Building a Grape Arbor in your own backyard.

Backyard Grape Arbor

Building a Grape Arbor is something that has been on my to do list for the past 10+ years. Grapes are a wonderful crop to grow on your own land as they grow very fast, are fairly pest resistant and easy to grow. They do require regular maintenance, pruning being the chief requirement.

As a child I remember visiting my grandparents farm during the summer and eating ripe grapes from their vine. It is a memory that I cherish and look forward to eating from my very own grape vines once more.

Building a Grape Arbor is a DIY project that you can tackle yourself. It takes some hard work, several partners, effort and time, but if you are diligent, you can build a Grape Arbor in a week.

Why I wanted to build a Grape Arbor?

Building a Grape Arbor has been a dream of mine for a very long time. Not only functional as a trellis for the grapes to grow on, Grape Arbors add a majestic presence to your backyard or garden. They command attention as you enter their sacred space. To make the most of your time and effort, you can attach a porch swing or hammock swings. Installing solar light to Arbor creates a romantic and relaxing seating area in your backyard.

Building a Grape Arbor.

We chose a traditional style Pergola for our Backyard Grape Arbor. I wanted something that would not only serve as a trellis for grape vines, but a place that I could hang some backyard Hammock Swings. Above is the final completed project of the Arbor in our backyard. It is 8 feet tall is roughly 12 feet long.

Shopping list for a backyard Grape Arbor.

Posts: (4) 4×4 @ 7’6.5” and (8) 2×6 @ 8”.

Beams: (2) 4×6 @ 12’

Braces: 2×4’s

Runner on to of Arbor: (11) 2×4’s @ 5’8”. For a decorative look, cut the ends of the 2×4’s at a 45-degree angle or bevel. This is optional.

1 box of 2” deck screws and 1 box of 4” deck screws.

After we unloaded the wood, we cut the 2×4’s and 4×6 beams to size and beveled the ends at a 45 degree angle.

Before building the Arbor, we prepared the ground by digging the footings. We dug 4 holes at the dept of 4 feet. To accomplish this, we rented an Agar to dig the depth of the holes.

After the footings were dug, we connected two 2×6’s to each of the 4×4’s then cemented them in place.

Next, we lifted the large 4×6 beams on center over the pair of 4×4 posts. These beams sit on top of the 4×4 posts. You can screw them into place if you wish, we decided to let gravity do the work for us.

Next, we attached the 4×4 pairs to each other using a 2×6 cut to length. We then toenailed them with 4” deck screws connecting them to the 4×4 posts.

Next, we attached the (11) 2×4’s to the top of the Arbor to form the canopy. Each 2×4 is held into place and connected to the 4×6’s using braces.

Nearing the end of our construction project, we cut the remaining 2×4’s to form diamond supports connecting the 4×4 beams to one another. These braces add beauty and strength to the Pergola. They are attached to the main support beams with pocket hole screws.

Finally, we added lattice boards to each side of the Arbor. This adds a touch of sophistication to the Arbor while giving the grape plants something to grasp onto as they climb to the canopy.

From start to finish, it took us 1 week to build this Pergola Grape Arbor. The finished product is stunning!! It brings a sense of completion to our backyard, complimenting the “coop-hood” (a.k.a. chicken coops) with an aura of dignity.

My favorite activity is to lay on my hammock under the Grape Arbor, read, listen to the chatter of my girls and watch the grapes grow.

I cannot wait for the grapes to grow and reach the Arbor canopy. Until then I will sit under my Arbor, read, sip on some wine and look forward to the day that I can eat fresh grapes from my very own grape vines.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Building this backyard Grape Arbor was a worthwhile endeavor, bringing a completion to our backyard homestead.

You too can build a Pergola Grape Arbor in your own backyard or garden and reap the benefits of growing your own grape vines.

Me, relaxing in a hammock swing below the Grape Arbor.
The girls working hard to keep the grape vines free of bugs and weeds.
My “hen-helping” crew, keeping the grape vines healthy, bug, and weed free.

Today May 2022

Three years after construction, the grape vines are prolific and rapidly climbing to the canopy. This year’s harvest (2022) will be the best yet! 🍇

Grape Vines loaded with tiny grapes.

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math Univeristy – Adventures in Homeschooling

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~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

Heritage and Production Breeds. What’s the Difference?

The chickens most of us recognize today are bred for meat or eggs, consequently they look vastly different than their ancestors. The breeds that generations past kept supplying eggs for the family are known as Heritage Breeds. Some of us may even recall the chickens that our grandparents kept and how different they looked. It some cases they may not have even looked like the chickens we associate with today at all.

Production breeds are those that are specifically bred for production, whether be it meat or eggs. These industries have selected out traits needed to meet demands. These resulting chickens are engineered to have larger breasts, grow very fast, lay profusely or lay larger eggs. The chickens the exist outside of these breeds are known as Heritage breeds. Heritage breeds store a wealth of genetic resources that are important for our future and the future of our agricultural food system. Heritage breeds were once raised by our forefathers. These are breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. It is through the hobby of backyard chicken keepers and enthusiasts that these breeds still exist today.

You may not know it, but by keeping chickens you are acting as a conservationist. Since the meat and egg industry has no need for heritage breeds, it’s the backyard chicken keepers that keep these breeds from extension. Most of these breeds our grandparents kept as pets or for eggs. Many old photos have captured in time these heritage breeds. As time has march on, alongside us has followed our feathered friends.

So, what are some of these Heritage Breeds you may be asking. Below I will introduce you to some of these breeds. Many of these breeds I have, others I plan to get in the near future.

The Polish:

The Polish possesses a very complicated history. Many people think that the Polish came from Poland. This is actually not the case. The word “pol” translates as head, most likely derived from the impressive crests of feathers that top their head. It’s not really understood where this fancy breed came from. Some poultry experts think they came from the Netherlands, others disagree. As for a fun chicken lover such as myself, I wonder if their origins are not of this world after all. Possibly like H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu they came from the stars or another world out there. Just kidding 🙂 In all seriousness though, much mystery surrounds this much beloved Heritage breed. The Polish is a much-favored breed for poultry enthusiasts who want a little something different for their backyard flock.

Deady, Fi and Freddie (polish hens) perching on a hammock swing under the grape arbor.

The Polishes as a breed have a very distinctive personality. Due to their featherd crests, their vision is limited. With obstructed vision everything spooks them. Seemingly mundane and normal objects in their surrounds will get a rise out of them. For this reason, they tend to be high strung and flighty. It takes an experienced keeper with the right setting to successfully keep this breed. A covered pen, protected free range area, and ample coverage are necessary to keep this fancy breed. Due to their feathered crests, they cannot see above them, thus are easy prey for aerial attacks from predators.

To their determent they are also a very curious breed. Individuals will often follow their curiosities into predicaments. Unable to see well enough to get out, they will call out to other members of the flock to rescue them. Typically, one or more of the roosters will answer the call. They are the comedians of the chicken world. I have 14 of these fancy guys and gals of various colors. All of them possess this particular niche for curiosity and comedy.

Buff Orpington:

One of the most beloved and most common Heritage breeds kept by backyard enthusiasts is the Buff Orpington. These lovely ladies and gents are often sold in feed stores and are very hearty. I personally have seen many old photos capturing this breed. When I started keeping chickens this was the first breed I ordered. Buff Orpingtons are known the world over for being friendly fluffs of feathers. In my experience I will have to concur.

These ladies and gents are known as the “golden retrievers” of the chicken world and for good reason. They are very loyal and form strong attachments to their keepers. My Buff ladies follow me around the backyard as I do morning and evening chores. When I do any work in the backyard such as potting or planting flowers and crops, I have plenty of “hen help”. They want to be involved in anything that I am doing no matter what it is.

I currently have 5 of these golden girls, at 10 years of age they are the oldest girls in my flock. No longer spring chickens, these ladies are the Zen masters of my flock. They have seen and lived through it all. I will often find one or more of these ladies on my lap when I sit down. They love attention and will follow me chatting till I pick them up and hold them. They are very friendly and make a great breed for beginning chicken keepers.

Besides buff there are other colors of Orpington available. While buff and black are the most common, blue and lavender are also available. Lavender and jubilee are the rarest and cost quite a bit when purchased from hatcheries or breeders. If you can obtain them, they will be the pride and joy of the flock. I plan to purchase lavender and jubilee Orpingtons in the near future.

Australorp:

Related to the Orpington, the Australorp is the Australian take on the Orpington. They were developed as a breed to focus on egg laying. Australorps achieved world-wide popularity in the 1920’s after the breed broke numerous world records for the number of eggs laid in a year. In fact, the world record holder for the most eggs laid in a year was set by an Australorp. She laid 364 eggs in one year, taking only one day off. The most common color is black, the only color recognized in the United States. However, blue and white are still recognized in Australia.

For backyard keepers who want chickens just for eggs, Australorps are the best bang for your buck. They are one of the most common breeds found in feed stores, like the Orpington, they are very friendly and affectionate.

Easter Eggers:

The Easter Egger is a favorite breed because the hens lay multicolored eggs. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as rainbow layers. Eggs colors will vary by individual and can be anything from blue to brown. Colors such as blue, green, pink, white, beige and brown have all been reported. A hen will have her own color and will lay only that color for the rest of her life. This breed is often found in feed stores, sometime mis-labeled as Araucania or Ameraucana. Because of the multi-line breeding, Easter Eggers come in many colors such as brown, black, white, Buff, and golden lace. The Pigment oocyanin, deposited on the surface of the shell is what gives the eggs the famous blue/green color. As a breed they are hardy, friendly and excellent layers.

The Cochin:

The Cochin is another favorite Heritage breed because they are so docile. Literally big balls of fluff, the Cochins are one of the friendliest breeds. They are not good layers but make excellent mothers and will happily sit on eggs no matter who laid them. They are very affectionate and enjoy interacting with their keepers. I have several varieties of Cochins such as Mottled (specked), frizzle and black. Even the roosters are very docile and friendly. If eggs are the primary reason for keeping chickens, they are not the best selection. Their egg laying is fairly poor, they make up for their lacking egg potential in other ways.

Silkies:

Ah, yes, Silkies, the teddy bears of the chicken world. It’s no secret that Silkies are the most beloved of the ornamental chicken breeds. Voted again and again as the best breed to have for kids. Silkies are quite possibly the favorite Heritage breed of numerous backyard chicken enthusiasts and for good reason. Silkies are very sweet, docile and friendly. The girls make excellent mothers, are very broody and affectionate. Silkie are often kept by backyard chicken keepers for their broody tendencies. They will happily sit on any available eggs, hatch and raise whatever pops out of them. They don’t care as long as they get to have babies. It has been said that a broody Silkie could hatch rocks. After keeping them, I can say I completely agree with this sentiment.

I have a flock of Silkies on my hobby farm and are absolutely smitten. Even the 7 Silkie roosters I have are well behaved. Actually, Silkie roosters make very poor protectors, they prefer to run and hide rather than man up. Lucky, I have other roosters in the yard to pick up the slack when the flock is free ranging.

Silkies are a very old breed. They originated in Asia, were brought to the Western World via the Silk Road, a major trading round in Asia. Silkies date back to the Chinese Han dynasty (around 206BCE). The breed was first mentioned by Marco Polo in his journals that he kept on this trip through China (1290-1300). He recorded in his journal referencing a “furry chicken”.

After Marco Polo’s mention about a” furry chicken” there was not much said about the Silkie till about 1589. Ulysses Aldrovandi, a writer and naturalist published a work on a “wool-bearing chicken”. He described it as “clothed with hair like a cat”.

Silkies get their unique feathering due to the lack of barbicels in their feathers. Barbicels give feathers the smooth texture and appearance we commonly associate with feathers. It is for this reason that Silkies do not like getting wet. If kept in wet climates, a keeper needs to see it that their digs are well sheltered and dry. Contrary to popular opinion, they do tolerate cold climates well as long as they are able to remain dry.

After Silkies made it to the Western World, the breed was recognized officially in North America with acceptance into the Poultry Standard of Perfection in 1874.

In the 21st century, Silkies are one of the most popular and ubiquitous ornamental breeds. They are often kept by backyard chicken enthusiasts as pets. Although not a heritage breed like others discussed. The Silkie is a breed that is alive and well thanks to the conservational efforts of backyard chicken keepers who care for and raise them.

Silver Lace Wyandotte:

The gems of my chicken yard are my Silver Lace Wyandotte’s. I have 4 of these fancy ladies and are absolutely smitten with them. Like the Orpington and Australorp, they are very friendly and great layers. The Wyandotte is a purely American breed, developed in the 1870’s and named after the Wyandotte people of North America.

Many people keep this breed to show at county and state fairs. With their striking black and white feathers, they looked like they are dressed up for a Gala. I too obtained my Silver Lace Ladies for this reason. They are head turners, capturing the attention of anyone who sees them. I am often asked by visitors to my farm about these ladies. I get many comments on their stunning appearance. They are the pride and joy of my flock.

Like the Orpingtons and the Australorps, Wyandotts are friendly and very docile. They are often found at the bottom of the pecking order due to their docile temperament. If you want to add a little high class to your flock, Wyandotts are a great choice. Since they are available in most feed stores, they are readily available.

Other Heritage Breeds:

The Heritage Breeds I have discussed thus far I currently have. However, there are many more to choose from. Below I will give honorable mention to other beloved Heritage breeds. Before I go any further, I want to thank my fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts and friends (who have asked to remain anonymous) for sharing their experience with these breeds. I do not currently have the following breeds but have connections to those who can vouch for the temperament of these breeds based on their own experiences.

Rhode Island Red:

Image Credit:

The Rhode Island Red is one of the most common breeds kept by backyard enthusiasts. They are one of the most common breeds found in co-ops during the spring. The Rhode Island Red is a purely American breed. It is actually the state bird of Rhode Island. This breed was developed in the early 19th century by cross breeding two other well-known breeds, leghorn and Malay. As common as this breed may seem, it is actually on the “watch” list by the Livestock Conservancy.

The Rhode Island Red gets its name from the color of its plumage. Other keepers have stated that this breed is friendly with a good nature, but they can be a bit pushy. They are a tough breed, resistant to illness, good at foraging and free ranging. They are hardy breed, lay well, typically docile, friendly and for these reasons they make a good choice for those starting out with backyard chickens.

Plymouth Rock:

Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plymouth_Rock_hen.

The Plymouth Rock is the oldest American breed. It was first breed in the early 19th century and was seen coast to coast before the end of World War 2. Almost everyone kept them, it was encouraged by the Government as food for the troops who were fighting over seas. For much of the 20th century it was the most common breed in the United States. Unfortunately, after the 2nd World War, it declined in popularity and has been listed on the American Livestock Conservancy as “recovering”.

As a breed, the Plymouth Rock is docile in nature, tame and hardy, making them a great choice for beginning backyard yard chicken enthusiasts. The Plymouth Rock is a good general farm chicken. They are docile with a leaning toward broodiness. They are quality layers of medium-large eggs.

The Sussex:

Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Light_Sussex_rooster_-_Collingwood_Children%27s_Farm.

This Sussex is named after its location of origin Sussex, England and is among the oldest of British breeds. In fact, the first ever poultry show was held in London in 1845. One of the first exhibits was a chicken breed simply called Sussex or Kentish Fowl. This was the beginnings of the “Sussex Breed”. Although Kent was mentioned, the birds were thereafter addressed only as Sussex.

The Sussex is a very ancient breed in England’s history. Records show that the Sussex dates back to the time of the Roman Invasion of 43 A.D. Of course, they looked nothing like they do today, but their origins are anything but new.

The time of breeding and various color varieties came about when hen fever hit England in the Victorian Era. The Sussex was breed with other Heritage Breeds such as the Cochin and Brahma to get today’s look of a robust and well-proportioned bird. Today there are several colors available such as red and speckled, brown, buff, white, silver. However, The American Poultry Association only recognized Red and Speckled. Speckled is a beautiful bird which sports a mahogany and while speckled plumage. With successive molts the color gets better. The Light is the coloration most associated with this breed. Birds with light coloration have white bodies with black neck and tail feathers.

Other chicken keepers and friends that I have talked to say that this breed is docile and friendly. They are easy to handle and love to forage. They are very thrifty, if they are allowed to free range, they are able to gather most of their needs from this activity. Several of my friends have said that they are very curious and will follow their keepers around the yard. They enjoy attention and are very interactive and talkative with their keepers.

As for laying potential, they are good layers, laying about 4-5 brown eggs a week. They will continue to lay through the winter when most other breeds have shut down production for the year. They only take a break from laying during molting.

Some keepers have said that they have a tendency to go broody and make good mothers. A fellow poultry keeper and friend of mine says that she has two girls who happily sit on eggs every year hatching and raise clutches of chicks for her. She loves her Sussex momma hens and can count on them to give her new chicks every spring.

In my interview process, one downfall of the breed was mentioned. This breed has a tendency towards obesity. If you want them fattened for the table that is fine, but if you want them to continue to lay eggs, then you need to keep their diet and weight in check. They best way to do this is to keep treats to a minimum and only allow them to get their nutrition from a quality feed and foregoing.

The Sussex is a great breed to have around children. They enjoy the company of their keepers, are talkative, loved being held and stroked. They are low maintenance and thriftily if allowed to free range.

Leghorn:

Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leghorn_cockerel_and_hen.

Foghorn Leghorn, for those that remember Loony Tunes cartoons, Foghorn was the Rooster who was always being tortured by a little chicken hawk. He was probably the best-known Leghorn chicken in the world! These two characters are my favorite Loony Tunes. Foghorn Leghorn as his name suggests is a Leghorn Cock. In his honor, the next Heritage Breed that I will give honorable mention to is the Leghorn.

The Leghorn’s originated in Tuscany, in central Italy. The breed was introduced to North America in 1828 from the port city of Livorno. In America they were originally called “Italians”, by 1865 the breed was known as “Leghorn”.

The exact history of the Leghorn breed is unknown. There were several small breeds of land chickens roaming in the region of Tuscany Italy. From these, the Leghorn was born. When the Leghorn made it to the UK in 1870 the English did not like the small body of the Leghorn. So, It was crossed with the Minorca to give it a more robust frame. Despite the breeding the Leghorn still remains a relatively thin bird.

Contrary to popular opinion, Leghorn’s come in a variety of colors black, brown, white, buff, and silver or grey. The breed was admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1874.

A few friends and fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts of mine report that the Leghorn is a very intelligent and resourceful bird. They are able to find much of their food on their own if allowed to free range which reduces the feed bill. They are good flyers and will often fly into trees to roost if allowed. They can be a bit noisy, definitely not a good breed for an urban setting.

Another friend of mine said that they are a lot like the Polish breed. They get bored easily, so a keeper needs to provide plenty of room and things to do if they are confined to a pen. They are also a bit aloof from human contact not really interested in interacting with their keepers.

As for laying potential, they are good layers, laying about 230-320 eggs per year. That’s about 5+ eggs a week, making Leghorn hens an egg laying machine. For this reason, they make a great staple for a farm setting. They are not very broody, in fact it’s very rare for a Leghorn hen to go broody. If a hen accidentally hatches a chick, they make terrible mothers. If you want to procreate your flock its best to use an incubator or broody hen from another breed such as the Silkie to raise the chicks for you.

If you want a chicken breed that is cuddly and friendly, the Leghorn is not the way to go. However, if you don’t want to make friends of your backyard chickens and just want eggs, they are a great choice. Additionally, if allowed to free range, they are very self-sufficient, reducing the feed bill making them relatively cheap to keep.

Brahma:

Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leghorn_cockerel_and_hen.

The Brahma is an American Breed of chicken. It was developed in the United States from birds imported from China and was the principle American meat bird from 1850 until about 1930.

Few breeds have as much controversy as to their origins as does the Brahma Chicken. While widely varied claims were originally accepted by early poultry associations, the truth of the matter is that this breed was developed in America by breeding a very large fowl imported from China.

At first, there were many different strains and at least a dozen names for the breed. At a meeting in Boston in 1852 an agreement was reached to name it “Brahmapootra” which later was shortened to just “Brahma”. From the beginning Brahmas have been recognized not only for their incredible size but for their practical qualities. Brahmas are very hearty and good egg layers. Considered great winter layers, Brahma’s will lay right through the winter, only talking a break during molt.

Farmed for its size and known as the “King of Chickens”, the Brahma chicken is appreciated for its great size, strength and vigor. These birds are huge, males can grow to reach 17-18 pounds and the hens can reach anywhere from 13-15 pounds. A typical Brahma Rooster can stand 30 inches tall. Despite its impressive size, the breed is known to be very docile and friendly.

I have one backyard chicken friend who has these impressive birds. She described their disposition as gentile and non-aggressive. It can be easy to be intimated by these giants, but their temperament does not match their stature. They are friendly and docile with a calm disposition. They are very easy to handle but due to their weight they can become heavy quickly.

They make great mothers and are committed to sitting on the nest. However, due to the size of the hen a keeper needs to keep a close eye on the chick for the first few days. The small chick can be easily injured or killed if it is accidentally stepped on by the mother hen.

If allowed to free range, they are well adapted to forage for food making them a self-sustaining breed. They are an excellent breed to have with children present. Although very large they are very docile and non-aggressive. They make a great choice for 4H projects. If you choose to keep these massive birds make sure that the coop is large enough to accommodate their larger than average size. The roosts need to be larger, and sturdy, pens and nesting boxes need to be larger as well.

Although known as the “King of Chickens”, the Brahmas are second in line in size, surpassed only by the Jersey Giant. The next Heritage Breed I will examine is the largest of all chicken breeds.

Jersey Giant:

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The Jersey Giant as its name suggests is the largest and heaviest of all chicken breeds. It was created in Burlington County, New Jersey in the late 19th century. The roosters top out about 17-19 pounds while the hens top out around 13-15 pounds. The males stand between 28-30 inches tall, the hens being 16-20 inches tall. Making these birds at eye level with the Brahma and slightly heavier.

The Jersey Giant was originally bred to create a chicken that could potentially replace the turkey as a premium table bird. During breeding several large breeds were used the Black Java’s, Dark Brahmas and Black Langshans.

As far as egg laying in concerned, the hens tend to lay more eggs than those of other heavy breeds. The eggs are extra-large in size with color varying from dark brown to light cream.

I have an on-line fellow backyard chicken keeper who raises this breed. She described the temperament of the Jersey Giant as docile, mellow and friendly. Even the roosters are very docile and tame. She keeps her flock of Jersey Giants as pets rather than their intended purpose. They are very good with her kids. Her children were at one point afraid of them but now they have grown to love their backyard giants.

According to her, the hens don’t really go broody. They may act like they want to sit on the nest but lose interest soon after. She uses an incubator to procreate her flock. They free range and forage well. Due to their large size, they are not easy prey for hawks. Egg laying is good, hens lay about 150-200 eggs per year, that’s about 2-4 eggs per week. The eggs are very large, a bit larger than X-large eggs sold in the stores. They vary between cream, light and medium brown in color.

The Jersey Giant is an impressive bird worthy of the time and effort required to raise them. Due to their large size, they require lots of space as to avoid problems caused by overcrowding. This is one breed that I have wanted to keep but due to my space limitation my property is not well suited. But for those who have the space and requirements necessary to keep them, they would be well worth the time.

Dominique:

Image Credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DominiqueCockZeus.

The Dominique, also known as the dominicker or Pilgrim Fowl, is a breed that was developed in the United States during the colonial period. It is considered America’s first chicken breed. It is most likely descended from chickens brought to New England from southern England during colonial times.

The Dominique could be found on farms far and wide until about the 1920’s when the breed waned due to the passing of long time Dominique enthusiasts and breeders. Due to its hardiness and ease of up-keep, the breed survived the Great Depression. By the end of World War II, the breed once again experienced decline. By the 1970’s only 4 known flocks remained. The remaining owners were contacted and participated in a breed rescue program to save the Dominique. From 1983 till about 2006, Dominiques numbers steadily rose again. As of 2007, numbers are once again starting to fall, placing the breed on The Livestock conservancy’s “watch” list. If there is one breed that we as backyard chicken keepers should take interest in, it’s this one. It is only through the efforts of backyard chicken keepers that this breed will escape extinction.

As expected from the breed’s history, I have no backyard enthusiast friends that currently keep this breed. However, according to my research, this breed is first and foremost an egg producer. Hens average between 230-275 small to medium-size brown eggs a year. That averages to about 3-4 eggs per week.

The disposition of the Dominique is said to be sweet, gentile, calm and docile. They are friendly often following their owners around the yard hoping for treats. The hens are said to occasionally be broody and are good mothers, attentive to their chicks.

The Dominique is robust and hardy with little in the way of health issues. They are low maintenance and quite self-sufficient, thus they make a great breed for first time chicken owners.

Although breeding programs have been successful, the numbers of Dominique chickens worldwide remain very low. With the surge of the backyard chicken movement numbers are holding steady. It is only through backyard chicken enthusiasts that this breed still exists. If there is one breed that needs our help as chicken keepers, its this one. I plan to add a few Dominiques to my flock as soon as I can.

The New Hampshire:

Image Credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_Hampshire_Red_Hen.

The New Hampshire is an American Breed that originated in the state of New Hampshire. Using Rhode Island Reds, poultry farmers performed selective breeding generation after generation to create a bird that grew rapidly, feathered faster, matured earlier and had greater vigor. The resulting product was The New Hampshire Red a close cousin to the Rhode Island Red. The Breed was admitted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1935.

The New Hampshire is a relatively new breed, roughly the same size as the Rhode Island Red. The hens are good layers producing about 200 large light brown eggs a year. This equates to about 3 eggs a week. It is a family friendly bird, making great pets, due to ease of care they are a good breed for first time chicken keepers.

If you are looking for a bird that is good for both meat and egg laying, this is the breed for you. Due to aggressive breeding, they are generally disease resistant, cold hearty and robust.

Mayans: Black Copper

Image Credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cuckoo_Marans.

The breed that seems to be all the range today are the Mayans. Relatively new to the backyard chicken scene, the Marans have been around since the 1900’s. A French breed, originated in the port town of Marans, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine a region of south-western France. The Marans are descended from feral fighting game chickens imported from Indonesia and India. A favorite at poultry shows, they are known for laying extremely dark eggs.

There are 9 recognized colors in the French Standard: cuckoo, golden cuckoo, black, birchen, black copper, wheaten, black-tailed, buff, white and Colombian. Of these, the black copper is the favorite among backyard chicken enthusiasts.

These birds are absolutely beautiful, pictures do not do them justice. They have a remarkable plumage. The overall body feathers are deep black which glean with a green iridescence in the sunlight. The hackle feather is a reddish/coppery tone, contrasting nicely with the black body feathers.

The Marans are a new breed in the United States, accepted by the American Poultry Association is 2011- a recent arrival.

I have a few fellow chicken keeper friends who raise this breed. They are said to have a quiet disposition, gentile and friendly. The roosters have a tendency to be a bit confrontational with other roosters. The hens are docile but are not lap chickens like some other breeds. They are a very active breed and enjoy free ranging.

Marans are renowned for their very dark brown/chocolate eggs. The hens are good layers, giving you around 3 eggs/week, which works out to about 150-200 eggs/year.

Marans are considered to be rare in the United States. They are much more common in their homeland of France. They are one of the more expensive breeds to purchase from hatcheries, single chicks ranging between $10-20. Once established, they make quite a statement in your flock.

Hamburg:

Image Credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Silver-Spangled_Hamburg_Sam_dinner.

The Hamburg chicken is one of the several breeds that most resemble the chicken of the wild. Hamburg chickens were found in Holland in the 14th century but it’s unclear when they first arrived. Around 1785 Hamburgs made their way to England. Later in 1856 Hamburgs were embraced in America and were desired for their egg production potential.

As a breed, Hamburgs possess great activity and alertness. Hens are known to prefer nesting in hedges and have a habit of roosting at night in trees. During their time in England, it was believed that the Hamburgs were a hybrid across between wild chickens and pheasants. Hamburgs are prolific egg layers of small white eggs. The breed’s true gift is their ability to lay a large number of eggs over several years. They mature early, reaching laying age at about 4-5 months, 2-3 months earlier than most laying breeds.

Like the Polish, Hamburgs tend to be flap-happy and flightily. They have tendencies to fly away. It is not uncommon for keepers to find them perching and roosting high in trees. For this reason, it is best for keepers to keep them contained to a roomy Pen. To keep this breed happy, pens need to have a lot of vertical space with plenty of roosting options, high roosts are preferable. They are one of the noisier breeds, definitely not a good choice for Urban backyard chicken keepers.

Hamburgs are considered rare in the United States. They can be acquired from breeders or hatcheries that specializes in rare and very rare breeds. If kept, they will be a spice of life in your coop.

I think I’m going to cut it off here. This post has already become lengthy, possibly the longest post I have ever composed. However, I feel it is important to acquaint you with some of the Heritage Breeds that shaped our past and now our further. There are many more Heritage breeds to talk about, the ones I mentioned are some of the more popular ones kept by backyard chicken enthusiasts.

As backyard chicken keepers, we are the conservationists keeping many of these breeds from extinction. Since the meat and egg industry have no need for these birds, it is though our passions that they still exist. Breeds such as the Dominique really need our help to keep them round for generations to come. Without our efforts and interest our Heritage Breeds would be lost forever, victim to the passage of time. Many of us keep chickens as a connection to the past, simpler days of a bygone era. Our feathered friends carry with them history as many of our grandparents and ancestors kept the same breeds that now roam our backyards.

I hope that you enjoyed this post, and maybe even enlightened you to the importance of our Heritage Breeds. If you have any questions please leave a comment, you can also drop me a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. As always, thank for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

Resources: The Livestock Conservancy https://www.livestockconservancy.org/

Photos: Wiki, Creative Commons, myself, and fellow poultry enthusiasts.

 

Prefab Coops, A Worthwhile Option.

In this post I will discuss a hot topic within the backyard chicken community. It’s a topic that is important, examining both side of the debate offers much in-depth knowledge. In this post, I will examine the topic of Prefab Vs. Hand-built coops. Showing that prefab coops can and do make very viable options for your flock.

Many chicken keepers do not like prefab coops, they recommend that newcomers build their own coop. I differ in regard to this opinion. I built my first coop, then added 5 prefab coops. I love prefab coops. They make viable options for those who cannot build a coop for various reasons be it financial, physical limitation, or conceptual. Wood working and carpentry is not for everyone, it’s a skill that requires hard work, training and can be very expensive. It can also be very dangerous if you have never worked with wood or high-powered tools before.

This is the story of my journey in both building a coop and owning prefabs. It’s my intention to help others who are not craftsman or builders to put your mind at ease with respect to prefab coops.

For those who are not familiar with what a prefab coop is, allow me to explain. When I refer to prefab coops, I am talking about coops that your see in farm stores, such as Tractor Supply or Rural King to name a few. They come in large boxes and require assembly which is very simple only requiring a screwdriver, a partner and a little elbow grease. Above I have pictured three of my largest prefab coops that I purchased from Tractor Supply (The TARDIS, Henwarts, and Hyrule). I will formally introduce you to all these coops a little later in this post.

I built my first coop, The Kuntry Klucker 10 years ago. I love my big coop, but I will say that it was the hardest, most dangerous project I ever undertook. I was new to chickens and followed the advice from more experienced keepers, which was “don’t buy a coop, build your own”. Not knowing much, that is what I did. I found out through this endeavor that I have no business using power tools. I nearly killed myself several times and spend $1000 more than I had intentionally set out to spend. After I cut the wood too short or at wrong angles, adding to those two trips to an Urgent Care Center, it got expensive. I realized that this was really bad advice that I followed from my experienced chicken keeper counterparts. Up till that point, I had no experience with wood working or carpentry in general.

So, how did I come to love prefab coops you may be asking. Well, as the saying goes, “you can’t have just one”. I fell in love with chickens and wanted more. I knew from my past experience that building my own coop was a suicide mission, so I began looking elsewhere. I began to entertain the thought of prefab coops against the better judgement of other poultry keepers. The fact was simple, I cannot build a coop, so I had to seek out other options.

To start, I read reviews, most will say something like this, “It looks good, but the quality is poor”. This is a general across the board review that you will see for a prefab coop. Don’t let this bother you, the coops given, and little love will do just fine. Anyway, knowing this I ordered my first prefab with a plan in mind. When it arrived, I put it together and was actually shocked at how well it was made. Drawing from the experience from my coop building disaster, I made a few adjustments. I updated the hardware cloth, the latches and gave the wood a good coat of barn and fence paint followed by a quality water seal. The results were stunning!! Not only did I not kill myself building the “kit coop” (all I needed was a screwdriver instead of a power saw) but after I made my adjustments it held up well, I mean really well! I live in the steamy south of East Tennessee. We get hot summers with lots of humidity, nasty spring storms, and ice in the winter. Mother Nature throws it all at us. Through all of this my prefab coops have held up very well. I do touch up the paint every other year, the hardware cloth and latches are still fine.

After the experience with my first prefab coop (which now has 5 years under its belt), I ordered more as my flock grew.

I now have 9 coops currently in operation, 7 of them are prefab coops. I have not had any predators get into my prefab coops, nor have I had any problems with the wood rotting (hence the water seal). The roof holds up well and the durability of the structures have withstood everything Mother Nature has thrown at them. I can honestly say that it would take a disastrous weather event to tear them down such as a tornado or derecho. If I get a tornado or other high wind event, I will have more to worry about than just damage to my prefab coops. Additionally, I have them insured under my homeowner’s property damage clause. If we experience a disastrous weather event, I will just put them in with all the other things that we need replaced should this unlikely situation actually occur.

Allow me to introduce you to the 6 prefab coops that call The Kuntry Klucker Farm home.

First came Roy’s Roost and Betsy’s Bliss. These two coops, (the smallest of all my coops) are situated in my spice and herb garden. Roy’s Roost was purchased to use as a hospital coop and hatch out coop. I use it for other purposes but these two are most predominate.

Betsy’s Bliss is my broody breaker. It is only big enough for one hen. The upper compartment is the coop area where food and water is kept, its also where the resident roosts at night. Below is the pen area. This coop is only used to restore a broody hen back to her normal behavior. Stints in Betsy’s Bliss are usually short lived. After a short stay in Betsy’s Bliss, the resident is granted parole pending good behavior.

Next, and the first of my large prefab coops is Hyrule. This coop belongs to my youngest son. Hyrule houses White Crested Polish Bantams and Frizzle Cochin Bantams. After witnessing the durability of this large prefab coop, my chicken addiction really took off.

The next prefab coop to join the backyard “coop-hood” was the TARDIS.

Belonging to my eldest son and home to Bantam Silkies, the TARDIS was the next large prefab coop to land in the backyard. My son is a huge Dr. WHO fan and wanted to paint and name his coop after the TARDIS. His artistic skills really made this “Time and Relative Dimension in Space” machine come to life. I was concerned that due to its height it would be easily knocked over in strong winds. To my surprise it has held up remarkably well, surviving several very rough spring seasons. The TARDIS is 4 years old and still holding up very well. Even after being battered by several severe spring seasons, it is showing no signs of slowing down.

The final large prefab coop to be added to the “coop-hood” is Henwarts.

Henwarts was added spring of 2018 and has so far survived several hails storms and a few ice storms. Henwarts is home to Silver Lace Wyondottes and Lavender Orpingtons. Painted the colors of the Ravenclaw house at Hogwarts, all the residents are named after characters from the “Harry Potter” series.

This spring (April 2020) we added one more coop to our coop-hood. A medium size coop bearing the name “Curisable”. This Dalek chook interplanetary ship belongs to my eldest son. Along with the TARDIS, the Crucible is home to 4 Silkie breeding roosters.

Now that I have introduced you to all the prefab coops that call the Kuntry Klucker Farm home, allow me to tell you how I preserve these coops for long lasting value.

How to extend the life of a prefab coop.

Just like everything else in life, a prefab coop needs maintenance. Here are some hacks that I have discovered along the way that resulted in the longevity and durability of my prefab coops.

1. Grounding: Make sure to set the prefab coop on large outdoor treated lumber planks. It is important to make sure that the prefab coop does not touch the ground. I am sure that it would be fine, but I like to raise my prefab coops off the ground a little bit. I set them on large outdoor treated landscaping 4×4’s or 4×6’s. These large heavy pieces of lumber serve as a buffer between the ground and the coop. With 4” deck screws, I secure the coop to these large timbers of wood. Although my prefab coops have held up well on their own, this adds a bit more stability to the coop. Furthermore, this ensures that the coop is well grounded and better withstand strong winds.

2. Latches: Prefab coops come with latches installed. I found that they do suffice for the purpose intended but I like to add a bit more security to my coops. Typically, I will add several more latches to the coops for added security. Most prefab coops come with barrel latches, I like to replace or add to these latches’ predator proof latches. Below is a photo of my preferred latching mechanism that I use on all my coops.

3. Paint: Prefab coops come painted but only with a primer or wood stain. Be sure to fully paint your prefab coops with a quality outdoor oil-based or latex paint. Then follow with a topcoat or water seal appropriate for the paint you used. This will aid in the life expectancy of the wood. I touch up or repaint my prefab coops about every other year depending on the need. In doing, so I have never had an issue with the painted wood rotting.

4. Hardware Cloth: Prefab coops do come with hardware cloth already attached to the coop and pen sections. I like to add another layer for my own peace of mind. This is probably not necessary since the hardware cloth that comes on the coops is a heavy gauge. I also make sure that I add a few more staples to ensure that the hardware cloth stays on.

With these 4 simple adjustments and additions, my prefab coops have held up just as well as the coop I built 10 years ago.

This is my story, I learned from experience that building your own coop as many suggest, is just not feasible for everyone. Since I discovered prefab coops, I will never build one from scratch again.

I have extended experience with prefab coops; I can honestly recommend them as a viable option for others who cannot or do not have the skills necessary to build a chicken coop. In my opinion they are a worthwhile option.

I will add, I will only purchase my coops from Tractor Supply or a local CO-OP. Reason being…if it arrives damaged (so far none of mine have) they will replace or exchange it for me. If I order from retailers, it would be harder to return it to the store. Prefab coops are great, but get them from TSC, Rural King or other reputable local co-ops in your area that stock them. If you have problems, you are not far from help.

If you have any questions about prefab coops, please post them in the comments. You can also drop me a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com.

To see a video of the “coop-hood”, visit our YouTube channel.

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling.

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

 

It’s Times Like This…

Empty egg cooler at my local Walmart.

As a backyard chicken keeper and blogger, I am always presenting the advantages of keeping chickens. Chickens offers many advantages such as compost tenders, gardening associates, extermination forces, companionship and of course egg producers.

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and preparation for the impact on communities, people are taking steps to ready themselves. One of these readiness techniques is to stock up on goods and staples for an extended period.

Normally when this is done in an orderly fashion, stores are able to keep up with demand. However, when the impact of a crises hits suddenly, stores are often overwhelmed unable to adequately supply the demand needed by the public. In these cases, empty shelves and vacant freezers are a common sight. Barren store shelves have another sociological effect, Panic! When shoppers planning to stock up for the foreseeable future are greeted with empty shelves, the gravity of the situation becomes all too real. The scarcity of goods creates yet another threat to our situation often times solved by our primal instinct of “the strongest will survive”. As a result, fights over seemingly random items such as toilet paper, paper towels, canned food and essentials like bread and eggs are reported across multiple locations.

It’s times like this that I am so glad to be a backyard chicken keeper. While most people were raiding the stores for essentials and staples, I was quietly and methodically stocking up on chicken feed and other poultry essentials. It is often said that a country girl/boy will survive, this is indeed the truth, one of the benefits of being self-sufficient. With a freezer full of frozen veggies from last year’s garden and fresh eggs being laid daily, we are often able to weather just about any economic crises.

COVID-19 Chicken Feed supply.

As the stores run out of important staples such as eggs, I am in the fortunate position to help out my friends and neighbors. People often forget about us backyard chicken keepers till an egg recall or shortage is faced, then we are everyone’s favorite neighbor. In past supply shortages, I have had complete strangers come to my door inquiring about purchasing eggs from me. I oblige when I am able to do so.

These events remind me again and again how fortunate I am to be able to keep backyard chickens. There have been times they have provided us our “survival food”. When natural disasters or other economic crises occur, there is just something about knowing that although the stores are bare, the girls are still laying. Completely unaware of the situation unfolding around them, the girls go about their days sustaining us and others around us. There is a purity in not being totally dependent on the supply chain, but rather your own land.

There are many benefits of keeping backyard chickens. Times of crises are one of those benefits. This is often forgotten till a situation arises that forces us to take stock. It’s times like this that I am ever grateful for my girls. They are a blessing that sometimes is not fully appreciated till situations arise and we become dependent on them.

When faced with uncertainties, people have their own ways of preparing. While most people were braving the long lines at the stores to ready their plans, I was preparing for my girls. I sustain them by making sure I have their essentials stocked for the upcoming crises. They will in turn sustain us and others in need through their eggs.

I wish everyone the best in weathering this storm. If we all follow the recommendations by our federal Government and local Public Health professionals, we will survive. This is not the first time that humanity has been faced with an invisible enemy, it will not be the last. Take care and take care of those around you. If we band together, we can fight this invisible foe.

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. As always, thanks for reading! Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

NPIP Certification

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

What is NPIP Certification?

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

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

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

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

So what does this mean for the backyard flock owner?

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

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

It also gives you a peace of mind as well. For example, if there is an outbreak of AI in your area, a State Veterinarian will be dispatched to your home to test your birds for AI. Some feel that registering your flock and having them NPIP Certified relinquishes too much control to “Big Brother”. This is where the individual keeper’s preference comes into play. I personally have my flock NPIP Certified. Not only do I find it comforting that should AI be detected in my area, the USDA would be on it testing my birds. But if I sell any chicks or adult laying hens, I am confident that I am selling healthy birds and have the certification to back it up.

How does an owner certify their flock?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NPIP EDIT

I have never regretted getting my flock NPIP Certified. Although I am not an active breeder, I find value in knowing that my flock is healthy. I also found the NPIP certification process valuable in learning how to conduct my own health inspections on my birds. The most important aspect that I value from the NPIP process is the network of contacts. There is a peace of mind knowing that I am only a phone call away from people who are knowledgeable, should I need to tap into that resource.

I hope that this post has helped answer some question relating to NPIP Certification. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment. You can also drop me a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com.

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling

If you like this post, peck the subscribe button. As always, thanks for reading. Till next time keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

“Hentirement”

When acquiring a flock of backyard chickens most people are excited about the farm fresh eggs they will be collecting. Not much thought is given to what to do after hens no longer lay regularly. Laying hens only associated with egg production has been drilling into our conscious.

The hens for production spend their entire life in small cages then are slaughtered between 18 months and 2 years, they are deemed unproductive at that point. It has become common knowledge that after the age of 2 hens no longer lay eggs and are worthless. I am here to challenge this presumption.

In this post, I intend to prove that hens are worth much even beyond their laying years. A hen does not lose her wroth just because she no longer lays eggs.

It is of popular opinion that hens will only lay for 2 years. After this point they no longer lay and are nothing more than chicken stock in terms of value. This is not true. The truth is that once a hen starts to lay eggs, she will lay dependably for the first two years. After that point, she still lay, but not to the tune of one egg a day as she did in her earlier years. A hen will lay eggs for as long as she lives.

Every hen is born with approximately 1000 yolk cells. These are all the potential eggs that she will lay during her entire life. The first two years of her life she will lay at the most regular intervals. A productive laying breed such as the Australorp, Orpington or Rhode Island Red will lay about 3-5 eggs a week. That is about 156 to 260 eggs a year. So, for the first 2 years of her life, she will have laid approximately anywhere from 315 to 520 eggs. Assuming that she is born with 1000 yolk cells (as most laying breeds are), this means she has only layed a little more than half of her total egg potential.

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Now, just because she is over the age of 2 does not mean that she will no long lay eggs. She will, she may lay 2-4 eggs a week instead of her initial interval of 3-5 eggs a week. She keeps laying eggs but slows down a bit. As she ages, she will slow down even more. If she makes it to 5 years of age you might expect to get 1-3 eggs a week. As she progresses even further in age, you can probably count on 1-2 eggs a week.

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I currently have 5 Buff Orpington 10 years of age. The life expectancy of an average backyard chickens is anywhere between 5-7 years. If well cared for they can reach 10+ years. For a backyard hen to make it past the age of 7 defies most odds. To reach the mile mark of 10 years and beyond is rare. This past May, my 5 “Golden Girls” officially reached this 10-year milestone. Even at this age, my 5 Buff Orpington girls still lay. During the summer when bugs and other delectables are at the most abundant, I can count on about 2-3 eggs a week from my 5 senior ladies. Some will lay on a particular day, others will not. But as a general rule, during the time of the year when the days are long, warm and bugs are plenty, they will lay well. When fall arrives, the days shorten, and the weather cools off. During this cooler part of the year, they typically slow down to maybe 1 egg a day from the 5. During the coldest part of winter, they will cease laying altogether. Their bodies are using egg laying resources to keep warm in the bitter weather. This is just not observed by older hens but all hens. However, in the spring as the days warm again and the sun returns to our sky, they will pick back up the pace to 2-3 eggs a week.

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Even at their advanced age, they still lay eggs. The assumption that a hen will only lay for the first 2 years of her life is unfounded. She will lay eggs till the day she dies.

So really, the question is not will they stop laying eggs, but what to do after hens pass their peak laying years. In the factory farm setting, after 2 years of age, the hens are sent to slaughter and a new batch is brought in. Although these girls still have plenty of laying years ahead of them, they are nonetheless considered expired and slaughtered. These ladies’ barley begun their lives when it was abruptly halted. For the backyard chicken keeper this is not the normal proceedings. We tend to hang on to our ladies well beyond two years of age.

The question then becomes, what to do with our hens that are so advanced in age that they no longer lay eggs. My 5 “Golden Girls” are not far from this point. I expect next year I will have collected the last egg from my Buff Orpington ladies. At this point I will consider them officially in “Hentirement”. Hentirement is the time in a hen’s life where she has officially stopped laying but still has much to offer beyond eggs.

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Here on The Kuntry Klucker Farm, all may ladies and gents will live out their natural lives under the loving care of their keepers. Just because a hen stops laying eggs does not mean that she is worthless. Hens can contribute in many ways beyond the humble egg.

So, what can a hen who has reached “hentirement” offer you may ask. She can produce in many ways. For example, I have found that my older hens make excellent mothers. Since they no longer have to use their energy for laying eggs, they focus their efforts elsewhere. I have found that when I bring a new batch of chicks to the backyard, my older ladies are the first to show them the ropes. Taking them to all the hot spots around the yard, dust bathing holes, water coolers, good sunbathing location, the feed buffet, introducing them to the best roosters and more. My older ladies have even adopted a few chicks and raised them for me. To read this story click here. 

Older hens, although no longer laying, still offer all the benefits of having chickens. Providing compost for the gardens, eating the bugs on garden plants, tilling the soil and ridding the yard of all available weeds.

Additionally, I find that my older girls make the best lap chickens. No longer distracted by the needs of egg laying, they become better companions. Instead of focusing on the necessities that go with egg laying, they have more time to spend and bond with their keeper. Thus, my older ladies are the lap chickens of the flock. Not only is it adorable to be claimed by the hen, but the younger generations also see this and model their behavior. Thus, my subsequent broods are friendlier and more personable towards their keepers.

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Finally, an older hen who has seen and lived through it all are the Zen masters of the flock. No longer spring chickens learning the ropes of life, they are the pros of what it means to be a chicken. My older girls are the calmest members of the flock, nothing surprises them. They know the dangers of life and help others avoid them. They know and roll with the changing seasons and weather patterns. They are the wisdom barring members of the flock.

Above all, they deserve all the honor and respect that is due them. They nourished me with their life during their laying years, it is my turn to nourish them during their twilight years. My older girls are the gems of my flock. They shine bright as they have been polished by the trials of life. For a backyard chicken to make it to the ripe old age of 10 is a feat that defies all the odds. I don’t know how much time they have left but I do know this; they will live the rest of their life grazing on bugs and bathing in the sun glistening like the gems they are.

heavenly Miss Pea

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Hopefully, I offered suggestions on how your hens can be productive past their laying years. It’s a personal decision for each and every chicken keeper. For me, allowing my ladies to live out their post laying years in “hentirement” is the decision I have made for my ladies.

The girls and I want to wish everyone a Merry Kluckmas and an egg-cellant new year!

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling.

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. Thanks for reading, till next time keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

A Kuntry Klucker Halloween.

The trees are transitioning to brilliant colors of red, orange, and yellow. The days and nights are steadily growing cooler and visibility shorter. Animals scurry to prepare for the coming winter season, as the first snowfall of the year covers the ground. All this symbolizes the coming of winter, ushered in by the astronomical mid-point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice more commonly known as Halloween.

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. The stores become haunted with costumes and creatures of all sorts. Caramel apples become a staple, and pumpkins color the store fronts a brilliant orange. A symbol of the last crop of the season, bringing a finality to the year’s harvest.

Children carve faces in pumpkins and place them on the front porch. A tradition tracing back to the Druids to ward off evil spirits. Harvest displays appear on doorsteps along with a humble scarecrow overseeing the bounty of the season’s surplus. However, Halloween traditions are not just limited to the humans during this time of magic and fantasy. Here on the Kuntry Klucker Farm, the girls also participate in the season’s festivities.

Every year after Halloween, I frequent the local stores, buying up all the pumpkins that did not make the designated cut to be Jack-O-Lanterns. The remaining pumpkins left are reduced in price, making perfect carving projects for my girls. In addition to late fall fun and entertainment they provide, pumpkin is very nutritious for chickens. They supply an abundance of essential nutrients needed for my girls during this late season, after the bugs and plants have gone dormant. Additionally, since they are large, they will serve as boredom busters. Pumpkins are the focused of activity for my girls during November going into December. Due to the fact that temperatures are below freezing at night, the pumpkins stay fresh before giving way to the natural process of decomposition.

Over the years, my girls have become excellent pumpkin carvers, Enjoying the season’s final harvest of pumpkins and other fall delectables. They happily peck at the pumpkin, anxious to get to the seeds contained within the center of the tasty orb. As they peck their way to the center, they carve a design in the exterior of the pumpkin, carving their Halloween pumpkin. All the finished projects are different, each displaying unique features and designs all created by chickens. A true piece of chicken art.

Many people do not associate chickens with artists or even expert carvers. My girls are here to prove that chickens are natures little artists. The girls enjoy their own version of the holidays as they share in the tradition of the season.

As the fall season surrenders to winter, it’s time to think about over-wintering your flock. I will be back with tips on how to keep your flock happy and healthy till the return of the Sun’s warmth.

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling.

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

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What is the life expectancy of a Backyard Chicken?

When considering the life expectancy of backyard chickens, several factors come into play. A good amount of these factors are dependent upon their specific breed, parent stock, method of hatch (hatchery vs broody momma) and how they were raise from chickhood. A backyard chicken keeper has control over some of these factors and no control over others.

Some breeds are just more delicate than others. For example, the Polish and Silkie in particular are a bit more susceptible to illness such as Wry Neck which can cause death if not treated quickly and effectively. You also have their sensitivity to winter weather, which can make them less harty in colder climates. However, with proper care and provisions, these breeds can live in colder climates without issue. I have a few members of these breeds, some going into their 5th winter. They do take a bit more care, but for the joy they bring, it’s worth it. To read my posts on care for these breeds, please click these links Polish or Silkies.

However, these factors aside, there are many things a keeper can do to extend the overall life expectancy of their flock. In this post, I will share with you practices I have implemented in caring for my girls. These methods have attributed to my oldest ladies celebrating 10 years of living the good life.

Here on the Kuntry Klucker Farm, my ladies are pets and treated well, even beyond their productive years. Even at 10 years of age, they still lay. They do not lay as dependably or as often as when they were younger. However, my senior ladies lay enough to let me know they are healthy and happy. Not all backyard chicken keepers allow their birds to remain on their farm past the point of productivity. Correspondingly, this blog post is specifically directed towards those who plan to allow their ladies to live out their natural lives long past their productive years. So, without further ado, allow me to share with you methods that I have implemented to ensure a long and happy life for my senior ladies.

I have raised chickens for about 10 years now. My first flock started with 17 Buff Orpington chicks. I had no idea when they arrived what joys were in store for me. I instantly fell in love with them. Thus began the greatest adventure of my life. Out of the original 17 chicks, 5 remain today. These are my oldest ladies, now at the ripe old age of 10. For a backyard chicken to reach 10 years of age, is a feat that defies the odds. Most backyard chickens, even raised as pets, rarely make it past the age of 7. Even at 7, this is still considered a good long pampered life. There are cases here and there of a pet chicken making it to 15 years and beyond. However amazing, these instances are rare, far and few in-between. Most backyard or pet chickens fall somewhere between 5-7 years as a general life expectancy. However, if they are well cared for, this expectancy can be extended by several years and beyond. I will list care taking techniques that have brought my ladies 10 happy years and hopefully many more to come.

Feed and Treats: All physical health begins with diet. For both human and animal, what you put in is what you get out. I have always been a consciouses eater; I do the same for my pets. My ladies are fed a complete poultry feed that accounts for all of their nutritional needs. I am not a poultry scientist; thus, I do not rely on my own knowledge to feed them a correct diet.

Laying hens have a lot of specialized nutritional needs that must be met in order to lay well and remain healthy. For this reason, I allow my girls to have treats very rarely. I do not want to dilute their nutritional needs by filling them up on treats. Many treats are not good for them. Many keepers like to feed their girls treats, but in reality, this is not in their best nutritional interest. I do however make one exception.

On occasion I will feed my girls dried mealworm. These little goodies contain nutrition that is essential for their health such as protein. During the summer months when they are free ranging, they will eat insects which are good sources of protein. During the winter months this source of protein is not available. Thus, I will supplement this natural part of their diet with dried mealworms. Additionally, I will use mealworms as boredom busters. During harsh winter weather, issues such as pecking can result when the flock is “cooped up” for too long. I make entertainment and games for my girls to distract them from picking at each other during these times. Outside of this, their diet consists of a poultry feed developed to meet all their specialized nutritional needs. As a general rule, I will only feed my girls Purina Premium Poultry Feed. I have tried other brands on occasion, but I find that when I feed them Purina, they are much healthier, their eggshells are stronger, and their feather quality is improved.

purina chicken feed

Fresh water, vitamins, probiotics and electrolytes: Every day my ladies get fresh water. Additionally, especially during hot and humid weather, I will add poultry vitamins and electrolytes to their water. Living in the south we get extremely hot summers with lots of humidity, making outdoor conditions nothing short of miserable. To assist my ladies in combating this weather, I make sure that they remain well hydrated. The vitamins given to them add an extra boost to keep them healthy in the heat. These vitamins also contain electrolytes, which further keep their bodies balanced during the heat. Several times a week I will add poultry probiotics to their water to keep their gut health in check.

The heat of summer is a great stressor on their little bodies. In fact, heat is more dangerous then wet and cold weather combined. If you have large standard size breeds with ample feathering such as the Orpington or Cochin, the heat is further compounded. I have over the years lost several girls to the heat but never to the cold or prolonged wet weather. Just like for us, high heat and humidity can be a swift and fast killer. To make these conditions easier on their bodies, I supplement their nutritional needs in their water.

During the hot summer months, they will drink more than eat from their feed. They will spend most their time grazing on the grass and eating other delectables they find, such as insects and worms. Since I have supplemented their water, I have not lost any more of my girls to the heat. This has no doubt aided my senior girls in their long and happy life. During the winter, I still add vitamins and probiotics to their water. I supplement their water as maintenance rather than essential survival of harsh summer weather conditions.

Poultry vitamins and electrolytes can be found at most farm/feed stores. At a MSRP of $7 to $10, they are an easy way to increase the health of your flock.

Clean and Dry Digs: Just like us, your girls also need a clean and dry place to call home. To underestimate the importance of a clean coop would be a detrimental condition for your girls. Although it is true that chickens are messy creatures, that does not mean that they can live in filthy unsanitary conditions. If allowed, disease and other illness will run rampant in a coop that is not cleaned and maintained.

A chicken coop needs to be cleaned on a daily basis. Every day, the poop from the overnight shift needs to be removed and disposed of. All my coops are cleaned daily, removing poop from the poop boards accumulated by the previous night. During the summer in order to keep the fly population down, I spray off the boards. In the pen, I remove poop and other debris, be it feathers, leaves or other objects from the previous day of activity.

Another reason to clean their coops daily, is their droppings say a lot about their health. As with all animals, fecal matter tells a story of what is happening inside the body. If you find blood or worms on the poop boards, a closer inspection may be warranted. Keeping a close eye on your ladies’ poo can help you catch health conditions before they become severe or grave.

In addition to maintaining the coop, you want to make sure that their digs remain dry. The coop should not leak, if it does some calking could go a long way. If you have a covered run, repair any leaks that may have developed over the past few months. You want your girls to have a clean dry place to call home. These regiments will go a long way for a healthy and happy flock. If you girls have a clean place to live, disease and other illness will have little opportunity to infect your flock. If you want your ladies to have a happy and long life it starts with a clean coop and pen. As they say, happy hens lay better eggs.

Protection from Predators: On the heels of a clean and dry coop, comes a secure coop. It is no surprise that chicken tastes good. Many predators feel the same way. It is the main objective for backyard chicken keepers to make sure that your girls are off the menu for predators. After all, this is the main reasons that we provide coops for our backyard ladies. These coops and pens need to be constructed with their safely in mind. Predation is easily the most significant factor affecting the life expectancy of backyard chickens. Even when the best is done to insure their safely, things can still happen. Not only is this a disastrous event for a keeper, it’s a very stressful situation for the flock. If a keeper elects to free range their flock, protection and safety becomes ever more important.

Although these dangers exist, I still chose to free range my flock during the day, weather permitting. One way I have insured their safely is a fenced in free ranging area. My backyard is enclosed with a 6ft privacy fence. Additionally, running the perimeter of the fence on the outside, is an electric fence to discourage any climbing or digging predators.  This has reduced predators to the flying (hawks) and crawling (snakes) varieties. In the 10 years that I have kept chickens, I have never lost a member to predator attacks. I live in the country, so I have several roosters out with the girls, providing additional protection. My gents have detoured hawks and other arial predators. I have such an event documented. You can read the harrowing story of my Rooster Roy here and his tangle with a hawk which saved the life of my girls.

To insure a long natural life for your ladies, it is imperative that measures be taken to ensure their safety and protection from predators. The only predators that are virtually impossible to protect your flock against is that of a bear or mountain lion. Although extremely rare, some cases of bear attacks have been recorded. Bears are the extreme and probably something that most keepers will not encounter. Living in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, reports of bears raiding chicken coops are not uncommon. I have to take extra measures to protect my ladies, such as building a secure fence around my property. Become familiar with the predators in your area, do your best to ensure the safety of your flock. Discourage predators from taking an active interest in your flock.

Routine Care for Internal and External Parasites: The final point that I will make is prevention of parasites (mites, lice and worms). Just like your dog or cat needs routine flea/tick treatment, so do your girls. Treatment for external and internal parasites is a very simple and a straightforward operation. Unlike your dog or cat, the assistance of a vet is not needed.

At some point in your adventure with keeping backyard chickens, they will get a case of mites or lice. Don’t worry though, you cannot become infected with poultry mites/lice, they are species specific (nonzoonotic) and only affect birds. Your girls can however get mites and lice from wild birds. You don’t need to keep your girls locked up in solitary, they can be out in the yard and enjoy their normal actives. Treating for mites and lice is very simple.

If you look on the internet there will be millions of methods presented to treat mite or lice infestations. I will say this though, the natural methods do not work well. DE or diatomaceous Earth is not effective on mites or lice. Not only it is one of the least effective treatments, but it is also very dangerous for you as well as your flocks’ lungs.

If you look at DE under a microscope, you will see very sharp and jagged edges. This serrated characteristic makes DE a respitorary irritant for both you and your flock alike. DE is only effective if the insects have constant contact with it. In order to use this treatment, your girls also need constant contact with it as well. This sets the stage for disastrous health complications for your flock.

Contrary to popular opinion, a keeper only needs to treat for mites and lice when the circumstance arises. This is because chickens are well adapted to manage mite/lice on their bodies through dustbathing. A good way to assist your flock in this instinctive practice is by providing a dust bathing medium (sand, peat moss, and regular dirt). The act of dust bathing smothers the little beasties and cleans their feathers all at the same time. However, if the condition arises and you notice little bugs crowing on your ladies, its time to bring out the big guns.

A heavy mite/lice load on a chicken can and will kill them. The little beasties suck blood to the point where they become anemic and weak. If not treated properly, death can result. To treat mites and lice I use a very simple yet effective product. It’s called Eprinex, developed for cattle, at low doses its very effective in treating mites and lice on chickens. Eprinex can be found at Tractor Supply and other feed stores in your area and carries a MSRP of about $50. However, since you use so little, it will last years.

To administer Eprinex, obtain a syringe (remove the needle) and apply the liquid directly to the skin at the base of the neck. In the same manner that an owner or vet would administer flea/tick treatment for a cat or dog. For a large or standard bird, apply 1/2 cc or ml and for a bantam bird, apply 1/4cc or ml. If you have birds with head crests, such as the Polish or Silkie, apply a drop or two on top of their head. These breeds are susceptible to mites/lice on the head due inability to preen this area. Reapply in 10 days. NOTE: an egg withdraw will be mandatory during treatment. This means that from start to finish, a 28–30-day egg withdrawal will need to be observed.

Its that simple!

Eprinex

Now for the internal parasites. At some point, you will run into a situation where your flock will need wormed. Chickens naturally have a worm load inside them. Usually, they manage well but at times such as times of stress, they can become overwhelmed. Typical signs of worms are weakness, weight loss, fatigue and in a worst-case scenario finding worms in their poop. Don’t freak out though, treating worms in your flock is very simple. As with the mites and lice there are many treatments out there. Again, I will reinforce the fact that natural methods of worming are not very effective. If your flock or several members have worms, you need to acquire an effective treatment and get rid of the little nasties. Worm left untreated will kill your birds.

Worms can kill a chicken very fast, faster than you would expect. Additionally, if they have a heavy worm load, you may even find worms in your eggs. My product of choice is Safeguard. Originally developed for goats, it is very effective at small doses for worming. I like this product because it is a broad-spectrum wormer. It will not only take care of round worms but it will also take care of tape, flat, gape, lung and other worms that chickens can get. Some other wormers are only effective on round worms. Although round worms are most common in chickens, they can pick up other worms in their environment. You can find Safeguard at Tractor Supply and other feed stores. It usually runs anywhere between $30-50 depending on location.

To use Safeguard to worm your girls you need to give this to them orally. The easiest way I have found to worm them it to put the wormer on a small piece of bread and feed a piece to every member of your flock. Once again, use a syringe with the needle removed. For a standard size bird, measure 1/2cc or ml on a piece of bread and feed to the bird. For a bantam size bird, measure 1/4cc or ml and feed to bird. Repeat this process in 10 days. The first dose kills all the live worms in their body, the second kills all the worms that hatched. After two worming sessions, you are done, and your girls are free of worms.

Like treatments for mites/lice, a mandatory egg withdrawal is necessary. When undergoing treatment, residue from the wormer and/or worms may pass into the eggs. An egg withdraw for 28-30 days will need to be observed. Safeguard is a very safe and effective treatment for worms in your flock. Just like the mites and lice, only worm when need. A Chicken’s body is able to handle a normal worm load. Once it crosses a threshold, worming will be needed. You will know when you need to worm your flock. Worms in droppings, weak, and sick hens are all signs that you need to take action.

safeguard.jpg

Taking routine care of internal and external parasites will go a long way to extending the life of your ladies. If they are free from pests, their bodies are in a much healthier state. Over the course of 10 years, I have only needed to worm a handful of times. I usually have more of an issue with the mites and lice during the colder months of the year. Even in those situations, outbreaks are very easy to address and eradicate. Just like you extend the life of your cat or dog by keeping them flea and worm free, the same applies to your chickens. In doing so, you have much more time to love and enjoy their company.

I hope that you have found this post informative or helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments. You can also drop me a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you liked this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. As Always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

Oyster Shells for your Ladies.

Collection of the girls productive work day.

This post is dedicated to the care and wellbeing of backyard laying hens. In the post, I will answer the following questions. What are oysters shells? What does it do for your hens? and why are they important?

But before we get into the specifics of oyster shells, I first need to discuss some of the basics of what your hens body goes though when she lays an egg.

One of the most common questions I get is, “do I need to have a rooster for hens to lay eggs?” The answer to that is No. Your hens will lay eggs in the absence of a rooster. If you want to populate your flock and hatch chicks on your farm, for that you will need a rooster. But that’s a post for another time. For now, we are just going to talk about how you hen lays eggs.

Each egg that your hen lays take about 24-26 hours to complete. There are 4 stages in the egg laying process that I will cover.

Stage 1: The Yolk Releases

A hen is born with all the egg yolk cells that she will lay throughout her life. Each yolk is contained within its own follicle. When the yolk is released from the follicle, it travels from the ovary to the oviduct, commonly known as the reproductive track. This entire journey this far only takes about 15 minutes.

anatomy of chicken

Stage 2: The White forms

The formation of the egg white takes your hen 4+ hours to complete. As the yolk leaves the ovary and travels through the oviduct, it can be fertilized by a rooster. An unfertilized egg is known as a blastodisc, a fertilized egg is known as a blastoderm. If you do not have any roosters, the blastodisc will continue its progress in his absence. The yolk (now known as a blastodisc or blastoderm) travels through the magnum and the isthmus sections of the oviduct. This is where most of the albumen (egg white) forms around the yolk, the thin outer shell membrane holding everything loosely together. When you break open an egg you will notice white spiral strands connected to the yolk.  These spindles are called chalaza and attach the yolk to the shell. At this point the blastodisc resembles an egg missing the outer shell.

Stage 3: The Eggshell

The blastodisc (egg) receives the shell in the uterus via a shell gland. The shell takes about 20 hours to form and another hour or more for the pigment or color to be applied to the outer shell. It is this phase of egg development that requires calcium from your hen’s body. If she does not have access to calcium through her feed or supplemented in oyster shells, her body takes this critical nutrition from her bones. Over time, the depletion of calcium from the hen’s body weakens her bones leading to injury. This is why making oyster shells available to you hens is very important. Most feeds come “enriched” with oyster shells, but this does not meet all the calcium requirements needed by your laying hens.

State 4: The Nest Box

Your hens lay eggs through their cloaca (the vent). Eggs exit through the same vent used for everything a chicken excretes. Tissues of the uterus expands with the egg until the entire egg passes through the vent. During the act of laying the egg, a bloom layer is applied to the shell to protect the egg and keep it clean. This bloom keeps bacteria from entering the egg which can spoil the yolk and contents inside the egg. It is for this reason; we refrigerate eggs after washing them. Once the bloom is washed off the egg, the egg will begin spoiling. The outer layer of protection is removed, no long protecting the egg from bacteria.

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Unwashed eggs can remain at room temperature for several weeks before they begin to break down. This is why eggs bought at the grocery store are sold in the refrigerated sections and kept cold. Farm fresh eggs only need to be washed prior to use. Otherwise, your farm fresh eggs can be stored at room temperature, only needing refrigeration if you will not use them for an extended period of time.

oyster shell

Now that you have a better understanding about you hens’ body and the process of laying eggs, let’s discuss and answer some common questions about oyster shells.

What are Oyster Shells?

Oyster shells are pretty much what they sound like, ground up oyster shells. They are an excellent source of calcium, a much-needed supplement for your hens. Most chicken feed contains some oyster shell in the feed. However, it is quickly absorbed by your hens, not longing enough for them to gain the full benefit. Don’t get me wrong, its better than nothing, but your hens are not getting what they need for their daily calcium requirements. Your hens require a long release calcium source which is not in all chicken feed brands.

purina chicken feed

The only feed brand that contains a long release oyster shell in the feed is Purina Poultry Feed. Purina can be found at Tractor Supply and many other farm and feed stores. If you cannot find Purina, don’t panic. You can still use the feed that you currently purchase, just make oyster shells available to your girls in addition to the feed.

I have found that a small dish attached to the side of their pen filled with oyster shell does the trick. You don’t need to worry about them going through it like scratch or even feed. A hen will only consume what she needs. Her body will tell her when she needs extra calcium and how much she needs to lay her eggs. Each hen’s body is different, some may consume more than others. Don’t worry is if one hen consumes a lot while another hen consumes very little, their bodies know what their supplement needs are.

What do Oyster Shells do for your hens?

Oyster Shells supply your girls with the calcium that they need to form strong eggshells. Most chicken feed brands have some oyster shell in the feed but not enough. Since hens do the majority of the hard work of making eggs shells during the night, they need a supplement that will provide calcium during this time. The Oyster Shell that is contained in the feed is only accessible to the hen while she is eating. Oyster Shells that are supplied in addition to the feed are larger pieces. Sitting in her crop during the night, they slowly grind down, supplying the hen with calcium as she sleeps. It is in this way that your hens are able to make strong eggshells, reducing the stress on her body and depleting her calcium resources.

Why are Oyster Shells important?

Oyster shells are important because they provide a calcium source that is required to make eggshells. If a hen does not have adequate calcium resources for her body to produce the eggshell, it will weaken her bone structure. An eggshell is made almost entirely of calcium, in the absence of a calcium source her body will take the needed resource from her bones. Over time this can lead to bone issues with hens who are not getting enough calcium, in particular the leg bones. Often time the weakened bones lead to painful injury, even breaking during normal activity. For the optimal health of your hens, providing Oyster Shells aids in their overall health and longevity.

After providing supplemental calcium to you girls, you will notice that the eggs she lays will be harder and have firmer shells. This is also beneficial to your hens; eggs are less likely to break during the process of laying. This is another risk to your hen. If an egg breaks inside a hen during the process of laying a soft-shelled egg, it can cause internal injury. Broken eggshells are sharp and can cut the delicate skin of her tract and vent. A broken shell during laying can often lead to infection, pain and discomfort. Recovery is not always possible depending on where and how the egg broke inside of her. To prevent this and other unwanted issues with egg laying, simply supply oyster shells to your laying hens.

I hope that you have found this post helpful. Keeping backyard chickens is a fun and rewarding endeavor. Like us, hens need a little help in supplementing their diet. They can’t get everything they need from their feed, but that’s an easy fix. Taking proper dietary care of your girls will lend to a long and happy life for your special ladies.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments. You can also drop me a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com.

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Cosmos!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling.

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

Keeping Multiple Roosters in Your Backyard Flock.

Contrary to popular opinion, keeping multiple roosters in a flock is possible. It is a misconception that only one rooster is best to oversee your flock. However, in order for multiple roosters to live peacefully, several requirements need to be meet. In this post, I am going to show you how my 13 roosters cohabitate while presiding over their girls. I will demonstrate these principles featuring my gents.

Smoug and Lestat:

The Kuntry Klucker

Smaug and Lestat live in the Kuntry Klucker. Each of the boys have their assigned hens and know which hens belong to whom. While they roost in the Kuntry Klucker at night, they free range during the day. The largest of my roosters, this rooster duo get along very well. Confrontations are minimal, giving way to mutual respect. Smaug and Lestat are at the top of the pecking order in the flock, assuming the Alpha and Beta positions. The remaining subjugated roosters answer to these gents. Despite their size and position, they are gentlemen, good to the ladies, and kind to their humans. Neither of these boys have ever shown any signs of aggression.

Enigma and Link:

Athena: White Crested Polish Hen, perching on feed can outside of Henwarts.

Enigma and link roost in Henwarts. Henwarts is home to our white crested polish, silver lace polish and bantam cochin flock.

Enigma: is a Motted Cochin, he is the smallest and oldest of The Kuntry Klucker boys. At 7 years old, he is the senior rooster on the Farm. He is civil with Link but prefers to put distance between himself and Link while free ranging. He watches over the White Crested Polish hens that reside in Henwarts. Link: watches over the Silver Lace Polish and Bantam Cochin hens who also reside in Henwarts.

Link and Fi: Silver Lace Polish Hen and Rooster.

Additionally, Enigma has adopted a few of the Buff Orpington Hens that roost in the Kuntry Klucker. The Buff ladies are too big to roost in Henwarts thus, they reconvene while free ranging. Despite his small stature, he makes up for it with a big heart and lively personality.

Enigma watching over Aphrodite (White Crested Polish Hen) and the “golden girls” (Buff Orpington Hens).

Devros and Micky Smith:

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Devros and Micky Smither: (Silkie Roosters) looking after their Silkie hens.

Devros and Micky Smith: Devros and Micky Smith are our resident Silkie Roosters. This duo share responsibility of looking after the Silkie hens that live in the TARDIS. This duo are peas in a pod, they do everything together. If ever I have seen a rooster bromance, these two are it, never straying far from one another. As expected, there is no confrontations between these two gents, they are the best of friends.

Honorable Mention: I have a few other roosters that roam the Kuntry Klucker Farm. These boys do not necessarily lead a harem, rather they assist in other matters of flock maintenance. These boys roost with the TARDIS crew.

Pantaphobia: Pantaphobia is a White Crested Polish Rooster, as his name suggests, he is afraid of everything. He is our resident useless rooster, to read his unique story, click here.

Pantaphobia: White Crested Polish Rooster

Supreme: Supreme is a Splash Silkie Rooster. Although not assigned a harem of hens, he assists Devros and Micky Smith with overseeing the Silkie hens.

Pantaphobia and Supreme are another rooster duo that relish each other’s company. They can be seen browsing the yard together in search of delectables, be it bugs, worms or greens.

Bachelor Pen: If you have kept count, I am a few gents short of my quota of 13. The rest of my boys reside in a bachelor pen. The Coop De Ville is home to several White Crested Polish Breeding Roosters. These boys reside together in harmony. To see how I utilize a bachelor pen for roosters, please click here.

To successfully keep multiple roosters in your flock, several requirements need to be meet. I will list and explain these necessary prerequisites below.

The Kuntry Klucker Farm flock grazing on a freshly cut lawn.
  1. Ample Space

The first thing to consider in keeping multiple roosters is space. Roosters, if several are present in a flock, will divide free ranging space into jurisdictions. Each rooster will look after a portion of the girls in “his” specified territory. Each rooster will know the boundaries of his dominion. If a gent member should step outside his bounds, a confrontation will ensue. To ensure that your roosters will live peacefully with one another, they must have ample space to roam.

The flock making their way to the garden shed for a handout of crached corn and scratch grains.

2. Several feeding and water stations

When free ranging, it is the job of a rooster to look for food for his ladies. He will actively hunt for bugs, seeds, or weeds for them to dine on. If his hunt turns up empty, he will lead them to the feeder and water. With each rooster leading a section of the hens, multiple feeding and watering stations are mandatory. If these resources are too few, the boys will fight over these necessities. Each of my coops have their own food and water. Additionally, I have other feed/water stations available in the yard. With amplest access to food and water, my boys live peacefully, made possible by adequate sustenance.

3. Sufficient number of hens

The roosters and hens will decide amongst themselves who belongs on which rooster team. For this to be possible, there needs to be enough hens to go around. It is typical for one rooster to manage and service anywhere from 6-10 hens individually. If there are not enough hens to divide amongst the boys, serious problems can arise.

If there are too many roosters for too few hens, the hens can become injured through over mating. The hens will be mated too often which can cause feather loss, wounds on her back, and other injuries by aggressive mating by too many roosters. If there are too few hens, fighting amongst the roosters will be more frequent as they compete for the hens.

To combat this problem, there are a few solutions that can be implemented. If you want to keep all your boys, you can establish a Bachelor Pen for excess roosters. This too is achieved through adequate flock maintenance. When done right, all members live peacefully in their bachelor digs.

I hope that you have found this post helpful in managing roosters in your flock. If you live in the city, roosters are most likely not permitted. However, those that live in the county or country have more options when it comes to roosters.

I am of the persuasion that roosters are an amazing creature. I value them for the part they play in the social structure of a flock. In the past, I have sustained a span of several years where I did not have a rooster. During this time, I learned the true value of a rooster and the balance his presence brings to my flock.

Roosters are not the blood thirsty vicious creature of the past. When raised with care, they make a very admirable addition to the backyard setting.

If you have any questions about keeping multiple roosters, roosters, or chickens in general, feel free to leave a comment. You can also drop me a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com

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Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs.

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling.

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~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~