatures, one just needs an understanding of their nature and habits. They ask little, but give much in return.

If you still have questions, please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me at kuntryklucker@gmail.com I will get back to you a soon as I can. You can also find us on Facebook @ Kuntry Klucker Crew.

As alway, thanks for reading! Till next time, keep on crowing.

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

What to Know Before You Get Chickens.

The girls spending the evening grazing on a freshly cut lawn.

Know your Zoning laws:

First and foremost before you get chickens, know your zoning restrictions. Many cities, states, and counties have different laws regarding keeping livestock. If you are in the city, if you are allowed backyard chickens, you will most likely be restricted to a small number of hens omitting roosters.

In the county or country you may have more freedom, but you will still need to abide by guidelines.

For example, where I am located, I am not restricted on the amount of chickens I can have but I am restricted on how far my coops need to be from my neighbors front door. My animals must be confined to my property either by a fence or pen attached to coop. I also need to practice good manure management to keep my coops from causing fly, rodent or odor issues for my neighbors. So even in the country their are guidelines that need to be followed.

Caster making his way out of the Coop De Ville to the outdoor pen area.

If you are unsure of what your zoning laws require, you can find out simply by calling the State Veternian for your state and asking. They will be able to tell you based on your location what your restrictions are.

Addiction

As the saying goes, “You can’t have just one”. This more than applies to owning chickens. I started out with 17 Buff Orpington chicks and now have ballooned to a flock of 50+ of various breeds. I totally underestimated the addiction risk of chickens. I absolutely love my backyard divas and have plans for more.

‘ Buff Orpington Chick sitting amongst farm fresh eggs.

Today my flock is a thriving multicultural mesh of different breeds. Through acquiring a variety of breeds I am able to profile the behavior of various breeds along with any advantages and drawbacks. After owning several breeds, I can honestly say that the Polish is my favorite breed of all my Backyard Divas.

Aphrodite in a barrel of Gerbera Daisies.

Time/chores

Clean coops and happy hens after morning chores.

Chickens require time and daily care. Like all pets, chickens require dedication. However, chickens require little but give much in return.

To illustrate. My flock of 50 and 7 coops require about 30 minutes of my time every morning. Daily chores consist of cleaning the coops, filling feeders, filling waterers, collecting eggs and maintaining nesting boxes. All of this, while sounding like a lot does not require much time out of my day.

However, like a dog or cat, maintenance needs to be performed on a daily basis. Also, like your cat or dog, if you go on vacation, care will need to be arranged in your absences.

Eggs

Tripple tier egg storage basket in my kitchen.

Most people keep chickens for the farm fresh eggs. However, this pursuit, although positive has some drawbacks.

First, once you get a taste of farm fresh eggs, it’s hard to eat any other type of egg. For example, store bought eggs after eating farm fresh eggs taste like plastic. You will find yourself becoming an egg connoisseur of sorts, an egg snob if you will.

Basket full of eggs. The girls were busy today.

Second, you will come to realize that at first, your flock will produce the most expensive eggs that you ever collected. Allow me to explain.

Once obtaining your flock it will be about 20 weeks or 5-6 months before you collect the first egg from the nesting box. But during the “waiting period”, you will have to feed your flock. Egg laying or not, feeding your flock is a necessity. By the time you get your first egg, you will have spent a hefty amount in chicken feed, flock supplies and coops/pens. However, once the flock starts to lay dependibly, your cost and reward ratio will begin to align. But until then, you will be putting money into a “time share” of sorts without any benifit. Many people do not realize this, they falsely assume that chickens lay eggs right away and do not factor in a period of egg drout.

Egg drouts do not only happen during devolpment/maturity of the hens toward laying age, but also at various times throughout their lives. Yearly molt, the coldest part of winter, or the hottest part of summer depending on the breed. Point being, your flock will go through dry spells where they are not laying but you will be spending money on chicken feed. During these times of declined egg production, I humorously refer to my girls as “free-loaders”. All in good spirits of course. I understand my girls need a vacation every now and then and grant them time off.

Premium chicken feed the girls earned with the sale of their eggs. My flock is a big fan of Purina chicken Feed. They prefer it to any other brand. My girls are indeed pampered poultry.

Third, they will find you. When an egg recall or egg ration is suffered by the egg industry, backyard chicken keepers become everyone’s favorite neighbor.

Empty egg coolers at my local Walmart during the past bird flu scare and massive egg recall. And just like that the crazy chicken lady is everyone’s favorite neighbor.

For example, during the past egg scare when the bird flu raged havoc throughout the egg industry, I got a few unexpected visitors at my door. It takes quite a bit of guts to knock on a strangers door and ask for eggs.

The situation of this particular visitor was rather unique. She was a friend of a friend, who worked with a friend who told her that she knew me and that I had a fairly large backyard chicken flock. Her husband was on a a strict diet, eggs were his primary source of protien. Being that the bird flu forced many egg producers to recall eggs and euthanize their flocks, he was practally starving.

I gave her what eggs I had. I offered them at no charge given their unique and desperate situation. She insisted that she pay for them. This was the first day that a stranger knocked at my door and the girls turned a profit, but it was not the last.

All procidees the girls make on the eggs, I turn back to them in the form of feed, treats, and other necessities.

This was when I first realized how self sustaining my little farm really is. A massive egg recall raging the nation, had I not watched the news, I would have no idea. Now, when egg recalls or egg scares make the news I am prepared for a few visitors looking for eggs. The humble backyard chicken keeper to the rescue.

Illness and the importance of a Chicken first aid kit:

First Aid Kit for my girls.

Just like kids and other pets, chickens too get sick. However, unlike a pediatrician for little humans and vets for cats and dogs, most vets will not treat chickens since they are technically “live stock”. While backyard flocks are rapidly reaching pet status, for now they are categorized as livestock.

Thus, the backyard chicken keeper has to become a chicken doctor. Althought this sounds scary, chickens are simple creatures. Most conditions that plague a backyard flock are relatively simple to treat.

The more common health conditions that a backyard chicken keeper will encounter are things like mites, lice, bubble foot, fly strike, respitory illnesses and sour crop. The good news is, good flock maintenance practice will eliminate many of these conditions. If your flock has fresh water daily, fresh feed in clean feeders, and a clean dry place to call home, most of these potetional illnesses will be greatly reduced.

In my 10 years of keeping chickens, I have only had a few illnesses to tangle with. Mostly I have had to treat for mites, worms, and bumble foot. If your chickens are allowed to free range, at some point they will come down with a case of red fowl mites. You can think of mites as a badge of honor because your flock has access to grass, fresh air, and sun. Treatment is simiar to flea/tick treatment for cats and dogs. Only with a method for chickens. My favorite product for this purpose is Epernix. Found a Feed/Farm stores in the cattle section.

Although made for cattle, Epernix at low dose is safe for chickens. I use 1/2 cc for bantoms and 3/4 cc for standard size birds. With a syringe I drop the liquid behind their neck, just like treating a cat or dog. I repeat again in 14 days, and that’s it. After two doses, lice and mites are history. Treat every single flock member. I do this maybe 1 to 2 times a year. I treat only when symptoms are present. Note when using this produce there is an automatic egg withdrawal of 20 days while the girls are in treatment.

Worming is the same. I use safeguard for goats, at small doses it is effective for chickens. This time, with a different syringe I use 1/2cc for bantam and 3/4cc for standard size birds. Drop the wormer on a piece of bread and feed to each member of the flock, repeat in 14 days. There is also a 20 days egg withdrawal for safeguard like Eprinex. That is it, crises averted.

The most complex issue I have had to deal with is bumble foot. I will link my method for dealing with bumble foot here.

Although a chicken keeper needs to take their flocks health in the own hands, it’s not hard. Most things you need to treat your flocks are found at feed/Farm stores. If you can find a vet to treat your birds, the price will be very high. However, most vets will put a gravely ill chicken down. Some keepers prefer this to putting their own sick hens down. I humanly euthanize my own sick members, but most people are not able to do this which is fine. Most vets will assist in this event.

Chicken first aid kit.

Things to keep in your chicken first aid kit:

vet wrap, gauze, triple antibiotic cream, salve, plastic knives for admistering salve and creams, steril scizzors for cutting gauz and vet wrap, hydrogen peroxide, syringes without needles for admistering medication orally, Rooster Booster poultry cell (great for poviding sick birds with iron, amino acids, and minerals for recovers), Rooster Booster B-12 (good for providing sick birds with essential vitamins for healing, high in B-12), VetRx for poultry (great for birds with respotiry issues, similar to vicks for humans. Drop in water or place under the wing to help birds recover), bleach to sterilize instruments.

Most of this things are household items accept for items specific to poultry. Keeping a first-egg kit (pun intended) ready and stocked makes it easier to treat on the spot rather than waiting till you can get the items you need.

Have a plan for winter

When acquiring chickens, most people are so focused on brooders and bring their flock to laying age that they often find themselves frantic when cold weather approaches. Preparing a flock for winter takes time, preparation and some expense. However, due to the fact that chickens come factory installed with down coats, it’s not the cold keepers need to worry about but wind and moisture. To adequately prepare your flock for winter a keeper needs to take measures to keep the coop/pen clean and dry. Installing heater or heat lamps is not needed or recommended. Coop fires are often started by good intentions to keep flocks warm. The rule of thumb is to never judge your flocks comfort by your own standards. Chickens evolved to live out doors, all a keeper needs to do is keep them clean and dry, warmth is not necessary, the chickens take care of that on their own. I will link here the methods I use to prepare my flock and coops for winter.

Coops and Pens: There are so many options.

Before you get chickens, decide what kind of coop you want to get. Before shopping for coops you need to know how many chickens you intend to get and how many coops you want to have. There are lots of resources for acquiring coops. If you are skilled at wood working you could build your own coop and pen. If you’re like me and wood working is not your cup of tea, there are many prefab coops on the market. Contraty to popular belief, prefab coops can and do make great homes for your flock. I will link here my post where I talk about prefab coops, hacks, and how to get the most out of your prefab coops.

Finally and most importantly: Brooder set up

In order to have a successful flock, your chicks need a good start, and the best place to get this start is in the brooder. Before you get chicks, you need to think about their brooder and how you plan to brood your clutch. Just about everything you can think of has been used for brooders, kiddie pools, Rubbermaid totes, dog crates, boxes, bathtubs, garages, attics, and so on. The possibilities are endless. At the end of the day, a brooder is just a heated home for your growing chicks, what you use to achieve this home is up to you. I started out using large boxes then switched to puppy play pens as my preferred brooding container. Everyone will have their own idea on what to use and how to brood. The size of the flock will also affect the type of container use I to house the flock. I will link my brooding method and supplies here.

Grape Arbor and the Coop-Hood.

I hope that this post has been a helpful addition to the information gathering phase on starting your own backyard chicken flock. Chickens are a great asset to any farm, homestead or city backyard, they ask little but give much in return.

If you have any questions not addressed in this post, feel free to ask. You can leave a comment, find us on facebook, or drop us a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com

As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!

~The Kuntry Klucker Crew~

10 Reasons Roosters Rule!

Forget their bad rap, let’s take a fresh look at Roosters.

Lestat: White Crested Polish Standard Rooster

For those who have followed me you know that I have two central passions within the backyard chicken movement, conservation of Heritage Breeds and Roosters. Roosters have acquired a bad rap that they are not totally deserving of. Much of this reputation started in our grandparents day when keeping chickens was a basic way of life. The breeds available for this purpose were few and most were considered game birds by our breed standard today. The rooster were a bit cantankerous and aggressive. Not of their own volition but due to the lack of breeding for demeanor, temperament, and docile attributes.

The backyard chicken hobby has come a long way since the day of our grandparents starring the nightmare bird that tormented us. Much has been done in the way of breeding that has produced roosters that are much more docile and friendly. Make no mistake, a rooster has a job to do and takes it seriously, but as a general rule many breeds today possess roosters that are much better suited for the backyard chicken hobby way of life. I went into the hobby carrying with me the traumas of the dreaded backyard bird on my grandparents farm, I have since then learned much about these creatures and come to appreciate and admire them.

Roy: Buff Orpington Rooster

The first rooster that I had was Roy. Roy was a Buff Orpington rooster that came with the first batch of chicks that I ordered. I was terrified to have a rooster but nonetheless went forward with raising him alongside the other chickens in the clutch I ordered. I feared that Roy would grow up to be the vindictive bird so often elapsed from generations past. All I had was the working knowledge of the many association attributed to roosters.

As Roy grew into an adult rooster he showed me another side of roosters, a side that I have never thought possible. He showed me that roosters are effectuate, approachable, friendly and even docile. I was blown way by the unchartered path the Roy was taking me down. Not only was he not aggressive he was a gentlemen. When I brought treats to the back yard he would feed the girls, when I came to visit the flock he was more often than not my welcoming committee. Through Roy I was able to witness the selfless service that he offered to my hens. Even giving his life if necessary.

Roy the Rooster

One early spring day, I was in the house going about my regular activities. Due to the temped weather, I had the windows open. Out of the silence of my otherwise quiet day, I heard Roy crowing. This crow was different, instead of his usually “just checking in” crow, this crow had a timbre of urgency. Throwing on my boots and rushing to the backyard, I saw a scene before me that I was not prepared for. In the middle of the backyard stood Roy, he had sounded the alarm because a large raptor had laid siege upon the flock. All the girls were safely hidden under a tree but Roy was alone in the backyard preparing to take on the hawk alone, thus giving his life for his hens. As I approached the backyard and took in the reality of what was unfolding, I too took action and grabbed the closest thing to me waving it in the air. With my hoe in hand I approached Roy, striking the Raptor, scaring it, it flew over the fence scratching into the distance. Once Roy was freed from the predators talons I saw that he was injured. He sustained injuries to his head and back. I cared for him, nursing him back to health and returned him to the flock where he lived on several more years as a decorated war hero. I learned that day the ultimate value of a rooster. Roy showed me that a rooster is more than a reputation that hinged from a long ago era. A rooster is a sentient being that gives more than he will ever receive. Even giving his life when necessary.

Roy’s Grave: Under this white butterfly bush is Roy’s final resting place. Although gone, I can still hear his crow echoing in the voices of rooster that I care for today.

Roy has long since passed, buried under a white butterfly bush in my backyard, but he is not gone. I still hear his crow echoing in my backyard amplified in the 13 roosters that I now have the honor to care for. He was the first of many roosters that I now own and will own in the future.

The lessons I learned from my Rooster Teacher will never fade. I take what Roy has taught me and now advocate for roosters. Roosters are amongst the most abused and forgotten creatures, a singer of the songs of the ancients, with a heart of gold he cares for and even surrenders his life for his friends.

This post is dedicated to Roy and his legacy, but most importantly its the story of my journey with roosters and proof that roosters are indeed sentient beings worthy of admiration and respect. Here are my top 10 Reasons why Roosters Rock.

  1. Protection:
Enigma (Mottled Cochin Rooster) keeping watch as the girls dig in the fresh hay for delectibles.

The most common attribute possessed by roosters is that of protection. When free ranging, a rooster will keep an eye to the sky, looking out for any danger that may threaten the flock. When a danger is detected he will sound the alarm, send the girls running for cover and if needed give his life for his flock. This is what I witnessed on that fateful day when Roy sounded the alarm. Had I not been home when I was, I often cringe at what would have been. But luckily I was there to save Roy’s life just as he was preparing to save the life of my girls.

It is often said that a rooster is a better watch dog than a watch dog. After owning many rooster, I have to concur. Roosters will keep you up to date all on that goings on in the backyard or chicken yard. They are a real live and up to date news service on the condition of their surrounding. If there are multiple roosters in a flock, they will check in with each other by crowing communicating the “all clear here”, echoed by a “clear here too”. This banter will go on throughout the day as the boys on duty keep the flock updated on the air traffic in the area or other important announcements. I delight in hearing my boys check in with each other, I feel good knowing that the guys are on duty.

2. Crowing

Lestat: (White Crested Standard Rooster) announcing my arrival to the backyard as I prepare to mow the grass.

Singing the song of his people, a roosters crow is an ancient song, a song of a world long ago past. He sings the ancient song long before our time, a time when his larger ancestors roamed the earth. His is a song from a world that long ago existed before his song was drowned out by our modern way of life. His song is a song of purity, the reminiscence of a day when life was hard but simple, a time when a rooster’s crow ushered in the beginning of a new day. Greeting the sun, setting the world around him in motion. Our modern life drowns out the sounds of nature and the past. His song has a purity that money cannot buy but few will hear. His song is a relic of the ancients, linking us to his past and to ours.

3. A Dancer:

Dracula: (Easter Egger Rooster) shaking is waddles, showing that he is a real “stud”.

A rooster is a gentlemen. Before he mates with a hen he courts her with a shuffle dance. As he approaches her in anticipation of a date he will dance for her, shuffling his feet, displaying his wings and at times shaking his waddles, the ultimate display of a rooster “stud”. If she accepts, he will then mate with her and then make plans for his next date. Watching this mating dance within my own flock by my roosters is such a delight. I never thought that roosters could have such killer moves, but nonetheless, my backyard is a dance floor with some of the best dancers I have seen. I never get tired of watching my boys dance for my hens.

4. Fertilized Eggs

Buff Orpington chicks sitting atop eggs collected from my backyard.

Linked close to number 3 (dancing) is fertilized eggs. When a rooster mates with a hen, it is his aim to pass long his genes to the subsequent generation of chicks. If you want to procreate your flock, fertilized eggs are a must. Not only that, but if you sale your fertilized eggs you can make a small profit on the side. For example, when the covid-19 pandemic hit the US, lot of people wanted to keep chickens. Seeking to be independent from the supply chain many began seeking a more self-sufficient way of life. A lot of people reached out to me asking if I would sale some of my hens or chicks. Being that it was January when covid impacted my area, chick season was a bit far off yet. However, I did have fertilize eggs that I could sale which they could hatch and start their flocks. As a result I earned a profit by selling fertilized eggs from my flock. All the proceeds went right back to the girls whether be it feed, treats, or other things they benefited from.

5. Hunting for his Hens:

Devros and Micky Smith (Silkie Roosters) standing watch as their hens eats the bugs they found.

A rooster will hunt for his girls. When free ranging, a rooster will actively look for things to offer his hens. When he finds something of value, he will call his girls over to eat it. When they heed his call, he will then pick up the morsel and drop it showing them what he found for them. As they eat, he will keep watch looking out for any danger deemed to be a threat to the flock. If his hunts come up empty, he will lead his girls to the feeder when he feels that it’s time for them to eat. After the girls have had their fill, only then will he eat if there are any remaining morsels. It is by evolutionary design that he knows the girls need the extra nutrition for the procreation of the flock (egg laying).

Roosters are known for this chivalrous behavior. I spend much time watching my boys as they hunt and call over their girls as the proudly watch as they eagerly eat his find. This was a behavior that I least expected to see in my roosters. Even when I bring treats to the backyard for the flock, the boys will be up front ready to receive the treats to distribute amongst their appointed hens. I will often give the treats to the rooster and watch them then feed their ladies. In this process, the roosters have learned that I am the supplier of sustenance and will often squabble in anticipation of getting the first hand out to then offer to their hens. When multiple rooster are in the flock this behavior is even more interesting to witness.

6. Keeping his friends close and his enemies closer:

Enigma (Mottled Cochin Rooster) keeping his girls close as the roam the backyard for snacks.

When out free ranging, the presence of a rooster in a flock will keep the girls from wondering too far. In my backyard, the boys have divided the yard into jurisdictions. Each head of the flock knowing where the boundary lines are and which girls belong on which rooster team. Given that my backyard is large providing much roaming space, each rooster keeps his girls within their section of the vast yard. When the girls start to wonder too far from their coop or into “enemy territory” he will herd them back to home base. When roosting time approaches, he will also herd them to the coop in preparation for night fall. I have multiple coops in my backyard, each rooster knows which coop is his and will see to it that all his girls are accounted for before I lock up. If I find one of the roosters wondering in the backyard I know that one or more of his girls are in the wrong coops. I assist him with finding his missing hen in one of the other coops, put her on the ground and let him lead her to the correct coop for roosting (it is apparently a violation of the rooster code for him to enter a suspect coop in search of his hen). I have often times gone to lock up the coops for the night and found one sometimes more of my boys waiting for my assistance. They know that as I lock up coops I will discover any misplaced hens and reunite them with the correct flock and corresponding head of flock management.

7. Keeping order in the ranks:

Caster and Pollux (White Crested Polish Bantam Roosters) leading their girls to a shade tree near the coop for a mid-afternoon nap.

As the head of the flock, a rooster will keep order in the ranks. Contrary to popular belief, chickens are very intelligent and highly organized creatures. Phrases that we often use in our everyday language are derived from the complex social structure of chickens such as, “pecking order” and for good reason. The social hierarchy of a flock is established by literally pecking another member on the back indicating placement in the social order (the pecker is above the peckie). Starting with the alpha rooster, below him are the subjugated roosters in the flock, then flowing throughout all the hens to the last member at the bottom of the pecking order. All activities are then performed around this order, such mundane flock activities such as who roosts were at night, the order in which the flock leaves the coop and the order in which they return.

As predicted, there are often squabbles amongst the hens when someone acts out of turn or challenges another member to renegotiate their position. When this happens a conflict often ensues. During these times, a rooster will step in and quell any disruption within the ranks, establishing peace once again in the order. Left in isolation, conflicts among the flock can result in injuries to the contenders. It is a roosters job to see to it that no injuries are sustained by breaking up any fights that may break out among the hens. Once order is reestablished the flock can then carry on about their day hopefully without further disruptions.

8. Beauty:

Frankenstein (Easter Egger Rooster) accompanying his girls in the garden as they look for bugs and worms in the soil.

Before I had roosters I never stopped and examined them. What I have found is that although all my girls are stunning my boys are just absolutely beautiful. From the iconic 80’s hair band atop my Polish boys heads to the elaborately long tails and stunning colorations, my boys are just beautiful. They take pride in their crests and long tails to. When molting season is upon them and my boys loose their tails, I can almost visibly see their egos affected.

They will strut their stuff in the backyard while shaking their waddles just to let everyone know they are the heart throbs of the backyard. My boys take great care in their looks, I assist them in making sure they stay pest free aiding them in their grooming regiment. I have a few that are the pride of my backyard and know it. When multiple roosters are in the flock the eye candy appeal is even more enticing. They just add a beauty to my backyard flock that is hard to miss. I thoroughly enjoy watching my backyard studs as they strut their stuff and care for the hens.

9. Fun!

The chicken yard Spring 2020! The roosters add a lot of fun and dynamic to the over landscape of the backyard.

Roosters create an interesting dynamic in the flock. As they each care for their section of the hens in their agreed upon juristicion, things can sometimes become entertaining. Ocassionally a hen or two will wonder off too far, so the associated rooster needs to fetch them while keeping an eye on the rest of the flock. 

Or this scenario, a hen or two will cheat on a rooster by mating with a rival rooster in another part of the yard. Or a young roosters who has yet to establish his harem works to try and siphon off a few hens from other roosters. This often leaves the backyard in a state of confusion for a few days. My boys are very well behaved so fights are usually limited to short durations. Typically when two roosters start to squabble one or more of the other roosters will hear the disruption and break up the confrontation. Basically, backyard life is never boring with roosters around. 

Even funnier still is when I bring new items into the backyard. Last year we put in a grape arbor in our backyard which entailed many items coming to the backyard which all needed inspection by the boys. An auger to dig the post holes, large timbers to frame the arbor, more wood to create the canopy, and finally the grape plants themselves. The boys each had to make sure it passed inspection before they felt comfortable with the hens going near it. The year earlier we put in a large backyard garden shed. That too had to pass rooster inspection. This year we plan to give them a break. I cannot imagine my flock with out my boys, they are a great joy and bring much happiness to my soul.

10. Balance

Dracula (Easter Egger Rooster) and his ladies enjoying hunting a pecking on a freshly cut green lawn.

When I observe my flock free ranging in my backyard I see a balance. The Yin Yang, the Yi Jing, all in balance flowing as nature designed and intended. Many city locations will not allow roosters due to the noise issue related to crowing. However, many city chicken keepers are posing challenges to this discriminatory precedent being allowed one rooster. Roosters whether in a fenced backyard or a pasture bring a completion to the flock that is often missed when a rooster is absent. I am thankful for every summers eve that I am able to sit at watch my flock as they bring to an end the days activities. I cannot imagine my life without my boys, they have taught me so much.

I hope that this post has brought some clarification to the subject of roosters. It is my aim to challenge the stigma, the bad rap that is often unfairly attached to roosters, and to instead present them as the amazing creatures that they are. Yes, the rooster of our grandparents era were bad barn yard birds, they were often closely related to the game cock which is a very aggressive species. But as the backyard chicken movement has taken hold in this country so has the demand for a bird that fit this purpose. No longer needed to sustain a family farm, chickens today are assuming more of a role as a family pet much like a dog. The poultry industry has responded by providing more and more breeds that are docile and even down right lovable. 

Take the Silkie for example. Silkies are known the world over as the teddy bears of the chicken world. They live up to this reputation as lovable, furry feathered friends that are great to have around kids. One of my boys has a flock of Silkies that he is very attached to and absolutely loves to care for and interact with. There are many other examples such as the Silkie which are chicken breeds that meet this need for the backyard chicken hobbyist. 

In this post it was my aim to take a fresh look at roosters. Gone are the days of our grandparents barn yard rooster that terrorized us as kids. Meet the roosters of today, and start your adventure with backyard chickens.

As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

NPIP Certification

When it comes to keeping backyard chickens there are lots of decisions that a keeper needs to make. In addition to breeds, coops, whether or not to have a rooster there is NPIP certification. In the post I will detail what NPIP Certification is and if it is something that you want to do for your flock.

What is NPIP Certification?

In short NPIP stands for National Poultry Improvement Plan. The NPIP is a voluntary program overseen by the United States of Agriculture (USDA) and managed by each state.
The program monitors flocks and hatcheries for a variety of serious diseases that can devastate chicken populations and create serious problems for the poultry industry or backyard chicken enthusiasts.

The NPIP program was first established in 1935 as a way to eliminate Pullorum, a disease that devastated the poultry industry in the late 1920’s. The program was later refined to include backyard chicken keepers and test for other serious diseases such as Salmonella Pullorum, Salmonella Gallinarum, Salmonella Enteritidis, Mycoplasma Gallisepticum, Mycoplasma Synaviae, Mycoplasma Meleagridis and in 2006 Avian Influenza

NPIP Certified hatcheries adhere to a set of established standards that ensure that the birds they sale are free from diseases listed above. Testing involves taking blood samples from their flocks, swabs from their birds throats, adhering to sanitation and biosecurity procedures.

Hatcheries are required to test their flocks for the diseases included in the certification set out by the USDA. Testing procedures can vary from state to state but most require a testing for Avian Influenza (AI) and various forms of Salmonella. Typically a cross selection of 300 birds will be tested. If a hatchery has less than 300 birds than every single bird is then tested and must re-test annually to keep their certification up to date.

So what does this mean for the backyard flock owner?

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As a perspective backyard chicken keeper looking to start or add to an existing flock, it is best to buy from a breeder that is NPIP Certified. Most hatcheries are certified but there are a few out there that are not. Some hatcheries will list on their webpage that they are NPIP Certified along with their certification number. If you do not see where they are NPIP certified just ask. Any hatchery that is NPIP certified will readily and freely prove to you that they are certified and will give your their NPIP certification number. If they are certified you can be sure that you are buying from a reputable breeder or hatchery that holds animal husbandry to the highest standard.

 

As a backyard chicken keeper, if you plan on breeding or selling chicks or chickens it is a good idea to get your flock NPIP Certified. Not only are you ensured that your flock is healthy and that you are selling healthy birds but it offers you a hedge of protection should the birds you sold be reported sick. If there is an investigation into the origin of the birds sold you will have a hedge of protection in that your flock is NPIP Certified. That’s not to say that just because a source is NPIP Certified that birds cannot get sick. It will reveal in the event of an investigation that your flock is healthy and gets routine health inspections that is documented by your State Veterinarian.

It also give you a peace of mind as well. For example, if there is an outbreak of AI in your area, a State Veterinarian will be dispatched to your home to test your birds for AI. Since your property is cataloged in your county offices that you have chickens you will literally get a knock at your door requesting to test your flock. Some people find this comforting, others find it intrusive. Some feel that registering your flock and having them NPIP Certified relinquishes too much control to “Big Brother”. This is where the individual keepers preference comes into play. I personally have my flock NPIP Certified. Not only do I find it comforting that should AI be detected in my area, the USDA would be on it testing my birds. But if I sale any chicks or adult laying hens I am confident that I am selling healthy birds and have the certification to back it up.

How does an owner certify their flock?

If you decide that NPIP certification is something that you want to do, getting them certified is very easy. Simply look up your State Veterinarian on the web or in the phone book and give them a call. Simply tell them that you are a backyard chicken keeper and that you want to have your flock NPIP certified.

 

 

At that time your information will be recorded and you will get a call from a USDA agent in a few days to schedule a testing date. If you have a large flock say 50 birds or more, plan on taking the day off work to have your flock certified. The agents will literally test every one of your birds individually.

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They will take a small sample of blood and swab their throats. You as the keeper will be responsible for retrieving each bird, bringing them to the inspectors, and keeping track of who has been tested. Once tested each bird will be issued an ankle bracelet with a number on it, each number is specific to each bird and is logged into a computer. This number is their state ID. Should you need to call the State Veterinarian at a later date about a bird you will need to reference the number on their ankle bracelet.

This is another perk of having your flock NPIP Certified. If you have any questions about health or other illness related questions, you have someone to call. Many local Vets will not see “livestock” in their office. They may be able to answer some general questions but as for advising you in detail they may be limited. The State Veterinarian will know how to answer or direct your questions relating to your flock to qualified sources.

In my early days I called my local State Vet several time to clarity issues or find treatment direction for basic illness. They were an amazing resource that I readily used. If you call with a suspicious illness such as symptoms of AI, an inspector will be dispatched to your property to test your birds. If you have suspicious deaths (you do not know the cause of death) they will conduct a necropsy or an animal autopsy on the deceased birds to determine what took the animals life. It will then be determined if this is something to be concerned about in relation to the rest of your flock. They are an immense source of information and guidance if you find yourself in a situation where you need expert advice or help.

How much does it cost to get your flock NPIP Certified?

The final aspect the of NPIP Certification that I will touch on is how much it costs. The cost depends on your state, each state will have different rates and procedures of how they go about conducting a NPIP certification. In the state of Tennessee, where I live our State Vet charged $25 for an inspection and certification. It is in the best interest of the state that keepers certify their flocks so they try to make it simple and affordable.

Each year or every other year depending on your state, your flock will be up for renewal. Each year the flock owner is required to pay the nominal fee to renew their NPIP Certificate. The fee in my case was rendered at time of service directly the inspectors after they tested all my birds. Several days after the inspection of your flock takes place, you will receive a card in the mail with your issued NPIP Participant #. This is for your records or anytime you need to prove your NPIP status. Below is an old card that I received for a NPIP Certification several year ago.

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I have never regretted getting my flock NPIP Certified. Although I am not an active breeder I find value in knowing that my flock is healthy. I also found the NPIP certification process valuable in learning how to conduct my own health inspections on my birds and what dangerous symptoms to look for in relation to serious illness in my flock. The most important aspect that I value from the NPIP process is the network of contacts I can call should I find myself in the unfortunate situation where I need professional help for my flock. There is a peace of mind knowing that I am only a phone call away from people who are knowledgeable should I need to tap into that resource.

I hope that this post has helped answer some question relating to NPIP Certification. If you have any questions that I did not cover in this post please feel free to leave me a comment. I will get back to you as soon as I can. That’s what I’m here for.

As always, thanks for reading. Till next time keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

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Can Backyard Chickens make you sick?

Hi everyone!! I hope your summer has been well and that you packed all the fun into it as humanly possible. I know I have been absent for a while, its been a busy summer. Its funny how the summer months can turn an average functioning family into a frenzy. Well that is what summer has been like for us, been busy with activities and of course keeping up what the girls, growing and harvesting season. With the majority of the gardens work behind me I wanted to take the time to touch on a subject that I have been asked by several of my followers. Can owning backyard chickens make you sick?

Earlier this month the CDC released an article/report that backyard chickens are responsible for salmonella outbreaks across the country. Sickening people even sending some to the hospital, but so far no deaths have occured, well that’s good. As fear riddening as this sounds I want to take the time and put my two cents in and tell my side of the story as a backyard chicken keeper.

The long and short of it is Yes, backyard chickens can make you sick, but so can your cat, dog, and pet parrot. You see any animal that lays eggs carries the salmonella bacteria, this include, pet turtles, snakes, bearded dragons, and of course backyard chickens. It is a bacteria that all egg laying animals/reptiles carry in their body. This is why it is advisable that one wash your hands good with soap and water after handling. It a pretty simple common sense step to take to avoid illness after contact with pets that can carry the salmonella bacteria. Not that this gets your cat and dog off free and easy without incident. Cats and dogs especially if they are allowed to run free outside can also make you sick. They too can come into contact with pathogens that can be transmitted to you. So really your small flock of backyard chickens are no more dangerous to your health then fluffy or fido.

So why does the CDC single out backyard chickens? Well, I think that the answer is two fold. One, keeping backyard chickens has a direct impact on the factory farm producers of eggs and for some, meat for the table. When consumers take it upon themselves to have a say in where their food comes from the big factory farm producers take a big hit.

It does not help their matters that the backyard chicken movement has exploded by leaps and bounds. Keeping backyard chickens is no more common than a family having a dog roaming the backyard. Even cities have passed laws to allow residents to keep a small number of hens in the small plots behind their homes. Its a movement that is growing every year which is one reason why people like me who blog about backyard chickens are seeing an huge increase in readers. Potential keepers are seeking out information on how to care and sustain a small backyard flock, this is where people like me come into play.

Secondly, I think part of the problem is that people are cuddling their chickens like they would a cat or dog and innevertatnly getting sick in the process. The CDC is right when they state that you should not kiss your pet chickens or allow young kids to hold chicks. This is because young children have an increase risk of putting their hands in their mouths after interacting with chicks. But this same rule can be applied to any pet, not just backyard chickens.

So, what is my stance you may be asking? Well to put it simply, wash your hands! I have been a keeper of backyard chickens for almost 10 years now, I have never become sick due to handling or having contact with my flock. The only chicken I have contracted illness from and took ill was from chicken that I ordered at a restaurant.

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My girls have never made me sick in anyway or caused any ill effect in the entire time I have been keeping chickens. Protecting yourself and your family from illness takes nothing more than a common sense approach. Whenever I come inside from interacting the girls the first thing I do is wash my hands well with soap and water. I don’t need to submerge my self in alcohol or bleach, a simple thorough hand washing is all that is needed. Additionally, I only wear my “coop” cloths into the backyard when interacting with my girls. Not only is this just a good common sense move, it keeps me from getting my nice cloths dirty. Chickens can be messy so I would not want to wear nice cloths to the backyard anyway. So wearing cloths that I don’t mind getting dirty that I wear no where else and take off and put directly in the washer after coming inside is nothing more than common sense.

So as you can see just taking simple steps after spending time with the girls is all that is needed. One need not be afraid to own or handle backyard chickens because all that is needed to protect yourself a simple act of washing your hands well after contact.

Now, as far as kissing backyard chickens this is probably advice well worth taken. I love my girls, but I never kiss them for several reasons. Chickens are very interested in human eyeballs, they look like treats to them, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen pics of people on facebook after getting pecked in the eye by their chicken. It hurts and in some cases and cause irreversible damage. So to keep my eyes safe I keep my face well out of the way of the curiosity of a chicken. It just makes perfect sense.

Secondly, kissing your chicken can be hazardous for your health. I know that a lot of people do, but the line stops there for me. I will tell my girls how much a love them and how pretty they are but my lips are never laid on them. They live outside bathe in dirt and can carry some pathogens on their feathers that I would rather not have in my mouth. So, my love line stops there, I do not kiss my birds. So, yes, backyard chickens can make you sick but the routes to avoid this are very simple and only require soap, water, and facial/eyeball distance.

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So, enjoy your backyard birds just make sure to wash your hands and keep your eyes and lips away from their curious beaks. If you practice good hygienic common sence you will have a very happy relationship with your girls enjoying all the benefits of having backyard chickens.

Till next time, keep on crowing.

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

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The TARDIS has landed!!

Hello again everyone!!! The girls and I have been doing well, trying to survive mud season here on the Kuntry Klucker farm. That annoying season between winter and spring, with all the rain we have had it is hard to keep up. Hopefully here in a few weeks we will start to dry out and begin getting the gardens ready for spring planting. In the meantime though we have been up to another coop project. That is right, the Kuntry Klucker Crew once again gets new neighbors. Allow me to introduce to you the TARDIS! For those of you who are Dr. Who fans you know very well what the TARDIS is. For those not so familiar, it stands for Time And Dimension In Space. On our farm here its Time And Dimension In Space chicken style!

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This coop is for my son. I have two little Kuntry Kluckers one of which has been bitten by the addictive chicken bug. We are huge Dr. Who fans so we looked around to find a coop that could best resemble a TARDIS. We lucked out and found this beautiful design at our local Tractor Supply. The girls of this coop will all be named after Dr. Who companions, the boys will be named Strax and Hydroflax. The Kuntry Klucker Crew as always are very curious about anything that comes into the backyard the Bantam Boutique crew as well. So once again we add one more coop to our little coop neighborhood here at the Kuntry Klucker farm.

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This was by far the most complex of coops that we have put together. It took three of us working for 4 hours to finally bring the TARDIS to life. It is a very solid and heavy coop so I am confident that like the Bantam Boutique, it will handle whatever mother nature throws its way. So, once again the girls get to watch the construction of yet another coop in their coop-hood paradise.

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The box containing the coop was massive. It took up the entire bed of a large pickup truck to get it here. Since this coop weighs upwards of 150 pounds, we opened the box on the drive way and carried it to the backyard piece by piece for construction. Due to the enormity of this coop I had to keep the Kuntry Klucker and the Bantam Botique Crew in their pens for their safely. From inside their pens there were very attendive to what was going on around them. We were serenaded by Enigma who through his crowing let us know that we were being heavily supervised.

Once we hauled the coop piece by piece to the backyard construction began on the TARDIS.

Whenever I put a new coop together I make sure that I have a good quality heavy weed fabric under the coop. This keeps mud from taking over the runs when it rains and gives a good base to lay sand in the pens. It also has the added benefit of keeping weeds from growing around the coop. It’s not anything that  has to be done by any means, it is just a little extra thing that I add for the comfort of my girls.

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Four hours later, construction of the TARDIS was complete. It stands at the highest of 6 feet. I can easily walk into the coop and have a little room to spare. We really like the walk-in design and I am sure they girls will too since we will be able to visit them in their coop. The walk-in design will also make it easier to clean, which my little Kuntry Klucker will be responsible for.

Now that the coop is constructed the fun begins. Like all my coops I make sure that I put a good layer of mulch around them. This keep mud and weeds down plus affords me the ability to plant herbs around the coop and pen. The herbs are two fold, one I use a lot of herbs in my cooking and since most bugs don’t like herbs they are natural deterrent keeping bugs away from my girls. Its not full proof but it does offer some deterrent to insects. That combined with keeping the coop and pen clean really goes a long way.

After enclosing the outdoor run area in chicken wire and a little white picket fence for decoration and laying mulch its ready to be chicken tested. The chicken wire is to keep the Big Girls out of the Silkie pens while keeping the Silkies contained in their run area. Since the TARDIS Crew is so much smaller than the Kuntry Klucker Crew I have to take precautions to reduce injury. The TARDIS Crew loves their new digs.

Looks like the 4 current residents love their new digs! This coop will house 9 Silkie Bantams. I have 4 right now, the other 5 will arrive in May. After they new clutch gets to be the size of these guys I will begin to introduce them to their new digs and TARDIS companions. The Bantam Boutique has new neighbors!!

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Enigma is not too fond of the neighbors yet. He is still trying to get his little mind wrapped around the fact that their is a new coop next door. But in the meantime its really funny watching him try to make since of it. I am sure that in a few weeks he will accept his new neighbors and enjoy the company next-door.

So once again the land scape of my backyard has changed. We are really excited about our new addition and the chicks to arrive in May. I will also be adding more chickens to the Bantam Boutique Crew as well. I have 4 Bantam Frizzle Cochins that will be added to the current residents of the Bantam Boutique. That will be a post to come later.

For now, the kid loves his TARDIS coop and the Silkie girls love their news digs.

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Welcome to the Coop-hood!! The TARDIS has landed!

 

Thanks for taking time to catch up with the girls and I. We have a lot of exciting things coming up in the next few months as we prepare for spring planting and a new batch of 9 chicks to arrive. We will catch up with you soon. Till then keep on crowing.

~ The Kuntry Klucker, Bantam Boutique, and TARDIS Crew ~

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Introducing the “Bantom Botique”

Spring has sprung, for backyard chicken keepers this means only one thing, Chicks!! That is right, the girls and I will have new additions to the backyard, allow me to introduce to you the Bantom Boutique.  The Bantom Boutique will house two new breeds, White Crested Polish Bantoms and White Silkie Bantoms. The girls and I have been very busy putting together the new coop and getting it painted and decorated in time for the new additions to arrive.  It has been a project that I have been working on for the past three months, I am so glad that it is finally finished. All we have to do now it wait for the peeping box to arrive in May. But for now, allow me to get you caught up on our little project here at the Kuntry Klucker Farm.

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I purchased the Bantom Boutique at my local Tractor Supply store. Since I am getting some fancy breeds I though that I should get a coop that matches the style of the tenants. The coop came in a huge box, actually so huge that I could not get it into the backyard. Instead I opened it up on the drive way and carried it piece by piece to the backyard for assembly. This is where the girls come in.

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Since they consider the backyard their territory anything that enters the backyard is put through a strict scrutiny (pecking) process. The Bantom Boutique was no acceptation. As the pieces started to collect in the backyard the girls got right to work pecking giving it their approval. For the assembly of the Bantom Boutique I did have some human help, my sons were a great help in the construction process.

We had a great time putting together the Bantom Boutique. The girls were very involved in the process as well. As we started to assemble all the random pieces propped against the fence the girls made sure that they got their say in the approval of the structure. Miss Sweet Pea in particular was of much help.

As the vague shape of a chicken coop started to emerge out of the random pieces the girls knew just what to do. Go in and check out the new neighbors digs! They inspected it inside and out giving it their stamp (peck) of approval.

Now that we finally had the Bantom Boutique completed, it was time to decorate! I painted the Bantom Boutique the classic red and white that all my coops dote. Out of the box it was a slate grey and white. Although pretty I prefer all my coops to have a uniformity, that being barn red and white. So once I got it situated the next step was the painting. For this I would not allow the girls to help me. I had to keep them in their pen while I was painting the Bantom Boutique. Paint is not good for chickens to consume or breath. They were upset with me but I had to put their safety first.

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Once it was dry, it was time for decorating and the coop-scaping. For this phase I had plenty of help or should I say “hen-derences”. Finally freed from their pen and eager to help, the girls got straight to work. I went to my local nursery and brought home several plants, bags of mulch, and a large bag of potting soil. Their first task was to taste all of the plants that I brought home. You see all of the plants in my backyard are edible by the girls. I do this so that I do not have to worry about the girls consuming something that could  hurt them. Whenever I bring in something new to plant in the backyard they are eager to taste it.

So, as I set my plants out and got my potting soil ready I had plenty of “hen-derences” helping me. On one side I had a few of the girls tasting the new neighbors plants, on the other side I had Miss Sweet Pea in the garden soil bag having a ball. You see chickens use dirt to dust bathe in, this keeps their feathers groomed and even wards off lice and mites.

Well, apparently potting soil makes for great dust bathing! As I was trying to get the girls on my one side from eating all my plants I had on the other side Miss Sweet Pea kicking all the potting soil out of the bag as she was dust bathing in it. It was really kind of funny. I regret that I was never able to snap any pictures of all the “help”, but it was really cute. I have planted flowers in the backyard before and never had this much help from the girls, so this is why I call them my “hen-derences”. We had a ball planting the flower and getting the Bantom Boutique ready for the chicks in May.

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I still have plans for one more coop in my backyard that will house Blue Orphingtons, but that is a project for another year. For now, the Bantom Boutique is our new addition. I will have plenty of pics in May when the chicks arrive that I will share with you all.

But before I go, I have some other exciting news. Miss Katie, our resident broody hen has gone broody again this year. This is so timely because I am hoping that she will adopt and brood this new batch of chicks for me. If not that is okay, I will simply set up my brooder and raise them till they are ready for the big outdoors. However, if she takes to the new chicks I will let her raise them in the backyard for me. I have placed her in the Bantom Boutique where the new chicks will live once they are able to be outside. She has made herself comfortable and is happily sitting on some ceramic eggs that I placed under her.

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This is the first time I have attempted to see if a broody hen will adopt chicks that she did not hatch. I have many friends that have had success with adoption. It all depends on the hen. Miss Katie is our tried and true momma. She has raised three other clutches for me and I look for her to adopt the chicks and raise them for me as well. Additionally, she is a very friendly broody. Many broody hens can be mean and aggressive. Miss Katie on the other hand is not. She has raised other clutches of chick that turned out to be very friendly. She will not only teach the chicks how to be chickens but also teach them to trust and be friendly towards me. I will make sure to post about my experience with this either good or bad.

That is all for now, thanks for stopping by and spending some time with the girls and I. Till next time keep on crowing!

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~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

 

Is it hard to raise Backyard Chickens?

Raising chickens is a fun and affordable hobby. Its called backyard chickens for a reason, this implies that one wants to raise a mini flock of chickens rather than a large operation. Now, don’t get me wrong, chicken math is a force of nature not to be taken lightly. But for the average backyard chicken enthusiast, keeping your flock at a manageable number is relatively easy. Its just takes the persistent enforcement of chicken birth control (aka. collecting eggs) and obtaining only a few number of chicks from reliable hatcheries. You can also ask one of your backyard chicken friends to hatch  you off a small starter flock. Other than that, keeping a small flock of backyard chickens is not inherently difficult.

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Chickens are very simple creatures, they do not demand a lot from their owners. Since chickens are very social animals they have plenty of company among their flock members. The needs of a chicken are simple. They need clean, fresh water daily. It does not need to be filtered or bottled but it does need to be fresh and clean daily. Simply filling up a clean water container every morning when letting the flock out of the coop is all this entails. They also need fresh and dry feed daily. It is always best to keep your feed in galvanized trash cans if you plan on keeping it outside. Not only will this keep your feed uncontaminated (from rats, coons and other wildlife) it will ensure that the feed will remain dry and thus not spoil. Chicken feed comes in large 25 to 50 pound bags, you will have enough feed to last a while depending on the size of your flock.  As you can see in the image below, I keep two galvanized trash cans outside of the pen, this is were I store the feed for the girls. Be warned, your chickens will very quickly  learn to associate the sound of the lids being removed from the cans as a makeshift dinner bell. My girls get very excited when they hear the all too familiar”clank” of the trash cans lids. I am suddenly surrounded by a group of girls eagerly anticipating its contents.

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Next, you will need a habitat. This is where a lot of chicken owners can be creative and inventive. You can do whatever you want to make your backyard chickens home personable to you, just make sure that is has a few very important qualities.

  1. Your chickens home needs to be large enough to accommodate the size of your birds as well as your flock.  A lot of coop descriptions will say that “this coop will fit 2-4 standard size birds”. What does that mean? Well chickens come in two sizes, standard or large fowl and bantam or miniature chickens. If you have 6 standard size birds you need to make sure that you choose a coop that can fit 6-8 standard size birds. Choosing a coop that fits less than that will cause stress in the flock. If the birds do not have ample room and feel over crowded many problems can result. Over mating of the hens by the rooster, cannabolism caused by pecking of flock mates, and of course illness due to the birds being under stress. So when choosing a coop, first know the size of your birds and based on the dimensions of the coop how many can fit comfortably.
  2. Your chickens home needs to be secure. This means not only does it need latches on the door to keep predators out, the coop also needs to have a pen if you choose to keep your girls in a pen vs free ranging. Most if not all coops bought in the stores usually come with an attached pen in its design. Make sure that the pen is enclosed with wire mesh that is galvanized with holes small enough to keep even the peskiest mouse out of your girls home.
  3. Your coop must be easy to clean. Most coops are designed with a drawer that can be pulled out from under the roosts to clean the dropping off from the previous night. Many chicken owner put pine shaving on this drawer to absorb moisture from the dropping and simply with gloves or a small hand shovel remove the dropping like you would clean a litter box. Either method is fine, just make sure the you clean the dropping out daily to keep flies and illness at bay.
  4. your coop must be draft free. When looking for or constructing a coop make sure that the coop has both ample ventilation while at the same time being draft free. It sounds like a double edged sword, I know. What this basically means is leave room at the top for air to escape while also protecting the birds from fridgid winter wind, rains, and other elements. Your coop does not need to be warm or heated. In fact, heat lamps are the number one cause of coop fires. Not only will a heat lamp fire kill your birds, coop fires can also damage other structures on your property including your home. Never use Heat lamps in coops, they are just too dangerous. Instead focus on keeping your chicken coop clean and dry. Chickens do not need heat, they come with down jackets factory installed and are well able to regulate their own body temperature given the right conditions, that being a coop that is clean, dry, and draft free. As long as your birds remain dry and protected from the wind and rain they will do just fine when it comes to surviving winter.
  5. The design of the coop. The design of chicken coops are endless. I have seen everything from little cottages to barn style chicken coops. Quite honestly, I think that picking out the perfect chicken coop is almost as fun as picking out what breed or breeds you want to raise. You don’t have to buy your coop prefab you can get plans off the internet and make your own from raw materials. Either way its up to you. We have done both. We made our first coop and pen from scratch. It was fun and we really enjoyed the process. The additional coops I bought as prefab kits that I put together.Both have advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of making your own coop is that you can make it as big as you want, the disadvantage is that it takes a while to construct and can be expensive. The advantage of prefab kit coops is that they come already made all you have to do is screw them together and you have a coop in about 45 minutes. The disadvantage is that you are limited by the designs that are available. Personally I like the prefab coops better. They are made with quality materials and are easy to maintain and clean. I cannot keep large numbers of birds in them so I usually have to get several but I don’t mind having to take care of more than one coop. Coop chores are so simple, more than one coop really does not make that much more work.

Here are a few pics of my coops. I currently have three and have plans to purchase one more. The first one is The Kuntry Klucker, this is the coop that hubby and I made from scratch. It took about 4 months and roughly $1000 from start to finish. This will house up to 20 standard size birds. The most I have ever had in this coop is 17. Even then they still had plenty of room.

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Next is Roy’s Roost, it is a prefab coop. It will house two standard size birds or 3 bantom size birds. I bough it for Roy as his hospital coop when he was sick. Since his passing its purpose still remains as my hospital coop. When I have a girl that needs separated from the flock due to injury or illness I place her in this coop. I can better monitor her eating and drinking habits as well as administer medication if needed. The patient will remain here till she can be returned to the flock.

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This last coop is Betsy’s Bliss. I bought this coop to serve as a broody coop. This is where I will house a broody momma as she sits on her nest. This allows the mamma hen some privacy while still allowing her to eat, drink, and dust bathe normally. When the chicks hatch both mamma and chicks are protected from predators and curious flock mates. It will house one standard size bird and a few chicks or two bantam size chickens.

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I have placed these two smaller kit coops in my spice garden. When not in use they serve a decorative accents in my garden. I purchased these two coops about two years ago. They have survived the elements and mother nature very well. In the fall I put a coat of wood protectant on them to protect them from the harsh elements of winter. If we have heavy snow or ice in the forecast I will put 6×8 tarps over the top of them just to give them a bit of extra protection. Other than their size, I really do not experience any different in their function  or durability. I am very pleased with these kit coops and will plan on purchasing more as my needs arise.

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Other than the basic needs of food, water, and housing chickens are very simple to raise. The only other thing I can suggest is to have a chicken first aid kit on hand. I have built up my first aid kit slowly over the years. Basically you will need items to treat a chicken that may have injuries or illness. When taken care of properly chickens do not encounter much illness. The most complicated condition I have ever had to deal with was when several of my girls coming down with Bumble foot. I have a blog post on Bumble foot for those who wish to learn how to affectively and simply treat this condition.

Your first aid kit should include basic items such as: epsom salts, rubbing alcohol, peroxide, cotton balls, triple antibiotic cream, salve, and vet wrap. Vet wrap is very handy because unlike a band-aid it will stick to itself making it ideal for animal use. I cannot tell you how many feet of vet wrap I have used throughout my years as a backyard chicken keeper.

My girls have never needed any antibiotic treatment. I am usually able to treat minor ailment with natural methods such as apple cider vinegar in the water, electrolytes, and chicken rx herbal drops. Should my girls ever develop an infection that needs antibiotic I would consult a vet to assist me. In my experience, given proper care my girls have never developed any conditions that I could not treat at home.

As for the cost of keeping backyard chickens, once you have their habitat purchased or constructed they are very affordable to maintain. My 10 girls will go through a 50 pound of feed in about a month. I find compared to a medium size dog chickens are much cheaper to keep. Additionally, for all your work and dedication they will give you something in return, a beautiful farm fresh egg. In my book a pet that makes me breakfast is worth its weight in gold.

Thanks for stopping by and spending time with the girls and I. As always if you have any questions please feel free to post in the comments. I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks for visiting, the girls and I will see you soon.

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew~

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10 Things that I learned from My Hens

  1. Always greet the day with anticipation. Many great delicacies await.

2. Simplicity and a thankful heart are some of life’s greatest virtues.

hiding behind the water3. Bring up your young well. They are the next generation and the key to your legacy.

4. When getting into mischief always make sure you have a buddy. Partners in crime always have more fun.

5. Make sure that you leave a little something for those who care about you. Giving is always better than recieving.

6. Try to appreciate the season of winter. Although bleak, it prepares the ground for spring flowers and other delectables.

7. Tend your gardens well. A well groomed garden makes the heart sing.

8. Choose your flock wisely, they will be your groupies for life.

 

9. Make time for friends. Friends make the heart happy.

10. Above all, be like butterflies, they hold the key to true freedom.

 

Hens can teach you so much about the simple pleasures of life. They are simple creatures that require little. They are happiest when they are allowed to do what nature intended them to do. My girls are happy ladies and nothing delights me more than watching them do what bring delight to their hearts.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson on the simple pleasures of hens. They can teach us many things if we just take the time to watch and learn.

As always thanks for stopping by. Till next time, keep on crowing, see you soon!

~The Kuntry Klucker Crew~

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