It has been a minute…

It has been a very long time since I posted…I skipped June entirely.

Update:

I have started work in the corporate communications office of Bayer Crop Science Division in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and am pursuing my passion in Ag. Com. One problem I have been running into in the ag industry is this heated debate involving veganism. I have seen the videos on YouTube and have heard the arguments from both sides. One subject I found particularly interesting was a term coined by a Harvard graduate called “Carnism” and it basically states the reason humans are okay with eating one animal and not another is because we’ve been psychologically conditioned to think it is acceptable to be selective with which animals we eat. Personally, I think that is a load of horse crap (Nothing in this world angers me as much as when people address meat as the sole issue for their health problems and do not consider portion size or exercise). But, I am not here to argue Carnism and its validity.

I am here to talk about why I do not like aggressive vegans and I think it’s a point that too many people overlook. Since I have started working in the ag industry, it has become apparent to me how lucky I am to be in a country where food waste is a problem. There are still so many people in this world that go hungry every day but here I am feeling nauseous from eating too much chicken fajita pizza.

By 2050 the world population is projected to be nine billion. We are currently at over seven billion individuals and growing rapidly and WE. CAN’T. FEED. THEM. We do not have the technology to feed the population that exists. We are trying our best but misinformation like “GMOs are toxic” or “Chickens are grown with hormones that will hurt make our children sick,” are making developing new technologies even more difficult because why would we develop something that is just going to get thrown back at us by the consumer because of misinformation? BTW, no hormones are injected into poultry because it is illegal and GMOs are not toxic, far from it, they are amazing. But all this rambling is leading up to the main point I want to make:

I am often approached by vegans and the slightly more active side and they tell me a long list of reasons I should become vegan, mostly involving animal welfare but human health and wellness as well. However; we are not currently able to produce enough food to feed the world right now with meat. How are we expected to sustain a world of 9 billion on a vegan diet? We do not have space nor the technology. Too many people are still rejecting GMOs and now we welcome Crispr into the mix and who knows how that will be received.

I do not have any issues with vegans. I think their cause is noble and that you could eat rocks and glue all day, who am I to judge? Do your thing. However, if you are going to come up to me and be aggressive in your mission to convert me to veganism you must be able to answer the question: “How do feed 9 billion people on a vegan diet with today’s technology and crop space?” If you can give me a good, solid, plausible answer that involves no “invention of…,” “Clear land to make more room for…,” or “Growing our own….” If you can answer that question, let me take you out for Indian food because goodness knows I’m hungry. But until I get the answer I am looking for, please leave people’s dietary decisions for them to decide. My final thought of veganism is that it has a heart of gold but it is also a little ahead of its time. Once we figure out how to eliminate hunger, then we can go back and tweak our process, but until then we need more enegry in promoting agriculture to help feed the world, not fight it.

Surprise mom…you’re pregnant!

I get a lot of questions about broody hens! These grumpy puff-balls are often the bane of existance of backyard poultry owners. When flock owners only have 2-3 hens, a broody hen can really throw off egg production for weeks! This post is all about what brooding is, why it happens, and how to resolve it.

What does “broody” mean???

Brooding is the act of a hen sitting on her clutch (cluster, group, etc.) of eggs. This often happens when they have laid between 7-13 eggs and the temperature starts warming up. The hen will brood on her clutch for 21 days until the eggs hatch, given that they are fertile. However, a hen does not have to have fertile eggs to go broody. Often the annoyance of backyard flock owners come from hens going broody when they don’t even have roosters.

Why do hens go broody?

Just like human women, hens are born with all the eggs that they will ever have. When they reach sexual maturity, the eggs will start to develop. We could get into all the hormonal science behind brooding; however, I think it is best stated that hens have the instinct to brood when they have a nice size clutch of eggs stored up and the day length is just right. Even when there is no rooster, the instinct is still there.

What can I do about a broody hen?!

The first and most plain answer is do nothing. If you have enough hens to satisfy your egg needs, let your broody girl take a crack at it. They’ll move on when they’re ready and that can be a week or two but keep in mind, the eggs pull resources from the hen’s body and their diet cannot always keep up with the nutrient needs. Calcium is a big one. But if you do decide to let her be her broody self, remove all the eggs from under her to prevent rotting. It smells so bad, trust me, remove the eggs.

Your next option, remove her eggs (if they aren’t fertile or if you do not want chicks) and remove her from her nest box. She will puff up and screech in fury but it’s for the best. Hens tend to ignore their own personal health needs when they think chicks are on the way. Either block off her nest box completely or place something inside of it so that she cannot sit. She should be upset for a few days but afterwards, she will be fine. Quick tip: feed her some of her favorite treats away from the nest box. A good mealworm will help her forget about her nesting troubles.

The “Ice Pack” and cold bath method of breaking brooding hens. I have heard about this and I would like to start with I don’t like this. The method is to take an ice pack and stick it under a broody hen so they will become uncomfortable and leave the nest box. The cold water bath is pretty self-explanatory. Just give your hen a bath is cold, not freezing, water and it should break her. Now, I have heard these methods are quick and effective, but they can also be harmful to your hen. Brooding is a natural instinct! To break it could throw her off hormonally and add stress. Hens, especially those bred to lay, are at high risk for ovarian cancer, any added stress could just bring sickness and other health issues. With that being said, brooding is brought on by the release of prolactin which tells the hen’s ovaries to cease developing for the time being.  It is a temporary pause and she will begin laying again eventually.

Now that I have discussed some methods of breaking a broody hen, let’s discuss how you can avoid the issue altogether.

  1. Collect the eggs! Eggs left out will encourage broodiness.
  2. Provide them extra light. When the sun goes down, turn on a LED bulb for them so they can think the day is still going on.
  3. Make sure their nest boxes are warm. Hens tend to try to make a clutch of eggs somewhere that is familiar and cool so that the eggs she lays won’t be incubated until it’s time to brood. A location too warm for this could deter her from laying.
  4. Get chickens that were bred to be egg-layers. These birds often lay 250+ eggs per year and as bad as it sounds, they don’t really have time to go broody. The heaftier birds are the ones that tend to go broody often.

 

Raleigh, NC Tour D’Coop

Hey everyone! I am sorry for the delay in posting. I have been wrapping up my Junior year at NC State. With finals out of the way, I am ready to starting posting again! Also, update on the eggs, my roommate dropped them but we were able to get some Serama eggs and they should be hatching within the nest week. I am expecting two hatches.

If you live in the Raleigh area and looking to add some more chickens to your family, a friend of mine is hatching out eggs at an elementary school and she has no idea what she is going to do with them after! If you’re interested, please message me!

Also if you’re in the Raleigh area, come check out Tour D’Coop on Saturday, May 20th from 10 am to 4 pm! The event is hosted every year by Urban Ministries of Wake County and it features chicken coops and flocks from all around the Raleigh area. There is even a bike tour aspect for downtown Raleigh!

This is a great event for families and people considering getting chickens! You can come out and talk to flock owners, I will be at one of the coops in downtown Raleigh from 10 am -1 pm. Tickets for the event cost $10 for an individual and $20 for a car full! All proceeds go to Urban Ministries of Wake County. You can find the link for tickets here.

They will also be featuring beekeeping and raffles! So come check it out!

Between Furry and Feathery Friends

For all of us that love our feather babies, we tend to love our fur babies just as much! Though, it can be hard to raise chickens and keep a dog when they haven’t been raised together! I speak from experience. Both my dogs, Cashew and Toby took a lot of work before they could be trusted around the chickens without myself around. I want to share my experience with training them and the tips that I came up with!

 

Now things are A LOT easier when you have the dog from a pup when it comes to teaching your pets that chickens are friends, not food! But, if you’re like me then you spend way too much time on the SPCA website and the website for your local kennel. Next thing you know, you’ve done chicken math with dogs…

When you have your dog from puppyhood, keeping them around the chickens as much as possible! A friend of mine had a lab puppy and chicks at the same time and they were raised together. Now it’s hard to tell if the chicks think they’re a dog or if the dog thinks he is a chicken! Show your dog that chickens aren’t harmful to them or you. If you have an especially aggressive rooster, it is best to keep your puppy away and not introduce those two until he’s older. Hopefully, the size of the dog would deter your rooster from picking a fight, but we’ve all seen the ones that would fight a tank. For those roosters, I suggest you remove the spurs because they can do serious damage to you and your pets. If you live in an area where you need your rooster to protect your flock from predators you may not be able to keep out (i.e. hawks, opossums, weasels) keep the spurs but be extra careful!

I did not get the chance to train my dogs from puppyhood so it was a lengthy process. Cashew was the first dog we had and he was afraid of his own shadow. IMG_1151He came to us from the shelter. Before that, he was abused and malnourished. He wouldn’t even look me in the eyes, but after sitting with him for a few hours, he finally let me pet his nose and I was sold. Cashew is a beagle – rat terrier mix (we think?) so his hunting instincts were decently sharp. When he first saw the chickens he would chase them until he had them pinned. If your dog is like Cashew, here are a few tips for training him for your chickens:

  1. Find a safe space your dog loves (for Cashew it was his crate) and while having someone hold your pup, bring your most docile bird to him. Hold him steady and let the bird just walk around him. We put cash in his crate and then let the chicken walk around him.
  2. Make sure they interact every day! Whether it’s just a brief walk past the coop every day (on a leash!) or bringing a chicken close to him, it is important to get your pup use to them!
  3. Feed your pup and chickens close together. Bring your dog’s food bowl out to the coop so he can see them while he eats and sees that they are not bothering him while he eats.
  4. Walk around your house doing everyday activities…holding a chicken. Pick your best guy or girl and bring her in for the day! I recommend a diaper to prevent any messes though. Brining a chicken into the home and allowing your pup to see how you interact with it will allow him to see that chickens are not dangerous and you enjoy having them near you just as you enjoy having your pup!

CSAgain, these are just some recommendations on how to get your dog use to your chickens when they are no longer puppies or entering your family as a rescue. While you should first make sure that your dog is comfortable in his new home before starting any type of intensive training, most dogs pick up pretty quickly! You should not trust your dog to remain outside alone with your birds until you have been able to walk him, off-leash, near your birds with little to no interest in your birds.

My newest pup, Toby, still needs work to go near our birds. He lives with me at school and only sees the birds every month or so, Cashew, who stays with my parents, after six months of intensive training, now stays outside with the chickens, weather permitting, and acts as their guardian from other prey. He has come a long way but it took time, so please be patient with your pup and the results will come!

 

Eggs and eBay

I have been thinking about this pretty frequently lately – eggs and eBay.With the prices of hatching eggs from established online hatcheries, its no wonder people have taken to eBay!

 

My neighbor is a crazy chicken lady just like me! She has been purchasing hatching eggs from eBay and they have been turning out pretty well…until now. A while ago she purchased polish hatching eggs and ordered a dozen. When she received the eggs, only four had not been destroyed during shipping and in the end, only two hatched and only one survived. While I am excited about her new polish chick,

Don’t get me wrong, I think eBay is a great way to get your hands on some rarer birds for a better price; however, make sure you are buying from an experienced breeder! When you buy online, you buy blind. Anyone can say “Hey! We’re NPIP certified!” but honestly, who’s checking that? If you are thinking about buying eggs online please remember:

  • Check their reviews!
  • Read the product description very carefully!
  • Look up the hatchery. If they say they are NPIP certified they will be listed HERE by state.
  • Look at the shipping time, eggs should not be stored outside a temperature controlled environment for more than 48 hours if you’re planning to hatch them.
  • Ask about flock health!

With all that said, I am not saying you cannot get reliable hatching eggs off eBay and not everyone that sells on eBay has a separate website (though they should at least have a FaceBook page) where you can check out their stock. I would not advise buying from anyone through eBay if they do not have another site or are unable to supply more than one picture of their breeder stock and coop.

 

I get it– the low prices and cute little cheap-cheaps to come are just so inviting! However, you can never be 100% sure what you are going to get!  Also with every new chick you bring in (let me stress again) is a risk of disease and a biosecurity threat! Do not let those cute little eyes fool you! Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate! Most vaccinations today just require that you put in it in the chick’s drinking water.  If you do not feel comfortable vaccinating your chicks, take them to the vet (though it can be costly) or just go ahead and skip the hatching all-together and the hatched chicks online. We would love to be the ones to greet them as soon as they make it out of the egg but it’s out responsibility to know what is best for our chicks!

Poultry Pets

As promised, I will be continuing my recommended breeds list! The following will be a list of chicken breeds and I have known to be especially sweet and great pets! Though they may not be the best layers or meat birds, they are especially kind and great for kids.

The Silkie Chicken

Sweet, quiet, lays decently, Bantam and Standard Size

These fluffy little beauties are basically dogs and cat int he form of chickens. We have had these little lovelies for four years now and honestly, you could keep these in an apartment. They have extremely thin feathers that are as soft as silk and though they don’t have a traditional form, they are just as warm as normal feathers. While they do well in the cold (but we’re not talking subzero temperatures here) they should be brought inside during the winter nights. They do very well in the heat.http://www.backyardchickens.com/content/type/61/id/4941094/width/778/height/519/flags/LL Since their feathers are so fine, you have to be cautious about the rain, they get soaked easily and then they get cold. A soaking wet silkie is both adorable and sad. However, they’re lovers of baths and the blowdryer. They are feathered all over, even to their feet, so when left outside they do become dirty pretty easily. They will lay about 180 eggs a year and the males are also nonaggressive but they crow just as loud as any other rooster. These are the bird for you is you’re looking for easy care and a unique look. They have very sensitive heads (gotta support that fro) So please be wary when they are chicks not to let other chicks peck them on the head and do not tap them on the head.

The Frizzle Chicken

Unique, lays poorly-decently, kind temperament, Bantam and Standard size

The frizzled chicken makes everyone do a double take. These birds have reversed feathers. They look like little fuzz balls and they know they are fabulous. While theses babies are their own breed, different breeds can be frizzled. Their curled feathers will warm even the coldest of heart, these feathers don’t do much to warm. Since they are inverted they do not hold heat in well and they get cold easily. These are definitely birds that will have to come inside during the winter if you live someone that reaches below-freezing temperatures often in the winter. As for their temperament, I have a few frizzles that couldn’t be happier if they have 0 interactions with me, but I have met much sweeter frizzles. Mine just always seem to have their feathers in a bunch.

 

The Polish Chicken

Lays decently (approx. 200), Standard and Bantam Size, Fabulous and They Know It

Just like the silkies, be careful with these babies! The crown of feathers they have make the cute little bumps on their heads that are extra sensitive! Generally, a chicken can see 300-330 degrees around itself at any given time, but your polish is not so fortunate. For this reason, make sure your Polish is kept in a coop or fenced in area to protect from predators.

THE PEKIN CHICKEN (I’M SCREAMING)

THESE ARE MY FAVORITE CHICKENS OF ALL TIME. THEY’RE SO FLUFFY IM GONNA DIE.

Hands down my favorite breed to chickens in existence. Pekin Chickens or Bantam Cochins, are tiny fluffernutters with mixed temperaments and a variety of colors and patterns. Unfortunately, being fluffed and mini kinda earns you Pekin status, and its hard to differentiate breeds inside Pekin chickens but it does not matter because they are the cutest chickens of all time! Our Pekins are very sweet and lay very well (approx. 250 a year) and they also make wonderful mothers. They are, however, very defensive mothers! Ours attacked our dog for getting too close to her eggs. These chickens are fabulous decorative pets and they are pretty low maintenance. They love treats and if you’re looking more for a companion breed, these and silkies live very well together and often will hatch each other’s eggs.

This list will be continued in a second post!

Some Feathery Advice

When I have friends that decide to start their own backyard flock generally the first questions I get are about what kind of chickens to get. I feel bad anytime someone asks me this questions because it’s like my backyard – too many layers. Depending on your intentions with the birds and how many you plan on getting there are a ton of different breeds that would fit all sorts of needs. So if you or someone you know is trying to decide on breeds, whether they’re just getting started, or wanting to expand their flock, the most important question to ask is:

Why are you getting chickens? For eggs? For meat? For pets/fun/decoration? Or even for pest control?

I will lay out some breeds that I have found that were wonderful for each category. That is not to say if you don’t see a breed on this list that they aren’t great birds! If you have any questions on certain breeds feel free to comment below or send me a message and I’ll do my best to help. So let’s get started! In this post I will be posting my favorite layers!

The Egg-cellent Layers

Fun fact: the color of a chicken’s earlobe decides the color egg it will lay! White lobes=white egg, Red lobe=colored eggs

Leghorns

Lays large white eggs

The number one layer is the Leghorn. Made famous by the cartoon Foghorn Leghorn, these Italy-natives churn out eggs like you would not believe. They average over 300 eggs a year and these are generally the layers of the store-bought eggs. While they may be pretty tiny in size, the tiny body, and broad backside actually help them lay more efficiently! If you’re egg-a-day kind of gal this is the go-to for you. In my experience, this breed has been more flighty than friendly to me, but we had a professional relationship and they seemed to want to leave it at that.

Buff Orpingtons

Lays large brown eggs

I cannot say enough good things about this breed. I had a handful of these growing up and I love love love them! I, unfortunately, only have one of the original seven left; however, she is still laying at seven years of age (eight in august!) despite her worsening arthritis.  These are dual purpose chickens (this means that they are good for both eggs and meat) and they are great family pets! They have a sweet, non-aggressive temperament and get along well with most other chickens. My buffs were horrified of my dogs, though; they can scare very easily. Unfortunately, the easy-going temperament carries into the roosters as well so if you’re looking for a protector for your flock, I would look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a handsome boy to serve as your alarm clock but not much else, this is your guy! They are a hardy bird and stand up well in hot and cold weather. I highly recommend these sweethearts! They’ll churn out between 180-260 eggs a year for you!

Rhode Island Red (RIR)

Lays large brown eggs

This breed is near and dear to my heart. My first chicken love was a RIR named Runt and she would follow my father around the yard while he was gardening because she knew digging meant worms! The great thing about these birds is their sweet temperament. These are great pets. From my experience, they do not need a whole lot of room to be happy so if you’re the kind of person that is only looking to keep 3-5 chickens in their yard these might be a safe bet for you. They will lay you upwards of 260-300 (if you’re sweet to them) and they hold up well in the heat and cold. Summers here can reach up to 102 degrees and as low as 18 degrees and they did just fine.

Plymouth Rock Chicken (Barred Rock)

Lays large brown eggs

If you’re the kind of owner that likes to name each and every pet and refer to them by name, I would not suggest getting a full flock of these. They are impossible to tell apart! We had 10 of these and I named them all Clarence (they were collectively the “Clarences” or “Clari”). Besides their physical similarities in appearance, they do like to hang together too. This is another very sweet breed and they will lay upwards pg 280-300+ eggs a year! They are hardy birds, especially being bred in the Massachusetts area they are great in the cold and they survive the east coast heat pretty well but a chilled tomato and yogurt always helped! These chickens would be best suited for someone who is looking for a lot of, and reliable, egg production and friendly birds. These birds do get curious and peck and around and will follow you around. So these are not good birds to be running around your flower gardens!

Black Star Chicken (sex-linked)

Lays large brown eggs

These pretty little birds are one of my top 5 favorite chickens of all time. We had a Black Start that lived to be 9.5 years old. She was always very sweet and never really went broody. I noticed Sex-Linked chickens don’t go broody often so if you don’t want another monthly distraught daughter, these are a great choice. These are extremely hardy birds. We had a black star that had a leg removed by a raccoon and we were able to reach that leg and she did not even limp! They will lay you 260+ eggs every year. Of this list, these are probably the most beautiful birds. They have beautiful golden hackle feathers.

IMG_6310

Here is Egypt, the wonderful Black Start that was family for over nine years, gave us countless eggs, and had her leg re-attached.

With Easter Right Around the Corner…

Easter is April 16th this year!

Growing up, when I thought about Easter, two things came to mind – Easter bunny and baby chicks! While this probably hasn’t changed for kids today, those with backyard flocks often look to Easter as a great time to add to the flock! Seeing as spring has sprung in many places across the U.S already, you may be considering picking up a couple cute cheep-cheeps as an Easter surprise for your kids, friends, or even yourself! If you are considering adding to your flock this spring, please be careful about where you get your chicks from. Facebook run flock-swap pages are popping up across the U.S and while the idea of getting your chicks locally and avoiding all the hassle of minimum orders from online hatcheries and expensive shipping fees, remember that you are often getting what you pay for!

I have been to several local flock swaps and I think they are so much fun. I love seeing all the local birds and breeders but I do not bring birds home. While the caretakers are often sweet people, people selling at flock-swaps are often selling their own hatchlings. When you order chicks from online hatcheries you are required to vaccinate your chicks from diseases like Newcastle’s, Mareks, Fowlpox and Infectious Bronchitis. These are all highly infectious diseases that can wipe out a 60 bird flock in less than a week!

If you are considering getting new birds this spring at a flock swap make sure you ask about their vaccinations! Biosecurity is everything when it comes to keeping your birds safe! Now, this isn’t to say that all flock-swaps are dangerous and you should never go! Go check it all out! Meeting new people with the same interest as yourself is always a great idea and they are generally all kid friendly! (Though you may want to leave Fido at home.) If you do choose to bring a bird home with sketchy vaccination history, please quarantine the bird for at least a week. I will be posting quarantine directions and will link it here soon.

If flock swaps aren’t really your style but you still want to add to your flock, consider checking out local hatcheries! They are becoming more common, especially in the southern states. If you are located in the Research Triangle Park area in NC (Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh) please consider checking out Little Birdie Hatchery located in Wake Forest, NC. It is NPIP certified and state certified. I have gotten birds from them before that were wonderful and never had any health issues. Full disclosure: the owner is a friend and classmate of mine in the Poultry Science department at NCSU. He studies chickens for a living so I can promise you’re in good hands!

So enjoy this beautiful Easter season with family and feathery friends! Avoid Craigslist sellers and sketchy flock swaps. Teach your flock friends proper biosecurity tactics! Remember, it only takes one sick bird to infect hundreds!