Month : May 2011

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Chickens Eggs

Handcrafted Egg Carrier

Yesterday was my birthday.  We spent Saturday with friends and they surprised me with wonderful presents.  One of those happened to be this awesome wooden egg carrier handcrafted by their friend!  It is so unique and versatile.  You can use it to carry eggs as you collect them from the nesting boxes or place it on a shelf in the fridge to hold your eggs, keeping them safe until ready for use.  I am so lucky to have such thoughtful friends that know how much I adore my chickens.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens

Silkie Bantams

Silkie Bantams are some of the most adorable little chickens you will ever lay your eyes upon.  They are thought to be the oldest breed of ornamental chickens, first discovered by Marco Polo during his travels to China in the 13th century.  Marco Polo described them as “fur covered fowl with black skin”.  They are unique for a number of reasons.  In addition to their black skin, their feathers grow such that they retain the soft fuzzy feeling of a baby chick.  They also have feathered feet and five toes instead of the traditional four.

Silkie Bantams are also much smaller than the standard sized breeds.  They will grow to about half of the standard size.  Their eggs too are miniature, equalling about half the size of a standard’s egg.  Silkie Bantams are reliable egg layers when they are not in a broody stage.  That being said, Silkie Bantams are a chicken that tend and like to be broody.  They will even go broody without the presence of eggs.  They make excellent mothers and will easily adopt baby chicks of a different breed. 

Silkie Bantams also make fantastic pets and adapt easily and quickly to being handled due to their sweet and docile nature.  They are the perfect chicken for children.  Silkie Bantams come many shades including black, lavender/splash, buff, partridge and white.

Currently, Dolly, Feathers, Autumn and Fifi are our Silkies.  They all have won a special place in my heart due to their kindhearted nature.  Dolly is an incredibly dedicated mother and has raised her own brood as well as adopted a Silver Laced Wyandotte chick as her own.  She is an incredible nurturer and makes a fantastic mother.  They all do not mind being handled.  They also seem to influence one another to go broody.  Often they will pair off together, and sit in the boxes waiting for eggs to arrive.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Wisdom Learned from Chickens

 

Go to bed early.
Wake up when the sun rises.

 

Don’t forget to look down at your feet sometimes.
If you look hard enough, you will always discover a reward.

 

Take care of those smaller than you.

 

Be cautious of large dark shadows.
Take a bath everyday.

 

Remember to eat and enjoy your fruits and vegetables.

 

Don’t forget to kiss and make-up.
Never go to bed mad.

Photo Credits: RhodeIslandRead, Merydith, Arkadyevna, DasMiller and hardworkinghippy

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Chicken T.V.

Sometimes I find myself outside next to the coop or watching the girls free-range.  Often, I lose track of time, sitting there, just watching.  Frankly, watching chickens is like watching a good t.v. show and I find it not only incredibly therapeutic but relaxing!

Chicken t.v. is always different.  You never know what will happen and each time you tune in, you learn something new about your flock.  Plus, we have all sorts of genres occurring out there!  When Chocolate was still with us, it was like watching a romantic comedy.  He was a big flirt.  He would lure the girls over with treats.  Some of the girls adored him, and others, like Oyster Cracker, never fell for his charms.  Instead, she often treated his advances like one would treat a bad date.

We have westernlike showdowns too.  Lately, these showdowns have been occuring more frequently as the mini-chickens are finding their place in the pecking order.  First, they meet head on.  Then, they move their heads side to side.  If no one steps down, then they elongate their necks and stand as tall as they can.  Finally, someone gives, the other receives a peck and life continues on like nothing ever happened.

We also have game shows too.  These are the funniest times when the girls are playing with their treat ball.  The wire ball is filled with goodies like a halved apple, a head of broccoli, or a large juicy tomato.  The girls take turns wacking it like a pinata.  It swings wildly and sometimes spins.  It is a game to the girls.  It keeps them occupied and gives them tasty rewards.  This is one of my favorite things to watch.

We also have dramas.  Sometimes, they are like a good medical show.  If you saw yesterday’s post Sunshine had an injury that we had to tend to.  Sometimes they are like a mystery, like when Dolly fooled the girls with her disappearing act!  Sometimes, they are even sad, like day we rehomed Chocolate and Meesha. Some days are filled with drama, complete soap operas.

Finally, we have an occasional Broadway musical, mostly from Tilly.  The girls will sing their little hearts out.  Some are altos and some are sopranos.  Some sing lead and others back-up.  I think that Tilly does most of the singing, especially when new treats come or she is laying an egg, or she wants to free range.

I love chicken t.v.!

Chickens Health Issues

Boo Boo #2

Poor Sunshine!  I came home today and realized that she not only had a bloody beak but she also had a bloody comb.  I was not entirely sure what happened but I found her sitting alone inside the coop on the roost.  I scooped her up for a closer examination, wrapping her in a towel to keep her still.  She had managed somehow to reinjure herself.

I gently cleansed her blood away with a moist paper towel.  The back of her comb and beak were both injured.  Truthfully, it looked a lot worse than it truly was.  She closed her eyes with trust as I cleaned her off.  I returned her to the run and then started looking around for the source of injury.

I had cleaned the coop out today, to freshen the girls up for the long weekend.  I looked inside and saw that the hanging feeder had dried droplets of blood on it.  Immediately, I realized that she had reinjured herself again on the chain.  I had removed the sharp piece that I found last time, but I soon realized that this is my chicken who loves shiny things like jewelry.  When I put the feeder back, I did not place it on the bottom link in the chain.  As she likes to eat from the top of the feeder, she must have caught her beak inside one of the extra links near the bottom!

I feel terrible.  I feel like a terrible chicken mom.  This is the second time she has been injured despite my best attempts.  I cannot help but blame myself for her injuries.  I am going to have to figure out a better way. It’s times like these that a hencam would come in very handy!

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Chickens Predators

Free Ranging Solution

 

Cooper’s Hawks, like this one, used to be called
“chicken hawks” in the days of the early settlers.

Are you nervous to let your flock free range for a number of reasons?  I too find that I need to supervise the girls whenever they are out.  Here on Cape Cod, we have many predators including fisher cats, coyotes, raccoons, fox, hawks and weasels.  I find it entirely sad when my chickens come to the run door and ask to go outside.  They come and snuggle with me and sometimes the little Silkies pop out between my legs!  However, I usually cannot let them out unless I have about an hour to give to them while I babysit, standing by on predator watch.  The other issue that I have is that not all of the chickens are as easy to catch.  In the past,  I have spent over 3 hours trying to catch a rouge chicken.  As the days get longer, it is nice that the flock has so much daylight.  In fact, it seems to be getting dark around 8 pm lately.  At that time, the girls go into the coop and roost for the night.

About 30 minutes to 1 hour before the girls go to roost, think about letting them out to free range.  At this time, most wild animals are transitioning from day to night.  It seems to be a relatively “safe” time for the flock.  Leaving the run and coop door open, the girls will naturally return to the safety of their coop before it gets dark. Once you see they have all returned, lock them in for the night.  If you find that one is still missing.  With a flashlight, look up in the trees.  You should find your girl perched upon a branch.  She will be easy to catch as chickens cannot see in the dark.  Scoop her up off the branch and return her to her family. This works perfectly for my small flock of seven hens. I can easily keep tabs on each and everyone of them.

Chickens love to free range.  They seem happier and the also seem to lay better tasting eggs as a result of their scavenging.  Free ranging your flock is possible.  It just means you need to take some precautions to ensure their safety.

Photo Credit: P.Crosson

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Mr. Sunshine Returns

Well Tilly, I think we found a patch of sun

The sun is finally shining once again.  I bet the girls never thought that they would ever see it again.  The were out free ranging and enjoying the sunshine.  The grass is finally greening up and the woods are filling in again with leaves.

Dragging a branch!

The girls are so silly.  Tilly dragged this branch around like a prize for a while.  I have found them eating the seed pods of the oak trees.  I am a bit concerned as I think it does not make them feel good.  Oyster Cracker has especially been eating them.  Her comb and wattle seems pale throughout the day.  However, her spunk, attitude and egg laying remain the same.

 

The coop and run are beginning to shape up too.  The pathways are mulched and the grass is returning.  Everyone is happy the sun is out today.  I plan to put in a chicken herb garden in the flower beds around the coop.  I think the girls are going to love it!  What are your plans for your coop this Spring?

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Three Feathered Heroines

Three Silkie Bantams enjoy a breakfast of bugs

Termites were found in one of the new planting beds at my son’s school.  As we are practicing organic gardening techniques, it was only natural to think of the chickens to help eradicate these unwanted pests.  My friend who owns the farm in Cotuit arrived around 9:30am with a large wire dog crate and three Silkie Bantam chickens.

We stirred up the soil and then placed the cage inside the raised bed with the chickens inside.  We kept the chickens caged for their safety and to help them focus on the immediate task at hand.  Within seconds of being in the enclosure they got to work.  As they dined on their delicious breakfast of termites, students came outside to see the chickens busy at work.

While the chickens did their part, we planted strawberries, beets and potatos.  Ever so often, we lifted the cage and retilled the soil to unearth a fresh batch of termites.  Soon enough, the chickens were full.  Their crops became pendulous and we knew that they had done their job.  Next time, you have a problem in your garden, don’t forget about the skills of your chickens.  Mine even made their own resume sometime ago to remind me of their talents!

You can find more pictures in today’s copy of the Cape Cod Times on page A3.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Sad News

Something in my heart of hearts told me to reach out to Maple Farm Sanctuary and get an update on Percy.  I was deeply saddened with the news.  Here is part of Cheri’s update:

…There is sad news however. Percy was not doing well. Her little legs seemed to be getting more distorted. The good leg didn’t seem to be able to handle the work of two legs. I had started to hold Percy up to the food and water dishes for about six times a day. If I didn’t hold her, every time she went to eat or drink her little body would fall backwards.  Her sibling was hopping out of the box to explore her new surroundings but she would always hop back in to cuddle with Percy.   Percy passed away peacefully on Thurs. with her sibling cuddled up next to her… It was amazing to see poor little Percy not grow hardly at all. Her sibling has grown at an amazing rate!  I’m sorry we couldn’t have saved Percy.

I responded to her email with the following:

Thank you Cheri.  Thank you for the update and the care that you and your farm family gave to Percy.  I appreciate your kindness and heaven has a new friend at the Rainbow Bridge.  I only hope that her sibling will become fast friends with some of your other chickens.  Percy’s sibling shows us that animals can feel compassion and love.  Thank you for reminding us all of this wonderful lesson.  


Percy Peepers was born February 2011 and passed away May 19, 2011.  She is survived by her six siblings.

http://www.homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/

Chickens Coop Care Health Issues

Coccidiosis in Backyard Chickens

Wet weather and dirty water can make it rear its’ ugly head.  With all the rain we have been having, I want to make sure that all of our fellow chicken keepers are diligent out there to prevent it and other types of nasty illnesses that can harm their own feathered families. So what exactly is it and how do I prevent it?

Coccidiosis ( käk-si-dē-ō-ses) is an illness caused by protozoa. There are 11 types that can affect chickens.  These parasites can live inside a host (chicken) or outside as well and loves wet moist conditions.  Chickens that appear healthy, shed the parasites in their stools.  With proper conditions, these microscopic parasites can multiply.  Chickens through scavenging, ingesting contaminated foods and drinking from contaminated water, such as puddles in the run, not knowingly, infect themselves.

Chickens that become infected will usually show signs about 3 days after infection.  The poor chickens droop, stop eating, pass bloody stools (these look like tar), and huddle together.  Typically, by the fourth day, the chicken will die, usually due to blood loss.

Treatment for coccidiosis usually entails treating your entire flock.  There are several medications on the market that can be purchased on the internet and at your local feed store.  Amprolium is a medication that is usually found in medicated chick feed. It is a safe medication that can be used in laying hens but is typically not used to treat coccidiosis. It is merely added to help prevent it from occurring. If you need to treat your flock,  Corid 9.6% is a safe option for laying hens. Your local avian veterinarian can also provide you more potent medications as well.  However, with a little preventative measures, your flock should never see this disease or many others for that matter. 

Here are some tips to keeping your flock healthy and keeping illnesses away:

Add probiotics, vitamins and electrolytes and apple cider vinegar to your chickens’ water supply and boost their immune systems.

Add 2 % food grade diatomaceous earth to their feed

Keep water clean and free from droppings.

Consider using and cleaning dropping trays under the roosts daily.

Keep litter dry.  Pine shavings are great and noticeable wet areas can be removed and replaced easily.

Do not overcrowd your flock. Be sure to quarantine any new chickens you are adding to your flock for at least 1 month.

Keep puddles of water from developing in your run.  If you notice any, fill them with pine shavings to absorb the water.

Seek treatment at the first sign of a sick bird.  Your flock’s life may depend on it.

Consider vaccinations for your chicks.

Here are some more sources of information on Coccidiosis:

Coccidiosis in Chickens
Biological Control of Coccidiosis in Small Poultry Flocks
Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens–with diet