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!

Chicken experiment continued…

Last night I decided to put a fake egg into both nesting boxes (per my prior post), to see which box Peep would lay her egg in again.  This morning I was out in the coop area and was able to finally “catch” Peep laying her egg. (Something I wanted to see for the past week and kept missing it.)  Peep was eating some greens and cooked rice I put out for a breakfast treat along side of the other girls, when she stopped eating and looked up quickly with a look that reminded me of my 4 year old when he realizes that he has to run to the bathroom.  She made her way up to the nesting boxes and climbed into the one on the right.  After sitting for a few minutes, she noticed the fake egg in the other nesting box and got up to go into that box.  She sat in the box on the left for a minute or two, looked back at the egg in the box on the right and decided to change boxes again.  (I think I may have totally confused her with a fake egg in both boxes.)  After moving to the box on the right, she settled in for the wait.  A few times she started pulling pieces of straw from the other box over to her box. (Just something to while away the time, I guess.)  After about 35 minutes of sitting, she abruptly stood up and the egg just kind of plopped down into the box with a little thud.  She looked at it for a few seconds and then just as abruptly walked away and starting eating again.  I was so thrilled to experience this for the first time. (I actually felt like passing out those bubblegum cigars or something!)  The funny thing was…I expected her to squawk or squeal or something, but she never made a sound. (I know I would have!!)

Peep settling down to business.

Wait a minute! What is that egg doing over there?! Am I in the wrong box?!

Phew!! That's a relief!

Well...that's done...back to breakfast!

When Peep first went into the nesting box to take care of business, the other girls all gathered around to cheer her on. (At least that is what I hope they were doing, I hate to think that they were all grimacing and hoping that they would never have to go through that!)  Maybe the other girls will take the hint and start laying.

Hey, whatcha doin up there girl?!

This morning marked our 7th egg from Peep and we decided to have a celebratory breakfast before heading off to church.  We had our first-ever eggs from our very own chicken!!!  It was quite a party atmosphere.

All of Peep's eggs in order laid from right to left.

The large egg from day 6 turned out to be a double yolker! Aren't they a gorgeous golden orange?!

My 4 yr old, Danny, enjoying our first-ever Peep breakfast.

Today was a good day!

Cluck, cluck y’all!

A little chicken experiment…

Well, Peep has now laid 6 eggs in 7 days.  Pretty good starting record I think!  She laid for 3 days in a row, skipped a day, and then for another 3 days in a row.  The interesting thing is that on day 1 Peep laid her first egg in the left nesting box which had the fake wooden egg in it. I then took the fake egg out since I figured she now knew where to lay her eggs, the next morning I found her egg on the ground in front of the nesting boxes. I decided to put the fake egg back into the nesting box on the left and she has now laid 3 more eggs in the left box. Last night I put the fake egg into the nesting box on the right and this morning I found her egg in the right nesting box next to the fake egg.  So…tonight I put a fake egg into both nesting boxes and I am really curious to see where she decides to lay her next egg.

Peep's blue egg next to the fake wooden egg.

Peep's eggs for the first 6 days.

From the photo you can see that Peep’s eggs gradually increase in size until day 6, which really increases in size.  The egg I got this morning from Peep is about the size of egg #3.  (A little strange, don’t you think?)  Whether we get an egg tomorrow or not, we have decided to cook our first six eggs tomorrow morning in a little celebratory breakfast.  (At least we will if the eggs look normal when we crack them open.)  It definitely feels a little weird to think we will be eating eggs from our very own chickens.

Betsy checking out the nesting boxes.

Sadie checking out the nesting boxes.

Both Sadie and Betsy keep going up into the nesting boxes and looking around for a while before leaving the boxes, but no egg.  I like to think that they are at least contemplating putting their first egg into the boxes. Frannie, the oldest chicken by a couple of weeks, still shows no interest in the nesting boxes so far.

Sun and dirt bathing in the new bath house!

The girls are really liking the new bath house we built them.   I poured in several bowls of dirt mixed with some sand and DE into the shelter and the girls went nuts kicking up dirt onto themselves.  It is so funny to watch them squirming and rolling around in the dirt.  You can even see the dirt flying in the air in the above picture.

Peep sitting on my shoulder.

Aren't I just too cute?!

Cluck, cluck y’all!

Move over National Geographic…(caution…contains some graphic violence)

Yesterday was a GREAT photo day!  Check out the stunning hawk photos I took of the biggest hawk I have ever seen.  This beauty was out in front of my house enjoying a squirrel dinner it had just caught.  Thank goodness that my chickens were in their predator-proof coop and run!  I was able to get within 8 feet of the hawk to take some pics.

It gives me the willies to think that my girls were so close to this scary creature.  Scary, but gorgeous!

Cluck, cluck y’all!

 

And the winner is…

Congrats to Laurel for winning the “Chicken Bawk” necklace!  (She was the randomly picked winner thanks to my son picking her name out of a hat.  Please email me your address Laurel.)

Here’s a question…

Does anyone else find that chickens have their own little quirks when it comes to foods they like to eat?  I try different foods on them according to lists of acceptable things to feed chickens and also what I hear other chicken owners say their chickens like.  But I am finding that it is pretty hit and miss on what they will turn their beaks up at.  I found out yesterday that they love kale and mustard greens, but not alfalfa sprouts.  Everyone has been saying how their chickens like watermelons, but not mine.  No sir…they turn their beaks up at watermelon, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.  Maybe my girls are just not that into fruit, which might explain why they don’t care much for tomatoes.  Are my chickens just weird?!  They do love corn more than anything.  I have heard many others say that they scramble eggs for their chickens and that the protein is also good for them, but do my girls like scrambled eggs? Not much!  Do your chickens have any food favorites or eccentricities?  I would love to hear what strange things other chickens like to eat.

We are starting to think about winter-izing the chicken run.  The girls have an indoor winter home in the garage that they have access to all day, but when they want to be outside in the run they have no retreat from cold winds and wet weather.   We are considering our options on this newest task.  Should we cover part of the run in plastic or tarps?  Should we build a little three walled shelter to block the wind with a roof to keep off rain and snow?  Should we get plexi-glass to wall in part of the run?  So many options, but trying to decide which is best cosmetically and financially is the trick.  The first thing needed is to get an electric heater for their water bowl since the temps will be in the low 30’s in the next few days.  My husband is beginning to think that it will never end…and I guess my girls are quite spoiled!

Talk about spoiled, here are some pics from this morning that epitomizes spoiled…

Betsy loves to snuggle.

Snuggling in for a nap!

Cluck, cluck y’all!

 

 

 

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