A dirty way to keep poultry clean!

At first the term dust bath seems like an oxymoron. Like “jumbo shrimp”, the two words just don’t seem like they belong together. But believe it or not, getting themselves completely dirty is the best way for chickens to get clean! Dust baths also help chickens stay cool and keep parasites away.

Chickens that are allowed to free-range will naturally find a cool, dirty spot to take a dust bath. If allowed, they usually enjoy digging up mulched garden beds (soil is cool under the mulch) and making a chicken-sized impression!

Chickens in your coop still need dust baths, so remember to give them the opportunity to get dirty. Fill a kitty litter pan or other shallow plastic or metal container with sand or a mixture of particles that can even include some fireplace ashes. Diatomaceous earth is also an optional addition to this mixture. It is a non-toxic powder made from fossils of freshwater organisms that has many uses, including being a natural way to keep parasites off your chickens. It is available at most feed stores.

In addition to keeping pests at bay, dust baths are great for keeping poultry cool on hot summer days. Since they cannot sweat, regulating their body temperature involves using the cool earth for their version of a shower! The particles of dust or sand settle in next to the chicken’s skin and help absorb any excess oil and moisture, making the chickens “clean”.

So, whether in a coop or roaming the yard, be sure to offer your chickens the opportunity to take a dust bath. You will get a laugh observing them enjoy their dirty way of staying clean and cool!

Should I Feed a Medicated Chick Starter?

Wondering when to feed a medicated chick starter versus a non-medicated chick starter? There is really no right or wrong answer, it is simply a matter of preference.

Coccidiosis is very common and is generally caused by wet dirty coops. However, wild birds can also spread it, so even birds in clean environments can be susceptible. Symptoms include loss of appetite, unthrifty appearance, and the chick isolating themselves from the flock. Symptoms can progress to blood in the stool and eventually death.

For more information, watch this short video from “Mr. Cluck”:

Still have questions?  Leave them here in the comments field, and we’ll help you out!

Upcycle your empty feed bags: garden/chore apron tutorial

Do you ever wish there was something fun you could do with all those empty feed bags? In the tutorial below, courtesy of Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily, you’ll learn make this fun and easy care apron from one or two of those empty feed sacks!

Nutrena feed bags are not only attractive and use vibrant colors, they are also made of waterproof material.  I thought the pattern on this particular Nutrena Layer feed bag would be a natural for a garden apron that will not only keep you clean, but be a cinch to hose off when you’re done. This apron would also be perfect for washing the car, mucking stalls, tending to a sick or injured hen, or any other messy chores. If you’re the least bit crafty you can whip up an apron in just minutes! 

Here’s what you’ll need:
One Nutrena feed bag, rinsed off and dried (you’ll need a second one if you choose to add the optional pocket along the bottom)
Two 30″ long pieces of webbing or wide ribbon for the waist ties
Coordinating spool of thread and bobbin
Sewing machine fitted with a 90/14 medium-weight needle
Tape measure
Pinking shears
Sewing scissors
Straight Pins

Here’s what you do:
Cut off the bottom of the bag and then cut straight up the back of the bag so it lies flat. 

Centering your cut depending on the design on the bag you choose, cut out your apron using the measurements below.

 From one of the discarded side panels, cut your neck strap to measure 26″ long and 2 1/2″ wide.  If you choose to add the optional pockets, cut a piece from a second bag the same width and 10″ high to match the design of lower portion of your apron.

 

To assemble your apron, fold each long edge of your neck strap over so it ends up being about 3/4″ wide and then sew using a zig zag stitch up one side and down the other to secure.

 Sew along the top edge of your pocket then align where it will go on your apron and pin it in place.

Turn the curved edges along the sides of the apron under about 1/4″ and pin, then turn all the straight edges over 1/2″ and then 1/2″ again and also pin in place, positioning your neck strap and two side ties in place and securing them also with pins.

 Tuck your neck strap and side ties under the seam allowance and then flip them over into place.

Starting at the bottom edge, sew all the way around along the seam, removing the pins as you go.

 

To make your pocket compartments, sew straight up from the bottom edge to the top of the pocket – one or two times depending on how many sections you want. 

And you’re done! 

 (apron without the optional row of pockets along the bottom)

(apron with the pockets)

Your apron can be hosed off, sponged off, or even tossed in the washing machine.  I wouldn’t put it in the dryer though. And don’t try to iron it unless you use a cloth in between the iron and the apron.  Same goes for using this as a bbq apron….while not flammable, the apron WILL melt if touched with an open flame or hot bbq utensil, so use caution and common sense.

Tutorial courtesy of Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily
www.fresh-eggs-daily.com

Colorful eggs from your coop

Do you want to keep finding pretty and colorful eggs all year long, even now that Easter is over? If you want to discover a rainbow in your nest boxes each day and get naturally colorful eggs from your hens, choose Easter Egger chickens to join your flock!

Easter Eggers, as their name implies, lay beautiful eggs that can be various colors from green (pictured), to shades of blue, yellow or even pink.

The Easter Egger is not an official breed, as these chickens are a cross between either an Araucana or an Ameraucana with any other breed of chicken. Both Araucanas and Ameraucanas are purebred and lay blue eggs. Both of these breeds are somewhat rare and can be hard to find here in the U.S.

But you don’t need an Ameraucana or Araucana in your flock to have colorful eggs, just look for an Easter Egger instead. While the American Poultry Association doesn’t recognize them as a distinct breed; that doesn’t make them any less inviting!

Confused? Don’t be. Easter Eggers are diverse and fun. Due to small, almost non-existent combs and wattles, most are cold-hardy, some have unique green legs and feet, and they have beautiful feathers in a variety of colors and patterns depending on their parents’ breeds. “EE’s”, as they are also called, may have muffs and beards instead of ear tufts, which give them a unique look. Their behavior is usually friendly and active, and they should fit in well with other breeds in your flock.

If you’re looking to add a colorful surprise to your carton of eggs, consider Easter Eggers!

How to introduce new birds to your existing flock

Birds of a feather truly do stick together. That’s why it can be a challenging task to bring new birds into your established flock – new flock members often get picked on and harassed by hens who don’t want to share their territory. For a seamless integration of new birds into your flock, there are a couple of tricks that work well. All you need is patience – and some ninja-like moves.

To start with you want to make sure that your coop/run setup is large enough to accommodate the new birds that you are adding. Each adult bird will need 3-4 square feet of space. If bringing in birds from another flock, make sure they have been through a quarantine period of at least 30 days and are healthy.

Keeping new birds in a cage will let them interact with the flock without being harmed.

You’ll want to introduce birds to each other gradually and let them interact without the opportunity of pecking or abuse. To do this, place your new birds inside the run or coop in an area where they can see and get to know each other but where they are still separated. A wire cage works well, but you can also put new birds into a dog crate or use chicken wire to fence off a portion of the area and make two separate spaces.

If introducing new chicks to your flock, you’ll want to make sure they are fully feathered and acclimated to the coop temperature.  You want to keep new birds in their own area and let everyone get to know each other for at least two weeks. Patience is key here, so don’t rush the “getting to know you” phase.

The ninja moves come into play when it is time to introduce the new birds into the existing flock. Wait until night, when it’s dark and all birds are sleeping comfortably. Moving quickly and quietly, you want to take the new birds from their resting spot and put them on the roosts next to your other sleeping birds. When the birds wake up in the morning they are next to another hen that they are familiar with (because they’ve been in close proximity, although separate areas, for several weeks) and they are often tricked into thinking that they’ve always been together.

You’ll want to carefully monitor the everyone during the next week while the pecking order is reorganized, but this approach should give you a fairly seamless merging of your flock.

Rain Barrels For The Chicken Coop

Many backyard chicken coops share an annoying problem. They’re located a distance from a water source. Hauling buckets of heavy water from the house to the chickens is time consuming work. Plus, water costs money, whether you buy water from a municipality or pay for electricity to run a pump.

There’s a simple solution.  Rain barrels harvest and hold the water that nature provides for free.     A single rain barrel typically holds enough water to fill a five gallon chicken waterer upwards of a dozen times. Even droughts produce occasional showers and most people are astonished to learn how quickly a light rain falling on a small roof fills the barrel.

For example a half-inch rain falling on the 250-square-foot roof of a modest sized chicken coop harvests 78 gallons of water – more than most rain barrels hold. That water is clean, fresh, and free.

 According to Lynn Ruck, owner of Rain Barrel Solutions in Apex, North Carolina, water coming off metal or asphalt roofs is safe for small animals to drink.  Only water coming from wooden roofs treated with preservatives shouldn’t be given to animals. Rain barrel water is also ideal for irrigating garden plants.

Position your rain barrel just outside the coop where the most water comes off the roof or under a downspout. This puts water only a few feet from where the hens need it. Remember that a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, so a filled rain barrel will weigh up to 400 pounds. Be certain it is secure and sits on a flat, level surface. Positioning it on a few cinder blocks makes it easier to draw water out of the tap at the base.

Dozens of rain barrels are on the market or they can be made at home. Good rain barrels are made of opaque material that keeps water dark to prevent algae growth and have a secure lid to keep animals or children from falling in. The lid has holes covered with mosquito netting to allow water to enter from gutter downspouts but prevent entry by insects and debris. A hose tap near the bottom makes it easy to fill buckets or attach a hose.

The right nutrition at the right time for layers

Timing is everything when it comes to feeding your laying hens. Ensuring they have the correct nutrition at just the right time is an important part of having a happy and healthy flock.

Hatch to approximately week 6: Provide free choice access to a quality chick starter ration and make fresh clean water available at all times. Proper nutrition in this critical growth stage will impact the performance of the chicken for their entire lifespan. Use a heat lamp to keep birds warm and provide 1 sq. foot per chick.

Approximately 6 weeks to 16 weeks: Continue to provide free choice access to chick starter and water. If you choose to feed treats (scratch grains, kitchen scraps, etc.), put out what birds will consume in about 15 minutes once per day. This a good guide to follow to make sure treats don’t exceed 15% of the total diet. Add treats only after week 6. If birds have access to anything other than a crumble or pellet, provide grit free choice in a seperate feeder.

16 weeks +: Now is the time to switch to layer feed! Provide layer pellets or layer crumbles and grit free choice along with access to fresh clean water at all times. Treats can be provided at no more than 15% of the diet. At this point it is also important to make oyster shell available free choice to provide supplemental calcium for hard-shelled eggs. Adult birds require approximately 3-4 sq. feet of space per bird in the coop; you also need to plan on one nesting box for every 4-5 hens.

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