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The Scoop on Apple Cider Vinegar for Chickens

In the world of backyard chicken care, apple cider vinegar (ACV) has become the latest craze. Many owners tout its health benefits, claiming it can transform the well-being of their flocks. But is ACV really the miracle it’s made out to be, or could it be just another fad with potential drawbacks?
Backyard chicken in the grass

Let’s explore the pros and cons of incorporating ACV into your chicken care routine.

Pros of Apple Cider Vinegar for Chickens

Apple cider vinegar is praised for several benefits, which include:

  1. Promotes Digestive Health: ACV can help balance the pH level in the chicken’s gut, which aids digestion and creates an unfriendly environment for bad bacteria. Its acidic nature can also help break down minerals and proteins, making them easier for chickens to absorb.

  2. Boosts Immune System: The natural antibacterial and antiviral properties of ACV can help boost the immune system of chickens. This might reduce their chances of contracting common diseases.

  3. Improves Feather Condition: Some keepers note that ACV can contribute to shinier and healthier feathers. This is possibly due to its impact on nutrient absorption and overall health.

  4. Assists in Mite and Flea Prevention: Some evidence suggests that adding a little ACV to your chickens’ water can help repel mites and fleas, although this shouldn’t replace regular pest control methods.

  5. Inexpensive and Accessible: ACV is readily available and relatively cheap, making it an easy supplement to add to a chicken’s diet.

Cons of Using Apple Cider Vinegar for Chickens

Despite its benefits, the drawbacks of ACV arise from misuse and over-reliance:

  1. Corrosive Properties: ACV is highly acidic. If used inappropriately, it can irritate or even damage the mucous membranes of the chickens’ digestive tract, leading to discomfort or damage.

  2. Overuse Can Lead to Nutritional Deficits: Chickens consuming too much ACV might feel fuller faster, potentially leading to reduced food intake and nutritional shortages.

  3. Potential for Acidosis: Excessive use of ACV can lower the pH too much, leading to acidosis, a serious condition that affects the chicken’s metabolism.

  4. Lack of Scientific Backing: There is a significant lack of scientific studies on the effects of ACV in poultry. Most of the benefits reported are based on unreliable evidence.

  5. Interaction with Medications: If your chickens are on certain medications, ACV could potentially interact with these drugs, altering their effectiveness.

If you choose to use ACV in your flock, always dilute it with water. Provide this mixture weekly, not daily, to prevent acidity buildup and closely monitor your chickens’ health and behavior. If any side effects occur, stop using it and consult with your veterinarian immediately.

Chicken E-lixir: A Researched Alternative

While ACV has its place, there’s a product designed to ensure your chickens receive balanced care without the guesswork: Chicken E-lixir. This product uses a unique blend of ingredients that are supported by research to enhance chicken health.

Pros of Chicken E-lixir

  • Backed by Research: Chicken E-lixir contains a researched blend of organic oregano essential oil, known for its strong antibacterial properties, which are very beneficial for chickens’ digestive health.

  • Complete Health Support: Along with oregano, the inclusion of prebiotics, calcium, vitamins D and E, and electrolytes ensures comprehensive health support for the immune, digestive and respiratory health of chickens as well as strong eggshells.

  • Simplicity in Dosing: Chicken E-lixir eliminates the uncertainty in dosing with a straightforward recommendation of one capful per gallon of water, ensuring you never give too much or too little.

  • Strong Track Record: Having used Chicken E-lixir myself for nearly six years, I’ve observed my flock remaining consistently healthy and vibrant!

Chicken E-lixir for egg quality

While ACV offers certain benefits for chicken health, its potential risks cannot be ignored. If you want to take a safer approach to raising chickens, I highly encourage you to try Chicken E-lixir and check out the rest of the Strong Animals product lineup. They have changed how we’ve raised backyard chickens, and there is no turning back for our family!

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

Apartment Style Gardening

Dreams of living the country life often start in times of our lives when we are not yet able to fulfill them. Like many people out there, I myself once dreamed of rolling hills and a simpler life while living in an urban sprawl. My husband and I lived in a small Japanese apartment for 2 years before we settled back in Alabama. That being said, no matter the space you have, there are still many options out there if you want a piece of the farm life.

 

Apartment style gardening has grown in the past decade, with more and more people maximizing their small spaces to grow their own food. You may not have enough space to grow a whole field of corn, but you can still grow just enough to occasionally give yourself fresh herbs or veggies to compliment a salad. Food just tastes better when you grow it yourself!

 

Plants grown in containers can thrive in a small space. Your plants will do best if given the opportunity to experience the sun and wind. It has been proven that plants need wind flow to grow sturdy, stable roos. Having our plants close at hand makes weeding easy, and plants potted alone are less susceptible to diseases. Here are two simple, affordable types of apartment style gardening you can try.

 

  1. Cherry Tomatoes in a Large Pot

 

Cherry tomatoes do wonderfully in containers and are super tasty if home raised. The average height of a mature cherry tomato plant is 3-4 feet tall. When growing a single plant in a container, it is best to go big. having to move your plant to larger containers as it grows adds undue stress on the roots. Try imagining how large you want your tomato plant to grow, and buy a container according to that end size.

Tip: Don’t aways buy heirloom.

 

Heirloom plants are very popular these days. You can regrow new plants from the seeds of anything heirloom. However, in my experience, heirloom varieties are more likely to spread and grow large without ever stopping! Especially types of heirloom tomatoes, which seem to reach their arms everywhere.

Much research and breeding has gone into making some hybrid vegetable plants that overproduce and do not take over your entire space. Be sure to read the label and be sure you are getting “determinate” cherry tomatoes. Indeterminate veggies will grow and grow and spill out over your balcony! Lastly, place the container in an area that gets at least 6 hours of full sun.

 

  1. Indoor Herbs

 

It is no secret that plants thrive when outdoors, but with the right conditions, plants can do well inside too! Herbs can be grown inside under fluorescent lights! Just be sure to hang the light no closer than 6 inches from the top of the plant. Metal halide or fluorescent lights can be used, and must be on for an average of 12-16 hours a day for maximum production.

 

Fresh herbs add so much flavor to dishes and you’ll be more likely to use them if they are at hand! Some good indoor herbs include rosemary, basil, oregano, cilantro, thyme, and sage. Avoid spreadable herbs hat like to run, like mint and lemon balm. You can put a fan n low, and blow your herbs occasionally to mimic the wind, making the plant grow stronger.

 

Remember: Wet dirt is heavy dirt.

 

Indoor plants will need more watering than outdoor plants. The dry air inside a home quickly zaps out moisture in the soil. You may need to water your veggies and herbs more. I suggest using potting soil from a hardware store for your container plants. Dirt, if collected from outside, if often denser and less aerated, and can be disastrously heavy when wet. Potting soil is much lighter and drains water well. be sure your container can drain, and be aware of exactly where the water is draining.

 

Apartment style gardening can benefit you, regardless of the space you have at your disposal. Good for the mind, body, and soul, gardening has been with us for centuries, don’t let space hold you back. There are many ideas out there, and you may just come up with some new ones of your own!

All About the Sapphire Gem Chicken

It’s time for another breed spotlight! I love doing these because I learn so much about the different breeds of chickens. Did you know that more than 1,600 different breeds of chickens are recognized worldwide?
Sapphire Gem Chickens

 

I remember starting with chickens thinking there were probably just a few different varieties to choose from. I went completely basic with my chicken breeds until I got into it a little further. Now I have over 25 different breeds in my backyard!

 

Most recently, I got a Sapphire Gem in my newest flock of chicks, and I’m so excited to see “Swiss” grow up. My sister had a couple of Sapphire Gems for years, and they were kind and gentle and laid extra-large eggs. Why it has taken me this long to add one to my crew is beyond me!

 
My Sapphire Gem Chick Swiss

Trying to convince Swiss, my Sapphire Gem, that she can be nice!

 

Sapphire Gems are one of the prettiest breeds available, in my opinion. Their gorgeous “blue or lavender” plumage is unmatched. Most people refer to them as grey or light grey, but no matter how you refer to them, they are beautiful!

 

History of the Sapphire Gem Breed

The history of Sapphire Gem chickens is a bit mysterious. It’s believed that they hail from the Czech Republic, but the evidence is limited. They appear to be a mix of Blue Plymouth Rock and Barred Plymouth Rock, with a striking resemblance to Old Andalusians. Despite their mystery, these birds are adored for their gorgeous color and egg production abilities.

 

Trademarked by an American hatchery, these chickens closely resemble the old Andalusian breed dating back to the mid-1800s. While their exact introduction date remains uncertain, Sapphire Gems have soared in popularity recently, becoming a favorite among backyard chicken owners.

 

How Many Eggs Do Sapphire Gems Lay?

On average, a single Sapphire Gem hen can lay up to a staggering 290 eggs per year! Yes, you read that right – 290 eggs! And not just any eggs; Sapphire Gems are known for producing extra-large, brown eggs that are as delicious as they are impressive.

 

Whether you’re a seasoned backyard chicken owner or a novice chicken enthusiast, gathering nearly 300 eggs per year will surely excite you! With Sapphire Gems in your flock, you’ll never have to worry about running out of fresh eggs again.

 

Traits of Sapphire Gem Chickens

These amazing birds are not only prized for their egg-laying abilities but also for their docile nature and friendly disposition. They’re a joy to have around the coop, making them an ideal choice for families or any flock.

 

Sapphire Gems are known for their docile personalities; however, the chick I have was absolutely vicious to start with. Since then, I have heard from some people that their Gems have been mean. But the consensus is that the Sapphire Gem breed is super friendly and gets along with all the other breeds and animals.

 

I’m hoping Swiss has grown out of that now. She’s three weeks and is so far behaving a lot nicer in the brooder! Who knows? Maybe she will turn out to be very sweet! That’s what we’re hoping for anyway!

 

Sapphire Gem Chick

These frumpy little baby feathers will turn into beautiful plumage!

 

Sapphire Gems have a single comb, are cold and heat-hardy, and are not known for being overly broody. They are considered medium in size, but due to their large egg production rate, they are not overly suitable for being meat chickens.

 

They can sometimes be harder to find and are a little more expensive as chicks, but they are worth it! Hoover’s Hatchery is where I got my Sapphire Gem, and they have more available this spring. If you’re worrying about mail-ordering chicks, don’t be worried! It’s a smooth process if you follow these tips.

 

I almost wish I had gotten more than one Sapphire Gem chick this year simply because of their egg production. However, I’m also a fan of breed diversity for its different personalities, coloring, and, of course, egg color.

 

After we made it through the first fiasco with another little chick, I decided to chalk up that experience to the pecking order. I’m excited to see her sweeter, more docile side in the coming months!

 

Until next time,

 

–The Wing Lady 

Black Australorps

The story of the Black Australorp breed began first in England in the early 1900’s. A man named William Cook from Kent, United Kingdom, created the Orpington chicken. Orpingtons are large, heavy feathered, docile poultry. Orpingtons then were shipped to Australian homesteads in the 1920’s to fill a need for laying birds. The Orpingtins were crossed with other egg production breeds, such as the Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, and Minorca. Thus, the Black Australorp was born, and its namesake is a combination of the words Australia and Orpington.

 

Black Australorps still exhibit some of the characteristics of their Orpington cousins. They have a gentle temperament and are easily tamed. They make great chickens for children or beginners.

Coming in dark hues, they can be black, white, or blue. Unfortunately, only the black color is recognized in America at this time. The Australorp chicken is a large bird, with roosters averaging between 8-10lbs., and the hens averaging at about 7lbs. They are a slower growing breed, and should mature at around 6 months of age. Since their breeding was created with an emphasis on egg production, and away from meat yield, Australorps make better layers than friers. They actually make wonderful pets and friends! If you happen to have treats, you’ll soon have a flock full of Australorp friends!

When it comes to care, the Black Australorp is an easy keeper. Being such large birds decreases their ability to fly, so with Australorps, you won’t need a tall fence. They are more likely to come home to the coop each night than flightier breeds. Excelling at free ranging, a well fed, happy Black Australorp hen can lay up to 300 large cream colored eggs per year! They are unlikely to become broody, which is a positive if you are relying on eggs for breakfast year-round! A broody hen will stop laying once she gets her clutch of eggs to a good size. She will not be content until she hatches some babies!(-and that is a whole story for another time!) A hen less likely to become broody keeps laying unfailingly until the yearly molt.

 

The Black Australorp may have a funny name, but now you know why and just how great these chooks are! Bold, beautiful, and a bombastic layer, add a few to your flock this year!

 

Composting Chicken Coop Bedding

If you’ve ever driven though the countryside on a Spring day, you may have been struck by the odor of chicken manure spread over the fields. While a temporary, smelly inconvenience, chicken manure can drastically improve grass health. Nitrogen is one of the most important indicators of pasture health, and chicken manure happens to be high in such an essential nutrient. Along with nitrogen, composted chicken manure regenerates soil heath by adding phosphorus and potassium, common ingredients in store-bought fertilizers.

Before adding your chickens’ spent bedding to your garden, it must be composted first. Composting allows time for the breakdown of nutrients, making a supplement for the soil that has taken the “sting” out of fresh manure. Fresh chicken manure can burn plants n a garden, so it always need to be composted first.

Composting is the breakdown of litter material, aided by microbes which work to remove ammonia content. Too high ammonia levels can burn plants, so composting is essential.

Whether you clean your coop out weekly, or twice a year, you can still have a compost pile. Find a place off to the side of your property where you can dump old bedding. Keep turning it periodically, about every week. Turning ensures all parts of the bedding begin to properly compost. Composting creates heat, so if you see steam rising from your compost pile, it is working! The microbes inside the soil neutralize the ammonia and begin making the nutrients safe again. Chickens themselves also can help in the turning of the compost. Ours love to hang out on the compost pile and scratch up grubs.

 

There are three methods for creating chicken compost in your garden.

 

The first is by simply leaving raw, uncomposted bedding directly to your garden beds in autumn. Turn the bedding into the soil, mixing with old newspapers and leaves. The general ratio of “hot material” (chicken manure, horse bedding, goat droppings, etc) needs to be a 1:4 ratio with “brown material,” or leaves, newspaper, grass clippings, or fresh soil. The compost itself is simply an addition to the already existing soil. Turn your garden a few times and allow to sit all fall and winter, until spring comes.

 

The second method, involves tending to a pile for at least 6 months outside of the coop. Keep turning the pile regularly, maybe once a week. You can use a pitchfork, but a tractor may be easier. You can also add the bedding from other livestock (but never add anything from carnivores). Table scraps and coffee grounds make great additions to the compost. Allow to compost for 4-6 months at least.

 

The third way to compost chicken bedding, is by simply letting it compost itself inside the coop. This is called a “deep litter” method. Every so often, just add clean shavings on top of your already spoiled bedding. Keep adding more shavings for a year or so, until you have reached a few feet deep. Do one final, big clean-out, stripping out all the bedding. It should already be composted. Composting bedding also creates warmth in the coop for chickens during the winter months. Just be prepared, you will be doing quite a dirty job when you clean out the coop, which is why I personally prefer to use the second method!

 

Once your compost has officially turned into something good, it will not have a bad smell. The smell will more closely resemble wet dirt, and the color should be a dark brown. Simply mix in with your garden soil. All plants can benefit from composted chicken manure! Vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and even the grass in your yard will all thank you. Try composting this year, and reap the rewards next year!

Duck Nutrition

There is a saying that chickens are the “gateway drug,” of livestock. Many of us have started out with chickens! Raising chicks into healthy adult chickens takes some know-how and practice.

All joking aside, you need to know the nutritional needs of ducks before you decide to add them to your flock. Ducks and chickens can live together in the same area, but ducks will have different nutritional needs. Ducks tend to be messier than chickens by nature, so ample room is a must.

 

Water, water, and more water!

The number one key to healthy ducks is access to lots of clean water. Ducks must have water to safely consume food. In the wild, ducks are dabblers. Their bills are specially designed with small combs along the inside of the mouth. After taking a mouthful of water and muck, the duck will push the water out of its mouth, over the combs, thus trapping any yummy food morsels. In captivity, ducks will pick up a mouthful of feed, and dip their bills into water. Just like in the wild, domesticated ducks mix the feed and water together. This mimics filter feeding and also helps the ducks swallow. Ducks must be able to actually submerge their entire bills into the water, so make sure they have a pan of water, not water nipples or a regular chicken waterer.

 

Ducks need niacin.

 

Niacin is a much needed type of Vitamin B. Without niacin, domesticated ducks can begin to develop abnormalities, such as swollen legs and inward turning feet. Luckily, niacin is easy to find. It is most easily found in brewer’s yeast, which can be purchased online or in your local feed store. Adult ducks need 10 mg of niacin daily. As soon as you bring your ducklings home, start sprinkling a small scoop of powdered brewer’s yeast directly on their waterfowl ration.

 

Niacin can also be found in smaller quantities in some favorite treats for ducks. Green english peas, fresh fish, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and canned salmon or tuna. Ducks are omnivores, so like chickens require a varied diet of plant matter and animal proteins.

(The irony is bread products contain niacin. It is not encouraged to feed ducks too much bread. Bread is non-nutritious and can easily become impacted in the duck’s throat, causing choking.)

 

Like chickens, ducks are omnivores. An omnivore needs to consume both plant and animal matter. Be sure to give your ducks lots of healthy treats, such as sliced grapes, leafy greens, oats, corn (cracked or whole), bird seed, and table scraps.

 

Ration Requirements

 

Starting out, ducklings need a duckling starter crumble. This needs to be specifically made for waterfowl, at least for the first 3 weeks. Chick starters contain too much protein. Too much protein can cause deformities, such as angel wing, in young ducklings. After 3 weeks of age, you can begin feeding an adult waterfowl ration, or layer pellet for chickens.

 

Like chickens, duck also need access to an insoluble grit, such as oyster shells. Leave the grit out in a separate pan for free choice eating. Ducks can be especially susceptible to harm from moldy feeds. Be sure to clean your ducks’ feed often and don’t allow it to become soaked on the ground.

 

Ducks are great free-rangers and will greatly benefit from getting outside to look for supplemental food. A coop is okay, a yard is better, and an actual pond is the best environment for any duck. With a little preparation, anyone can raise ducklings. Ducklings grow incredibly fast and are an entertaining addition to any homestead; just don’t forget your niacin and you’ll become successful fast at raising ducks!

How Do Roosters Fertilize Eggs?

It’s no secret I love talking to people about all things chickens. I get so many great questions from people who are genuinely interested in these feathery friends! Of course, they usually ask about Happy or Roxanne, if I have the fluffy chickens (Silkies) and how many chickens are in my flock. But I also got some questions that surprised me.
How Do Chicken Eggs Get Fertilized?

I’m a firm believer that there are no bad questions. After, “How do you keep your chickens warm in the winter?” I usually get, “Do you need to have a rooster for your hens to lay eggs?” One time, I even got, “Do hens nurse their chicks?” Haha! I got a good laugh out of that one, but again, there were no dumb questions, so I simply answered that no, they didn’t! But here’s some answers to the questions you might have on roosters and eggs.

How Do Roosters Fertilize Eggs?

When a rooster and a hen engage in mating behavior, the rooster transfers sperm to the hen through a process called “cloacal contact.” This occurs when their cloacas, the common opening for reproductive and digestive tracts, make contact, allowing for the transfer of sperm from the male to the female.

 

Once inside the hen, the sperm can remain viable for several weeks, ready to fertilize any eggs the hen lays during that time. If an egg has been fertilized, the embryo begins to develop within it.

 

It’s worth noting that the eggs we typically consume are not fertilized (from the grocery store or your coop as long as you don’t have a rooster). However, it’s also perfectly safe to eat a fertilized egg, as long as they’re fresh and haven’t been incubated. In fact, fertilized eggs look and taste just like unfertilized ones (see the comparison image below).

Do Chickens Need a Rooster to Lay Eggs?

How Do Chicken Eggs Get Fertilized?

My very first time hatching eggs was 4 years ago. I got these fertilized eggs from Alabama Silkies.

I get this question a few times a year. The answer is no! You don’t need a rooster for a hen to lay an egg. Hens will lay one egg every 24 hours all on their own. However, if you want to hatch out chicks, you do need a rooster.

To produce an egg, chickens need an average of 12-16 hours of light, adequate calcium and a good diet. The whole process of forming an egg inside a hen is absolutely incredible!

How Do I Tell if an Egg is Fertilized?

How Do Chicken Eggs Get Fertilized?

This is a great picture from Fresh Eggs Daily.

A fertilized egg will have a “bullseye” on the yolk somewhere. These eggs are perfectly safe to eat. However, if given enough time under a warm hen or incubator, they will start forming a chick. It takes 21 days for a chick to hatch.

Another method to tell if an egg is fertilized is called “candling.” Use a bright light source in a dark room, hold the egg against the light and observe the interior. Fertilized eggs display intricate spider-like veins and a dark area indicating embryo development, while unfertilized eggs appear uniformly translucent.

The bottom line is that having a rooster with your flock is actually really fun! They’re a great asset as long as they remain gentle and kind towards people and their hens. If they get aggressive, they can actually cause a lot of harm to people and even their hens. Roosters are majestic protectors who take their job seriously. However, I have quickly and easily made decisions to get rid of them if they turn mean. These are decisions that every backyard chicken owner will have to make!

My encouragement to you is to make the right decision for your family and your setup. People will always have plenty of advice or “tips” for you, but you know what’s best for your home. Sometimes, we have to make the hard decision to get rid of a rooster because that’s what’s best for everyone, and that’s okay!

With that said, it’s almost chick season here in Minnesota. I’m thankful for roosters and all they do for our flocks. I’m also so excited to add to our backyard crew this spring! Will you be adding to your flock?

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

 

        

DIY Chicken Feed

Most of us feed our grown flock of birds layer pellets. Layer pellets are a great food, containing most of what an adult hen needs to survive. If you would like to treat your chickens with a ration that does more than simply let them survive, try making your own!

That being said, chickens allowed to free-range on a good sized, diverse piece of yard, do not have to be fed a special diet at all. Chickens allowed to be chickens will balance out their nutritional needs completely naturally! However, all chickens need some type of complete daily ration to thrive. Chickens are naturally omnivores. Omnivores, like us humans, need a rich and varied diet of both plant and animal matter.

To make your own chicken feed, head down to the co-op with a list of seeds and grains you’d like to include:

  • 40% Layer pellets (see other protein sources as well)
  • 10% Whole Corn
  • 10% Sunflower Seeds
  • 40% Grain Mix (Wheat, millet, barley- often available in “scratch grain mixes)
  • Crushed Oyster Shells (served separately)

Protein

When it comes to protein, pelleted layer feeds are already specially formulated to handle this need. If you are on a budget, you can add a bag of pelleted feed to your DIY mix.

Most of the protein in pelleted feeds comes from soybeans. While this seems to be a good option, soy beans also contain high levels of estrogen. People consuming too much estrogen from soy products have been known to develop an increased risk of thyroid disorders, infertility, and breast cancer. That fact leads me to explore other protein options for my chickens. After all, we eat their eggs, as well as just care about them, so I’d like to have other options. Unfortunately, protein can be the most expensive component of making your own feed.

Chicken feeds usually contain somewhere between 15-18% protein. This is the optimal amount of protein for a chicken. They can survive on this ration, however, a more varied and colorful diet will often yield happier chickens.

Other protein sources:

  • Insects (the free kinds)
  • Dried Mealworms (costly, but a great treat for chickens)
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Eggs (give them leftover eggs, raw or cooked!)
  • Dog or cat food ( as an additional treat, not only ration)

Whole Corn

I am a huge fan of whole corn for my flock. A while back ago, I was looking for a feed that wasn’t pelleted and I could feed to my whole herd of barnyard animals. (Chickens, ducks, and goats).  Whole corn contains 7.5 % protein, and should be given at about 10% of their daily ration. Feeding corn supposedly will increase body temperature while digesting, making it a great evening treat for your hens before a winter’s night. Corn must be fed in moderation, and you do not want whole corn to be your primary feed, or your chickens will start getting too fat!

 Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds not only are delicious for chickens, but they contain amino acids. Amino acids help build protein, and chickens do not make this on their own as well as some other animals. Sunflower seeds, fish meal, and sesame meal all contain good amounts of amino acids.

Whole Grains

Whole grains make up to 70% of the diet of a chicken when it is free choice fed. Grains come in many different shapes and sizes and are essentially the dried seeds of grasses. The most available grains at the feed store include wheat, oats, barley, and millet. Most co-ops offer scratch grain mixes, varying in types of grains added. Our co-op has a 3 way, 9 way, and 12 way scratch grain. These are the grains chickens “scratch up” when naturally free ranging. Scratch grains are meant to be fed supplementary to pelleted layer feed. Pre-made scratch grains are an awesome addition to a DIY feed mix!

Crushed Oyster Shells

Please remember to also give your chickens access to crushed oyster shells daily, especially if you get a lot of eggs. Calcium in the seashells helps make strong eggshells! I like to leave mine out in a pan on the ground in a dry spot. The hens will take what they need as they need it.

There are many feed options out there for the chicken enthusiasts to learn and try nowadays. Get to know your local feed store and start exploring your options! Remember, chickens also benefit greatly from table scraps and lots of leafy greens. Bon Appetit!

Neighbors Help Make Backyard Flocks Possible

Occasionally a friend visits us at Winding Pathways.  He’s a retired professor of ornithology…..a bird guy. The first thing he does is “go visit our girls”. These girls are our backyard chicken flock.

 

Our chickens are attractions that entice friends here and are ambassadors of positive neighbor relations. Our hens give us eggs while showing visitors how well these fascinating food producing animals fit into modern lives and suburban backyards.

 

We live in an urban world. A couple of generations ago most Americans grew up on farms or in small rural towns. Although they now live in a modern suburb they have a basic understanding of animal husbandry.

 

That’s changed. Today most people are two or three generations removed from the farm. They grew up in vast suburbs or cities and lack personal connection with farm animals. Most only know chickens as plastic wrapped meat sold at the grocery store or the bird flu scares on media.

 

Neighbors with no experience tending chickens might believe they are smelly, noisy animals that belong on the farm but not in the backyard. If they call city hall to complain a family might be forced to get rid of their flock. Encouraging neighbors to experience live chickens helps them understand how diverse, beautiful, and useful they are and reduce the odds of a complaint. Visiting the flock might even convince a neighbor to build a coop and keep their own hens.

 

There’s another reason to introduce neighbors to a backyard flock. We like to travel. And, chickens need care every day. Sometimes twice a day. Neighbors familiar with our chickens and their care often are happy to come by and care for the birds when we’re on a camping trip. Their reward is bringing home delicious eggs.

 

Here is what we do at Winding Pathways to help our neighbors appreciate our flock, while helping us recruit volunteers to tend the chickens when we need to travel:

  • Keep the coop immaculate by regularly dusting, cleaning windows, removing cobwebs, and adding a fresh layer of pine chips to the litter. The coop always has the pleasant aroma of a pine forest.
  • Invite neighbors to visit and see our chickens. Even a brief coop visit to introduce them to real live chickens may pique their curiosity and dispel the fear that they’re smelly and noisy.
  • We especially welcome children to see baby chicks, collect eggs, and take some home to cook for the family. We make sure everyone washes hands after being around chickens and handling eggs.
  • Share eggs with neighbors. People love fresh eggs.
  • Keep a Hoover’s Hatchery catalog in the coop to share with visitors. It’s a beautiful and valuable reference guide. People have fun looking at catalog photos to identify the breeds in our coop.
  • Let a neighbor help develop a baby chick order. One of our neighbors regularly tends our flock when we’re away. We let her choose a couple of breeds when we order chicks from Hoover’s. These are “her” birds even though they live in our coop. It gives her a personal connection with our flock.
  • Help neighbors see that chickens are outstanding recyclers of kitchen scraps. They might even bring their own leftover goodies over to feed the hens

 

Sadly, today many people don’t even know their neighbors. A chicken flock can attract folks to the yard for a social gathering. The flock can be the glue that brings people together to create friendship and understanding.

Caution

 

Welcoming coop visitors has benefits but there’s a caution. A human visitor could carry a disease to the flock, perhaps from a microbe hidden in dirt on a shoe. Observe biosecurity as explained in Hoover’s Catalog. Also keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in the coop and encourage all visitors, especially kids, to wash up and sanitize after leaving the coop and before eating lunch.

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