The Silkies were broody again. Sunshine was just sick of it. All day she kept kicking the girls out of the nesting boxes. She was on broody police duty. No one was going to sit in those boxes without laying eggs. I captured her in all her glory as she chased poor Dolly and Autumn out of the boxes. As you can see, she meant business that day.
I am away for a few days spending time with my sister and her new baby on the West Coast. Please enjoy these photos while I am away. I can’t wait to return and share my adventures with you.
Flies and backyard chickens are never a good combination. Not only are they a nuisance to you and your flock but they can also lead to some serious problems. There are two types of flies that can affect chickens and they are categorized as biting and non-biting. The non-biting flies are called filth flies. Your typical housefly falls into this category. The biting flies are typically found near water sources. Biting flies that mostly affect chickens are black flies and biting gnats. Black flies are also called “buffalo gnats” or “turkey gnats” while the biting gnats go by “no-see-ums”, “sand flies”, and “midges”.
Filth flies can cause the following trouble in chickens:
They are a nuisance.
They can lead to tapeworm in your flock as your flock ingests them.
They can spread pathogens that cause Exotic New Castle Disease and Caronavirus.
They can spread bacteria including Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. Coli, and Listeria.
They can lead to disputes between neighbors due to excessive fly populations.
They can leave spots on your eggs.
Black Flies/Biting Gnats can cause the following issues:
They can cause anemia/death- if a large swarm is present.
They transmit leucocytozoonosis.
They cause flocks to become restless.
They lead to decrease in your flock’s appetite.
1. Keep the coop dry. Flies love moisture. Repair any known leaks in and around the coop where rain sneaks inside.
2. Keep rain water from puddling in the run. Clear drainage areas from being choked by weeds.
2. Promote good ventilation. Fly eggs need a moist environment to thrive. Drying out the coop air, manure and bedding helps to cut down on the number of hatching eggs.
3. Be sure to clean the coop well when you change the coop’s shavings out. By leaving just a bit of old damp bedding and manure, you are leaving behind hundreds of fly eggs.
Black Flies/Biting Gnats:
1. Apply fine mesh screens to your chicken coop windows.
2. Attempt to control larvae in the Spring through the use of pyrethrum. Pyrethrum is a natural plant based insecticide made from the Chrysanthemum family. Pyrethrum should not be used after the Springtime. Flies can become resistant to it when it is used on a long term basis.
3. Eliminate any stagnant water sources on your property.
1. Keep coop and run dry.
2. Try using fly sticky tape ribbons hung in the rafters. Replace periodically.
3. Add food grade diateomaceous earth (DE) into the chicken coop bedding/shavings and in the dust bathing areas. Please wear a mask to prevent breathing in the DE dust. It can cause a chronic lung condition called Silicosis.
4. Provide fresh clean drinking water daily.
5. Keep soiled shaving and manure removed from the coop away from where the chickens can access it. This removes the fly eggs and larvae away from the coop.
6. Clean up food and water spills. Be sure the litter underneath is dry.
7. Harvest eggs promptly.
8. Try using a fan to create a gentle breeze. Flies will avoid wind.
9. Close the coop door at night to prevent flies from coming inside.
To learn more about why flies in and around your coop are bad for chickens, click here to read about flystrike.
It has been one week since I installed the nucs into their new homes. The entire family has enjoyed watching the hives from the kitchen window. As we eat breakfast, we watch the bees zipping up into the sky, making literally a “bee line” to pollen locations. Amazingly, every few seconds bees dart very quickly from the entrance up to the sky like tiny little rockets. Around the entrance, we see returning bees hovering loaded down with pollen. There is a traffic jam. Everyone is waiting to come inside and be unloaded. As these bees return from foraging, younger bees in the hive wait to unload both pollen and water from the foraging worker bees. Once unloaded, these bees proceed to dance to tell the bees the location of this freshly harvested pollen. The dance is based on the sun’s location in the sky. Unloaded and danced out, the bee then quickly makes a bee line out of the hive back to the pollen location. We are fascinated.
After one week, it is important to check on your bees for a few reasons:
1. Check to make sure there is brood (babies)
2. To see if the hive is growing. Are the bees building out the new frames with wax foundation?
3. Are there any signs of disease or problems?
4. Can you visualize the queen or signs of the queen? Without a queen the colony will struggle or even fail.
5. Do the feeders need to be refilled?
6. Do you need to add more room for the bees to live (another deep super)?
Briar receives the second deep.
My friend, Alicia, came over and we opened the hives together. Instead of smoking the hive, we tried using the Honey B Healthy. The Honey B Healthy is supposedly better for the bees than the smoking. When you smoke the bees, instinctually they are driven down into the depths of the hive making it easier for one to manipulate the frames. However, the bees are lead to believe that there is a fire. They are down in the hive gorging themselves with honey in the event they must leave the hive and find a new home. After gorging on honey, it takes the bees a few days to recuperate. Think Thanksgiving for us. Those few days are valuable days of foraging that the hive loses. On the other hand, when you mist the bees with the Honey B Healthy, they are not driven down into the hive. They are still present on the frames but they are distracted from having to clean their bodies of the sticky Honey B Healthy syrup. As you work, you can see them busily taking their arms and wiping off their heads and bodies.
We decided to open the smaller, calmer hive. First we removed the top cover and the feeder. In order to remove the top cover, I had to break two bridges of comb that the bees had built as ramps from the frames to the feeder. As delicately as I could, I loosened the bond with the hive tool. I also had use the hive tool around the inner cover edges as the bees had glued it shut with bee glue called propolis.
Once open, we quickly and methodically examined each frame. We removed an end one. The bees had not even begun to build this one out. I placed it on the ground. Next we moved on to each frame, one by one. As we reached the center we visualized brood, capped honey, pollen, new baby bees emerging from their cells and the queen. However, the bees had only built out about six and a half of the frames in the ten frame deep. We decided to leave the hive as is and replace the inner cover. The feeder was still about 3/4 full. I topped it off with the sugar syrup and closed the hive.
Bees exiting from the hive using the tiny “door” in the inner cover
Next we moved onto the larger hive from the beginning. This hive was more active last week. The nuc was heavier and the bees were more curious as to my being there. Following the same procedure as the last hive, we began our inspection. This hive was bustling! We never did spot the queen but evidence of her existence was certainly there. Nine out of ten frames were built out. The bees were a plenty.
I knew that this hive had a plastic frame that was part of the nuc. For some reason, bees don’t really care for the plastic frame or it’s accompanying plastic foundation. Often, they build out comb in a funny pattern on it. Sometimes they don’t build it out at all. There were three places on this plastic foundation where the comb was built incorrectly. With the hive tool, I gently scraped it off and placed it by the hive entrance. The bees will remove what they need from this comb and hopefully correctly rebuilt the foundation.
We added the second deep with ten new empty frames and wax foundation for the bees to build upon. The feeder was almost empty. It was only 1/4 full so I topped that one off too. We hid the feeder inside two smaller honey supers and replaced the cover.
Comb removed from the plastic foundation placed at the hive entrance.
As newbees, the entire process of opening the two hives took about an hour. I am so happy that both of my hives are docile. Yet, it was fascinating to see two hives right next to each other be so entirely different in size, personality and feel. Most people name their hives and I had thought about this for a while. After opening the hives yesterday, the names were clear. The first hive I have named Willow and the second one I have named Briar.
This morning around 9am I found Tilly sitting in the right nesting box. Sitting in the neighboring nesting boxes were Dolly and Feathers. Dolly and Feathers are both broody. I quickly checked beneath all of them for eggs. There were none, so I went on my errands for the morning.
I was thrilled to discover that my new friend, Alicia, keeps chickens. For me, it instantly adds depth to a friendship when I find out that we share common interests. I first met Alicia this past Winter when I took the beekeeping class. I loved that we immediately had so many things to talk about and stories to share. This past weekend, we went together to pick-up our bees, but first, I had to meet her girls.
Alicia keeps two coops, one for the “mean girls” and one for the “nice girls”. The mean girls have very dominant personalities and for a chicken, it takes quite a bit to keep up with this group. The nice girls are gentle and never worry about being dominant. They are sweet to all newcomers, including hens that Alicia helps to rescue. During my visit, both flocks were friendly. They enjoyed me petting them and I could have easily picked up most of her hens.
Mean girls’ residence
Nice girls’ residence
The two coops are separated from each other by lovely gardens. The nice girls’ coop was Alicia’s original coop that was built as a birthday present for her by her boyfriend. Soon enough, her love for chickens began and her flock outgrew this smaller coop. Alicia and her boyfriend constructed the new coop closer to the house. Working with salvaged lumber and windows, the new coop was born with mostly recycled materials. However, as new members were added to the flock, it was clear that some sweet girls would do better in a home of their own. So, she split the flock and they are now happy living separate lives.
The Mean Girl’s Coop
Beautiful raised garden beds and lovely seating areas surround the coop making it a lovely spot to sit in the dappled sunshine. As you prepare to enter the coop, a sweet painting greets you. It’s hard not to smile.
Once inside the coop the front entry is partitioned off with chicken wire. This serves as a storage area. A door immediately in front of you, that was recycled from inside their historic home, serves as the point of entry.
Immediately, I was impressed with all of the beautiful natural light that filled the coop. The entire back side of the coop’s roof is made of clear corrugated roofing. Alicia tells me that often she finds her girls napping inside the coop just basking in the sunshine. It is also great on Winter days. The hens love finding a bit of sunshine when snow is outside on the ground. Inside the coop, on the wall next to the nesting boxes, the hens have access to small containers of grit and oyster shells. Their food and water is out in the run.
The nesting boxes are cleverly designed. They have hinges and locks that twist allowing the entire front of the boxes, roosts and all to lift up for easy cleaning. Circular entry holes were cut into the fronts of the boxes, to prevent the hens from kicking out the shavings. The girls were anxious to show me their run. I soon learned why.
Outside in the run was the most magnificent jungle gym for chickens that I had ever laid my eyes on! The hens love to play on it all day and it helps them to get high up into the rafters where they enjoy roosting during the day.
Alicia’s flock is beautiful and is made up of an assortment of colorful breeds. She even has a Silver Laced Wyandotte that is probably Dottie Speckle’s sister. You can see her in the background of the second photo below.
Soon enough, it was time to meet the nice girls.
The Nice Girls’ Coop
Four sweet hens live at the top of the hill in the nice coop. They have all the same luxuries in life as the mean girls including a miniature chicken jungle gym. We were immediately greeted by her sweet Buff Orpington. Inside the coop we met her broody girl, who according to Alicia, is always sitting on eggs. We discovered four underneath her when she got up for some meal worm treats.
It was amazing as the energy in this coop up top the hill was very different. It was laid back as opposed to the high energy that I felt in the other coop. Personalities seemed well matched in both her flocks. I love how she was able to create two distinctly different flocks and chicken coops all in the same yard. This is a great solution to problems that most chicken keepers encounter.
Of course, I could not do this Tour de Coop without sharing you Alicia’s beehives. Here they are sectioned off in between the two coops on the side of her yard.
I woke up early yesterday morning to see how the bees had fared overnight. They seemed to be spending the morning becoming acquainted with their new home. I could see plenty of curious bees buzzing around the nuc boxes and hives. I looked on as some were spiraling up into the air. They were orienting themselves to their new location. The sun was shining brightly and temperatures were already in the sixties. I had to get to work. Later this morning, I would transfer the bees from the nucs to their new hives.
Yesterday, a friend and I made the 3-plus hour trip to Brewster, New York to pick up our bees. Finally, the weather had warmed up enough and our bees were ready to come home. We began our journey after lunch and did not arrive home until after Midnight. When we arrived in Brewster, we had to wait until 7:30 pm for our bees to come home for the evening. We were scheduled to pick up five nucs.
Nucs are like little colonies complete with a queen, honey, brood (babies), and an assortment of various worker bees. The colony has accepted the queen and it is already established. A nuc hive is inserted into an empty full size hive. The frames are removed from the nuc and placed in the new hive. The nuc has now turned into a regular beehive with plenty of room to grow. In some ways, this is much more appealing than ordering a package. It also has it’s disadvantages too. In the end, it is all a matter of personal preference.
As we finally met up with the owner of the apiary and got back into the car to drive to where the nucs were located, I could feel something wet against my arm. Oh for goodness sake, I had forgotten Oyster Cracker’s egg from the morning in my pocket. It had now cracked as I climbed in the seat. Amazingly, it had survived the past 12 hours unharmed. I removed my coat and placed it in the back of the SUV. The sun was quickly setting, as we finished up picking up the 5 nucs, wrapping them in mesh bags, and loading up the car. We still had a long drive home. Before, we left, we asked the owner of the apiary if he thought we should wear our veils home. He said, “No, those mesh bags are like Fort Knox, nothing is getting out of there.” Boy was he wrong.
All the way driving home we could hear the bees buzzing in the back. It wasn’t until about an hour from home that I could feel something crawling up my leg into my jeans. I tried to ignore it. Maybe I just had the heebee jeebies. Oh, no. It wasn’t. A couple of bees were in my pant leg. Calmly and rationally, I exited the highway and pulled into a large brightly lit Lowe’s parking lot. I delicately got out of the car and popped the back hatch open with the button up front. Meanwhile, my friend put on her veil and gloves. She quickly took a peek at the nucs. My suspicions were right. Some bees had escaped and three of the mesh bags were filling with bees. I had to get my pants off. So, there we were in the middle of the Lowe’s parking lot with my friend gingerly pulling my jeans off. Within a few moments the mission was accomplished. I had not been stung, but I was standing in the middle of the Lowe’s parking lot in my shirt and underwear. My pants were full of bees and my coat was full of Oyster Cracker’s broken egg.
Thankfully, I had an entire bee suit, so there I was, driving home donning even the veil and gloves. I just wanted to get home. Around 1am, I pulled into my driveway. I was exhausted, but I still had more to do. I grabbed each nuc from the back of my car and placed them each on top of their new hives waiting for them in the yard. The nucs were buzzing. I could feel the bees bouncing against the sides of the nuc boxes. Bees were also filling the mesh bag. All I could think was, what did I get myself into? I carefully slid the nucs out of their “Fort Knox” and then I had to do what I feared the worst – remove the plugs from the nucs to immediately let the bees out. I took a deep breath, and unplugged them. Bees began to emerge from the box. Strangely, they wanted nothing to do with me. I think they were more interested in getting some fresh air. Not one came after me.
I returned to the car and locked it up. I removed my bee keeping suit and placed my jacket covered in dry sticky egg in the wash. I climbed into bed at 1:15am. Somehow, I could not sleep. Even though I was exhausted, I could not wait to wake up and say good morning to my new girls, all 40,000 of them.
To Be Continued…click here for the rest of the story.
One of the things I love about living on Cape Cod is that it is full of avid gardeners. In the Spring, those gardeners love to have plant sales. I love going to them, because many of the plants you purchase come from other people’s backyards. They are hardy, prolific and grow well in the areas where we live. The plant sale that I look the most forward to is run each May by the Thornton Burgess Society.
It’s started raining here last night. I love a good rain. The garden’s wake up, recent bursts of pollen from the scrub pines is rinsed from the skies and I get to take time and focus on indoor projects. The only downfall for me is that I can’t spend as much time with my chickens, especially in the torrential types of rain that we have had all last night and today. So what is a girl to do? I prepare myself and the chickens to make weathering the storm a bit easier.
For me, when I know there is rain in the forecast, I love to keep a fresh bouquet of flowers sitting on the kitchen island. When the gardens are in Summer bloom, I love snipping dahlias, spider flowers, liatris, hydrangeas, poppies, cone flowers and sedum to create lovely focal points. Yesterday, I did the next best thing. On my weekly food shopping at Trader Joe’s, I spied one of my favorite flowers, ranunculus, in bouquets. It was meant to be. I brought them home and arranged them in a vase. This would be my cure for the next few days. Something to glance upon. Something that makes me smile. Then I began to focus on the chickens. I like to make them happy in rainy weather too.
Rainy weather for chickens can equal boredom. They spend most of the day in the coop and miss the outdoors. With a few easy measures, I have been able to make these sorts of days more tolerable for the girls. To the point, where I believe that they do not mind the rain as much. Don’t get me wrong, the chickens don’t mind a bit of rain, but in my experiences they do not like to be drenched to the bone.
Recipe for Happy Rainy Day Chickens
Cover the run. On days, when you know rain is ahead, think about covering the run, or a portion of it, with thick plastic. I pick up a roll of 6mm plastic that comes in a 25 foot long roll in Home Depot’s painting section. The plastic is pretty durable and when covering the run, still allows sunlight to penetrate through to the chickens. It keeps them nice and dry too. To cover my A-frame run, I cut the plastic to length. On both sides of the plastic that runs parallel to the run touching the ground, I staple a 2″x4″ board sized the length of the coop. These boards act as a counter weights and helps to keep this simple tarp from blowing away in the wind.
Promote Dust bathing. By keeping an area dry in the run or even adding a small tub filled with soil from the run inside the coop, your girls will spend time dust bathing. It is entertaining for them. It also helps to keep them clean and parasite free. I promise you, there might even be a line waiting to use your portable dust bathing bin.
Keep food and water available. It is a great idea on rainy days, to move the food inside the coop and have a water source too. Wet food can harbor mold and bacteria. Why make your flock go outside when they are hungry or thirsty?
Keep them entertained. Hang a treat ball. Make a pinata with a head of cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower. Toss in some weeds roots and all from your garden. They love dandelions! Have the girls go on a scavenger hunt. Try tossing tiny little seeds like sesame and poppy into the dry section of the run or coop. The smaller seeds are more difficult to find adding a bit more time to the scavenging.
Keep puddles from forming in the run. Stagnant water is tempting for chickens to drink from. It harbors harmful bacteria and coccidiosis that can make your chickens sick. Fill any puddles with straw or pine shavings to soak up the water.
Add a mirror. A shatterproof mirror will keep the chickens wondering just who that beautiful bird is in the mirror. Chickens recognize each other by the shape of their combs. Interestingly, they have never seen their own combs even though their flock members recognize it by heart. Sometimes, they think they are meeting a new chicken when indeed it is their own reflection.
Keep them dry. If your chickens do becomes soaked. Dry them with a towel, especially the Silkie Bantams. Their feathers are different than those of your traditional chickens. They tend to “absorb” water. It is true. Wet chickens can catch colds.
Years ago, I had a desire to spoil my pet chickens. I was looking for a company that specialized in organic chicken treats. Three years ago, I happened to stumble upon Treats for Chickens one evening while surfing the internet. Immediately I fell in love with their products, their philosophy and their organic practices. I placed my first order for their Nesting Box Blend and their organic food grade diatomaceous earth (DE).
The Nesting Box Blend is simply amazing! The blend smells heavenly and is made from an assortment of dried herbs and flowers. I like to think of it as aromatherapy for chickens. It is said to make their egg laying process less stressful and it also keeps mites and lice away from the flock. Habitually, each time I clean out the nesting boxes, I sprinkle about a tablespoon of the Nesting Box Blend and a teaspoon of DE into the bottom of each box. I finish off the boxes with a thick layer of pine shavings. As I am cleaning the coop the girls know exactly what I am doing. They eagerly anticipate exploring the nesting boxes after they are cleaned. The best part, is that I swear everyone lays an egg on the day I clean out the coop! Three years later, I cannot imagine my girls’ lives without these two products!
Over the years, I always find myself trying new items from Treats for Chickens to my order. I have tried and swear by both of their chicken toys. I love to add a teaspoon of the Cluck and Sea Kelp on top of their weekly plain yogurt treat. In the heat of summer, my flock loves me to make them refreshing tea in one of their waterers. I also spoil the girls like crazy in the Winter when they cannot get out and free-range as much. This past season, they were treated to Meal Worm Delight, Worms and Harvest Flakes and Pumpkin Seed Snacks. Three years later, I still religiously place my order every few months.
This past month, I was approached by Treats for Chickens to become a sponsor of my website. To celebrate, we both thought that giving away their famous Nesting Box Blend (4 oz size) would be a fantastic treat for our followers! I hope you will check them out for yourself. They are another wonderful example of a small family run business, whose heart is truly in every product they create.
Here is how to enter for your chance to win:
1. You must leave a comment on this blog for entry. Only comments here on this blog post will be
accepted as an entry. Be sure to leave an email address so that we can contact you if you do not have a blog. (1 entry) If you are doing any of the below actions to increase your number of entries, please let us know in your comment. You can earn 5 entries in this amazing giveaway!
2. Visit the Treats for Chickens Facebook page and tell them Tilly sent you. (1 entry)