Power Out? 3 Ways to Save the Hatching Eggs March 26, 2017 No Comments

Incubating can be such an adventure. As exciting as it is, though, there are also many things that can go wrong! When we rely on machine incubation instead of a broody hen, it’s a good idea to be prepared to save the hatching eggs in the event of an emergency power outage.

Now, don’t let the risks discourage you! Hatching eggs can be incredibly rewarding and well worth the effort—we just have to be sure we have a contingency plan in place for if something goes wrong.

Chick pipping out of her shell

Save the babies! —Stevie Wonder

Read the rest of this entry »

Cuckoo for Cuckoos – Cuckoo Bluebars, that is! March 24, 2017 No Comments

At my house, we recently had the privilege of hatching some of My Pet Chicken’s Cuckoo Bluebars, and what an experience it was! We have never ordered fertile eggs before, always hatching eggs from our existing flock, so even the shipping side was a new experience for us. You can also get cuckoo bluebar started pullets (which are older birds), but we love chicks and we love to hatch, so we started with the cuckoo bluebar eggs.

When fertile eggs are shipped, the post office is instructed to hold them for pickup, but somehow, mine slipped through and were out for delivery with the regular carrier. Our fabulous Post Master tracked down the carrier, and hand delivered them right to my door! Love when we find somebody that goes above and beyond the expectation to get the job done!

Bluebars will lay blue eggs… but they hatch out of white or cream colored eggs.

DSC_0570

Look how snugly and neatly these are packaged!

We received 20 eggs and candled immediately, looking for damage or stress cracks. We did find one egg that looked questionable. We don’t have a fancy candler; we just use a toilet paper tube and a strong flashlight, so sometimes it is not very clear. Despite the suspected crack, we put all of them in the incubator, to see what would happen. (An egg with a hairline crack should be watched closely, though. While they can sometimes hatch with no problems,  if any bacteria has gotten inside the egg through the crack, then there is a danger of the egg exploding and contaminating all your other eggs–ugh! Luckily, that didn’t happen to us.)

candling an egg that will hatch cuckoo bluebars

Candling our cuckoo bluebar eggs

We candled our cuckoo bluebar eggs again on day 11 of incubation, and pulled two eggs out of the incubator and discarded them.  One was the suspicious egg from the beginning; it did have a hairline crack, after all.  The second egg had just not developed.

Normal hatch time is 21 days, so imagine our surprise when the babies started pipping on day 19! Eventually all 18 remaining eggs hatched their little cuckoo bluebars, with only one of them “on time” at day 21. All 18 chicks were strong and healthy, so we moved them into their prepared brooder. The babies proved to be extremely hardy, fast growing and very inquisitive!

DSC_0655

Here they are dozing/sunning themselves in the warmth

Our first brooder is a kid-sized wading pool, with roof flashing as a barrier.  It generally works, for several weeks, but the cuckoo bluebars were super precocious, and flying out the first week!  By the end of week three, we moved them out from under the light, and into a big brooder cage.  They were even spending sunny days outside on the grass!

cuckoo bluebar pullets

Cuckoo bluebars: beautiful blue birds who will lay blue-green eggs

When the Cuckoo Bluebars got to be 6 weeks of age, we moved them to an outside brooder, with roosting space up high, and access to the ground.  They’re so curious and try to follow us around when we’re outside.  They always want to see what we are doing, but also seem to be very predator wary.

Also… gorgeous, right?

I think the Cuckoo Bluebars will be a wonderful addition to my flock.

My Pet Chicken has 100 different breeds and varieties of chicken, many in assortments of rare breeds, and available no where else! What breeds are on your wishlist… cuckoo bluebars? Jubilee Orpingtons? Cream Legbars?  something else?

 

Inside Birdbrains: Chicken Joke Survey Results! March 23, 2017 No Comments

The Most Comprehensive Survey of Chickens Ever!

Finally—after incubating the idea for months—the results have hatched!  Through months of vigorous surveying by phone and chicken joke focus groups, My Pet Chicken was able to interview more than 10,000 American chickens from a variety of breeds, geographic locations, and socio-economic situations. Our Annual Report on What Chickens Think—Groaner Version—is here!

Chicken saying "epic!" chicken joke

Epic chicken joke survey results

We’d like to thank all the birds who completed the interviews and didn’t make a straight run for the door, accepting our invitation to vent their opinions on a free range of subjects, including sports, current events, pop culture, and more.

If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on inside those bird-brains, here’s a sneak peak into what chickens think:

Top TV Shows for Chickens

What do chickens enjoy watching on the small screen?  The results may surprise you:

  1. Favorite drama – The Eggs Files
  2. Favorite variety show – America’s Got Talons
  3. Favorite comedy – It’s Always Sunny Side Up in Philadelphia

Surprisingly, “Who’s Line is it, Anyway?” was mentioned by several of those who responded.  Why?  One Barred Rock from Plymouth explained:

barred rock chicken joke

.

Top Movies for Chickens

What about their favorite movies?  You might have eggspected one of the recent Hollywood blockbusters?  Not eggsactly.  While chickens enjoy crossing the road to see new movies, the #1 answer among our participants was the 2004 comedy, “Meet the Flockers.”

Yeah, we were surprised, too!

Top Music for Chickens

When asked about their favorite music, the answers were as varied as the breeds themselves.  Here’s what we discovered:

  1. Favorite artist among the brooder generation – The Dixie Chicks (who knew youngsters are such country fans?)
  2. Favorite artist among the roosters – Sheryl Crow
  3. Favorite artist among Golden Buff (Red Stars) – The Sex-Link Pistols

While we were surprised at the diversity among breeds and ages in regard to their preferred musicians, there was no disagreement about the least favorite band of all time: The Eagles. (Apparently the name itself makes them feel vulnerable).

But one music group was consistently a favorite among all the demographic groups for our chicken joke survey, and can safely be called American chickens’ all-time favorite music group: The Beatles

One Speckled Sussex pullet summed up how chickens feel about the Beatles:

chicken joke: chicken joker

.

Football for Chickens

Who knew that chickens have such strong opinions about the pigskin?  It turns out that many breeds consider themselves very lucky to skip Sunday dinner to enjoy watching a game.  Here are the results of our survey:

  • Favorite teams: Houston Teggsans and the New England Incubatriots
  • Least favorite teams: Oakland Nest Raiders and Pittsburgh Egg Stealers

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  A vast majority of our respondents listed the following teams as being so hated, they almost can’t stomach watching the games: the Panthers, Falcons, Eagles, Seahawks, Bears, and Jaguars.  We asked them why these teams are so hard to watch, and one young cockerel replied:

“Those teams all suffer from bad cochin.  They illegally target their opponents.  It’s not right.  I’d rather watch the Olympics, especially the Welsummer Games.”

Political Issues

That’s just the beginning of the results of our chicken joke survey and we’ll unveil more in upcoming blog posts.  But for now, we’d like to conclude with perhaps the most surprising result of our survey.

For all the chickens, across all breeds, from patriotic Silver Spangled chickens to every Rhode Island Red, White Leghorn, and Blue Andalusian in between, one political issue was on top of everyone’s list:

Flock eating chickweed

.

Stay tuned to the My Pet Chicken blog for more!

Chicken Consultant: Top 3 Most Difficult Questions March 21, 2017 1 Comment

It’s the Chicken Consultant again! You know me…chicken chatting is my profession. That in itself is difficult enough to explain to people when they run into me at the store, at a party or simply out and about in town.  It does for sure cause a hold up on my errand days though. My store trip can go from a 5 minute “run in and run out” to a 30 minute discussion about a down-and-out hen for a lucky shopper who ran into me.

Some situations with your bird can be outside the norm. This Chicken Consultant sure doesn’t have all the answers! This means I’ve been stumped more than once by some poultry mysteries. So, though I’m here to help, I may not have the answers you need. I sure do help as best I can, even if  I can only get you on the right path to finding answers.

These top 3 difficult questions are often best answered by thoughtful consideration, visiting veterinary experts, and/or process of elimination.

Top 3 most difficult questions for a Chicken Consultant

  1. My chicken is acting sick! What can I do to get her better?

    This is especially difficult for a Chicken Consultant to answer, because there are many  illnesses  a chicken can get, just like there are many illnesses humans can get. If you have a cough, is it bronchitis? The flu? Pneumonia? Whopping cough? Allergies? You may have to go to the doctor to figure out what you’re dealing with. Likewise, your chicken may have to visit the vet to get a firm diagnosis.Just like us, chickens can show many different signs of illness, and those signs can indicate multiple possibilities. If your chicken is ill, she may have picked up a bacterial infection, a virus, or a parasite. And I’m just not going to know which—not over the phone, not in person with you, and maybe not even if I could see and handle your bird. Remember, I’m a chicken consultant not a trained veterinarian! Another thing to consider is that since chickens are prey animals—many predators likes a chicken dinner—your pet’s instinct is to hide signs of illness if s/he can, so s/he won’t be picked out by a predator.

    I’m feeling fine–leave me alone!

    So, be thorough checking your chickens for signs of illness. Do it regularly, even if they seem to be acting healthy! Check under their feathers, be aware of cuts, or scrapes. Keep an eye out for creepy crawly bugs under their feathers. Check for bruising or discoloration of skin. Be aware of comb color, as a pale comb is an indication of illness though sometimes my birds combs go pale after a molt because they’re just not going to be laying for awhile.

    And if a chicken passes away from an illness the only way to know for sure is a necropsy done as soon as possible. This will answer your concerns about not only why your bird passed, but whether your remaining flock could be threatened by the same problem.

  2. What breed is this white/black/brown/etc. chicken I got in my order/yard/road/etc.?
    In North America alone, there are hundreds of breeds or chickens. Within those breeds, they come in different sizes (large fowl, bantam) as well as different colors. Sometimes chick color barely even helps narrow the field of possibilities.  Some completely different breeds of the same color are extremely hard to distinguish from one another. IDing chicks is often all in the details. You can send us a photo and we Chicken Consultants can try to help as well. Just be aware there are lots of barnyard mixes out there, essentially crosses of several breeds. I also suggest searching My Pet Chicken’s chicken breed page. It has lots of wonderful images and explanations of the breeds. Even if you end up with a mixed breed, it may be a run of the mill mutt to chicken breeders, but we hope you found yourself a new friend for life whatever she/he is!

  3. Why didn’t my hatching eggs all hatch?
    This is a toughy. Whether you gave a broody hen the responsibility of hatching her own young, or collected eggs and placed them in your own incubator, hatching is a difficult task. What went wrong, and what went right can be difficult to determine.Remember, fertile eggs won’t develop into chicks just because they’re fertile. Chickens can leave nests early. There could be bacterial contamination at play. Temps and humidity can be off in an incubator, whether it’s homemade, high end, new, old, or somewhere in between. As a Chicken Consultant, I don’t really have any good way of knowing what happened in your incubator or under your broody.I can say that when I’m hatching at home, I play it safe and buy a thermometer to add to my incubator, because I’ve learned that my digital reading says 103 degrees but in reality its 99 degrees. Going by the digital reading originally, I didn’t have very good hatches as you can imagine!chicken consultant: what went wrong with my hatch?Here’s what you can do to increase your hatch rate. First, if you’ve had a bad hatch, check out our incubation troubleshooting guide to see if you can help narrow down the cause.I also always suggest running an incubator for a few days with your thermometer in place and just watch. Make sure the humidity doesn’t drop and the temps stay stable with no drops or spikes.  Keep the incubator away from drafty windows, out of the sun, don’t unplug it or move it. Hatching can be touchy, and even developing chicks can stop developing and pass inside the egg. Most importantly, I suggest reading the My Pet Chicken Incubation guide through before starting, and refer to it if you have any issues during the incubation.

As you can see sometimes a chicken question just doesn’t have a straightforward answer. The answer won’t be the same for everyone who calls the Chicken Consultant. However, there is a way for you to get the answers you are looking for, if you’re looking in the right place.

Do you have a tough question you just couldn’t find the answer to?

 

Chicken privacy March 10, 2017 7 Comments

I was ready for many adventures when I decided to start keeping chickens! I imagined us all in the garden working and snacking together. I envisioned us napping on the hammock under the summer sun. I knew we would have many interesting conversations, even though I don’t know how to cluck! The one thing that I failed to see was the loss of my privacy. Chicken privacy is something different—-something I didn’t expect!

Buff orpington hamming it up for the camera

Buff Orpington

MY privacy started to turn into “chicken privacy” little by little. First with little peeks in the window: ‘Hello, hi, are you busy? Got any treats?’

“Yes, I have treats… and how can I refuse? Look at you, so cute peeking in my window asking politely.”

Of course, I opened the door to give her the treats.

The was the first moment I began to experience chicken privacy

Fern peeks in to check for treats.

Here’s where it got hairy. Or maybe feathery. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken Coop Fire – Moving On After Tragedy March 8, 2017 10 Comments

I killed them all.

Eighteen faithful hens, some very old, from our original, first flock.

One beautiful Buff Orpington rooster: Captain Fluffybutt!

It was all my fault. I cared too much! February 15, 2015: it was really cold,  about 5 degrees. It was also really windy, and it had been dry for a long time. Surely they needed an additional heat source, right? At least enough to keep their water from freezing?

Sure, I thought. So I mounted the heat lamp lower to the ground than usual, closer to the waterer.

Big mistake…

chicken coop fire

Read the rest of this entry »

Snow on a Texas Flock February 2, 2017 1 Comment

Like many of us with backyard flocks, I’ve been anxiously tracking the forecast. In Texas we don’t get much snow, but our temperatures can drop low! I had been hearing all week that the snow and ice would miss us, so I wasn’t expecting much outside of freezing temperatures. Little did I know there would soon be snow for my Texas flock!

Snow on a Texas flock

Snow in Texas? What should I do to prepare my Texas flock.

For that reason—and in true procrastinator form—I waited until the day before the cold front hit to winterize my coop and prepare my Texas flock. In my over-sized jacket, I grabbed a tarp, zip ties, and duct tape. My coop wasn’t going to pretty, but it was going to be warm!

When cold weather comes, I usually surround the exterior of my run with tarps so that wind can’t whip through the hardware mesh. Since right now I have young juveniles who stay in the coop, I decided to wrap up the coop portion instead.

Wrapping a tarp around the coop

I built the coop myself, and while I’m proud of my ingenuity, I didn’t do a great job with making it draft free. There are significant gaps between the planks on the walls that needed to be covered.

My egg door was going to be a problem due to the large gaps between the planks of wood, so I folded a large trash sack and duct taped it over the door (I told you it wasn’t going to be pretty).

With numb fingers, I headed back inside.

I woke up in the morning to the freezing temperatures I expected, and ran out to the coop to check on my birds. They were all safe inside the coop! The waterer had iced over so cleaned it out and refilled it.

Every year I debate buying a warmer for the waterers, but the temperatures always rise before I make the purchase. Thanks to my indecision, I got to pick ice out of the waterer with my fingers, brrr!  I can say that next year I’ll be more responsible, but the odds are not in my favor!

Chicken in snow

Snow on a Texas Flock

As the day progressed snow started to lightly coat the ground. Snow on my Texas flock!

Every hour or so I would venture out to check on my flock and their waterers. My tarp held up, so no wind or snow made it into the coop! I moved my computer by the window and enjoyed watching the snow fall while I answered my emails.

It was too cold for my Chick Pack juveniles to play in the snow, but my older girls loved it! I don’t force them outside when it’s cold, but I leave the door open and let them venture out if they feel up to it.

To those of you who live with constant freezing temperatures, my hat is off to you! May you and your flocks stay warm this season. Thanks to the crazy Texas weather, we will be back to 70 degree weather in a week.

Decorating Blown Eggs–and Giveaway! January 25, 2017 28 Comments

Decorating eggs can be year-round fun—and decorating blown eggs means you can keep your egg art in the long term.

Decorating blown eggs: steps

Blowing and decorating eggs is super easy!

Decorating blown eggs is a great project for all ages and abilities. With a simple and inexpensive egg blowing tool and some art supplies, you can enjoy year round crafts with your chickens’ eggs.  You’ll also be enjoying lots of quiche, scrambled eggs, frittatas… Yum!

And we want to encourage you by giving away three of our one-hole egg blowers. (We’ve also put this on sale for our readers if you’re not lucky enough to win!) Read on to see how to win a blown egg tool for your decorating project.

How-To: Decorating Blown Eggs

1 . Select the eggs you’ll use. 

You may use a variety of chicken, duck, turkey, or quail eggs. When choosing your eggs to decorate, it’s fun to play around with different colors and sizes.

img_0608

Using different colored eggs adds to the fun of the project

A large blue egg from a Super Blue Egg Layer can make a nice backdrop for a painted flower. Speckled eggs are my favorite to decorate with, although any shape or color is fine to use. Read the rest of this entry »

Small flock guidelines for FDA’s new rules January 22, 2017 No Comments

If you keep chickens and haven’t yet heard about the FDA’s recent rules and standards changes please take a moment to read them. In this post, we’ll provide some small flock guidelines and reminders to help you understand what this means for your pet chickens.

New rules set in place for increased food safety and security have changed the accessibility  of many medications for your backyard chickens. Previously, you might go to your local farm and feed store to pick up antibiotics, but now, a licensed veterinarian is required to diagnose your chicken/s and prescribe antibiotics for your flock.

Small flock guidelines: pictured, a small flock

My small flock

The changes and rules that make it easier for factory farms, now present challenges to small farms as well as people who keep pet chickens in microflocks. Veterinarians who see poultry are not easy to find in many locations.  Many small flock owners are now realizing they may not have a vet service to go to in case of flock illness. So what to do if your flock becomes sick?

Before we get to the small flock guidelines, keep in mind your flock may never have a need for a vet visit. And there are lots of great ways to be proactive in keeping your flock healthy. My Pet Chicken provides wonderful information—for free—to help keep a healthy flock going strong.

There are also medications available you can get without a licensed vet—be sure to read the directive at the link above. But there are also things you can do to increase biosecurity and improve the healthfulness of your flock’s environment.

Small Flock Guidelines for the new FDA Rules

1. Boost Immune Health:

The first of our small flock guidelines involves providing immune supplements. Do your research, and choose your favorite. I’m a multipurpose girl myself; I don’t like to bog down my flocks’ diet with so many different supplements. My personal favorite supplement for immune health is the RoPa Poultry Oregano Oil Complete. This product goes into your chickens’ waterer on a daily basis. It builds gut flora health and helps reduce the need for antibiotics, among other things.

small flock guidelines: boost immune health with supplements like ROPA (pictured)

2. Practice Good Biosecurity:

Simple biosecurity procedures can make a world of difference for you and your flock. We suggest you read our detailed biosecurity guidelines.  But generally speaking, you should try to be aware of the risks of cross contamination. Don’t share equipment and don’t take used equipment from other people. It’s best to buy new items and deep clean them as often as possible. And reduce risks as much as possible. Keep wildlife out of your birds’ area, and don’t let your dear friends with chickens wander through your coop/run area. Bacteria, fungal spores, viruses can all hitch a ride on their clothes or shoes.

At MPC we practice what we preach: I personally have a pair of shoes I use specifically to wear out with the chickens when we’re feeding and cleaning. I don’t wear the chicken shoes to my friends’ homes. And I use an aviary netting around my chicken fencing to keep out wild birds. Since we do a lot to keep the large predators away, it makes sense to do our best to keep the disease and pathogen carriers out of the coop and run areas as well.

small flock guidelines: pictured, aviary netting

3. Create a List of Emergency Contacts NOW:

It’s a good time to identify the nearest vet that will see chickens—before you need one. Get that phone number on file.

If your search for a vet has turned up empty, we suggest reaching out to your local county extension office to ask their advice. They have many good contacts in their system to share with you. They may even have classes, or provide local warnings and advisories as to agricultural concerns in your area. You can also consider reaching out to any agricultural or veterinary school in your area to see if they have resources available.

Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a good reference book or two for your library. The My Pet Chicken Handbook is great to have on hand because in addition to care, tips, recipes and so on, it has a section explaining how to make the determination if something you’re seeing warrants a vet visit. For information about symptoms and overviews of specific illnesses, you can visit the Health category of the Help Topics section of our website.  The Chicken Health Handbook is also a valuable reference on this subject.

My Pet Chicken wishes you and your flock the best health possible and a happy 2017!

Salt-Cured Eggs January 20, 2017 2 Comments

I am always excited to try a new egg recipe, and I thought I’d share this easy recipe for salt-cured eggs with you, too.

Salt-cured egg yolks are solid, dry cured discs that can be used grated, sliced, or crumbled, almost like a cheese. They add a salted creamy flavor to any dish. It’s simple to do and will make any dish seem gourmet!  So don’t let those egg yolks go to waste.

How to make salt-cured eggs

Salt-cured eggs  are easy and delicious!

How To Make Salt-Cured Eggs

Step 1: Select the eggs you’ll use.

You may choose any size chicken eggs. For this recipe, I used eggs from my Svart Hona, Pippi, which tend to be on the smaller side. It’s important to remember that the larger the yolk you use, the longer it will take to cure. You can see on our website how to cook with different-sized eggs such as you might get from your backyard flock.

eggs for use in making salt-cured egg yolks

Cream Svart Hona eggs.

Step 2: Salt-cure the egg yolks

Combine equal parts salt and sugar. I use 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar to cure four eggs in an 8×8 inch glass baking dish. You may also add different dried herbs such as basil, rosemary, or thyme for an additional flavor.

egg yolks placed in salt-sugar mixture for curing

Egg yolks placed in the salt-sugar mixture.

Spread mixture evenly in the dish and make small indents for the egg yolks to rest in. Separate the egg yolks from the whites, being careful not to break them and place one yolk in each indent. Cover yolks completely with salt/sugar mixture. Then, cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate for 4-7 days. During the next 4 to 7 days the salt helps dry out the yolks, and will also kill the bacteria that makes food spoil, while the sugar will feed lactobacillus (a good bacteria you might find in yogurt or kimchi).

Step 3: Rinse the salt-cured eggs.

After the 7th day, you are now ready to remove the yolks from their salt-sugar mixture. Brush remaining salt-sugar mixture off yolks and gently run under cold water until all of the salt-sugar mixture is removed.

salt-cured egg yolks before final drying

The yolks should look similar to this once rinsed off carefully.

Step 4: Complete the final drying of the salt cured eggs.

You will now need to pat off any excess moisture with a paper towel. Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 150 degrees for 2 hours. You may also place in a dehydrator for a couple hours. Once done, the salt cured egg yolks are a perfect consistency for grating and crumbling!

salt cured egg yolks

Grated and crumbled salt cured egg yolks.

Step 5: Enjoy!

The possibilities of this garnish are endless! The yolks will taste great crumbled, grated or sliced over many dishes.  The yolks will stay fresh in a sealed container for up to three months.

One of the many reasons salt cured eggs appealed to me is that you can use them on so many different dishes. So far I have enjoyed it on salads, pasta, crumbled on roasted vegetables, and soups.

salt cured eggs on a salad

A fresh salad with grated salt cured egg yolk on top.

Have you made salt cured egg yolks before? What is your favorite dish to use them on? Tell us in the comments below.