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!
Tinker Bell Being Milked
The first time I saw a Nigerian Dwarf goat being milked using a machine, I was shocked. We were just beginning to investigate them as a possible breed for Bramblestone Farm, and I’d assumed that they were too small for a milking machine. But, lots of folks use a machine to milk Nigerian Dwarfs; it can be faster, easier, and more convenient than milking by hand.
As it turns out, it takes longer to write out the steps describing how to milk using a machine than it does to actually do it. It’s an easy process that takes [...]
Continue reading Machine Milking Nigerian Dwarf Goats
It’s springtime – the best time of year for raising chicks! So, it’s a good time to collect eggs for incubation and hatch the baby chicks yourself (or give them to a broody hen to hatch). High hatch rates and healthy chicks start with proper egg collection and storage.
Collecting the Eggs
Chicken egg incubation temperature and humidity are ideal for the growth of bacteria; so it’s essential that eggs collected for hatching are clean. However, hatching eggs ideally should not be washed, as this removes the protective egg bloom (see Egg Bloom). The egg bloom protects the egg from both bacteria and moisture loss. [...]
Continue reading Hatching Eggs – Collecting & Storing
Spring finally seems to be here, so in the first semi-dry weekend, we cleaned and inspected the year-old chicken coop. We use the “deep-litter” method for managing coop sanitation, which basically means putting down a 4” layer of pine shavings (the “litter”) mixed with a little diatomaceous earth, adding more pine shavings as the ratio of droppings to shavings gets too large, and cleaning in the spring and fall (see Deep Litter & Healthy Chickens). For the health of the birds, it’s important not to let ammonia levels get too high, so it’s a good idea to clean before spring [...]
Continue reading Semi-Annual Chicken Coop Cleaning & Evaluation
The more I learn about chickens, the more I think they are truly remarkable creatures. Just before laying an egg, the hen adds a protective layer called “bloom” or cuticle to the outside of the egg. This coating seals the shell pores, prevents bacteria from getting inside the shell, and reduces moisture loss from the egg – all designed to make the egg last longer.
Unfortunately, because of conditions at some large egg operations, commercial eggs are washed right after collection to make them appear clean and presentable. Of course, this destroys the protective egg bloom. To try replacing natural bloom, [...]
Continue reading Egg “Bloom”
After the new coop arrived, Randy wondered whether we should “paint the inside” to protect the wood, and make it harder for chicken parasites to hide-out. Not knowing the answer but thinking it sounded reasonable, I asked on the Backyard Chicken forum, and the response was unanimously in favor of painting. Everyone noted how much easier to clean, better-looking, and pest resistant coops were if treated before being put to use.
One responder to that post (thank you!), also suggested that Minwax (Helmsman) Spar Urethane was a product that they had researched, was safe, and would be good for protecting the inside of a chicken coop. We did [...]
Continue reading New Chicken Coop Protection
Will & Bab Really Dusting
One of the funniest chicken behaviors to watch is dust bathing. The chickens find some warm, dry, loose material like dirt, sand, or mulch; and proceed to dig themselves in. They’ll dig and dig, throwing dirt all over themselves, and make happy noises while doing it. One place ours like to bath is beneath a window with a bench seat, and we enjoy sitting there watching and listening to them bath.
Why Dust Baths
Chickens take dust baths to get clean and rid themselves of the parasites that tend to afflict them (mites, fleas, etc.), because instinct has taught [...]
Continue reading Chickens Don’t Take Water Baths – They Take Dust Baths!