Chicken People – The Road to the Winner’s Circle

It’s that time of year again, we’re just under two months away from the Ohio National Poultry Show. It’s an exciting time in the competitive poultry world, not only are we coming up on fall show season, but much buzz has been made around the upcoming release of the documentary film, ‘Chicken People’. This film chronicles the road to Columbus, and what it takes to have that prize-winning entry. The film will be released on September 23rd, but in the meantime if you haven’t seen the trailer, check it out:

 We’d love to hear your poultry showing stories, so feel free to leave comments about your experiences and what you love best about exhibiting poultry!

 

 

Test your Layer IQ and WIN!

Nutrena Layer IQ Quiz Enter Now!

Welcome to the 2016 Layer IQ Test! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer the following questions to the best of your eggbility. Many dangers lurk within these screens, including poultry puns, corny jokes, and weak attempts at chicken humor. Proceed at your own risk. Click the image above to get started!

Chick IQ Quiz – Enter to Win!

Chick IQ Quiz - Test Your Chick Knowledge and Win Prizes!

Welcome to the 2016 Chick IQ Test! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer the following questions to the best of your eggbility. Many dangers lurk within these screens, including poultry puns, corny jokes, and weak attempts at chicken humor. Proceed at your own risk. Click the image above to get started!

UPDATE: As of April 30, 2016, the Chick Quiz has come to an end. Stay tuned to the Scoop from the Coop and our Facebook page for the list of winners!

Keeping Dogs & Chickens

Introducing your birds to dogs (and vice versa)

Just like the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When you are bringing baby chicks home or adding adult birds to your backyard, the first impression is important. It’s crucial to know that a period of adjustment and acclimation is normal.  Everything may not go smoothly the first day – but that’s okay. The key in the

Misty the mutt and her flock of hens.

Misty the mutt and her flock of hens.

process is to make sure that your birds are protected at all times.

Introducing dogs to chickens can be a touchy situation and is something best handled when you have some help. Having a dog that is trained and obedient to at least a “stay” command and to recall on command is very helpful in this situation. The main thing is to use common sense – dogs will likely be tempted by chickens if they’ve never been around them before. Do not leave dogs and chickens alone together until you’re sure the dog can be trusted.

To start introductions, begin slowly. The first step is to allow the dog near the birds while they are securely enclosed in their run or a cage. Give the animals some time to see and smell each other and grow accustomed to the noises, motions and actions of the other. Do this repeatedly until the animals are calm. After that step is successful, try holding your chickens while your dog is secured, either by a helper or in a kennel and again gauge everyone’s reactions.

When you feel comfortable, you can try letting your birds free range in your yard or garden area with the dog on a leash. Again, gage the situation and reactions. Every animal is different and their response to this situation will vary. Once the dog is used to the chickens being in and around the area and is not negatively responding, you can try a supervised instance of everyone mixing together. This introduction will take time, so don’t rush things and make sure you are patient with your dog; this is a big adjustment to their normal way of life.

Keep in mind, however, that some dogs simply do not mix well with chickens. For example, some breeds of dogs are bred specifically to hunt and capture birds. In these dogs, the prey drive may be extremely hard to overcome.  Signs a dog is exhibiting prey drive can include intense staring, ignores owner or other distractions, refuses to move, body tenses, motionless, crouching, rigid movements, lunging, lips twitching, pupils dilated.

If issues persist, you may want to look into professional dog training or you may need to come to the realization that free ranging your chickens with your dog is simply not an option.

What if my dog eats my chicken’s food?
When keeping dogs and chickens it is important that you don’t give the dog free run of the coop or main housing area. This is mainly due to the fact that ingesting some germs that may be present in your bird’s droppings (think salmonella) could make them sick.

The un-medicated food that you feed your chickens likely won’t cause any harm to your dog unless they eat a huge amount of it. If you are using a medicated food for your chickens, the medication is not approved for use for dogs. The tougher chore will be to keep your birds away from your dog’s food. This food is high in protein and often becomes a flock favorite once they discover where the food bowl is kept!

Best practice is to keep dogs and birds water and feeding stations separate to help reduce the spread of germs as much as possible and keep diets (both the dogs and the birds) as balanced as possible.

What about disease?

All animals can carry disease, and birds and dogs are no different. The main diseases that can be passed on to dogs may be able to be prevented by keeping the dog and birds in separate enclosures; many types of germs are borne in the fecal matter/dust of birds and contracted when inhaled by the dog. One of the top concerns of bird to dog transfer is salmonella. These bacteria are shed in the feces, so a dog that has access to the chicken coop may be more susceptible. Keep the coop and run area closed to the dog, even if birds are out ranging. Coccidiosis, while present in both birds and dogs, is species specific. This means the strains carried by poultry cannot be passed to dogs and vice versa.

Care and Feeding of Meatbirds

Chick Care
The basic care of meatbird chicks is similar to other types of chicks. You’ll need to provide a heat source along with free choice fresh water and appropriate feed. An important part of raising meatbirds is allowing for enough space for them to grow. With a growth rate that is

A dry and clean brooder is a must for chicks.

A dry and clean brooder is a must for chicks.

second to none, these birds will become too big for a brooder that seems the right size in just a week or two. Make sure to plan for expansion of your brooder to allow the space to get bigger along with the chicks. A dry and clean brooder is always essential; this will keep the birds comfortable, discourage the development of flies, and help prevent disease.

Dual purpose breeds are traditional breeds like Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, etc. They can be raised for eggs or meat. These birds are the slowest to finish and are typically harvested around 22 weeks of age. They have less developmental problems than hybrid meat breeds, and they will usually yield less meat.

Red Rangers are a type of meat chicken that provides a ‘happy medium’ between dual purpose breeds and Cornish Cross. They should be harvested around 12 – 14 weeks. They aren’t as delicate as Cornish Cross and have less developmental problems. In addition, they do better foraging than a Cornish. Their meat yield is in between a Cornish and dual purpose.

Cornish Cross is a hybrid and is the most common meat chicken. It makes up the majority of meat purchased in stores or consumed in restaurants. Cornish are very economical with their feed to meat conversion, which means they grow very fast –  they

A typical Cornish Cross bird

A typical Cornish Cross bird

are usually ready to harvest around 8 weeks! A few things to be aware of with this breed: because of their rate of growth they can have problems with organ failure and leg issues. These birds do not do well when comingled with other breeds – it’s best to keep Cornish separate. Additionally, they are ONLY suitable for meat production – do not try to keep them long term.

Feeding meatbirds
For dual purpose chicks, you may choose to feed a meatbird ration from the start. However, if you have straight run chicks and are not sure which are males, you can start the  batch on chick starter and then switch the ones you will harvest to meatbird feed once their gender becomes apparent.

For faster growing hybrid birds, you’ll want to feed a specific meatbird ration from day one. This will ensure that the birds are getting certain amino acid levels and protein amounts to encourage muscle development and growth. Because meatbirds have been developed to put on muscle mass quickly, the ration must be balanced to make sure that nutrients are present for skeletal and internal organ development as well. If the correct ration is not fed, the birds are more apt to fall victim to common maladies like organ failure and leg issues. Follow these simple feeding recommendations to help avoid complications:

  • Feed free choice the first 3 days of life
  • After 3 days, allow 12 hours with feed, 12 hours without

 

Kids and Chickens: At the show!

In previous articles, we’ve covered selecting chickens for kids as well as preparing your children and chickens to go to a poultry show, including how to wash your birds.

At this point my two girls (ages 5 and 7),  were as ready as they would ever be to show a chicken. The birds were somewhat trained, the kids were fairly well prepared, and we hit the road. We arrived at the fairgrounds the evening before the show and took the birds to the waiting area. A vet check is required at our fair for all incoming animals. The vet looks to make sure that the bird has no nasty communicable diseases that could spread to the rest of the birds. Once we were cleared to unload, we took the birds into the barn and got directions from the barn manager as to which pens were ours. Then we put the birds in and immediately filled the waterers and feeders to make them feel a bit more at home.

The girlShow Day Sadie and Peachs were hesitant to leave their birds in a strange place all alone that first night, but eventually we decided they were in good hands and headed for home. The next day was the big one – show day!  We began by getting the birds fed, watered and checked up on. They were in good shape – more so than my girls who needed clean shirts and hair done and new jeans, etc. etc. The first rule when showing is to always look professional. A collared and nicely pressed long sleeve shirt is a great idea. Tuck your shirt in and make sure your hair is off your face. We talked about smiling and keeping their eyes on the judge while they were showing and – most important of all – don’t let your chicken get away!

The time for their class finally arrived and I have to admit, they did great! We had lots of adults on hand to help, but those kids had their birds in control (well, mostly). Each one did great and showed off their birds as well as answered questions from the judge. They all learned valuable skills and experience and earned beautiful ribbons!  They were proud of themselves when the show was over and really enjoyed showing all their friends at the fair their birds.

All in all our chicken showing experience was a great one – and I have a feeling that we won’t be strangers to the poultry barn in the future!

Kids & Chickens: Bathing Chickens and other adventures

In the last article, we covered choosing chicks and getting them tame and calm. My kids (4 and 7) worked on this skill throughout the summer, and with the fair fast approaching on Labor Day weekend we realized we needed to get serious about the details of showing chickens. What did we need to do to prepare? What should my girls know? What would the chickens be asked to do? We asked some friends who had chicken showing experience, looked online, and investigated other community resources, like our extension office and 4-H clubs. Here’s what we found out:

Peach standing on table

My 4 year old practicing with her bird, Peach.

Chicken Skills – the chicken should be able to stand on a table during the show with minimal holding by the handler. It should be calm and be able to be approached/held/handled by the judge without getting its “feathers ruffled”, so to speak. We practiced for this by setting up a small table with a cloth that provided good footing for the birds. The girls would set their birds on the table and to get them used to it at first we gave them small treats – like pieces of grain, etc. This distracted them and made them look forward to standing on the table.

To get them used to be handled even more, the girls would recruit their dad or I to play “judge”. As pretend judges, we would approach the birds and feel their legs and feet,  stretch out their wings, and feel their combs and pet around their faces.

Showman Skills At our fair, the rules clearly state that the child must be able to carry their own bird to the table and handle it. We practiced this a lot – for my 4 year old it was hard to get that big bird up and into her arms (she has a Buff Orpington named Peach). With practice came competence – my daughter became competent at carrying and Peach became competent at being manhandled. The girls also had to know basic information about their birds. We practiced with questions like:

  • What breed is it?
  • How old is it?
  • What do you feed it?
  • Does it lay eggs? What color are the eggs?

Then came the time when we realized that the chickens would need a bath in order to be clean and ready for the fair.   And so the adventure began.

Harley going into the water

Harley, the Barred Rock, gets a bath.

Harley in a towel

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of my “good” towels…

To be honest I think I was more nervous about this step than either my kids or the chickens! It just seems a little unnatural, doesn’t it? Dipping a chicken in a tub of water? At any rate, about two weeks before the show we gave it a shot, following the advice given in this video by my colleague and friend Twain Lockhart. And everything went fine. The chickens, I believe, were so flabbergasted at what was happening that they didn’t react. At all. They went into a weird chicken paralysis as we dunked them, swished them, rinsed them, and dried them. That was just fine with me. We repeated the process the night before the fair with equally good results and got ready to go to the fair.

Next installment – At the show!

 

Molting: the naked truth

There comes a time in every chicken’s life (usually around 14 – 18 months old) where they start to lose all their feathers, look gangly and downright ugly. But don’t be alarmed! This is a natural process that occurs annually. This process is called molt.

example of a chicken going through a hard molt

This would be considered a hard molt.

What is molt? Molt is the natural shedding of feathers and regrowth of new ones. This usually happens in the fall as day length shortens. It is the chickens way to refresh old feathers and grow new ones for the coming winter. Molt happens in an expected order, starting at the head, down the back, breast and ending on the wings and tails.

There are two types of molt that chickens can go through, hard and soft. A hard molt means all feathers are lost at nearly the same time. A soft molt, however, means feathers are lost over a longer period of time. Chickens use molt to build up their nutrient reserves and typically slow or even stop laying eggs during this time. Though they are not laying eggs, it is important that your chicken continues to need a high quality diet since feathers consist of approximately 85% protein!

How to help your chickens get through molt
40 lb. Feather Fixer Bag ImageThe best thing for your chickens in molt is to offer a feed that is high in quality and protein such as NatureWise Feather Fixer™. Feather Fixer™ is a complete feed, so you don’t have to worry about finding other protein supplements to feed along with layer feed during molt. It is simple and easy. In addition, Feather Fixer™ is optimized in other ways; it has organic trace minerals, which are more bio-available to the chicken than regular forms. Especially important are zinc and manganese which are needed for feather growth.  This is a newer feed, so ask your favorite retailer about their plans to stock it today!

Another way to help your chickens through molt is to reduce stress as much as possible. Try to avoid handling your chickens, and bringing new birds into the flock, if possible. Molt is a normal process, so your chickens shouldn’t act differently, even though they make look very different. In total, molt will take between 4-16 weeks, depending if it is a hard or soft molt. You do not need to add any medications or other vitamins if you are already feeding a high quality and high protein feed. So don’t panic the next time your chickens start to lose their feathers and stop laying eggs! Instead, use these tips to help ease the process.

Mite Prevention For Your Flock

This is a typical photo of what a mite infestation would look like.It is a simple fact that may make your skin crawl: all poultry are susceptible to mites. In fact, mites are one of the most common problems when raising poultry.
Your flock could become infected with mites by new birds being introduced to the flock, by wild birds, or by taking them to poultry shows or auctions that have mites in the coops. These external parasites live on the host chicken, feed on its blood and quickly multiply. Within a short amount of time, mites can cause a large amount of damage.
Chicken owners initially notice mites by seeing a distressed look in their flock and noticing decreased egg production. Though mites do not infest humans, mites can crawl onto humans and bite, resulting in small red lesions and intense itching.
For chickens, mites can cause a plethora of problems. Chickens with bad infestations don’t lay as well and have reduced fertility. A chicken’s vent, particularly, gets affected. The vent’s moist skin and rich blood supply make it a favorite feeding ground for hungry mites. Signs to indicate mites include: scabs near the vent, lethargy, mite eggs on feathers and feather shafts, soiled feathers, and small, dark spots from mite droppings.
Mite prevention is essential to poultry health, and it is essential to check your birds often for signs of mites. Once there is a mite infestation, owners usually need to treat with chemical pesticides for the best results. However, mites can develop resistance to chemical treatments requiring the use of different or stronger pesticides. Continual monitoring of your flock is imperative to keeping mites under control.

Upcycle your empty feed bags #2 – Garden Planter Tutorial

Here is another great tutorial from our friend Lisa at Fresh Eggs Daily:

When you raise animals you naturally end up with lots of empty feed bags. It’s such a shame to just throw the Nutrena feed bags away because they are really pretty, as well as sturdy and water-resistant.  Why not sew some of yours into these cute patio garden planters? They are functional and light enough that you can move them around as needed into the sun or shade. The bag drains really well but also holds moisture. One of these planters with some started fruits, veggies or flowers would also make a great Mother’s Day gift or housewarming present!

 

Here’s what you’ll need:
One Nutrena feed bag,  rinsed off and dried
Cotton webbing (or fashion straps from the excess you cut off the feed bag)
Piece of window screen
Potting soil
Seeds or plant starts
Coordinating spool of thread and bobbin
Sewing machine fitted with a 90/14 medium-weight needle
Tape measure
Pinking shears
Sewing scissors
Straight Pins

Here’s what you do:
Cut about 8 inches from the bottom and four inches from the top of the bag.  Turn the bag inside out and sew a straight line across the bottom edge, leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Then with the seam side facing up, fold each bottom end into a triangle to form the flat bottom and sew across each diagonally, about four inches from the point.

Cut across, removing the triangle tip of each end, leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Fold the top of the bag over twice and pin some cotton webbing in place to make handles. The handles don’t need to be very long nor fancy since they will only be used to move the bag on occasion as needed.

After sewing a zigzag stitch along the lower seam, flip the handles up and sewed a straight stitch seam along the top edge to secure the handles in place.

Turn the bag right side out and cut some generous drainage holes in the bottom with scissors and then cut a piece of window screen to fit on the bottom to help hold the soil in the bag and put it in place.

I placed the bag up on two bricks on our back patio to elevate it off the ground and allow for better drainage and then filled it to within an inch of the top with some composted soil from our compost pile.  I planted some lettuce, kale and Swiss Chard seeds and then covered them with more soil and watered them well. 

A wide variety of mini crops can be planted in a bag container like this. I chose cold weather crops that are hardy enough to be planted early in the year but other vegetables with shallow root systems would work just fine as well.  Strawberries would make a beautiful bag of goodies also.

In a week or so, your bag should look like this and in a few more weeks be ready for picking! 

What could possibly be better than fresh greens right by your back door?  The bags can be emptied, rinsed off and reused, or used several times through the growing season for different harvests.

Tutorial courtesy of Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily
www.fresh-eggs-daily.com