Home

FROM OUR BLOG

Poultry Watering Systems

Poultry watering systems come in many shapes and sizes these days, and your local feed store will have several options. So, which one is right for you?

There are advantages and disadvantages to any product, so choose the one that is best suited to your situation. As I tell any farmer, beekeeper, or gardener: “Do what works for you!”

Some of your choices for watering systems are:

-Metal founts

-Plastic founts

-Water troughs

However, my personal preference is poultry nipples. While the founts work, I found not only did they have a tendency to get dirty, but they would also often develop a tiny leak that would cause the whole thing to dump out, leaving a wet spot in the coop. If we didn’t catch it on time, the flock would run out of water. If you are going to use a fount, I recommend building a stand to keep it up off the ground and minimize some of the contamination issues.

The main advantage to poultry nipples is that the water you are giving your birds stays clean and cool as long as it stays in a shady place where the chickens can have constant access. They are also inexpensive and can be installed in a variety of ways to suit your needs.

For mobile coops, you can simply install them on the bottom of a five-gallon bucket and suspend it inside your coop. This setup should be sufficient to keep a small flock of backyard birds well-hydrated for a week without needing to refill.

If you have a larger flock in a mobile coop, you can attach the nipples to a PVC pipe by drilling the recommended size hole and screwing them in. I like to have at least one nipple per six birds, spaced out every 12 inches along the pipe. This pipe can then be attached to a 30- or 55-gallon drum as the water source. Fill your drum with water weekly and your chickens will have plenty of cool clean water to drink.

For a more permanent coop, you can use a set up a similar system using a PVC pipe attached to a water supply. If you are going to go this route you will also need a pressure reducer to take your pressure down to below 1 PSI. These are available to order, just be sure to look for the reducers specifically designed for poultry nipples. For the DIY enthusiasts, you can also build an inexpensive reducer by putting a stock tank float in a five-gallon bucket. Then hook the PVC pipe up to the bottom of the bucket and allow the water to feed into the line using gravity.

A few recommendations I have no matter which system you choose:

-Always plan on having a way to clean out the system. For the PVC pipe design, this can be as simple as a ball valve at the end of the line that allows you to flush the system. I like to run a bit of bleach through the lines at least every 6 months to keep things sanitary.

-In colder climates, plan on keeping your system from freezing by using heat tape.

-Train your birds to use nipples from the youngest age possible. I put them in the coop along with a fount when the birds are about a week old, then I raise the bucket as they grow and can reach up higher.

-Make sure your waterer stays in the shade on hot summer days.

-Have fun raising your birds, take time to observe their daily activities, watch and listen as they peck at the watering system to fulfill their needs. They are fascinating creatures, especially ducks!!!

Drew Erickson is Farm Manager for Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center in Marion, Iowa. Learn more about Rodale Institute and their work in the Midwest at RodaleInstitute.org/Midwest.

Do Birds Lay Different Colored Eggs Over Time?

One of the most interesting aspects of owning your own chickens is the beautiful array of colors that you can get.  At the grocery store, you’ll be lucky to find brown eggs, much less eggs that are shades of green, blue, cream or chocolate colored.  It’s a breath-taking experience to fill a carton with different colored eggs.  Can you pick out which hen lays which eggs based on the color of the eggs?  Do hens always lay the same color egg? Or does egg color change over time?

How do chickens lay different colored eggs?

The way that eggs are colored is almost as interesting as different colored eggs are to look at.  All eggs start off as white within the hen’s body.  The eggshell is composed primarily if calcium, which is a white substance.  Hens that lay white eggs will build the outer layers of shell and lay their egg, resulting in a white colored egg.

Chickens that lay a colored egg will use a pigment to color the outer layers of the shell.  This part of the egg-developing process comes last, which is why the outside of the eggshell is colored and not the inside of the egg shell.  Remember, the shell itself is normally white so any color that is added on the outside of the eggs will stay on the outside, leaving the inside of the shell white.  

Generally speaking, hens will lay the same color egg each time.  So, a hen that lays blue eggs will always lay blue eggs.  She won’t wake up one day and start laying brown eggs all of a sudden.  Hens will lay eggs that are close enough in color each day that you can usually identify the hen that laid the egg (unless all of your hens lay the same color egg).  If you have a mixed breed flock, you’ll be able to tell which hen laid which egg.

 

Now, there are some exceptions to this rule.  Some hens will have slight variations in their egg coloring.  This is especially true if your hen lays speckled eggs.  The speckles can be caused by a number of reasons from a change in diet or stress, to excess calcium.  If your hen lays speckled eggs, you’ll likely notice that the speckling changes from egg to egg.  It’s also possible that a hen lays a speckled egg when she usually doesn’t.  Speckling is most common in brown egg layers.

Another exception is seen very subtly throughout the season.  Hens will lay the most from spring-fall.  Over the winter, their bodies produce fewer (if any) eggs, which allows their body to replenish and recouperate.  One of the things that is replenished is the pigment used to color eggs.  If your hen is a seasonal layer and takes the winter off, you’ll notice that eggs laid in the spring are more richly pigmented than eggs laid in the fall.  This is due to the fact that her body has more pigment available in the beginning of the laying season than in the end.  This won’t cause drastic color changes, but subtle ones.

 

Looking for more colorful eggs?

Egg color is determined by the genetics of your hens.  Certain breeds will lay different colored eggs.  The best way to add different colors to your egg carton is to incorporate different breeds into your flock.  

 

If you want blue eggs, we recommend the Prairie Bluebell Egger.  These pale blue eggs look like a true Easter egg!  Several breeds lay green eggs. If you want pastel green eggs, try adding Americana or a Starlight Green Egger.  For a darker green egg, the Olive Egger will fit the bill.

 

Just as there are different shades of green eggs, there are different shades of brown eggs.  For light brown eggs, you’ll find many breeds.  Orpingtons, Welsummers, Brahma, Rhode Island Red, Wyandottes and many others will lay light brown eggs.  For deep, chocolate colored eggs, you’ll want a breed like the Barnevelder or Maran.

 

Having an egg carton with a rainbow of egg colors is so satisfying.  It sure beats a carton of plain white eggs that you can get from the grocery store!

Chicken Anatomy 101

When raising backyard chickens, it’s important to know some basics on their anatomy and the function for each part. This way you can keep close tabs on your flocks’ health and notice any changes that might signal a problem.

Chickens are gorgeous birds and were created so well. When you sit and really think about the process a chicken goes through to lay their egg, it’s astounding!

Today we’re going to be talking about the basic anatomy of a chicken. You can always do a deep dive into the ins and outs of the entire chicken, but today we’re going to focus on their most basic anatomy. I’m going to touch on the parts that may be a mystery to us as to what their true function is.

So, let’s talk dive into some of the main body parts of a chicken.

Chicken Anatomy 101

Photo Credit: Community Chickens

Beak and Tongue: The beak is a super important part of the chicken. Chickens don’t have hands, so the only way they can move something or pick up their food is with their beak. Inside the beak, you will find a triangle tongue. Chickens use their tongues to taste food, latch onto their treats they find in the yard and help them make different noises.

Crop: The crop is a muscular bag at the bottom of the chicken’s neck that stores anything chickens put in their mouth. Food, treats, bugs and grass are regular visitors in a chicken’s crop. A chicken’s crop should be empty and flat in the mornings. Throughout the day as they eat and graze, their crop will fill up and be in the shape of a small ball. It will pass into the gizzard overnight and empty out. If the crop gets impacted, your chicken needs extra attention. Occasionally, a chicken’s crop can get impacted. If this happens, separate the affected bird, and remove the food source from her. Give her water and a little bit of olive oil to loosen things up. Gently massage the crop and allow her plenty of rest and water. It should pass. If it doesn’t pass, you will need to give her more attention. If you don’t it can become a problem. Read more about impacted and sour crop here.

Gizzard: The gizzard of a chicken is very important. Because chickens don’t have teeth and swallow their food whole, they need this organ to grind and mix their food. Chickens drink a lot of water to soften the food in their crop. They will also pick up small rocks (I provide grit) to grind their food up inside the gizzard. It’s a muscular organ that does this! Isn’t that cool?

Oviduct: The oviduct is an organ that looks like a tube along the backbone between the ovary and the tail. The egg yolk is developed in the ovary. According to Poultry Extension, “When ovulation occurs, the ovum (yolk) enters the oviduct. The oviduct is a twisted tube that is 25 to 27 inches long when fully developed and is divided into five major sections. These sections are the infundibulum, magnum, isthmus, shell gland, and vagina. The oviduct makes up the entire system of making an egg outside of the ovary where the yolk is formed. How intricate!

Cloaca: The cloaca is the only hole for the reproductive and digestive system of a chicken. The cloaca, also known as the vent, is where chickens poop from, where the eggs come out, and where they mate with a rooster. Yikes! This may bother some people when thinking about eating their eggs. However, no need to fear. When laying an egg, a chicken’s vagina flips inside out of the cloaca, so the egg never touches the poop area to become contaminated. Whew! You can read more about all of that here.

Eyes: The last body part we are going to talk about today are the eyes of chickens. I wrote an entire blog about the chicken eye, and you can read it here. I learned that chickens have a nictitating membrane. That’s just a fancy word for a third eyelid. It’s a see-through eyelid that operates on its own. Chickens will use this eyelid to protect their eyes from dirt and dust while dust bathing and clean them if something gets in their eye. It swipes horizontally from front to back and honestly looks a little creepy when they use them! Chickens will also use this eyelid while sleeping sometimes so they can rest but also watch for predators. Chickens can also sleep with one eye completely open. That brings new meaning to that term, doesn’t it? Chickens can also see more colors than we can and can remember up to 100 faces. They are incredible!

Chicken Anatomy 101

Obviously, I didn’t hit all of the chicken’s body parts, but we’re off to a good start! These are some of the main parts that are good to know so you know the basics. Looking out into our yard and seeing beautiful chickens sprinkled all over, it’s sometimes easy to forget how intricate they are. Knowing fascinating facts about their anatomy makes raising backyard chickens even more interesting and fun!

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

My Tiny Farm

HELLO! I hope this wonderful season has been blessing everyone’s family and friends with food from gardens and bugs for your flock! I am going to switch it up today! I wanted to talk to you about my tiny farm.

 

My tiny farm has been growing lately. We went from 30+ chickens and a couple ducks and turkeys, to well…a lot more birds. Our female duck (her name is Mama) and her husband (Shadow) have hatched us 11 out of the 13 baby ducklings. Our neighbors’ ducks went wild so we ended up taking in 20 more ducklings and currently Mama is on a new clutch of 13 eggs. Her favorite number is 13, bad luck to some, but her favorite and who am I to tell her how many babies she can have. Also, for those who are new to the duck world clutch means nest of eggs for ducks. I actually just learned this and saying it does bring a smirk to my face, because the more flock lingo I learn, the cooler I feel. Right? Anyone else feel this way when you learn a new word or just want to sound like you know what you’re talking about? No shame here, we all feel this in some way. Needless to say, we are now up to 31 ducks and 13 eggs (all fertile and hopefully hatch! Eeeeee!)

 

Raising a flock is not always so welcoming though. With the beautiful comes the ugly. And ladies and gentlemen, I am an ugly crier and when I lose one of my flock it breaks my heart and my husband gets to see the ugly cry sometimes. I wrote a blog called Let’s Talk Chicken. In it I expressed in short, my fear of turkeys and how I have been using the challenge to bond with them. We had two, a white and bronze hen. Well, we lost my beautiful white jenny to heat stroke and organ failure. She was a Broad-Breasted White turkey and their DNA has been basically genetically changed due to the past of adding hormones into the eggs and into the chicks. Luckily, they chose to stop this due to the effect it was having on us humans and our flocks. My jenny’s name was Precious because she was simply that. She made me change my whole perspective on turkeys. 3 years ago, we had a beautiful heritage black hen named Molly. Molly was stunning, we brushed her feathers daily and took very good care of her. After a year though, she started leaving the house for days and one day while walking my 2 year old to the swing, she thought it was okay to attack us. She was out of control and nothing like herself. Needless to say, she made me officially terrified of turkeys. To lose Precious was hard and now Bronzey is alone. Which brings us to 30+ Chickens, 40+ Ducks and 1 turkey and 3 new friends.

We all have been there when the ticks have been out of control and this year is seriously awful! So, I decided it was time to bring in the loudest, bossiest, most tick-eating machines I have known, Guinea Fowl. PLUS, THEY ARE GREAT COMPANY FOR TURKEYS! We used to have 13 and when Covid hit we butchered some and others we sold for decent money. I ended up selling them all though and this year I can’t stand the amount of ticks I have seen. One guinea fowl hen will eat up to 400 ticks PER DAY! EVERY DAY!!! Our neighbor, Kay, has a beautiful farm and has so many she was kind enough to sell me 3. I tried to get girls because I so badly want babies. I definitely will not be butchering them again (don’t get me wrong, they tasted amazing! Light and dark meat with bright yellow fat.. I just need them now more than ever for the ticks!). They will choose bugs over food. If you have a bug issue whether it be boxelder, crickets, ticks, fleas or ants, they get the job done. We have almost 11 acres. I would technically want one guinea fowl per 2 acres, so roughly 5. I chose 3, and hopefully we will get lots of babies. Also, they can cross breed with chickens. Beautiful creatures that they create. Check some pictures out next time your bored and online.

4 years ago, our tiny farm had 4 goats, 2 Jersey cows, 1 piggy and many, many rabbits. I miss these animals a lot! We chose to camp more this year while the kids were smaller and more into it. So, these things will come.

We have a garden for our family, a garden for our flock and we still do have some bunnies. This spring we were blessed with 8 mixed bunnies. If you raise rabbits, the best thing to do is let your yard go. When the grass and weeds get high, cut it down and feed it to the rabbits! Pasture-raised meat is the best meat. We supplement ours with Heinold rabbit feed and alfalfa cubes. Having the land to raise them on though is so wonderful. God gives us so much to use and sometimes we feel we have to spend, spend, spend, when nature has a lot for us and God is just waiting for us to see it.

My tiny farm is growing and each year we will be expanding. I have dreams of raising some more livestock, but for now we have so much to be grateful for.

Our Tiny Farm

· 11 rabbits

· 30+ chickens

· 40+ ducks (13 being eggs)

· 5 beautiful barn cats

· 1 13yr old leopard gecko

· 2 fun loving dogs (Olde English Bulldog and a Dachshund mix)

· 2 gardens

I can’t wait to share my tiny farm news with you and have you be a part of our growth! I’m praying for a chance to have honey bees, livestock and more!

-Amanda B.

 
 

Simple Ways to Decorate Your Coop

Are you looking for ways to make your coop stand out?  There are a lot of ways that you can make your chicken coop attractive.  The methods that I’m going to share with you will not only make your coop look nicer, but it can help it last longer and provide benefits to your flock.  Let’s dive in!

 

Plants

One of the easiest and most beneficial ways to decorate your coop is to landscape around it.  You probably have landscaping around your house, so why not add some landscaping around your chicken’s coop?  You could do this very simply with a few plants or you can have small, elaborate flowerbeds around the coop.

 

If you want a more simple, rustic look, I recommend planting herbs around the coop.  There are a few reasons why herbs around the coop just make sense.  

  1. Chickens love herbs.  Fresh herbs are incredibly healthy for your chickens and can provide much needed vitamins, minerals and antibiotic properties to help keep your chickens healthy.
  2. Herbs can attract good bugs, while repelling bad ones.  Chickens love to eat insects. In fact, insects make up as much as 80% of a chicken’s diet when allowed to free range.  Herbs can help attract good bugs that your chickens will eat, while repelling the bad ones like mites and ticks, that can bother your chickens.
  3. Herbs are not only beneficial for your chickens, but for you also.  If you’re interested in adding an herb garden, you might as well plant it around your coop for the added benefits that your chickens will get out of them.
  4. Fragrant herb plants can help to cover up smells that might come from your coop.  A clean coop doesn’t smell, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with coop cleaning duty.  Herbs like lavender, citronella, and lemongrass can help to create a pleasant smell around the coop.

When you plant herbs around your coop, plant them on the outside of the coop.  If you plant them inside the coop, your flock will likely eat the herbs down to the ground.  Planting them on the outside of the coop will ensure that your chickens don’t mow the herbs down completely.

 

You can also take the time to landscape around your coop.  Create small flowerbeds around the coop with small shrubs, trees or flowers.  Be careful not to plant toxic plants around the coop.  Planters filled with seasonal flowers can add a pop of color and fun to the coop’s landscape.

 

Paint

A fresh coat of paint can make a big difference in what your chicken coop looks like.  Almost all coops can be painted, as long as you buy the correct paint for your material.  Wooden coops can also be pressure washed and stained rather than painted if you prefer a more rustic look.

 

If you want to take your coop up a notch, you can paint the wire also.  Black wire looks more sophisticated and actually blends into the background more, making it almost invisible.  If you want to paint your wire black, use a roller and apply multiple coats.  Don’t use a spray to paint the wire, as most of the sprayed paint will get wasted.  Painting the wire can also help it to last longer.

 

The inside of your coop can also be painted.  A layer of latex paint can create a surface that is much easier to clean and sanitize than wood alone.  White can look very clean inside of chicken coop.

 

Decor

You can decorate your coop to spruce it up.  There are a lot of places where you can find farm fresh egg themed decor that will look great on or in your coop.  Your chickens won’t mind that your coop is decorated and it will make it much more attractive to look at.

 

Are you decorating your coop?

Chicken Month Chat! Topic: Nutrition

Mark your calendars for a Monday, September 26th, Chicken Month Chat on Nutrition (6:30 pm central/7:30 pm eastern).  We’ll share an invite soon so keep your eyes posted for more details on this event, which will be held on Facebook.

How Eggs Get Their Colors

If you’re deciding on new chickens and what new breeds to add to your flock, egg color is probably one of your top considerations. Long gone are the days of plain white eggs.

How did colored eggs come about?

Eggs from the very first chickens of the wild started out as tan, or light brown. Wild jungle fowl were domesticated around 2000 BC. All our domesticated breeds stem from these wild fowl.

All eggs start out INSIDE the hen as white. Through simple genetic tweaks, eggs now can come in white, tan, dark brown, speckled, blue, green, olive, and every color in between! Without getting too deep into the eggshell rabbit hole of genetics, allow me to explain how eggs get their colors!

(Remember, egg shell color does not affect the yolk or egg white. A more nutritious egg will have a deeper yellow yolk. Diet directly affects the quality of egg.)

Blue Eggs

Try this experiment: crack a blue egg. You will see the inside of the shell is blue. A light, robin’s egg blue. Crack open a green egg, and it will also be blue on the inside. That’s because green eggs start out as blue. The base color of most blue and green eggs is actually light blue, which stems from white eggs.

The compound responsible for blue eggs is called oocyanin. Oocyanin penetrates through the entire eggshell, making it blue all the way through the shell. Oocyanin makes its appearance early in the egg forming stage, that is why a blue or green shelled egg is always blue throughout the shell. Blue eggers first originated in South America about 400 years ago with the true Araucanian breed.

Dark Eggs

Dark eggs are achieved through a slightly different process. Pigments attach to the eggshell at the final stage of laying. These are proteins are called porphyrins. Porphyrins are only deposited on the exterior of the shell. It is one of the last processes to occur right before the egg is laid. You’ll notice the inside of a dark eggshell is white, the base color. When a chicken has more of these proteins present, they are deposited on the shell, making it appear brown or heavily speckled. Dark eggs have a high likelihood of having meat spots inside the egg. These are harmless, and only an eyesore. There seems to be a correlation between the extra proteins being deposited on the eggshell as well as occasionally inside the egg.

Dark eggs have become more and more popular over the years. I must admit, I love them too! These chickens aren’t necessarily any more special than other breeds, they simply have more porphyrins.

Green Eggs

Much like dog breeding, different colored eggs or characteristics can be achieved by careful mixing of breeds.  Green egg layers have two different parents. One must be from blue laying stock, while the other must be from brown laying stock. Dust some dark porphyrins onto an already blue egg containing oocyanin, and you get a green looking egg! Isn’t it amazing!

The olive egger comes from even more complicated breeding. Mix green laying stock with dark brown laying stock. Much like combining paint colors, mixing different stock results in the chance of a hybrid color. . Mix brown with green, you get a brownish green, or a more illustrative term, olive!

Pink/Purple Eggs

All eggs are covered in a protective membrane called a “bloom.” The “bloom” keeps bacteria from entering the porous eggshell. Some lucky individual birds lay a heavy bloom, meaning a thicker layer of membrane. This creates a mild white mask over the eggshell. If you have a dark layer who also lays a heavy bloom, her eggs come out looking purple. The bloom washes off under water, revealing the eggshell color underneath.

Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a basket full of kaleidoscope eggs sitting on the counter. I hope you’ll try to add a few of these to your flock! Fall is the perfect time to order chicks that will be ready to lay in Spring.

Here’s a list of breeds you should try to get colored eggs at home!

Blue

Araucana

Americana

Easter Eggers

Prairie Bluebell Egger

Green

Starlight Green Egger

Olive Egger

Americana

Darkest Brown

Maran

Wellsummer

Prepping for Winter

Well, well, well, look who has showed up! FALL! Which means for us flock tenders we have to start the preparation for winter! From making sure we have a way to keep them warm, protecting their crops and feet, providing them with a healthy diet and making sure they will have plenty of snacks, now that the grass will be covered in snow soon!

Some states do not have to worry about the cold, but I am in Michigan and here we never truly know when it will snow or rain, basically our weather has a mind of its own and the weatherman/woman is never right (so funny…laughing out loud)! So where do we begin when fall comes? That is a good question. I tell people to start with heat, bulbs and heated water bowls or buckets, anything heat related.

If you are able to run an extension cord or have power in your coop many wonder, Do you want to provide a lamp? This is 100% your choice! You are the only one who understands your coop. On our farm, where the nest boxes are located inside, it’s heated with a heat bulb instead of a basic light bulb and it is insulated with power. My chickens live in the outside portion of the coop though (seriously such stinkers) so none of them care that heat is in there. They will always choose the outside. The outside is completely fenced off and roofed for winter because I don’t want them to only have an area with snow to run around in. I do allow mine almost every day, even in winter, to free range. They love playing in the snow. I will surely post some pictures this winter to show you! Eeee! It is ADORABLE!!

Back to what I was saying though, heat bulb or not, they should have a warmer space to get into and if your coop does not provide that, I have some ideas! To create a warmer space, you can add a denser bedding, such as straw. I do not recommend this in the same are you choose to hang a heat bulb, just because accidents can happen and fires can start very easily. To help insulate a lot of people will take a tarp (I recommend a vinyl tarp versus your average blue or black polyethylene tarps, these will last years rather than just one season) cover one side of their coop from top to bottom and use straw bales to stack up and create an insulated wall with it. This helps block wind and snow while creating a more winter proof living space.

BEFORE YOU BUY ANYTHING, BUY HEATED WATER BOWLS! I do NOT recommend buckets; I have had friends who lost some of their flock because they didn’t fill the bucket high enough and then hen fell in face first and could not get out and ended up drowning. So please avoid a regular bucket! I only say get a heated water bowl now, because when you want them while it is snowing, they are usually always out at supply stores.

I recommend:

  • Either a plug-in heated water bowl (do not keep in straw in case anything goes wrong with the cord, better to be safe then sorry!)

  • Rubber horse feeding bowls with a floating heater

  • These are great for chickens and ducks! If you choose to go larger like a short water trough for sheep or goats, it is not so as safe as you think for ducks. We had a duck last year jump into our water troth with the floating heater and tried to climb on it and knocked a wire loose on the top and it got electrocuted! So, lesson learned, we do smaller rubber bowls that they do not try to climb into! Or, simply add some reinforced electrical tape to the top of the heater where the wire goes in.

 

Once you have a way to block the wind and snow from your coop and provide clean, warm water for your flock then most of winter will be a breeze! I do have a few things that I do for my flock that I would like to share with you. Some people feel I do too much but I love my flock, they have saved me in a sense and have brought so much peace into my life when I didn’t feel like a person. Having 3 babies and going through post-partum depression can really get to a person, and my birds helped make me laugh, heard me cry, let my babies hand feed them, and help me teach how to be a loving pet owner to my children. They complete my world and I can not imagine a time when I didn’t have them. SO! I do like to go above and beyond to make them comfy!

When it gets very cold (below freezing at the end of the day), when my flock returns to the coop at night, I go in with Vaseline or coconut oil. I put it on their feet, crops and waddles to prevent frostbite. The coconut oil I like best because I can even rub it around their eyes, my hens truly appreciate this, ladies of all species like to try to avoid wrinkles! (hahaha that is just a joke, I am not going too crazy here, BUT it made u smirk!)

I love baking warm snacks for them, so taking seeds of any kind, I choose 4 kinds and mix them with some dried meal worms, molasses and peanut butter then bake in the oven at 300 degrees for 25 minutes. Some ovens take 35 minutes.

· 1 circle pan (like for cheesecake/pie)

· In large bowl mix

o 1 cup NatureServe Layer pellets

o 1 cup Sunflower seeds

o 1 cup Safflower seeds

o 1 cup of dried meal worms or cracked corn

o 1 cup Dried peas or pumpkin seeds

o 2 cups of molasses

o 2 cups of peanut butter

· Mix all ingredients well and then place into the pan

· Bake at 300 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes

· Let cool for 20 mins then take to the coop!

If you’re in a hurry, your chickens will surely love a hot feed drink, which is very easy! Get your goat’s milk (I purchase a fermented goat’s milk called ANSWERS from our local pet store) and NatureServe feed, then you’ll need:

· Large cooking bowl

· Some raw fermented goat’s milk, warmed up

· Some cinnamon, clove, nutmeg or a pumpkin spice

· In the large bowl, add 50% of the bowl size with your NatureServe Layer pellets

· Add the warm goat’s milk and spice and mix well

· Let sit while you get ready for the day

· When you leave, mix it up and take it outside and serve!

o THEY WILL LOVE YOU FOR THIS!!!

We do this for our barn cats as well, with no poultry feed though, just warm goat’s milk with some cinnamon. Everyone deserves a warm drink on an early winter morning!

You may feel I promote NatureServe in my blog because this is their page, but I have fed their food before ever writing blogs for them. I chose their food because it supported so much of what I was looking for in a feed: proper percentages for organ and body growth, support for their immune and respiratory system, and their feed SMELLS AMAZING!! So many companies’ feed smells like dirt or just old, but not NatureServe pellets. It seriously smells like soup or a rotisserie dinner. I love it!! I have great, bright orange egg yolks and strong egg shells, no issues with my hens not laying or being egg bound. It supports them where I am worried, sometimes free ranging can’t always. So, if you have not tried it, do it! You will love it and so will they!

One last thing that I started adding in the winter was a large dust bath area. I took an old wheel barrel that broke off the base and filled it with diatomaceous earth. Because we use a wood stove for the winter months, I add warm ash from our wood stove into the dust bath pile. The hens love it! They line up and usually 3 at a time can dust bathe, nothing feels better then some nice warm ash on a cold day when your outside 24-7.

I also like to sprout oat and sunflower seeds for them since the grass is gone, this is a fun snack for them. Beware, it is stinky, but they love it! Just soak seeds overnight, then rinse and drain, keep seed in an air available container and rinse daily to keep the seeds moist, and WOOWHOO, sprouted seeds full of amazing probiotics and gut health benefits! They sell sprouting kits online with jars and a cute stand on Amazon for very affordable. If you have kids or grandkids, it’s a cool science project to hand feed the poultry with!

I hope you loved these ideas! Please share them to your friends or send me pictures. I appreciate everyone who reads and follows them!

 

-Amanda B.

Time to Say Goodbye

Anyone who has kept a backyard flock eventually faces a dilemma. As hens age their egg laying slows. Eventually it nearly stops. There’s a point where the girls eat expensive feed yet hardly lay an egg. How does a flock owner decide when to get rid of aging hens and what to do with them?

 

A Laying Scenario

A young pullet starts laying when she is 18 to 24 weeks old. If she’s of a productive breed she’ll soon lay like fury. It takes about 26 hours for an egg to form, so every once in a while, she’ll take a day off, but a flock of six young hens should average five eggs a day. Sometimes six eggs will be in the nest and other days only four. The flock should average about 80% production that first lay cycle.

 

Hens lay for a year or a little longer and then take a vacation, called the molt. They’ll lose their old worn feathers, regrow new ones, beef up the body, and start the second laying cycle after a six to eight week laying pause.

They’ll follow the lay/molt cycle throughout their lives. After each molt hens lays fewer eggs, so that is a problem for a small flock owner. The 80% lay rate of a young flock will usually drop to about 70% in the second cycle. This cycle falls at least another 10% a year in subsequent cycles.

 

An individual hen can lay for ten years but by the time the flock is four or five years old, egg production is so low it hardly justifies the feed cost. To keep production high flock owners replace their aging hens every two or three years.

 

How To Tell if A Hen’s Not Laying

 

Telling whether a hen is consistently laying is an important skill.  Although few older birds lay well, even an occasional younger bird will consume feed yet lay few eggs. Here are ways to identify a non-layer:

 

  • Age: Keep track of how old your hens are. Few hens lay well after they pass their fourth or fifth hatch day.
  • Appearance: Productive hens look great early in their egg laying cycle but start looking rough as months go by. Their once yellow beaks and legs lighten and feathers become worn and a bit ragged. A hen that looks like she stepped out of a spa is putting her energy into appearance not eggs. She’s a stew candidate.
  • Feeling Pelvic bones: Laying hens have wide spaces between their pelvic bones, but these bones on non-layers are close together.

 

What To Do with Non-Laying Hens

 

Mentor Hen: Older hens have value. Keeping a veteran hen or two with the new layers helps them pass their wisdom down to the younger generation. It’s perfectly fine to keep old, rarely laying hens, but they are more pets than food producers.

 

Stew: People get attached to their hens. They can’t bear to convert them to stew, and many town ordinances forbid slaughtering chickens. However, the meat of older hens is tough but tasty. When stewed with onions, potatoes, carrots, and spices they make delicious fare.

 

YouTube Videos show how to butcher chickens. It is the ultimate DIY project. However, if slaughtering isn’t allowed, or the flock owner just won’t, or can’t, do it, turn to social media.

 

Give them Away: Many people are happy to take old hens. Ads on social media offering free birds will likely bring takers. A few may keep them but most will transform them into stew. They’ll slaughter them out of the sight of the previous owner.

 

Records Are Important

Keeping egg production records is important and a great way for children to learn basic data collection, graphing, and interpretation. Keeping a clipboard in the coop and recording daily egg production helps monitor efficiency. The information can then be transferred to the computer to enhance typing and analysis abilities. Yet another set of valuable modern-day skills. Graphing data shows the ebb and flow of egg laying.

A Taste of Fall

Fall is a cozy time of year full of baked treats, pumpkin spice lattes and rich foods. While we love all these things at our house, sometimes our bodies crave nutritious, colorful food. This fall salad will fill you up and leave you looking forward to the next time you eat it! It’s packed full of nutrition and is super easy to make. I love salads because you can throw just about anything you and your family enjoy and it works!

Roasted Squash Salad

Roasted Squash Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Cubed Butternut squash

  • 3-4 Cups Mixed Greens

  • 3 Tbsp Sliced Almonds

  • 3 Tbsp Craisins

  • 3 Tbsp Candied Walnuts

  • 2 Tbsp Dried Blueberries

  • Poppyseed or Vinaigrette Dressing of Choice

Directions:

Roast the squash at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and let cool. Add mixed greens, almonds, craisins, candied walnuts and dried blueberries in a medium bowl. When squash is cooled, add to salad. Toss with your favorite dressing and enjoy!

Roasted Squash Salad

Now, if you want something easy and a little less healthy, we can talk about the incredible pumpkin gingerbread I make as well! Hahaha! This is by far a family favorite! I’ll give you the recipe, but only if you promise to make it! I assure you; it will be a huge hit! As with all my recipes, it’s easy to whip up and as an added bonus, it makes your house smell like fall.

Roasted Squash Salad

Annie’s Pumpkin Gingerbread

Mix together and set aside:

  • 3 C sugar

  • 1 C Oil

  • 4 Eggs

Combine in another bowl:

  • 3 ½ C. Flour

  • 2 tsp Baking Soda

  • 1 ½ tsp Salt

  • ½ tsp Baking Powder

  • 2 tsp Ginger

  • 1 tsp Cinnamon

  • ½ tsp Nutmeg

  • 1 tsp Ground Gloves

  • 1 tsp. Allspice

Directions:

Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the oil mixture. In all honesty? I dump it all into my KitchenAid Mixer and turn it onto medium speed and it does just fine. Beat in 1 small can of PUMPKIN. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 for an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!

Feeding my family gives me a great sense of accomplishment! Probably because I don’t usually pull off multiple hot meals a week. I see you parents who are raising kids in activities! I’ve gone to providing what I can on the days that it works for us. Remember, life with family is about the quality and not necessarily about the quantity!

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

podcasts