Biosecurity: Difference between cleaning and sanitizing August 14, 2015 No Comments

Biosecurity for your flock means both cleaning AND sanitizing. But a lot of people don’t necessarily realize there’s a difference, or why you should be doing both. So let’s talk the basics of biosecurity.

CLEANING is simply removing the gunk. When your chickens kick up dirt, bedding or other detritus into their waterers or feeders,  you clean it back out, maybe with a scrub brush or an old washcloth. But even when thoroughly cleaned of gunk, unless you sanitize your equipment, there will be some bacteria, viruses and spores still living on the surface of the equipment. This is why you’ll need to take another step for biosecurity.

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Another step? Are my feet dirty?

Think about it: imagine, for example, that you thoroughly clean the dried up food off your dishes… with your toilet brush. Or maybe your mop. You can make your dishes shiny and pretty, and stick them in the cabinet. When you take them out, do you want to eat on them? No? Absolutely ugh, right? You need to do more than just clean off the surface gunk to achieve good biosecurity.

SANITIZING by contrast actually Read the rest of this entry »

Salmonella, the CDC, and Handling Pet Chickens July 17, 2015 5 Comments

We have always advised practicing good biosecurity with your birds. When you handle them, make sure to wash your hands—make especially sure your children wash their hands. Baby chicks look like adorable, kissable little fluff balls… but of course they are walking and pecking around in poopy litter. Erg.

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Gently handling chicks is important; just be aware that they have been walking around in litter and wash your hands when you’re done handling poultry or equipment.

While backyard pet chickens are not the “disgusting, dirty birds” commercial hens in battery cages are forced to be—battery hens live their lives in about the same space as a sheet of notebook paper, unable to ever stretch their wings—pet chickens carry germs just like pet cats and pet dogs do.

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I will lick your face. This tongue was made for lickin’!

The CDC is blaming a recent salmonella outbreak on backyard poultry owners’ affection for their birds. We find some of their advice a little disingenuous, though. Of course kissing your birds is not the most sanitary thing you could do—we advise against literally kissing your flock. After all, if they do have any bad bacteria to give you, putting it directly on your lips with a big smooch is one of the quickest ways to get sick. But Read the rest of this entry »

Strangest Egg Color I’ve Ever Gotten June 26, 2015 2 Comments

If you’ve kept chickens for any period of time, you’ve probably seen some unusual eggs. When hens first start laying their eggs may be quite small or even quite large double yolkers! They may be shell-less. Egg color can be stunning, too. In addition to white and brown, egg color may be green, chocolate, blue, olive, pink, cream, and colors in between, depending on what varieties you keep (and this is certainly strange to people used to white grocery store eggs!). Hens from time to time will lay tiny, yolkless “fairy eggs.” Then there are the eggs that have a funny shape or texture.

Unusual eggs are not usually a cause for concern, particularly if it’s just a temporary situation. Being stressed out can cause your hens to lay eggs that are smaller or larger, or to have ripples or waves in the shell. Textural differences in parts of the shell can cause color to be heavier or lighter in places, usually in mottled speckles, spots or stripes. And some differences aren’t caused by stress at all. Some breeds’ eggs naturally have a satiny sheen, while other breeds produce eggs with a dull, matte finish. Really, the variety is wonderful!

But one of my hens—and I’m not sure who, since this is not her usual egg color–has given me the strangest I’ve ever seen before… at least in person.

Her egg has swirls.

egg color: blue, green, chocolate, brown, cream

The swirly egg is in the center, surrounded by blue, green, chocolate, medium brown , and cream eggs. And the swirl is such a dark blue!

Now, contrary to popular belief, the color of the shell doesn’t indicate an egg’s healthfulness. My grandma used to tell me Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrity Lookalike Chickens June 19, 2015 No Comments

There are lots of Celebrity Lookalike Chickens out there.  Everyone with Sultans, for instance, seems to have one named Lady Gaga–we think Silkies would be great Lady Gagas, too.  Mae West is a common name for  the uncommon Silkie Showgirls. And Phyllis Diller seems to be a name that gets used a lot with various unusual breeds, too.

It’s fairly clear to me that it’s mostly the breeds with unusual plumage who get the “Celebrity Lookalike Chickens” treatment—especially when those breeds are crested. Those crazy crests just read nicely as crazy hair-dos or costumes. (Feathered legs don’t translate as well… not until there are more celebrities known for parachute or harem pants, I suppose.) But bearded breeds have potential as Celebrity Lookalike Chickens, too.

We have one that we think you’ll particularly enjoy. We think they’re soul siblings, separated at hatch! Tell us what you think: do they look alike or not?

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Separated at Hatch: Conan O’Brien and Tolbunt Polish chicken.

We think it’s a great match! They have the same Read the rest of this entry »

Free Range: Why I choose not to June 12, 2015 8 Comments

“Free Range Eggs!”

Before having chickens of my own I though this was the gold standard of eggs and what I should look for.  You don’t want eggs from chickens that are confined, right?

Well, when looking into the horror that is factory egg production I realized that a “Free Range” stamp was not all it is cracked up to be.  So I stopped buying ‘store’ eggs and started buying from a person selling her “farm fresh” eggs from her house.  Just going on taste, I was hooked and started thinking more and more about raising my own chickens for eggs.

So, commercially “free range” is not a big improvement (nor is it actually free ranging)… but for my backyard chickens, going free range is still a better choice, right?  Not for everyone.  In our Chicken Help pages, we recommend free range flock management, but point out that it isn’t always the best choice for everyone.  Shannon has blogged about why free ranging  didn’t work for her. Now I’ll explain why it doesn’t work for me.

While our hen Isa doesn't free range, she still enjoys fresh pasture while she stays protected.

Isa happily protected while exploring a fresh patch of lawn.

Ideally, I would love to free range my flock.  I have this utopian vision of a farm house with chickens all around.  Maybe someday that will be my reality—but right now it isn’t.   Two  big reasons not to free range are Read the rest of this entry »

Fodder for chickens June 5, 2015 2 Comments

It’s that time of year when your luscious green grass starts to dry up and become crunchy and brown.  It doesn’t look very appetizing, so why would your chickens want that? Wouldn’t you want a fresh green salad all year round? Well, HELLO FODDER!!!

Sprouting fodder for your chickens is similar to growing sprouts for human consumption. It’s relatively simple and quick to do! Did I say quick? It only takes 6 days for the nutritional benefits to max out.

Fodder Days 1-6

This is a fun project for kids, too, because the fodder progression is so quick!

Final - Day 6

It doesn’t even take a week to have results like this.

There are different grains you can use for sprouting fodder. The three most popular ones are: Read the rest of this entry »

Northeastern Poultry Congress 2015 May 29, 2015 No Comments

If I could find one word to describe Poultry Congress this year, it would be something between crazy, and loud! Located on the fairgrounds known regiionally for the “Big E” fair, the Northeastern Poultry Congress is an event in mid January that poultry enthusiasts in the northeast look forward to all year. Between the rows and rows of show cages, the live poultry raffles, and all the chicken celebrities we’ve read about in Backyard Poultry Magazine, it’s like heaven on earth. This year was the first time I was able to go to the show, and I really wish I had been able to go sooner!

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A bunny who stopped by the My Pet Chicken table, checking out the My Pet Chicken handbook.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to chicken blog: 5 fabulous tips May 22, 2015 No Comments

When you get pet chickens, it changes your life… so much so that you may want to write your own chicken blog. You might be surprised how foreign the concept of chicken keeping is to some people, so you may want to share your own perspective! How often do they lay? Are they friendly? How do you put them in at night? You want to share your new joy and knowledge with everyone in your own chicken blog.

Silver Laced Wyandotte - chicken blog about your beautiful flock

When you have breeds as lovely as this Silver Laced Wyandotte, it’s difficult NOT to want to chicken blog.

Here are five fabulous tips to help you get started with your own chicken blog:

1. Write. It may seem self evident, but you need to “close the deal,” so to speak. It’s easy to think of subjects for your blog posts, and somewhat less easy to follow through and actually sit down to write them out. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of chicken blogs out there, but chicken blog after chicken blog have numerous posts during the first few months of existence and then peter out to nothing within a year. Don’t let this happen to you! Keep a Read the rest of this entry »

My dog saved me from a dragon May 15, 2015 No Comments

Today we’re going to talk about factory farm chickens. But first, a story. It will tie in; just bear with me.

Yesterday, my little dog Reggie saved me from a dragon. Well, not a dragon, of course, but it may as well have been as far as he was concerned! We were taking our usual hike through our woods, and he dashed forward and woofed at something. That normally means “I see you!” or “Did you smell that, Mom?”… followed a big doggie grin at me before moving on. He’s usually trying to draw my attention to something like a chipmunk, squirrel, wild turkey, or bunny, etc.

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I smell a squirrel who has been dining on hickory nuts and rose hips.

That day I continued along after his bark, as I usually do.  But instead of going on along with me, he put himself directly in my path and began barking at ME.

This. THIS is unusual.

Reggie the dog, Reggie the AWESOME dog - Cavalier Spaniel

I’m a lover, not a barker.

So I stopped and took a look around, only to notice Read the rest of this entry »

Chunky Chicken Giveaway! April 24, 2015 305 Comments

No, we’re not giving away fat chickens. We’re giving away samples of our own My Pet Chicken branded treats, in a Chunky Chicken Giveaway!

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Look at those plump worms! Drive your chickens wild… or freak out your kids.

If you win the Chunky Chicken Giveaway, you’ll receive Read the rest of this entry »