Fresh greens mean healthier eggs April 3, 2013 5 Comments
I love my flock! Watching their funny antics, getting mobbed when I show up with treats, and being adored by a few lap chickens is rewarding, but being able to supply my family with delicious, healthy eggs from happy hens is one of the main reasons I keep chickens. Hens with access to fresh greens will give you tastier and more nutritious eggs than caged hens that subsist only on chicken feed.
Many flock owners don’t need to give a second thought as to how to supply their free-range chickens with fresh greens during much of the year, but not everyone can safely free-range their flock. Other flock owners, like myself, may live in more inhospitable areas without much grass.
Even though my own hens are able to spend part of each day out in the backyard, my family lives in a hot, desert area, which means naturally growing greens are not that abundant. My chickens do seem to enjoy dining on the short bermuda grass that grows in my yard, but they enjoy eating the occasional wide-leaved weed and leafy greens even more. Thankfully there are other ways, besides letting our flocks free-range, for getting those nice, dark yolks. Gardening is one of them.
Although leafy greens and other vegetables are healthy for chickens to eat, it is not a good idea to give your flock free access to your garden. Unfortunately, chickens are not careful to eat only what we wish and they can demolish your entire garden in one afternoon (trust me, I know). Besides devouring the tasty parts of your plants, they also love to scratch around and dustbathe in the soft soil. I’ve learned that I even have to lock up the flower pots, lest my flowers be dug up and all my nice potting soil be expelled from the pots during these dustbathing frenzies.
Gardening for your chickens is still a good idea, as long as you offer the plants some protection. I keep a fence around my garden to keep the chickens and the dogs out and I throw out extra seedlings, weeds, and goodies to the chickens, who gobble them up. I also planted a My Pet Chicken’s packet of Chicken Salad Seed Mix for my hens last year and they loved it.
You can also try something like this Chicken Run Raised Bed, if you would like to build a special garden for your chickens to dine from.
For the most part, fresh greens can be a healthy part of your flock’s diet, but some plants are not safe for chickens to eat. You can click here for more information on unhealthy plants and even a partial list of poisonous plants. You’ll also want to be careful about using chemicals to kill weeds and/or insects in your yard—these chemicals could be toxic to your chickens. Your chickens may be a bit of help to you in both areas—they like to eat certain weeds and chickens love to eat bugs too! Be sure to keep your lawn mowed—short grass is much safer for your flock to eat than long cut grass—long grass can cause an impacted crop.
During the winter, when there are no plants left in my garden, I purchase a huge bag of spinach from a warehouse type store so that the hens still get some greens each day. Besides fresh greens, there are many other healthy treats you can give your flock. What are some of your chickens’ favorite treats from the garden?
5 Reasons to Reduce Your Egg Candling March 31, 2013 300 Comments
Egg candling can be a most addictive experience. Years ago, when I first started home incubation, egg candling would begin on the third day, and then happened again nearly every day thereafter until lockdown. I couldn’t get enough.
Secluded in a dark room with a very strong flashlight, I would imagine my pile of eggs developing and hatching into the most beautiful flock that would ever grace my part of the county. Witnessing the embryo jump and move through the shell during egg candling was almost as exciting as watching my own baby on the ultrasound machine when I was pregnant. My imagination would not cease until the babies finally hatched and were moved into their brooder… where yet another addiction would take over—chick watching—but that’s another story. THIS story is about the problems that arose for me when egg candling was done too often.
Here are five reasons why egg candling too often has caused problems for me:
1. I discarded viable eggs.
I’ve learned that there is really no reason for me to candle an egg prior to the 10th day. If egg candling happens any sooner than that, Read the rest of this entry »
5 ways to save money on chickens March 22, 2013 18 Comments
Can you save money on chickens? You bet! Keeping chickens is inexpensive and rewarding… and everyone seems to want to keep chickens these days.
After all, chicken feed is synonymous with cheap, and you also get the benefit of beautiful, healthy eggs and fun pets. There is an upfront cost to get started, though, and that cost scares some people away from pursuing the hobby. It shouldn’t! The truth is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started with chickens. If you’re one of the people who hasn’t started because you’re worried about the upfront cost, let me ease your mind and share some ways you can start the hobby for next to nothing. Read the rest of this entry »
My blind hen Hildy – Learning to find food March 15, 2013 8 Comments
How can you teach a blind hen to forage if she can’t see what’s on the ground? That was the problem that presented itself to us when Hildy learned to go outside.
When our blind hen learned to use the coop door to come outside, we were thrilled—but also frightened and worried for her. Read the rest of this entry »
My Blind Hen Hildy – Going home to roost March 8, 2013 14 Comments
One of our biggest worries relating to Hildy our blind hen was that, while she had learned to leave the coop, she hadn’t learned how to go back in. This made a certain amount of sense, given her disability. After all, when leaving the coop in the morning, she was going toward a bright patch that opened into an even brighter area: the outside. But to go back in, there was no bright patch: just darkness. Our blind hen would have had to go from an area where she could see a little bit, into an area where it was dark and much more difficult to perceive her surroundings.
She just never learned to do it.
For her entire life, we would have to carry her in at night. She was sweet and affectionate with people–speckled sussex chickens often are–and there was a certain charm to the chore, mind you. Guests would often ask if they could carry our blind hen in for us: she was friendly to a fault. Sometimes Hildy would come to “knock” on the door when she was ready to go inside: tap tap tap went her beak. Scratch scratch went her feet. Read the rest of this entry »
Backyard Chicken Class 101 March 7, 2013 16 Comments
I recently taught my first backyard chicken class–what a blast! Over the years, I’ve answered a lot of chicken-related questions, but I find that hands-on demonstrations really help with in-depth understanding.
This was the first official chicken class I’ve taught… but honestly I’ve taught “unofficially” for years. For instance, we’ve had guests and friends to our property numerous times who wandered straight over to the chicken pens, and immediately started asking questions. Several of the people I helped unofficially are now happy chicken owners. It sure makes me feel good to help them get started, so that led me to put together my very first chicken class. Read the rest of this entry »
My Blind Hen Hildy – Free Ranging March 1, 2013 11 Comments
For the first few years, our blind hen Hildy didn’t ever leave the coop on her own. This was something of a relief. After she recovered from her injury and learned to find the feeder on her own, it gave her unmolested time to eat and drink from the feeders and waterers, since the rest of the flock was outside foraging and enjoying the day.
When Hildy got to be around three years old, though, she started venturing outside. We’re not sure what prompted it; it may have been the simple discovery of the doorway: “WOW! I can walk through that bright patch in the corner of the coop!”
Eggshell Planters February 25, 2013 5 Comments
It’s the time of year to start thinking about the garden, and again I’m finding myself with heaps of empty egg shells. Of course the shells can go directly into the compost pile, but I’m always trying to find new uses for them so nothing goes to waste. Last year, I raved about our “Homemade Monster Tomato Fertilizer” which uses dried and crushed eggshells as a fertilizer ingredient. This year, I thought why spend so much on seed starting pots, when a few seeds can easily germinate in a simple, nutrient-rich eggshell? They’re a great, inexpensive and bio-degradable way to start your seeds. Plus, eggshell planters also make the perfect project for little hands, so get your kids involved!
Hildy the blind hen – Pecking order February 22, 2013 25 Comments
Last week I wrote about my blind hen, Hildy; she was completely blind in one eye, and seemed to have very limited vision in her other eye. I’ll tell another story about Hildy this week. (It’s wonderful to be able to share stories about a hen with people who understand how much personality chickens can have!)
I mentioned last week that the injury leading to her blindness had dropped her in the pecking order. My flock has plenty of space to forage, since they free range, and there is plenty of space also at feeders, waterers, roosts, nests, etc., so pecking order disputes were (and remain) mild. I wasn’t that worried about her pecking order status; it would have to be what it had to be. I was more worried that allowing a blind hen to free range would mean we’d lose her to a predator one day. Read the rest of this entry »
My blind hen, Hildy February 15, 2013 40 Comments
I’ve sort of hesitated writing about Hildy, my blind hen. Why? I get emotional about her. Of all the chickens I’ve had, she was one of my absolute favorites. She died a little more than a year ago. But I was looking through some old photographs, and I made it through without crying, so maybe it’s time.
We don’t think Hildy was a completely blind hen; rather, she was mostly blind. Read the rest of this entry »