First a huge thank you is in order to My Pet Chicken for sponsoring such an amazing giveaway this month! This was by far our most popular giveaway yet with over 1100 entries. One lucky winner was selected at random with the help of a random number generator to win the Clubhouse Chicken Coop. The winner will have to identify where they found the 5 hidden Tilly emoticons in order to claim the prize within the next 24 hours (deadline is April 18, 2012, 1:15pm East Coast Time). The winner should email me at: [email protected] with links to all 5 Tillys. If the winner fails to locate all the Tilly’s in the time frame allowed, a new winner will be randomly selected.
A few years ago, I decided to make my dream of owning chickens a reality. It was a huge leap into the unknown for me. I had researched, read and talked to a few people that I knew of at the time keeping backyard chickens. I was nervous, but I decided to go for it. The worst that would happen would be that I didn’t care for it and someone would have to take my chickens and I would sell the coop. The turning point for me in taking the step to chickens was finding and discovering My Pet Chicken.
Their website was amazing. I drooled over chicken coops that they had available. I even called up their customer service a few times just to talk and have a few questions answered that I could not find answers for on my own. I was impressed but mostly, they helped me believe in myself and that I actually could keep chickens.
You see, a few years ago, there was very little information out there in one good concise place where people who kept backyard chickens could go for answers. This was a place that seemed to understand my goals, situation and needs. I felt as though they held my hand every step of the way even after my chicks had arrived. I owe my chicken keeping to them.
Wonderfully, I soon discovered all about the fascinating world of backyard chickens. I was hooked. I started a blog for a number of reasons. First, I wanted to keep a sort of online journal about their stories, findings and lessons that I learned from the flock. Second, I had found myself compiling and bookmarking information on certain topics that I wanted to learn more about. I decided to start writing posts about these issues and referencing my bookmarks in them to make it easier to find a truly comprehensive place to store things that I was learning. Lastly, I wanted to be a voice. I wanted to be a person that encouraged those that were still on the fence about keeping a flock in how easy and rewarding a keeping a flock could be.
Here are the basics for starting out:
First, you will need to determine which chicken breeds are right for you and your family. Here is an awesome tool that only My Pet Chicken has to help you find your way. This helps you to stay focused as there are so many beautiful breeds and eggs.
You will need to set up a brooder. Did you know that My Pet Chicken makes it simple with their brooder kit? I love this and this makes it so easy! I also did a helpful post on brooders that can be found here.
Finally, you will need to find a chicken coop and run to keep your six week and older chickens safe and happy. It will need to have a run, roosts, nesting boxes (1 per 4 hens)
This coop retails for $629.00 and can be yours!
Here is how to enter to win this coop:
This chicken coop giveaway ends on April 16, 2012 at 11:59pm East Coast Time. The coop will only be shipped to an address located in the continental United States. Individuals who leave the locations of the 5 emoticons in their comment will instantly be disqualified.
When placing a minimum order for chicks at My Pet Chicken you will receive a free mystery standard size female chick with your order when you use the order code: babytilly. One free chick per customer.
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Photo Credits: My Pet Chicken
|Tilly from chick to hen|
People often ask me how I decided on my chicken breeds. Well, I needed to get breeds that were cold hardy, docile and good egg layers. My Pet Chicken was incredibly helpful both on the telephone and also on the internet in helping me chose the right breeds for my family. The other great thing is that you can mix and match breeds when you order from My Pet Chicken. This allowed me to purchase only six chicks and get the flock that I wanted.
The first breed that I chose was the Australorp. Tilly, our head hen, is an Australorp. Black Orpingtons were imported from England to Australia in the late 1800s to early 1900s. At that time, the Black Orpingtons were crossed with Rhode Island Reds and possibly Plymouth Rocks. They called their result of cross breeding Australian Black Orpingtons or Australorp for short. The breed was launched internationally in 1929.
Australorps first captured the world’s attention in 1922 when six Australorp hens laid a combined total of 1857 eggs in a 365 consecutive day period without any added artificial lighting. That is approximately 305 eggs per hen per year! They also make excellent broody hens and great mothers. All of these attributes lead to global popularity of the breed.
Tilly has always been very curious and docile. She has beautiful black feathers with a green sheen and flecks of gray. She has a comb with 5 distinct tips. She is happy to please and eager to meet new company. She lays beautiful golden brown eggs and enjoys conversation. Even though she is considered a large heritage breed, she weighs about 5 pounds. She is very sweet and enjoys being held. She makes a wonderful pet. I love the way we have conversations between one another. I like to pretend that I know what she is saying and vice versa.
Australorps are a fantastic breed and I would highly recommend them to anyone interested in starting or adding to a backyard flock.
Photo credits: Tilly’s Nest
|We love to poke out from the safety of Momma Dolly|
The chicks are becoming so adventurous now. It is rare that I find many of them underneath Dolly. Only during naps, do some prefer to snuggle underneath of her while some prefer to lay in front of her on the soft shavings warmed by the heat lamp. They are also becoming faster everyday. They are starting to develop tail and wing feathers and enjoying hopping all over the brooder. Dolly is also becoming more protective as I try to inspect her chicks.
|Dolly and her brood|
Today, I had to treat two pasty butts. She was not happy about me trying to catch her chicks. She became frantic. As the chicks peeped louder, she danced around in circles with her wings fully extended. Poor Percy Peepers. Percy was being trampled in the frenzy. Finally, I had to remove Dolly to the outside run, catch the chicks, treat the pasty butts and return them to the brooder while Dolly knew nothing of the sort!
|Percy always near Momma’s side|
Percy continues to thrive and does not seem to be in any pain. Percy never ventures too far from Dolly and spends most times underneath of her. Percy does continue to grow and develop. Wing feathers are emerging and Percy is getting faster everyday despite having to adapt to the bad leg. My attempts at physical therapy with Percy seem so futile, although I still think a little exercise is good, so I continue. My Pet Chicken has even offered to donate a reusable chicken diaper if Percy will need to become a house chicken. The outpouring of support for Percy has been absolutely amazing and I am grateful for everyone’s kind words and thoughts. I am awestruck that something so tiny as Percy, fitting in the palm of your hand and weighing less than a few ounces, can move people in extraordinary ways.
Much love and thanks,
Photo credits: Tilly’s Nest
So, how do I go about this, you ask? Well if you’re like me you read everything you can get your hands on, check the internet and dive head first into something figuring you’ll just troubleshoot along the way. However, there is some planning to optimize your chicken experiences that will make life easier. So, lets start at the beginning. How do I get the chickens?
Studies have shown chickens fed DE have an increase the amount of eggs, decreases the mortality rate, keeps mites away, helps to dry up droppings, helps with flies and decrease worm loads in the GI tract. It also found that hens fed DE in their diets laid eggs with more albumin and yolk . I also love that my hens are getting the valuable trace minerals. In the feed, it keeps insects from spoiling the feed too.
In the newly cleaned coop I sprinkle it into the corners, edges, in the nesting boxes and onto the floor prior to adding a fresh new layer of bedding. We never have had a pest problem inside the coop and we live in a very wooded area! This product as been a terrific addition to my backyard chicken experience. I love that something easy and natural is so beneficial.
As a word of precaution, DE should only be used in well ventilated areas and should be avoided getting it into your eyes, nose and throat. As you research DE, you will surely come across literature that discusses the health risks associated with accidental inhalation. The condition is called Silicosis. Silicosis is a medical condition of the lung that occurs with regular repeated inhalation over a period of many years. Silicosis can also be caused from the use of sand (silica dust) in the coop and run. So please take precautions when using sand or DE.
Update 6/11/2013: Please click here to read an article that I wrote for Community Chickens on DE- chock full of even more information, including precautions that you should take if using DE with your flock.
Poult Sci. 2011 Jul;90(7):1416-26. doi: 10.3382/ps.2010-01256.
Effect of diatomaceous earth on parasite load, egg production, and egg quality of free-range organic laying hens. Bennett DC1, Yee A, Rhee YJ, Cheng KM.
RESULTS OF THE USE OF CODEX FOOD-GRADE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH WITH POULTRY, C.S. Mangen, DVM, San Diego, California
So, as I am sure many of you have searched and searched for the perfect coop for your girls. I did too! I spent months searching and deciding whether I should order plans, concoct one from various designs to build or just order something.
Initially, I ordered a small coop from http://www.mypetchicken.com/. However, it was soon apparent that it was rapidly being out grown. I also found that I had to replace the cheaply made hardware if I was going to protect the chickens from any predators. This first coop is now used as a nursery as well as a place to quarantine anyone who doesn’t feel well or is injured from the rest of the flock.
It took me about 3 months of intensive searching to find ultimately what I believe to be the perfect chicken coop. A man named Dan Cohen from Michigan has a company online called
He makes the coops from scratch with really great sturdy materials. The coop itself is really terrific. It takes only 5 minutes to clean out. The floor inside has industrial grade linoleum that makes even the most caked on doo doo scrape right off! When the eggs come, the handy little door opens to reveal 3 nest boxes. I added the extra windows in the front with plexiglass slide-outs in warm weather and a small plexiglass vent on the side. Dan truly was extremely thoughtful in creating this home for the girls.
The run comes in 3’x 6′ sections. You can order them seperately. I ordered 3 sections to create a 6’x9′ run. Just perfect for 6-8 standard size breeds. All the screening on both the coop and the run are 1/2 inch hardware cloth as well. Often during the middle of a beautiful day, I find the girls lounging in their house. They love it.
The area where we live on Cape Cod is known for predators. We have racoons, foxes, coyotes, fisher cats, oppossum and owls. I purchased additional hardware cloth and dug a 12″ trench around the run. I buried the wire around the entire run and folded the top into the run area as well. I hope this will be enough protection. Time will tell.
In the early days, our favorite little chicken was Peanut. Peanut was always so curious; the first to come to us, discover the newest addition placed into his tiny 2’x2′ world. Peanut always needed more care than the others in the beginning too. Peanut was the one that I wasn’t sure would survive. Peanut seemed the weakest of them all on that first day, droopy and wobbly. Over time, our love for Peanut blosssomed. The kids loved holding Peanut. Peanut would snuggle into our chests and sit for time on end. Sometimes, we would even hear a pleasure trill!
Peanut is a Buff Silkie Bantam. At http://www.mypetchicken.com/ you can pay extra to have your chickens sexed. Many people do not want rooster for the various reasons. Most people will pay extra just to ensure that they will get only females. However, silkies are very difficult to sex. Most hatcheries don’t even attempt this. However, http://www.mypetchicken.com/ does! I paid extra for all females including the Silkie Bantams.
It wasn’t until about week 10 that I had my suspicions. Peanut soon began to grow so fast. Peanut’s waddle and comb were getting huge. I read on the internet that you can be fooled by Silkies, that they often will look like one sex but turn out to be the other. The other disturbing thing was that anytime I need to hold Peanut, I would be pecked. At first the pecking was gentle, but as time went on it really could hurt depending on how you were gotten.
One day, early in the morning, my husband was leaving for work and I was in the garage getting their food and I heard it. From inside the coop, a pathetic, “OOO, OOOO, DOO.” Was I imagining things? Then we heard it again. I could not be sure who it was coming from. Finally, after about a week I realized that it was Peanut. Peanut was a rooster.
Over the next few weeks, Peanut turning out to be a rooster was becoming even more evident with each day that passed. Again, I did research about keeping a rooster. Currently, in our town, there are no regulations about keeping chickens or rooster. Thank goodness for that. I was just worried about his aggressive tendencies and our 2 little kids. My husband and I decided that our rooster needed a new home. I emailed many local farms on a whim and a farm off Cape about 40 minutes away agreed to take him. There he will have about 100 hens to himself. Oh, what a rooster’s dream!
It has now been about a week since we rehomed Peanut. I do miss him so. I miss his silly little antics, his trying to bully the hens, his curiosity, his gorgeous blue earlobes, and even his warm little body. I do know that we made the right choice and he should be much happier it is just hard to say goodbye. Just like a baby, he was mine since he was one day old.