A few chicken tips…

I wanted to post a few tips today that I do or use for my chickens.  One winterizing idea comes from my husband, who made a wonderful little heater for our girls to help keep them toasty in their coop.

Warmer my husband made for next to the nesting boxes.

He took a light bulb base and attached it inside a coffee can to a thick piece of wood.  Next he put a large heavy crock over the can with the cord coming out the back.  We tested a 40, 60, and 100 watt bulb to see what the results would be, and we finally settled on the 60 watt bulb.  It kept the crock toasty warm to the touch without getting too hot.  Just enough heat radiates out to warm the girls if they are standing close or snuggling up to it.  We are going to put another one on the opposite side of the indoor run/coop next to their water fountain.

Close up of crock heater.

Here’s a good tip for young pullets that aren’t yet laying eggs.  I have a fake egg in each of the nesting boxes to show the girls where to lay their eggs.  So far, two of my girls are using the nesting boxes, one insists on laying in the coop, and one girl is still freeloading. (I threaten and plead with her everyday to lay an egg as she is 6 1/2 months old.)

Fake wooden egg in the nesting box. Some people even use small balls or golf balls.

I like to offer my girls the option of oyster shells or crushed egg shells daily for their calcium needs.  Most of the time they prefer to eat the crushed egg shells.

Egg shells from my chickens.

After we use any of the girl’s eggs, I rinse them out and set them on a paper towel to dry. I try to remove the membrane from the insides before I crush them (for convenience). I put them into a heavy bowl and smash them with a heavy handle until they are finely crushed. If any of the membrane remains, then it will be left behind when I crush the shells and I just pick it out then.  The calcium that goes back into the chickens is fantastic for the new eggs they will lay.  This helps to make sure your chicken’s egg shells are nice and hard/thick.

My final tip for today is something I like to give my girls everyday…

Liquid Probiotics

I get liquid Probiotics from an online health store which is good for chickens as well as for human consumption. I apply approximately 1 tablespoon of this onto a “salad” that I make for the girls daily as a treat.  I chop up some kale, mustard greens, spinach, or any variety of greens into bite size pieces, and then I add a little of the following…raw sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and raisins. I will also add any left over proteins (meat) and table scraps from our own table.  I use the tablespoon of Probiotics as a “salad dressing” on top of their salad. Occasionally, I might add a little bit of raw honey to their salad.  Honey is a natural antibiotic and is good for them.

The girls enjoying their salad!

Cluck, cluck y’all!

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Chicken Salad without the chicken…(sort of)

Chicken Salad (or salad for the chickens)!

Breakfast for the girls this morning is what I like to call chicken salad (minus the chicken). I take some of their favorite things to eat and chop them up all together.  In this particular salad is…chopped greens, raisins, raw sunflower seeds, flax seeds, cooked elbow noodles, grape tomatoes, cucumber, and carrot.  All topped off with a tablespoon of liquid Probiotics for the salad dressing. I purchase liquid Probiotics from an online store that sells vitamins, herbs, and health stuff for human consumption. Probiotics has the same good cultures that are in yogurt, and are wonderful for the digestive system of the chickens.  I love the fact that I know exactly what my girls are eating and that the healthful things they are eating go into the yummy eggs they give me. The girls love this treat!

Cluck, cluck y’all!

Thinking about winterizing…

Slowly but surely we have been doing things to plan for winter with the chickens.  Hoping for a mild winter is fine, but we need to be prepared for crazy weather and protecting the girls.  Building our chicken winter home in the garage has done lots to relieve my worried mind, but I wanted to take some steps to minimize the elements in the outside run too.

6 ft by 8 ft tarps attached to the side and top of one section of the chicken run.

Tarp also attached to opposite wall of run to create wind break.

My husband and I attached three 6′ x 8′ tarps to the sides and top of part of the chicken run to create a wind break and to also keep rain and snow from a portion of the ground for the girls to walk on.  You can see the ramp in the pics leading up into the garage window.  The window has part of the tarp covering the top so that the rain/snow will keep from going into the window.  We are hoping that this will provide enough protection for the girls if they want to venture into the yard during inclement weather.  The only thing left for me to do at this point is to provide a heater for their water source so that it doesn’t freeze up on them.  Since I have electricity available in the garage and to the coop outside, I am thinking about purchasing a heated water bowl (the kind for dogs) to keep their water from freezing.

Speaking of protection…we have been having a time with the squirrels lately.  The chickens are afraid of the squirrels now since they have gotten more aggressive and the squirrels know it!  Numerous times I have had to go out to frantically squawking chickens being chased around by squirrels or the girls hiding in the coop while the squirrels eat their food in the run. After much consideration, I purchased a small plastic air soft gun that shoots plastic BBs.  To date, I have shot at least 6 squirrels (or possibly only a couple of squirrels several times each).  Each hit startles the squirrel and chases them off, but doesn’t cause any real damage. They have learned to run when they see us or when they hear the cocking of the gun.  For the most part it has kept them at a distance.

Sitting in the chicken run with my trusty BB gun at the ready.

A beautiful sunny day today, sitting in the run, visiting the girls.  Danny and I gave the girls an afternoon treat of seedless red globe grapes, which they loved.

Peep, Sadie, Frannie, and Betsy enjoying some grapes.

A gift from my girls…

Cluck, cluck y’all!