Healing your animals at home

Many times I’ve been messaged about sick or hurt chickens and ducks, I’m always willing to do anything I can to help with saving animals. When I began keeping chickens, I set up a first aid kit and its ready to go at a moments notice. Since we have so many animals we have had to deal with a wide range of illnesses and a couple injuries. If you are going to keep animals then having a kit ready to go before hand is critical, it can be the difference between life or death.

Here’s my list of must haves:

Electrolytes, Probiotics, Nutri-drench, VetRx, Neosporin, No Pick (Blue Kote), Bandages, Scissors, Tweezers, Vetricyn, Coconut Oil, Vaseline

From Moonlight Mile Herb Farm: First Step Tonic, Worm Balancer, Bumblefoot remedy, Bug eraser spray, Ultimate Garlic Fusion

So those are the things I always have on hand for any emergency. Over the last year we have gotten away from using antibiotics and commercial dewormers in favor for more organic and natural ways of healing. When I began asking questions and doing the research I found Moonlight Mile Herb Farm and their line of poultry products. Since I began using the products I haven’t had to use the commercial products once…knock on wood. Many of the products I used previously now require a vet prescription, so finding a natural alternative wasn’t just something I wanted but it was necessary.

When brining home baby chicks, electrolytes, No pick and Vetricyn are your most critical items. We brought home our first set of chicks, were so excited with these little fluffy butts that we never thought they could hurt a fly. We were so wrong!  The reason I say Vetricyn and No pick is because the chicks will clean and peck at each other and sometimes it causes mini ouchies. Within a day of having our chicks home, one had a boo boo under her eye. But Vetricyn is great because it can be sprayed in the eyes, it can be used on any wounds for any animal and it speeds healing. No pick is smelly and tastes terrible so when a chick tries to pick at a wound it will taste bad so they won’t try to do that again. Its really great for big chickens too because they are really attracted to red, so blood turns them into little sharks when blood is in the water, but a mouth full of No pick will send them running. Electrolytes are needed because the hatching process is so taxing on their little bodies, then depending on where you get them from they could have gone through shipping, then moving into a big pen, then being taken out of pen and going to their new home. Basically the first few days of life is hard, so electrolytes help them get back up to strength faster.

Probiotics are great for gut health, a healthy gut also means hens are able to make eggs more effectively and fight off other problems better too. Nutri-drench has saved many birds over the years, I have found that the high dose vitamins will help to prolong the life of an ailing bird giving me the time needed to diagnose and treat a sick bird. VetRx is a natural remedy for respiratory issues, it can be used in a diffuser or dropped right above the nostrils.

Where I live we have a lot of crows. In some ways crows are beneficial, they are great for chasing away hawks and eagles, but often times they are just menaces to the farm. I suspect the crows have brought scaly leg mites onto my farm so we have had to do many scaly leg treatments. Luckily its very easy to take care of. When I see that a hen needs scaly leg treatment I begin with a nice foot soak in the sink with a little dawn soap, if there are scales that can be easily removed without causing bleeding then I will rub on them till they fall off. After a soak then I dry the legs, cover them in coconut oil to smother the mites and after that I cover the entire leg and toes in vaseline to aid in the healing of the scales. Like I said, its pretty easy to take care the issue but sadly it spreads through the whole flock so you have to treat everyone to fully eliminate them.

I always pray that nothing will happen physically to my birds, but there are always risks when free ranging. I’ve been lucky to not have any major physical injures however I have treated many local friends chickens and ducks. Chickens and ducks are incredibly resilient to injuries, I have seen some miraculous recoveries but the number one rule for me when I see injuries or really bad prolapses is what would be best for the animal. Do they have a real shot at recovery or will they be in too much pain to recover. If i think they will be able to recover and return to a normal life I will do everything in my power to help them. First thing when there is a wound is to clean the wound, usually I wash the wound area and cut away feathers that obstruct the view to ensure that all the dirt is cleaned. Most cases aren’t in need of stitches because chickens and ducks regrow their meat and skin very fast. As long as the wound is only a flesh wound then I will spray with Vetricyn allow to dry and then coat with Neosporin, not only because it aids in fast healing but the Neosporin makes bandages not stick to the wound. Depending on the severity I do always try to cover the wounds because getting sand, dirt and potentially flies laying eggs in the wound which leads to fly strike, so keeping hurt hens clean, covered, indoors and quiet are very important to healing. I repeat the wound treatment daily until new skin has grown, once they have enough feathers to cover the area and no open wounds, they can return to the flock.

Finally lets talk about natural treatments! I found Moonlight Mile Herb Farm about a year ago and have loved every product I’ve ordered. I use the Worm Balancer once a month for a couple days as a preventative treatment and since I began doing this I haven’t had a worm overload, prior to using the preventative I would have to deworm in the spring and fall and throw away eggs for 2 weeks every time and there were always evidence of worm overload in the poo. When I adopted my new silkies a year ago they all were infested with lice, chicken lice is so disgusting but never fear its not the same as human lice so we can’t catch it from them. I gave all 5 of them a bath with dawn, dried them and sprayed them down with the bug eraser every few days for a couple weeks, and guess what, all the lice were gone! I also can spray the coops with the spray and it doesn’t hurt anyone. In our 3 years we have only had 1 hen come down with a bumble foot infection, prior to finding the moonlight bumble foot remedy, I would have had to do surgery on the hens foot and remove the infection, however with the bumble foot remedy all I had to do was put a drop on the infection and then a drop in her mouth everyday, 2 weeks later the infection was gone! Surgery can be very stressful on a hen, plus she will need to be separated from the flock and her foot wrapped and then you have to treat the foot like a wound and it can take several days of wound treatment to make sure that she is healed before going outside again, I don’t know about you but if there is something I can do thats easier and less stressful for the hen then I’m going to do it. The Ultimate Garlic Fusion and the First Step Tonic are immune boosters. I use the Ultimate Garlic Fusion once every couple weeks for an immune boost for the hens and the First Step Tonic I’m using for the first time in all my brooders, its an immune boost, helps keep cocci and other parasites away, assists with healthy nutritional supplement. So far my babies are doing great, healthy and no signs of cocci.

I’ve been working hard at transferring everything over to natural remedies, prevention and healing. I am loving all my new products and believe in them 100%.

All for now, but if you have any specific questions about treatments and healing birds please let me know!

Nicole

Its a new year on the Old McDavis Farm!

Its been a year that I have been away from our blog and a lot has happened, we have changed a lot and been through a lot. My goal moving forward will be to post weekly what we are doing, changing and learning. The 2016 year was a hard year on my family, we didn’t do much growing of our farm, only maintaining because I was going through several medical issues and as a family we were dealing with several difficult losses. But it is a new year and we have started fresh. I will be writing lots of new blogs with some new ideas and how we have changed the way we are doing things. But first I want to thank you for reading my farm blog and update you on all the new things happening.

Up until summer of 2016 we had a dozen or so large fowl chickens, a small flock of ducks, 2 baby goats and a small flock of silkies, along with some cats and dogs. Well, we have grown quite a bit. Our large fowl flock has grown to 19 with more eggs in the incubator now, primarily focusing on Swedish Flower Hens and colorful egg breeds. Our duck flock grew to 12 mostly Ancona as we found a beautiful genetic line to add 2 drakes from and we hatched out 6 new females from our own lines. We still have our 2 domestic mallards for slug control in the front yard, however they may be hatching some more Anconas for us this year. Our goats Sage and Clover are now 14 months old and we are patiently waiting to find out if their mating session last week was successful, and we have a beautiful little girl we are adopting next month after she kids her first babies. Our Silkie flock grew to 10 last summer along with our Swedish Flower hen special needs gal, our colors now include white, buff, porcelain, cuckoo, black and splash. Chloe’s Serama flock recently grew to 5, 3 are frizzled Seramas. Stu the Angora rabbit got the snuffles last summer and we assisted him over the rainbow bridge in September after a long and painful fight to heal his body. We have been without a farm rabbit since then however we are welcoming a new baby girl Angora next month which we are so excited about because she looks so much like Stu, we are accepting name ideas on our Facebook page so check that out.  www.facebook.com/theoldmcdavisfarm  We have entered the world of Quail raising, we thought we would just start with a couple adults however when a friend hatched out a bunch of babies we jumped at the chance to raise some from hatching so instead of the 2 , we actually ended up with 8. Our first order of Red Ranger meat birds arrived a week ago and its already been an all new monster of chicken raising. Indoors we have grown a bit too. We started a Saltwater fish tank in order to adopt my dads 8 and 6 year old Clown fish. We began to rescue unwanted Cockatiels and ended up with 2 girls and 2 boys who keep trying to hatch babies, possibly something for us to consider allowing them to try in the future.

As you can see, things are changing and growing around here. I’m planning to discuss many things on our blog, some of the things you can look forward to me writing about include: our first trial of raising meat birds, raising quail, preparing for our goats kidding and what happens after, building new coops, a more natural way of raising birds, our whole truth about starting a saltwater fish tank, angora rabbits and why they are the most awesome breed ever, building a new glass greenhouse, how we build things out of repurposed materials, growing barley to feed animals, growing our vegetable garden organically, the good bad and ugly of beginning to homeschool and of course all the baby animals we hatch and raise. So thank you for returning after such a long break.

-Nicole

Oh the joys of Goats!

Goats-5Ok so I know I’m totally jumping ahead here but I just can’t wait to write about my goats! Goats are amazing little animals, so full of fun, love and energy. Now I didn’t make the decision to get goats lightly, as a matter of fact it took a full year for me to be ready to bring home my little bundles. Farmer D and I had discussed getting goats for milk because obviously we couldn’t have a cow on a quarter acre. A year and a half ago I was looking online at all the goats available to buy when I found an ad for a local goat milk farm advertising a class on learning how to care of goats. I contacted the owner immediately and our journey to becoming goat parents had begun.

Farmer D and I went up to the farm in Lake Stevens a couple weeks later. We got out of our car and immediately could hear all the goats and I was hooked. We spent an hour going over all the basics, feeding, medications, minerals, you name it we discussed it. Then we got hands on experience which was really fun. I milked a goat, trimmed her hooves, and gave her a copper supplement. We were working with Oberhasli goats, which were much bigger than what we were looking for however we got our first chance to really experience what caring for goats would be like which was awesome.

As much as I really wanted to dive right in I was so scared, if you thought I was worried about killing some chicks, the fear I had over killing a couple baby goats was way worse. So I ordered books and spent months reading those books over and over again. Nothing I did calmed my fears. I was in one of my chicken keeping groups on Facebook one night when I saw a post about some Nigerian Dwarf goat milk for sale by Janelle. I jumped on it and asked if I could drive out the following weekend to pick the milk up and see the goats. She was going to be off on one of her adventures but her husband was going to be home so we scheduled pick up. When we arrived he offered to show us the goats, in the barn was several tiny little babies and their mamas. They were so much smaller that I expected and exactly what I had been looking for. This was spring of 2015. The goats were adorable but the milk was the best milk I had ever tasted, it was raw, delicious and healthy. Goat milk is full of healthy probiotics and your body digests it faster than cow milk which is really good for me because I’m sensitive to dairy so I don’t drink much milk, but Goat milk I could drink all the time.

That night I contacted Janelle at the Braun Family Farm to discuss getting two doelings from her the next time she kidded. She walked me through the kidding schedule and calmed some of my fears about getting babies. But it wasn’t until we talked this last November and she said her does were scheduled to kid in mid to end of December that it all became real for me. She so graciously agreed to have me over to introduce me to her pregnant does and talk me through the beginning stages of raising kids. Janelle was amazing! She showed me the barn and what they would need in their house, her mama does were so sweet and her buck was very personable. He jumped right up and said hello. After giving me all the feeding instructions and bottle requirements, she truly made me feel like I could handle being a goat mama. I left there feeling sure of my decision and knowing that no matter what I had a mentor who could be counted on to support this new adventure.

In the following weeks I had question after question and Janelle always made herself available and had the answers. She kept me updated on the mamas progress and sent me photos. I was beyond antsy as the middle of December came and went. I had kept the secret of the baby goats from my kids for 4 whole weeks but couldn’t contain my excitement anymore and spilled the beans to Chloe and Wade, I told them all about the baby goats we were getting as our family Christmas present. They asked every morning if the babies had been born, and every morning I said not yet, until December 22, 2015. I woke up to a message from Janelle with photos of 2 beautiful tiny doelings. They were the most adorable little things I had ever seen. Naturally I woke the kids up and we headed to the Braun family farm to meet our newest family members. For only being hours old, they were loud and walking all around, trying to feed on their mama. It was beautiful to watch. We spent about an hour or so just watching, holding and spending time with our new babies. We agreed to pick them up in 5 days so they would get the hang of feeding and get all the colostrum they needed from their mama. We named them Clover and Sage and went home. I know what you are thinking, why would you take them from their mamas at 5 days old? Well let me reassure it, its ok to take them to be bottle babies. The reason we wanted them right away is so they could bond with us, which would make them more suited for our small farm if they saw us as their family. Because of our decision our goats love people, they love all people and are not scared of visitors, they are incredibly welcoming to visitors. Also because of our decision to raise them as bottle babies they were raised with our small children and know they are little people. They don’t jump up on my son who is only 3, they learned very young they would knock him over and then he would cry and let me tell you, they don’t like it when we cry.

Ok, back to December 27th, coming home day arrived! I have never gotten my family fed, dressed and out of the house so quickly. We were all so excited to bring our babies home, I was up at the butt crack of dawn. I swear driving out to Duvall had never taken so long! I was bouncing in my seat the whole way! Even my kids weren’t complaining, except for the one stop on the side of the road for Wade to pee, shhh don’t tell! We finally made it! In the 5 days since we had seen them they had already grown and were bouncing all over the place. Janelle was amazing, she was so calm and took her time showing me how to make their bottle at the right temperature and how to give it to them. For tiny little kids man were they stubborn about taking a bottle, but before we left they both accepted it. Now getting a diaper on them was a whole other story. It was awkward trying to secure diapers on these long legged squirmy little babes. But again, Janelle masterfully got it on them and next the onesies. They were adorable and too small for the onesies I bought for them lol, too small for newborn onesies, who would have thought. Not long after we had them dressed, we were on our way home.

When we got home with our very precious cargo, we decided to treat them like any other new animal in the house and we did a slow introduction. The big dogs went outside and only the cats and small dogs were inside. Clover and Sage were so small we transported them in a laundry basket. We set them on the floor and let the Belle(chihuahua) and Piper(Doxie) come meet them first. They were so curious about the new babies, both tails wagging and smelling them, no signs of aggression just curious and wanted to play. I was thrilled. The cats came next, only Oppie and Chibs were in the house. Oppie jumped right in the basket. No one was scared of anyone and everyone did great. Finally it was the big dogs turn. We already knew Jax would be a good boy, he adopted a kitten as his baby and would clean him and lick him when the kitten was only a week old so I knew he would be just fine. It was our english bulldog Diesel who worried me a little. He had never shown any kind of aggression toward other animals before but you just never know. It surprised me when Diesel was the one to come inside and lick the babies first. Everyone was together and loving each other. The dogs and cats just followed the goats around with curiosity and the goats didn’t mind it at all. Within a couple days the babies were just part of the family to everyone, they were happily jumping around the house and eating like champs on the bottle. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to me at all because until now we had a utopia of animals and everyone got along, but it still was.

Over the weeks I had many questions, Janelle was always there to reassure me and walk me through everything. There were times I was nervous and scared I was doing something wrong but Janelle was always there with advice and everything was fine. They were jumping all over the place, loved to sit in my lap for naps, they sucked on my ears and nibbled on my hair. I have never felt so much like a mom to an animal before. They followed me all over the house and would cry if they couldn’t find me. We built a beautiful bond during our time in the house together. Sure the bottles every 4 hours meant I had to plan my day around goat feeding times, and yeah the diapers could be really nasty, but I wouldn’t have changed what we did for anything! They are so loyal and loving and fun to be around. They are always happy to see you and ready for love whenever you want to give it.

They are 12 weeks old now and have been living outside for 3 weeks. The transition was hard on all 3 of us. They cried a lot the first couple days and wanted me to spend every minute outside. I went out to visit them almost hourly the first week and every time I thought I would cry leaving them. It has gotten easier, but I still hate leaving them as much as they do. Farmer D built them a huge fenced in space they can play in and they sure do play. We put a tire and stump for them to jump on and when we go out to see them they prance and dance and jump all over the place. During the sunny days they love to lay in the sun or run around the yard following my kids and I around. These last 12 weeks with goats have been nothing short of amazing. I’m more confident of our abilities to care for them, I still get questions every now and then but having a great mentor always able to answer those questions puts me at ease.

For anyone thinking they really want a couple goats but are unsure if they could do it, go spend some time with some goats, you would be amazed at how great they can be. I can assure you that they are far easier to raise than the books make them seem. They are fun and loving, they are literally the perfect pet also if you don’t want them for milk or meat.

Thanks for reading!

Nicole

 

Sharing the Obsession

During a discussion with a fellow chicken keeper that I have been mentoring and may have been responsible for getting started in the world of chickens, it was brought up that I should write about how chicken keeping brings people together and creates friendships between people that may not have met otherwise. It really got me thinking about how many people I have shared our obsession with and influenced their decision to get chickens. Chickens really do bring people together from all different walks of life, I belong to many groups of different varieties but when it comes to my groups about farming and chicken keeping there really is nothing like it. The best way to explain it is in terms of being a duck, like I said previously when ducks meet other ducks there is a ducky conversation that takes place, “you’re a duck, I’m a duck, now we are friends” and often times when meeting other chicken keepers a similar conversation takes place, “You have chickens? So do I! Oh, we must be friends now!” Chickens and all other farm animals truly bring people together.

There are a few people who really stand out to me and all for totally different reasons.

After posting on a moms group looking for information on chickens, I responded to Amy’s plea for information and simply offered to show her and her husband my set up and what we had going on. They came over and I gave them the basic run down of what we did to get started, showed them our coop and some of the things I would have done differently. We talked about where she could get chicks from and I gave her a local breeders info. After a hour or so of talking about everything I could think of, I could see the excitement Amy had and knew it wouldnt be long before she was a convert. It wasn’t long at all, she messaged me within a couple hours with photos of 4 auto sexing chicks(boys and girls look different at hatch to tell them apart) as she was on her way to the local feed store for supplies. I knew then this was someone I was going to be life long friends with and since we have become great friends. Everyone I have met has also taught me a little something too. Amy taught me that auto sexing chicks can be wrong also, as made evident by her rooster Stan who hatched out looking like a female not a male. As a matter of fact for weeks as she kept sending me photos of him saying, “Are you sure she isn’t a he?” and my response was always “but she’s an auto sexing chicken, she looked just like your other pullet, so she has to be a she” but I was so wrong!! Its a really good thing Stan is such a sweetheart because there is a serious bond between the two of them.

I consider myself to be a little socially awkward, I have no problem talking to people in forums or via messaging but when it comes to meeting people I don’t always give off a great first impression so I don’t meet as many people face to face as I would like to. I knew of this local mom, diy genius, gardener and chicken keeper Julie who I really wanted to meet, and sometimes I wonder if maybe I used my chickens to facilitate our meeting. In July 2014 I bought a Silkie hen and her 7 chicks she had just hatched, they were on my bucket list for chicken breeds I really wanted. I knew I couldn’t keep them all so I started looking for families who wanted to adopt the extras. In walks Julie and she really wanted to come see the little fluffy babies. I was so excited because I was going to get to finally meet this amazing person that I truly admired and also because I knew how cool it would be to send some babies with her so I could still see them grow up. Of course she wanted to bring home 2 of the babies because Silkies are sweet little fuzzballs who are soft and so personable. They were her first Silkies so I got to teach her a little something about them and in return I’ve gotten to have this great friend who has all the answers when I need help with gardening and diy ideas. I also got to learn a very valuable lesson about the strength of some chicken family bonds. Julie took home the 2 sisters, she raised them and loved them and eventually they went broody (wanted to hatch chicks). They both went broody at the same time even. Julie contacted me about giving them some eggs because she wanted to let them hatch some babies and she wanted the experience for her family. So of course I gave her 6 eggs for her silkies. It was a pretty exciting process to go through with her. Once the chicks hatched we saw the hens co brood the chicks together. They literally shared the responsibilities of raising the little babies. This was not something I had heard of before so after watching those little hens co parent their babies, when my own silkies went broody at the same time, I naturally gave them eggs to hatch together and I was able to experience it first hand myself.

Another family that really stood out to me is Angela’s family and her son Quinn. She contacted me to get some advice because Quinn had asked to get some baby chicks. I invited them over to talk about chicken keeping and to see if it was something they could easily do. Quinn was a big surprise to me, he was full of questions and had a huge interest in learning. I wasn’t expecting him to have such well thought out questions, but it was clear that he really wanted chickens and wanted to be a good chicken keeper. After answering what must have been a hundred questions, he was ready for baby chicks. Since I had fertile eggs, it was easy to let them pick out some breeds and to stick them eggs under a broody hen for them. I don’t know that Angela and I would have ever met if it hadn’t been for chickens and I’m glad that we did because not only are Angela and Quinn pretty cool people but I have been able to teach them all about chickens from the very beginning of the process, the laying of the egg. Quinn was able to watch videos of the baby chicks growing inside the eggs and get updates of the chicks all the way up to hatch, he was able to pick the chicks he wanted for his flock (did I mention that he picked 3 hens out of 10-2 day old chicks, those are some good picking skills) and after taking them home he took care of them and raised them to point of lay. Those are some valuable skills for a kid and he was learning all along the way. When I recently went for a visit and to show them how to clip wings it was clear that Quinn was a natural chicken keeper as he easily picked his girls up properly and brought them over for their wing clipping. I’m really proud of Quinn and thankful that Angela has let me be a part of their experience.

I have met so many people during my chicken keeping life, many of them I’ve become friends with. Its been great creating new chicken enthusiasts, introducing rare breeds, and teaching kids all about the cycle of life with chickens. Occasionally I get an update that a rooster I rehomed became a dad or a hen hatched out her own babies, or babies I hatched laid their first egg, and its really exciting when I get those updates.

Chickens opened up a whole new world of friendship for me, who knows maybe you have a crazy chicken person in you too!

Thanks for reading!

Nicole

Moving day arrived, new lessons learned

IMG_7615It took us 10 weeks to build our chicken coop duck house combo which was 2 weeks longer than we had expected, but the day had finally arrived when it was complete and they were all too ready to get out of their brooder. The chicks and ducklings had been off heat for about 3 weeks, so there would be no difference in temperature between our garage and their house. In all my research everyone had said when you move them into their new house you need to lock them in for a week so they know where home is, and while that was possible for 8 chicks, it was not going to be possible for 6 ducks who grew significantly faster. So like I had been instructed I moved the chicks into their house and locked them in with food and water, but we put the ducks out into the yard. I learned so much in the following weeks about both the chickens and ducks and now I will share my knowledge.

It was evident the chicks were so much happier with their new space, chirping and playing all about when I would go visit them. I began noticing within a day or so that my nest boxes were getting filled with poop and all the shavings removed. After some googling I learned that chickens don’t hatch with the knowledge of what a nest box is and what its for, they need to learn when they are older. So we quickly cut plywood pieces to screw into place to block off the nest boxes so they would no longer sleep and play in them. Eventually when they were closer to laying age we removed the plywood, refilled the boxes with shavings and straw and placed ceramic eggs in them to show them the purpose of those boxes. After our initial eggs being laid all over the place, they figured it out on their own. I also learned during this time that chickens lay eggs when they are ready, so if they are too young to lay and as curious as they are you may get some egg eating issues, this is a pretty common problem and while many people think its a reason to butcher a chicken I have found 2 simple and effective ways to deter egg eating. First thing I did when I was presented with this problem was hang curtains in front of the next boxes. Not only do curtains give some privacy to the laying hen and reduce her stress but it also discourages egg eating because it sort of hides the eggs. Out of sight out of mind. If you have a really aggressive egg eater which I did for a bit and was not so happy coming out to find only the remains of my eggs daily, you can blow out an egg by breaking a hole in one end, use a long pin to break up the yolk and then use another pin to create a small hole in the top so you can blow the egg out the bottom, then refill the egg with mustard. I placed a few of these mustard eggs in the coop for my egg eater and she hated the taste so much I haven’t had an egg eating situation since. Its all about being creative, most problems have a fix that doesn’t involve Farmer Davis’s axe.

I also had no idea of the flying abilities of these little chicks. One would think since they were so small that they wouldn’t really take flight, but I found out so fast that their small size actually allowed them to get even more height and distance that I would have ever guessed. After a couple days I mistakenly went to the coop door windows, opened them up to allow them some extra fresh spring air and then went back inside. Remember they were only about 10 weeks old at this point and it was about 3 feet from the floor to the window. Hours later I looked out into my backyard, what did I see? It certainly wasn’t a peaceful scene I can tell you that much. All the little chicks had flown the coop and were running all around in the attached run, which had no water or food, and they had no way of getting back up into the coop window which was now 5 feet off the ground from where they were at. They were panicked and didn’t know what to do, there was all different levels of chicken screaming happening, I was alone with my 5 year old and 1 year old and trying to figure out how I would deal with it. So after some quick thinking and setting up the outdoor play pen for the kids to watch I attempted my first chicken wrangle. Big chickens are hard to catch when they don’t want to be, but little teen chicks are next to impossible. I opened up only the small coop door and about an hour later of falling in the sand and chicken poop too many times to count, falling on my face and butt and hitting my head on the coop, I finally managed to get all 8 of them back into their coop. So, never doubt their abilities, chickens are escape artists, curious, full of mischief and always willing to give you a run for your money.

After my experience with the great chicken escape, I decided to wait a few extra days before giving them full access to the run, the last thing I wanted to do at bedtime was to have repeat experience of the chicken wrangling. So after 10 days of being locked in the coop we went ahead and let them into the run. They came to the door of the coop and looked out, wanting to come out but not knowing the safety in doing so. The first out was Liberty our Ameraucana, but she didn’t want to use the ramp, apparently it was a terrifying thing. Instead she flew from the coop to Farmer Davis’s waiting arm, she then decided it was best to get onto my head, so she flew over to sit on my head. I was not so amused when she pooped down my back and refused to get off me, every time I put her down she would just hop right back up onto my back, shoulder, and head. It wasn’t until one by one the girls started coming out into their space that she would get off me and join her sisters. This experience was how I learned that chickens do in fact have a fear of the unknown. Our backyard is fully fenced and you can’t see between the boards so we have learned that because they can’t see whats on the other side they are less likely to attempt going on walk about, especially without their rooster. Overtime we have added many new structures to our yard, and every time the chickens proceed with caution. We have learned that any changes can stress our chickens out and cause and upset in laying eggs, new houses, new wood piles, new chickens, and new play areas for them require a slow introduction. With time their curiosity will always win and eventually everything is fine. But when introducing anything new, my biggest advice is to go slow.

My final thoughts on chickens and keeping them in an enclosed run are things we have learned from trial and error, so take the advice for what it is, just me sharing what I’ve learned. Initially we only had 1 feeder and 1 waterer in our chicken run, but I learned that even if they are raised together and get along fine that due to chicken pecking order they will still assert their dominance over food and water. So after setting up extra feeders and having a 6 nipple waterer the assertion of dominance dramatically decreased. If they always know there is more than one place to get food and water they tend to be less picky toward each other. Chickens will fling their food out of any container they can. We thought it would be clever to put a PVC pipe with a corner litter pan attached at the bottom to self fill, however my chickens thought it would be way more beneficial to stand on the edge of the pan and jump off it to fling the food all over thus causing big mess that they don’t eat. Way too much waste. We have since put in a PVC pipe with an attachment at the base that only gives room for a couple chicken heads to fit in and no flinging action ability. We also have a hanging feeder that at the base only has a 1″ opening so their beaks fit but once again, no flinging ability. If you worry about waste then definitely look for feeders that limit their ability to get feet into them, chickens have a natural instinct to scratch and look for food, but causes a lot of waste. Chickens get bored, so you have to install play space for them, if you don’t they will pick at each other and you will not have the peace you may be seeking out when getting chickens. I personally change up their play area every few months. We have a stump they can jump on, we have an outdoor roost and a chicken swing and they rotate through. Not all chickens enjoy a swing, so when the stump goes in, the swing comes out and I always keep the roost in place.

On to Ducks! Ducks are actually easier in so many ways, ducks always stick together so when we moved them out into the yard they went everywhere together and did everything together. Even when adding new ducks into the mix its easier, with ducks they see each other and its like they have a conversation; “You’re a duck, I’m a duck, now we are friends.” We put a kiddie pool into the yard, a big bowl of food and there you go all done. Domestic ducks can’t fly, they are too heavy for their wingspan, so no worries about flying over the fence. You can herd ducks where you cannot herd chickens. This is the main reason ducks are used when training livestock guardian dogs how to herd. It took them time to learn their routine but with the help of our Australian shepherd Jax (who has absolutely no training at all, he goes on his natural instinct) we were able to herd the 6 ducks into their house without major issue. Within months when the sun went down and we walked out the back door the ducks automatically went into their house. If you are looking for something easier to manage without the time consumption that chickens pose, then the duck would certainly be an option for you.

Stay tuned for my next post on how things went free ranging and introducing our other animals to the birds. I plan to write all about the utopia of animals I’ve created.

Thanks for reading and your continued support!

Nicole

So many Benefits!

People who haven’t spent time around poultry don’t truly understand that its not all about the eggs. There is so much more about keeping poultry of all kinds that is unknown to most people. Of course there is the egg factor, we had well over 3 thousand eggs laid on our property last year alone, I know because I kept track of who laid what egg and when. I’m a nut like that. I would never say that the eggs aren’t the greatest benefit either, they are delicious, nutritious, from happy healthy hens and I know everything that goes into their bodies. There is also the meat part, when you got to the store to buy your chicken and eggs it normally doesn’t tell you where it was raised, but when you are raising your own birds you know exactly where and how it was raised. Whats even better for me is that I know that it had a spoiled and lavish life that was filled with daily fun and love. But lets explore all the other benefits to keeping poultry of all kinds.

All poultry is amazing at bug hunting! Not just bugs, but slugs, snails, worms, and even small rodents. I was a little concerned with the increased amounts of poop in the yard that we would have fly problems, but when the ducks come out of their house every morning they go running across the yard chasing and catching flies. Its pretty funny to watch but they are extremely effective. I’ve had Silkie chickens in my garden now for the last 2 years and they have done a great job eating the baby slugs that crawl up the sides of my beds and hunting the little green caterpillars that we don’t like. Its really nice knowing that I don’t have to worry about slugs eating my pretty flowers before they have a chance to bloom because ducks will actually hunt their nests. When we moved in it was a slug fest around here and I frequently found slug nests all over the yard, but since putting a pair of small ducks in my front yard there hasn’t  been a single one. Talk about all natural pest control!

If you are into gardening like me, then you know there is no greater compost than what you make yourself. You put everything into it so you know what you are getting out of it. When you have poultry you have a plethora of chicken gold aka poop. But when you dump all that into your compost and let it sit for 6-9 months with all the other goodies you throw in, what you are going to pull out will be nothing short of amazing for growing your vegetables and fruits. Last year I pumped the water from our duck pond and used it to water the roots of my vegetables because my compost hadn’t cooked long enough. We had an unbelievable bounty that can only be credited to the poop water. My tomatoes were well over 12 feet tall and I harvested over 100 zucchini from just 4 plants. So yeah, it may not be a pretty job to go out there and clean it all up, but talk about free goodness for your garden.

We have also been able to teach our children some very valuable lessons on the cycle of life. Both of my children know that it took a hen 24-26 hours to make and lay the egg they are eating and they have an appreciation for the bird working so hard to make something they love to eat that they didn’t have when we bought eggs at the store. Prior to chicken keeping, there would regularly be eggs thrown out on a daily basis because my kids just didn’t grasp the value in what they were eating. They had a who cares attitude about food, mom can just buy more. However now, if the eggs are all gone then they have to wait for more because I won’t go buy eggs at the store and that means they won’t waste their eggs. Another lesson has been for our daughter, she is almost 8 and she knows so much about chickens it amazes me. She can tell you what every breed of chicken we have is, she can also tell you the color of the eggs they lay and she can tell you all about their anatomy. We have had her pluck a duck before and she has assisted with processing the chickens we have butchered. She understands what it takes to be a meat eater and that we can buy chickens at the store but it doesn’t mean as much as growing our chickens, knowing they had a great life however short it was and then turning them into a meal for our family. With our son being only 3 now, Chickens and ducks have helped us teach him the concept of gentle and playing nice. Sure we have cats and dogs, but they are far more sturdy than a day old chick. So being able to teach children lessons that many others don’t get at all or don’t get until later on is a major benefit.

Finally there is the fun of it. Sure you have to put a little work in but its always fun. There is not a day that goes by where you are not going to enjoy spending time outside with your birds. For one thing poultry can make great therapy animals, they have a calming presence about them and have helped me combat my own issues with anxiety. During the summer I will take a chair out to the chicken coop with a book and just sit with them and read, I go about my business and usually I end up with a chicken perched on my shoulder watching me, or I will sit in my front yard with my kids playing and all the smaller chickens roaming about. Chickens can be the type of poultry who like to be your friend, they enjoy following you around if you have treats, they are very curious about everything that you are doing so you will always have company when you are working even if you don’t want the company. Chickens can be pets as much as a dog or cat can, they all have very different personalities and they show those personalities off every chance they get.

Ducks can be a wild card. We have 2 ducks that love humans, we hatched them ourselves and Farmer Davis became their mama. He let them sleep under his beard and he took them out of town with him for work, he stood in the bath with them while they swam around and they imprinted and truly bonded to him. The rest of our ducks however like their distance. If we don’t look at them they stay put, but it we look like we are going to pick them up they scatter like feral cats. We have learned with our bigger ducks that they are happier if we provide the treats and stand back and watch the hilarity that ensues on a daily basis. From the waddle, to the hunting, to the splashing in a kiddie pool, to the hiding under anything they can, and watching them always walk in a line together to bed.

I am not lucky enough to have turkeys because Farmer Davis said I would grow too attached and we wouldn’t be able to eat them. The reason is because turkeys are the dog of the poultry world. They love their humans and want to be with them. If you have seen the youtube videos of turkeys sitting in the laps of their people getting scratches, its because they love people. I personally can’t eat my dogs even if the zombie apocalypse happened, so to say that I would be able to eat such a lovable bird that is so dog like would be a terrible lie on my part. But I have been lucky enough to spend enough time with turkeys to know that someday I will have my very own dog birds for pet purposes only.

 

Now go out and get some chickens, ducks, turkeys or whatever bird you want, you won’t regret it.

 

All for now, Nicole

 

Not all Eggs are the same

After reading several articles recently on eggs it got me really thinking about eggs and the myths and incorrect information people have about eggs. I’ve been an egg eater my whole life and my whole family LOVES eggs, we eat eggs daily so we go through a ton of eggs!

Lets talk about eggs you buy at the store. There are many different types of egg farms, last year you may remember all the stories about Bird flu impacting millions of chickens at farms in the Midwest. Those are big factory farms, they have huge warehouses  with row after row of cages stacked  on top of each other, 3 feet by 4 feet with 3-4 hens in each cage. These chickens don’t see daylight, they have overhead lighting on them 24 hours a day to increase production so they lay an egg every single day. So when one hen got sick they all got sick and it spread like wild fire through their warehouses. Most of the cheap eggs you buy at the store are from farms like that. Those hens are battery hens, they have one purpose, to make money for the farm. They live on wire cages, they don’t have dirt to clean themselves in, they don’t get fresh foods, they have no life except that cage with their hen friends. I’m sorry but the reason those eggs have yellow yolks is because they are not healthy hens who are given a well balanced diet. So think about where all those cheap eggs are coming from next time you are picking out your eggs.

Then you see the eggs that say Cage free, did you know that they may be cage free but that doesn’t mean they are outside, that just means they could be in a big warehouse with a dirt floor with a few thousand chickens. Next you walk down a little farther and you see eggs labeled Free Range, the only requirement to put free range on the label is 15 minutes a day outside in a pasture. 15 minutes is all they need to have the free range label. Finally you come across Pasture Raised, those are the eggs that if you are going to buy eggs at the store have the best chance of being from hens being raised humanely and happily. They are raised on grass pastures all day and then go inside to sleep at night. If i was going to buy eggs at the store those are the eggs I would buy.

Yet still no eggs at the store compare to farm fresh eggs, theres no way for them to compare and its partly because of the regulations the USDA has in place for “safety” but really they are opening us up to risk. The US is the only country that requires eggs being sold in stores to be washed and then refrigerated. So let me give you a lesson on how the hen lays an egg and why washing and refrigerating are not necessary. On the day the tiny little hen hatches from her egg she has all the millions of eggs she will ever have located in her ovary. Once that hen reaches maturity she will begin to grow her yolks, it takes 24-26 hours for a yolk that has been released from the ovary to travel down the oviduct while picking up all the parts of the egg to be laid. Once the egg has been fully formed and the shell made the final stage is the egg gets its bloom. The bloom is the protective layer on the outside of the egg shell that will keep everything inside the egg safe. Any egg that you buy at the store; cheap, cage free, free range, pasture raised, and organic have all been washed with chemicals that remove the bloom, then they will coat the eggs with either mineral oil aka petroleum product or vegetable oil and since the eggs bloom was removed during washing now the porous egg shell can absorb that coating they put on it into the egg white. Thats also the reason that eggs from the store are refrigerated, its not because eggs need to be refrigerated its because they removed the protective coating so they are covering their own asses. If bacteria gets onto the egg while its in the fridge it can get into the egg and you will get sick, but with fresh unwashed eggs with their bloom intact that would not be the case. Now you know the dirty details of store bought eggs, its an ugly practice that I thankfully have not had to support in 2 years.

I get asked a lot about the color of the egg shell and I also have people tell me they only eat brown eggs because they taste better, which I unfortunately have laughed in many peoples faces when that statement gets made. The color of the shell does not determine anything about the egg, not the nutrient value, flavor, or color of yolk. The color of the shell is determined by the breed of chicken, there are many colors and varieties within each color category. If you were to get eggs from me you may get white, brown, tan, cream, dark brown, blue, light green or olive green, eggs from the blue family are blue throughout the shell but brown eggs are white that have been “painted” brown in the chickens shell maker, if you scrub hard enough on a brown egg you will get to the white shell. I guess thats part of what makes statements like “brown eggs taste better than white eggs” so hilarious to me, because they are essentially eating a white egg.

So what exactly determines the quality of the egg and the flavor? Its what the chicken eats of course. If a chicken gets to eat lots of grass and greens, bugs and worms in addition to a chicken feed, then they are going to have orange yolks. Orange yolks mean healthy nutrient rich eggs, not yellow yolks. Its funny because as I’m writing this I know that my laying flock isn’t getting as much grass as they want because we are at the muddy season in the backyard so their yolks are lightening, however because they have access to barley and weeds and other sources their yolks are still darker than anything you buy in the store. Come spring time when the grass is able to grow again, my chickens eggs will have dark orange yolks again.

Where you buy your eggs matters, so next time you are strolling through the market and trying to decide if its worth it to spend the extra money on eggs remember this blog and spend the money! I understand that not everyone has access to a farmer friend like me, but if you look a little you can find someone selling truly fresh eggs not too far from you. Support local not big factory farms who abuse these special animals who provide so much for us!

 

Thanks for reading!

Nicole