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How Do Chickens Sleep?

Chickens are some of the most fascinating birds to watch. Their beautiful plumage, quirky personalities and pecking order are intriguing. From them foraging for snacks to grooming themselves, chickens are always busy. They rest from time to time throughout the day and are great sleepers at night!

 

I don’t have an automatic door on our coop. I tried one once, and a couple of holdouts got locked out of the coop all night. I decided then that I prefer to “tuck them in” at night. I can do headcounts and ensure everyone safely makes it in for the evening.

Have you ever noticed that chickens will put themselves into the coop at dusk? This is because chickens have excellent vision during the day but can’t see a thing in the dark. This is also a good reminder that when you start with baby chicks, you must provide a small light 24/7. Baby chicks sleep a lot but also eat and drink a lot. Food and water are essential to their survival in the first weeks of life. And a huge part of this is that they’re able to see it to find it!

How Do Chickens Sleep?

Coco getting some good sleep in the safety of my arms.

Where Do Chickens Like to Sleep?

From the chick stage, chickens love to roost. While I do have chickens that prefer to bed down in the bedding or one that loves to sleep on a shelf (she’s special haha), most of my chickens love to roost for the night. This is their instinct.

In the wild, birds of all kinds roost as high as possible to avoid predators. I use 2×12’s for our roosting bars. In the winter, this is really important. Chickens will cover their feet with warm feathers, preventing their toes from getting frostbite. This is a bit easier if they have a flatter roosting bar. My flock races to see who can get to the top bar first. Haha! The latecomers get the next couple of lower rows.

Chickens are social creatures, and their sleeping habits reflect this. At night, chickens often huddle together, forming a tight-knit group. This behavior provides warmth and fosters a sense of security within the flock. They like being close to their flock members and usually have their favorite chickens they roost by.

Ensuring your chickens have a safe and secure environment to roost and huddle at night is crucial for their well-being. A sturdy, predator-proof coop or shelter with ample roosting space is essential!

How Do Chickens Sleep?

Reba relaxing in the sunshine.

How Do Chickens Sleep?

Like humans and many other animals, chickens experience rapid eye movement (REM), and non-REM sleep. During REM sleep, chickens may exhibit twitching movements and even vocalizations, suggesting they may dream!

Chickens also sleep with one eye open to watch for predators. Each eye is connected to the opposite side of the brain. So, one half of their brain can sleep while the other half is awake and aware of their surroundings. Isn’t that neat?!

During the day, chickens often enjoy short naps, but they truly settle in for a good night’s sleep once the sun sets. They should snooze from dusk till dawn, aiming for about 8 hours of sleep a night, much like us humans! Plus, just as our sleep can change with the seasons, chickens’ sleep habits may also shift depending on the time of year.

Factors such as light, noise and temperature can impact their ability to rest effectively. In nature, chickens synchronize their sleep-wake cycles with sunrise and sunset. In captivity, artificial lighting may disrupt this natural rhythm and impact their sleep quality.

How Do Chickens Sleep?

Sid the rooster, showing his sensitive side. He loved to cuddle!

The joy of spending time with your flock is priceless! The next time you find yourself in the yard with your chickens, and they’re sleeping with one eye open, you might think twice about slipping away. I have to be really quick in order to escape their follow-the-leader routine! It’s all part of their charm!

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

How Long Do Chickens Live?

 

“How long will your chickens live?” I get asked this question quite often actually. Most people know that my chickens are my pets. Yes, they give us delicious eggs, but they give me so much more!

How Long Do Chickens Live?

I’ve had my current flock for 5 ½ years now, and I’m extremely attached to many of my birds. So, when people ask how long a chicken’s lifespan is, my heart beats a little faster!

 

I’ve lost a couple of chickens due to natural causes and injury. However, overall, my flock has been super healthy. I attribute this to good genetics and Strong Animals Chicken Essentials. So, considering things like living environments, diet, adequate water, daily care, coop cleanliness, disease, vitamins and minerals, predator attacks, or even pecking order injuries, a chicken’s lifespan is anywhere from 5-10 years.

 

Each breed has a slightly different lifespan according to their genetics though.

 
How Long Do Chickens Live?

Roxanne has a personality you won’t forget!

 
 
How Long Do Chickens Live?

Tinkerbell quickly became a fan favorite!

 

Factors That Impact How Long a Chicken Lives

Some breeds are bred to be egg-laying machines. This can take a toll on a hen. Take an ISA Brown for example. Their average lifespan is only 2-3 years because they are a hybrid breed. They were bred to be large production hens.

 

A dual-purpose breed has a slightly longer average lifespan than that of a hybrid breed unless its purpose is meat production. A dual-purpose breed simply means they are bred for egg or meat production and do well for either. 

 

Then you have heritage breeds. Heritage breeds are slower growing and take a bit longer to mature. Genetics are very important to heritage breeders. Heritage breeds are chicken breeds that have been accepted into the American Poultry Association. These are the Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Brahmas, Australorps, etc. These chickens have a lifespan of around 8-10 years. They are great backyard chicken breeds!

 

The last type of breed is the landrace chicken breeds. They have the longest natural lifespans of over 10 years. These chickens develop without any human intervention. They have great genetics and are highly adaptable to their environments. Because their genetics haven’t been messed with, they have a strong immune system. These breeds are rare and not always easy to get your hands on.

 

In my backyard flock, we have many different breeds. We have multiple heritage breeds and some hybrids. I don’t own any landrace breeds, but I’d love to get some Swedish Flower Hens. My sister actually ended up with a Cornish Cross Hen, who we thought was a Leghorn rooster as a chick. Haha! She named her “Doug” which is so confusing, but she really thought she was a rooster. Doug happily lives with all of her other laying hens and is 4 years old! This is not very common, but super fun.

 

How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs?

Chickens’ ’ egg-laying lifespan is also dependent on various factors, including genetics. Typically, chickens start laying eggs between the ages of 16 to 24 weeks. Once they start laying, hens can continue producing for 5-10 years, with the highest production taking place during the first two years.

 

During the peak years, hens lay an average of six eggs weekly, accounting for a total of almost 300 eggs yearly, depending on the breed. As time passes, this number gradually decreases each year. However, it’s not unusual for a hen to continue producing well into their life. For example, those Plymouth Rock chickens we talked about earlier can lay eggs for 8-10 years!

 

Bottom line, I really feel like the lifespan of a chicken boils down to some of the same things as humans. Genetics, diet, lifestyle and environment play a big factor in us as well. However, chickens are a prey animal so they have to deal with predators and pecking order on top of all the other areas.

 

But, if we were just talking about the perfect chicken, with the perfect set-up, the average chicken will live 5-10 years. I’m savoring every moment I have with Happy, Roxanne, Reba, Tinkerbell and the list goes on and on! These girls stole my heart from the first peep. 

How Long Do Chickens Live?
 

My chickens aren’t just our egg providers…they are our pets and we love them so much! Taking proper care of them is an honor we take very seriously.

 

Until next time,

 

-The Wing Lady

 

All About the Sapphire Splash

Today I’m here to tell you about a chicken breed most of you have never heard of before, the Sapphire Splash.
Most of us have heard of the Sapphire Gem, a beautiful dark grey chicken that adds a sophisticated touch of color to a mixed flock. The Sapphire Gem has a cousin, the Sapphire Splash. Both are breeds originate in the Czech Republic.
I just love Sapphire Splash chickens, and not just for their color. Sapphire Splashes have some of the best temperaments of any chicken on the market now. My family has always had at least one SS hen on our little farm for the past 5 years. Whether I’ve gotten some in a hatchery mix, or specifically ordered some by breed, we’ve always enjoyed them!

Sapphire Splash chicks can be nervous at first, like all chicks. However, there seems to be something in their DNA that allows them to bond with people quicker than other breeds.

With an order of SS chicks, you can be sure that each will be a little different. All chicks are a shade of grey when young. They often have beautiful, grey eyeliner feathering and speckled beaks and feet. After maturing, the base coat of feathers are a cool, white grey. The splash pattern refers to the small darker grey freckles that dot the plumage. Each one has their own density of spotting, and some may have hardly many specks at all. The one common color trait they share is the toned, almost cool purple/blue base. I look at my hens sometimes and have thought they almost look baby blue after a fresh molt.

Sapphire Splash hens are excellent layers. They are one of the very last chickens to stop laying in the dead of winter. They are reliable layers, laying a large tan egg everyday under the right conditions. The body shape of an SS chicken is made for laying. You can compare their body shape to that of an ISA hen; having a deep chest, erect fan-like tail, and a slender S-shaped neck.

Sure the color of the Sapphire Splash is beautiful, and they lay great, but that’s not the shining quality they all possess.

Sapphire Splash chickens, especially the hens, are exceptionally friendly and tame. After only a short while, they gain trust in their owners. This makes them a wonderful breed for children!
With a few snacks, a Sapphire Splash will very quickly become your sidekick! No matter the mixed flock I’ve had over the years, it’s always been one Sapphire Splash or another who has had the kindest demeanor. There’s been Climber, Speedy, Silver, and currently just the one, named Coconut.

Unfortunately, in my experience, it can sometimes the the most friendly chickens who are the least afraid of danger. We have lost a few Sapphire Splash hens to rogue dogs. Due to their docile nature, they were sometimes the last ones to get away. This can be heartbreaking, but don’t let it deter you from trying out this awesome breed!

All this Sapphire Splash talk makes me eager to order some this coming Spring. I hope you too will consider this beautiful, approachable breed for your flock!

How to Store Chicken Feed

You don’t need a fancy barn or coop to keep your feed organized! For years I spent so much time walking from coop to barn, to barn to house, and back down again. Having all my feeding areas spread out was frustrating and a lot of extra work. Of course barns are important for animal shelter, but you don’t need a barn to store your feed!
Just make a metal storage box instead!

Here’s a fact for you: feed attracts vermin.
No matter where you decide to store your flock’s feed, mice will smell it and they will come. It’s for this reason, I prefer not to have hanging feeders in my coop. Broadcast feeding onto the dry ground, just enough for the chickens to eat each day, has drastically improved our mouse problem, but it was when my husband made me a storage box for the feed, that changed my game for good!

The best and most convenient way to store feed is in its own box. A trunk style box is small enough to be put anywhere in your farmyard. Where you put your feed box is up to you! We have ours closer to the house than the coop. It sits up next to the goat/chicken fence. On the other side of the fence, we have a little wooden trough where I can feed everyone all at once.
Your feed box will become the hub of activity in your farmyard, so you may not want to place it too close to the house! Our chickens and goats hang out next to the box when they are free ranging; probably waiting on their next meal!

The most important part of building your feed storage container, is to make the walls METAL. A wooden frame is fine, but metal walls are key to keeping out pests. Mice cannot chew through the metal, and should stay out. Metal is waterproof, lasts longer, is more affordable, and a is pest deterrent.
Unfortunately, it is also heavy. Installing a hydraulic hinge to either side of the lid will help keep it open without the danger of the lid falling on you. With the hinge, it will be super easy to pop up, so you’ll need to install a simple lock to keep the wind from blowing it open.
Inside, try using large plastic or metal bins to hold your different types of feed. This further protects the feed from becoming moldy or damp. I like to keep 3 containers of feed in my storage box: dog food, chicken feed, and horse/goat feed. It’s also handy to have a medicine box of first aid items on hand for emergencies. Some Blue Kote, bandages, scissors, rope, and zip ties are always in my “miscellaneous container.” Last, you’ll need somewhere to put all your empty feed bags, so I like to stack them along the back wall.

There you go, a one stop shop for all your daily feed needs! Having a storage box will cut time off your chore list, giving you more time to enjoy your flock! They are easy to build and you won’t regret it!

All About the Dominique Breed

Today we’re going to talk about a breed that looks so much like the Barred Rock, it’s almost hard to tell the difference. In fact, you have to look pretty close at their combs to tell them apart!

Barred Rocks have a single comb while Dominiques have a rose comb. Their feather patterns differ a bit as well, but you have to look pretty close to see that. I have Barred Rocks and I love them!  But I look forward to having a Dominique or two as well.

 

Dominique Chicken Breed

Photo: My Pet Chicken

 

History of the Dominique Breed

The Dominique is a beautiful heritage breed. Striking black and white feathers with a bright red rose comb and waddle, they will sprinkle your yard with beauty. Thought to have been brought over by colonists from southern England, Dominiques are considered the oldest breed in America. According to the Livestock Conservatory, “They have also been known as the Dominico, Blue Spotted Hen and the Old Gray Hen. However, they arrived, they have been in America since at least the 1750s, and were a popular dual-purpose bird. The Dominique was bred plentifully on American farms as early as the 1820s.”

 

Traits of Dominiques

Dominiques are a perfect family chicken. They are hearty, docile and friendly. They do well in both the heat and the cold. And a huge plus is that they will average around 250 eggs per year! They would be a great breed to add to your beginner flock. They get along well with other breeds and aren’t any noisier than a normal chicken.

 

Dominiques’ lifespan is typically 6-8 years, but this obviously depends on its living conditions and care. Their rose comb makes them a great winter hearty bird because it isn’t easily susceptible to frostbite. This breed will lay really well the first two years. After the first two years, their egg production declines a bit every year. Dominiques’ eggs are light brown and small to medium in size. Dominiques can go broody, but not like some breeds. They are sometimes used as dual-purpose birds but are mostly known for being egg layers. The roosters have beautiful tail feathers and stand upright.

 
Dominique Chicken Breed Eggs

Photo: Cackle Hatchery

 

My Experience with Dominiques

One thing I have learned while raising our backyard chickens is that chickens have their own personalities! No matter what the statistics tell you, they will be their own chicken! Hahaha! That’s been the most fun for me. Getting to know my flock as pets has been so life-giving. It’s been one of my very best “yes’s”.

 

We had two Dominique roosters with our very first flock 17 years ago, and they were very protective of their ladies. After a showdown with our 2-year-old son, they got to move to a different home. But overall, the Dominique is a very docile and friendly breed. Again, it all comes down to their individual personalities.

 
Dominique Chicken Breed

Photo: BackYard Chickens

If you’re planning for your spring chicks like I am, I hope you’ll consider the Dominique!

Until Next Time,

 –The Wing Lady

 

All About Chicken Feed: How Much, What to Avoid & Best Practices

This week, we’re talking all about chicken feed. This is a common question for new backyard chicken owners. There are so many options to choose from, so I will share what I use as well as how often I use it. Let’s start there.

 All About Chicken Feed

Best Practices to Feed Chickens

There are many chicken owners who only put the feed outside twice a day. This is actually a really great way to feed your chickens while cutting down on the pest population. By keeping food and water out of your coop, you’ll likely keep mice, rats, and other pests out of your coop. I love this idea especially for people who are in the habit of feeding their farm animals twice a day. This is not what I do, however. I keep my flock’s food and water in the coop, and they have access to it 24/7. This is what works for me.

I have a large flock, and I’m worried that if I only fed them twice a day, not everyone would get what they need. This way, the higher up in the pecking order birds usually get to eat first. Then, the lower hens still get to eat. If the weather is nice, they always get their snacks, treats and leftovers outside. ‘

 

In the winter, I’ll put leftovers pan out and give them their treats in the coop. I’ll also throw their scratch down on their bedding and they turn their bedding for me. It’s a win-win for everyone!

 

Different Types of Chicken Feed

Okay, let’s talk about different types of chicken food. When I start my chicks out, I use a non-medicated chick crumble. I prefer non-medicated food because my Baby Chick Care Kit includes First Peep which gives them such a great start and natural ingredients to do the same things as a medicated food. This is a personal preference, but if you use Strong Animals Chicken Essentials, you likely want to do things as naturally as possible.

Once your chickens hit around 8 weeks, it’s a good idea to switch from non-medicated starter feed to grower feed. This is where your chickens will start growing into mature hens that will eventually lay eggs. Switching from starter to grower feed at this point will give them what they need to grow and thrive.

When I switch my hens over to layer feed, I switch to pellets. I’ve found they are much less messy and less goes to waste. The chickens protested right away, but now they seem to love the pellets just as well.

If you’re raising meat chickens, you need to feed them meat bird food their entire (albeit short!) life. This will cause them to grow rapidly to produce meat within about 6 weeks.

How Much Feed Per Chicken

When it comes to the amount you should feed chickens, it’s important to consider their nutritional needs in order to maintain their health and maximize productivity. On average, a healthy adult chicken will consume around 1/4 to 1/2 pound of feed per day.

However, this amount can vary depending on factors such as age, weight, breed and activity level. For example, young chicks develop quickly, so their feed requires more amino acids, higher protein and higher phosphorus levels to support their growth. Once your hens start laying eggs, they’ve reached sexual maturity and need to be switched to layer feed. They also may need a higher calcium intake to support eggshell development. I use Chicken E-lixir as an added calcium supplement to support eggshell quality.

How to Integrate Flocks With Different Feeds

The hardest part of these different stages of feeding chickens is if you’re adding to your flock. It’s tough to make sure your chicks get what they need while your hens are eating their own food to get what they need.

First, it’s important to separate the two groups and provide them with their own feeding areas. This will ensure that each group is getting the nutrition they need without competition from the other. When it’s time to bring the groups together, it’s best to slowly introduce the new flock to the existing one. This can be done by placing the new chicks or birds in a separate but adjacent area.

All About Chicken Feed

Keeping your flocks and their food separate is very important to start! But I like to do it so they can see and hear each other to get used to one another.

Over several days, each group can explore the other’s territory and get used to each other’s presence. During this time, it’s important to monitor their behavior and ensure that there is no aggression or bullying.

Once everyone seems comfortable, you can start to open up the barrier between the two areas and allow them to mingle freely. Keep in mind that the new group may need time to adjust to the new feed, so gradually transition them from their old feed to the new one over a period of a few weeks. With patience and care, integrating flocks with different feeds can be a successful process that leads to a happy and healthy flock.

 

Chicken Scratch

Scratch is different from chicken feed! Chickens LOVE scratch. They would eat that over their chicken food any day. While scratch is a great treat for them, it cannot replace a good quality chicken feed. Chicken food is carefully formulated to give your chickens a balanced diet and good health.

I love Happy Tract and Golden Graze for my flock’s scratch. I know they are getting a fun treat that’s healthy and beneficial for them.

All About Chicken Feed
 

What Not to Feed Chickens

When it comes to feeding chickens treats, there are certain foods they can enjoy and other foods chickens should avoid.

Firstly, chickens can consume a variety of fruits, such as apples, blueberries, strawberries and watermelon, in moderation of course. Vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, green beans and lettuce are also great for their diet. Chickens love grains, so treats like corn or oatmeal can be given as a special snack.

However, they should not consume foods that are high in sugar, salt or fat such as chocolate, avocado and junk food. Additionally, tomato plants and raw potatoes can be toxic to chickens, so it’s important to do your research before adding anything new to their diet.

If you’re new to raising backyard chickens, welcome to the club! It’s one of my best “yeses”. Or, if you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s always good to have a refresher on chicken diets, especially if you’re considering adding to your flock.

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

Urban Chickens

Families frustrated by ordinances banning backyard chickens might be astonished to learn that flocks legally thrive in the Big Apple, America’s largest city.   Many New Yorkers tend chickens both in backyards and community gardens, encouraged and helped by the New York Chicken Guy, Greg Anderson.   

 

“Chickens have always been allowed in the City.  Years ago the State Department of Health declared  that chickens and rabbits are pets. This means the citizens of New York City can keep them as long as they are clean and safe.  Unfortunately roosters aren’t included since their crowing can reach 130 decibels.,” he said.  

Many non New Yorkers have visited densely packed Midtown Manhattan and can’t imagine how even a single chicken can live squeezed amid giant buildings and swarms of people.   Actually large areas of the City’s other boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx  have tree lined streets and homes with small grassy yards. Chickens live as comfortably in these small yards as in  suburbia.   Also scattered about the City are community gardens with  neighborhood flocks.  “No one knows how many chickens there are in New York City, but there’s a flock of about 50 birds in a Queen’s backyard,” said Anderson.  

 

What sets New York apart from other towns is its community garden flocks.  About 370  gardens on Park Department land are sprinkled about the huge city. They are managed and maintained by community volunteers who create their governance structure, membership procedure and focus.  About 150 other community gardens are owned by land trust organizations.  Many were once abandoned urban properties that volunteers have transformed into green islands.  All community gardens are  peaceful welcoming places where neighbors grow vegetables, tend chickens or just sit in a haven of greenery surrounded by enormous apartment buildings.  

 

Many New York City community gardens have a mission of food and social  justice and educational programming. They distribute vegetables and eggs to neighbors  through farmer’s markets, food box programs, and food pantries.  Much food is grown right inside the City.  “New York City has a long history of farming.  “The 47 acre Queens County Farm Museum dates back to 1697 and may have the largest chicken flock in the City,” said Anderson.  

 

How did New York City end up with a chicken guy?   “When I started working for the City Park and Recreation’s GreenThumb  program everyone knew I had knowledge of and loved chickens.  Whenever a call came in about chickens I ended up fielding it. After a few months I was informed by my supervisor that I was GreenThumb’s unofficial chicken man.  I was asked to help develop the GreenThumb Chicken Academy. It’s a six part program for new chicken keepers.  Students just need to be a part of a community garden.  Mine’s not a real title, but I love helping people enjoy chickens and care for them properly”, said Anderson.

 

New York City’s Individual backyard flocks are like those in suburban yards in smaller towns.  They are owned and cared for by the home’s residents.  Flocks in New York’s community gardens are different.  To have a community garden flock  residents  must file a plan with GreenThumb that includes the design for the coop and run, what vet the group will use in emergencies, how they will purchase supplies and who will care for the birds.  Every garden group is a little different.  Usually the  group owns the chickens and decides who will care for them at different times.  Some  community gardens allow individuals to own a small flock of their own.  “It’s up to the garden group”, said Anderson.

 

Is keeping chickens in  New York City different from tending a flock in a spacious small town suburban yard?   In some ways they are the same. Wherever they live chickens need a safe dry place to live, protection from predators, and clean food and water.

 

About eight million humans live in New York City but  there’s still plenty of room for  raccoons, opossums, and hawks that  enjoy filching a tasty chicken.  There are also  occasional two legged human predators.  New York’s ambience is  different from small towns.   “Sometimes the noise and lights of the city can be a problem but usually chickens quickly get used to it,” said Anderson.  

 

 “Companionship, fresh eggs, and being able to work with neighbors are rewards of keeping chickens,” said Anderson.   Caring for the birds and gardens is an outstanding way to both produce food and get to know other people.  Gardens  and chickens create communities.

 

People living in New York City are fortunate that their government allows chickens.   So are the citizens of Hiawatha, Iowa.  Their city council recently joined many other towns and  voted to allow  small flocks.   Unfortunately many towns, including some surrounded by rural farms, still ban chickens.  Their city councils should take a look at New York City, Hiawatha and so many other towns where citizens enjoy the  benefits of tending flocks.

 

Want To Keep Chickens But My Town Won’t Allow It?

 

Don’t  be frustrated.   Citizens everywhere  have successfully encouraged their own town council to change their ordinance to allow families to keep small flocks.  Typically homeowners are allowed to keep four to six hens and prohibit roosters and slaughtering chickens.   

 

Need help with ordinance change?   Read the Hoover’s Blog ADVENTURES IN ORDINANCE CHANGE.   Don’t give up.  Change is happening all over the country.  

Chicken Coop Lighting in the Winter

I don’t know about you, but me and the girls are feeling this long winter month! While it’s been absolutely gorgeous with multiple days of rime ice, January feels like it may never end. Rime ice is when super cooled water liquid droplets freeze onto the trees. It’s stunning and makes us feel like we’re in a snow globe.
Chicken Coop Lighting in the Winter

Inside the coop isn’t quite as glamorous. Haha! Chickens are messy and dusty, but I want to show you what we use for lighting in our coop. Chickens do their best egg laying work when they’re exposed to around 15 hours of light. Light plays a huge factor in egg production. Our winter days are much shorter than that, so if we want our flocks to continue laying, we need to supplement their light. We have lights in our coop simply due to a lack of windows. In the winter, our chickens need light to see to eat, scratch, play and lay eggs. They’re pretty much “cooped up” due to our large amounts of snow on the ground, so this is why we light our coop.

Chicken Coop Lighting in the Winter

We use the ceiling lights all year round. However, in the summer months, when it’s hot, we don’t have them on too much. The chickens spend most of the lazy summer days outside in their large run.

When we had our smaller coop and didn’t have electricity or the solidness of our current coop, we ran an extension cord to supplement a little light in the winter months. This was to help with lighting as well as predator protection. Chickens can’t see in the dark at all. So, if it’s dark they can’t even attempt to protect themselves.

Chicken Coop Lighting in the Winter

We have our lights on a timer now. The chickens get approximately 12 hours of light during the winter months. Our egg production slows way down in the winter, but I’m okay with the girls getting a “break”. Chickens also need periods of dark, so they can get adequate sleep. I love the summer months because my chickens just know when to go to bed. They slowly meander into the coop around dusk, get their last drink or snack, and jump up on their perch. I suppose it’s that way all year round in warmer climates. In that case, you’d have to decide whether you even need any light or not.

My chickens would be awfully unhappy and frankly unhealthy if we didn’t supplement a little light into their coop. It really does depend on our set up too. I know many people who raise backyard chickens here in Minnesota and don’t use any lighting. Because of our fairly closed set up (only two windows), we use it. I love to open the big doors up on warmer days to let more natural light and fresh air pour in. The chickens love it too!

Chicken Coop Lighting in the Winter

I’d like to touch on heat lamps really quick. The only time we use a heat lamp is if our heat panels can’t keep the brooder warm enough. We use them sparingly as I know there have been many coop fires due to these lamps. If you must use them, please make sure you’re checking the cords, connections and keeping them as dust free as you can. Fully feathered chickens do really well in the winter months! They have a built-in winter coat and can keep themselves quite comfortable.

For now, I’ll let the girls rest. Because as the days get longer, my egg basket will get fuller. And we all know with the current prices, full egg baskets are a blessing! If you really want your chickens to lay year-round, remember to supplement their light to around the 12–16-hour range. There are mixed thoughts on this, but the bottom line is that you need to do what’s best for your flock and family.

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

Adventures in Ordinance Change

During the past few years thousands of American families have started a backyard chicken flock. Bringing a breakfast’s worth of fresh eggs into the house is as prideful and delicious as growing and enjoying home grown vegetables.

 

Gardening is legal and encouraged everywhere. But sadly, many towns have enacted ordinances banning chickens inside city limits. Positive change is sweeping the nation.   Town and city councils everywhere recognize that many citizens want to legally keep a small flock. They are learning that it can be done without causing problems. So, many towns have changed anti chicken ordinances to allow families to keep a flock under certain conditions.

 

Anyone interested in buying chicks and eventually housing them in a backyard coop should first check to make sure it’s legal in their town. Most municipalities post ordinances on their website, so this is a good place to start research. It may be even quicker to call the city clerk to ask if chickens are permitted. If the answer is, “yes” a family has the legal liability to keep chickens as long as they follow local rules. If it is “no” don’t give up. When approached properly the council just might alter the ordinance to allow it. Ordinance change is democracy in action.

 

Anti Chicken Ordinances

Before World War II keeping chickens in town was common, even in huge cities like New York, where it is legal today. A backyard flock helped put food on the table.  During the war, the government encouraged homeowners to plant victory gardens and welcomed citizens to keep one or two hens per family member for eggs.  In wartime many families produced upwards of 40% of their food in their yard, freeing up commercially produced eggs and vegetables to feed soldiers and sailors.

 

That quickly changed after the war. Millions of young baby boomers left the farm life behind. They moved into new suburbs, launching an era of tidy, unblemished lawns and a few lollipop trees. Neither suburbanites nor local governments wanted farm animals inside city limits. Newly approved ordinances prohibited millions of people from keeping chickens on their own property. Some of those ordinances remain today. Times are changing and recently dozens of towns have altered their code to welcome chicken flocks.

 

Back in 2009 the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids held its first backyard chicken workshop. About 50 people attended. Back then, chickens were banned from this city of 125,000 people. Rebecca Mumaw attended the workshop and was so determined to legally keep a few hens that she, and other attendees, formed a group to encourage the city council to change its law and welcome chickens into municipal backyards.

 

In her words here’s how she did it:

 

“Des Moines and Ames had never banned chickens, and I first contacted the Ames Animal Control Director. He told me that they never had any problems with chickens in his town.  So, I contacted members of the Cedar Rapids City Council. Only about one in three was interested. Fortunately, we were able to form a group of families who wanted to keep chickens. The Nature Center let us meet at their facility and helped connect us.

“The small group always remained positive and followed a strategy that often works to encourage action from any political body.  Mumaw continued, “Our group formed a list of elements of what we wanted in an ordinance. They included a maximum of six hens, no roosters, no slaughtering, and no chick sales.  With the help of a local university professor, we developed an information packet that addressed common misconceptions about chickens. Do they smell or are noisy? Do they attract predators, other pests, or disease?  The council accepted our points.

 

“We then began attending city council meetings and usually had three people speak in favor of an ordinance change at every meeting. People of all walks of life participated.   Some were young couples with children, others were older. They generally represented a cross section of the demographics of the city. Each told why they wanted to keep chickens and the benefits to the community. We then started a Facebook Page to show the council we were organized and almost immediately had 1500 likes.

 

“We were persistent and always respectful of people who disagreed. Finally, after 18 months, the council voted to change the ordinance and chicken-keeping became legal. Now, ten years later I’d say the effort was worth it. Our animal control staff tell me they love working with families who keep chickens because they are so responsible and cause few problems,” she said.

 

Like many families Rebecca Mumaw loves her small flock. She likes knowing where her family’s food comes from. Kitchen scraps and garden weeds help feed her hens, and their droppings are excellent fertilizer.

 

Since Rebecca Mumaw led a successful effort to change the town’s code to allow chicken keeping, many other communities have modeled new ordinances after Cedar Rapids’. Ordinance change is happening all over the country, but many municipalities still ban small flocks.  The time is right for change, and forming a group like Rebecca Mumaw did and following their course of action may encourage any city council to welcome families to engage in such a pleasant and productive activity by changing their ordinance.

 

Ordinances of cities small and large that allow chickens can be viewed on the Indian Creek Nature Center’s Website. Go to indiancreeknaturecenter.org. Click on Programs and Events. Then click on Backyard Chickens.  A list of towns that allow chickens will pop up. Click on any town and their ordinance will appear.  Most vary slightly to meet local conditions, but odds are good that one of the town ordinances can be a model for your town.

 

If someone’s town prohibits keeping chickens, be positive and persistent.  The emergence of COVID-19, four years ago, has created anxiety about food security. Any family producing both vegetables and eggs in the yard is less dependent upon the grocery store. City councils recognize this and many are likely to consider changing their laws to allow it.

What is the Bloom on an Egg?

Chickens are absolutely incredible, and their ability to create and lay eggs is almost mind-blowing. Seriously, until we started raising backyard chickens, I didn’t put much thought into where our eggs came from. I would simply grab a couple dozen at the store and that was that.
What is the Bloom om of the Egg?

My egg rainbow didn’t extend outside of the classic white and brown egg until I started raising our flock. Now, I choose my new flock members because of their egg colors! There’s something so fulfilling about a full and colorful egg basket. And the breeds of chickens we’ve been introduced to because of this have been such a fun adventure! 

 
What is the Bloom om of the Egg?

All of these beautiful, washed eggs will go in cartons and into the fridge because the bloom was compromised by washing.

The Science Behind Egg Colors

Did you know that all eggshells start out white? The breed and genetics of each chicken will determine their egg color. And they’ll lay the same egg color their entire life. Their bodies undergo a process where they “dye” their egg before it comes out. And before the egg comes out, the hen’s body places a thin protective layer called a “bloom.” Some hens lay a heavier bloom, and some are a bit lighter. 

What is the Bloom on an Egg

The bloom on an egg is the protective layer that seals the eggshell to prevent unwanted bacteria (Salmonella) from entering the egg. This is important for humans and a developing chick! Unwanted bacteria can be a serious problem for a baby chick. And we know what happens if we get Salmonella poisoning. Yikes! The bloom also acts as a lubricant to help the egg rotate in the chicken’s uterus to come out rounded end first. Isn’t that incredible?

According to Dr. Bridget McCrea from The Chicken Whisperer Magazine, “An egg bloom is only between ten and thirty micrometers thick. It consists of glycoproteins, lipids, polysaccharides and inorganic phosphorus. There are two layers of an egg bloom. The first layer is closest to the shell’s palisade layer and it is foamy. The second layer is the outermost layer and it’s more compact.”

How a Compromised Bloom Affects Your Egg

The bloom also helps keep your eggs from going bad. I remember one time I went to crack an egg to fry, and it basically exploded. The smell was absolutely horrid! Somewhere along the line, the bloom was compromised, and the egg went bad.

How does a bloom get compromised? If an egg bloom gets wet or even rubbed too hard, the seal is broken. But, in this case, no worries! Any washed eggs simply need to go into the refrigerator. If your eggs are unwashed, they can sit on your counter and be just fine!

How Long Do Unwashed Eggs Last?

If you’re lucky enough to have a steady supply of fresh chicken eggs from your backyard flock, you may wonder how long they’ll last. As long as the bloom is still intact, unwashed eggs can be stored at room temperature for up to a month! That’s right – no need for refrigeration. However, as soon as you wash or clean the eggs, the bloom is compromised and they need to go into the fridge.

 

These dozen eggs below are unwashed and just fine to sit on the counter!

What is the Bloom om of the Egg?

How to Properly Store Eggs

Proper handling and storing of eggs is very important. If you wash or rub a dirt spot off, you must refrigerate your eggs. However, as you can see, I prefer to leave our eggs on the counter if possible. I store eggs pointy end down so the air bubble in the sac will remain at the top and not move down towards the yolk. This will keep your yolk more centered (yay for boiled eggs!) because it won’t have the pressure of a moving air sac.

Now that you’re an expert on egg blooms and proper storage, you can spread the love by sharing your fresh eggs with neighbors and friends! Just keep in mind that each state has its own rules on selling eggs, so be sure to do your research on washing and storing procedures before you start selling. Let’s keep those delicious eggs safe and legal.

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

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