Let me start off by saying I know more about goats and gardening than I do chickens, but Ill do my best to share what I do know.
My grandmother was the best “chickie” person I know. She even made her own homemade incubator. She took a dish pan, towel and heating pad. She would gather a clutch of eggs, put them on the towel under the heating pad and Wholah! you could hear little peeps. Her success rate was incredible. If someone has ever hatched any this way please let me know cause I tried it once and it didnt work out. The only thing I can think of was the towel must have been damp to create humidity. She loved raising chickens, they were her favorite. When she passed I got handed down alot of her feeders and waterers. I use them faithfully.
I can remember going out one day to help her gather eggs and we came across a momma hen and her chicks. I wanted to hold one so bad so I picked one up and MaMa said, “Bit, shes gonna flog you any minute if you dont put that baby down!” No sooner than she got it out of her mouth, here that momma came and flogged me. I let that baby go real quick. My sister said some of MaMas chicks didnt survive because I “loved” them toooooo much. What she meant was, I squeezed a little too hard. Uh Oh!!!
Another memory I have is the fine eating of fresh fried chicken. I can remember my MaMa telling my PaPa to go get us a chicken. He would…literally. He would go out to the tree they were perching in and get one and humanely take its life for our nourishment. He would bring it to my MaMa and she was waiting with a big wash tub with hot scalding water in it. I would carefully watch her pluck its feathers, and she would take it inside and cut it up, and fry it. Before you knew it, it was on the table and we were scruffing it down. lol It was the best chicken I ever put in my mouth. Let me say here, if you plan to eat them, dont name them, or you will never have fresh fried chicken for dinner. lol
Chickens have alot of purposes: they give eggs, meat, fertilizer and they are great pest controlers.
Today, so many chickens in the grocery store came from commercial farms that use hormones, steroids, and antibiotics to raise their chickens. They are in unsanitary, cramped up living conditions, you dont know what you are eating any more. Im kind of scared. I am going to learn how to raise my own and butcher them and store in freezer. It is far healthier because I know what I feed mine and I am responsible for keeping them and their home clean and sanitary.
If you want to get started raising your own, there are some things you need to know. First you need to know what kind you want to raise. Do you want just a hen for eggs? Or just a meat bird (which people usually raise roosters for this purpose). What color eggs? Yes, hens of different breeds lay different color eggs. You can even choose an all purpose breed that does give both meat and eggs. Do you want to raise chicks, for this you will need a rooster and hens. 1 rooster can accommidate 25 hens. Never let your roosters outnumber your hens or have too many roosters which causes fighting among themselves for then hens. They have been known to kill each other. You will also need to check with your city or town hall for their laws about having chickens. Yes, believe it or not, its a “zone” thing especially in big cities. Some cities will let you have them and some want due to noise. Its no worse than a dog barking all night if you ask me. But before you get your hopes up, you better check.
Plan on having proper housing for when you purchase your chickens. Lets discuss some housing options.
Chickens do not need elaborate housing to keep them happy. Just something to provide them with shelter from the cold and rain. You can google chicken coops and thousand of plans will come up. People have come up with some pretty cool coops. You can even make them out of recycled wood, like wooden pallets that companies want to throw away. Use your imagination. It does need to be weather proof. Chickens do need ventilation during hot weather. They need nesting boxes, which people have cool ideas for those too, like milk crates hung on the wall. Provide roosts, or perches if you prefer to call it for them to roost on at night when they are settling down. If you cant let them free range, or out of the coop during the day, you can make a run. It is nothing but a fenced in little area attached to the coop to keep them safe from predators or family pets like dogs. Our dogs would just love to get a hold of ours. lol
If youve got some that love to fly out of the coop or run, you might want to put a mesh netting on the top of the run.
Food doesnt have to be a big issue either. Some people throw out table scraps to them. Although their are some things they cant eat. Just use a 16% laying crumble or mesh or pellet. This food is for laying hens and roosters. Youll want a medicated chick starter for chicks. Make sure they have plenty of drinking water at all times. You might want to raise these up a little off the ground just to keep them from getting dirty. Letting them free range cuts costs down alot, because they can find their own source of nutrition from grass, weeds, bugs, even compost piles. They can take care of bugs in the garden but be careful, they also love pecking at pretty red ripe tomatoes too.
Now lets talk about my favorite part. Hatching. Incubator or Natural.
I have done both. I love to hatch some in an incubator because we love to watch them hatch and it has been a good education tool for my children. We have learned to take care of them if they were injured. We could research why one may not have made it out of the shell or etc. Let me show you some pics that I just love of our education.
Now as far as natural hatching, in other words, letting momma do the sitting, this was fun too to watch. You know shes sitting on some eggs, but you dont know how long. It takes 21 days both ways. But one day you will get surprised and just hear little peeps like I did one day.
The mother knows when to turn the eggs under her and she controls the humidity with her own body.
Now to take care of these little ones, If you let momma raise them, you might want to separate mom and babies from the rest of the flock, or they will pick on the babies. Dont worry, Momma will come running too. Just only until they get a little bigger so they can run a little faster and get away from trouble or at least keep up with mom. They will learn everything they will ever need to know by watching mom. Its amazing. You could have a chicky sitter like Cocoa here. She loves watching over them.
Now, if you incubated them, first what ever you do, do not take them out of the incubator until they are dry and fluffy, maybe give it 24 hrs. Then you can put them in a tub with newspaper shredding, shavings, hay, straw, etc. Make sure they have water and medicated chick starter. Yes, its important they get medicated against Coccidiosis. You might want to put some little rocks in the water to keep them from falling in and drowning or freezing to death. You will need to keep a heat lamp on them and keep them temp around 95 degrees. If they are scattered all about, you know they are warm enough, if they are huddling together under the lamp, they are cold, if they are away in a huddle from the lamp, they are too hot. As they grow you can lessen the temp, and gradually move them outside. Now they will be picked on at first, because of the pecking order (boss) the hens have. They eventually learn who to stay clear from.
To use your incubator, follow manufacturers directions carefully. You can buy an egg turner to go in your incubator if you like. I have one and it is great , cause I know I would forget to turn them. The most important thing to remember is to keep the temp on the recommended degrees for your incubator and make sure you keep the humidity (moisture) up. You do not want the eggs to become dry close to hatching or the little things will not be able to peck their way out. If something goes wrong their are plenty of explanations on the websites I have provided at the bottom of the page.
Now, Im not a veterinarian either, so if your birds get sick, and you have a vet close by that works with birds, by all means take it to him. I have lost alot, due to some unknown reason to me. We have saved alot from wounds from predators and nursed back to health.
A few things you might need to know, is chickens can get parasites just like other animals. Internal worms, and there are wormers for that. You can even use natural dewormers like Diatemaceous Earth. You can sprinkle it on their food or mix in their water.Make sure you get the food grade DE. It is a fine powder. They can get external parasites like lice and mites. The most common mites are the red ones that look like miniature ticks. You can actually see them around the vent(where the egg comes out). You can use a spray or you can still use DE on these as well. Make sure you spray the coop, nesting boxes, every crack and cranny. A sign of some kind of parasite is loose, or watery stool. A chickens poop is suppose to be brown or gray with white and clumpy.If all else fails, call a vet or go to some good resources on the internet.
One year we bought David some Wild Mallards and Eastern Wild Turkeys for Fathers Day. He was like a kid with a new toy. He loved them.
That was a blast watching them grow so fast.
Below is alot of great articles I have received permission to include on my page in return for helping promote my fellow friends who have blogs.
I will include alot of great links to at the bottom of the page.
There is a great article on http://www.smockityfrocks.com How to cut up and fry a chicken.
This is a very interesting article:
I can hear you now… WHAT???
Yes friends, it is possible to make a rooster think he’s a broody hen.
It’s crazy, I know! It defies all laws of nature. And I’m not sure how I feel about messing with hormones and all, but for informational purposes I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about “caponizing” chickens. Because it’s fascinating to me.
The term “caponizing”, for those who’ve never heard the word, refers to neutering your roosters. I was a little surprised when I first came across this idea. I guess I never thought of roosters as having testicles!
Have you ever seen a rooster’s testicles? I’ve never seen a rooster’s testicles.
Interestingly, you can find them by making an incision between the chicken’s last two ribs where they are hidden among other internal organs. Here’s a link explaining the entire castration process step-by-step: Caponizing Chickens. The best time to caponize is between 6 weeks and 3 months of age, depending on the chicken’s weight and breed.
But why would one want to do this to a rooster, anyways?
Actually, neutering roosters isn’t really done with the intention of producing surrogate mothers. Broodiness is just a side-effect of the hormonal changes the rooster experiences after losing his testicles. (He will also become less aggressive and will even crow much less often!)
Caponizing became popular thousands of years ago when it was discovered that roosters would grow up to 50% larger when neutered, making this a great way to turn an otherwise scrawny rooster into a large and quite flavorful meal. The downside is that most of that extra weight is fat instead of meat, although some say this makes for a delicious and juicy bird unlike any commercially grown chicken. This practice has fallen out of favor as larger meat breeds which have been engineered to mature in as little as five weeks have been introduced to the market.
(If you are interested in raising your own meat birds, but don’t like the idea of using Cornish Cross hybrids, you might consider raising capons!)
There are several methods of caponizing, ranging from buying a professional kit to diy improvisation. According to a fellow homesteader named Gypsy,
An old method of caponizing chickens involves a straw with a horse hair running through it in a loop to lasso the testicle. Other methods of caponizing involve cutting a “V” into your pinkie fingernail and hooking them that way.
Not that I’d recommend either of these methods.
It is a minor surgery which does carry risk, so experts recommend you practice the procedure on an already dead bird before performing the surgery for real.
The benefits of caponizing are worth consideration:
- Delicious, juicy meat
- No more fighting, aggresive roosters
- Save money by ordering straight runs and caponizing any baby roos
- Use a capon as a surrogate to hatch out and adopt chicks while your hens continue laying eggs for you to eat
- Get more meat out of your extra roosters
I’m not so sure I could do minor surgery on an awake chicken, but hey, if it was survive or die I could get over my squeamishness in favor of a heartier meal.
Here’s another very interesting read on the subject: Caponizing: Reviving a Lost Art, if you’re interested in reading more.
Have you ever heard of caponizing? Do you think it’s something you would try?
You might also like…
Article for what can cause double egg yolks: http://homesteadbloggersnetwork.com/what-causes-double-yolk-eggs/
Protect Your Chicks Naturally from 7 Common Illnesses
Baby chicks are prone to all sorts of illness, but harsh and expensive medications aren’t necessary to keep them healthy. Use these tips for natural prevention and treatment.
By Lisa Steele
Buying chicks from a reputable feed store, breeder or hatchery and providing them a clean, warm brooder with fresh water and feed will usually result in healthy chicks, but sometimes things go wrong. Here’s a guide to seven common problems and how to treat them naturally—without antibiotics or chemicals.
This is the No. 1 cause of death in baby chicks and a highly contagious parasitic disease of the intestinal tract. Red-tinted, bloody stools and lethargy are common symptoms. If you suspect a chick has coccidiosis, separate it from the flock and feed equal parts chick feed and milk mixed with plain yogurt. This will cause runny stools, which will help to flush the parasite from the intestines. Sprinkle some probiotic powder into the feed to replenish good bacteria and feed some oregano oil and cinnamon, both of which act as natural antibiotics.
While medicated feed is available for prevention of coccidiosis in chicks, a natural option includes adding apple cider vinegar, probiotic powder and garlic to your chicks’ diet to build strong immune systems.
2. Marek’s Disease
This term refers to several highly contagious viral syndromes that cause tumors and/or paralysis in birds. Partial immunity is achieved by vaccination or allowing healthy chicks limited exposure to the virus, which resides in nearly every chicken yard. As a preventative measure, ensure the brooder is clean and help chicks build strong immune systems by adding apple cider vinegar, garlic and probiotic powder to their diet.
There is no treatment for Marek’s disease, but separating infected chicks and ensuring they continue to eat, drink and keep their immune systems strong is their best chance of survival.
3. Pasty Butt
This potentially fatal condition occurs when feces stops up a chick’s vent so it can’t excrete. More common in shipped chicks, pasty butt is often caused by stress or temperature fluctuations.
Prevent pasty butt in your flock by purchasing chicks locally or hatching your own, keeping your brooder temperature constant, and not allowing children or household pets to stress chicks. If you do notice your chicks have pasty butt, carefully clean the vent with a cotton swab dipped in warm water and then in olive oil. Cornmeal, raw oatmeal and probiotic powder added to the feed can help clear up the condition.
This vitamin deficiency leaves a chick unable to hold up its head or walk normally. Because stargazing is thought to be partially caused by a thiamine (B vitamin) deficiency, treatment includes adding brewer’s yeast to the feed. Massaging the chick’s neck carefully for a few minutes several times a day can also help.
5. Scissor Beak
Also called crossed beak, this is a deformity in which the top and bottom of a chick’s beak don’t line up properly. Most often caused by genetics, it will likely worsen over time. To prevent future cases, chicks with the condition, or hens whose eggs hatch chicks with scissor beak, shouldn’t be bred.
In chicks with scissor beak, file the beak with an emery board to allow it to close better. Moisten the feed and raise the feeder to help the chick eat more easily, and feed the chick separately to assure it gets enough to eat.
6. Spraddle Leg
When a chick’s legs slip out to the sides, making standing or walking impossible, it’s called spraddle leg. This condition is commonly caused by incubator temperature being too high or fluctuating too greatly, the brooder floor being too slippery or a vitamin deficiency. Prevent injury to your chicks by covering your brooder floor with rubber shelf liner or paper towels.
Wrapping an adhesive bandage or strips of vet wrap around the chick’s legs to stabilize them for a few days is usually the only treatment needed for spraddle leg. If you suspect a vitamin deficiency, a supplement, such as Nutri-Drench, is recommended.
7. Respiratory Issues
Respiratory problems are common in poultry due to their elaborate respiratory systems. Symptoms include runny or bubbling eyes, coughing, sneezing or runny nostrils. Keep your chicks’ airways functioning by using large-sized pine chips (never aromatic cedar) as brooder bedding to cut down on dust, and use white vinegar and water to clean the brooder instead of bleach, which creates toxic fumes when mixed with the ammonia in chick poop.
Initial treatment of chicken respiratory issues includes separating the chick and squirting saline solution into the eyes for several days to clear the sinuses. Often these symptoms are merely caused by dust or other irritants. If symptoms continue or worsen, chopped fresh basil, clover, dill and thyme can be offered to the chicks. Respiratory issues that don’t clear up in a week or so or continue to worsen can signal serious illness and you should consult your vet.
Despite these potentially serious problems, most can be avoided simply by purchasing chicks from a reputable source and practicing good brooder management. Toss in a few natural supplements to aid in immune system strength and more than likely you will never encounter any of these issues with your spring chicks.
Keep your flock healthy with more chicken health tips:
- 7 Tips to Prevent Respiratory Infection in Poultry
- 6 Causes of Swollen Abdomen in Chickens
- 7 Necessities for Healthy Chicks
- 4 Steps to Prevent Chicken Obesity
- Infographic: Sick Chickens? Spot the Symptoms
About the Author: Lisa Steele is the author of Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013). She lives on a small farm in Virginia with her husband and a variety of chickens, ducks, dogs, horses and a barn cat. She’is a frequent contributor to various chicken keeping publications, as well as her blog, www.fresh-eggs-daily.com, and is an avid gardener, crafter, baker and knitter in her free time.
Sudden Chicken Death: What Are the Causes?
One day this winter I found a chicken dead in the coop.
The night before, when I closed up the coop, all eight birds were roosting and looking fine. Nothing out of the ordinary.
The next morning, when I opened the coop for the day, all the hens were clucking away and bustling around like normal.
It was only later in the day when I brought the chickens back inside that I noticed the dead bird.
The hen was collapsed on her side on the floor at the back of the coop. Eyes closed. Body limp and floppy. She showed no obvious signs of trauma: no blood, no injury, nothing stuck in her mouth or throat. Her comb and wattles were cold and pale. But her abdomen was still slightly warm. There may have been a pulse when I checked under her wing; it may have been the pulse in my own fingers.
In the weeks that followed, no additional birds died. All of the chickens kept on doing their regular happy chicken things.
The death was weird and disconcerting.
Causes of Sudden Chicken Death
I’ve done some reading and some talking with other chicken owners since that time. Apparently, it’s not entirely uncommon for this sort of thing to happen.
Heart attack: Sudden death is a pretty well known syndrome among fast-growing broiler chickens. The birds die with a “short, terminal, wing-beating convulsion” and often flip on their back. The cause is a heart attack. Recent research suggests the heart attack is triggered by stress; the chickens seem predisposed to heart attacks because of microscopic lesions in the muscle of their hearts.
Egg-bound: Layer chickens can die if a fully-formed egg gets stuck somewhere between their shell gland and vent. Possible causes: the egg is too big, there is injury to the reproductive tract that blocks the egg, or the chicken has hypocalcemia (calcium deficiency). Overweight chickens are prone to getting egg-bound. So are young hens that are pushed to lay before they’re fully mature. Egg-bound death isn’t sudden; there are signs that a hen is egg-bound and a few steps you can take to move the egg. However, the blockage often isn’t discovered until after the chicken is dead and owners can be caught by surprise.
“We all got to go sometime”: Accidents happen. A chicken could ingest something poisonous. One bird could jump down from a high roost on to another bird. Heck, a chicken could just run into a wall too hard. Once I had a chicken get a single toe stuck in the edge of the coop loft and hang upside down for a couple hours before I found her. The bird was fine once I got her unstuck but the point is: weird accidents happen.
How important is it to find an answer when a chicken suddenly dies? That’s completely up to you. Like with all things chicken-related, it comes down to paying careful attention to all your birds. If you have reason to suspect contagion or disease, or notice abnormal behavior in other chickens in the flock, get the dead bird examined immediately. If the rest of your chickens keep doing their happy chicken things as normal, maybe it’s not a high priority. As one chicken owner put it: “Where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock.”
The only unsettling thing about having no obvious reason for the death is there’s nothing concrete you can change or improve as a matter of prevention and protection for the rest of your birds.
We’ve all been there…
You get the hankering for a good, old-fashioned hard-boiled egg. And since you have your very own flock of chickens, you can hardly wait to boil up a batch.
You carefully select the eggs, place them in the pot, and simmer them to perfection.
Your mouth starts watering as you gently crushed the shell and peel the egg–with the salt shaker ready and waiting.
And then you get this:
It’s enough to make you wanna say a bad word.
With their gorgeous, orange yolks and rich flavor, there aren’t many downfalls to farm-fresh eggs. However, since the inner membrane clings tightly to the shell of a fresh egg, it’s near-impossible to have anything but ugly results when you try to hard-boil them.
There are lots of suggestions floating around to make the process easier, including:
- Letting the eggs age first (I don’t know about you, but my 2-3 week old farm eggs are STILL hard to peel!)
- Boiling them with vinegar (this didn’t work for me…)
- Boiling them with salt (this didn’t work either)
- Boiling them with baking soda (this sorta worked…. almost)
- Using a pin to prick the shells before boiling (I REALLY wanted this to work, but alas, I think I’m too heavy-handed)
I had pretty much completely given up this whole concept, until I ran across the idea of steaming the eggs.
It sounded kinda crazy at first, but in my desperation, I decided to give it a try.
I started with these babies–fresh from the chickens that morning. An egg-peelers worst nightmare:
And I ended up with these. Yeah, I may have done a happy dance in the kitchen. Maybe…
How to Easily Peel Farm-Fresh Hard-Boiled Eggs
You will need:
- Fresh eggs
- A metal colander or steamer basket
- A pot with lid
So technically, we are steaming the eggs, not boiling them. I don’t have a vegetable steamer basket, so I just used my metal colander to hold the eggs instead. Feel free to use whatever you have.
Initially, I tried setting it on the rim of a pot, like this:
But this prevented the lid from fitting on top, which released a lot of the steam, which resulted in half-cooked eggs. We don’t want that.
So, I grabbed a larger pot, and place the colander in the bottom, like this:
(Definitely don’t use a plastic colander for this–it’ll melt.)
Fill the bottom of the pot with water–the exact amount isn’t important, just make sure you aren’t submerging the eggs. And also make sure that there is enough water to keep the pot from boiling dry.
Place the eggs in the colander, and the colander in the pot. Bring the water to a boil, and place the lid on top.
Allow the eggs to steam for 20-22 minutes. Remove the colander (or steamer basket) from the pot and rinse the eggs with cold water to halt the cooking process.
Here is a good article on raising turkeys:
Read more: Raising Turkeys on the Backyard Farm http://momprepares.com/raising-turkeys-on-the-backyard-farm/
Read more: Raising Turkeys on the Backyard Farm http://momprepares.com/raising-turkeys-on-the-backyard-farm/
Read more: Raising Turkeys on the Backyard Farm http://momprepares.com/raising-turkeys-on-the-backyard-farm/
Here are some great websites to also find out more information.
How to Get More Eggs from Your Laying Hens : http://goo.gl/KuOiV1
Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally : http://amzn.to/1j1XvTq
Don’t forget to download your free eBook :
Don’t forget to join our page :
All of these websites are great resources. Great books are Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. It is packed full of good info.
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