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Can Chickens Get Fleas?

Summer has officially started in the Midwest, and we are so excited! The luscious green grass, trees and landscape are especially gorgeous in Minnesota at this time of year. However, along with summer’s beautiful landscapes, it also brings some gross pests for your flock.
Backyard chicken close up

Don’t get me wrong, these pests are not limited to summer, but where we live, nothing wants to survive in the winter! Haha! However, it is still possible, so it’s good to know how to prevent and treat them if they become an issue for your flock. I’ve discussed mites and lice on a previous blog and I encourage you to check that out! But recently, I’ve been asked if chickens can get fleas, so I thought we’d answer that question today!

Can Chickens Get Fleas?

Yes, chickens can get fleas. While they’re more commonly associated with dogs and cats, they can also affect poultry of all kinds, including chickens. If left untreated, fleas on chickens can cause discomfort, skin irritation and potential health issues.

Fleas can be introduced to chicken coops through wild birds, rodents or other animals that may carry these parasites. Once inside the coop, fleas can quickly multiply, infesting the environment and affecting the chickens. Yuck!

Chicken in a backyard

Symptoms of Fleas

Symptoms of flea infestation in chickens include:

  • Excessive Scratching: Chickens may constantly scratch or peck at their skin.

  • Feather Loss: Fleas can cause chickens to lose feathers, especially around the neck and vent.

  • Restlessness: Infested chickens may appear restless and uncomfortable.

  • Anemia: Severe infestations can lead to anemia, making chickens weak and pale.

Regularly inspect your chickens for these signs to catch infestations early.

Treatment and Prevention of Fleas

Treatment for fleas in chickens typically involves using poultry-safe insecticides to eliminate the parasites both on the birds and in the coop.

Elector PSP is a great, non-toxic spray. It’s a bit pricey, but I’ve heard it works the best. There is also no egg withdrawal period.

Thankfully, we’ve never had to deal with these buggers and I attribute this to Coop Recuperate. Coop Recuperate is why I’m still raising backyard chickens and I’m not kidding! Coop Recuperate contains organic diatomaceous earth and organic essential oils that are known to deter pests. It keeps your bedding dry and fresher for longer.

Practicing good coop hygiene, such as regular cleaning and disinfecting, can help prevent flea and other small pest infestations. If your flock gets infested with fleas, you must take everything out of your coop and deep clean with something like Elector PSP. Make sure you sanitize roosting bars, nesting boxes, feeders and waterers as well.

Then, give your chickens some Flock Fixer because this would be stressful. Flock Fixer contains organic oregano essential oil, pre and probiotics, and electrolytes to support your chickens during times of stress. I swear by this product!

Extra Tips for a Pest-Free Coop

  • Wildlife Control: Limit access to wild birds and rodents that may carry fleas.

  • Clean Environment: Again, it’s so important so I’m including it twice, maintaining a clean and dry environment in and around the coop will make it less inviting for pests.

  • Dust Baths: Make sure your chickens regularly dust bathe. Chickens produce oils on their skin that attract pests, and dust bathing along with additives like Preen Queen can help absorb these oils and keep bugs away.   

  • Routine Checks: Regularly inspect your flock for any signs of pests and address issues promptly.

Dealing with these parasites is definitely the less appealing side of raising backyard poultry, but honestly, prevention goes a long way! There isn’t much you can do if a bird or small rodent carries it into your run, but you can keep it so clean they don’t want to live there!

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

Candling Eggs

Candling eggs is a fun and educational activity for both children and adults. When incubating eggs at home, candling ensures you keep only the healthy eggs. It is also just really neat to see the embryos growing! You can candle your eggs at home, but be advised, if you have darker eggshells, they can be harder to see. Lighter colored eggs are easier to see through. All chickens’ eggs hatch after 21 days of incubating at 99.5F. Stages of embryo growth are very similar throughout the bird kingdom, with only small variables differentiating them.

Candling eggs is an important part of maintaining a clean hatching environment. Bad eggs immediately begin to decompose, resulting in loads of bacteria. The high humidity and warmth of the incubator can be a breeding ground for disease. For this reason, you want your incubator to be a clean place for the eggs to hatch. This, unfortunately, involves removing the bad eggs at different stages of incubation.

 

When candling eggs, take them out one at time, being very slow and careful. Most incubators have a small hole on the lid, that acts as a candling station. You can also use a bright flashlight. Take the egg carefully hold the light to either end of the egg. Each egg contains an air sac, which should be attached at the round, blunt end of the egg. This air sac will slightly grow in size during incubation. The air sac is where the chick will break into and breathe during the long hatching process. The chick should then break through the shell on this rounded end.

 

Most people candle eggs with the air sac pointing down onto the light. It really doesn’t matter which end you use, so long as you are gentle and avoid shaking the egg. Occasionally, an air sac can become dislocated. There is still a chance the chick will survive, but certain extra precautions must be taken. Oftentimes, air sacs can become dislocated during transport, if fertile eggs came from a breeder.

There are ideal times to candle and examine your eggs’ progress. Eggs should be candled around day 6, day 11, and day 17. These days are not exact; you can candle them whenever you like, just not during the last 3 days of incubation. Those are lockdown days!

 

~Day 6

On this day, the eggs should have a tiny circular circle with a few visible veins. The embryo will appear to be floating above the dark mass of yolk. An infertile egg will resemble a raw egg, you will see nothing but an orange yolk floating around.

 

~Day 10 Visible Movement

 

~Day 12

By this time, you will definitely be able to tell if the egg is fertile or not. The embryo will be much larger and the network of veins will have sprouted. If you have an egg with a “death ring,” there will be a single, heavily dark line around the edge of the yolk sac. Unfortunately, some eggs will fail to grow, and that can often be from causes out of our control.

 

~Day 17

This will be your last opportunity to candle your eggs! The last three days of incubation, the incubator should not be opened at all. Your last look at the embryos will reveal large dark embryo settled inside the heavy part of the egg. It will be positioned with its head near the air sac, although this will be unlikely to be visible. If there are any eggs that seem to be way behind the other eggs, i most likely stoped growing and should be removed.

 

At the beginning of the last three days, increase your humidity to 65-70%, while still paying attention to the air vent. The temperature of the incubator stays the same the entire incubation, at 99.5 F. There should be no turning of the eggs, or opening of the incubator to help the chicks roll into hatching position and keep humidity high on the eggshells on these last days. Soon, your 21 day wait will be over, and you’ll get to see your chickens for the first time, but it won’t have been your first look! Happy candling!

Can I Have Chickens Where I Live? And How to Find Out

Keeping chickens as backyard pets and for egg production has become very popular among homeowners! I feel like since covid hit, backyard chickens and gardening blew up because people were home and had time to care for their flocks and gardens. Since then, thanks to Pinterest and responsible chicken keepers, the industry continues to grow!

However, before diving into the world of backyard chickens, it’s important to determine if you can legally have chickens in your residential area. Obviously, if you live on an acreage that you own like we do, you can have as many chickens as you want! If you rent on an acreage, I would ask the owners how they feel about you having a flock.

Chickens in the Backyard

If you live in a residential area or have a Homeowners Association (HOA), you should do due diligence to research before you purchase your coop, chickens and all the supplies. I have heard horror stories of people trying to hide their chickens in their garage or worse yet, going ahead and purchasing their entire flock only to find out their zoning laws didn’t allow for chickens!

Can I Have Chickens Where I Live?

 Here are some things to consider before you start raising backyard chickens!

1. Local Zoning Laws: The first step is to check your local zoning laws and regulations. Some areas have specific ordinances regarding the keeping of chickens, including restrictions on the number of chickens allowed, coop specifications and setbacks from property lines. You’ll need to fill out an application and obtain a permit in many cases for your chickens and your coop.

2. HOA Rules: If you live in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association, there may be additional rules and regulations regarding the keeping of livestock, including chickens. Be sure to review your HOA’s guidelines before bringing home a flock of feathered friends.

3. Noise and Odor Concerns: Chickens are not noisy animals, but roosters crow all day long, which may disturb neighbors. Additionally, chicken coops can produce gnarly odors, especially if not properly maintained. Consider how your neighbors might react to having chickens nearby. Of course, this is where Coop Recuperate comes in! Coop Recuperate lengthens the life of your bedding while keeping it dry and fresh.

4. Space Requirements: Chickens need adequate space to roam and forage. Ensure that your property has enough room for a coop and outdoor enclosure that meets the size requirements for the number of chickens you plan to keep. A good rule of thumb is 4 square feet per bird inside the coop and 10 square feet per bird in the run. Some cities will allow you to have so many chickens per square feet of your property.

5. Health and Safety: Chickens can attract predators, such as foxes and raccoons. It’s essential to have proper security measures in place to protect your flock from harm.

6. Community Support: Before bringing chickens into your neighborhood, consider discussing your plans with your neighbors. Address any concerns they may have and seek their support for your poultry adventure. Maybe offer them some farm fresh eggs!

It’s vital to do your research, obtain any necessary zoning permits and ensure that you can provide a safe environment for your feathered friends. Remember, if you’re unsure about the rules and regulations regarding chicken keeping in your area, it’s always best to consult local authorities or seek guidance from poultry enthusiasts in your community.

There are also many local poultry clubs in various areas that would be a great resource for you. By being informed and considerate, you can determine whether having chickens in your residential area is something you’re able and willing to do!

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

Training Hens to Lay in Boxes

We’ve all had that one or two hens who love to lay their eggs in the most surprising places. We had a hen that sat on the front seat of the side-by-side every single day, and left us a tan egg. There was also our hen Dotty, who loved to lay her eggs in the dog bed, making the perfect organic dog treats. Although it can be funny later, when you can’t find your chickens’ eggs, it can become frustrating very quickly.

 

There are several reasons why a hen would prefer to lay her eggs anywhere other than the nesting boxes. Sometimes when a hen hides her eggs, she is going broody. Some hens go broody in the summer months. Their instinct to hatch babies is so strong, they will seek out the perfect hiding place to start laying her clutch. After the eggs have reached about 20 in number, she will sit on them to incubate them. The problem is, not all the eggs always hatch, creating a messy situation later on. Nests can be hidden anywhere, but chances are these places are not safe. Many a mother hen has lost her life and the lives of her chicks because it was not predator proof.

Some hens decide to lay in odd places because they aren’t happy with their current nesting boxes. Make sure your setup is pleasing. Hens prefer somewhere cool and dark, with confined walls. Having your nesting boxes up off the ground level deters most predators and hens prefer to be up high. If there are too few nesting boxes, hens may decide the squabbling isn’t worth it, and go off to find a new nest. In some cases, hens in a flock will have a favorite nest box, refusing to use the other boxes.

 

Resetting your hens is actually a simple fix. Gather up your entire flock and make sure you lock them up at night. If they free-rage and sleep in the tress, you’ll need to catch them at night and put them all in the coop. The coop should be their normal sleeping coop, including the run. Leave your chickens up for 4 days and nights. Refrain from letting them out to free range on these “resetting” days.

The hens will have to lay heir eggs, and when they do, they’ll have only a few choices, in the nest box or in a corner of the coop. Check your eggs daily, but leave them in the nest boxes. Sometimes they will start a nest on the ground. Simply collect those eggs, and add them to the nesting boxes. Be sure to spread out the eggs into all the boxes, so they know all the boxes are good to use.

 

Lastly, you can use egg decoys! Purchase some fake plastic eggs, preferably naturally colored, and put them in the nest boxes. You can also use white ping pong balls for this. Seeing the “eggs” in the nest boxes will trigger the hens to lay in that particular spot. The ping pong balls are also said to help deter snakes from eating eggs.

After about 4 days, you are free to let your flock outside again, but leave their coop door open so they can come and lay as they please. This method almost always works! We have several hens now that actually sleep outside in the fruit trees at night, but will come into the coop to lay during the day. If your hens start trying to play a game of Easter Egg hunting with you, it may be time to put them in the coop for a simple reset. Good luck!

Chicken Care When You’re Away

For all their many benefits, a backyard chicken flock presents one problem for families who love to travel. Chickens need care every day. That’s impossible from a distant hotel or campsite. Fortunately, there is a time in chicken maturity when traveling is easier. It’s when the birds are maturing from adolescence into early adulthood.

 

Baby chicks need constant vigilance. They must be checked often every day. The heat may need adjusting. Small waterers and feeders quickly empty and need refilling, and sometimes a waterer tips over, soaking litter that needs to be replaced.

Once in a while a chick dies and should be swiftly removed. It’s hard to travel when chicks are in the brooder and need constant care.

Five or six months later those babies will be leaving eggs in nests that need to be collected a couple of times a day. If the hens have an outdoor run the pop hole door must be opened each morning and closed in the evening to keep the raccoons and other predators out. These tasks require a few visits each day.

 

Friendly neighbors and helpful relatives are often happy to temporarily tend the flock so a family can travel. Recruiting fill-in helpers may be challenging to find if several daily visits are needed. Fortunately, there’s a time during chicken maturity when only one or two visits a day are needed. That may make finding a caregiver easier.

 

Families often start chicks in early spring when the weather is cool and the peeping babies must bask in a nearly 100-degree brooder. Fortunately, by the time they’re five or six weeks old their bodies are covered with one of nature’s finest insulation – feathers. By then, spring is transitioning into summer and crisp frosty nights are just a memory.

 

Those six-week-old chicks are feathered adolescents. They need less care than when they were babies.  As long as the temperature stays somewhat above chilly, they are fine in the coop without a brooder’s heat. They’re still too small to let forage in the outdoor run, so there’s no need to open and close the pop hole daily. Since they are too young to lay, daily egg collecting isn’t yet needed.

Adolescent through early adult chickens is probably the easiest age to care for, and this gives a family an opportunity to travel. That’s when the weather is pleasant, fish are biting, and it’s a great time for a family to get away from home for a few days.

It’s important to recruit someone to check in on chicken youngsters daily but because care is simple and the need for frequent visits lessened it may be easier to find a substitute caretaker.

Here’s how we prepare our coop at Winding Pathways so maturing chicks only need one or two visits a day from a helpful neighbor who just needs to check them daily:

 

Coop:  Before departing on a trip, we make sure the coop is tight enough to keep predators out and there’s the right amount of ventilation for expected weather conditions. Our coop windows are covered with heavy duty wire mesh that repels raccoons, and screening to keep out insects. Before leaving we spread a new layer of pine shavings on the floor. Crowding creates problems so we give our birds plenty of indoor coop space. Four square feet per bird is a minimum but we give them at least twice that much room to run, flap their wings, and explore.

 

Food and Water: The more feeders and waterers in the coop the better. When home we always keep two waterers and feeders in the coop. Should one empty or tip over there’s always a second available. When we leave on a trip, we add more feeders and waterers and fill them to the brim. It’s overkill but our chickens can eat and drink for a full week without the need for refilling. That helps the caregivers. And, we keep a metal garbage can of extra feed and jugs of water nearby so the person tending our flock can easily make refills as needed.

 

Extras:  We can be away for a week before our friendly neighbor needs to refill feeders and waterers but we’re never out of touch. She can call us on our cell phone if something comes up and needs our input. One daily coop visit is all that’s needed and it’s just a check in to make sure everything is okay in the coop. We bring our helper a gift or two from our travels and give her plenty of eggs once the hens begin production.

 

We love our chickens and like to travel. Helpful friends and neighbors allow us to keep our flock and get away once in a while. We know it’s easiest on substitute flock caregivers if we travel during the few months after chicks leave the brooder but before they  begin laying.

Jersey Giants

They come with lustrous black, bright white, or blue feathers but Jersey Giants are really a mellow yellow chicken breed. The reason goes back to the breed’s creation in the late 1800s.

 

Back then, few families enjoyed chicken or turkey dinners for one reason. It was expensive. Birds of that long-ago era gobbled down plenty of food yet grew slowly.

Raising them to market size was a slow and expensive process so, typically, chicken and turkey dinners were reserved for holiday meals and special meals served to guests.

 

New Jersey chicken breeders John and Thomas Black were determined to make chicken a more common American meal. Between 1870 and 1880 they crossed several breeds, including Langshans, Dark Brahmas, and Javas to create what came to be called the Black Jersey Giant. Although it had black feathers it was named in honor of the Black Brothers.

Their success was mixed. The new breed grew to a huge size. A rooster can tip the scales at 13 pounds with hens only a little smaller. Originally, they had black feathers so why are they a mellow yellow breed?

 

The answer’s simple. Back then many families raised small flocks. Mellow is a desirable trait. Giants are so big they have a tough time flying, making them easy to keep inside a small fence. Many breeds are considered to be nervous, or “flighty.”  They spook easily and sometimes fly over even a tall fence. Not Giants. The Black Brothers knew that small flock owners preferred mellow, so the trait became a goal of the breed’s development.

 

Yellow?  Consumers are fickle. English diners prefer a chicken with white skin. Not Americans. They like yellow skin. So, a Black Jersey Giant has black feathers and dark shanks, but underneath is yellow skin. The underside of their feet is also bright yellow.

 

The Giant is a wonderful backyard bird. They’re mellow and are easy to handle. Hens are prolific layers of large brown eggs. The Black Brothers did a great job creating the breed, but their timing kept them from ever becoming an important commercial meat breed. Giants grow slowly, and it takes plenty of expensive feed for them to reach the size of a small turkey.  To reach full size can take eight or nine months.

 

During the Twentieth Century many breeds and hybrids were developed that grew much faster than Giants while eating less feed per pound of growth. Cornish Rocks, for example, reach market size when only about six weeks old and eat much less feed than older breeds. That led to commercial success for growers and made chicken a common and inexpensive lunch or dinner.

 

Despite their slow growth Jersey Giants are wonderful birds to include in a backyard flock.  After all they are mellow and fun to be around. The black variety has impressive almost shiny plumage, while White Giants are brilliant in the sunshine. There is even a blue feathered Giant. All are great layers, although they may start producing eggs slower than better known Rhode Island Reds or ISA Browns.

 

They are big and may need slightly larger nests and pop hole doors than more standard sized breeds, but generally they can squeeze into normal sized nests.

 

The Jersey Giant breed enjoys a rich heritage. Although it’s not economic for commercial meat or egg producers it is a wonderful breed perfectly suited to a small flock in the backyard.

Entertaining Your Flock on a Budget

Chickens really live their best lives when they are free ranging outside. Unfortunately, not everyone has the option of letting their chickens out of the coop. Space restrictions, local ordinances, and job schedules are just a few of the reasons why many chickens are cooped up all day.

Owning animals is like being a zookeeper. A good zookeeper takes care of the physical needs of an animal. However, a great zookeeper comes up with ways to keep their animals’s minds healthy and active! It’s called enrichment! There are countless ways to provide your flock something to keep their brains busy.

That being said, chickens are simple creatures, and can live a happy and productive existence in a coop. Since we love them, we want them to have fulfilling lives. Here four affordable ways to give your flock enrichment!

Provide a dust bathing area. 

Chickens actually NEED a place on the coop floor to dust bathe in order to stay healthy. Part of a chicken’s daily routine is covering her feathers in fine dust, all the way down to the skin. After kicking around on her side, she will quickly hop up, and shimmy all the dirt, dust, and parasites off her feathers!

Add a dust area in your coop by clearing a clean 2ft. x 2ft. square on the ground. Leave it as dry as possible and add in a few buckets of dirt from anywhere on your property. There’s no need to use a tray, they’ll soon scratch all the dust out and around!

Put tree branches in the coop.

Chickens, like most birds, love to be up high. Their natural instinct to perch, leaves them always looking for the highest possible spot to rest. You can give them some new furniture simply by bringing in tree branches! The bark will help file down their toenails, as well as help work their muscles. The branches might last a few months before they’ll need to be replaced, and by then your flock might be ready for some new scenery anyway!

Rotate hanging treats periodically.

There are tons of resources and ideas for hanging chicken treats out there! In fact, I’m pretty sure there are some on the Hoover’s blog already! Whole cabbage heads, pumpkins, frozen watermelon; the possibilities are endless! Yummy snacks are always a great motivator to get chickens moving!

Give them a chance to hunt.

Chickens are meant to forage for their food all day. In today’s world of pampered pullets and designer coops, our chickens are often given 24/7 access to feed. This is fine! However, is it fun? Nothing pleases a hen more than being able to scratch for her food. Try broadcast feeding some yummy treats like whole corn, sunflower seeds, or dried mealworms. Speaking of mealworms, for even fresher insects, you can pickup some live mealworms or crickets from pet stores. They’ll make a great source of protein for your birds, and will be entertaining as well!

There are many ways still to entertain your chickens without breaking the piggy bank. Let us know some of your favorite ways to enrich the lives of your flock down below!

Clipping Feathers

There are many reasons why you may need to clip your chickens’ wings. 

Chickens escaping their run, flying up into feed containers, roosting in trees, and just plain wreaking havoc are a few.

Lately, at our place, my chickens have been wanting to sleep in the trees, instead of their deluxe coop! This was fine with me all summer, but now with cold temperatures depending on us, they need to start going back to the coop! Clipping their wings is the first step of my “coop reset plan!”

 

Clipping your chickens’ flight feathers is super easy and can be an instant solution to a number of chicken challenges. You can do it alone, but it helps to have a second pair of hands available.

 

First, you’ll need to catch your chicken. 

Easier said than done, huh? Try waiting until the late evening when it is roosting. After you’ve got a chicken, cradle the bird under your arm against your waist. Grab a wing, and gently pull it away from the chicken’s body, unfolding the feathers.

 

With a sharp pair of scissors, slowly cut in a diagonal line. You are aiming to clip just the ends off of the longest layer of feathers, the flight feathers. Cut about half the feather off. This is where you need to be careful.

Feathers are “alive” in the sense that they do have feeling and blood flow near the base. Unlike hair, which can be cut to the root, feathers should be cut well past the bloodline. You’ll see the bluish, thick shaft of the feather, but you’ll cut a few inches past it. 

 

When you cut the first feathers, the chicken may squirm a bit. Don’t worry, you aren’t hurting them, they just are getting used to the sensation. Cut with a gentle, firm hand, all the way down the wing.

 

After that, you’re done! The great news is you’ll only have to cut one wing! Doing this puts the chicken off balance when they try to fly. If both wings are cut, some smart hens can learn how to compensate for the shorter wings, and still manage to fly. Cutting only one wing has always worked for us! If you have some escape artists in your flock, before spending lots of money on coop revisions, try clipping their feathers instead!

Daylight Savings Time and Chickens

Does Daylight Savings Time affect chickens?

Well, the short answer is no. Of course chickens don’t have a need to understand numerical times, but YES they are affected by the shortening of days.

 

Autumn can be a rough time for chickens. You probably have noticed all of your birds molting. Molting happens to every chicken, every fall. They drop their old feathers, and grow in a new, fresh set for winter. They can be more vulnerable to cold during this time. Some of my girls go almost completely naked during molting season. One named Smarty, gets so puny, she literally looks like a disgruntled pigeon as she runs across the yard.

Chickens are creatures of habit. Their clock is the sun. It doesn’t matter to them if bedtime used to be at 9:00, but now it’s at 6:00. When the sun sets, that tells chickens it’s time to go up. Personally, the chickens going to bed earlier works for me! If you lock your flock up at night, you know the struggle of getting everyone in the coop when it’s still bright outside at 8:45pm in the summer.

With the sun as their guide, chickens undergo some internal changes when the days shorten. They now will lay less eggs, even stopping completely in winter. The darker days trigger the molt, which I mentioned previously. They will be spending more energy staying warm.

Just remember to please give your flock more energy rich foods this fall and winter. Whole corn makes a great evening snack for them, and will heat up their bodies during nighttime digestion. (It’s also a great way to persuade them to go up!) Ensure the coop is free of drafts and remember- no water inside the coop. (This prevents frostbite.)

 

Daylight Savings Time can be rough on everyone, chickens and humans included. Just prepare to hunker down and bring plenty of snacks- for your flock that is!

 

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