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
- 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.
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.
- 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!
- 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!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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Have you made salt cured egg yolks before? What is your favorite dish to use them on? Tell us in the comments below.
The First Favaucana Dozen December 20, 2016 4 Comments
One of my goals with this year’s spring chick order was to add some color to my egg basket. Up until now, I’ve only had brown and cream egg layers. So the first bird on my wish list to help me accomplish this was My Pet Chicken’s exclusive Favaucana, with sage green eggs.
Why Favaucanas? Because besides the plentiful sage green eggs that I was anticipating, the Favaucana chicken was everything I look for in a breed: they’re hardy, friendly, and docile. Also gorgeous!
I didn’t need to wait long for my Favaucana girls to produce eggs, either. My black Favaucana Maisy Read the rest of this entry »
MPC Folks and Their Flocks of Chickens November 18, 2016 No Comments
Whether you are new to My Pet Chicken, new to chickens, a chicken breeder, or an old pro, you’re probably very interested to learn about the flocks of other people as soon as you hear someone say they have chickens. Flock of chickens, you say? Tell me more!
Sometimes people ask me what I have because they want to compare flocks, and other times they ask me because they want an idea of what breeds I have and why I chose them. All chicken people eventually have this conversation with someone, and most of the MPC crew has this conversation daily!
For those who know us or want to get to know us, you can tell a lot about each of us by the flocks we keep. Here is your chance to meet MPC employees and their flocks that can tell you a lot about them!
I’ll start us off on this journey through the lives of the MPC family, and their feathered friends:
Shannon’s Flock of Chickens
I’m Shannon from North Carolina and I currently have a flock of 17 chickens. We keep ducks as well. Our chickens don’t free range as we seem to have a serious coyote problem.
My birds range in age (1 year to 9 years old) as I add a few every year. Occasionally we keep a rescue, hatch our own birds or buy directly from MPC. However, we do trade birds sometimes and rehome birds that just never seem to fit into the flock dynamics. We need to keep the peace.
Currently we have one rooster, a splash Olive Egger named Pongo, and a mix of bantams and standard breeds. Cochins are our absolute favorites. I fall for birds with fuzzy feet every time. The rest are a mix of silkies, cochins (standard and bantam), Olive Eggers, Cuckoo Bluebar, Lavender Orpington, Welsummer and Black Copper Marans. We of course don’t stop with chickens. We keep ducks, a bunny, cats and our bird loving dog, Porsche.
Julie’s Flock of Chickens
DIY Phoenix Feather Wand October 31, 2016 No Comments
We’re just a bit geeky over here and we’re especially fond of Harry Potter. My middle daughter wanted to be Hermione Granger for Halloween this year. We already had the robe and hat in the costume box, but she really needed a proper wand. What’s a witch without her wand?
We had a few magic wands hanging around, but she wanted something special and she whittled this wand herself using a butter knife on a stick from our yard. She absolutely loved it, but left it on the floor downstairs one night. I accidentally stepped on it and broke it in half. (In my defense, I was carrying a HUGE load of laundry and never saw it.)
I fessed up as soon as she woke up the next day and my dear, sweet child wasn’t angry at her mother. She decided that what her wand really needed was a special, magical core, just like a real wand and we settled on a Phoenix feather for her wand core.
Where does one get a Phoenix feather in this day and age? Why from our Easter Egger hen, Phoenix:
Of course, Hermione’s wand uses a dragon heart-string, but we weren’t able to find any dragons in time. Still, chickens are related to dinosaurs, so that’s close, right?
If you have a phoenix breed chicken, that would work, too. Or you can use something for your own unique core. For our wand, we were lucky! Chickens lose a lot of feathers this time of year, so Phoenix didn’t even miss it.
DIY Phoenix Feather Wand
I carefully drilled holes in either side of the wand:
Added our Phoenix feather:
Used my magic glue:
Abracadabra! A real (real?) Phoenix feather wand!