Expert Tip: How to calibrate your hygrometer November 24, 2015 No Comments

Hatching eggs can be such a fun adventure!  It can be fraught with ups and downs, successes and failures… chicks and no chicks. It’s pretty easy to get NO chicks… but to get YES chicks, you want to calibrate your hygrometer properly.

Calibrate your hygrometer: your future chicks thank you.

YES chicks

I was always an AVID hatcher, but I have to admit, it doesn’t mean I was always a GOOD hatcher. I used to find it easy to get a little “slapdash” about the whole process: not checking temperatures every day, not watching the humidity, far too many staggered hatches.  Where did this egg come from? Toss it in!  After all, broody hens do it without spreadsheets and calendars, why can’t I?

Well, the answer is: Because I am not a chicken.

With experience I’ve learned that to hatch successfully—every time—I really do need to take extra steps to make sure my incubation equipment is working properly.  It’s very dry here in Arizona, so I have a hard time keeping the humidity in the incubator high enough. To make sure I am getting the correct humidity, I calibrate my hygrometers regularly… though I will admit, I never quite believe readings.  I tend to have several in the incubator, as though two hygrometers might tell me if the third one is a lying liar that lies.

To increase your chance of a successful hatch Read the rest of this entry »

4 things you can do to protect a rural flock November 22, 2015 No Comments

Chickens are so easy to raise that they fit almost anywhere. Many are in small suburban backyards where predator loads are smaller, and flocks are a little easier to protect. However, some of us live on larger, wilder land and have to deal with an additional variety of predators that would love a good chicken dinner more than is healthy for our sweet egg layers! There are a few things you can do to protect your rural flock from these dangers, though.

I was recently reminded of the dangers our rural flock faces as my husband and I walked the back of the fence-line on our property. In just that one short walk, we spotted a momma bear and her cubs not far from our coop…



… and shortly thereafter heard a hawk screech its shrill warning.

That really brought to mind how I’ve many times heard the owls hooting in the dark, coyotes crying at the moon, or foxes barking in the woods. We enjoy the wildlife, but these predators are a definite threat to our rural flock, so we have to keep some special safeguards in place to protect them. Read the rest of this entry »

The 5 Best Points of the Orpington November 19, 2015 1 Comment

I’m a Lavender Orpington, and my name is Hermione… although usually mom just calls me “Good girl!” There are lots of things my mom especially loves about me, so she wanted me to tell you about myself to illustrate the 5 best points of the Orpington chicken breed.


See how pretty we lavender Orpingtons are?

But I’m not just a pretty face. I’ve got a great personality, too! Since the first day I came home, Read the rest of this entry »

Spoiled chickens November 17, 2015 1 Comment

I may have a flock of spoiled chickens.

My brother-in-law has started his first job: he works at a bagel shop, and he knows the way to my hens’ hearts. His company normally donates any leftover bagels to halfway houses and homeless shelters, but on occasion, in support of spoiled chickens, he brings the inedibly stale ones to the Henway.

spoiled chickens

Mmmmm, good peckin’!

What’s a Henway?

Five to seven pounds!

Read the rest of this entry »

5 tips for designing a custom chicken run November 15, 2015 No Comments

Has your chicken math exceeded your run space? Have you decided to add a run to an existing coop for added predator protection? Whatever point you are at in your flock care you will eventually hit the point where you need to add some protected space for your birds. To inspire some ideas about designing your own custom chicken run, our customers the Crawchicks have graciously allowed us to share a wonderful example of a run they recently completed. After you’ve seen their beautiful work, I’ll share 5 tips for designing a custom chicken run for your flock.

Crawschicks NY custom chicken run

All pictures are courtesy of Crawschicks, NY

The Crawchicks’ beautiful coop needed an equally beautiful–and secure–run, so they began the task of adding one. The following pictures show how they designed their custom chicken run to take into account drainage, easy cleaning, functionality, and beauty. Read the rest of this entry »

DIY PVC Chicken Feeder November 11, 2015 1 Comment

We all hate wasted bird feed, all those little bits that spill out of hanging feeders onto the ground, or the excess waste of crumbles or pellets lost from a ground feeder due to scratching hens. There is a cost to this wasted food, especially when you run out a week sooner than expected, and have to get a fresh new bag of feed early! Another MPC employee recently shared her version of homemade chicken feeders, so here’s mine! I decided to create a DIY PVC chicken feeder, too. In fact, I made two!


Easy, dry access to feed with less waste.

I’ve tried different commercial feeders over the years, but my girls were wasteful with all of them. Finally, I put my foot down and created a new DIY PVC chicken feeder design that would hold a good amount of chicken feed they can reach with their beaks, and NOT with their feet! As you can see, I added walk boards over the pipes to keep the food dry since mine are set up in the run. It also helps so the birds don’t crowd the feeders.

Effective DIY PVC chicken feeder

Simple and effective: the DIY PVC chicken feeder.

It’s a simple design. You can cut the PVC to size, or they will even cut it for you at some locations. I didn’t need to cut anything to make these, which is great for the person who shouldn’t be using, or even have, power tools. My cost was about $13 each to make, but your costs will vary depending on exactly how you make them. For instance, you can make your feeder as tall or as short as you like. Mine are 3′ tall and strapped to the posts of our run. I used 3″ pvc (these items are available in 4″ if you’ve like yours wider). With the 3″ wide I can have 2-3 hens with their heads in the feeder at a time. If you use a 4″ wide instead you can happily fit 3-4 chicken heads in the pipe hole.

DIY PVC Chicken Feeder Materials List

  • *First, you’ll need a 3″ or 4″ PVC pipe, at the length you prefer.

PVC pipe.

Read the rest of this entry »

Molting Season or Exploding Chickens? November 9, 2015 1 Comment

Now that the heat of summer has passed, and the fall nights are cooler, you may have noticed your coop is a little messier than normal. Perhaps much, much messier. This time of year, whenever I collect eggs I can’t help but wonder: is it Molting Season or do I have Exploding Chickens?

molting season: feathers all over!

Molting season or exploding chickens? I can’t decide!

With autumn comes molting season.  A chicken can molt any time of year, but most chickens will molt in the late summer or autumn. This gives the flock time to regrow their feathers before the cold of winter sets in.

My birds tend to hard molt—they lose all their feathers at once, rather than a few at a time over the course of a few months.  It’s a terrible thing to Read the rest of this entry »

Egg Size Really Does Matter November 4, 2015 No Comments

The lovely array of available chicken breeds lay a rainbow of colors for backyard chicken keepers’ egg baskets. The feeling you get from gifting a dozen eggs to a friend and the moment they open it to see colors they didn’t think were possible (outside of egg dying) is gratifying. These yummy little orbs make anyone’s meal or baked good extra special… when added to a recipe as suggested of course! but you know what? Egg size really does matter, too.

A mix of a dozen colorful chicken eggs.

A mix of a dozen colorful chicken eggs.

When you go to the grocery store and see egg size listed on cartons, what does that truly mean? For your recipe, should you use three medium eggs, two large eggs or a jumbo!? Modern recipes typically don’t mention egg size at all. Your recipe may just call for 2 eggs. They are usually referring to large eggs, and if you don’t use those it will affect the outcome of your baking.

Having backyard chickens, in a dozen varieties not only means a plethora of colors but so many sizes as well. No two eggs are truly equal (even though they are all equally delicious!).

The good news is that there really is an official range for egg size! Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken math, in motion November 2, 2015 No Comments

I promised myself I wasn’t going to raise chicks this year.  Well, that is not true, actually. I promised myself I wouldn’t raise any more chicks AFTER the adorable box of Easter Egger Bantams I ordered in April this spring.  After them, no more chicks this year.

It is almost NOVEMBER. I don’t need any more chicks.

But then chicken math reared its ugly head, and suddenly I was a victim of chicken math, in motion.

chicken math

Using chicken math, this is a photo of one chick.

What is chicken math? Chicken math is a sickness which happens to chicken keepers, once they have discovered the wonders of chickens, turkeys, ducks, and guineas.

Chicken math defies all you know about math.  Chicken math ruins logic. Chicken math is insidious and can grow like a self-perpetuating virus.

Many of us have experienced it, but once it is over, it seems very distant.  I mean: there is chicken math, which has happened, and we expect will happen again, someday in the future.  Then there is “chicken math, in motion”—which you can feel happening as it happens, but you are helpless to stop it.  Like a slow chickie avalanche slide towards chicken doom.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken Song: It’s the most wonderful time of the year October 30, 2015 1 Comment

Chicken Song

by Laree and Sam (to be sung to the tune of "It's the most wonderful time of the year.")


It’s the most wonderful time, of the year!
With the roosters out crowing,
The chicks do the mowing,
Pumpkins are near,
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!



It’s the scratch-scratchiest season of all!
With those chicken cluck greetings and happy de-seedings,
When flocks come to call,
It’s the scratch-scratchiest season of all!


Chicken in a pumpkin--Chicken song!


There’ll be warm kitchen scraps,
And afternoon naps,
And scratching out in the hay, Read the rest of this entry »