Category Archives: Chickens

Waterer our girls prefer…

I know we have had lots of questions about which watering system to use for our chickens.  We have tried a couple, some have gone by the wayside, some we still pick up some at the feed store and then put them right back down again.  Our girls will drink out of the gravity-fed, nippled barrels that we posted about earlier.  But, they are definitely not their preferred method of drinking.

This is our chickens’ favorite waterer… Ours holds between 2 and 3 gallons.  They do make them bigger.  The only drawback we have found is we cannot put cider vinegar in it since it is aluminum.

Mites, mites, mites

One day, all of a sudden, so it seemed, Charlotte started loosing the feathers on her back right above her tail.  Soon after, Sandy followed.  We would stand at the chicken run, trying to figure out who was doing the pecking.  As much as we would stand there, eyes peeled, we did not see any pecking going on.
Charlotte with mitesSandy with mites

 

 
After doing some recon/research, we found out that mites were the problem and are one of those things that is a “normal” occurrence with chickens.  GOOD NEWS!  There is an organic solution – food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE).  The sharp edges of the DE cuts the exoskeletons of the mites (and other insects), which causes them to become dehydrated, and therefore, die.

We take a 4″ high plastic bin and the bucket of DE into the chicken run.  One by one, we pick up one of the girls, place them in the plastic bin, with one of us holding the chicken while the other one sprinkles and massages the DE into the chicken’s feathers.  In the beginning, the girls would squirm and try to fly away, and once released, would shake, run, and shake again.  We applied DE yesterday for the 4th or 5th time.  Each chicken stood in the bin, with no resistance, closed their eyes while being massaged, and walked away when placed on the ground.  No squirming, no fighting, no shaking.  The white on the back of the girls is the applied DE.
Girls with DE in their feathersSandy with DE appliedPunky with DE applied

Fermented Feed Day 2

We lifted the towel off the buckets of fermented feed this morning – did it smell!!  I don’t know what smelled worse, the fermented feed or the sardines in the dogs’ raw food…Isabella loves fermented feed!

I took the bin out to the chickens and Isabella came right up, no hesitation today!

Girls belly up to the binSeconds later, all the girls bellied up, finding their spot around the bin.

Before I could let myself out the Girls in the bindoor of the chicken run, a couple of them had jumped into the bin for easier access.

Fermented Chicken Feed

We have been talking about fermenting our chicken feed ever since we purchased our baby chicks. There are many benefits to eating fermented food, both for the chickens and for humans: more available probiotics and digestive enzymes, boosts the good bacteria in the digestive tract, makes food more palatable to chickens.

We finally started this week by purchasing a bag of corn, oat, barley grain mix (COB) and a bag of wheat berries.  The rancher we purchase our grass fed beef from suggested following the recipe given at Scratch and Peck.  To start, we used 1 pound of grain (approximately 2 ounces for each bird) mixed with a gallon of water in a bucket, then let it sit at room temperature for 4 days.

This morning, the 3rd day, we drained the water from the grain mixture, poured the liquid back in the bucket to start the next batch of fermented feed, and placed the grains in a short plastic bin to take out to the chicken run.  I placed the bin in an area of the chicken run where the girls could gather around all of the sides.  Like all new things, the chickens stood a foot or so away from the bin, looking, pacing a bit, and looking again.  Isabella, one of the White Leghorns, went up to the bin first to take a taste.  She took one grain and placed it on the ground outside the bin, then another, then another.  Soon, the rest of the girls bellied up to the bin and started eating.  Sandy, one of the Buffs, took one grain and ran 6 feet from the bin, ate a little, then dropped it to the ground, ate a little more, then dropped, and then finished it.  I have never heard the girls so quiet…

TRoxy cleaning fermented grainshey didn’t finish all of the fermented feed this morning so I sprinkled it on the ground under the tree.  I brought the bin in to clean up for tomorrow’s feed.  As soon as I placed the bin on the floor, Roxy helped me clean up.

 

22 weeks old

It’s been quite a while since I posted pictures of the girls… since they were 6 weeks old and their feathers were still coming in… Look at them now

Buffy & SandyBuffy and Sandy
Buffy has the taller comb on the top of her head.  Sandy’s is still very close to her skull.
Punky is in the foreground.

Sandy, Maggie Mae & IsabellaSandy in the back
Magge Mae in the middle
Punky up front eating
PunkyHere’s Punky, always on the move.

One of the dirt baths is halfway under the misters.  It is Punky’s favorite place in the afternoon, playing in the wet sand!

GracieGracie in the coop.

 
CharlotteCharlotte, ever so majestic and regal.

Isabella, Maggie Mae & BuffyIsabella, with her comb over, in the foreground
Maggie Mae behind her
Buffy behind both of them

Water Barrel Drinking System

Before we left for our 10 day vacation, we devised a watering system that could last the entire time without worrying about the chickens running out of water.

Water BarrelWe took a 55-gallon food-grade barrel and drilled three small holes in the bottom.  Water barrel nipplesWe then screwed in gravity-feed nipples.  These nipples are designed to move up and down.  When the chickens peck at the nipple, they move up and water is released.  We set the barrel up off the ground just high enough for the girls to reach.  When we got home, it didn’t seem like the barrel water was emptied at all.  Maybe the chickens hadn’t figured the system out yet.  I know with our African Grey Parrot and Cockatiel, it takes them a long time for them to approach anything new in their cage.  Maybe it’s the same with the chickens.

Today, when I was out in the run, Water Barrel drinkingalthough it’s a bit hard to see in this picture, Maggie Mae was drinking out of the nipples!  This will really help in the heat of our summers!!

oops…

After I posted the last entry, I looked online to find out what color eggs the Buff Orpingtons lay,  According to My Pet Chicken, the Rhode Island Red chickens lay darker brown eggs.  Our light brown eggs are probably from the Buff Orpingtons.  For more information about egg color by breed, go to My Pet Chicken.

Big Egg Day

We went on vacation and had a young couple come and stay at our house to take care of the animals.  A week ago, the chickens laid three eggs in one day.  This is the picture that was sent to let us know about the bounty.  3 eggs

The light blue egg is from the Americauna, the white is from the White Leghorn, and the brown is from the Rhode Island Red.  As far as we can tell, the Buff Orpingtons have not started laying.

Yesterday, as I was cleaning up the yard from the high winds we had while we were gone, I decided to clean out the nesting boxes and lay new alfalfa down in the boxes and the coop.  Today, when I got home from work, we were gifted five eggs in three of the nesting boxes.  Up until today, only one of the four nesting boxes have been used.

Friends have started asking when we are going to start selling our eggs….  Soon…

18 weeks – Eggs from Gracie

Gracie, one of our Americaunas, has been laying one egg per day for the last few days.  The first one was broken as it was dropped.  The next couple were found on the ground in their run without any shells around the white & yolk.  We found the shells, which were paper thin and very flexible, in other parts of the run.  The 4th egg was very small, but delicious.  And the one below, the double yolk egg, was the one she laid today.

The top egg is one from the grocery store.  Notice how much lighter the yolk is and how far the white has traveled in the pan.  It would be interesting to test to see how the nutritional value is different between these two eggs.

14_0605 egg-dbl yolk-Americauna

Gracie’s 5th egg

Our first egg

We went to the feed store after having breakfast this morning to purchase “Layer” feed since we are almost out of the chick starter.  Once home, I went to check the water for the chickens since it’s been over 100 degrees the last few days.  Lo and behold, our very first egg was in one of the nesting boxes.

1st eggOne of the Americaunas, Gracie or Charlotte, must have laid the egg while we were gone.  Unfortunately, the box she laid the egg in did not have enough sawdust in the bottom, and one end of the egg was cracked.  This is nesting box is one of the two boxes that the girls try to sleep in all together at night.  In the beginning, all eight would try to git into one box.  Now, since they are bigger, 4-5 of them try to sleep together.

I filled all four of the laying boxes with 2-3″ of sawdust.  I filled their food tubes with the remainder of the chick starter mixed in with the Layer mix we came home with.  As soon as I stepped out of the run, Gracie went into one of the top boxes and proceeded to kick and scratch a “nest” in the new sawdust.  She kicked, rotated around, scratched and had sawdust flying until she made a crater just so.  I came into the house, went back out soon after, and she was in the other top box doing the same dance.  As soon as she got the second box just so, she went back to the first box to rearrange a bit more.  She went back and forth between these two boxes for quite a while.

The rest of the girls came and went in the coop, looking up at what she was doing.  At one point, Isabella, one of the White Leghorns, jumped into one of the lower nesting boxes, scratched a bit, and jumped right back down.

If you are interested in knowing what colored eggs different breeds of chickens lay, try “BackYard Chickens Egg Color Chart.”