In March of 2017 ‘I thought it would be a good idea to buy a different type if chicken…I thought this is what I wanted because I thought I wanted my chickens to be free range and self-sufficient as possible. I thought. We picked up the 14 little darlings, brought them home and by June I counted 58.’

Then in September I wrote ‘The wild chicken flock turned into a shit show frenzy. This count BTW did not include my mellow domestic orchard chickens (11) and good old one eyed Pumpkin. Thank god I didn’t combine them.  At first I thought maybe just these poults are nervous. Nope.  They’re nuts. It’s hard to catch a crazy chicken if it’s wounded. And it’s hard to collect eggs when they’re all over the fucking place like some Easter Egg hunt on Mescaline. If I’m not getting eggs to eat, but I’m feeding more and more mouths this relationship is out of balance. Allowing a flock to grow that numerous is asking for disease. I kept looking for eggs and all I got was more chicks.’

Worse yet; we don’t want uncontrolled free range chickens in a Semi-arid environment we’re restoring.

Shaye understands and wrote about it.

http://theelliotthomestead.com/2015/04/building-a-chicken-run/

Let the building begin.

 

Chicks separated from hens, hand reared, interior coop split between boys and girls, outdoor areas assigned. Done.

By Thanksgiving.

Now we’re back on track.

Eggs

The eggs are collected, sanded and stored. The sanded eggs are placed in 12 or 18 pack store-bought containers and placed in the fridge.  We saved and stored left over egg cartons for years in clean, dry totes in anticipation of one day having chickens. When the paper egg cartons reach the end of their useful lives, they are returned to the soil as part of our composting process. One day – should there be no electricity – those sanded eggs will keep in the basement temps for months.

eggs

We rinse the egg shells and dry them on the shelf over the wood stove. Once they’re dry we use a potato masher to crush the egg shells inside an old empty clean plastic mayonnaise jar. Then the shells are redistributed back to the hens.

Once they’re dry we use a potato masher to crush the egg shells inside an old empty clean plastic mayonnaise jar. Then the shells are redistributed back to the hens. I use old ‘disposable’ pie tins and place 50% egg shells and 50% chick grit around a small circular garden stone (to hold it down) and refill it when needed.

In the Orchard the old water from their bowls is dumped onto trees, shrubs or the chicken manure compost pile and the new water comes from the rain catchment barrel, or nearby spigot, or house (depending upon the season and temps).

In the Gulag area the water (in the winter) comes from a 520 gallon rain catchment tank (inside the earth berm & retaining wall) – which never freezes – and comes out of the faucet of a reclaimed wash sink.  Gravity, pressure and a marine foot operated galley pump delivers the water.

A segment of left over pvc pipe drains out of the sink into a 5 gallon bucket, and when that’s full we use it to water the GH plants, among them; nasturtium &  dandelion, the ingredients in my chicken wormer.

The chickens are wormed naturally 2x per year; spring and autumn. Here’s the recipe I use. I credit Fresh Eggs Daily for providing me with the information.

Chicken Wormer

I grow my own ingredients. I purchase the molasses & yogurt. During the year I harvest the cucurbits, rinse & dry the seeds, freeze the pulp for spring worming. Should there be no electricity, I would store the squash over-winter to use in the spring. The greens are harvested & dried, or grown in the GH. The molasses & yogurt are ingredients that act to ‘expel’ the results faster, should be used in limited amounts, and are not mandatory for this recipe to work.

Recipe for ten chickens

3 ½ Cups squash

½ Cup Cucurbit seeds: ground. (Cucumber, Pumpkin, Squash, Watermelon are all in the Cucurbit family).

1 ½ Cup Nasturtium leaves & stems, loosely packed

1 Cup carrots

1 Tablespoon Molasses

1 Tablespoon plain yogurt

2 Cup dandelion greens

2 entire garlic bulbs (not cloves – whole bulb)

I can say unequivocally:  disease will not ravage the flock if the coops are kept clean, no new (potentially diseased) chickens are introduced from outside the flock, wild birds are kept away from the coop interiors, water, & feed to the maximum extent possible.

The health of the flock is dependent upon space, wholistic nutrition, and wholistic medicine. Injuries are treated with a combination of herbal & traditional medical supplies. Chicks are fed with supplementary antibiotics inherent in chick feed for the first portion of their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Oil of Oregano and Fresh Garlic 4x per week

Cleaning the coop

Yesterday I noticed the Orchard coop needed cleaning. This is a rather simple matter and this is where relationship matters: the pitchfork keeps me and I keep the pitchfork. As I learn how to care for my tools (maintenance, repair) they will most likely outlive me, and as I use them, they may continue to keep me at my high school weight, and add years to my own life.*  Straw from under the roosts is added to the compost pile, floor straw moved to under the roosts, bare floor, nest boxes and posts sprinkled with diatomaceous earth (posts sanded on rotations), floor straw added (if needed) to the area of the floor not directly under the roosts. We buy our straw locally. We live in straw country. Running out of this resource is unlikely, even if the larger system takes a hit. Both coops have been provided with large plastic hooped sun collectors that feed warm air into the coop. This creates an additional dry area during the winter for dust baths.

* We truly do live ‘in the middle of nowhere’ so I save $ and petrol by not driving to the gym. My life is my gym, and I don’t pay for it – it pays me.

Roosts

I use tree branches with a wider diameter than the feet of the chickens (their toes don’t wrap all the way around the branch).

Take sand paper (wear a mask) and sand the roosts

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the branches

Common sense: when it looks like the roosts are getting fouled; they are. Clean them.

Nest boxes

The Bigger the chicken, the bigger the box.

What do I use? A Combination of designs.

  • Large planting container angled down in the back with a towel in front
  • Large old salvaged wooden feed bin from the barn with a towel in front
  • Silly foo foo “cabana” copied from a design on the internet

Diatomaceous Earth

We use food grade diatomaceous earth with no additives. Some brands claim “all Natural” and contain insecticides. Avoid those.  Wood Ash, should DE become inaccessible, works the same – by suffocating mites. We have plenty of wood ash from the wood burning stove. Another loop closed.

In the warm months I hang mint, local native Artemisia (sage), and lemon balm from string, and crush it in my hands to distribute around the nesting boxes and near the roosts. We grow all three of these plants here on the property so accessibility is no problem. My understanding is that flies don’t like mint, and mites don’t like garlic or Artemisia, so the garlic cloves in the chickens water and food treats the issue from an internal prospective while the Artemisia tackles the issue externally. I string bunches of Artemisia from the rafters in each of the coops.  It takes minutes.

Sometimes a chicken is injured and the reasons can vary. It may be that an older hen refuses the new young rooster and he gets too rough, as in Pumpkins case, when she suffered the permanent loss of her eye.

Pumpkin’s blind side

I treated a hen with two severed toes (one partial, one entire) and she did fine, and I’ve encountered two cases in chicks where they did not make it (not yet identified), one case of fly strike for a hen (had to put her down). I can say that I’ve had more issues with poor health when buying my chickens from outside sources. That’s why we have taken on the extra responsibility of raising roosters. In my mind it’s better to have a self-sustaining flock from which I can learn more about the behaviors of chickens in general and without having to pay for more hens when I need them. I have learned enough in 2017 to be able to manage the roosters and hens I have, cross breed them and develop a better flock.

Here is the medicine chest we keep in order to treat injuries and again I wish to credit Lisa at Fresh Eggs Daily.

Medical supplies:

  • Wounds: Green Goo, Vetricyn spray, sterile bandages, saline solution, Boric Acid (2C water to ¼ tsp Borax), Iodine (Betadine), self-adhesive gauze, self-adhesive bandage.

Rules:

  • Never wipe an injury, even with sterile gauze; doing this pushes germs deeper into the injury. Instead flush or irrigate injury then apply green goo or Vetricyn.
  • Use non-needle syringe to flush eye injury out with Borax mixture.
  • Never return a wounded hen back to the flock with an injury showing – especially ‘red’ inflamed flesh. If you absolutely have to, cover the injured area with gentian violet.

In Pumpkin’s case and due to her injury she could not be reinserted back into her flock. She has her  own enclosure which she shares with our two indoor/outdoor cats, and even with the use of only one eye – is happy, healthy and still laying eggs.

 

Euthanasia for young chickens under two months of age. This pertains to chicks obviously very ill, i.e. deformed, already dying.

Depending upon the level of person’s consciousness, self-courage & accountability each human faces death on this planet in a different way and visits that perspective on all life around the self in varying degrees. This planet has evolved in its own way, with its own peculiar sets of rules. Bluntly put: if you do not want to decapitate or drown the chick, here is a way to let the animal go. http://www.alysion.org/euthanasia/

We have used this method twice. It works. Take responsibility for your own actions, I hold no responsibility for you or your actions.

Feed

Presently we use  Nutrena crumbled layer 50# bag @ $14.58  which costs about 7 cents per bird per day. 99% of all corn sold in the US is GMO, we’re presently working with the local feed store to find non GMO corn scratch products. We are also attempting to grow our own maize in sufficient quantities. I’m always on the look out for better grains and feed mixes without spending a lot. More research for sure.

Supplemental feed

Kitchen scraps ground up & mixed with either dry oatmeal, white rice, brown rice or quinoa with a scoop of probiotics every now and then. I use the Durvet Probiotics for poultry 100gm @ $10

NO: avocado, chocolate, onion, celery, tomato, leek, raw potato, and go easy on the rice.

Summer time when it’s hot; lots of watermelon and melons in general to keep them hydrated.

Behavior & Egg development

Hens begin forming the egg in the late afternoon. If they are startled or stressed the eggs may show fractures, then when extra calcium is produced during the over-night egg formation, the eggs will have a mottled striation – this does not indicate disease, it does indicate stress from the day before.

I have included links at the end of this blog for identifying potential health issues with graphic pictures of egg deformities.

Chickens are sentient beings who each have a personality. Dynamics within a flock will be in flux more often than not as hens & roosters age, new chicks are added, and members of the flock are culled or die from old age (disease).

Chickens depend upon routine, which can be appreciated and if addressed logically can transform drudgery into mutual ritual.

Two Ukrainian women, who serve as my mentors, have debunked the suburban angst of introducing new hens, new roosters. KISS (keep it simple). Pick them up, band the leg, release into the flock, end of story. The wild Hens are kept penned and separated from the roosters.  The wild roosters get along  without hens in the mix and are provided more area to work out the hierarchy and avoid disputes that could lead to injuries.

Winter: In the northern temperate climates, although many persons are working to invent winter chicken watering systems; No one has yet invented a non-complex, inexpensive, low energy input, 100% dependable way to water chickens in the winter. I’m working out a design that focuses more on insulation than conduction to keep the water from freezing. That design will be used in the Orchard for the orchard flock. The gulag flock has clean rain water 24/7 thanks to the 520 gallon collection container buried deep inside the retaining wall up against the earth berm green house.

None of our roosters have showed signs of frost bite on their combs despite the low temps here.

Orchard flock: Genetic mix of Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Araucana, Brown Leghorn. There are 10 hens, and three roosters born this year in July. One rooster claims dominance, the other two are kept away, all roost together at night.

Gulag Flock: hens and roosters are separated within the coop. Three young roosters are in with the hens now. As each one matures he will be placed with the roosters. Once the hens begin laying, one rooster will be placed with them for two days to breed, then returned.

Benefit: the roosters get along, help to keep the coop slightly warmer (10 watts per bird), are inexpensive to feed ( 7 cents per day) & water, and will add to the food stock later on, and keep the flock genetically healthy through mixed breeding.

The ‘wild hens’ in the gulag will always be contained. Their job is to produce eggs (and chicks in specific numbers at specific times of the year). The hens are a mix of silver laced Wyandotte, golden laced Wyandotte, Australorp, Bantum. Wild chicken characteristics range from full comb, pea comb, no comb, rose comb, black legs, tan legs, brown legs.

 

Flighty? Yes. Terrified? Not any more. This is one of my little guys who doesn’t wait for me to kneel down during treat time.

Heat & Sun

Chickens need shade. They can have 4,000 feathers per bird so as long as there are no roost level drafts, winter isn’t the issue, but summer is. We refused to keep chickens in the first 4 years until we grew more trees and were certain about correct placement for the flocks. Our tree and plant inventory for CBP can be found here: http://columbiabasinpermaculture.com/?page_id=5198

The Orchard area has plenty of shade, the gulag area is partially shaded, and will be completely shaded by 2019, until then we use tarps & and a lean-to with access via a wire tunnel to the lilac area.

cheers,

sheila

How to sex a chicken any age from a Woman who knows her stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ffrSCfQUus

Common Egg deformities with pics of course and explanations: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/common-egg-quality-problems.65923/

How to catch a rooster with a home made tool, how to hold them once you’ve caught them.  Mexican man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N08y3uQvwTw

How to tame and settle rosters and hens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rcoo3-Er0A8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXUi8-uxPXU

Taming and curing flighty chickens

https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/taming-and-curing-flighty-birds.66152/

The final word on Auracana vs Ameracuana vs Easter Eggers

http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/09/ameraucana-easter-egger-or-araucana.html

and from her website the history of the riff raff of misinformation on the subject from someone who knows the 500+ year history.  http://ameraucanaalliance.org/

Types of chickens and how to figure out what you’ve got

Go Here: and put in any type of cross and pictures will come up as examples

https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Wyandotte+Australorp+Cross&FORM=IRMHIP

Fresh eggs daily has some thoughts on egg colors and chicken types

http://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2012/02/rainbow-of-egg-colors.html