What I Learned From My Garden This Year:

It was a pretty good year in the garden despite the fact that we went on a couple of trips during the growing season. I as usual, learned from my gardening experience and here are some of the things I will do differently next year:

  • Stick to the basics.  This year I planted Japanese Pickling Melons, Okra and Sesame.  I am embarrassed to say that I never even harvested the sesame seeds (who has time to open all those little pods and toast the seeds?)  I let the most of the Okra get too big and tough to eat, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the melon. Next year I will sample unusual items at restaurants or markets and leave garden space to what I know.
  • Grow what we eat.  We love green beans and could almost eat them every day. They freeze well too. We also love peppers and tomatoes.  On the other hand, I am the only one in the house that eats eggplant or squash. Next year I will concentrate on planting green beans, peppers, and tomatoes and treat myself to eggplant, squash and such from the Farmers’ market when the mood strikes.
  • Don’t waste space on cheap stuff. We love cabbage but it takes up lots of space in the garden and the bugs love it too. It is super cheap to buy so why not use the garden space for sweet bell peppers that I can let ripen to red and not have to pay a premium price for them at the store?!
  • More flowers!  I love flowers and would love to be able to snip weekly bouquets for inside. Next year I plan to surround my veggie garden with flowers. They will be inside the bunny proof fence, beautiful to look at and plentiful enough to get lots of bouquets for ourselves, family and friends. The bees will love them too!
  • Grow herbs closer to the house. It just makes sense to not have to go far to snip herbs when cooking. I may grow my herbs in pots on the deck next year.

I spent much of our lovely November doing a bit of yard clean up, bringing in yard art and house plants, and pretty much enjoying the last nice days of fall. Since we were finished harvesting I left the garden gate open so the girls could free range in there. They were pretty happy to get to scratch around and sample yummies in what was previously ‘off limits’ territory.

 
I am throwing kitchen scraps as well as raked leaves directly in the garden to decompose.

 
I decided to use ‘free mulch’ from Mother Nature – aka fallen leaves around trees and shrubs and in the flower beds.  I was hoping for a bit of rain to weigh them down so they wouldn’t blow away and I got it.

 

 Now the work is done and the days are cold and short. I keep warm and happy planning next year’s garden!

What did you do to put your garden to ‘sleep’ and what are you planning for next year?

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What’s Been Going On?

A lot has been going on!  This time of year there is so much to do.  Most gardeners probably feel the same way.  Future projects stretch on into infinity – but that is  GOOD thing.

First bit of news is we are in round 3 of the Bunny Wars.  We are now building a permanent – what I hope is indestructible – bunny proof fence around the veggie garden.  The reason for this is because the bunnies discovered they could chew through the plastic netting we had up.  We patched the ‘chew holes’ almost daily with zip ties but it only takes one bunny one night to decimate a row of just starting snap peas.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  If you calculate the cost of ALL the measures we have taken to get this garden up and running and now bunny proofing, the cost of my home grown produce is astronomical.  (But who’s counting?  Plus it’s so worth it!)

We are going for something similar to this:

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Second bit of news is WE HAVE ASPARAGUS in the ‘New and Improved Asparagus bed’!

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I have counted 5 little sprouts so far which to me is pretty exciting!

The new butterfly garden is fantastic with the iris just about finished blooming, the daisies, wisteria, clematis and peonies about to bloom.

iris

  I am not sure the yarrow is going to bloom this year after being divided and transplanted. It should have buds by now but doesn’t. The Swamp milkweed survived transplanting and I ordered and planted 2 more varieties.  Yes, I HAVE been busy. I planted morning glories to cover the old coop and sunflowers along the fence.  Our canna bulbs went in this week too.

The doggie poop area I wrote about is going GREAT and we landscaped around it with Ninebark shrubs and roses.

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  It looks great.

We need to fill in landscaped areas with mulch but I want to wait until the messy cottonwood tree behind our property is finished dumping it’s white fluff.  Have you ever dealt with that?  Pretty but YUCK!  Once everything is all cleaned up I will post pics.

In the veggie garden lettuce, peas, onions and radishes are up.  Beans are in the ground and tomaotes have been transplanted but we broke 2 of the plants while traipsing around working on the fence.   😦  I might wait to put in the pepper, cabbage, okra and brussel sprout transplants until we are finished working on the fence to avoid more mishaps.

The chickens are laying like crazy, seem happy with the warm weather and love that I toss them buckets of weeds every day.  I have an idea to use the old bunny fence and secure an area in the wooded/weeded lot behind our yard to let them free range a bit.  No one will know/no one will care and the gals will LOVE it!

((((((( Shhhhhhhhh – don’t tell! ))))))))

I haven’t started on my spring sprucing up of the coop yet but will soon.  Fence building has got me a bit behind schedule.  Look for pics of the spruced up coop and new free range area in a future post.

What has been going on in your neck of the woods?

No Farm? No Problem!

Or how to keep happy, healthy chickens even with limited space!

We can’t all live on an acreage or farm, but keeping chickens is not difficult and many cities allow chicken keeping.

 If you are an urban farmer like I am you may not want or be able to let you chickens free range all the time or at all.

Some chicken keepers keep their chickens solely in a small coop with a tiny attached run area.

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An adorable coop with run space beneath.

COOP

This coop design is similar to mine but it is painted so cute and I love the screen door.

   If space permits it is best to give your chickens as much run space as possible.  Your goal is to get as close as possible to the happy, healthy life of a free range farm chicken.

A good  solution is to provide a ‘daytime’ pen.  This is simply a fenced in area that they are let out into during the day.  My daytime pen serves to keep them fenced away from my garden and flower beds and is not intended to be predator proof although someday I hope to upgrade it and make it more secure.

SECURE

My ‘daytime’ pen is just made of 5 ft stakes and wire fencing with no roof.  I would love a secure pen like this one,  only larger.  Isn’t it attractive with the vines growing on it?

 Some people have chicken ‘tractors’ which are simply portable coops that can be moved to different spots in the yard where there is fresh grass underneath:

Chicken Tractor

 Another option is the ‘chunnel’:

CHUNNEL

Late summer, fall and winter I open the gate to the daytime pen and let them spend as much time ‘free ranging’ the entire yard as possible.  Sure, they make a mess of my mulch and dig holes to dust bathe in.  But seeing them happily roaming around my yard makes me happy too and is worth the bit of clean up I have to do.

  (I wont mention cleaning chicken poop off my deck).

Brewondeck

My gals are kept penned up in spring and early summer because tender seedlings and shoots would be destroyed by their scratching, digging and nibbling.

Eggs are healthier if a chicken receives their natural diet of greens, bugs, and roots.  However, even if their run starts out with grass and plants growing it wont take long for it to be stripped down to bare earth.

Since I use no weed killers or chemicals in my garden,  I pull weeds by hand and pitch buckets of weeds into the pen almost daily.  The gals eagerly gobble them up. They enjoy scratching around in the piles of weeds and clippings I toss in, searching for favorite tidbits and any insects that may be clinging to the weeds. Brewster always looks for bugs, Riot loves tender grass shoots and Sally loves clover.

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Lily and Ivy picking through a weed pile!

 In the winter, when my weed supply runs out,  I buy them bags of inexpensive greens to supplement their diet.  The few dollars a week I spend is worth it to have healthier gals and therefore healthier eggs. I can pick up a couple large bags of spinach, kale or mustard greens and toss them a few handfuls each day for about $6.00 a week. No need to spend a bundle to get them some fresh greens!

One way to keep them happy while penned up is to give them a shallow container full of sand for taking dust baths.  The sand can be supplemented with cooled ashes from your firepit or fireplace.  Chickens love to take dust baths.  It keeps their feathers clean and bug free and is so much fun to watch!

dust bath

Room for one more?

Another thing mine like is when I put a couple flakes of straw in the run for them to ‘pull apart’.  What fun!  They can turn an entire straw bale into a fluffy shapeless pile of straw in about an hour!  But then they have countless more hours of fun playing in it.

I have read about hanging a cabbage from a rope so they are kept busy pecking at it.

bored

I have not tried this because my gals are not big fans of cabbage, but I have used the fruit and nut sprigs sold in pet departments for caged birds.  Just hang them up in the coop and the gals will peck at them, I think they enjoy having something ‘different’.

Perches, swings and ladders can also give them something to do to keep boredom from setting in.

SWING

Bored chickens may become irritable and start pecking at each other.

Just popping in for a visit with a treat like dried cranberries, a bit of corn or oats or whatever your gals like, plus some attention or even cuddles, will make their day.

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If the reason your flock must be kept penned up is because you are away all day perhaps you can hire someone to let them out a few hours before dusk and then secure them up again when they return to the coop at sunset.

Or invest in an automatic door for the coop:

http://www.automaticchickencoopdoor.com/shop/product-place-holder-1

Be sure to keep the pen clean.  When the flock is confined the poop will be concentrated in the smaller space, so a daily raking and clean up is a must.

A final caution:  If your situation is such that your chickens must be penned up all the time, be sure to resist chicken math.

DON’T OVERCROWD THEM!

If you are a busy person with limited space I would limit the flock to 3 or 4 hens.  That is enough to keep you well supplied with eggs, keep themselves company and warm on cold nights,  and still have enough room  to move about and not be crowded or wallowing in poop.

I think everyone should be able to have the joy of keeping chickens and the wonderful healthy eggs they provide.    With a little thought and planning,  a small flock can be kept happy and healthy,  even with limited space and time.

chicken love

I never get tired of seeing this!

 

NOW GO ON OUT AND ENJOY SOME CHICKENS!

A REAL Challenge!

A challenge that I have not yet met.

I’m talking about keeping a nice yard with dogs and chickens.

This is especially important in urban areas.

Having separate areas for your pets and chickens that can be landscaped around and ‘hidden’ from view is the best option I have seen.

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You almost can’t tell there is a coop in this garden.

 

A coop and chicken pen blended into a well landscaped yard with shrubs and grasses, works nicely.  I know of people who keep chickens in towns where they are not allowed, and they are tucked in so discretely that no one is even aware.

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My dogs have their own fenced off pooping area.

They even have their own back door that leads to it.

 (I have mentioned before, that actually is one reason we bought this house).

Every spring it turns to a muddy mess.  We have taught them to wait and let us go through the tedious job of wiping off their feet before they come in, but that doesn’t change the fact that their area is an eyesore.

Every year we re-seed the grass which my husband then ‘babies’  until it is thick and green.  We forget about the problem until the following spring.

This year we are not forgetting.

We have decided to put gravel down.  I saw it on Pinterest so of course it is a great idea!

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Our dog ‘poop’ area will be larger and fenced in but ya get the idea?

 

Here is a link with instructions in case you would also like to do it:

How to Build an Outdoor Dog Potty Area

All we have to do is dig out the dirt to a depth of about 4 inches, put hardware fabric down and cover with gravel.

Easy-peasy, right?

Since we can’t get a back hoe into the yard, we get the fabulous pleasure of digging out the dirt by hand.

No problem!

It is a good work-out and I have places to put the dug-out dirt:

  •  Some will go next to the new fence fill the gap and keep the neighbors dog from peeking and maybe digging under it.
  • A bit is going into my metal firepit which I have decided to turn into a planter (I have moved the darn thing a zillion times and still can’t find a spot I like.  It is either too close to the house or coop or to the fruit trees)  I promise to post pictures when it is finished.
  •  The majority is going into my veggie garden.  Yes I know it is poopy but it will be mixed in with the other soil and compost and will have a good month or two before anything is growing in it.  I know my dogs are parasite free.

I will be sure to post pics of the finished project – sorry I don’t have ‘before’ pics but just picture a poopy muddy mess.

The chickens also have their own area and to keep it from being an eyesore I planted some ornamental grass around it last year.  I plan to add to it this year.  The plan is to almost completely ‘hide’ the pen.  I don’t care how cute a coop is, the pen will be picked clean of any growing thing and have nothing but dirt and chicken poop.

Not pretty!

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Totally unrealistic!  These plants wouldn’t last a day!

 

 

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THIS is what the floor of a chicken pen actually looks like.

 If you let the chickens free range the entire yard all the time they will eat your plants as they sprout, make a total mess of your mulch, poop on your deck, roost and poop on your patio furniture and dig holes to take dust baths in.

Also not pretty.

Now if YOU don’t mind your yard looking like a barnyard that is fine with ME.

  Most of us DO mind and so do the neighbors.

A compromise is needed.

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This book has some great ideas!

 We placed an arbor in front of the entrance to the pen and plan to grow a pretty vine over it this year.

  Hanging planters on the coop or from shepherd’s hooks,  flower boxes or trellises with vines where the chickens can’t reach, are more great options.

  I think sharing your outdoor space with pets and chickens can be done attractively.

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I like the look of the vine growing on the coop.  You have to be careful the chooks can’t reach it though or they will eat it ALL!

We shall see!

 How do you keep your yard nice with chickens and/or pets?

Do you ‘hide’ your coop and pen?

What suggestions can you offer?

Maybe this blog should be called Ruth’s Garden!

Or maybe not. 

It seems I write more about my garden and garden related things lately.

I assure you, I still have my chickens and love them as much as ever.

My chickens are an extension of my garden and a progression that comes from loving to plant and grow my own food and flowers.

chickies

I love to be connected to nature.   I would love to have been born on a farm or bought a farm years ago.

I may still do it one day!

In the meantime I will continue to be an Urban Farmer.  My chickens personify this for me and although gardening posts seem to have taken over my blog – my chickens are in the background being a large part of who I am.

I just consider ‘Chickens’ or better yet ‘Chickies’ to be a term of affection for all the things I love.  So here are some pictures of the non-chicken ‘Chickies’ I love:

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Puppy chickie, Gemma.

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Kitty chickie, Oliver.

chickie sett

One of my grandbaby ‘chickies’, Lisette.

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My ‘chickie’ Grace with some of the girls.

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Me and chickies Danielle and Patrick.

So the blog name will stay.

coop helper

My coop ‘helper’. Don’t ya just love his outfit?

I hope you enjoy the pics of my ‘Chickies’!  Next post promises to be chicken related!

New Chickens – 2015!

WE GOT OUR CHICKS!  WE GOT OUR CHICKS!  WE GOT OUR CHICKS!

Ear to ear smiles are going on around here!

smiles

We were supposed to get them last week but sadly the bad weather on the east coast left more than 60,000 chicks STRANDED  in Memphis.  Our feed store, along with many others, did not get their shipment.

We were disappointed to say the least.

sad

And so a new countdown began.

calander

The time went fast, mostly because 2 days of it were ‘lost’ to a stomach virus, with supsequent days spent recovering and working.  Yes, I know, it IS hard to do both at the same time.  But ya know how it goes…… gotta buy that chicken feed!

Finally, a work week completed, a three day weekend begun, glorious weather cooperating and the feed store got the chicks!

All is right with the world!

good

We got our Iowa Blue, our Rhode Island Red, what a cute little orange puff ball she is, and what else???? They have White Leghorns????

They didn’t tell me they were getting White Leghorns!

  I don’t have a White Leghorn.

Aren’t they the ones called egg-laying machines?  It WOULD be nice to have some white eggs mixed in our egg basket.

It’s only one more chick……

CHICKEN MATH STRIKES AGAIN!

Meet Ivy, Florence and Lily:

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DSCN2298

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This is Ivy,

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Florence

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Lily

 

 

I wrote about the Iowa Blue chicken in my last post.

Rhode Island Reds are very nice chickens too.  In fact the state of Rhode Island thought enough of them that they made them their state bird.  They have good temperaments and are good layers of brown eggs.

White Leghorns are the typical ‘factory farm’ chicken.  They are excellent year round egg layers and take to confinement and smaller spaces well.

The Iowa grandkids have already been over to see them.

carter with chicks

Carter checking out the baby ‘Bawk-bucks’.

The Illinois grandkids have pictures.

There is a whole lot of peeping going on around here!

They are happy and cozy under the new Brinsea EcoGlow radiant warmer for chicks that just happened to arrive Friday,  (as promised 2 day shipping).  After a ‘near miss’ with the heat lamp last year I think it is worth every penny to have peace of mind with the radiant warmer.  (NO, I don’t receive any compensation for plugging it)

chicken butt

What’s up chicken butt?

You can read about why a radiant heater is better than a heat lamp here:

http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/brooder-safety-fear-heat-lamp.html

 I AM SO HAPPY WITH MY BACKYARD FLOCK!

My daughter says I need Chickens Anonymous but I don’t want to be cured!

  I now have a Buff Orpington, 2 White Orpingtons, a Barred Plymouth Rock, an Ameracauna, and a Black Sex Link as well as my new gals, the Iowa Blue, Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn.

I hope these adorable chick pics will inspire even one more person to start a backyard flock.  Chickens deserve to be in happy backyards, not in factory egg farms and YOU deserve to have the freshest and best eggs EVER!

The Chicks Are Coming, The Chicks Are Coming!

babychicks

I was in the feed store the other day and asked the guy when they would be getting the baby chicks in and he said the first week of March.

Whoo Hooo – that’s just a couple weeks away!

Spring IS coming!

happy

Doing my ‘Happy Dance!’

I can’t wait to get my new baby chicks!

  He said they would be getting Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorps, Ameracaunas, and Iowa Blues.

I plan on adding two new chicks to my flock and one of them will be an Iowa Blue.

iowa blue

The Iowa Blue breed of chicken has an interesting history.  According to one story the breed began in the early 1900’s on a farm near Decorah, Iowa, owned by a man named John Logsdon.  Folklore says that one of his White Plymouth Rock hens disappeared for a while.  When she reappeard from under a building she was with a bunch of chestnut colored chicks.  They grew up to be the Iowa Blue.  Word went around that they were sired by a pheasant.

iowa-blue-chicks-2

Iowa Blue chicks

A more believable story says that John Logsdon developed the breed because he wanted a breed of chicken that could survive the frigid Iowa winters yet also do well in the hot humid summers, plus be a good forager.

The breed was popular locally but by the 1960’s was all but extinct due to the local hatcheries closing down when industrialized farming drove many small farmers out of business.

In 1989 Kent Wheatley,  the same man who co-founded The Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, heard about this rare breed and decided to save them.  There was only one small fertile flock left at that time, owned by a man named Ransome Bolsom.  He gave fertile eggs to Mr. Wheatly who maintained a small flock at the Seed Savers farm and also distributed some Blue’s to others.

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The Seed Savers Exchange Farm in Decorah, Iowa

For more info on Seed Savers Exchange:

http://www.seedsavers.org/

  By the late 1990’s they were again in decline.  One man named Glenn Drowns maintained a flock at the Sandhill Preservation Center in Calamus, Iowa until in 2012 a group of people decided to save the breed and an Iowa Blue Club was formed.  The breed is now making a successful comeback and the numbers are increasing.

Iowa Blues are not blue but are have a silvery head and a brown or black body with white lacing.  The chicks resemble pheasants.  They are good layers of light brown eggs and have been called the ‘champs of bug control’ because of their good foraging ability.

blues

Iowa Blue Hens and a Roo.

For more information on this plucky breed of chicken:

http://www.iowabluechickenclub.com/

I am so excited to be getting an Iowa Blue chick!  I am going to name her Ivy.

Backyard Chickens – Pets or Livestock?

In other words, should we eat them?

When they stop laying that is.

henopause

This is a discussion my husband and I were having the other day.

I know ‘real’ farmers would not hesitate to get rid of any chickens that are past laying age.  Feeding them costs money, there is only space for so many and so they must earn their keep by being productive.

It isn’t as if we don’t already eat chicken.  We do.  So isn’t it a bit hypocritical to balk at killing and eating our own chickens yet be ok with some other chicken being raised in deplorable conditions and then killed for our dinner?  At least our chickens will be happy until the day they die AND we will also know what they ate.

Wouldn’t it be better to eat our chickens knowing they lived and died humanely?  They were happy up until the end?  They will be spared getting old and sick?

They wont know what is going on.

  They don’t think about such things do they?

But we do.

We think about it and overthink about it.

  Could we do it?  Well not actually ‘do’ it.  In an open, urban backyard in plain sight of neighbors there will be no killing, plucking or other processing going on.

The birds will simply go to ‘freezer camp’  as they say.   There are farmers in the area who will do the ‘processing’ for a reasonable price.

chicken in the pot

Another backyard chicken owner who has no qualms about ‘culling’ non-productive hens says they wait a month or so before serving one of their own to put a little distance between them.  Whatever gets you through the day I guess.

Oh come on now – that chicken you eat is a DEAD, formerly ALIVE chicken you know.

chk dinner

  Unless you are a vegetarian don’t go getting all righteous on me!

Well the difference is that it would be Brewster, Martha, Sally and Riot.

chickensinrun

Our beautiful and first girls.  They are so special.   We love them.

chk love

But it is the way of farm life.  If my 4 older gals are not laying this summer a decision will need to be made.  I imagine we would pack them up in a tote, give them a special treat of mealworms and dried cranberries and drive them to their destiny.

Well maybe I need to think on this a bit more.  People don’t eat their pets.

Are my chickens pets or livestock?

 

Keeping Chickens Healthy.

aid

Why do factory farms pump chickens full or antibiotics?

Why do people think chickens carry disease?

Why do raw eggs pose a salmonella risk?

 chickfarm1

Well my guess is it is because ‘factory farms’ are not the healthiest of places with thousands of chickens crowded on top of each other.

I have never smelled a commercial chicken farm but I can just imagine!

smell

 

It makes sense that ‘ home raised’ chickens, either urban or rural would be healthier just because they are not overcrowded.

Fresh air and sunshine are good for every living thing don’t ya think?

sun air

A small backyard coop is easy to keep clean.

Poop should be removed daily except in winter if you are following the ‘deep litter’ method.  This is when you throw clean shavings on top of the old, allowing poop and old, soiled litter to ‘compost’ on the bottom which creates heat in the coop as well as reduces cleaning time on cold days!

You can read about the deep litter method here:

http://naturalchickenkeeping.blogspot.com/p/deep-litter-method.html

 Allowing your chickens some outdoor time – a large secure run and/or some free range time each day is very beneficial as it allows them to scratch around and nibble at green plants, roots, pebbles and insects – providing a more natural diet. The exercise also helps them have good muscle tone which prevents things like prolapsed vents and egg binding.

free

Many people add apple cider vinegar to the drinking water to provide probiotics and lower the ph.  I don’t add ACV but do add a blend of essential oils that I made after researching poultry and natural ways to prevent respiratory issues.  My chickens have never been sick.

(knock on wood)

knock

Twice a year, spring and fall I give the coop a good, thourough cleaning where I remove all the bedding and scrub the walls, floor, nest boxes and roosts with an all natural disinfectant.  I make and use my own  version of the well known ‘Thieves’ blend of essential oils.  After cleaning I open all the windows and doors to let the coop air out all day.  Then I sprinkle food grade DE on the floors of the coop and enclosed run and cover with fresh pine shavings in the sleeping area and sand in the run.  I finish up with some sprigs of fresh if I have them, or dried herbs such as a combination of mint, lavender, oregano, thyme or rosemary.

herbs

Although I have never had a sick chicken we keep the former Cluck Inn coop as a quarantine area, and I would not hesitate to bring a sick chick into the house and keep in our chicken ‘pack and play’ while recuperating.

I have also never had an injured or wounded chicken but recommend keeping an antibiotic powder on hand, as well as a super glue product to close wounds,  Neosporin or other antibacterial cream (make sure it does not contain pain relievers), splinting items in case of a broken leg and BluKot to keep the other chicks from pecking at an injury.  A supply of roll gauze or other lightweight ‘wrap’ type bandages could come in handy.   Again I would quarantine an injured chicken in the small coop or in the house depending on the severity and amount of watching they would need.

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 Vaseline, Preparation H, vitamin and calcium supplements, Epson salts for soaking as well as bandages, clean washcloths, gloves (for you) and an eye dropper for administering water and/or medications should also be in your coop medicine cabinet

Some people bring random stool samples to their vet once or twice a year to check for worms.  Once worms are visible in their poop they have a pretty severe infestation.

Pumpkin seeds will not get rid of a worm infestation but will help prevent one.  Chickens LOVE pumpkin seeds – buy a pumpkin, cut it in half and let them have at it!

pumpkin

A dust bath in a small kiddy pool filled with sand, ashes, and some DE will be enjoyed by your chickens and also will get rid of mites or lice.  If your chickens continue to pick and scratch you can go to your Farm Supply store or order remedies on line.

dust bath

Remember that some medications given to your hens will require you to discard the eggs for a period of time.

When all is said and done, keeping healthy chickens is no more work that a cat or dog and can even provide entertainment!  Healthy chickens provide healthy eggs so you are rewarded in a very tangible way!

egg

What have you done to nurse a sick or injured chicken and how do you keep your gals healthy?  Comment and share your knowledge!

3 Things That Never Should Happen To A Chicken……

…….and what to do about them.

All 3 of these conditions are medical emergencies that should be handled by a vet but if you are not able to get to one this info may help.

If your chicken is in obvious pain the best thing, although never easy, may be to cull her.  Only you can decide how to handle your particular situation.

1.) An egg bound hen:

egg

This is a rare condition but left untreated can cause death in 24 to 48 hours.

An egg bound chicken literally has an egg ‘stuck’ inside her.  This can happen in very old or obese hens, very young hens that have just started laying, and hens lacking calcium in the diet (calcium helps muscles contract and she needs to contract muscles to push out an egg).

You can tell a hen is egg bound if she sits around with fluffed up feathers and seems to be straining.  Her tail may ‘pump’ up and down.  If she walks, her walk will resemble a penguin. Her droppings may be loose or absent. You may be able to feel the egg in her abdomen.

The first thing to do is to give the hen some liquid calcium.  Crush up a human calcium tablet and mix in water.  Give to your hen in a dropper.

Then take a wash tub or fill the sink with warm water and 1/4 cup of Epson salts if you have them and soak her bottom for about 10-15 minutes.

bath

 Moist heat helps the area to relax which aids in passing the egg.   After her soak wrap her in a dry towel and put her in a box in a quiet, dim place and wait for her to lay the egg.

If she does not pass the egg  you can lubricate her vent area with KY jelly, Vaseline or baby oil and GENTLY try to massage the egg down her abdomen and out.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK THE EGG.

As a last resort you can try to puncture the egg with a large needle attached to a syringe, aspirate the contents and gently crush the egg and remove  the shell – hopefully still attached to the membrane so it all comes out.  You will need a helper for this.

 2.) Prolapsed vent: 

This is when the lower portion of a hen’s reproductive tract protrudes from the vent.  It happens in very young chickens who may have layed an egg too large to handle, or in old, obese hens, or hens not getting proper nutrition and/or exercise resulting in poor muscle tone.

 You can tell a chicken has this if she is lethargic and ‘fluffed up’  plus you will see the prolapse protruding from her vent.

vent

 Clean her well in a warm bath and then apply some Vetericyn, and some Preparation H (without pain relievers).  Then manually insert the prolapse back inside her.  Keeping her off feed, and in a dark room for a few days to keep her from laying may be helpful. (be sure to give water with a vitamin supplement).  Once a hen has suffered a prolapse she is likely to have it recur so watch her closely.  The biggest danger is from the other members of the flock pecking at it.

3.) Sour or impacted crop: 

The ‘crop’ is part of the chicken’s esophagus where food sits before empting into the stomach.  It looks larger after a chicken has eaten, but in these conditions it will be apple sized.

crop

Both of these conditions can occur when your chickens eat long strands of grass or other hard to digest foods or foreign bodies such as string.

The first thing to do is to wait awhile, perhaps overnight and see if the condition goes away by itself.  If not, withhold water for 12 hours and food for 24 hours.  Massaging the crop with the chicken in a head down position may help her ‘vomit’ the mass out.  If the contents smell bad or ‘sour’ it means the contents have ‘fermented’ and may be growing yeast.  Stop all ACV supplementation if you use it, and feed the chicken yogurt for a few days.  In severe cases the digestive system needs to be ‘washed’ out or surgery performed but these are not home treatments.

Good luck to you, I hope you never have to deal with these issues but if you do I hope this info is helpful.

My next blog will be on keeping chickens healthy and what to keep in your coop’s medicine cabinet.

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