Chickens will eat insects, fruits, vegetables, greens, and just about anything else – including their own eggs (they’re omnivorous). But having chickens that eat their own eggs is obviously a problem for chicken keepers – we want the eggs!
Chickens can develop a taste for eggs in a number of ways, perhaps they lay a weak egg, or they are startled and accidentally break an egg, or they become calcium deficient and try supplementing their diet with egg shell. However it happens, they can quickly learn that the inside of the egg tastes great. Once one bird learns to intentionally break and eat [...]
Continue reading Egg Eating Chickens?
The arrival of the 2013 “Backyard Biosecurity” calendar from the USDA (instructions for ordering a free one are here), and the issues my Farm Chick friend has been facing with bird disease made me think that it was a good time to remind everyone with backyard birds – they need to be PROTECTED. It’s so easy to think that it won’t happen to you and let up your guard, but disease can be brought in many ways and can destroy your flock. We learned the hard way several years ago when we brought in two barred rocks from a ”reputable” source. The birds brought Infectious Bronchitis (see story here) with them and our flock had [...]
Continue reading Protect Your Birds!
Don’t throw those Halloween pumpkins, decorative gourds, or dried corn cobs out - feed them to your favorite chickens instead!
Feeding pumpkins or gourds to chickens is as simple as cutting them in half, and setting them cut-side up in their run. They devour them; and seem to really love having access to fresh vegetables after everything else has stopped growing. Dried corn on the cob is even simpler, just throw it in the run – they’ll pick the cobs clean. Of course, treats should always be fed in moderation.
We grow and store quite a few pumpkins and gourds to feed the chickens throughout fall and winter; and we’re always on [...]
Continue reading Fall Decorations = Chicken Treats
As I talk with chicken keeping friends, I’m surprised that some don’t know that most chickens will cease to lay eggs when day lengths fall below 14 hours in the fall. As we move further into fall and shorter days, chickens will naturally reduce egg production. They lay eggs based on day length; long days and increasing day length mean spring to a chicken – time when they should be producing many eggs and raising chicks. The declining day length and harsher environment in fall and winter aren’t optimal for raising chicks; so chickens will naturally stop egg production, molt, renew their egg laying resources, and [...]
Continue reading Maintain Winter Egg Production – Add Artificial Light
The day-old Golden Buff chicks that we started raising on May 10th are now old enough to combine with the main flock (hopefully we’ll do that this weekend), but everyone wants to know why we’re adding more chickens. Well, it’s because the adult Golden Buffs that used to lay an egg nearly every day, have now slowed to a few eggs each week. They’re over two years old, and are running out of eggs.
Chickens are born with a set number of eggs available for them to lay over their life, and depending on the breed (see a handy breed comparator here), [...]
Continue reading How Long Chickens Lay Eggs
I had to look this definition up, because we ordered “pullets” from the feed store in Amish territory and expected to pick up young hens – instead we picked up day-old peeps! The definition for a pullet from the dictionary is: a young hen; specifically : a hen of the domestic chicken less than a year old. So I guess that leaves it pretty much wide open.
When we think of a pullet, we think of a female chicken that’s just old enough to start laying eggs. But that’s not what the definition is in Amish territory in Ohio – there it’s [...]
Continue reading Definition of a Pullet
At Bramblestone Farm, we keep both Golden Buff and Buckeye chickens; but, people often ask why we bother with Buckeyes – they don’t lay as large an egg or as frequently as the Golden Buffs, so why do we keep them?
Well, Buckeye chickens are an old breed developed to thrive in Ohio’s weather; and were once very popular backyard birds. However, with the demise of the backyard flock during the 20th century, Buckeyes became endangered (less than 72 known breeding birds in 2003). Then in 2005, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) began a program to recover the breed’s original characteristics [...]
Continue reading About Buckeye Chickens
In the last post (see Molting Chickens), I said that you could tell how long a chicken has been molting and how long it would continue to molt by looking at the primary (flight) feathers. But, I didn’t go on to explain how from there – as several have pointed out.
I’ll try to explain further with the help of the illustrations below (no comments on my attempt to illustrate a chicken wing!). The first illustration shows the 10 primaries (in yellow) of a chickens fully feathered wing prior to molting. For the explanations below, keep in mind that a bird drops [...]
Continue reading Fast or Slow Molting Chickens?
Fall is the time of year when chickens molt and ours are doing just that; so egg production is way down and it’s a good time to make decisions on which chickens (if any) should be culled.
Molting is a natural occurrence for chickens triggered by shortening day length in fall. It can take from 2 to 6 months for a chicken to complete molting; and egg production generally stops during molting for pure breed birds or significantly slows down for egg
production breeds. This egg production slowdown occurs because it takes the same nutrients to grow feathers that it does to
Continue reading Molting Chickens
Tinker Bell Eating Pea Vines
Each time I work in the garden and consider bringing back some garden trimmings for the goats and chickens; I have to stop and look through my reference books – to determine whether that particular plant is safe for them to eat. So, I decided to make a list of garden plants that are safe for goats or chickens, and that they’ll benefit from eating. That way, I can just refer back to this list, rather than dragging out a bunch of books.
This is what I know about today that they can eat (chickens may [...]
Continue reading Garden Greens for Goats & Chickens
Broody Buckeye Hen – Sitting For 10 Days & Counting
As of yesterday, our broody Buckeye hen has diligently been sitting on 15 eggs - for 10 days. She gets out of her nest box only to eat, drink, and relieve herself; and has only once signalled a desire to leave the broody box (see Building A Broody Box). We let her out and she took a quick dust bath in the pasture; and then climbed right back into the broody box and back onto the nest. So far, she’s exhibiting all the behaviors of an excellent mother hen, and we couldn’t be [...]
Continue reading Candling Broodies Eggs
Giant Yellow Eckendorf
This year, we’re adding a new vegetable mainstay to the garden – not for us, but for the chickens. Mangel beets used to be grown extensively as a livestock feed on small farms; however, usage dwindled in the US as large farms became the norm. Today, it’s being rediscovered on small farmsteads as a great feed for livestock, particularly chickens.
The beets are highly nutritious and have been cultivated as livestock feed for over 1000 years. They’re very easy to produce, grow to immense sizes (10 – 20 lbs.), and store well; making them a good stand-in for fresh [...]
Continue reading Growing Mangel Beets for Chickens
It’s time to process the 11 Buckeye roosters that didn’t make the cut; and although that’s not exactly pleasant, I’m expecting big things from the meals they’ll be featured in. That’s because heritage birds like the Buckeyes have something that today’s supermarket birds don’t – they have flavor.
The commercial chickens grown for meat today have been bred to reach a marketable size in confined space within 9 weeks, thereby maximizing throughput and minimizing costs. If these birds are kept for more than 9 weeks, losses from disease and health issues are high – they have simply been bred for fast [...]
Continue reading Heritage Birds for Real Chicken Flavor
Rooster 38 at 18 Weeks
The Buckeye roosters are driving us crazy with their crowing and fighting (they’re now 24 weeks old), so we need to select two roosters to keep. And, it’s important to pick the best two, because they’ll be the foundation for the flock.
I get a lot of questions about why anyone would want roosters. The first question is often, do you need roosters for eggs? And no, roosters aren’t necessary for eggs; but they are necessary for fertile eggs. That leads to one reason for keeping roosters; in our case, we’d like the hens to go [...]
Continue reading Keeping Roosters