Nothing strikes fear faster in a backyard chicken keeper than the threat of a highly contagious pathogen that could wipe out their entire flock. Bird flu is a concern and for good reason.
Over the past decade, my flock and I have weathered many bird flu watch scenarios together. During a particularly tense scenario, our little farm was two counties away from a large commercial farm that had to euthanize all of its birds. It is a scary thought for a backyard keeper who considers their flock pets or companion animals.
Although the thought of bird flu affecting your flock is scary, I am here to help put a bit of perspective into the equation and arm you with a realistic plan to help protect you and your flock.
To borrow a line from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, step one: DON’T PANIC!!! I agree with Douglas Adams 100%. Stay calm and always carry a towel.
I will start with detailing to you how I handle a bird flu scare.
Bird flu strains generally originate in Asia. There are several strains of bird flu, like the human flu, and the RNA is constantly changing and mutating. The pathogen then travels to the United States via “air mail” within migratory bird flocks as they migrate from place to place. Waterfowl are the most common vectors, but they can also be carried via songbirds and other wild birds.
When I hear of bird flu outbreaks in Asia, I pay attention, just being aware that a strain has emerged. If it stays in Asia that’s good, if it makes its way out, that’s something to pay attention to.
There are several flyways that waterfowl migratory birds take that can bring the flu into the country. My flock is most affected by the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways.
Once the virus has been reported in the United States, I pay close attention. I don’t panic, I will still allow my flock to free range and maintain their coops normally.
Once there are reports of bird flu in private farms or commerical farms within two states from my location, I will start my bird flu watch readiness plans.
During this time, I will allow no one to visit my birds or tour my farm, I will stop selling eggs, and I will cancel plans to adopt any new birds for the time being. Bird flu can easily be transmitted by these means, as I am at greater risk of myself being the vector that brings the pathogen to my flock. In the same accord, when I return from the feed store, I will change my clothes before I enter the flock environment. I will also up my biosecurity practices. I always practice good biosecurity, but during a possible flu impact, I will pay special attention to these safeguards.
Once the flu has entered my state, I will put my flock on lockdown. I only reserve this action when the threat becomes imminent. During a lockdown, my entire flock will be confined to their coop and pen. All my coops have covered runs, they will not come into contact with any wild birds, likewise, the wild birds will have no access to the flock. I will then strictly manage who enters these pens and biosecurity practices before entering the backyard and coops.
Once on lockdown, the flock will generally have to stay in this state till the treat passes. Depending on the month (spring vs fall) it could be longer or shorter. In 2016 when bird flu was detected just two counties away, my flock was on lockdown for about a month before it was safe to allow them to free range again.
I have only needed to put my flock on lockdown once, this was the year when the bird flu wreaked havoc in the United States sparking an egg shortage. Our little farm was only two counties away from the commercial farms that were affected. Although tense, I didn’t panic. I worked to the extent of my limits to protect my flock, after that it’s up to fate.
My flock has bird flu. What do I do?
However, if the worst-case scenario does occur and my flock is affected by bird flu, I ready myself for what I call my “Code Red Action Plan.”
If you suspect that your flock has contracted bird flu, a keeper needs to act fast. Bird flu is very easy to identify in a flock. The affected birds will become lifeless, the combs will be purple, and death will occur very fast (24 hours or less; multiple birds may die at once). If you have any birds that exhibit these signs, your flock has bird flu, and as a keeper, you have only hours to react.
Bird flu will not only wipe out your flock in a matter of days, but depending on the strain, those close to the affected birds can become affected. Some Bird flu strains are zoonotic and thus humans can contract it from their birds, although this is rare, it’s worth knowing. The main impact will be the quick depopulation of your birds due to deaths from the virus.
The first thing a keeper should do if they suspect their flock has bird flu is to call the USDA or their State Veterinarian. These numbers can be easily found via Google search. Once you have alerted them to the condition of your flock, an inspector will be dispatched to your farm to test your birds.
If bird flu is positive, you will be contacted by a federal agent to assist you in managing bird flu in your flock. Should a large quantity of your bird be affected or deceased in most cases they will reimburse you for your lost birds.
Some may wonder if you have to report bird flu in your flock. The answer is YES!!! A keeper is legally obligated to report suspected bird flu cases in their flock. Failure to do so is considered a crime and a keeper could be prosecuted, so yes, you have to report your flock’s condition. The good news is, if your birds all perish, most states will reimburse the keeper for their lost birds.
In some states, inspectors may be dispatched to test flocks within a certain distance of a known case. For example, currently in Indiana bird flu has been reported and dramatically affected several commercial farms. Several of my fellow feathered friend keepers were shocked to have an inspector knock on their door to inspect their flocks. In some cases, this will happen, and keepers are stunned to have inspectors show up at their door to inspect birds. All my friends affected had clean bills of health for their flocks which was a huge relief. But yes, depending on the state and the outbreak reported, this can happen.
What I am doing now? Currently, bird flu is within two states in my location. My birds are still free ranging in the backyard while I pay attention to the reports. Right now, I’m relaxed, not putting too much energy or concern into the situation. I have upped my biosecurity measures and am not allowing any visitors to my flock or adopting new birds. Other than that, it’s business as usual.
However, if reports of bird flu are found in my state of Tennessee, I will then pay closer attention. I will concern myself with the proximity and the rate of affection and prepare to put my flock on lockdown. The girls and I have been through this before, I’m sure we’ll do it again.
I respect the pathogen that causes bird flu, but I don’t panic over it. Typically, small backyard flocks are rarely affected but it can happen here and there. Backyard keepers typically take better care of their birds, living conditions are improved, and most backyard flocks have access to sunshine, a natural environment, and green grass as compared to the commercial flock which often suffer catastrophic bird flu repercussions. All of this helps increase your flock’s immunity, but it’s not full proof. So don’t panic, just have a preparation plan in the back of your mind if needed.
This post was intended to put some perspective into a bird flu scare and equip keepers with measures to protect their backyard flocks. I hope that I have achieved this objective. Bird flu is concerning but keepers don’t need to panic.
As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments or you can e-mail us a email@example.com
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Old man winter has finally made his appearance, temperatures fall, snow covers the ground, a perfect storm for mites and lice to plague a backyard flock.
It’s no coincidence that mites and lice thrive in these conditions. During winter and early spring, mites and lice become a problem area for many backyard chicken keepers. Your once beautiful flock now has messy feathers, pale combs, and dirty bottoms. What is a keeper to do?
First, do not fear mites and lice, they are a natural part of a backyard chickens’ life and a badge of honor. If your chickens have mites and lice, it is proof that they are living the good life. Chickens that have access to the outdoors, grass, sunshine, and fresh air will most likely come down with a case of mites and lice at some point in their lives.
Mites and lice live in the environment. Typically contracted from wild birds, they can also be contracted through small mammals like mice, rats, moles, or rabbits. There is no way to avoid mites/lice in your flock, a control method is the best treatment.
When I first started keeping chickens 11 years ago, I feared the dreaded mite and lice season. I was afraid that I would catch the mites from my birds or that I would not know how to handle the situation.
First, let me put one fear to rest. The mites and lice that plague birds are not the same mites and lice that plague humans. The mites/lice that affect birds are species specific. They cannot thrive on our bodies for several reasons.
1. We do not have feathers.
Mites and lice that affect birds need feathers to sustain their lifecycle. Our daily routines of bathing, washing our cloths and hair make it impossible for these mites to exist on our bodies for long. If your birds have a severe mite/lice outbreak the little beasties may crawl on you giving you a case of the Heebie Jeeves, but I assure you, a simple change of clothes and a shower will render them gone. They are a mind over matter situation.
2. We do not provide them with the necessary resources to carry on their lifecycle.
Avian mites/lice need a specific environment to sustain their life cycle. Denied their breeding environment (i.e., feathers), avian mites/lice cannot survive on our bodies, thus you will not be affected by them. To my knowledge, Northern Fowl Mites (the most common mite that affects chickens) are not zoonotic (carries pathogens, from one species to another). Meaning that humans cannot acquire any diseases from the mites/lice that affect our flocks. We just get a case of the creepy crawlies, that’s about it.
Mites and lice usually reside near the vent area on chickens except crested breeds. Mites and Lice can also be found on the heads of crested breeds in addition to the vent area.
How do identify Mites/Lice on your birds.
Mites and lice prefer these areas for several reasons.
1. It is warm with ample blood supply
2. The birds are unable to preen these areas, thus the mites and lice can accomplish their life cycles uninterrupted.
On birds, mites will look like small little red, black, or brown spots that are moving on the skin. If your bird has a severe case of mites, it may just look like a mass of dark dirt covering their skin. These are Northern Fowl Mites, the most common mite that affects chickens. Left untreated, an army of these little beasties can kill a bird through blood loss (their food) which will cause anemia in the birds. Thus, if not addressed, death.
Lice on birds are usually found in the same place as the mites. The vent areas and head of crested breeds.
Unlike mites, lice will exist only on the feathers. A cluster of lice eggs will look like a mass of debris that is congrated at the quill of the feather as it meets the skin.
Like the mites, a keeper will be able to see the adult lice crawl on the feathers. Lice are usually sand to light brown color depending on the species.
Both mites/lice will cause a bird to look lethargic, have a pale comb, and a dirty bottom. Lice will add the additional signature of unkept feathers that appear broken, ratty, or disheveled. Both mites and lice will weaken a bird making them more susceptible to illness and in worst cases, death.
How to handle mites/lice in chickens:
There are several ways to approach mites/lice in a backyard chicken flock. Several products are available that address these situations in your birds. I will detail several that I have used in the past along with my methods of application. Disclaimer, these are strategies that I use that have proven successful for me. Please note that I am not a veterinary scientist just a fellow backyard keeper that has been around the block a time or two.
The go-to in my mite/lice arsenal is Elector PSP. This product is in liquid form that is diluted in a spray bottle and sprayed directly on the birds. Due to legislation in some areas, it can be hard to obtain and carries an MSRP of $150 or so if you can find it. Unfortunately, it is usually not carried in most farm/feed stores. I have ordered it in the past from Amazon but as of late they no longer carry it. Due to many of the supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, I have been unable to replace the supply that I bought nearly 7 years ago. Hopefully, it will become available soon.
Elector PSP pro.— The pro of Elector PSP is that it kills on contact and brings the mite/lice situation to an abrupt end. It does need to be reapplied 10-14 days after the first application to kill any eggs that hatch. No egg withdrawal is required when using this product. In addition to spraying, it directly on the birds, I will also spray the inside of the coops and nesting boxes to rid the environment of the little beasties. I have had very good results with Elector PSP.
Electro Cons.—The con of Elector PSP is price and availability.
My second go-to in my mite/lice arsenal is Eprinex. As with Electors PCP, this product is in liquid form and is applied directly to the skin. However, unlike Elector, Eprinex has an egg withdrawal of 14 days after each application. Eprinex is applied in the same manner as flea and tick treatment for cats and dogs. Apply Eprinex directly to the skin behind the head of your birds. I will also apply a drop on top of the head for my crested breeds, such as the Polish and Silkie. These breeds often experience mites/lice on top of their heads due to their inability to preen this area. In 14 days, reapply to address any mites that hatched after the first application.
Eprinex application directions
Using a syringe with the needle removed, apply 3/4 cc for standard-size breeds, for bantam breeds, apply 1/2 cc directly to the skin behind the neck. Although designed for cattle, Eprinex is safe for use on chickens in small amounts.
Eprinex works by absorbing into the oil of the skin. When the mites and lice bite the birds, they encounter the Eprinex and are killed. After the first application, reapply in 14 days. Egg withdrawal should be observed for 14 days after application. This means that from start to finish, mandatory egg withdrawal should be observed for 28-30 days.
Eprinex is available at most farm/feed stores and carries an MSRP of around $50. The only con with Eprinex is a mandatory egg withdrawal. I have a large flock, so I will apply Eprinex to one breed at a time, reducing the effects of egg withdrawal. I have used Eprinex for many years with great success.
As with Elector PSP, when treating your flock for mites you will also need to treat the coops. When using Eprinex, I will mix a solution of Permethrin 10 livestock spray and spray my coops and nesting boxes. This combined with Eprinex will bring the mite/lice situation to an abrupt halt.
During the winter months, I will supply my flocks with a sandbox containing a mixture of sand and peat moss. My girls will readily use this for dustbathing while the ground is snow-covered or wet. This allows them to maintain their natural behaviors that aid in mite and lice prevention.
As you can see, mites, while a very common occurrence in backyard flocks is very easy to address and treat. While they can be a pain to deal with, remember that your girls are living the good life if they come down with a case of the little beastie. Your girls have access to fresh air, sunshine, grass, and nature, something that many chickens are denied.
I hope this post help put the dreaded mites and lice season in their perspective place. They are nothing to fear and are very easily treated with multiple products available.
To watch a video on treating chickens for mites and lice chick here.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoyed this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
As late summer is coming to an end, and spring chicks are now full-grown birds, it’s time to introduce them to an established flock.
I like many backyard chicken keepers, acquired new chicks earlier this spring, and am now in the process 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 chicken’s 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 regarding 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 are determined by the “pecking order”. Members in a flock peck each other on the back indicating status. The pecker is above the pecked 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 breach of the position will be met with a firm reminder of this order and each 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 agrees 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 gets 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, and 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 oftentimes 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 decide 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 agree on the new pecking order. Once it was established, 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 hierarchical social construct within the flock. Knowing this, a keeper needs to take care of how and when to introduce new individuals to an established flock.
There are several things that a keeper 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 a broody hen to hatch and rise a clutch of chicks for you, she will take care of the introduction of her new chicks to the flock. In the absence of a broody 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 girl’s 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 girl’s access to the pen from the coop and will open the external access door on the side. 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 of 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 group 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 established 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 its 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 agree on positions.
The initiation process usually recedes 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 challenging the alpha rooster for his position.
Once the flock agrees in the place of the new members, flock harmony reigns once more. For several months 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. I have also 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.
Even when roosters compete for the position, the skirmish does not last too long. I have 13 roosters; all are well-behaved and get along fairly well. Once they decide on the social order, they will happily tolerate one another.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
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, based on my location, I am not restricted to the number of chickens I can have. However, I am restricted on how far my coops need to be from my neighbor’s front door. My animals must be confined to my property by a fence or attached pen to a coop. I need to practice good manure management to reduce rodent and odor issues for my neighbors. Even in the country, some guidelines need to be followed.
If you are unsure of what your zoning laws require, you can find out simply by calling the State Veterinarian for your state and asking. They will be able to tell you based on your location what your restrictions are.
As the saying goes, “You can’t have just one”. This more than applies to owning chickens. I started with 17 Buff Orpington chicks and now have ballooned to a flock of 50+ of various breeds. I underestimated the addiction risk of chickens. I love my backyard divas and have plans for more.
Today my flock is a thriving multicultural mesh of different breeds. By acquiring a variety of breeds, I can profile the behavior of various breeds along with any advantages and drawbacks. After owning several breeds, I can honestly say that the Polish are my favorite breed of all my Backyard Divas.
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 requires 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 daily. Also, like your cat or dog, if you go on vacation, care will need to be arranged in your absences.
Most people keep chickens for 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 differently. You will find yourself becoming an egg connoisseur of sorts, an egg snob if you will.
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 on chicken feed, flock supplies, and coops/pens. However, once the flock starts to lay dependably, your cost and reward ratio will begin to align. But until then, you will be putting money into a “timeshare” of sorts without any benefit. Many people do not realize this, they falsely assume that chickens lay eggs right away and do not factor in a period of egg drought.
Egg droughts do not only happen during the development/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. The point is, 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 now and then and grant them time off.
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.
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 gut to knock on a stranger’s 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 strict diet, eggs were his primary source of protein. Being that the bird flu forced many egg producers to recall eggs and euthanize their flocks, he was practically 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 proceeds 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 is. A massive egg recall raging through the nation, had I not watched the news, I would have had 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:
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 technical “livestock”. 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. Although 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 mites, lice, bumblefoot, fly strikes, respitorary illnesses, and sour crops. The good news is good flock maintenance practices 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 potential illnesses will be greatly reduced.
In my 10 years of keeping chickens, I have only had a few illnesses inflicted my flock. Mostly treatment for mites, worms, and bumblefoot. 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 similar to flea/tick treatment for cats and dogs only for chickens. My favorite product for this purpose is Epernix. Found a Feed/Farm store in the cattle section.
Marketed for cattle, Epernix at a low dose is safe for chickens. Use 1/2 cc for bantams and 3/4 cc for standard-size birds. With a syringe, drop the liquid behind the neck, just like treating a cat or dog. Repeat in 14 days, and that’s it. After two doses, lice and mites are history. Treat every single flock member, I do this 1 to 2 times a year. I treat only when symptoms are present. Note: when using this product there is an automatic egg withdrawal of 20 days while the girls are in treatment.
Worming is the same. Marketed for goats, safeguard at small doses it is an effective treatment for chickens. This time, with a different syringe use 1/2cc for bantam and 3/4cc for standard-size birds. Drop the wormer on a piece of bread and feed it to each member of the flock, repeat in 14 days. There is a 20-day egg withdrawal for safeguards like Eprinex. That’s it, crises averted.
The most complex issue I have had to deal with is bumblefoot. I will link a post detailing my method for dealing with bumblefoot here.
Although chicken keeper needs to take their flock’s health into their 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 put their sick hens down. I humanly euthanize my sick members, but most people are not able to do this which is fine. Most vets will assist in this event.
Things to keep in your chicken first aid kit:
Vet wrap, gauze, triple antibiotic cream, salve, plastic knives for administrating salve and creams, sterile scissors for cutting gauze and vet wrap, hydrogen peroxide, syringes without needles for administrating medication orally, Rooster Booster poultry cell (great for providing sick birds with iron, amino acids, and minerals for recovery), 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 respiratory issues, similar to Vicks for humans. Drop in water or place under the wing to help birds recover), bleach to sterilize instruments.
Most of these things are household items except 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 bringing their flock to laying age. Little thought is given to seasonal change. As fall approaches keepers often find themselves frantic as the mercury drops. Preparing a flock for winter takes time, preparation, and some expense. However, 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 a heater or heat lamp is not recommended. Coop fires are often started by good intentions to keep flocks warm. The rule of thumb is to never judge your flock’s comfort by your standards. Chickens evolved to live outdoors, 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 woodworking, you could build your own coop and pen. If you’re like me and woodworking is not your cup of tea, there are many prefab coops on the market. Contrary 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
To raise 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 playpens as my preferred brooding container. Everyone will have their idea on what to use and how to brood. The size of the flock will also affect the type of container to use. I will link my brooding method and supplies here.
I hope that this post has been a helpful addition to the information-gathering phase on starting your 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 also drop us a line at email@example.com
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Flowering bushes and gardens are most definitely atheistically pleasing. I have flower gardens plenty but edible landscaping is a joy that is unique in and of itself.
Just about everything in my backyard is edible. Going to my backyard is like going to a farmers’ market on my property. There are lots of options when it comes to landscaping.
In this post, I will reveal how I use plants to landscape my backyard into an edible mini paradise.
There are lots of ways to add edible landscaping to your property. Blueberry bushes are not only producers of wonderful deep blue berries but have beautiful spring green leaves. When planted in a row, they create a hedge of greenery and goodness. In the fall, their leaves turn to a beautiful red that is stunning in the fall landscape.
As the blueberries ripen throughout the season, they add a lot of beauty to the yard. They turn from green to deep blue or purple depending on the variety.
When planting blueberry bushes, plant at least 6 of 2 or 3 different varieties. Doing this will ensure adequate cross-pollination and a large yield. Blueberries need a few different varieties nearby to cross-pollinate well. If too few are planted, the harvest will be reduced as they will not be as prolific.
Arona Berry Bushes:
Arona Berry bushes are another great way to add edible landscaping to your property. Topping out at about 8-10 ft tall and a spread of 5 to 6 ft wide, these bushes are showstoppers.
In the Spring they are filled with white delicate blooms that turn into dark purple berries around mid-summer. They have a sweet/tart taste, somewhere between a cranberry and a cherry. They are dense little berries that are great to add to smoothies or other berry dishes. My chickens love the Arona Berries. They will readily pick all the berries they can near the bottom, luckily these bushes are tall so there is plenty to go around.
Unlike blueberries, Arona Berry bushes do not need another bush to cross-pollinate. Given their size, 1 or 2 will be enough. I have two of these bushes in my backyard, both are beautiful and produce a lot of berries come mid-summer.
Black Berry Bushes:
Another beautiful trailing berry bush to add to an edible landscape are Blackberries. Unlike Blueberries or the Arona Berries, Blackberries do best on a trellis. While they can grow independently of a trellis, they do better if they have support to keep the branches off the ground. If too low to the ground the berries tend to rot before they can be picked.
If you have tasted Blackberry jam or Blackberry pie, then you know exactly what to do with these prolific little berry producers. Blackberries are great in many things from smoothies to jams to pies. If the bushes produce an abundance, then frozen berries are a treat in the winter months when all the bushes are dormant.
The possibilities are limitless with what one can do with a bushel of Blackberries. I have my Blackberry bushes near the Grape Arbor. They climb the trellis along with the grapes as they grow taller. Instead of keeping them pruned to a smaller size, I allow them to grow long and attach them to the Arbor as they need more support.
If you are granted the room, grapes are another great plant to add to your edible landscape. Grapes are very versatile, they can grow on fence posts, poles, trellis, or even chain link fences. As long as whatever they are growing on can support the weight of the vines, grapes are a possibility. Uncultivated, grapes vines will grow up trees and other vertical shrubs that can support the weight of the vines.
A Grape Arbor is not necessary to grow grapes just the method that I chose. But if you are interested in building a Grape Arbor, a Pergola Arbor is a great asset as it can double as a place to hang a Hammock swing, porch swing, or even a hammock. If you are interested in how we built our Grape Arbor I will link that post here.
Unlike Blueberries and other berries, grapes need something to trellis on. To have a successful grape harvest, the vines must be kept off the ground. Grapes also need lots of pruning. I prune my grapes every January, cutting off the dead vines and securing the previous season’s growth to the trellis. Come March/April when the grape vines come out of dormancy, they will grow from the dormant vine and continue their journey up the trellis.
You will need to spray your grape vines to keep insects at bay. I use an organic gardening spray that works well at keeping the bugs off and will not harm the chickens or other wildlife in my backyard (just the bugs). It can be found at Tractor Supply or other farm/feed stores.
Neem oil is also a good option but will need to be sprayed more often. I spray my grape vines 3-4 times a year. Once as the grape vines start to bud, then again after they leaf out, again in the mid-season (June-July), and a month or so before harvest. This spray schedule keeps the bugs from eating the leaves and stripping my vines throughout the growing season. Make sure to spray early in the morning or late evening to keep from burning the leaves.
Another beautiful plant to add to an edible landscape is raspberry bushes. Newly planted this year, I have the raspberry bushes planted at the back of the arbor. As they grow (like the blackberries, raspberries need a trellis) I will attach them to the grape arbor and let them trellis up the arbor along with the grapes and the blackberries. I have one raspberry bush that survived our cold winter, the rest sadly perished. This year I bought a hardier variety that is cold hardy down to -20. Hopefully, with these new varieties, I will not suffer any more losses of my raspberry bushes.
Although not edible (by humans anyway), butterfly bushes are a great plant to add to an edible landscape. Not only are they beautiful, but a stately butterfly bush will attract pollinators to your yard. Everything from butterflies, hummingbirds, bumble bees, honeybees, and hummingbird moths will flock to the butterfly bushes to feed off the nectar of the large blooms.
In mid-summer when the bushes are in full bloom, there is a frenzy of activity around the butterfly bushes. Near the berry row, many of these valuable pollinators visit the neighboring berry bushes and continue to pollinate creating a high yield.
Spices and Herbs:
Another way to add edible plants to your property is that of herbs. Most herbs are flowering plants that have beautiful blooms that attract bees, butterflies, and other important pollinators.
I grow just about all the herbs and spices that I use in cooking and for incense making. I rarely have to buy herbs because I harvest and dry the herbs from my property. Everything from Basil to lavender I grow in my gardens.
In the fall, I harvest the spices and herbs and use them in cooking, teas, baking, and incense. At the end of this post, I will share one of my favorite dried herb incense recipes that I have to fragrance my home.
Veggie gardens need no introduction, these gardens no matter the size is a great way to add edible landscaping to your property. I have several veggie gardens. One functions as a kitchen garden, and the other I grow corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, and other fall/winter goodies.
The girls patrol all my veggie gardens, eating bugs off the plants and tilling the soil in search of worms. My girls are a great asset in organic gardening, their natural talents reduce my need for any bug-eliminating regimen. I may lose a tomato or two to a curious chicken, but I plant enough for everyone to get a fair share.
Although not edible (by humans) I do have an abundance of flower gardens that surround my home and property. These gardens provide food for necessary pollinators such as butterflies and bees which in turn assist me in increasing a high yield from my edible landscaping. It is through these beneficial insects that we can feed our families and put food on the table.
In an attempt to aid the bee populations, I do not spay any insecticide near my home. Many of my gardens contain herbs and spices which naturally deter many pest insects that would otherwise enter my home.
Given that this is a blog that is primarily focused on raising backyard chickens, how do my girls factor into edible landscaping?
The simple answer is composting. The girls create a very nutritious compost in their coops through their digestive processes. Due to the presence of a gizzard in their digestive system, chickens process everything they consume. When added to the gardens, litter from the coops is the best plant food that money can buy. Because my girls are fed an organic diet, their compost is also chemical free.
Every spring I spread the compost the girls have made in their coops throughout the winter. Chicken coop shaving and poo are high in nitrogen and other minerals, beneficial to plants. Due to the compost from the coops, my gardens are lush and produce high yields.
Many visitors to my farm ask me what I feed my gardens to produce such beautiful blooms and large vegetables. My answer is chicken poo. My homestead is powered by my girls. They are the secret to my success.
As promised, I leave my recipe for natural incense that I created using spices and herbs from my garden. This recipe is very versatile and can be tweaked given aromatic preferences.
The Kuntry Klucker’s Home Herb Insence
For this recipe, you will need an electric wax warmer or a wax warmer that is warmed by a tea light or other source of heat.
1/8 to 1/4 tsp olive oil
1-2 TBS dried rosemary
1-2 TBS dried sage
1-2 TBS Dried lavender
1 TBS Basil
Other things that can be added: Tree resins such as frankincense, dragons’ blood, myrrh, copal, or benzoin. Drops of essential oils can also be added.
In the wax warmer, place a small amount of olive oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the wax warmer. Mix all the dried spices in a small bowl and add to the wax warmer on top of the oil. Turn on the wax burner or light tea light under the warmer. After a few minutes of heating, a spicy yet calming aroma will be released by the herbs simmering in the oil. You can add other aromas as well, such as essential oils or resins to bring the aroma to your liking. This is an all-natural way to fragrance your home without releasing harmful substances in the air such as chemicals that are often added to candles and other wax or oil fragrances.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Forget their bad rap, let’s take a fresh look at Roosters.
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 grandparent’s 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 was 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 he 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.
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 feared that Roy would grow up to be the vindictive bird so often elapsed from generations past. All I had was my working knowledge and many negative associations attributed to roosters.
As Roy grew into an adult rooster, he showed me another side of roosters, a side that I never thought possible. He showed me that roosters are effectuate, approachable, friendly and even docile. I was blown away by the unchartered path the Roy was taking me down. Not only was he not aggressive, but he was also a gentleman. When I brought treats to the backyard, 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 he offered to my hens. Even giving his life if necessary.
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 usual “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, 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 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 it’s the story of my journey with roosters. Proof that roosters are indeed sentient beings worthy of admiration and respect. Here are my top 10 Reasons why Roosters Rock.
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, 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 roosters, I have to concur. Roosters will keep you up to date all on that goes on in the backyard or chicken yard. They are a real live and up to date news service on the condition of their surroundings. If there are multiple roosters in a flock, they will check in with each other, 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.
Singing the song of his people, a rooster’s crow is an ancient song, a song of a world long forgotten in time. 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:
A rooster is a gentleman. 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
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 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:
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 partake of his hard work. 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 roosters and watch them 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 offer to their hens. When multiple roosters are in the flock, this behavior is even more interesting to witness.
6. Keeping his friends close and his enemies closer:
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:
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 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 rooster’s 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.
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 lose 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.
Roosters create an interesting dynamic in the flock. As they each care for their section of the hens in their agreed upon jurisdiction, things can sometimes become entertaining. Occasionally 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 rooster 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, 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 without my boys, they are a great joy and bring much happiness to my soul.
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 summer eve that I am able to sit at watch my flock as they bring to an end the day’s activity. 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 roosters of our grandparent’s era were bad barnyard 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 the role of a family pet much like a dog. The poultry industry has responded by providing more and more breeds that are docile and even downright lovable. Sometimes a rooster can be so docile that he is for all explicit purposes useless. Pantaphobia, one of our white crested polish roosters, is so docile that he fits this description. To read his story, click here.
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 sons has a flock of Silkies, he is very attached, absolutely loves, and cares for them. There are many other examples such as the Silkie that meet the needs of the backyard chicken hobbyist.
In this post it was my aim to take a fresh look at roosters. Gone are the days of our grandparent’s barnyard rooster that terrorized us as kids. Meet the roosters of today and start your adventure with backyard chickens.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you enjoyed this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Roosters are amazing creatures. However, they unfortunately fall prey to a negative stereotype. In reality, roosters are not as aggressive as many think. The rooster of yesteryear that haunted our dreams often encountered on our grandparents’ farm, was related to game cocks by todays breeding standards. Yes, those breeds can be high strung and aggressive. However, due to the variety of breeds available, the majority of rooster today are very docile and calm. Gone are the days of your grandparent’s flock which contained the rooster that starred in your childhood nightmares. Many people today keep chickens for fun, eggs or as a hobby. Thus, the breeds available today are suited to these purposes. That being said, below I will detail my argument for why keeping a rooster or two is an asset for a backyard flock.
Protector of the Flock:
Roosters are often unfairly stigmatized as being fearsome, blood thirsty, mean and nasty aggressive birds. While they do have a job to do and take it very seriously, they really are amazing and gentile creatures. When out free ranging, a rooster will keep watch for any dangers that could impact the flock and sound the alarm when needed. If there is more than one rooster in the flock, they will take turns keeping an eye to the sky. Each taking up part of the watch, as the rest of the flock scour the grass for any available bugs, worms, or greens to dine on. If a threat appears, one or several of the roosters will sound the alarm. Alerting the hens to the impending danger, and if needed sacrificing himself for the safety of his girls. I have witnessed this firsthand with my first rooster, a Buff Orpington named Roy.
One afternoon while out in the backyard he sounded the alarm. I heard his cry from the house, rushed out to the backyard in time to see a large hawk fly away. Standing alone in the center of the yard, he was prepared to sacrifice himself for the safety of the girls. All the girls were safe under a large tree, Roy on the other hand was injured. Had I not heard his cry and come to his rescue, it pains me to think what would have happened to him. Luckily, he recovered from the hawk inflicted injuries and lived for several more years as a decorated war hero. It was on this day that I learned the true value of a rooster. You can read his story here.
2. Tend to nutritional needs of the hens:
In addition to protectors of the flock, a rooster will hunt for his girls. He will actively look for food, things such as a big bug, juicy worm, or vegetation for them to eat. Once he finds something of value, he will call the girls over to eat it. He will stand watch as the girls partake of his hard work. He will only eat what is left, he is self-sacrificing, looking out for the nutrition of his hens. It is by evolutionary design that he knows the girls need the extra nutrition for the procreation of the flock (laying eggs). If not much turns up on his hunt, he will lead the girls to the feeder in the coop when he feels that it is time for them to eat. Again, he will eat after the girls have had their fill, looking out for their needs first.
3. Breaking up any squabbles in the ranks:
Chickens are very highly socially organized creatures, contrary to what many people think. A flock of chickens are organized into a hierarchy, each member knowing his or her place. The term “pecking order” is derived from this complex social system and for good reason. At the top of the pecking order is typically the alpha rooster, under him will be the subjugated roosters in the flock. The roosters determine who is the alpha by competing for this position.
In the social hierarchy after the roosters will be the alpha hen. This is the hen that has earned her right to be at the top of the order, directly under the roosters. The alpha hen is usually a little bossy in regard to the other hens in the flock. As for the rest of the members, position is established by literally “pecking” one another on the back, indicating the “pecker” is above the “peckie”. This behavior flows from the alpha hen all the way to the bottom of the order. Each flock member pecking another on the back, indicating their position in the order.
Once the order is established, all activities within the flock revolve around the order. Simple activities such as the order in which the flock exits the coop in the morning, and the order in which they return. As long as all individuals stick to the order as established, all is peaceful in the flock. However, at times one or more members will challenge another member for a change in status.
In cases such as these, a confrontation generally ensues. It is in times such as these that a rooster will step in, inspect and cease any unrest amongst the hens. Not only are fights disruptive to flock dynamics, at times injuries can be sustained. It is the job of the rooster to see to it that peace is instilled within the ranks. A rooster will also act as a protector of any members that are unfairly picked on. If there is a hen that is smaller than the rest or at the bottom of the pecking order, he will see to it that she is not picked on insensately.
4. Procreation of the flock:
In addition to protection, finding food, and keeping order in the ranks, a rooster will service the flock through the act of mating. A rooster will mate with the hens in order to pass on his genes to the subsequent generations of chicks.
There is a common misconception that hens will not lay eggs unless a rooster is present in the flock, this is obviously false. A hen will lay eggs regardless of whether a rooster is present or not. The eggs laid in the absence of a rooster will of course not be fertile, but there will be eggs, nonetheless.
If you want to grow your flock, a rooster is a must. However, if you cannot have a rooster due to city ordinances or other zoning restrictions, you will still receive farm fresh eggs from your hens without any issues.
If there is more than one rooster in the flock, the boys will divide the hens amongst them. When free ranging they will then divide the roaming area into jurisdictions. Each rooster will know the boundary lines and which hens belong on which rooster team. It is possible to keep more than one rooster in a flock, providing the flock is large enough to sustain multiple roosters. To learn how I keep more that I rooster in my flock click here.
Roosters will have “favorite” hens, these are hens that he prefers to mate with the most. Different attributes make a particular hen a favorite. Hens that are easily submissive to his approaches, hens that the rooster deems as most fertile, or hens that are larger and lay larger eggs will most likely make the favorites list. These hens run the risk of sustaining the most injuries during mating. For these reasons, it is the owner’s responsibility to provide provisions to make this process easier on the hens. For example, an easy protective measure to incorporate in a flock is that of a hen saddle.
Hen Saddles provide protection from the trending of the rooster during mating. In addition to keeping your roosters’ nails trimmed, hen saddles help protect the wing and back feathers of hens that are mated often. They are very easy to make and require nothing more than thick fabric, a little elastic and basic sewing skills (needle and thread) a sewing machine is not required. Although simple in design, they provide much needed protection to your hens. In addition to the practicality, they can also serve as an easy form of identification. If you use different colors of fabric, hen saddles allow hens to stand out amongst each other.
Another method to protect against over mating is to separate a rooster from the hens for a period of time. During the molting period and particularly when the ladies are having a dreadfully tough molt, I will separate the roosters from the flock for a period of time. This allows the hens who are missing more feathers than usual to recover from the molt easier. By restricting the mating process till after their new feathers have grown in reduces further injury to the hens. While spending a little time away from the hens I will check the boys into a bachelor pen. To see how I incorporate bachelor pens in my flock click here.
5. Singing the song of his people.
There is just something about a rooster’s crow that has an indiscernible purity to it. In the busy, rat-race-pace of our lives, we are often not still enough to appreciate the purity and stillness of a quiet morning, interrupted by a rooster’s song. Breaking the silence, the crow of a rooster is a sound of a by gone era. A sound from our past when the crow of a rooster was a part of the audio landscape. A time when farming was not just a hobby, but a way of life, your animals were how you survived. The crow of a rooster symbolizes a beginning, the start of another day. A time when working the land and plowing the fields was how one survived. Its a sound from the past, a past that has been lost to the progression of time.
In the stillness of the early morning hours, I like to sit on the back porch, morning coffee in hand, and listen to my boys sing the song of their people. It’s a song of the ancients, a song that traces back to a time when their great ancestors roamed the earth. It’s a song that not only reminds us of their past but ours. A song that fills the air declaring a new day has begun. It’s a song that in our day and time rings with a purity that money cannot buy, but few will hear. It’s a song that reminds us of a simpler time. He reminds us that there is abundant wealth in simplicity. In our day and time, it’s a lesson that we all need.
A rooster is selfless, often sacrificing himself to save his friends. A fearless warrior with a big heart. A natural born singer of the ancient songs. A dancer, a true gentleman. The most beautiful and unwanted of all the creatures.
Roosters are amazing creatures and worthy of our admiration and respect.
It is my goal to present a fresh look at roosters. Gone are the days of the barnyard terrors of yesterday, meet the roosters of today. Roosters are amazing creatures, your partner in caring for your flock.
If you have any questions regarding roosters or keeping chickens, please leave a comment. You can also drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, visit some of my other sitew.
Buff Orpingtons are a Heritage Breed kept by the generations of yesteryear. As a result, Buff Orpingtons are staple for homesteader and backyard chicken enthusiasts alike. There are many aspects about the Buff Orpington that make them an excellent backyard companion, I will list my top 5.
Buff Orpingtons and all Orpingtons are prolific layers of large to X-large light brown eggs. A single hen can lay up to 3-5 eggs a week, making her yearly output 156-260 eggs a year. They are hearty and will often lay through the winter, only ceasing during molt. I have 3 of these lovely “golden girls” remaining of my original flock of 17. 10 years on they still lay eggs. Their rate has dropped as they have aged into their twilight years but amazingly, these lovely ladies still lay eggs.
When you think of a mother hen raising a clutch of baby chickens the thought will often conjure the image of a Buff Orpington. Buff Orpingtons are renowned for making great mothers. As a breed characteristic, hens are very broody, wanting nothing more than to raise chicks. I have one particular Buff Momma Hen, Miss Katie who has raised several clutches for me. She even adopted a little White Crested Polish chick that was failing to thrive. Raising her as her own, she did what I could not do. If you are one who likes to grow your flock from your parent stock, Buff Orpingtons are a great asset to have on your farm. They will incubate, hatch and raise the baby chicks for you. Teaching them all that there is to know about being a chicken. You as the keeper will witness the wonder of nature, as your Buff Orpington momma hen raised the young.
3. Friendly, calmanddociledisposition:
When starting with backyard chickens, typically new keepers want a docile breed. This is one of the reasons that Buff Orpingtons are a great choice for beginners. They are hearty, resilient and very docile. Even the roosters are well behaved gents. Buff Orpingtons are known as “the golden retrievers” of the chicken world and for good reason. They are very calm and loyal.
When I first started keeping chickens, Buff Orpingtons were the breed that I started with. 10 years on, I still have 3 of these lovely “golden girls”. Buff Orpingtons are a great breed for new backyard chicken enthusiasts for several reasons. They are a very patient, calm and friendly breed. Orpingtons enjoy interacting with their keepers and are not flighty. They bare confinement well but are very resourceful when allowed to free range. Due to their large size, they are unable to fly making it very easy to keep them confined to a backyard or fenced in chicken run. They are hearty and do well in warm climates as well and cool climates. They have very few inherent illness or other breed specific issues that presuppose them to health issues. All in all, they make a great breed to begin your backyard chicken adventure. Since they are very popular, they are readily available at most farm and feed stores.
They often build strong bonds with their keepers, making them great backyard companions. Buff Orpingtons are very friendly, approachable and social. Often, they follow their keeper around the yard, clucking and squawking events of their day. Buff Orpingtons are known to be lap chickens due to their desire for attention from their keepers. If you want a pet that makes you breakfast, then Buff Orpingtons are the breed for you.
Due to their calm, docile and friendly temperament, Buff Orpingtons are a great breed to have around children. If kids are going to take apart in the chicken chores or upkeep of the flock, these golden girls make a great breed to have. Due to their large size, they are easy for kids to pick up and hold. Orpingtons are not flighty, making them the perfect pet chicken and easy to bond with. As layers of large to X-large eggs, they are easy for children to collect and hold. My boys will often pick up our Buff hens and place them on their laps for some bonding time. Buff Orpingtons love to be held, further making these big balls of fluff and feathers a great breed to have around kids.
If you love to garden whether it be veggie or flower, a flock of Buff Orpingtons will be your best friends. With their innate ability to forage for worms, bugs, and other delectables, they rid your gardens of pests and other unwanted nuisances. As they till at the soil in search for worms, they aerate the soil, bringing many benefits to the plants.
As your garden matures, the flock will patrol the gardens, picking bugs off the plants to dine on. Basically, your backyard flock will be your own personal extermination crew. This allows you to grow organic produce, eliminating the need of chemicals. As a result, you will enjoy eating fresh organic produce grown in your garden.
In addition to tilling, aerating, and extermination, your backyard garden flock you provide the added benefit of compost. Due to the high concentration of nitrogen contained in chicken poo, your girls will provide you with excellent fertilizer.
Chicken manure is far superior to cow or horse manure due to the gizzard. The gizzard grinds everything the chicken consumed down to a singularity, producing a pure source of fuel for your garden. Cows and horses on the other hand do not process everything they eat, passing weed seeds into their manure. Many novice gardeners are often surprised at the abundance of weeds in their gardens after spreading cow or horse manure. Due to the absence of a gizzard, these very fertile weed seeds are then introduced to your garden.
Additionally, most of the manure sold at garden stores are sourced from factory farms. The chemicals that are fed to the animals are passed into their manure, which is then introduce to your garden. By using the compost provided by your own backyard flock, you can be assured that fertilizer spread on your garden is organic, beneficial for both you and your plants.
Orpingtons is all purpose breed that is great for many functions on the homestead or backyard farm. They are a great breed for beginners as well as seasoned keepers alike. Due to their always enduring personalities, I will always have a small flock of Buff Orpingtons on my farm. They lay well, are great with kids and make a great companion in gardening, providing compost for my plants. If well cared for, these golden girls can live to the age of 10 and beyond. Of the original 17 chicks that I started with; I still have 3 of these believed ladies. I don’t know how much time they have left, but I do know that they will spend their twilight years basking in the sun’s rays, chasing butterflies and digging for worms.
I hope that this post breed profile on Buff Orpingtons was helpful. In choosing your beginner flock, temperament is very important. If you want friendly, calm and loyal chickens, Buff Orpingtons are a breed to consider.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. You can also drop me a line a email@example.com.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites
There is just something about color that brings happiness to our souls, whether it be the soothing color of flowers or the majestic masterworks of a sunset. As spring transitions to summer, Mother Nature’s paint brush explodes with colors that ignite our inner artist and imagination. Although this blog is primarily dedicated to raising backyard chickens and the backyard chicken enthusiast way of life, I like to mix in a few gardening hacks as I discover them. Today I will share with you a few very simple and inexpensive ways to add a pop of color to your backyard or garden. All that is needed is a can of spray paint and a bit of imagination.
Most gardeners are familiar with these iron stakes sold at garden or home improvement stores. They go by a myriad of names such as shepherd staffs, hanging basket stakes, garden stakes and so on. As a staple of any well-tended garden, they serve a multitude of functions. I have them all over my property and use them for a host of purposes. Plant stakes, tree stakes, chicken wire stakes, lattice board stakes, plant hangers, and so on. I lost count of how many I have years ago. As a decorative accent to any landscape, the uses are endless. But for the purposes of this post, I am going to show you how you can use these little wonders to add a pop of color to your Gardenscapes or backyard. Typically sold painted an iron black or dark charcoal, they can be painted to fit any preference.
My favorite colors are pink and purple. Armed with a can of hot pink spray paint, I formally endorse, adding a pop of color to this garden accent. Situated in my blueberry row adjacent to the Grape Arbor, it stands out against the backyard colors bringing a bit of personality to the berry row.
Again, with the same can of hot pink spray paint, I add a pop of color to this small shepherd’s staff situated between my Black Berry Bushes. These brightly colored garden accents and staffs offset the green of the surrounding vegetation, adding a bit of a boho vibe to the garden or backyard setting.
Approaching the Grape Arbor, I transition to another color to add a pop of personality to the Pergola. A fitting color for a Grape Arbor setting is a bright purple. Situated around my Pergola are numerous plant stands, garden accents and flower basket hanging staffs. Armed with a can of purple spray paint, I work my magic adding a pop of color to the Arbor setting.
A bright purple adds the perfect pop of color to the Pergola. Standing out against the surrounding greenery, purple hanging basket staffs provide a polished look.
Another hack I have discovered, the repurposed use for chicken feed bags. Hanging plant baskets are usually displayed with coco basket liners. These coco basket liners are pricey and do not retain the essential water needed by the plants. Using empty chicken feed bags, I cut small drainage holes in the bottom, fill with soil and use as liners for the hanging baskets. Feed bags are tough, made of a thick material sufficient to contain 50 pounds of chicken feed or more. As hanging basket liners, they are perfect. They are tough, weather well and do not break down like the coco basket liners. Additionally, they retain the crucial moisture needed to adequately keep the plants hydrated. They add the perfect accent to a backyard farm setting.
In addition to spray painting hanging basket staffs, I paint garden accents to add a pop of color to the surrounding area. This little detail adds a fun boho vibe of the garden or backyard setting.
Plant stands topped with a terra cotta pot saucer serve as great drink tables. Painted a darker color of purple for contrast, these plant stands add a bit of ease and laid-back vibe to the Pergola.
Even a garden bench when painted can be used as an outdoor dining tray. Painted the same dark purple as the repurposed plant stands, these accessories add to the overall fun atmosphere of a backyard garden.
Got a beloved outdoor decor item that is looking a little bit rough around the edges. A can of spray paint to the rescue. Breathe new life and love into outdoor decor items while coordinating them with your garden setting.
The final look of the Pergola Grape Arbor is stunning!! With a can of spray paint and a bit of imagination, you can transform your garden or backyard setting into a lively atmosphere. In addition to adding a pop of color to your backyard garden, spray paint with added primer will protect your garden accents for years to come.
I hope that you have found some of these hacks useful and can implement them into your own Gardenscapes or backyard setting. Adding a pop of color to your garden adds a bit of fun and personality to your space. Have fun with it and remember, there is no limit to creativity.
If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you liked this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
There is just something about collecting farm fresh eggs from your backyard. In a day when we can literally buy everything that we need from the store, there is a purity in raising your own food. Farm Fresh eggs are one of the main reasons that people keep chickens. They are far superior to the eggs supplied in the stores. Additionally, you have the satisfaction of knowing that the eggs collected are from happy hens who are treated well even spoiled. If the flock is allowed to free range and forage for bugs, greens, and grains the nutritional value of the eggs are further increased. Additionally, high Omega-3 feed is also available in most feed stores, further adding to the nutritional value of the eggs. The chickens are what they eat, as a consumer, we are what they eat. Having control over our food supply, brings a purity that money cannot buy.
Not only will you get nutritious, organic eggs, but you can rest in the knowledge that your omelet is served up cruelty free. It’s easy to think that the eggs that are labeled “free range” found in stores are laid by hens who have access to open pasture and sunshine. This sadly is not the case. These eggs do not have the happy origins that the industry would have you believe. The hard truth is that these eggs are laid by hens who are cramped in a shed much like meat birds or turkeys. They have no access to green grass or anything of the like. Many of these birds never see the light of day much like their battery hens’ counterparts. Less than 1% of chickens raised in the US are considered to be free range. Most free-range chickens are raised on private family farms or are kept as pets by backyard chickens’ keepers and enthusiasts.
When you acquire backyard chickens, you also get a pest control crew. Chickens love, love, love to eat bugs! They will happily rid your plants and yard of all available bugs. This allows you to grow organic veggies on your property. With chickens tending the plants the use of pesticides is no longer needed. Your new pest control crew will tend all your plants, both veggie ornamental alike. Additionally, they will tend the soil by tilling the dirt looking for worms, aerating the soil in the process. Chickens are one of the best natural pest control experts. They even ridded my backyard of a yellow jacket nest. They destroyed the nest and ate all the larvae evicting the occupants, virtually rendering the nest unlivable. It was one of the most interesting and amazing things I have ever witnessed.
If you want great gardens the first place to start is fertilizer. Chicken fertilizer is superior in many ways. Due to the gizzard, chickens process everything they eat. All seeds and other matter are broken down to usable substances. Thus, chicken manure contains no weed seeds. Contrast that with manure from cows or horses which do not process everything they eat down to a singularity. Thus, the manure from these animals contains weed seeds. Not just weed seeds, but fertile weed seeds. When using manure from these animals, gardeners are often horrified at the number of weeds that pop up in their gardens soon after. Thus, chicken manure is far superior to manure from other animals. When it can be obtained organically is it specifically valuable.
Chicken manure purchased from stores often in large bags are sourced from factory farms. All the chemicals that are feed to the chickens are passed into the manure. That manure is then spread on your gardens containing all the chemicals that were consumed by the chickens. So even though you intend to grow organic produce, the manure spread on your gardens is anything but. Sourcing this precious liquid gold from your own flock, feed a high quality or organic feed will be far superior. If the flock is allowed to free range, the benefits compound further. The coop shaving or manure from these well-tended animals will be an excellent source of nourishment for your gardens. You can be assured that what you are putting on your gardens contains no chemicals or otherwise dangerous ingredients. Manure from organically raised chickens is sought out for this very reason. I have several people who ask me for my coop litter whenever I clean out the coops. They know the value of this material and use it for composting and/or spreading on their gardens.
As a backyard chicken keeper, you will have firsthand access to this wonder product. I compost and spread the litter from the coops on my gardens. I am rewarded with a handsome yield. People often ask me what I am feeding my plants to produce beautiful flower gardens and abundant veggie gardens. I tell them that my secret is the poop from my chickens.
In fact, coop litter is one of the fundamental reasons why I wanted to keep chickens. I have always been around gardens; gardening is in my blood. After purchasing my home, I wanted to start some gardens. The hard clay here made growing anything virtually impossible. In order to condition the soil to produce a yield, I had to cultivate it for my intended purposes. That meant getting my hands on a good source of manure to turn this land into something that could produce crops. After some consideration, I decided to get a small flock of chickens to produce the fuel that I needed for my plants. Years later, I have multiple coops and 50+ chickens that I richly enjoy. What started as a need for a sustainable farm fuel has turned into a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy.
Nationwide food scraps make up about 17% of land fill waste (29 million tons). Yard waste, items such as grass clippings, weeds, and leaves make up about slightly more at 33 tons. Chickens can reduce this needless waste by a large amount. Chickens are natural composters, eating most food scraps and turning the rest into nutritious fertilizer for your gardens. My girls are my compost tenders. In addition to their coop litter, I add food scraps and yard waste such as leaves or grass clippings to my compost pile. The girls will readily eat the food scraps and much of the grass clippings leaving the rest to naturally compost. They will tend my compost pile daily by turning the material over as they look over the pile for worms and other delectables. Using their natural abilities, I allow them work my compost pile into usable fuel that I then put on my gardens. As a result, the amount of waste that would otherwise go to the landfill I instead offer to my chickens.
Chickens can eat just about anything from veggies, fruits, pastas, and cooked meat as long as it is not spoiled. The only things to watch for are raw onions, garlic and potato peals. Outside of that, chickens can eat most of what is seen as food waste. Instead of putting these waste items in the trash, I collect them in a small bucket and run them out to the girls. They absolutely love kitchen scraps and readily dispose of them for me. By having chickens not only do I get compost attendants, I also reduce my food waste by a vast amount.
Because today’s chickens are breed for different functions, they look different from their ancestors. With the meat industry and the egg industry selecting out different traits to meet their needs, today’s chickens are far from what they used to be. Heritage breeds are those breeds that exist outside the of the meat/egg industry.
As a backyard chicken keeper, you can take on the role of conservationists by adding to your flock heritage breeds. By adding some of these rare or very rare breeds, you are keeping them from becoming extinct. Since the meat and egg industry only needs a few breeds for production, those left will become endangered without keepers preserving them. I have several of these breeds on my farm. I have a few very rare breeds and plan to add a few more heritage breeds over the next few years. Some of these breeds are what settlers kept as a food source for meat and eggs when first coming to this country. Others such as the Silkie which date back to the Chinese Han Dynasty around 206BCE were brought to the America’s via the Silk Road, a major training route through Asia. In fact, the Silkie was first mentioned by Marco Polo in his journals on his trip across China and Europe around 1290-1300. He recorded in his journal referencing a “furry chicken”. After Silkies made it to the Western World, the breed was recognized and officially was accepted in North America in 1874. Today the Silkie is one of the most beloved heritage breeds kept by numerous backyard chicken enthusiasts.
It is through the interest of backyard chicken keepers that the Silkie has remained pure to its heritage. Through the efforts of backyard chicken enthusiasts, hobby keepers and hatcheries, this breed is love by many today. Another example of a beloved heritage breed is the Polish.
The Polishes have a complicated history, it’s not really clear where they came from. Their name is derived from the Dutch word “pol” which translates as head. Contrary to their name, they did not come from Poland. It has been hypothesized that they originated in the Netherlands, while other enthusiasts think that they were brought to Europe during the time of the Mongols. Other fun loving chicken lovers such as I ponder if their origins are not of this world at all. Possibly like H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, they came from Orion or another world out there, just kidding :-). In all seriousness though, no one really knows where these Crown Jewels came from. Even today a lot of mystery surrounds their origins. Maybe we will never know, but for rare breed chicken lovers that does not really matter. If anything, this mystery makes these cuddly backyard buddies even more loveable. One thing is for certain, it is through the dedication of backyard chicken keepers that this fancy breed remains true to its ancestors wherever they came from.
In addition to the Silkie and the Polish, there are many other Heritage breeds such as the Orpington, Australorp, Wyandotte, Brahma, Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Sussex, Leghorn, Dominique, Jersey Giant, New Hampshire Red, Delaware and Welsummer.
7. ALessonin Self–Sustainability:
There is just something about keeping chickens that brings us back to our roots. Times of old, days gone by when just about everyone kept a flock of chickens to supply eggs for the family. A time when gardening was not just a hobby but a way of survival. Cleaning coops and collecting eggs has a feeling of purpose that many are seeking today. In a world where we can literally buy everything we need at the store, being able to supply and grow your own food has a purity that money cannot buy. Knowing that you are eating a product that is not only organic but supplied by animals that are well cared for brings happiness to the soul.
It’s this feeling of self-sustainability that many are seeking today. Growing produce is much more than just putting a seed in the ground and waiting. There is tending, feeding, and caring for the plant that has sprouted from the seed in order to gather a yield. Chickens provide much of those services for you. With their manure and coop litter, they condition the ground making it fertile. As the plant matures, they eat the bugs and till the soil, aerating the soil. Finally, as they work your gardens, they will continually feed your plants throughout the growing season with their droppings.
It’s this cycle that allows one to be self-sustaining. By keeping chickens, your farm (whether hobby size or plantation size) has everything you need to grow and harvest your own food. Additionally, along the way that will provide you with farm fresh eggs and plenty of companionship.
Chickens are amazing creatures and can teach us much about their world and ours. Many associate chickens with meat and eggs but nothing more. Chickens, contrary to popular belief are not bird brains, they are in fact highly intelligent creatures. Did you know that chickens can distinguish between 100 different faces both human and animal, they have full color vision, dream while they sleep, feel pain and distress, love to play, and mourn for each other. We have more in common with chickens than previously thought.
Chickens are very affectionate; they love to be held and enjoy human interaction. I have several individuals that are lap chickens, jumping on my lap as soon as I sit down. They have personalities just like humans along with likes and dislikes. They are complex creatures that are able to teach us much.
Keeping backyard chickens is an educational endeavor. It is astonishing how much keeping a few of these marvelous creates can teach you. Many of our phrases today come from the complex social structure of a chicken flock.
Pecking order for example. This phrase used in everyday figurative language is derived from chicken behavior and for good reason.
A flock of chickens have a very complex social structure. The term “pecking order” comes from this highly structured hierarchy. A flock is organized into a hierarchy, each member knowing their place within the group.
At the top of the pecking order is the alpha rooster. Answering to him will be the other roosters in the flock. Directly under the roosters will be the order of the hens. The alpha hen is usually a little bossy in relation to the other hens in the flock. As for the rest of the members, position is established by literally “pecking” one another on the back, indicating superiority. This behavior flows from the alpha rooster to the poor individual sitting at the bottom of the pecking order.
Once the pecking order is established, all activities within the flock revolve around this order. Simple activities such as who roosts where in the coop. The order in which the flock exits the coop in the morning, and the order in which they return.
Observing this complex animal behavior in my own flock is very interesting. It brings home the literal and most descriptive meaning to the term “pecking order”.
Other everyday terms such as “cocky” and “hen pecked” are also very well explained by watching a flock of chickens. It’s amazing how much figurative language we as humans have adopted from the humble chicken.
Chickens also teach us about where our food comes from. After witnessing what is actually required by a hen to lay just a single egg, I have much more appreciation for my morning omelet and no longer take a simple egg for granted.
In the case of children, chickens teach responsibility. If children are involved in caring for the family flock, they will learn valuable lessons. Getting up as the rooster’s crow to feed and tend the coops. Then locking up the coops at dusk and collecting the days eggs. Children learn an appreciation for the chickens as they tend and interact with the flock. If they have a small coop of their own with a few hens to tend, they will quickly become pampered pets. Chickens can become family pets like a dog. They are affectionate, intelligent, and enjoy interacting with their caretaker. The girls on the other hand will quickly learn who their human is and look forward to seeing them every morning.
Keeping backyard chickens is a source of therapy like nothing else I have experienced. No matter how bad my day has been, my girls are always happy to see me.
In the morning when I enter the backyard, opening the coops for the day, they are delighted and greet me with anticipation. Clucking with joy as I prepare their food, water, and clean their coops. They are genuinely happy to see me. After a long hard day, I can always go to the backyard and find happiness. They flock with excitement as I enter the backyard. Sometimes flying in from the far corners of the yard, thrilled at my presence. Their joy in response to me entering their world lifts my spirits and brings joy to my day.
Like dogs, chickens love affection. I have several ladies and a few roosters who readily jump on my lap eager for attention as soon as I sit down. They enjoy the companionship from their human keeper. Once on my lap they tell me all about their days, clucking all the details as I eagerly listen. It’s hard to be sad around a flock of lovable backyard companions.
On days when I feel blue or down in the dumps, a simple trip to the backyard is all that I need. Happiness for me does not come in a bottle, from the store or in a bank account. Happiness for me is a pair of boots and a flock of happy chickens.
Others have expressed the same in relation to their flocks. Chickens really are the antidepressant with feathers.
Chickens are clever creatures, each possessing a different and unique personality. Because of this, they are very entertaining creatures. Even as a flock, chickens will capture your attention.
One of the funniest interactions that a flock can engage in is something I call “the chicken keep away game”. The game commences like this. A hen finds something delectable such as a juicy bug or big worm. She will announce to the flock with glee that she has found a prize. With the object in her beak, she will run around the yard while the others chase her, wanting a piece of her find. Depending on how large the trophy morsel is, this could go on for some time. Changing beaks several times till finally someone eats or loses it, whichever comes first. This is just about as close as a flock of chickens can get to a round of touch football. If you have a flock of mixed breeds, the entertainment value is increased. Some breeds have quirks or unique things about them that separates them from others. Take the Polish for example.
A funny chicken oddity is the Polish. Out of all the breeds that I keep, the polish holds the crown for comedy. Due to the feathered crests atop their head, their vision is limited. Unable to see what is above them, everything spooks them. Simple things in their environment can get a rise out of them. They have a tendency to be flighty and high strung for this reason.
In addition, they are a very curious breed, always getting themselves into trouble, then not able to see well enough to get themselves out. They will often call for other flock members to come a rescue them from their predicament. Typically, one or more of the roosters will come to their aid. I have 14 Polishes in my flock of various colors, all of them possess this particular niche for comedy.
I have spent many hours being entertained by my flock. At times its better than prime time TV. Before I had chickens, I would have never equated them with comedy. My girls are now my go to for a happy hour with the hens. I have to admit at times, I will bring a few grapes just to stir the pot and watch their antics as they play the “chicken keep away game”.
There are many other advantages of keeping chickens. The list could go on, I have only listed my top 10 reasons. I hope that you have found this post helpful. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments. You can also drop me a line at email@example.com
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