As chicken enthusiasts, we spend many hours decorating our coops and gardens. Shopping for just the right accents to tie the coop together. While the girls might not appreciate our efforts, as keepers we want our girls to have a nice place to call home. Backyard chickens provide many things eggs, companionship, entertainment, fun, and for me, decoration. Today I am going to take you inside and show you how I use my chickens to decorate my home.
My house is a simple, one-level ranch-style home. Some people see simplicity as mundane, I see simplicity as a blank canvas. The hub of my home is the kitchen. As a family, we spend many hours cooking, congregating, and sharing life’s stories in this room. Naturally, it’s my favorite room in the house. As a chicken keeper, it only seemed natural to decorate my kitchen with chickens.
To begin, I decided what colors I wanted to reflect my country chicken theme. I decided on sage and dark brown. To incorporate these colors, I painted the kitchen cabinets. The lighter sage color offers some fun while the dark brown below brings grounding. The butcher block wood countertop adds an overall farmhouse feeling to the room.
To break up the brown, I hung towels over the bottom cabnits. The towels add an extra touch with chicken embroidery. On the floor in front of the cabnits, I have rugs with the incorporated colors of sage and brown.
The pantry is free-standing in one corner of the kitchen. To tie the color of the cabinets together, it is painted the same dark brown.
The space above the cabinets I use as a decorating platform. Throughout the years, I have collected various chicken theme objects that I continuously add. Because the top of the cabinets is shrouded in a shadow, I weave some mini LED lights to illuminate my collection.
Over the sink, I adorned the window with ruffle curtains in a country chicken print. Keeping with the color theme, the curtains have various sage and brown hues.
Opposite the stove, nestled in the breakfast nook, stands an antique drop-leaf table. Painted with the accent color of yellow, this table holds an indoor spice garden. Above the table, hangs a Tiffany stained glass light fixture. This light fixture introduces splashes of yellow and sunflowers into the overall kitchen decor theme.
Pictures of my girls comprise the wall decorations. In the hallway leading to the guest/hall bathroom, hang photos taken of the girls throughout the years. Guests that visit my home often stop and take in the pictorial journey of my ladies.
Above a canning shelf, hang photos of my first flock of Buff Orpingtons.
Leading into the dining room, a triple-tier metal basket hold eggs collected from my flock. As a free-standing storage basket, this allows eggs to be kept at room temperature while saving much-needed counter space.
Above the egg tier, hang more pictures of my flock. Directly across from the front door, this display initiates many conversations about the lavish life of my girls.
Throughout my home, accents of my chickens are seen. From the sofa to the living room plant display, my girls are the focus of my farmhouse.
Keeping backyard chickens has many benefits beyond the humble egg. You can use images, eggs, and other gifts from your girls to decorate your homes. Many people make wreaths from feathers shed during molting, ornaments from egg shells, and decorations from feed bags. It only takes a bit of imagination and a little creativity to create a farmhouse theme utilizing your flock.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Summer has surrendered to fall, leaves wrestle in the wind, fall, then scatter on the ground. The gardens have been harvested, tilled under, and prepared for the coming season’s rest. The girls are finishing their yearly molt, roosting increasingly earlier each evening. All this signifies the coming of winter, along with all its challenges for the backyard chicken keeper.
Many new backyard chicken keepers find themselves intimidated and overwhelmed wondering how to overwinter their flock. I know because I have been there. Over the years, I have learned a trick or two on how to keep your girls happy, healthy, and comfortable as outside temperatures plummet and winter weather rages.
The secret to successfully overwintering your flock is to keep it simple, enhancing your flocks naturally ability to weather the elements. Many new backyard chicken owners make the mistake of judging their flock’s comfort by their own. This is the first and essentially the riskiest mistake that a flock owner can make. This is true for several reasons.
Chickens come factory installed with a down coat, the same coat that we put on when the mercury dips below a certain point. Many owners often forget that their ladies and gents are already bundled up for winter. Increasing the temperature in the coop hinders their health and can even cause death. Reasons are these.
Heating the coop: Additional heat to the coop or pen hinders the flock’s ability to naturally adjust to falling temps. In the presence of a heated coop, your ladies will fail to grow in the down coat necessary for winter temperatures. This becomes problematic in events such as a winter storm knocking out power for hours or even days. The flock has acclimated to a warmer living environment, when this heat source is abruptly removed, shock and death can result. Like us, if resources to keep warm are removed, the inability to adequately adapt to the cold environment may result in one falling prey to the harsh conditions. In the same situation, we put on warmer clothes, huddle under blankets, sit by a fire, or drink and eat warm substances. All these necessities are not available to the backyard flock who suddenly finds themselves freezing due to dependence on a heat source. This is the first and the most serious mistake that a backyard chicken keeper can make. It is best to let them adjust to the cooler temps gradually, growing in their thick and heavy down coat as nature intended.
Heat lamps: The second mistake that new backyard chicken owners can make is the use of the humble heat lamp. Heat lamps = coop fires!!! I cannot recount how many times I saw on social media or heard about coops destroyed due to heat lamps. Heat lamps are very dangerous for a variety of reasons, when used as a winter heat source, they can be deadly. Heat lamps, (sometimes called brooder lamps), consist of a large 500-watt red bulb that is used to create a warm environment to raise chicks. While heat lamps are a danger even when used as a brooder heat source, they are even more dangerous when used around adult birds in an enclosed space. Why? There is no way to safely mount a 500-watt heat lamp in an enclosed space where the occupants can fly, accidentally knocking them down. With a coop full of pine shavings, dry straw, dust, and feathers, this is the perfect kindling and prime to start a fast, furious and complete coop fire. If you take anything away from this post, please, please do not use heat/brooder lamps to heat your coop. They will in most cases cause a devastating disaster. There are much better natural ways to assist your girls in overwintering the cold months. Below I will share safe methods that I employ to keep my flock happy, healthy, entertained, and content during the long winter season.
But first, let’s answer a simple question. What does a backyard flock need in order to weather the worst of Old Man Winter? The needs of backyard chickens in winter are very few. All they really need is a clean and dry place to call home. They do the rest. It is the job of a keeper to provide the necessary accommodations in order to meet their basic needs. Chickens are well adapted to live outside; all they need is a little help to weather the bitter winds and elements.
How is this achieved? The main thing I do to overwinter my flock is enclosing their pen with construction grade plastic sheeting. The purposes are triple fold.
Wind Break: The plastic acts as a windbreak. As the bitter winter winds blow, the plastic surrounding the pen blocks the wind, allowing the girls to retain their body heat. Chickens are more than capable of generating their body heat. Using their feathers and down coats, they can regulate the heat their bodies produce, thereby keeping warm in the winter. The cold winter winds disrupt this thermal regulation by lifting their feathers, exposing their skin to the bitter winter winds, and losing the warmth they worked so hard to maintain. A simple wind barrier helps them immensely. If allowed access to free range on a cold day, they will come and go from the protected pen as needed depending on their individual needs. If it’s a cold day, they will stay in the wind-free environment of the pen. If it’s warmer, they may spend more time outdoors hunting and pecking. Allowing them access to the outdoors while providing a wind-free place to retreat, will keep them happy and content as they weather Old Man Winter.
Precipitation Barrier: The plastic keeps the elements out of the pen, providing a dry place to call home. We are all familiar with the mystery that the cold winter rains can elitist. The same can be said for the snow and ice. Chickens prefer to avoid these elements if they can. However, since they live outside, their options may be few. This is another benefit of enclosing the pen with plastic sheeting. As the elements rage outside, the girls are protected from the snow, rain, sleet, and ice that plague the winter season. This simple barrier from the elements creates a dry and wind-free place for your flock to call home. Simply keeping the elements out of the pen helps them immensely as they weather the worst of Old Man Winter. If protected from the wind and precipitation, the cold temperatures are not an issue for the flock.
Clean and Dry Digs: Providing clean and dry digs for your flock is essential. Along with providing a wind and precipitation break, a clean coop and pen go a long way. The flock will undoubtedly spend more time in the protection of the coop/pen during winter. It’s a keeper’s job to see that their digs remain clean and dry. This is simply done by making sure the coop and pen are cleaned and maintained daily. This is necessary to keep moisture down in their living areas. We all know that chicken poo can be wet and sticky. Due to the moisture content of their poo, this creates the ideal situation for frostbite. When too much moisture is present in the coop, frostbite will settle on the combs and wattles of your roosters and larger combed ladies. Removing the poo daily from both the coop and pen prevents these conditions. Frostbite is no fun, it hurts and can be dangerous if not properly treated. As they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a cure.
By simply enclosing your coop/pen in construction grade plastic, you provided a conducive habitat for your flock to weather Old Man Winter. Below are some pictures of my coops and pens that have been prepared for the coming bitter season.
As the bitter weather rages, the girls will be safe and warm in their pens. Below are some pictures of the ladies braving the elements in their winter digs.
Along with enclosing the coops and pens in plastic, providing your flock with some entertainment will go a long way. During the coldest days, your flock will undoubtedly spend more time in their pen. If this occurs for consecutive days, they may begin to suffer from coop boredom. Just like us, if we spend a lot of time in a tight enclosure, we get a little restless and bored. Chickens are no different, it left too long in these conditions, they will begin to peck at each other, creating injury and a hostile flock environment. To prevent this, provide games to play and things to peck. Below are a few things that I do for my flock, to keep them happy and healthy.
Flock Block: A flock block is a very simple entertainment tool I often use during the harshest part of winter. Additionally, because they are unable to forage for grains and seeds, a flock block provides these nutrients. Flock blocks are large blocks that consist of seeds and other goodies compacted in a hard square-shaped formation. The chickens will spend hours happily pecking at the block, keeping them entertained for days on end. One block will last my flock for an entire winter. They are found at most feed stores, usually under $20. It is also possible to make your own. At the end of this post, I will leave a recipe that I use when I want something a little more tailor-made for my girls.
2. Peck the Bottle: This is a little chicken game that keeps my girls busy for hours. Additionally, it is very entertaining to watch them peck at the bottle. The supplies needed for this game are very simple. In an empty plastic water bottle adds some scratched or cracked corn. Take the bottle and poke some small holes large enough for the corn or scratch to fall through. Inside the bottle, fill the bottle half full of the treat. Place the bottle in the pen.
The flock will peck at the bottle, trying to free the corn or scratch contained inside. One by one, the flock will each peck at the bottle, moving it around the pen in an effort to consume the treat. This will keep a flock busy for days. If you have a larger flock, place a few more bottles in the pen. If you want to step up their game, fill the bottle with dry mealworms. Your flock will go crazy, working extra hard to get the worms out of the bottle.
3. Cabbage in a basket: If you want to add some greens to your chicken’s winter diet, veggies in a basket or suet feeder are a great choice. With grass and other delectables long since dormant for the season, greens are in short supply. To supplement your lady’s diet with green veggies, this wintertime trick is ideal. Simply take a suit feeder, open it, and place the veggies inside. Hang the feeder in the coop and let the games begin. Your ladies will go crazy for some fresh greens. Since it is cold outside, the greens will stay fresh for a while. Once the suit cage is empty, refill and play again. You can also put a head of cabbage in a metal hanging basket, placing it in the pen or yard for your girls to pick at. They will enjoy the fresh greens, all the while staying healthy and entertained.
4. Sand Box Spa: As winter sets in, the ground becomes covered, and saturated with snow or rain, and the girls will find it hard to keep up their beauty regiments. Simply placing a sandbox in the pen and filling it with sand goes a long way. If your pen is too small to fit a sandbox, pour the sand directly on the pen floor. Not only does this provide them a place to dust bath, but it is also provides them a great way to scratch around.
Chickens love to scratch at the ground as they hunt and peck for delectable to dine on. In winter, however, this past time is hindered due to the ground conditions caused by winter. To keep them further entertained, sprinkle some scratch or mealworms on top of the sand and watch the fun begin. They will spend hours digging in the sandbox, making sure that they have found and consumed every last morsel. This will quickly become a flock activity that they love and relish during the cold miserable days of winter.
Finally, I come to my last tip for winter care for your flock, water. Many keepers underestimate the need for clean and fresh water during the winter months. While they will drink more water in the summer to stay hydrated and cool, water is necessary for them to regulate their body temperature. During the cold months, while a flock is working hard to regulate its body temperature, water is essential. For their little bodies to keep their furnaces stoked, access to liquid water is necessary. One of the major hindrances to this process is the cold temps causing the water to freeze. To combat this, I use several methods.
The haul it method: For those who do not have a large flock, simply hauling fresh unfrozen water to the backyard several times a day is ideal. If your flock is small and someone is at home during the day, this is the simplest and cheapest method to combat freezing waterers. Since it requires no electricity or expensive accessories, this method is best if applicable.
Heated waterer: If your flock is larger and no one is home to see to the water needs of the flock, a heated waterer is ideal. Although these waterers are a little bit on the pricy side, they are a lifesaver. You can find electrically heated waterers at most feed stores. They range from $40 to $60 and are long lasting. I am still using the one I purchased 5 years ago and it’s still going strong.
3. Light bulb in a metal tin: The last method that I use is the light bulb in a metal tin. Like the heated poultry drinker, this method requires electricity supplied to your coop. If you have several coops, purchasing a heated poultry drinker for each one can get expensive. I use the purchased heated drinker for my largest coop, the rest I use this simpler method.
Simply take a metal tin (cookie or other round tin), drill a hole just large enough for a cord, string the cord through the hole in the tin, purchase a light bulb and a socket cord (used for restringing lamps) and simply screw the light bulb into the socket that is connected to the tin. Put the tin lid on, place the plastic or metal drinker on top, and presto, you have a heated poultry drinker.
The radiant heat from the bulb will keep the water from freezing. Since you need to keep the water warm enough to remain liquid a 15- or 25-watt bulb is best. You don’t want to heat the water too high, making it too warm for the flock to drink. The goal here is to keep the water from freezing. This low-watt bulb will supply just enough heat to keep the water in a liquid, drinkable state. If you don’t have any metal tins around suitable for this purpose, a terra cotta flower pot turned upside down will also do the trick.
That’s a wrap. Above are all the techniques, tools, and tricks of the trade I use to keep my flock happy, healthy, and content during the harsh winter months. As promised, below I will leave the recipe that I use to make a homemade suit treat for my girls. The ingredients used in this flock treat are typically found in every kitchen and are cheap to purchase if needed.
The Kuntry Klucker Crew’s Favorite Flock Block
2 cups scratch grains
1 cup layer feed
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cup of raisins (for added fun)
1/4 cup whole wheat flower
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (aids in respiratory health)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (helps circulation)
3 whole eggs (provides calcuim , shells included, crushed to fine pieces)
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2 coconut oil, liquified
preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. Pat into several small baking dishes, so your blocks are approximately 2″ thick (this way they can fit into suit feeders).
If you plan to hang the flock block treat in your chicken pen, use a chopstick to make a hole large enough for twine or rope to fit through.
Bake for 30 mins, then cool completely. If you try to remove them from the pan while still warm, they will fall apart. Once cool, run a knife around the inside rim of each pan and invert to remove the block. Serve to a flock of very happy girls.
Leftovers can be refrigerated or wrapped in foil and frozen then defrosted as needed.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful or useful. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like my work, please visit some of my other sites.
As the Autumnal Equinix approaches the long days of summer finally retreating, this is a perfect time to consider worming your flock. Chickens, if allowed to free range, will spend most of the “dog days of summer” dining on, bugs, weeds, grass, and other delectables they find scurrying about. Worms are mostly associated with dogs, such as the dreaded heartworm, but chickens can also contract worms as well. Because most backyard chicken flocks have access to green grass, sunshine, fresh air, and bugs, they will most likely pick up worms.
While worms in your flock may be a scary prospect to face, take heart, the fact that your flock needs routine deworming means your ladies are living the good life. Look at deworming your flock as a badge of honor, a testament to the freedom and contact with the outside world that many chickens are denied.
Knowing that worms are a given in a backyard flock that lives the good life, how it is determined that a flock has worms?
The worms that infect the digestive tract of chickens are large roundworms. They are most often discovered while cleaning the coop or removing the poop from the previous night’s roost. Worms present in chicken dropping will look like fine angel hair spaghetti (I know the word picture is rather discussing, sorry about that). The worms may or may not be moving, however, it will be clear to any keeper that white spaghetti strands found on your coop floor are not a normal occurrence.
If you find worms on the floor of your coops when cleaning, this indicates that not only does your flock have worms but the load within their bodies is escalated. Allow me to explain.
A chicken’s body can handle a worm load within the normal parameters. Chickens evolved to live outdoors in constant contact with these parasites. Their bodies up to a certain point can tolerate a normal worm load in their digestive tract while remaining healthy. It is when this balance becomes compromised that problems arise. One of the indications of problems is finding worms on the floor of your coop when cleaning.
What problems do an unchecked heavy worm load cause?
Chickens with a heavy worm load will succumb to several health issues, the most common is weight loss. If you notice a hen who has begun to look rather skinny despite eating well, she may have a higher-than-normal worm load within her body.
You will also notice chickens with worms will have a dirty vent area, often caused by runny poop which sticks to their vent feathers. Listless is also common in chickens with a heavy worm load. The worms in the digestive tract consume energy from the food they eat. This will leave hens with a heavy worm load weak and often present with an appearance of ill health. A hen who does not move very much or does not leave the coop during the day is most likely weak and suffering from a worm overload.
If the worm load in the hen’s body is allowed to persist keepers can find worms in the eggs. In the end, a heavy worm load will eventually result in the death of the hen. Worms in a flock will need to be addressed.
So how does a keeper deal with worms in their flock?
Treating your flock for worms is a very easy and straightforward procedure. To address this issue in your flock you will need several things a dewormer, a syringe with the needle removed, and a partner.
To date, there is no dewormer on the market that is FDA approved for chickens. What this means is that the FDA has not specifically set aside funds and performed a test to determine the effectiveness of dewormers developed specifically for chickens. Do not let this bother you, it is safe to use dewormers produced for other livestock administered at certain doses that are safe for chickens.
**Disclaimer** The following is my methodology for deworming my flock. Keep in mind I am not a professionally trained veterinarian nor am I suggesting that my opinions should replace proper vet care given the situation. I share this information based on my experience in treating worms in my flock throughout the past decade. I do have some resources that validate my methodology.
For treating worms in my flock, I use Safeguard dewormer marketed for goats. I like Safeguard because it is a broad-spectrum dewormer. Not only will it treat roundworms in your flock, but it will also treat other worms as well (gape worms, flatworms, lungworms, etc.).
Safeguard is sold OTC (Over the counter) at most farm/feed stores, it carries an MSRP of about $30-$50 depending on location.
To deworm with Safeguard you will need to orally administer the dewormer to every individual in your flock. This dewormer is NOT mixed in food or water, it has to be administered following a specific dosage directly to the bird.
For Bantam, breeds administer 1/2cc or 1/2 ml. (metric system measurements; I cc converts to 1 ml)
For Standard breeds administer 3/4 cc or 3/4 ml
Using the measurement indications on your syringe, measure the correct dosage directly from the bottle (do not dilute) and put it directly into the beak of the chicken. The chicken will need to swallow the dewormer, so if they spit it out, you will need to try again.
I have found through experience that obtaining a syringe with a curved tip is best when orally administering a dewormer to the flock. These syringes are often stocked by dentists and oral surgery offices. When I visit my dentist for my annual cleaning, (in addition to the oral care sample bag) I will ask for some of their curve-tipped syringes for my chickens. They happily oblige my rather strange request.
Once your flock has been dewormed, you will need to administer it again in 10-14 days. The first dose of dewormer will kill all of the live worms that reside in the digestive tract of your birds. The second dose will kill and remove any eggs that may have hatched during the first dosing.
Note: during treatment, you will need to observe a 20–28-day egg withdrawal. Any eggs laid during treatment are not edible for human consumption. In addition to residue from the dewormer, it is possible to get worm fragments in your eggs. If you sell your eggs, advise your customers that you will not be able to sell any eggs till the egg withdrawal period has passed.
Once your flock has completed the deworming treatment process, your flock will be free of worms and your health status should improve.
Another Note: It is not necessary to deworm as a preventative, this does more harm than good. A chicken’s body has evolved to handle a certain worm load without any ill effects on health. Only when you notice an indication of an advanced worm load in your flock do you need to act. If you worm your flock as a preventative, you will reduce the natural ability of your flock to regulate a worm load within set evolutionary parameters.
Think of it like antibacterial soap. If we constantly wash our hands with antibacterial soap, we reduce our body’s natural ability to build immunity to the normal bacteria in our environment. Thus, reducing our body’s natural ability to adapt to the contact of these particular normal microbes. The same is applied to your flock. It may be tempting to act as a preventative but in the end, your flock will incur more harm than benefit.
Only deworm when signs of increased worm load are present in your flock.
Below I will link a video from my YouTube channel demonstrating deworming my flock. This will allow you to see my methodology and process so you can address worms in your flock.
I hope this post has helped you navigate worms and the process of deworming your flock.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you like my work, please visit some of my other sites.
If there is one breed that will always steal the show, it’s the Polish. If there is one variation of Polish that will take your breath away, it’s the Silver Lace Polish. The Polish breed of chickens has taken over the backyard chicken enthusiasts’ movement by storm. This year, the number one selling chicken breed, you guessed it, the Polish. What is it about the Polish breed that has backyard chicken keepers so smitten?
Polishes are characteristically very quirky, entertaining, and affectionate. Due to the ample feathered crests that crown their heads obstructing their vision, Polishes can be a bit flighty and jumpy. Just about everything in their environment startles them, and for this reason they are often the comedians of the backyard chicken world. In addition, they are very curious, often following their curiosities into humorous predicaments. Unable to see well enough to get themselves out, they call for other members of the flock to come to their rescue. For this reason, the Polish breed can be a bit more vocal than other breeds. It is this combination of attributes that makes Polishes one of the most beloved breeds within the backyard chicken movement. Now that the Polish breed has our attention, many new variations are becoming more readily available. One of the most loved variations is the Silver Lace Polish. Here are my top 5 reasons why Silver Lace Polishes are topping the charts.
(1). Stunning Appearance:
Let’s start with the obvious. These ladies and gents are absolutely beautiful!! They look like something right out of a Van Gogh painting. The command of color and contrast in their plumage leaves the observer breathless. The densely feathered crests topping their head completes the look. These fancy gals and gens appear as though they are dressed up for a chicken Gala. All of these attributes combined comprise their unique appearance that commands the attention of anyone who happens upon them. Make no mistake, Silver Lace Polishes will quickly become the gems of the flock. Many keepers including myself, keep these beauties to enter poultry shows. When not winning ribbons, Silver Lace Polishes add a bit of refinement to a backyard flock.
Often the first comment I get from visitors addresses my Silver Lace Polishes. They inquire about their unique appearance; some disbelieve that they are in fact chickens. The unique appearance of the Silver Lace Polish leaves onlookers and keepers captivated by their beauty.
The roosters of the Silver Lace variety are even more spectacular. The additional tail and crest feathers take their ravishing look a step further. Roosters command attention, but Silver Lace Polish roosters leave the observer breathless. These ladies and gents are by the far the most loved individuals of the backyard chicken Polish enthusiast. I have several Polish color varieties; the Silver Lace is hands down my favorite.
(2). Friendly, funny, feathered friends:
The Polish are known to be a very friendly, affectionate, docile, and curious breed. Silver Lace Polishes are much like their other Polish breed counterparts. The only difference between Silver Lace Polishes and other varieties is the feathered plumage. They possess all of the challenges that other Polish varieties possess.
They are very curious, friendly, and form a strong bond with their keepers. Due to their feathered crests that obstruct their vision, they can be flighty and jumpy. To keep Polish chickens successfully, a keeper must make sure to provide a covered pen, confined free-ranging space, and ample coverage. The feathered crests limit their ability to see what is above them, making them easy prey for aerial predators. Additionally, due to their crests feathers, they can be high-strung. Because of this, a keeper must be aware when picking them up as they may startle. It is this combination of attributes that makes them entertaining to keep and watch.
(3) Great for an Urban setting:
If you live in the city limits or a neighborhood and want fancy chickens, you’re in luck, Silver Lace Polishes fit the bill. All Polishes, including Silver Lace Polishes, tolerate confinement well, making them perfect for the urban setting. Due to their feathered crests, Polish chickens tend not to stray too far from the safety of their coop. If a threat is detected, they like to be close to a place of safety. Because of this, they tolerate confinement in a coop and pen very well. Other more adapt breeds for free-ranging such as the Australorp, Rhode Island Red, and Orpington become restless when confined to a coop and pen.
Another plus for the urban chicken keeper is the body size of the Polish chicken. Silver Lace Polishes and all Polish chickens come in both a standard and bantam (miniature or ornamental) size. Even the standard-size Silver Lace Polish chickens are a bit smaller than most standard-size breeds. This is an added benefit to the urban keeper. Due to their size, Silver Lace Polishes are easier for a city keeper to accommodate on smaller plots of land.
(4) Egg Potential:
Contrary to popular belief, Polish chickens lay a fair number of eggs. They are by no means record holders like the Australorp or Orpington, but they do lay eggs. For those who want a small flock for an urban plot or hobby farm, Silver Lace Polishes are great. They will give you enough eggs for your family without overwhelming you with an egg surplus.
Polish eggs are typically a medium size and white to off-white in coloration. One hen will typically lay anywhere from 2-3 eggs per week. Some hens may lay more, others may lay less. On average, I can expect one of my Silver Lace Polishes to lay an egg every three days.
Another benefit closely related to egg production is broodiness. Polish chickens are not known for being broody, for the urban keeper, this is a huge benefit. Not distracted by wanting to brood a clutch of chicks, they will give more attention to you, their keeper. This sets the Polish apart making them truly “pet” chickens. This brings me to my last point.
(5). The Ultimate Pet Chicken:
If what you are in the market for is a “pet chicken”, Silver Lace Polishes are a breed to consider. They are a quirky, loveable, friendly, and approachable breed. Due to their feather head crests, they are easy to catch and pick up, which makes them great for being around children. This means that Silver Lace Polishes are great for a family flock. Pet chickens are a great way to teach kids how to take care of animals, responsibility, and respect for other creatures. As the saying goes, “chickens are the gateway drug to farming” thus, a great way to teach lessons in sustainability. Being that Silver Lace Polishes and all Polishes are so friendly, they are great to have around an urban backyard hobby farm.
I hope that you have found this post helpful. If I did not address any questions that you may have regarding Silver Lace Polishes, please leave a comment or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoyed this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
When one thinks of fancy chickens, Silver Lace Wyandottes often come to mind. With the striking black and white plumage forming a lace pattern, it’s hard to not love these ladies. These lovely ladies and gents are uniquely American, dating back to the 1800s with admission into the Poultry Standard of Perfection in the 1890s. As an American breed, Wyandottes have become synonymous with the backyard chicken movement in the United States. Widely available at most farm and feed stores, Wyandottes are the poster chick for the American backyard flock. They say that beauty is only skin deep, not for these ladies. After keeping these fancy ladies (and gents) for several years, I have compiled 5 reasons to be head over heels for Silver Lace Wyandottes.
(1) Beauty :
Let’s start with the obvious, these girls are stunning. In a flock by themselves or in mixed flocks, these ladies steal the show. The black/white lace pattern of their plumage is striking against the background of a freshly cut green lawn. If you want to add a bit of high class to your flock, you can’t go wrong with Silver Lace Wyandottes.
Visitors to my farm, often inquire about my Silver Lace Wyandottes. As a breed, they are showstoppers and often the subject of discussion. Visitors cannot get over the beauty this breed brings to the backyard setting. I am often asked for fertile eggs so they too can have a flock of these stunning ladies.
(2) Gentile, Docile and Enduring Disposition:
If you are looking for a breed that is docile and friendly, Silver Lace Wyandottes are a great fit. When I step into the chicken yard, my Silver Lace ladies are often first to greet me. They are excited at my presence, whether I bring treats or come empty-handed. They love attention and enjoy handling and petting. If you are in the market for a lap chicken, Silver Lace Wyandottes are the breed for you.
Silver Lace Wyandottes as a breed are very curious. They always have to get into and investigate anything that I am doing, whether it be planting crops, cleaning coops, or yard care. They are my supervisors, always wanting in on what I am doing. They are very sweet, offer plenty of “hen-help”, and want nothing more than the full attention of their keeper.
Silver Lace Wyandotte roosters are well-behaved and friendly. Smaug, our resident Wyandotte rooster is a gentleman. He takes good care of his ladies and is friendly toward his humans. He is as close to a cuddle bug as a rooster can get. I have 13 roosters of various breeds, all are very well-behaved, but Smaug gets the prize. At 12 pounds, Smaug is a gentle giant and the cornerstone of the Kuntry Klucker Farm.
(3) Dependabel Egg Layers
Wyandottes are excellent layers of X-large dark brown eggs. The Australorp, also known for being an excellent layer is only outclassed by the Wyandottes in terms of egg size. While the Australorp gets the prize for the most eggs laid in a year (364 is the world record), Wyandottes are larger, proving that quality is better than quantity. In the photos above, I have placed a Silver Lace Wyandotte egg next to an Australorp egg. While the Australorp egg is dark brown and large, the Wyandotte egg (sitting to the left) is slightly darker and noticeably larger. When I first started getting eggs from my Wyandottes, judging by the size, I figured them to be double-yoker. However, this is not the case. Wyandotte eggs are very large and a beautiful dark brown. These are by far the largest eggs I have ever received from my backyard flock. With eggs this size, I plan to keep Silver Lace Wyandottes in my flock for years to come.
(4) Made in America:
If you are looking to buy American, Silver Lace Wyandottes are it. While most beloved backyard chicken breeds have origins in another part of the world, Wyandottes are born and bred in America. Uniquely an American breed, Wyandottes were first developed in the 1800s, properly named after the indigenous Wyandotte people of North America.
Silver Lace Wyandottes are a Heritage Breed. One of my principal passions within the backyard chicken movement is the conservation of Heritage Breeds. In 2015, Silver Lace Wyandottes were listed as “endangered” by the Livestock Conservancy. As of 2020, they were listed as “recovering”. Today they are no longer endangered and removed from the list.
It is through our efforts as backyard chicken enthusiasts that these beautiful birds are thriving. Without backyard chicken keepers, breeds like the Silver Lace Wyandottes and others would easily slip into extinction. While keeping backyard chickens is an exciting hobby, its roots run much deeper. As a backyard chicken keeper, you are also acting as a conservationist. All of us play this important role, whether we are aware of it or not.
(5)All Weather Breed:
Unlike other breeds such as the Silkie or Polish, Wyandottes can tolerate many different climates. They come factory installed with this superpower which has made them one of the most enduring breeds in the United States. Due to their rose comb, Wyandottes tolerate cold climates without suffering issues of frostbite as other larger comb breeds often encounter. Although heavily bodied, Wyandotte perform well in hotter climates.
For Example, here in East Tennessee, mother nature throws it all at us. In the winter we experience ice and snowstorms. In the spring we experience strong/severe storms, many with torrential rains and the threat of tornados. The summer is hot and humid, summer highs easily top 90-100F. Through it all, my Silver Lace Wyandotte ladies don’t seem to mind what the wild weather here does, they just keep on keeping on. In an area that encounters many different kinds of weather, this is an attribute that a keeper should look for in the breeds they choose.
This ease-of-care breed has quickly risen to the top of my favorites list. If you are looking for a breed that is easy to care for, Silver Lace Wyandottes are a breed to consider. If you want a colorful flock, Wyandotte chickens come in a variety of colors (Golden Lace, Buff, Partridge, Silver Penciled, Columbian, and Blue/Red Lace).
I hope this post has been a helpful breed profile for those interested in keeping Wyandotte chickens. If you have any questions I did not cover, please post in the comment section, or drop me an e-mail at email@example.com.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you like my work, please visit some of my other sites.
Nothing strikes fear faster in a backyard chicken keeper than the threat of a highly contagious pathogen that could wipe out their entire flock. Bird flu is a concern and for good reason.
Over the past decade, my flock and I have weathered many bird flu watch scenarios together. During a particularly tense scenario, our little farm was two counties away from a large commercial farm that had to euthanize all of its birds. It is a scary thought for a backyard keeper who considers their flock pets or companion animals.
Although the thought of bird flu affecting your flock is scary, I am here to help put a bit of perspective into the equation and arm you with a realistic plan to help protect you and your flock.
To borrow a line from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, step one: DON’T PANIC!!! I agree with Douglas Adams 100%. Stay calm and always carry a towel.
I will start with detailing to you how I handle a bird flu scare.
Bird flu strains generally originate in Asia. There are several strains of bird flu, like the human flu, and the RNA is constantly changing and mutating. The pathogen then travels to the United States via “air mail” within migratory bird flocks as they migrate from place to place. Waterfowl are the most common vectors, but they can also be carried via songbirds and other wild birds.
When I hear of bird flu outbreaks in Asia, I pay attention, just being aware that a strain has emerged. If it stays in Asia that’s good, if it makes its way out, that’s something to pay attention to.
There are several flyways that waterfowl migratory birds take that can bring the flu into the country. My flock is most affected by the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways.
Once the virus has been reported in the United States, I pay close attention. I don’t panic, I will still allow my flock to free range and maintain their coops normally.
Once there are reports of bird flu in private farms or commerical farms within two states from my location, I will start my bird flu watch readiness plans.
During this time, I will allow no one to visit my birds or tour my farm, I will stop selling eggs, and I will cancel plans to adopt any new birds for the time being. Bird flu can easily be transmitted by these means, as I am at greater risk of myself being the vector that brings the pathogen to my flock. In the same accord, when I return from the feed store, I will change my clothes before I enter the flock environment. I will also up my biosecurity practices. I always practice good biosecurity, but during a possible flu impact, I will pay special attention to these safeguards.
Once the flu has entered my state, I will put my flock on lockdown. I only reserve this action when the threat becomes imminent. During a lockdown, my entire flock will be confined to their coop and pen. All my coops have covered runs, they will not come into contact with any wild birds, likewise, the wild birds will have no access to the flock. I will then strictly manage who enters these pens and biosecurity practices before entering the backyard and coops.
Once on lockdown, the flock will generally have to stay in this state till the treat passes. Depending on the month (spring vs fall) it could be longer or shorter. In 2016 when bird flu was detected just two counties away, my flock was on lockdown for about a month before it was safe to allow them to free range again.
I have only needed to put my flock on lockdown once, this was the year when the bird flu wreaked havoc in the United States sparking an egg shortage. Our little farm was only two counties away from the commercial farms that were affected. Although tense, I didn’t panic. I worked to the extent of my limits to protect my flock, after that it’s up to fate.
My flock has bird flu. What do I do?
However, if the worst-case scenario does occur and my flock is affected by bird flu, I ready myself for what I call my “Code Red Action Plan.”
If you suspect that your flock has contracted bird flu, a keeper needs to act fast. Bird flu is very easy to identify in a flock. The affected birds will become lifeless, the combs will be purple, and death will occur very fast (24 hours or less; multiple birds may die at once). If you have any birds that exhibit these signs, your flock has bird flu, and as a keeper, you have only hours to react.
Bird flu will not only wipe out your flock in a matter of days, but depending on the strain, those close to the affected birds can become affected. Some Bird flu strains are zoonotic and thus humans can contract it from their birds, although this is rare, it’s worth knowing. The main impact will be the quick depopulation of your birds due to deaths from the virus.
The first thing a keeper should do if they suspect their flock has bird flu is to call the USDA or their State Veterinarian. These numbers can be easily found via Google search. Once you have alerted them to the condition of your flock, an inspector will be dispatched to your farm to test your birds.
If bird flu is positive, you will be contacted by a federal agent to assist you in managing bird flu in your flock. Should a large quantity of your bird be affected or deceased in most cases they will reimburse you for your lost birds.
Some may wonder if you have to report bird flu in your flock. The answer is YES!!! A keeper is legally obligated to report suspected bird flu cases in their flock. Failure to do so is considered a crime and a keeper could be prosecuted, so yes, you have to report your flock’s condition. The good news is, if your birds all perish, most states will reimburse the keeper for their lost birds.
In some states, inspectors may be dispatched to test flocks within a certain distance of a known case. For example, currently in Indiana bird flu has been reported and dramatically affected several commercial farms. Several of my fellow feathered friend keepers were shocked to have an inspector knock on their door to inspect their flocks. In some cases, this will happen, and keepers are stunned to have inspectors show up at their door to inspect birds. All my friends affected had clean bills of health for their flocks which was a huge relief. But yes, depending on the state and the outbreak reported, this can happen.
What I am doing now? Currently, bird flu is within two states in my location. My birds are still free ranging in the backyard while I pay attention to the reports. Right now, I’m relaxed, not putting too much energy or concern into the situation. I have upped my biosecurity measures and am not allowing any visitors to my flock or adopting new birds. Other than that, it’s business as usual.
However, if reports of bird flu are found in my state of Tennessee, I will then pay closer attention. I will concern myself with the proximity and the rate of affection and prepare to put my flock on lockdown. The girls and I have been through this before, I’m sure we’ll do it again.
I respect the pathogen that causes bird flu, but I don’t panic over it. Typically, small backyard flocks are rarely affected but it can happen here and there. Backyard keepers typically take better care of their birds, living conditions are improved, and most backyard flocks have access to sunshine, a natural environment, and green grass as compared to the commercial flock which often suffer catastrophic bird flu repercussions. All of this helps increase your flock’s immunity, but it’s not full proof. So don’t panic, just have a preparation plan in the back of your mind if needed.
This post was intended to put some perspective into a bird flu scare and equip keepers with measures to protect their backyard flocks. I hope that I have achieved this objective. Bird flu is concerning but keepers don’t need to panic.
As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments or you can e-mail us a firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Old man winter has finally made his appearance, temperatures fall, snow covers the ground, a perfect storm for mites and lice to plague a backyard flock.
It’s no coincidence that mites and lice thrive in these conditions. During winter and early spring, mites and lice become a problem area for many backyard chicken keepers. Your once beautiful flock now has messy feathers, pale combs, and dirty bottoms. What is a keeper to do?
First, do not fear mites and lice, they are a natural part of a backyard chickens’ life and a badge of honor. If your chickens have mites and lice, it is proof that they are living the good life. Chickens that have access to the outdoors, grass, sunshine, and fresh air will most likely come down with a case of mites and lice at some point in their lives.
Mites and lice live in the environment. Typically contracted from wild birds, they can also be contracted through small mammals like mice, rats, moles, or rabbits. There is no way to avoid mites/lice in your flock, a control method is the best treatment.
When I first started keeping chickens 11 years ago, I feared the dreaded mite and lice season. I was afraid that I would catch the mites from my birds or that I would not know how to handle the situation.
First, let me put one fear to rest. The mites and lice that plague birds are not the same mites and lice that plague humans. The mites/lice that affect birds are species specific. They cannot thrive on our bodies for several reasons.
1. We do not have feathers.
Mites and lice that affect birds need feathers to sustain their lifecycle. Our daily routines of bathing, washing our cloths and hair make it impossible for these mites to exist on our bodies for long. If your birds have a severe mite/lice outbreak the little beasties may crawl on you giving you a case of the Heebie Jeeves, but I assure you, a simple change of clothes and a shower will render them gone. They are a mind over matter situation.
2. We do not provide them with the necessary resources to carry on their lifecycle.
Avian mites/lice need a specific environment to sustain their life cycle. Denied their breeding environment (i.e., feathers), avian mites/lice cannot survive on our bodies, thus you will not be affected by them. To my knowledge, Northern Fowl Mites (the most common mite that affects chickens) are not zoonotic (carries pathogens, from one species to another). Meaning that humans cannot acquire any diseases from the mites/lice that affect our flocks. We just get a case of the creepy crawlies, that’s about it.
Mites and lice usually reside near the vent area on chickens except crested breeds. Mites and Lice can also be found on the heads of crested breeds in addition to the vent area.
How do identify Mites/Lice on your birds.
Mites and lice prefer these areas for several reasons.
1. It is warm with ample blood supply
2. The birds are unable to preen these areas, thus the mites and lice can accomplish their life cycles uninterrupted.
On birds, mites will look like small little red, black, or brown spots that are moving on the skin. If your bird has a severe case of mites, it may just look like a mass of dark dirt covering their skin. These are Northern Fowl Mites, the most common mite that affects chickens. Left untreated, an army of these little beasties can kill a bird through blood loss (their food) which will cause anemia in the birds. Thus, if not addressed, death.
Lice on birds are usually found in the same place as the mites. The vent areas and head of crested breeds.
Unlike mites, lice will exist only on the feathers. A cluster of lice eggs will look like a mass of debris that is congrated at the quill of the feather as it meets the skin.
Like the mites, a keeper will be able to see the adult lice crawl on the feathers. Lice are usually sand to light brown color depending on the species.
Both mites/lice will cause a bird to look lethargic, have a pale comb, and a dirty bottom. Lice will add the additional signature of unkept feathers that appear broken, ratty, or disheveled. Both mites and lice will weaken a bird making them more susceptible to illness and in worst cases, death.
How to handle mites/lice in chickens:
There are several ways to approach mites/lice in a backyard chicken flock. Several products are available that address these situations in your birds. I will detail several that I have used in the past along with my methods of application. Disclaimer, these are strategies that I use that have proven successful for me. Please note that I am not a veterinary scientist just a fellow backyard keeper that has been around the block a time or two.
The go-to in my mite/lice arsenal is Elector PSP. This product is in liquid form that is diluted in a spray bottle and sprayed directly on the birds. Due to legislation in some areas, it can be hard to obtain and carries an MSRP of $150 or so if you can find it. Unfortunately, it is usually not carried in most farm/feed stores. I have ordered it in the past from Amazon but as of late they no longer carry it. Due to many of the supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, I have been unable to replace the supply that I bought nearly 7 years ago. Hopefully, it will become available soon.
Elector PSP pro.— The pro of Elector PSP is that it kills on contact and brings the mite/lice situation to an abrupt end. It does need to be reapplied 10-14 days after the first application to kill any eggs that hatch. No egg withdrawal is required when using this product. In addition to spraying, it directly on the birds, I will also spray the inside of the coops and nesting boxes to rid the environment of the little beasties. I have had very good results with Elector PSP.
Electro Cons.—The con of Elector PSP is price and availability.
My second go-to in my mite/lice arsenal is Eprinex. As with Electors PCP, this product is in liquid form and is applied directly to the skin. However, unlike Elector, Eprinex has an egg withdrawal of 14 days after each application. Eprinex is applied in the same manner as flea and tick treatment for cats and dogs. Apply Eprinex directly to the skin behind the head of your birds. I will also apply a drop on top of the head for my crested breeds, such as the Polish and Silkie. These breeds often experience mites/lice on top of their heads due to their inability to preen this area. In 14 days, reapply to address any mites that hatched after the first application.
Eprinex application directions
Using a syringe with the needle removed, apply 3/4 cc for standard-size breeds, for bantam breeds, apply 1/2 cc directly to the skin behind the neck. Although designed for cattle, Eprinex is safe for use on chickens in small amounts.
Eprinex works by absorbing into the oil of the skin. When the mites and lice bite the birds, they encounter the Eprinex and are killed. After the first application, reapply in 14 days. Egg withdrawal should be observed for 14 days after application. This means that from start to finish, mandatory egg withdrawal should be observed for 28-30 days.
Eprinex is available at most farm/feed stores and carries an MSRP of around $50. The only con with Eprinex is a mandatory egg withdrawal. I have a large flock, so I will apply Eprinex to one breed at a time, reducing the effects of egg withdrawal. I have used Eprinex for many years with great success.
As with Elector PSP, when treating your flock for mites you will also need to treat the coops. When using Eprinex, I will mix a solution of Permethrin 10 livestock spray and spray my coops and nesting boxes. This combined with Eprinex will bring the mite/lice situation to an abrupt halt.
During the winter months, I will supply my flocks with a sandbox containing a mixture of sand and peat moss. My girls will readily use this for dustbathing while the ground is snow-covered or wet. This allows them to maintain their natural behaviors that aid in mite and lice prevention.
As you can see, mites, while a very common occurrence in backyard flocks is very easy to address and treat. While they can be a pain to deal with, remember that your girls are living the good life if they come down with a case of the little beastie. Your girls have access to fresh air, sunshine, grass, and nature, something that many chickens are denied.
I hope this post help put the dreaded mites and lice season in their perspective place. They are nothing to fear and are very easily treated with multiple products available.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoyed this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
As late summer is coming to an end, and spring chicks are now full-grown birds, it’s time to introduce them to an established flock.
I like many backyard chicken keepers, acquired new chicks earlier this spring, and am now in the process of introducing them to my established flock. While this process is rather easy, it takes time and must be approached with care.
It is in a chicken’s nature to resist any new members to the flock, if done too hastily, it could spell disaster or death for the new kids in the flock. In this post, I will explain why chickens are resistant to new members and how to introduce them so that this process is done successfully.
Why do chickens resist new members?
To understand why chickens are so resistant to new members, we need to get into the head of a chicken using a bit of chicken psychology.
Chickens are highly socially organized creatures. Their entire lives revolve around a hierarchy. Within this hierarchy, each member knows their place and what this assignment means in terms of flock activity.
Typically, the flock hierarchy begins with the alpha rooster, under him will be any subjugated roosters in the flock, these boys will then assume the beta rooster positions. Following the roosters will start the order of the hens. The head hen or alpha hen will occupy the top position in the order. The Alpha hen is a bit bossy regarding the other hens in the flock. She is the individual who will often roost next to the roosters at night and is commonly the “favorite” of the alpha rooster in terms of mating. This may be due to her size, receptiveness to mating, or her fertility as judged by the roosters.
Occupying the hierarchical positions under the alpha hen will be the other hens in the flock. Order and status are determined by the “pecking order”. Members in a flock peck each other on the back indicating status. The pecker is above the pecked in flock hierarchy. This competition for position flows from the alpha rooster down to the member that is at the bottom of the pecking order.
Once established, the order is strictly maintained. Any breach of the position will be met with a firm reminder of this order and each place within it. Once in a while, a member may challenge and higher hierarchy order individual for their position. This is usually met with a skirmish which will decide if the challenger successfully raised their position or is put in their place. This behavior is not just found among the roosters in the flock, hens will also fight for position and status in the flock.
Once the flock agrees on the order, all activities within the flock revolve around this order. Everything from who roosts where, to the order in which they exit the coop in the morning, and the order in which they return at night are all determined by the pecking order. The alpha hens will often eat from the feeder first in the morning. After she gets their fill, the other hens will then get their share. The roosters most commonly eat last despite their hierarchical position in the flock. It is by evolutionary design, that the roosters know that the hens need the nutrition for flock procreation. A good rooster will always let the hens eat first, he will then eat any remaining morsels.
As organized and structured that the flock hierarchy may be, it is fluid, and always in flux. Many activities can affect the pecking order in a flock. Events such as an illness or death of a member. If a member is injured and can no longer defend their position, they will oftentimes find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order. Once they recover, they can sometimes regain their previous position, although this is not guaranteed. In the case of the death of an individual, the hierarchy reorganization can be quite sophisticated.
For example, when we lost our rooster, Roy, the flock found themselves suddenly without their top member, the Alpha member. It took the girls a while to decide who was going to occupy the position at the top of the pecking order. After the decision was made, the rest of the girls had to reestablish their position in the flock. It took several weeks for the girls to finally agree on the new pecking order. Once it was established, peace reigned once more in the coop.
It is for this reason that chickens are so resistant to any new additions to the flock. When a keeper introduces new members to the flock, they interfere with this sophisticated hierarchical social construct within the flock. Knowing this, a keeper needs to take care of how and when to introduce new individuals to an established flock.
There are several things that a keeper can do to make this transition as least stressful on the flock as possible. I will dedicate the rest of this post to the process I have used for over a decade of chicken keeping.
Brood new chicks in the flock environment or close to their enclosure.
If using a broody hen to hatch and rise a clutch of chicks for you, she will take care of the introduction of her new chicks to the flock. In the absence of a broody hen, it falls on the keeper to make this social transition. The easiest way to do this is to brood the chicks in the pen if possible, or near the established flock’s habit.
When I get a new clutch of chicks, I will keep them inside for the first two weeks. This allows me to monitor them so for health issues, physical issues, or other behavioral issues. Once I am confident that they survived their trip and have acclimated to the brooder environment, I move them outside to the girl’s pen.
Inside The Kuntry Klucker, I have a wood pot shelf that I will set the brooder on. The girls are unable to gain any access to the chicks but are aware of their presence and activity. This does several things; this allows the established flock to get to know the new kids in the flock early on. Over time they will become accustomed to their presence in their environment, they will begin to ignore them and just associate them with the daily hum of flock activity.
Once the chicks are large enough to run in the pen, I will take them out of the brooder, and give them access to the larger pen environment. During the phases, I will cut off the girl’s access to the pen from the coop and will open the external access door on the side. The established flock will then exit and enter through this secondary external access door. Meanwhile, the chicks will be confined to the indoor pen. This allows the established flock to see and interact with the chicks while forbidding any contact.
As the chicks grow, the established flock will be allowed visual access only. Over time, the established flock will once again ignore the presence of the chicks, as they become a daily presence in their lives.
Once the chicks are roughly the same size as the established flock, around 18-20 weeks, I will then, allow the established flock access once again to the indoor pen area where the chicks have spent the last several months. By this time, the chicks have reached egg-laying age and are put on the same layer of feed that the established flock normally consumes.
By this time, the established flock is so used to the chicks being present in their lives and environment. Thus, the transition is much easier on both flocks.
This method works best if you are introducing a group of new individuals to your established block. I try to introduce groups of at least 5 or more. This year I am introducing 12 new individuals to my flocks. The larger the new flock the better.
The Pecking Order Begins:
Once the two flocks are allowed to contact each other, the new pecking order begins. The established flock will begin pecking the new flock members on the back, indicating they are at the bottom of the pecking order. It is for this reason that the new kids in the flock need to be roughly the same size as the established birds. This allows them to handle the pecking order initiation process much better.
The pecking order at first may seem brutal. The established flock is putting in its two cents on the new hierarchical assignments. As long as it is just pecking on the back, I do not intervene. If the pecking order takes on more of a harsher bullying quality, I will then monitor the pecking order assignments for several days till the flock seems to agree on positions.
The initiation process usually recedes in a few days. At most, my flock wrestles with the pecking order decisions for a week. It usually does not take long because the new members generally reside at the bottom of the pecking order. Very rarely do new members challenge established members for a higher position in the flock hierarchy. Even new roosters will often take a subjugated position at the bottom of the pecking order vs challenging the alpha rooster for his position.
Once the flock agrees in the place of the new members, flock harmony reigns once more. For several months there may be a bit of pecking as reminders of position. But for the most part, the hard part is over.
As time goes on, the flock will act more like a single flock rather than two individual flocks. By the 4–6-month mark, the two flocks will work as one. The new members will most likely reside at the bottom of the pecking order for the first year of their lives. After that point, they may try to challenge another member for a higher position, but even this is not usually an issue.
At this point, if you have a rooster in the new flock, they may begin to fight. I have had this go both ways. I have had a new rooster after several months challenge one of the established roosters for their position. I have also had new roosters just sit happily at the bottom of the order. This all depends on the temperament of the new rooster. He may assume the beta position well or he may not. It is during this time that you need a plan for your extra roosters. I typically put my roosters in bachelor pens where they bunk with other roosters. I will link the post here where I detail how bachelor pens work.
Even when roosters compete for the position, the skirmish does not last too long. I have 13 roosters; all are well-behaved and get along fairly well. Once they decide on the social order, they will happily tolerate one another.
I hope this has helped many fellow “spring chicken” backyard chicken enthusiasts merge new chicks into an established flock.
Chickens are very simple creatures; one just needs an understanding of their nature and habits. They ask little but give much in return.
If you still have questions, please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me at email@example.com.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
First and foremost, before you get chickens, know your zoning restrictions. Many cities, states, and counties have different laws regarding keeping livestock. If you are in the city, if you are allowed backyard chickens, you will most likely be restricted to a small number of hens, omitting roosters.
In the county or country, you may have more freedom, but you will still need to abide by guidelines.
For example, based on my location, I am not restricted to the number of chickens I can have. However, I am restricted on how far my coops need to be from my neighbor’s front door. My animals must be confined to my property by a fence or attached pen to a coop. I need to practice good manure management to reduce rodent and odor issues for my neighbors. Even in the country, some guidelines need to be followed.
If you are unsure of what your zoning laws require, you can find out simply by calling the State Veterinarian for your state and asking. They will be able to tell you based on your location what your restrictions are.
As the saying goes, “You can’t have just one”. This more than applies to owning chickens. I started with 17 Buff Orpington chicks and now have ballooned to a flock of 50+ of various breeds. I underestimated the addiction risk of chickens. I love my backyard divas and have plans for more.
Today my flock is a thriving multicultural mesh of different breeds. By acquiring a variety of breeds, I can profile the behavior of various breeds along with any advantages and drawbacks. After owning several breeds, I can honestly say that the Polish are my favorite breed of all my Backyard Divas.
Chickens require time and daily care. Like all pets, chickens require dedication. However, chickens require little but give much in return.
To illustrate. My flock of 50 and 7 coops requires about 30 minutes of my time every morning. Daily chores consist of cleaning the coops, filling feeders, filling waterers, collecting eggs, and maintaining nesting boxes. All of this, while sounding like a lot does not require much time out of my day.
However, like a dog or cat, maintenance needs to be performed daily. Also, like your cat or dog, if you go on vacation, care will need to be arranged in your absences.
Most people keep chickens for farm fresh eggs. However, this pursuit, although positive has some drawbacks.
First, once you get a taste of farm fresh eggs, it’s hard to eat any other type of egg. For example, store-bought eggs after eating farm-fresh eggs taste differently. You will find yourself becoming an egg connoisseur of sorts, an egg snob if you will.
Second, you will come to realize that at first, your flock will produce the most expensive eggs that you ever collected. Allow me to explain.
Once obtaining your flock, it will be about 20 weeks or 5-6 months before you collect the first egg from the nesting box. But during the “waiting period”, you will have to feed your flock. Egg laying or not, feeding your flock is a necessity. By the time you get your first egg, you will have spent a hefty amount on chicken feed, flock supplies, and coops/pens. However, once the flock starts to lay dependably, your cost and reward ratio will begin to align. But until then, you will be putting money into a “timeshare” of sorts without any benefit. Many people do not realize this, they falsely assume that chickens lay eggs right away and do not factor in a period of egg drought.
Egg droughts do not only happen during the development/maturity of the hens toward laying age but also at various times throughout their lives. Yearly molt, the coldest part of winter, or the hottest part of summer depending on the breed. The point is, your flock will go through dry spells where they are not laying but you will be spending money on chicken feed. During these times of declined egg production, I humorously refer to my girls as “free-loaders”. All in good spirits of course. I understand my girls need a vacation now and then and grant them time off.
Third, they will find you. When an egg recall or egg ration is suffered by the egg industry, backyard chicken keepers become everyone’s favorite neighbor.
For example, during the past egg scare when the bird flu raged havoc throughout the egg industry, I got a few unexpected visitors at my door. It takes quite a bit of gut to knock on a stranger’s door and ask for eggs.
The situation of this particular visitor was rather unique. She was a friend of a friend, who worked with a friend who told her that she knew me and that I had a fairly large backyard chicken flock. Her husband was on a strict diet, eggs were his primary source of protein. Being that the bird flu forced many egg producers to recall eggs and euthanize their flocks, he was practically starving.
I gave her what eggs I had. I offered them at no charge given their unique and desperate situation. She insisted that she pay for them. This was the first day that a stranger knocked at my door and the girls turned a profit, but it was not the last.
All proceeds the girls make on the eggs, I turn back to them in the form of feed, treats, and other necessities.
This was when I first realized how self-sustaining my little farm is. A massive egg recall raging through the nation, had I not watched the news, I would have had no idea. Now, when egg recalls or egg scares make the news, I am prepared for a few visitors looking for eggs. The humble backyard chicken keeper to the rescue.
Illness and the importance of a Chicken first aid kit:
Just like kids and other pets, chickens too get sick. However, unlike a pediatrician for little humans and vets for cats and dogs, most vets will not treat chickens since they are technical “livestock”. While backyard flocks are rapidly reaching pet status, for now, they are categorized as livestock.
Thus, the backyard chicken keeper has to become a chicken doctor. Although this sounds scary, chickens are simple creatures. Most conditions that plague a backyard flock are relatively simple to treat.
The more common health conditions that a backyard chicken keeper will encounter are mites, lice, bumblefoot, fly strikes, respitorary illnesses, and sour crops. The good news is good flock maintenance practices will eliminate many of these conditions. If your flock has fresh water daily, fresh feed in clean feeders and a clean dry place to call home, most of these potential illnesses will be greatly reduced.
In my 10 years of keeping chickens, I have only had a few illnesses inflicted my flock. Mostly treatment for mites, worms, and bumblefoot. If your chickens are allowed to free range, at some point they will come down with a case of red fowl mites. You can think of mites as a badge of honor because your flock has access to grass, fresh air, and sun. Treatment is similar to flea/tick treatment for cats and dogs only for chickens. My favorite product for this purpose is Epernix. Found a Feed/Farm store in the cattle section.
Marketed for cattle, Epernix at a low dose is safe for chickens. Use 1/2 cc for bantams and 3/4 cc for standard-size birds. With a syringe, drop the liquid behind the neck, just like treating a cat or dog. Repeat in 14 days, and that’s it. After two doses, lice and mites are history. Treat every single flock member, I do this 1 to 2 times a year. I treat only when symptoms are present. Note: when using this product there is an automatic egg withdrawal of 20 days while the girls are in treatment.
Worming is the same. Marketed for goats, safeguard at small doses it is an effective treatment for chickens. This time, with a different syringe use 1/2cc for bantam and 3/4cc for standard-size birds. Drop the wormer on a piece of bread and feed it to each member of the flock, repeat in 14 days. There is a 20-day egg withdrawal for safeguards like Eprinex. That’s it, crises averted.
The most complex issue I have had to deal with is bumblefoot. I will link a post detailing my method for dealing with bumblefoot here.
Although chicken keeper needs to take their flock’s health into their own hands, it’s not hard. Most things you need to treat your flocks are found at feed/Farm stores. If you can find a vet to treat your birds, the price will be very high. However, most vets will put a gravely ill chicken down. Some keepers prefer this to put their sick hens down. I humanly euthanize my sick members, but most people are not able to do this which is fine. Most vets will assist in this event.
Things to keep in your chicken first aid kit:
Vet wrap, gauze, triple antibiotic cream, salve, plastic knives for administrating salve and creams, sterile scissors for cutting gauze and vet wrap, hydrogen peroxide, syringes without needles for administrating medication orally, Rooster Booster poultry cell (great for providing sick birds with iron, amino acids, and minerals for recovery), Rooster Booster B-12 (good for providing sick birds with essential vitamins for healing, high in B-12), VetRx for poultry (great for birds with respiratory issues, similar to Vicks for humans. Drop in water or place under the wing to help birds recover), bleach to sterilize instruments.
Most of these things are household items except for items specific to poultry. Keeping a first-egg kit (pun intended) ready and stocked makes it easier to treat on the spot rather than waiting till you can get the items you need.
Have a plan for winter
When acquiring chickens, most people are so focused on brooders and bringing their flock to laying age. Little thought is given to seasonal change. As fall approaches keepers often find themselves frantic as the mercury drops. Preparing a flock for winter takes time, preparation, and some expense. However, chickens come factory installed with down coats, it’s not the cold keepers need to worry about but wind and moisture. To adequately prepare your flock for winter a keeper needs to take measures to keep the coop/pen clean and dry. Installing a heater or heat lamp is not recommended. Coop fires are often started by good intentions to keep flocks warm. The rule of thumb is to never judge your flock’s comfort by your standards. Chickens evolved to live outdoors, all a keeper needs to do is keep them clean and dry, warmth is not necessary, the chickens take care of that on their own. I will link here the methods I use to prepare my flock and coops for winter.
Coops and Pens: There are so many options.
Before you get chickens, decide what kind of coop you want to get. Before shopping for coops, you need to know how many chickens you intend to get and how many coops you want to have. There are lots of resources for acquiring coops. If you are skilled at woodworking, you could build your own coop and pen. If you’re like me and woodworking is not your cup of tea, there are many prefab coops on the market. Contrary to popular belief, prefab coops can and do make great homes for your flock. I will link here my post where I talk about prefab coops, hacks, and how to get the most out of your prefab coops.
Finally and most importantly: Brooder set up
To raise a successful flock, your chicks need a good start, and the best place to get this start is in the brooder. Before you get chicks, you need to think about their brooder and how you plan to brood your clutch. Just about everything you can think of has been used for brooders, kiddie pools, Rubbermaid totes, dog crates, boxes, bathtubs, garages, attics, and so on. The possibilities are endless. At the end of the day, a brooder is just a heated home for your growing chicks, what you use to achieve this home is up to you. I started out using large boxes then switched to puppy playpens as my preferred brooding container. Everyone will have their idea on what to use and how to brood. The size of the flock will also affect the type of container to use. I will link my brooding method and supplies here.
I hope that this post has been a helpful addition to the information-gathering phase on starting your backyard chicken flock. Chickens are a great asset to any farm, homestead, or city backyard. They ask little but give much in return.
If you have any questions not addressed in this post, feel free to ask. You can also drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Flowering bushes and gardens are most definitely atheistically pleasing. I have flower gardens plenty but edible landscaping is a joy that is unique in and of itself.
Just about everything in my backyard is edible. Going to my backyard is like going to a farmers’ market on my property. There are lots of options when it comes to landscaping.
In this post, I will reveal how I use plants to landscape my backyard into an edible mini paradise.
There are lots of ways to add edible landscaping to your property. Blueberry bushes are not only producers of wonderful deep blue berries but have beautiful spring green leaves. When planted in a row, they create a hedge of greenery and goodness. In the fall, their leaves turn to a beautiful red that is stunning in the fall landscape.
As the blueberries ripen throughout the season, they add a lot of beauty to the yard. They turn from green to deep blue or purple depending on the variety.
When planting blueberry bushes, plant at least 6 of 2 or 3 different varieties. Doing this will ensure adequate cross-pollination and a large yield. Blueberries need a few different varieties nearby to cross-pollinate well. If too few are planted, the harvest will be reduced as they will not be as prolific.
Arona Berry Bushes:
Arona Berry bushes are another great way to add edible landscaping to your property. Topping out at about 8-10 ft tall and a spread of 5 to 6 ft wide, these bushes are showstoppers.
In the Spring they are filled with white delicate blooms that turn into dark purple berries around mid-summer. They have a sweet/tart taste, somewhere between a cranberry and a cherry. They are dense little berries that are great to add to smoothies or other berry dishes. My chickens love the Arona Berries. They will readily pick all the berries they can near the bottom, luckily these bushes are tall so there is plenty to go around.
Unlike blueberries, Arona Berry bushes do not need another bush to cross-pollinate. Given their size, 1 or 2 will be enough. I have two of these bushes in my backyard, both are beautiful and produce a lot of berries come mid-summer.
Black Berry Bushes:
Another beautiful trailing berry bush to add to an edible landscape are Blackberries. Unlike Blueberries or the Arona Berries, Blackberries do best on a trellis. While they can grow independently of a trellis, they do better if they have support to keep the branches off the ground. If too low to the ground the berries tend to rot before they can be picked.
If you have tasted Blackberry jam or Blackberry pie, then you know exactly what to do with these prolific little berry producers. Blackberries are great in many things from smoothies to jams to pies. If the bushes produce an abundance, then frozen berries are a treat in the winter months when all the bushes are dormant.
The possibilities are limitless with what one can do with a bushel of Blackberries. I have my Blackberry bushes near the Grape Arbor. They climb the trellis along with the grapes as they grow taller. Instead of keeping them pruned to a smaller size, I allow them to grow long and attach them to the Arbor as they need more support.
If you are granted the room, grapes are another great plant to add to your edible landscape. Grapes are very versatile, they can grow on fence posts, poles, trellis, or even chain link fences. As long as whatever they are growing on can support the weight of the vines, grapes are a possibility. Uncultivated, grapes vines will grow up trees and other vertical shrubs that can support the weight of the vines.
A Grape Arbor is not necessary to grow grapes just the method that I chose. But if you are interested in building a Grape Arbor, a Pergola Arbor is a great asset as it can double as a place to hang a Hammock swing, porch swing, or even a hammock. If you are interested in how we built our Grape Arbor I will link that post here.
Unlike Blueberries and other berries, grapes need something to trellis on. To have a successful grape harvest, the vines must be kept off the ground. Grapes also need lots of pruning. I prune my grapes every January, cutting off the dead vines and securing the previous season’s growth to the trellis. Come March/April when the grape vines come out of dormancy, they will grow from the dormant vine and continue their journey up the trellis.
You will need to spray your grape vines to keep insects at bay. I use an organic gardening spray that works well at keeping the bugs off and will not harm the chickens or other wildlife in my backyard (just the bugs). It can be found at Tractor Supply or other farm/feed stores.
Neem oil is also a good option but will need to be sprayed more often. I spray my grape vines 3-4 times a year. Once as the grape vines start to bud, then again after they leaf out, again in the mid-season (June-July), and a month or so before harvest. This spray schedule keeps the bugs from eating the leaves and stripping my vines throughout the growing season. Make sure to spray early in the morning or late evening to keep from burning the leaves.
Another beautiful plant to add to an edible landscape is raspberry bushes. Newly planted this year, I have the raspberry bushes planted at the back of the arbor. As they grow (like the blackberries, raspberries need a trellis) I will attach them to the grape arbor and let them trellis up the arbor along with the grapes and the blackberries. I have one raspberry bush that survived our cold winter, the rest sadly perished. This year I bought a hardier variety that is cold hardy down to -20. Hopefully, with these new varieties, I will not suffer any more losses of my raspberry bushes.
Although not edible (by humans anyway), butterfly bushes are a great plant to add to an edible landscape. Not only are they beautiful, but a stately butterfly bush will attract pollinators to your yard. Everything from butterflies, hummingbirds, bumble bees, honeybees, and hummingbird moths will flock to the butterfly bushes to feed off the nectar of the large blooms.
In mid-summer when the bushes are in full bloom, there is a frenzy of activity around the butterfly bushes. Near the berry row, many of these valuable pollinators visit the neighboring berry bushes and continue to pollinate creating a high yield.
Spices and Herbs:
Another way to add edible plants to your property is that of herbs. Most herbs are flowering plants that have beautiful blooms that attract bees, butterflies, and other important pollinators.
I grow just about all the herbs and spices that I use in cooking and for incense making. I rarely have to buy herbs because I harvest and dry the herbs from my property. Everything from Basil to lavender I grow in my gardens.
In the fall, I harvest the spices and herbs and use them in cooking, teas, baking, and incense. At the end of this post, I will share one of my favorite dried herb incense recipes that I have to fragrance my home.
Veggie gardens need no introduction, these gardens no matter the size is a great way to add edible landscaping to your property. I have several veggie gardens. One functions as a kitchen garden, and the other I grow corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, and other fall/winter goodies.
The girls patrol all my veggie gardens, eating bugs off the plants and tilling the soil in search of worms. My girls are a great asset in organic gardening, their natural talents reduce my need for any bug-eliminating regimen. I may lose a tomato or two to a curious chicken, but I plant enough for everyone to get a fair share.
Although not edible (by humans) I do have an abundance of flower gardens that surround my home and property. These gardens provide food for necessary pollinators such as butterflies and bees which in turn assist me in increasing a high yield from my edible landscaping. It is through these beneficial insects that we can feed our families and put food on the table.
In an attempt to aid the bee populations, I do not spay any insecticide near my home. Many of my gardens contain herbs and spices which naturally deter many pest insects that would otherwise enter my home.
Given that this is a blog that is primarily focused on raising backyard chickens, how do my girls factor into edible landscaping?
The simple answer is composting. The girls create a very nutritious compost in their coops through their digestive processes. Due to the presence of a gizzard in their digestive system, chickens process everything they consume. When added to the gardens, litter from the coops is the best plant food that money can buy. Because my girls are fed an organic diet, their compost is also chemical free.
Every spring I spread the compost the girls have made in their coops throughout the winter. Chicken coop shaving and poo are high in nitrogen and other minerals, beneficial to plants. Due to the compost from the coops, my gardens are lush and produce high yields.
Many visitors to my farm ask me what I feed my gardens to produce such beautiful blooms and large vegetables. My answer is chicken poo. My homestead is powered by my girls. They are the secret to my success.
As promised, I leave my recipe for natural incense that I created using spices and herbs from my garden. This recipe is very versatile and can be tweaked given aromatic preferences.
The Kuntry Klucker’s Home Herb Insence
For this recipe, you will need an electric wax warmer or a wax warmer that is warmed by a tea light or other source of heat.
1/8 to 1/4 tsp olive oil
1-2 TBS dried rosemary
1-2 TBS dried sage
1-2 TBS Dried lavender
1 TBS Basil
Other things that can be added: Tree resins such as frankincense, dragons’ blood, myrrh, copal, or benzoin. Drops of essential oils can also be added.
In the wax warmer, place a small amount of olive oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the wax warmer. Mix all the dried spices in a small bowl and add to the wax warmer on top of the oil. Turn on the wax burner or light tea light under the warmer. After a few minutes of heating, a spicy yet calming aroma will be released by the herbs simmering in the oil. You can add other aromas as well, such as essential oils or resins to bring the aroma to your liking. This is an all-natural way to fragrance your home without releasing harmful substances in the air such as chemicals that are often added to candles and other wax or oil fragrances.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, please visit some of my other sites.