Feather Sexing: Why it Won’t Work September 30, 2014 1 Comment

Going to the feed store with my daughter to see the chicks in the spring is a favorite past time with her. Occasionally, we see a new breeds we’re interested in taking home with us. The signage often contains vital information about the chicks that help us decide which to take home. To us these details hold familiarity, but for some people these terms can be confusing and bear some explaining.

8 Week Old Buff Brahma Cockerel.

8 Week Old Buff Brahma Cockerel. He was purchased as a Straight Run chick.

Here are the terms you’ll see when looking for your chicks and what they mean:

  • Pullets: Young females sexed by the hatchery, can be 1 day old to under 1 year to use this term.
  • Mixed Pullets: Females of different breeds, including hybrids sexed by the hatchery
  • Straight Run: Unsexed chicks including a mix of males and females. These were never sexed by a professional.
  • Cockerels: Young males sexed by the hatchery. Ages from 1 day old to under 1 year use this term.

Your local feed store will have chicks available to you based on these choices. They receive them from hatcheries around the country. Some shops will get it whatever is available at the time they order. Breeds and sexing choices can change on a week to week basis due to availability.

Last spring we were looking at a bin of straight run Wyandottes that just came in that morning. They were about 3 days old at the time. A farm retiree that liked to sit up there on warm mornings and chat with the customers started picking up chicks and looking at their wing feathers, then showing why he thought this one was a female or that one was male. He expounded about how he used to hatch thousands of chicks every year, and how he knew which ones were of value to him for their eggs and which ones he would later put into his freezer.

In the end I didn’t take home those chicks…. but I can fill you in about why you can’t rely on methods like these at the feed store.

Feed stores get their chicks Read the rest of this entry »

How Hildy the Blind Hen Died September 26, 2014 5 Comments

This will probably be my last Hildy story. If you haven’t read the stories about my blind hen Hildy, you may want to start at the beginning.

Read the other posts related to Hildy the blind hen:

  1. Introducing Hildy the blind hen
  2. Hildy the blind hen in the pecking order
  3. Hildy the blind hen and free ranging
  4. Hildy the blind hen learns to eat treats from a hand
  5. Hildy the blind hen figures out foraging

This is how she died–and it’s not much of a tale, really; it’s more of a just a close to her story.

Hildy the blind hen

Hildy the blind hen

About 2 days before Hildy died, Read the rest of this entry »

Top 3 ways to help your molting flock September 19, 2014 No Comments

Molting, or shedding old feathers to grow in the new, is triggered in your flock by waning sunlight hours, and typically happens in late summer or fall. During this time, your flock will look pretty raggedy, and may slow down or temporarily stop laying while their feathers grow. So how can you help your molting flock?

Help your molting flock

This welsummer is going through a hard molt, her bare spots now covered with new, growing quills

Nutrition is especially important during this period, no matter which type of molt your birds are going through. During the molt, it’s always doubly important to provide sufficient protein in their diet. After all, they’re growing their feathers in for the next year, and if they are lacking in nutrition, their feathers could be brittle or dry–until the next molt. During this window, you need to take action.

Here are the top 3 ways you can help your molting flock:

1. SWITCH to a higher protein feed during the molt to help your molting flock.

Check your feed bag: how much protein is in your feed? Layer feed is usually Read the rest of this entry »

Be careful what you wish for: the Change.org petition that harms chickens September 13, 2014 272 Comments

We have recently been the target of a Change.org petition started by a vegan animal rights activist which denounces the shipping of baby chicks. It’s time to bring you all into the loop.  The following petition has received more than 71,000 signatures to date:

A post on Facebook today had me livid and I felt compelled to start a petition.

1-DAY-OLD CHICKS SHIPPED BY MAIL

Yesterday I was at the post office and heard the familiar sound of newly hatched chicks. They were calling out from inside a pair of cardboard boxes on the counter. No mama. No food. No water. Yes, the shipping of live, day-old baby chicks is a booming business in the States. Read the rest of this entry »

The #1 reason to raise chicks in the fall September 5, 2014 7 Comments

Why is spring the traditional time to begin raising baby chicks? The main reason is that, in the past, chickens simply laid fewer eggs than they do today—and their top laying season was in the spring, so more eggs were available then for hatching. However, since modern chicken breeds have been selected for higher production and near-year-round laying, we can now choose to raise chicks almost any time of year. Fall has some important advantages!

raise chicks in the fall - seven chicks

Raise chicks in the fall? You bet. You can start your laying flock as soon as NOW!

The number one reason to raise chicks in the fall is Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken watching for Labor Day weekend August 29, 2014 No Comments

In addition to visiting with family, grilling food, having a picnic and so on… don’t forget to enjoy some chicken watching this Labor Day. It’s good for the soul, and good for your chickens.

Reggie the dog chicken watching

My little dog Reggie watches over the girls as they enjoy some watermelon on a hot day

We’ve talked about the benefits of chicken watching before. More than once. Some people refer to chicken watching simply as “chicken tv.” Some people even gear their coops and runs with closed circuit cameras, so they literally have chicken TV where they can enjoy chicken watching to their hearts content; others have chairs set up in the midst of the flock so they can enjoy tea and chicken antics surrounded by ranging chickens.

We say the more you engage in chicken watching, Read the rest of this entry »

4 Strategies to Beat Flock Boredom August 19, 2014 6 Comments

Flock boredom can be an occasional problem in any flock. Do your chickens sit around for most of the day, not amused by each other or the things in their coop? Let me help you beat flock boredom. Keeping your flock entertained is good for their health, and the quality of their eggs. These methods of entertaining your flock are both very simple and inexpensive (if not free), so why not? Your chickens will surely thank you!

1.) Combat flock boredom by offering kitchen scraps or other treats they can have fun “foraging”!

Combat flock boredom by offering forage

Here the flock has a blast digging around in a pile f lawn clippings.

When your chickens are confined to a run, scraps are a free and simple way you can give your flock some entertainment. By saving fruit, vegetable, bread, noodle, and grain scraps you can bring the health of your flock Read the rest of this entry »

Top 4 Reasons Factory Farms HATE Your Chickens August 15, 2014 14 Comments

Do you raise backyard pet chickens? Factory farms hate your chickens—and they hate you. You and your chickens are Public Enemy #1 to them!

factory farms hate your chickens

So very threatening, right?

In fact, the main reason humanely produced local eggs tend to be so much more expensive than eggs produced by factory farms is because the price of factory farm eggs is kept artificially low when factory farm producers aren’t required to provide humane care for their flocks.  In the cruel stress of severe overcrowding, factory farms keep the hens from hurting each other by searing part of their beaks off. They are not required to invest in the space their flock needs. It’s cheaper to remove their upper beaks.

Providing humane care costs more…  so you, on the other hand, as a human being,  make certain you’ve provided enough space in the coop and run. You make sure there’s room at the feeders for everyone; that food and water is fresh; that your birds are not too hot or cold. You ensure they can engage in instinctual behaviors like preening, roosting, dust bathing, laying their eggs in nests and so on. If needed, you expand their space to make sure everyone has plenty of room.  You probably even provide your flock with special treats, or even toys! You spend time watching them, and notice if someone gets injured or sick. 

sick hen

You provide appropriate care for your sick or injured pets.

This is simple humanity… but from a factory farm perspective it would be a ghastly loss of profit.

Let’s look at the 4 top reasons factory farms hate your chickens:

1. When you keep your own chickens, you’re buying fewer (or no) eggs from factory farms.

All those eggs you’re enjoying: you would have been buying them from factory farms were it not for your backyard flock. Increasing numbers of people keeping pet chickens represents Read the rest of this entry »

The Ragged Feathers of Summer: 7 causes August 8, 2014 No Comments

When your day old baby chick feathers in for the first time at 12 weeks old or so with her complete juvenile plumage, there’s almost nothing quite as beautiful. Each feather is shiny and new. And a perfectly-frocked, robin-sized bird that runs to you for affection is more exciting than most of us would care to admit (in public). Those perfect feathers don’t always stay perfect, though. Soon will come the ragged feathers of summer!

ragged feathers of summer, hens and rooster

Ragged feathers? A few, but they’re not too ragged here. You can see feather loss in their beards, and just in front of rooster Francis’ tail.

There are a few common causes of missing or ragged feathers, many of which are more of an issue in the summer. If you’re seeing problems, take a few moments to review what may be happening to see if it needs to be addressed.

For instance, (1) Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken Poop Dog Treats Recipe August 1, 2014 7 Comments

Chicken poop dog treats: that’s my project today. (You heard me!) While I’m not sure about the advisability of teaching your dog that what looks like chicken poop is delicious, making these treats for your friends with dogs–and emphasizing that they are a gift from your flock–sounds like some gross fun. Want to encourage your teenagers to learn to cook? The “Grossout” factor of chicken poop dog treats may be a good strategy.

Chicken poop dog treats

These are perhaps the most unappetizing cookies you will ever make!

Plus, the treats are actually from your hens, in a sense, since your girls will lay the eggs needed.

Chicken Poop Dog Treats Recipe

(Wheat free)

DSC_3551

The ingredients look tasty!