New Chicken Blogger: Farmer Sam July 29, 2014 1 Comment

Let me introduce myself! I’ll be My Pet Chicken’s newest flock member and chicken blogger, so I’d like to share a little about myself. My name is Sam, although I prefer to be called Farmer Sam by my chicken keeping friends. I live in Fairfield, Connecticut where I raise chickens and sheep.  I started my chicken keeping adventure with three production red hens I got from our local feed store. Not long after I got them, I started my first  blog, called “Connecticut Chickens.”  While trying to get more readers I volunteered to give a talk at our local feed store’s springtime chicken keeping seminar.

That was where I first met My Pet Chicken’s Traci. Traci helped open my eyes a little more to the many amazing chicken breeds that exist, and to how the chicken keeping industry worked!

Barn And Tree of a chicken blogger

Our barn

 

One day, a few months after the seminar, we were buying chicken feed at the feed store and overheard a lady talking about her sheep. We asked her about them a little and after looking at the photo of them we were convinced we had to have some. She kindly brought us to her home to meet her sheep. After visiting her farm, we went online to find breeders who had the breed we wanted. We found one not too far away and arranged a visit. The sheep she had were a set of twins just under a year old. We immediately began preparations for them and in no time we were ready to take them home.  We would never have had that opportunity if we hadn’t entered the backyard farming world with our wonderful chickens!

As a chicken blogger, you may often see me write about how chickens are a “gateway” animal, and will always be leading you to new kinds of farm animals and pets. That was my experience! After getting the sheep, I decided that I had so many fun stories to write about them that my Connecticut Chickens blog needed to be expanded to incorporate my new interest, too. That’s why I created a new blog called Hens and Hooves. Now, I’m more than a chicken blogger! After reading some of my posts there, Traci kindly asked me to blog for My Pet Chicken, too.

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Two of our sheep

I have approximately 50 chickens of many different ages right now. I have a very diverse laying flock made up of large fowl breeds from My Pet Chicken. My “mini flock” is made up of mostly Silkies, but a few other bantams too.

We are not inclined to keep roosters as it is usually not pleasing to the neighbors, but we have kept them for a couple weeks to fertilize eggs for our broody hens. We will occasionally buy fertile eggs from alternate sources to get new breeds and varieties to hatch in our incubator, since we don’t usually have eggs to hatch from our own flock.

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Welsummer hen

One of my goals as a chicken blogger and keeper of chickens is to encourage others to join me in the wonderful journey of chicken keeping. To say chicken keeping has changed my life is an understatement. Now, I really cannot imagine my life without chickens, or the wonderful people I meet in my chicken keeping adventures!  If you’re not already a chicken keeper, hopefully this chicken blogger will be able to help change that. If you already raise chickens, hopefully I’ll enable you to go farther in your chicken keeping endeavors and maybe even move onto other fun farm animals, like sheep! 

In any case, you can now expect fun posts from me about the feathered and woolly friends here on our farm. I am truly honored to be the newest chicken blogger at this amazing hatchery, My Pet Chicken.

Yours in Chicken  Keeping,

Farmer Sam

Chicken Math – Blessing or Curse? July 25, 2014 14 Comments

Chicken math: it’s sort of an inside joke with chicken keepers. It goes something like this:You get approval from your significant other to get just a small flock–maybe five chickens, tops! How do you get to five?

Well, first you need two chocolate layers.

Black Copper Marans eggs

Marans eggs: because who doesn’t want eggs that looks so gorgeous?

Then you need two blue layersSo far so good.

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A couple Cream Legbars should provide some lovely blue eggs.

But you notice that the almost-impossible-to-get olive eggers are available on your targeted hatch day, so you add one. Okay, and maybe a Favaucana just for a different shade of green. How many is that; it can’t be more than five, right?

Then, you remember that your  daughter needs a Silkie as her special pet lap chicken.

Little girl and juvenile silkie

Chicken Math means the silkie you get your daughter doesn’t count against your flock total.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken Care Automation Part 2: DIY Chicken Project July 20, 2014 1 Comment

Several weeks ago, I blogged about how great our automatic chicken door is… but it’s not by a long shot the only accommodation we’ve made to ensure our chickens are happy, safe, and provided for when we travel.  We also engaged in a DIY chicken project or two. Along with our automatic chicken door, we adore the trough feeder and heated waterer we built ourselves. If you’re the kind of chicken keeper who’s willing to put in a little elbow grease, a DIY chicken project might be up your alley.

Your chickens (like Chloe here) will thank you.

Your chickens (like Chloe here) will thank you.

DIY Chicken Project #1: PVC Pipe Feeder

The PVC feeder we constructed holds enough food for ten chickens for about three days. Read the rest of this entry »

Hen stone – Chicken Rorschach Test July 18, 2014 No Comments

Traci recently found a stone at the beach. “It looks exactly like a hen!” she said. A hen stone.

The hen stone

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I saw the hen in the stone immediately, a bearded hen like a Faverolles. WOW! ”That’s crazy,” I said. “I can even see her beak and eyes!”

We marveled together. “She looks bearded to me,” I pointed out.

Huh? Beard?

… it was a few minutes before we realized we were seeing two completely different chickens in the hen stone. Read the rest of this entry »

4 Point Daily Coop Damage Inspection July 11, 2014 No Comments

It’s the one thing most people forget, but it’s also something that should be done daily make sure your flock is safe! It doesn’t take long; it will probably take 2 minutes or less. What is it? A daily coop damage inspection should be a part of your regular maintenance routine! 

Having a predator-secure coop is not enough. The truth is, if you have determined predators, they can do enough coop damage that they can break into any coop over a period of days, so it’s up to you to catch the coop damage in time to take steps. 

  How to do a 4 Point Daily Coop Damage Inspection

  1. Look for splintered wood near doors and windows could mean something has been trying to strong-arm its way into your coop—pry open a door or window, break a lock, or just pull out screws. Make sure to check locks and latches every day, and replace weak wood with strong, or reinforce with metal. Read the rest of this entry »

Silly Chickens and Mud Puddles June 27, 2014 6 Comments

Silly chickens. Chickens can be contrary.

  • You can provide them with the most fabulous coop, and some will want to roost in a nearby tree in the rain.
  • You can give them huge, roomy nests filled with soft, clean nesting material in a secure place, and they want to lay eggs in the dirt under your porch.
  • You can give them a dust bath you built yourself, and filled with the good stuff: diatomaceous earth, wood ash, sand and so on… and they want to dust bathe on your flower beds.
Silly chickens

You can also grow them fresh “chicken salad” greens, and they’ll still want to eat your petunias!

There are ways to deal with each of the above problems. For the first two, it helps to leave the chickens “cooped up” for a few days, so they learn to regard their coop as home (again), a safe place to lay (again). Chickens are creatures of habit, after all–you just need to get them into a new habit, or in some cases, a new old habit. You can also, with a little effort, keep them out of your landscaping and garden beds with a combination of fencing and netting.

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Read more about how to keep your chickens from scattering the mulch at this link.

There’s one thing I haven’t been able to come up with a solution for, though: how do I convince the chickens to drink from their clean waterer rather than from mud puddles? Silly chickens.

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Don’t you know you have fresh clean water inside the coop?!

Addressing the habit thing really doesn’t seem to help in this case. Keeping them cooped up inside for a few days means they drink from their waterer during that time, but as soon as they’re let out, the mud puddle habit re-establishes itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Right to Farm – Your garden and backyard flock June 13, 2014 3 Comments

On Facebook yesterday, we shared a story from Michigan. Michigan residents have just lost their Right to Farm protections. There was a variety of response to this distressing news.With the responses were a few misconceptions. For instance, some were panicked, seemingly under the mistaken impression that backyard chickens have been expressly outlawed. That’s not the case, although that doesn’t mean this news isn’t bad.

right to farm egg bounty

Take the time to love your eggs today.

Others were not panicked; they were quite unconcerned. We saw comments like this one: “the ruling just gives local councils the right to set their own ordinances regarding ‘nuisance’ farms in areas that were rural and are now more built up. I have a permit from my city to keep my poultry and it’s always been on the understanding that if they become a ‘nuisance’ there will be issues.”

These are reasonable comments, but I think it’s worthwhile to look at why losing Right to Farm protections is such a big deal. What’s a nuisance, for example? Is it the same for everyone?

right to farm - nuisance

One person’s nuisance is another person’s paradise.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Hesitant Spouse Coming to Love Chickens June 6, 2014 4 Comments

When we first got chickens so many years ago, my husband was not especially enthusiastic. Don’t get me wrong. He was never against backyard chickens. Theoretically, he liked the idea of being able to produce our own eggs. Plus real eggs are fabulous even before cracking—not boring like store eggs!

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Browns and greens and blues and speckles.

Even better, we had a wonderful friend, David, who had kept chickens for decades, and who shared his delicious eggs with us occasionally, so we already knew how delicious real eggs are.

Coming to love chickens for their eggs

Delicious breakfast: scrambled eggs and cheddar served with spicy herbed tilapia in butter, baked beans, and garlic biscuits.

But… meh. Despite all that, he didn’t know much about keeping chickens—and he wasn’t that interested in finding out. Chicken knowledge would be my job. I was happy with that. So was he. He’d still get to enjoy the “hen fruits” of our labors. And I thought he’d eventually he’d be coming to love chickens—at least a little! Skip ahead the intervening years, past the “okay, baby chicks are pretty adorable” stage, where he realized that he did enjoy watching the babies and holding them (who wouldn’t?). Read the rest of this entry »

Crested chickens – When to Ignore the Cons May 30, 2014 2 Comments

Crested chickens: To keep, or not to keep? That is the question—whether ’tis nobler in the, er, flock to suffer the obscured vision of an outrageous crest, or to keep other breeds, and by consumer choice, avoid them…

crested chicken3

Why would you want to avoid crested breeds?

There are a few good reasons to avoid crested breeds—but there are also some compelling arguments that those reasons shouldn’t automatically rule out crested chickens in your situation.

Splash silkie - crested chickens

Everyone should keep a silkie, right?

So, et’s look at the cons–and discuss when those cons don’t matter!

THE CONS OF CRESTED CHICKENS

Con # 1. Crested chickens tend to get picked on more often by other birds in the flock, because they can’t see a peck coming to avoid it!

When doesn’t that matter? Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken Care Automation Part 1: Automatic Chicken Door May 28, 2014 7 Comments

I love to travel. I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I would like, but when the opportunity comes my way I’m determined not to miss out. Usually our jaunts are a night or two at my in-laws’ cabin in Massachusetts (living in New England, you either suffer through the cold, hunkering in front of the wood stove sipping hot tea—or embrace it and go skiing. I do plenty of both). In the summer months we like to go camping and boating off Long Island sound.  We don’t go very far and we don’t go very often, but when we want to go, we go. A huge issue for anyone is what to do with the animals in your care. Our dog Ruby almost always accompanies us, and we leave her with trusted friends if we’re not going somewhere pet-friendly. Our avian pets however, are a different matter. I’ve tried to drop them off along with Ruby, but my dog-sitting friends were surprisingly averse to the idea of chicken-sitting. I’m just joking of course. Our coop is not at all mobile, and frankly, our friends are just not interested in cruising across town to tend our chickens twice a day.  In the past we have enlisted the help of neighbors, which is a great solution if it’s convenient for anyone near you. Many people will happily care for your birds in exchange for getting to keep the gorgeous and delicious eggs they’ll gather.

Neighbors are happy to help out collecting eggs,  but appreciate making fewer visits.

Neighbors are happy to help out collecting eggs, but appreciate making fewer visits.

However, where we currently live, I don’t feel comfortable asking someone to trek all the way to my coop at least two times a day, especially in the winter months when our steep driveway gets treacherous after even the slightest snow. So we’ve set up our coop and run so we can go away for an overnight or even two without requiring anyone’s attention. We usually ask a neighbor to come now and again to collect the prize eggs (and this they do happily) during peak laying seasons, but our helpers are not forced to come twice a day, and there’s no added stress of coming to close up the girls before the hellions of the predator world creep out after dark. What has made this carefree lifestyle (with chickens) a possibility? An automatic feeder, a high volume, heated waterer, and yeah, you guessed it: the automatic chicken door. We purchased a guillotine style door about a year ago, and for us, it has made all the difference. The benefits of an automatic chicken door abound. Read the rest of this entry »