The Essential Beginners Guide to Backyard Chickens.

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So, you want to raise chickens but you have absolutely no idea where to begin. In this post I will tell you how I began my adventure with raising chickens and show you how to begin your own chicken journey as well.

It was about 10 years ago when I first thought about keeping chickens. I had never had chickens before nor was I raised around them. My grandparents had a farm where they raised produce and pigs. I visited every summer but that was the extent of my country upbringing. I had a pretty good handle on how to garden and grow crops but as to livestock, I had to start from square one.

In a world where we can buy literally everything we need at the store I waned to have a say as to where my food comes from. I wanted to have farm fresh eggs and a garden where I could grow organic produce for my family. I did research on gardening and how to cultivate this hard red clay that we have here in Tennessee into something useful.

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I found through this endeavor that soil conditioning and fertilizer in the form of manure is a good place to start. I also found out that chicken poop in particular is the best from of fertilizer. Chicken as opposed to cow or horse manure does not contain seeds because chickens process everything they eat. Due to their grinding organ, the gizzard all seeds are broken down into usable fuel for a garden. Cow and horses’s on the other hand do not process all the seeds they eat resulting in fertile weed seeds for your garden. So in order to have the homestead and garden that I wanted I had to get chickens. Thus stated the adventure with my backyard divas.

Why do you want chickens?

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If you are reading this blog post you have already decided that you want to get chickens. This is the first and foremost thing to consider before getting your first flock. Keeping backyard chickens is very rewarding with many benefits but they do require daily care and attention. Knowing why you want to dedicate the time and resources required in keeping a backyard flock is very important.

Know your zoning laws.

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Before you even look at coop designs and hatcheries you need to find out what your zoning laws require. Every state has a different zoning law when it comes to livestock. Unlike a cat or dog, there are strict laws concerning pet chickens or as the state views them “livestock”. If you are in the city, if they are allowed, you will be limited to a small number of hens in your backyard, usually 6 or so, omitting roosters. Most city ordinances do not allow roosters per the noise issue.

If you live in the county or country in your particular state then livestock is most likely permitted. But still you need to check your zoning laws to be sure of any and all restrictions. For example, I live in a rural county in East Tennessee. Although I am outside city limits I still have to abide by certain guidelines when keeping livestock. Such as my coops need to be at least 250 feet away from my neighbors front door, my animals must be contained by either a fence or pen attached to their coop, and I need to have a good waste management routine implemented to reduce both varmints and odors that may bother my neighbors. I have meet the requirements of all these stipulations and more. My girls coops are in our backyard which is enclosed by a 6 foot wood privacy fence. Their coops and pens are cleaned and maintained daily and I practice good manure management which aids in both good health for my girls and odor reduction.

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Do your research..Breeds, temperament, disposition.

 

 

This is where you need to ask yourself what kind of chickens do you want? Do you want to keep a flock of chickens for eggs or do you want them for meat for the table?

Do you want to involve your kids in keeping backyard chickens? Do you want to keep them purly for the enjoyment and fun of owning backyard chickens? What temperament do you want in your backyard flock?

These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself. Of course chickens can offer much for then eggs and meat, they can be pets, forms of entertainment and as much of a companion as a family dog. The spectrum is so wide ranging when it comes to chickens that you can literally have your cake and eat it too.

Most people want to have a flock of chickens that are docile and friendly. If kids will be involved with caring for the chickens this is most likely of upmost importance to beginning keepers. Luckily there are many breeds that would fit this bill. I will list a few of the most friendly breeds for you below. I have most of the breeds or have interacted with them at some point and can vouch for these breeds as being very friendly. As with people, chickens have personalities as well, some may not be as friendly as others but when viewed as a whole these breeds will be great choices for a beginning backyard setting.

Buff Orphington

Silkie

Polish

Silver Lace Wyandotte

Australorp

Cochin

Easter Egger

Brahma

Sussex

Faverolles

Leghorns

Rhode Island Reds

Plymouth Rocks

If eggs is what you want some of the best breeds for egg laying are Orphingtons, Australorps, Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds, Production Reds, Leghorns and Plymouth Rocks.

As for meat chickens, typically any standard or large duel purpose bird will do. However,   Cornish Crosses are typically chosen to meet this need. I do not raise chickens for meat so I am not educated enough to speak into this. There are many youtube and other sources on the net to help you get started on this path.

Where to get your chicks? Hatcheries or Feed Store.

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After you have decided what purpose you want your chickens to fill you need to decide where to get them. I have purchased chicks from both feed stores such as Tractor Supply and Rural King and from hatcheries. There are pros and cons to both. I will list them below for your consideation.

Feed store chicks

~ pros: cheap, no waiting time, you can hand pick your chicks, usually older chicks typically a week old or more, don’t need to be picked up early in the morning at the post office.

~ Cons: usually only basic breeds, depending on store the care of the chicks can be poor, easy to purchase too many (I struggle with this one, I want them all), typically sold as straight runs (not sexed, you WILL get both hens and roosters), chicks tend to be more high strung and flighty due to feed store environment, sold during the spring months only (February thru April) although some locations may have chicks in the fall.

Hatchery

~ Pros: Chicks are sexed (you can purchase only pullets or hens omitting roosters), chicks are usually in better health, can purchase rare breeds, chicks are typically of better quality, can order your chicks to be shipped any month (except winter months).

~ Cons: more expensive (you will need to pay shipping which can be as much as $45 depending on location), you will need to schedule a time to be home to receive your chicks ( you will need to clear two days from your calendar to pick up your chicks at the post office, they can be delayed in the mail), chicks will arrive at your post office (you will be called early usually between 5-7am to pick up your chicks when the overnight truck arrives), some chicks may die in transportation (be prepared to open you box and find dead chicks, this has only happened to me once in 10 years), orders typically need to be placed in November around Thanksgiving for spring chicks.

Given both methods of acquiring chicks, I prefer to work through hatcheries. Yes, it is a bit more expensive but I have several reasons for this preference. I will list them below.

1.) I like knowing that I am the only one to care for them from the moment they arrive. Such things as the feed I give them to the quality of the water and vitamins I administer in their water.

2.) I  like the wider selection that hatcheries offer. I tend to gravitate towards more rare breeds not offered in the feed stores.

3.) I find that they are healthier and less traumatized than those purchased at the feed store.

4.) I have found that they are less flighty. Chicks sold in feed stores constantly have hands grabbing for them causing them to be more flighty and high strung. The chicks that I purchased from the hatchery despite traveling are much calmer and easier to hand raise. Chicks bought from the feed store are very skittish and harder to hand raise. Due to their exposure to the feed store setting they are often terrified of hands.

If you decide that chicks from the feed store meet your needs, visit your local Tractor Supply or equivalent in your area and begin your backyard chicken adventure.

For those who decide after careful consideration that hatcheries are a better route for you, do your research before you order. There are many hatcheries out there to choose from. Who you order from will have a lot to do with what breeds you want. Some hatcheries specialize in heritage breeds where as others offer more of the rare breeds.

I have ordered from several hatcheries all with good experiences. I will list the hatcheries below that I have personally done business with and can vouch for their service and quality of chicks.

Cackle Hatchery – I ordered my first clutch of chicks from Cackle. 9 years later, I still have 5 of the original 17 Buff Orphingtons that I ordered.

My Pet Chicken – I order all my Silkies and White Crested Polish Chickens from MPC. They are great outfit and offer some of the more rare breeds of chickens.

McMurray Hatchery – I have ordered some of my very rare Polish breeds through McMurray. They also stock some extremely rare breeds if you are interested in something a little bit different for your backyard flock.

Preparing The Brooder.

 

 

Now that you have ordered or plan to pick up your chicks at your local feed store or co-op its time to set up their brooding digs. A brooder is basically a heated home for your newly hatched chicks. In nature, the mother hen would be the brooder. She would keep them warm, teach them how to drink and what to eat. Since you picked up or ordered your chicks you essentially have to be the mother hen to these little ones. Don’t worry, it’s really not hard at all. There are just a few very important steps that need to be taken to insure the successful transition of your chicks.

     what you will need:

1. Enclosed container with sides

     2. Heat source

     3. Feeder and Feed

     4. Waterer and vitamins to put in the water

     5. Pine Shavings

     6. Other accessories such as perches or toys to keep them occupied.

For my brooder set up I use a Puppy Play Pen these can be found on Amazon and most pet stores. I like to use these for brooders for several reasons.

~ 1. They are completely enclosed, this means that all the shaving stay in the brooder reducing much of the mess. The screened sides allow for air flow and visual access to your chicks. Due to the fact that the chicks can see and observe their world outside of the brooder, I find that chicks that are raised in puppy play pens are more chill and less flighty.

~ 2. They have a top. This will become important when the chicks get to the flying phase of their development.

~ 3. They are easy to clean, fold up, and store easily.

Heat:

As for the heat source, I discourage the use of heat lamps. Most people associate brooding chicks with the big red 500 watt bulbs blasting the chicks with intense heat and light. This was the common way of brooding chicks during our grandparents day. As for todays chicks, brooding has taken on a better much safer route to supplying heat to your chicks. Brooder lamps as they are known are very dangerous. There is no way to safely mount a lamp around shaving (kindling wood) and flying animals as to not accidentally start a fire. I cannot tell you how many times I have had people tell me or I see on facebook coop, barn, and house fires caused by the humble heat lamp.

In lieu of a hazardous heat lamp I use a Brinsea Ecoglow Radiant Heat Plate . These heat plates mimic the heat from a mother hen rather than blasting the chicks with unnatural light 24/7. These are a much safer option for heating and do not carry the risk of fires, injury, and death that the heat lamp bulbs of years past do.

Feeders:

Next, you will need chick feed and a feeder. When it comes to chick feed there are two school of though. Medicated or unmedicated. Medicated chick feed has a medicine in the feed to prevent or give the chicks an immunity to coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is a disease of the intestinal track which chicks are very susceptible to. Coccidiosis contributes to a large percentage of deaths in young chicks. The medicated feed prevents this condition giving them a much healthier start in life.

Unmedicated feed is also a good choice used mainly by people who choose to give their chicks a more organic start to life. Either is fine, you as the caretaker just need to decide which route is best for you. As for me I am pro medicated chick feed. Since I switched to medicated feed I find that I lose less chicks and that they are healthier from the get go. As for the feeder, feed stores have a wide variety of feeders to chose from. Just pick the one that fits your brooder set up the best.

Waterers and vitamins:

The type of waterer you have is very important. The goal of the waterer is to give your chicks access to clean fresh water taking great care to make sure that they do not get wet. Once again when it comes to waterers there are two schools of thought, traditional waterers or poultry nipple drinkers.

The traditional waterers are widely available at feed stores, just make sure that you get a small one to prevent the chicks from getting wet. The poultry nipples can be found at some feed stores, but most of them have to be ordered. I do not use the nipple drinkers so I cannot speak too much into how to train your chicks to use them. I know that others use them with much success, I have just never taken the steps to train my girls to use them. I find that the traditional waterers work best for me.

Like people, vitamins are very important to young growing chicks. I put vitamins in my chicks water daily for the first several months. The vitamins insure that the chicks are getting all the nutrients that they need to get a good start in life. Some vitamins have probiotics in them which gives them an additional boost in the right direction. Most feed stores have poultry vitamins available, I typically pick them up at Tractor Supply.

Shavings or bedding:

Brooder bedding serves the purpose of absorbing moisture, keeping your chicks healthy and happy. The safest bedding to use around chicks is pine shaving. Most feed stores stock pine shavings, they can also be found at Walmart if your local feed store is out. An important note about shavings, cedar in particular is toxic to chicks, take care to make sure that you use pine shavings in your brooder set up.

The pine shaving should be cleaned out once a week and replaced with fresh, more often if you have a quite a few chicks in your brooder.

How to Introduce your new chicks to the brooder and teach them to eat and drink.

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When you first arrive home with your new chicks, the first thing you want to do is teach them what water is and where to find it. After traveling for several days, they will be thirsty. To relay this important survival information to your chicks, dip their beaks in the water as you remove them from their shipping container as you place them in the brooder. Do this for every one of the chicks. You may need to dip their beaks in the waster more than once for them to make the connection. You will know that the connection has been made when they soon after drink from the waterer on their own. They will be thirsty so it will not take them long to appreciate the water.

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Chicks naturally have a pecking instinct, this means that they will peck at anything that is in front of them. It is your job as a caretaker to teach them what is safe to eat. The best way to do this is to line the bottom of your brooder with paper towels for the first few days. On top of the paper towels scatter some chick feed. The chicks will instinctively peck at the feed teaching them that “this is food”. If you put new chicks on the shavings they may eat the shavings mistaking them for food. After they learn to identify their food and the source by eating from the feeder you can remove the paper towels and expose the shavings. They will enjoy scratching in the shavings looking for food, much like adult hens do when looking for bugs in the grass.

Once everyone is eating and drinking on their own, you can take a sigh of relief. From this point on they are able to take care of their needs and will regulate their food as water intake as needed. The first week they will spend a lot of time under the heater and sleep a lot. Beginning in the second week they will be a lot more active and enjoy interacting with their caretaker.

Once the young brood is completely feathered out they can move into their outdoor digs. The time of year you acquire your brood will make a huge difference on when they can be moved outside to their coop. If you get them during the colder months say in February or March, depending on your location, you may have to keep them inside a bit longer. To get around this I typically request my hatch dates to be in May and June. During these months the temps are warmer especially at night. I do this so that I can get them outside a lot sooner. During these summer months I can even brood my chicks outdoors in a protected coop. I often resort to this method of brooding. I find that the chicks do much better early on if raised outdoors. Additionally, it frees me from the shaving mess and dust that chicks produce giving all of our allergies a much needed break.

I set up a brooder outside just the same as I would set up one indoors. I provide the essentials food, water, and heat. I simply purchase an industrial outdoor extension cord, run it to the coop and hook the power up. I am currently brooding a clutch of 6 White Crested Polish Bantam chicks in The Coop De Ville. All are doing well and are enjoying the coop life.

 

 

Getting the Coop purchased and constructed

Now that that you have your new additions home and brooding, if you have not already, it’s time to get their outdoor digs ready.

Once again, when it comes to coops there are two schools of thought, hand-built or prefab. I have done both and will link the blog post where I discuss this in detail here. Which ever method you choose is up to you. I really don’t think one is necessary better than the other, its whatever works for you and your family.

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I have 5 prefab coops and find with proper care they last a long time. I also have 2 hand-built coops that too with proper care are long lasting. Both prefab and hand-built coops will require care and maintance. My oldest prefab coop is 5 years old, my first coop, The Kuntry Klucker which I hand-built is 10 years old. What it really comes down to is your budget, skills in wood working, and time. It takes longer to build a coop as well as more money and of course the skills needed to conceptualize and execute.

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If building a coop is not in your wheel house that’s ok, Tractor Supply and other co-ops have a great selection of coops in their stores as well as online. I own three Tractor Supply prefab coops, I am pleased with all of them. They are holding up very well and make excellent homes for all my girls.

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I hope that is you have found this post helpful in staring your own flock of backyard chicks. It may seem daunting at first especially if you were not raised around livestock. It takes a bit of time and research, I can tell you that chickens once you get rolling with them are very simple creatures. They require little but give back a lot in return. Aside from the small amount of time they require, chickens really are lot of fun and are very rewarding.

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Here is a short video of my chicken yard. As you can see I have both prefab and hand-built coops. both make excellent homes for all my chickens.

 

Here is the link to my blog post entitled Bachelor Pens for Roosters that I mentioned toward the end of the video. If you need a solution for extra roosters that you want to keep a bachelor pen is a great option.

If you have any questions please post them in the comments, I will get back to you as soon as I can.

As always, thanks for reading! Till next time, keep on crowing, we’ll see you soon.

~ 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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Farewell Miss Katie

Hi everyone, I am sorry I have not posted in a while, it been a crazy summer. We have had a lot go on like I am sure you all do. Summer has a way of making your life maddening. Everything from the kids being home from school to summer camp and so forth can make for a busy summer. However, this blog post will possess more of a somber tone. We have lost one of our favorite hens a few weeks ago, Miss Katie. This post will be dedicated to her and her memory of her life on the Kuntry Klucker Farm.

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Farm life has a lot of joys, everything from watching new chicks grow into beautiful chickens to watching  a newly planted plant comes into it own. The connection that farm life bring you to nature and the earth is so fulfilling. However, along with all the joys and blessings that farm life bring, it also has a side that is sadder. The loss of a beloved pet is always hard whether it be a cat, dog, or in our case a beloved hen.

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Miss Katie was our momma hen, she loved to hatch eggs and raise chickens. It was her calling in life to be our resident momma hen. She did a wonderful job as well. She raised several clutches of Buff Orphingtons for me along with Miss Aphrodite, the chick that had a hard start in life several years ago. If Miss Katie had not raised Aphrodite for me she would have not made it. She needed a chicken mamma so Miss Katie took her under her wing and raised her into a beautiful and friendly polish hen. Aphrodite acts a lot like Miss Katie. Since Katie raised her she has adopted some of her personality traits. In Miss Aphrodite, Miss Katie although gone lives on here at the Kuntry Klucker Fam.

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Miss Katie was apart of my original shipment of chicks that started our adventures here on the Kuntry Klucker Farm. She was one of the original 17 chicks the I ordered. From early on she stood out as one of our friendliest hens. Not only was she apart of a flock but she considered herself to be a “human chicken”. She acted more like a dog than a chicken. When we went outside to spend time with the chickens she would be the first one to greet us and want to be picked up and held. She was also our backyard lap chicken. She loved to sit on our laps and talk to us telling us about her day of hunting and pecking with her flock mates in the gardens. She always had something to say. When she was not busy raising chicks she was little miss jabber beak. She loved to talk and connect with her human flock, that being my hubby, sons and I.

She loved human attention. All my girls are very friendly but Miss Katie went above and beyond the friendly line and wanted to be with her human flock members. She loved getting rides in the wagon and following us around the backyard as we did our chores and worked in the gardens. Whenever we were outside Miss Katie was there to follow us around and offer the help and support. She was one in a million. She was the gem of my flock and the friendliest hen I have ever known. I had no idea that a hen could be more like a dog till I had Miss Katie come to our farm. I am so glad that she was in the little peeping box that I picked up at the post office 8 going on 9 years ago. She has indeed changed our lives for the better.

Several weeks ago she came down sick, acting as though she did not feel well. I brought her inside and placed her in my hospital pen that I have in the house for any of my girls that need specific round the clock attention. I determined after much examination and research that Miss Katie’s heart was failing and the she was just getting old and that her remaining time with us was short. She lived out her remaining time with us inside in the living room surrounded by her “human flock” that she loved so much. She watched TV with us and listened to us as we talked in the family room. She was just apart of our family in a way she always wanted to be. As she slowly started to fail her heart gave out she laid down her head and went to her final sleep with the human flock around her. She lived a full life full of love and pampering care. At 9 years old, she had a very long and happy life. Even for a well cared for chicken 9 years is a long life.

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We buried her the next day in my little cemetery where I bury all my girls. It’s always sad when I lose one of my girls but Miss Katie was hard to say good by to. The life at the Kuntry Klucker Farm goes on but there is a big void left in the backyard since Katie went to rainbow bridge. I love all my girls but she was a special gal that left a hole in my heart and our flock. I am sure that I will never have a hen quite like Miss Katie. I am just so glad that I have Miss Aphrodite to carry on her legacy and personality.

Every time I step outside to take care of the girls I stop by her grave and say hi. I can still hear her in my minds eye talking to me about her day catching bugs and tending the gardens. Tales of ripe tomatoes, plump berries, juicy bugs and other goings on in the backyard still catch my ear. She loved to talk to us and help us tend the gardens. Life is not the same in the backyard, she will be missed and there will forever be a void left by Miss Katie. She was one in a million, and gem that I was lucky enough to have privilege to care for and pamper.

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So to you Miss Katie, I say thank you. Thank you for coming to our little farm and blessing our life with your presence. We miss you so much but we will be okay, I have peace knowing that you died surrounded by your human flock that loved you so much. As you sit on your perch at Rainbow Bridge check in on us every once in a while.

Till then, Fly high sweet girl, Fly High.

We love you sweetheart. ♥️

Moving Day!

The Bantom Boutique crew are finally in their news digs. I moved them to their outdoor home about a week ago. I usually wait till they are 6 weeks old before making the big transition but given the very warm weather we are having I thought they would do better outdoors. They still need their little heater during the night, but during the day they are busy exploring their new home.

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Making the big transition from brooder to coop takes a bit of care and good timing. One reason that I usually get a May hatch date for all my new chicks is the ability to move them outdoor sooner than a cooler hatch date would allow. Once the are mostly feathered out I start planning their big moving day. I have found that the best time to move chick outdoors is a night. During this time they are kind of drowsy which makes the transition less stressful on the brood. After carefully arranging the coop to resemble the brooder as closely as I can, I carefully place them one by one in their new home. I allow them to spend at least 48 hours in the coop before I allow them access to the pen. This gives them time to become familiar with their new coop and help them to associate the coop with safety and sleeping. I place their heater, food, and water in the coop along with fresh savings. I also introduce them to roosts. Their coop has plenty of room so they spend the first few days learning about the big outdoors and playing on their roosts.

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After about 48 hours I allow them access to their pen. The curiosity with their new surroundings is just so adorable to watch. It is much like a child who experiences Disney World for the first time. Just so many things to do and not enough time. They quickly take to all the open space and have a blast. The first thing that many of the chicks did was dust bathe. This is a natural activity that all chickens do which they find very enjoyable. They don’t need to be taught they just know. Because I have the bottom of their pen filled with sand, they have plenty of dust bathing media. They spent most of  their first day running around and dust bathing. I can say that they absolutely love their new digs.

Although they are officially moved in to their home I still have some work to do. For the first few weeks, at dusk I will have to pick them up one by one and place them in their coop for the night. They will at some point put themselves to bed, but for now they need a little extra instruction. Till they can master the ladder up to the coop I will have to give them a little bit of help. One evening I will go out to put them to bed and find that they are all in the coop and ready to be lock in for the night. It is not very hard to put them to bed I just have to plan a little extra time in my evening to see that they all get into the coop safely.

Andromeda is still with Miss Katie, she will raise the little one for the next few weeks or so till she starts to push the little one away to make its own way in the world. At this time I will reintroduce the little chick to the Bantom Boutique flock. I will do a later post on my procedure to successfully integrate the little chick back into the flock. But for now, everyone is happy and enjoying life in the big outdoors here at the Kuntry Klucker Farm.

As always thank you for spending a little time with the girls and I, we are so glad that you stopped by. Till next time, keep on clucking.

~ The Kuntry Klucker and Bantom Boutique Crew ~

Meet the “Bantom Boutique” Crew.

They are here!! Finally after months of preparing for the arrival of my dino babies they have arrived. Last November I placed my order of chicks from “My Pet Chicken”. They are a great outfit, very helpful, and very easy to work with. After reviewing their stock I selected 4 Silkie Bantom chicks and 4 White Crested Polish Bantom chicks. Ordering chicks is not quite like placing an order on Amazon. Your order does not arrive in 5-7 business days as most are accustomed to when ordering from websites. When you place an order of chicks it will be months before they arrive at your local post office. This means that you need to think about what breeds you want to order and plan for their arrival months from their order date. So, while waiting for the very slow 6 months to pass in anticipation of their arrival. I thought about the brooder set up that I needed and of course made sure that I had their backyard digs prepared. First let me tell you about their arrival.

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On May 8th my chicks were hatched at “My Pet Chicken’s” hatchery in Ohio. I planned for this hatch date when I order my dino babies, I wanted a summer hatch and arrival date. I received a notification of their hatching and a tracking number indicating they were on the way. The next day I anxiously awaited a phone call from my post office reporting that they made the over night trip to my local post office. Contrary to what some people believe, chicks are not literally delivered to your door. When they arrive at the post office you are notified of their arrival and pick them up at your post office. After much anticipation I received the phone call that would start my adventure with the Bantom Boutique crew. I waited in line at the post office and picked up my peeping package of chicks. I got a few intriguing looks from the other people in line behind me, but then again that is all part of the experience.

 

After I got them home, I opened up the box and verified that all 8 of my carefully ordered and packaged dino babies arrive safe and healthy. After their long trip they were indeed ready to stretch their wings, eat and drink. When a chick hatches they have about 3 days of yoke supply in their system which will provide them nutrition to survive their trip. Nature inguinselly designed this to allow a mother hen to tend to the chicks that have hatched while she waits for the other eggs to hatch. Not all eggs that a mother hen sits on will hatch at the same moment. If done right, the eggs may hatch in about a day or two of each other. This allows the first chick that hatched to survive without eating anything till its clutch mates make their entry into the world. For this reason, chicks are able to survive a 1 to 2 day trip in the mail without needing any food or water. However, once they get to their destination, they are ready to eat and drink. The first thing that I did when I got them home after verifying their trip was a success was to get their first meal at their new home prepared.

I poured their chick stater feed and their water into the brooder feeders. Before I placed the chicks in the brooder I put a layer of paper towel on top of the shavings. You see, the chicks are brand new at life, they do not know what to eat but they will instiinctively peck at anything.  A mother hen would teach her young chicks what to eat. Since I am acting as the mother hen I have to in a way also teach the chicks what to eat. To discourage them from thinking that the shaving are food and eating it, I scatter chick feed on top of the paper towel which they peck at and eat. This will teach the chicks that this is food and that it is located in the feeders. Later when I remove the paper towels they will eat their chick feed from the feeders and not consume the shavings. However, once I remove the paper towels and expose the shavings they have a blast scratching it in.

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After I have scattered their feed on top of the paper towels, I then have to teach them what waters is and where they can find it. So, once again I have to be the mother hen and show them what water is. To do this I take them one by one out of the box. Before I set them in the brooder I dip their beaks in the water. After their long trip they are thirsty and will be ready to drink. Once I set them down on the brooder floor and am confident that the chick understand where they can find the water I move on to the next chick and repeat the process. After all the chicks are in the brooder eating and drinking I then have to show them where their heat source is.

Traditionally heat lamps with high wattage bulbs were used in brooders. After many years of house fires and coop fires new technology was developed. For their brooder set up I bought a Ecoglow panel heater. Instead of blasting the chicks with a 500 watt red heat lamp bulb the Ecoglow heater mimics the mother hens heat. No only are heat lamps dangerous they keep the chicks lit up like a Christmas Tree 24/7. This is not good for chicks because often times the brooder gets too hot and messes with their carcidan rhythms. The Ecoglow panel heater keeps them warm while allowing them to wake and sleep naturally. However, since these little guys did not hatch under and mother hen I have to teach them where to go when they need a bit of a warm up. Once again I take them one by one and place them under the Ecoglow hearer teaching them where the heat is located. They get this rather quick and will run to and fro from the heat source as they find necessary.

Okay, now for the brooder. For my brooder I am using a puppy play pen. Most dog owners are familiar with the product. For the non dog owners among us this is the new way to keep your pooch out of trouble when you are traveling, at work, or overnighting in a hotel or at a friends/families house. They are cute, very portable, and enclosed. They are made of tough material all the while letting fresh air in while providing your pooch with plenty of space to move around. As a brooder this is perfect. It provides plenty of room for the growing dino babies, prevents them from flying out of the brooder when they get older, and due to the mesh sides keep the bedding material in the brooder as they scratch in the bedding. All in all this is the perfect product for a brooder. Since I do not use heat lamps the panel heater sits securely on the floor without the risk of a fire.

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Chicks grow fast, once I get them they are already a day old or more. After about 3 days they start to feather out loosing their downy fuzz most commonly associated with their appearance. So, as by tradition here at the Kuntry Klucker Farm I have to get baby pictures of all my chickens. Today was picture day! Here are a few pics from our photo session today.

I hope you enjoyed meeting the new members of the Kuntry Klucker Farm. The girls do not know of their existence yet. However, they will soon meet the Bantom Boutique crew. I have a broody hen, Miss Katie, who has been sitting on fake eggs. My intention is to see if she will adopt these little guys and raise them for me more naturally than what I can provide.

If the adoption is a success I will no longer need the brooder. If she does decides that she does not want to adopt these chicks I will be place them back in the brooder and will raise them by hand. I have done extensive research on this topic and have read many success stories. All in all it comes down to the broody hen. So we will see how this goes. This will be my first experience with attempts of adoption by a broody, I will report the results. Hopefully my next post will be about a successful adoption process.

As always, thanks for stopping by and keep on crowing.

~ The Kuntry Klucker & Bantom Boutique Crew ~

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 ~

 

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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Farewell Roy, Rest in Peace Buddy

Along the the joys of keeping backyard chickens there are always still the sorrows. It has been said that farm life is a balance between life and death, this is certainly true. Unfortunately, it is not easy, even though I know that the life of a chicken is not indefinitely long, when the times comes to say good-by its always hard.

Yesterday the girls and I lost our beloved rooster Roy. Now when most people think of roosters they think of a fearsome feathered backyard terror on two legs running them down. Roy was not like that at all. He was a gently creature, he was kind to humans, gentle with the girls, and the husband of his flock. He took pride in his girls even when they did not want him in their space at times, as a women I can understand this. Even then, he would always provide treats for the girls and make sure they got the best of the goods.

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After suffering a hawk attack several summers ago Roy was never really quite the same. With my loving care he made a full physical recovery but not a neurological one. The hawk attacked his head leaving him quite wounded. After days of care he was returned to his girls. However, ever since then he would tend to tire easier needing several naps during the day. Even then he would make sure that he took care of his ladies. I am sure that he was one tired guy at the end of the day.

All roosters are not bad, all roosters are not mean or aggressive. They have a job to do and they do it to the best of their ability. This is why I wanted a rooster. Roy however was special, he was the boss of the backyard but he was also gentle to the ones he loved including me, the girls, and his boy, my son Elijah. Loosing him is such a big loss, he has left a silent hole in our backyard.

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Every morning he would crow greeting the day while summoning his anticipation for breakfast for him and the girls. If I was late in letting them out in the morning he would make it no secret. If there was something amiss in the backyard, he would sound the alarm altering me to a problem calling for backup. He was a great rooster, I knew that with him on duty the in the backyard things were good. Now the girls and I are going to have to find a new normal till we decide if we want to get another rooster. Roy can never be replaced, even if I get another rooster it is no guarantee that this one will be a gentle as Roy. He really was one in a million, a diamond in the rough.

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Several days ago Roy got sick. I tried everything in my power to help him but in the end nature won. It was his time to retire and make his journey to Rainbow Bridge. I am usually able to nurse my girls back to health, but every once in a while nature beats me. His case was an unfortunate case of the power of nature over me no matter how hard I tried. It is a sobering reminder that nature is a force that we can never control now matter the extent of our efforts.

So to you Roy, thank you for everything. Thank you for your years of service, protecting the ladies, providing for them in way that I never could, and for being the prize of our flock. You are indeed worth your weight in gold. Rest if Peace Buddy, every once in a while if you get a chance check in on us from your perch at Rainbow Bridge.

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Fairwell Buddy, and thanks for all you taught me and for being my alley in caring for the girls. You are loved and will be missed more than you ever know. Fly High buddy, Fly High.

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~The Kuntry Klucker Crew~

 

Betsy’s Bliss

Hello all, I hope that this post finds everyone well and enjoying the summer. I have been pretty busy here at the Kuntry Klucker this summer. My gardens are in and in full swing. I am already eating fresh produce from my backyard and using fresh spices in my cooking. I love garden season and all the bounty that comes with it.

The girls have been busy too. They are out every evening patrolling my gardens and taking in all that the season has to offer too. It has been really hot here lately, so they spend most of their day cooling themselves in front of the fan in their coop. They don’t dare think about leaving their comfy coop till later in the cooler part of the day.

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Speaking of gardens, I have a new addition to my spice garden. Another coop, this time for Miss Betsy. You see Miss Betsy has decided that she wants to be a bully to all the other hens in my flock. I don’t mind an alpha hen (head hen) establishing her position, but when the pecking order becomes abusive I have to take action. This is yet another fun adventure of keeping chickens.

I tried several methods to curb her aggressive behavior but nothing worked. I tried to separate her in a small dog kennel to give her and the rest of the girls a break. When I reintroduced her to the flock she basically picked up where she left off. Then I tried to remove her from the flock completely so that she could neither see nor hear the other girls. After a few weeks I reintroduced her and still she bullied the other girls. It got to the point that the flock was on edge living in fear of her aggressive behavior. So I had to come up with a solution to this predicament.

Isolation is supposed to curb her aggression, by denying her both freedom and status I was hoping she would find herself at the bottom of the pecking order giving both her and the others girls a break. But she apparently is an independent thinker who wants it her way. I can understand that.

So after failed attempts of suppressing her aggressive behavior I finally got her another coop. Roy has a neighbor, I placed her little hutch in the spice garden next to Roy’s Roost. So far she likes it and took to it really well. I let her out in the evenings to roam the yard but during the day she takes it easy in her new digs.

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My boys call this the “coop-hood”, a neighborhood of chicken coops. I thought that was really cute. So the “coop-hood” it is. I have plans to add one more coop to our now developing coop-hood. I will then most definitely have a full functioning coop-hood 🙂

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I finally have a peaceful flock again. She has her own place now and can no longer terrorize the other girls. The Kuntry Klucker ladies seem to really appreciate the peace that now reigns in their coop.

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I have named her little place “Betsy’s Bliss”. Things are now blissful here again at the Kuntry Klucker farm. We are enjoying the summer season and all the comes with it. Betsy likes her new digs and the Kuntry Klucker girls are enjoying peace in the ranks once again.

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I thought I would share this little challenge with my readers. Chickens can at times throw you curve balls, but it is a chance to learn about their behavior and do what you can to understand them and their needs. As for this situation allowing Betsy to move out into her own place was the perfect solution for our little problem. Betsy is a special lady to me, my mother named her and she has always been my best layer. I could never think about giving her away. So I just roll with the punches and do what I can to make my girls as comfortable and as happy as possible. After all, happy chickens lay better eggs 🙂

Till next time, keep on crowing and thanks for stopping by to read about our adventures.

~The Kuntry Klucker Crew~

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“Coop-Scaping”

Well, I was finally able to do some much needed landscaping or “coop-scaping”  as I call it around the chicken coops this week. It is something that I have wanted to do for a few years but just did not have the means to get it done. This year I made it a priority to liven up the girls digs and Roy’s Roost as well. For this post I will show what I did for Roy and Miss Katie.

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I have Roy’s Roost in my spice/herb garden in my backyard. Roy, when free ranging would always spend most of his time lounging and patrolling this particular garden (I have 7 gardens in the backyard so he actually has his pick). I am not sure if it has the best bugs, shade, or tasty greens. But for whatever reason it is his favorite. On the heels of that, when deciding where to put his coop there was no other location but his favorite garden. It must be nice to live in the garden, literally. I had to transplant some of the plants to make room for his coop and pen but that was not too hard.

Anyway, after making room for his coop and pen I needed a landscaping plan. I took a while to think about it before I bought all the decorations necessary to make it as attractive as possible. Finally, after the plan was complete and purchased, the fun part began.

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First off, what home in not complete without a front porch. So I purchased some paving tiles and placed them at his pen door. It serves as both a standing area when I service his coop and a mudd deterrent when we get the heavy rains in the fall in winter. In addition, I have a pot of marigolds and petunias as his door step because who does not like flowers at their door.

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This (above) is the before shot of his pad before I added the coop-scaping decor and flowers. Up till this point all I had completed was the white picket fence around his coop. It does not really serve any purpose but just to have a white picket fence around his home. I have always wanted one, but since that is not always practical I had to make sure that he had one to decorate his pad.

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And…here is the after picture. I have added hanging flower baskets, potted plants, and wind chimes. Amongst the already planted herbs is a Gogi berry bush, Gooseberry bush, and an Arona Berry bush. All of which I planted this spring with the exception of the tall Arona Berry Bush currently loaded with many white blooms. Roy loves this tree and picks berries from it every year. I get what grows toward the top and let him have what grows at his level.

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Here are some closer images of the coop-scaping around his pad. The pots contain marigolds and petunias. I chose these flowers for around his home for a few reasons. One, flies and other insects do not like the marigolds, hence they are natural bug repellant. Second, they are edible for the chickens. Since my girls like to sample the land I make sure that I plant things that are safe for them to eat. Finally, they hold up well around the girls. Some plants do not take being snacked on very well, they wilt and die before the season is up. The Marigolds and Petunias are very resistant and last well into the first killing frost of the late fall season. When I plant in my backyard I have to plant with care for the girls sake and for ours as well. I need things that hold up well to a flock of chickens and their curious nature.

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Finally, the view from my favorite chair in the backyard. I love to have my coffee in the morning relaxing listing to Roy crow and taking in the morning air. This was my scene this morning when I was enjoying my “Wake up with Roy time”. I usually have the pen door open and Roy and Katie out in the yard. But we have a hawk that is currently scoping out our yard and I wanted to keep them close to the home for their protection. Roy was attacked by a hawk several summers ago, so I take their interest in my chickens seriously. Roy and Katie don’t seem to mind it, they seem to sense the danger as well. I make sure that when I have to keep them in their pen for their safely that I stock it with lots of treats and tasty morsels.

I also have the Kuntry Klucker coop-scaped and ready for the spring and summer season. More on that next time.

Till then thanks for stopping by and keep crowing!

~The Kuntry Klucker Crew~

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