Just like our digestive tract, that of the chicken is lined with trillions of tiny bacteria. Most of these bacteria are good, keep the digestive tract (and rest of the body) healthy, and even help with digestion. One way to keep the digestive tract of a chicken happy and functioning properly is to create a balanced environment of bacteria. We can help with this process by supplying our chicken friends with more beneficial bacteria, called probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that are added to an animal’s diet, they line the digestive tract and interact directly with the chicken’s own cells to help food digestion and promote immunity. Probiotics have also been considered as good alternatives to treating animals with antibiotics. Although it is not completely understood how these bacteria promote health, the use of these beneficial bacteria in both humans and farm animals is an area of intensive research.
Choosing the Right Probiotic
Choosing the right probiotic is very important, as some that may be good for humans may not be good for chickens. It is important to do your research for studies showing positive (and negative) effects of probiotics on chicken health. One probiotic that has received a lot of attention for its positive impact on chicken health is Lactobacillus acidophilus. This is a Gram-positive bacterium that does not cause disease, and actually has been shown to reduce disease-causing bacteria! Below are some summaries of research using L. acidophilus to promote chicken health and performance.
Effects on Feed Intake and Growth Performance
One study on supplementing chicken diets with L. acidophilus showed a significant beneficial effect on body weight gain between 15–28 d and improved feed conversion rate in the overall period. Along with this, litter moisture and pH were not impacted. The researchers found a significant difference in decrease of potentially harmful bacteria, results that were attributed to the improvement of the intestinal microbial balance by competitive exclusion (crowding out the harmful bacteria). Another study showed similar results, with better feed conversion ratios. Broiler meat quality has also benefited from probiotic supplementation.
Effects on Egg Production and Quality
Probiotics such as L. acidophilus added to diet improved daily egg production in hens, and some studies showed direct increases in egg production that also corresponded to increases in daily probiotic supplementation. While I could not find any studies showing differences in egg shell hardness with probiotic supplementation, one study showed higher egg weight from Lactobacillus fed hens. Others have also shown decreases in egg yolk cholesterol, presumably due to the ability of L. acidophilus to absorb cholesterol.
The use of probiotics has been shown to improve natural defenses against pathogenic bacteria. Studies have shown that L. acidophilus and other probiotics can inhibit the growth of Campylobacter jejuni, an important source of intestinal illness in humans. Another important finding was that newly hatched chickens could be protected against infection by Salmonella enteritidis. In addition to this, L. acidophilus increases antibody production against viruses such as the one causing Newcastle disease, a devastating respiratory disease, that also leads to depression, nervous manifestations, or diarrhea in the chickens.
The positive effects of L. acidophilus encompass more than I can include here, such as reducing diarrhea and smelly feces, and these bacteria also aid in suppressing pest flies…just to name a few! One way to add these beneficial bacteria to your flock’s diet is with PopWorms! PRO. Chickens love these black soldier fly treats, and each bag is packed with L. acidophilus that delivers natural nutrition! To help us celebrate the launch of this new product, use the coupon code PRO for $2.00 off each bag of PopWorms! PRO you buy (valid through 7/7/2019). Check them out today!
Chickens are not just great for having fresh eggs every morning. They can actually be quite entertaining! If you are considering adding backyard chickens to your homestead, here are some fun facts about chickens that we're sure will encourage you to do so.
1. Chickens are very intelligent.
Research has shown that chickens have much higher cognitive, emotional, social, and personal attributes and abilities than originally believed. They understand object permanence - something that young children don't understand until later - and are able to use Machaivellian manipulation to get what they want. They can even be trained! A quick look at this video is sure prove this fact...plus put a smile on your face.
2. Chickens feel emotions.
Chickens care! Scientists tested mother hens' responses to distress of their chicks and found that they were affected by the emotional state of their chicks.
3. Hens enjoy classical music.
On accident, a farmer who was playing opera and classical music during some minor construction on his farm, discovered that his hens laid more, larger eggs when they listened to it. Apparently, the soothing sounds block out noises that hens might find distressing.
3. Hens communicate with their chicks while they're still in the shell.Not only that, but the un-hatched chicks will chirp back to their mother. Mother hens are very protective of their young.
4. Hens lay an average of 350 eggs per year.
However, this number can vary depending on the breed and weather/lighting. The largest recorded egg according to the Guinness Book of World Records is 15 ounces and was laid by a White Leghorn in New Jersey, in 1956.
5. Chickens can see better than humans.
Not only can chickens see (and dream) in full color, but they can also see ultraviolet lights that humans cannot see.
6. Chickens, however, can't taste as well as humans.
Humans have around 9,000 tastebuds throughout their mouth but chickens only have a fraction of this located in the backs of their mouths which means they don't even taste the food they're eating until they've swallowed it.
7. Chickens can make great pets.
Since chickens are clearly intelligent, emotional, and social, it's no surprise that raising back yard chickens has boomed in popularity in the U.S. While you might originally begin raising chickens for the eggs or meat, you might find that you just fall in love with this quirky, funny fowl.
Does my chicken's crop look normal? Is my chicken having diarrhea? Why is my chicken eating rocks? If you're asking yourself any of these questions, you might wish to learn a bit more about how your chickens eat, digest, and excrete their food. Chickens have some organs that are similar to mammals such as large and small intestines, pancreas, and liver, but other aspects of chicken anatomy are very different and can be confusing to new chicken owners. Here's an overview of how a healthy chicken's digestive system works.
Pecking and Swallowing
Chickens are omnivores and will probably eat just about anything you feed them. However, that doesn't mean that they should eat anything. Healthy chickens eat foods such as corn, seeds, greens, worms, and more. Chickens also eat grit, or small stones, to help them chew their food, since they don't have teeth. In order for your chickens to be healthy, it's very important that you research what your breed of chicken should be consuming.
As human children, we were always told to not swallow without chewing our food. Chickens, however, don't have any teeth! Instead, they simply gulp down their food whole. In the chicken's mouth, food is mixed with a small amount of saliva and digestive enzymes. Next, the food travels down the chicken's esophagus and is temporarily stored in their crop to be digested later. A chicken's crop will naturally look larger after eating since they have food stashed there. Food can stay in a chicken's crop for up to 12 hours, and it is slowly sent down the esophagus to the next destination.
After exiting the crop, the food moves down into the chicken's version of a stomach, called a proventriculus. Similarly to the stomach of mammals, the food is mixed with hydrochloric acid and other enzymes to help digest it. However, the food still hasn't been chewed yet. This happens in the second sort of "stomach" called the gizzard. In the gizzard, the food is ground up by small stones (or grit) that the chicken ate earlier. Make sure that you keep small pieces of metal and glass away from your chickens, because sharp objects will get stuck in the chickens' gizzard and poke a hole in it, eventually killing your chicken.
Next, the food is digested further in the small intestines, pancreas, liver, and gall bladder. The large intestines then remove nutrients from the food. After the large intestines, the chickens have ceca, which are two pouches where they extract more nutrients by fermenting the remainder of the food that isn't digested yet. Every day, the chicken empties its ceca with an excrement that is pasty and light brown. The final parts of the chicken's digestive system are the cloaca and the vent. In the cloaca, urinary waste is mixed with the digestive waste, since chickens don't have bladders. Finally, the waste is excreted through the vent.
Common Digestive Problems
Some common chicken digestive problems include an impacted crop, sour crop, or pendulous crop. An impacted crop means the opening to the esophagus from the crop is blocked. This happens because something has gotten stuck in the crop such as string or tough, long pieces of grass. Your chicken might have an impacted crop if its crop is always full even if it hasn't eaten in a while, if the crop feels hard, or if the chicken is acting out of the ordinary. Sour crop is a yeast infection in the crop, similar to thrush in humans. A sign of sour crop is that the crop is full and feels squishy, the bird's breath smells sour, or the bird has white patches in the mouth. Pendulous crop is when the crop has been stretched out and swings lower than it normally would. Pendulous crop can sometimes be caused by an impacted crop. The chicken may seem like it's okay, but the muscles in the crop are being damaged and require medical attention.
If you're looking to further benefit your chicken's digestive health, check out the delicious, nutritious treats for chickens at PopWorms.
Anyone with a home flock has, or will, experienced times of reduced egg production. While it is normal to have a period of low or no production during your bird's yearly molting period, there are steps you can take to increase your birds production throughout the year. Here are 4 tips to encourage your home flock to fill their nests.
Feed, and Treat, Your Flock Right
Even if you free range your flock, 90% of their intake should come from a balance commercial layer product. You can choose mash or pelleted form, but keep their feeders full at all times. Clean water, and free feeding of grit and calcium will support their egg production by improving digestion and good shell formation.
Offer treats like vegetables and kitchen scraps, and black soldier fly larvae for added protein and fat in the afternoon. This practice of later day treat offerings will ensure your birds have an adequate intake of their layer feed. If you supplement free range hens with only corn you'll cut your egg production in half.
Hens Need Light Routinely
Egg production will slow in the winter months, and anytime your birds aren't getting enough light. Hens need at least 14 hours of daylight to produce eggs. You can successfully use artificial light to encourage egg production during the shorter days of late fall and winter.
Laying Hens Are Socially Influenced
Gather eggs a few times a day. If eggs remain in their nest your hens might instinctively behave like mothers and reduce laying to incubate eggs instead. A brooding hen won't lay eggs. Keep nest boxes clean, and remove the eggs from the nests to keep hens laying.
Adding new members to the flock causes some social upset. So, if you add hens, you might see a temporary reduction in eggs as the pecking order is reestablished, but this practice is a great way to keep your production high in a home flock.
Age & Breed Influence Egg Production
Pick a layer breed for the best production. Hen's lay the most eggs in their first laying cycle. Starting at about 20-weeks of age, where you can expect about an egg a day per young bird in the first cycle. This will slowly reduce over time. By the 3rd laying cycle production may drop off sharply. If you don't want to let go of your favorite hens, consider adding a few new members to your flock for continued productivity.
Why did the chicken lay the colored egg?
Different chickens lay different colored eggs. The color of the egg is determined by genetics. All eggs start out white when forming inside the hen. Before the hen lays the egg, the pigment is deposited that will give the egg it's color. Chicken eggs can come in a diverse range of colors from white to cream, green, pink, blue and even chocolate brown.
Taste the rainbow.
A lot of people say that they think brown eggs taste better than white eggs. Others may question how good a green egg could possibly be. However, the egg flavor and nutrition is not based on the egg, but, rather, the diet of the chicken that the egg originates. A chicken with a diet high in grasses, seeds, vegetables, and herbs will produce a better tasting egg.
The diet of the chicken can also change the color of the yolk inside. Where some chicken eggs have a darker yellow color yolk, some have a lighter color. The whites in the eggs can also vary in color. The color of the whites reflects the amount of riboflavin (producing greenish egg whites) and carbon dioxide (cloudy colored egg whites). Some eggs also contain a white sometimes stringy mass in the whites. That is called chalazae. They are a natural part of the egg and anchor the yolk in the thick white. The size of the chalazae will determine the quality of the egg. The more prominent the chalazae, the higher quality in the egg. Want to add to your chicken and egg nutrition? Feed them PopWorms! ECO.
What color egg will your chicken lay?
The two most common color of eggs is white and brown. The white eggs that you buy in stores often come from Leghorn chickens. They can lay up to 280-300 eggs a year. They are very active and hardy birds. Other chickens that lay white eggs are Andalusian, Ancona, Lakenvelder, Polish, and Hamburg.
Australorp chickens are popular and have easy care. They lay about 250 brown eggs a yea. Australorp chickens are good for both their eggs and their meat. While Australorp chickens lay a lighter brown egg color, Welsummer, Barnevelder, Marans, and Penedesenca chickens lay a darker brown color.
Blue eggs are relatively rare. The most common of these breeds are the Cream Legbar chickens. This breed is still relatively rare. Cream Legbar chicken hens lay around 200 eggs per year.
There is one breed of chicken that does, in fact, lay a rainbow of colors. The Easter Egger lay blue, green, pinkish, and cream eggs. Easter Eggers area variety of chicken that lays large to extra-large eggs. Shades vary from blue to green to olive to aqua and sometimes even pinkish. They are friendly and hardy birds making them a great choice for a family flock.
So much to choose from.
With so many different types of chickens laying so many different colors, it is hard to choose which chicken is right for your coop. Before starting your flock make sure you do plenty of research so you know just how to care for your new feathered friends. Backyard Poultry is a great place to look for information. The Old Farmer's Almanac is another great source of information on which breed to go with and how to care for them.
The taste of deviled eggs immediately takes me to family Christmas parties, July 4th celebrations, and Easter get-togethers. They have always been a staple in my family. My mother was the designated deviled egg maker for our large family and would make dozens at a time. She would let my brother, sister and I “stuff” the eggs, but always warned us not to eat the stuffing UNLESS there was stuffing leftover after all of the eggs were filled. But most of the time, she would end up boiling extra eggs to account for the extra stuffing that we would eat. I would like to say that I have outgrown that temptation, but I have not.
Deviled eggs are creamy, yummy little packages of flavor. They are extremely versatile and can be sweet or savory, and can be topped with just about anything. I never say no to eggs, and now have many from my mother and friend’s backyard chickens. So, in coming up with what to do with the eggs, the first thing that came to my mind was deviled eggs. I was going to make deviled eggs topped with pickled shrimp, but a friend of mine suggested topping with candied bacon. Though the shrimp topping is tasty, I was intrigued by the combination of crispy, smoky-sweet bacon topping the decadent eggs. This recipe also introduces a tiny bit of heat by also dusting the bacon in cayenne and topping the eggs with slices of pickled jalapeno. I also mixed sweet and dill relish for the stuffing, and added just a touch of cayenne. In the end it is a wonderful cornucopia of flavors of sweet and sour, with just the right amount of heat! Thanks so much to my friend for this suggestion; It is definitely a keeper! I served the eggs with pimento cheese, toast, stone-ground mustard and sweet gherkins. Make and Enjoy!
Servings: 12 deviled eggs
6 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
4 slices thick-cut bacon
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cayenne powder and more to taste
¼ good quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
½ tablespoon sweet relish
½ tablespoon dill relish
Salt and pepper to taste
12 slices pickled jalapeño, cut in half
Paprika if desired for garnish
For the bacon:
For the eggs:
Raising baby chicks can be a lot of fun for the whole family. They're adorable, funny and so sweet. However, they are live animals and any baby animal must be treated with care. In addition to the regular care you should take with raising birds, there are also several chick diseases you want to watch out for. Here are two of the most common diseases or conditions along with treatment method and preventative measures you can take.
This is the number one killer of baby chicks and the disease you most need to worry about. This is a highly contagious parasitic disease of the intestinal tract. This disease can kill your chicks so quickly, you may not know they have it until you've already lost it. Sick chicks may be weak and listless and have bloody or foamy stool.
Prevent Coccidiosis by buying pre-vaccinated chicks or making sure chicks you hatch at home are vaccinated or fed medicated feed early on.
Treat sick chicks with a Corid 9.6% liquid solution. The dosage is 9.5cc to a gallon of water for five days. Make sure to isolate sick chicks from all other chicks.
Dehydration is both very serious and a very easy condition for chicks to come down with. Dehydrated chicks can die very quickly from dehydration so you should always take all measures to prevent this and treat it very quickly if it happens. Dehydrated chicks will become pale in the face, start to pant or breathe heavily and become listless and weak.
To prevent dehydration always keep clean, cool, fresh water available in a place the chicks can easily reach. Change it frequently as chicks will get their water dirty very quickly.
To treat dehydration, wrap the chick in a tow and provide water with electrolytes via medicine dropper a few drops at a time. You can also provide the water and dip their beak in to encourage them to drink.
Hatching Backyard Chickens from Eggs
Picture an elementary school classroom. On a desk at one end sits a small incubator with a few quiet eggs. Little faces peer with wonder through the glass. As the children watch with rapt attention, a little beak moves. The little chick works. She works and works, poking and pecking at the outside of her shell until finally she's out. Wobbly, she stands next to the broken egg shell as the children cheer.
You don't have to be a child to experience the childlike joy and wonder that comes from watching a chicken hatch from an egg. Anyone can hatch chickens from eggs in an incubator. You can set it up right in your living room. Once the chicks hatch and grow into adult chickens, you can add them to an existing backyard flock, or use them to start one. Hatching chickens from eggs is a fun and rewarding experience. Here's a list of things you will need if you want to get started:
There are a lot of choices for incubators so try not to get overwhelmed. You could buy one from a supplier, or, if you think this is a one-time project, rent one. Try calling agricultural schools, farms or schools in your area go see if they have one you can borrow or rent. If you don't have any luck finding a local place to borrow one from, try searching for incubator rentals online. You can find a place like this one that can rent you an incubator for a short period of time. If you decide to buy, a quick internet search will get you a ton of options. Some things to keep in mind when choosing your incubator:
All your set up efforts would seem kind of silly if you didn't get eggs, right? But where? Again, local agricultural schools and farms are a good resource here. If you go with a local farm, you may not have much of a choice over what kind of chickens you get. If this is important to you, you should probably turn to the internet. Many hatcheries will ship fertile eggs to you, and you can pick the breed of chicken. Pick a breed based on your needs. If you want power layers, go for something like the Rhode Island Red, or another one from this list. If you are working with limited space, bantams are a good option. They're mini chickens, but they can still give you delicious eggs.
Once you've got everything ready, you sit back and… wait. Your incubated eggs will take approximately 21 days to hatch. As they say, the waiting is the hardest part!
Chickens never stop scratching, hunting and eating-and neither do we. Wouldn't it be great if we could share the products of our next harvest with our flock by planting healthy, easy to grow fruits and veggies that would feed all of us? Whether you're planning a backyard garden or have a greenhouse, there are plenty of awesome crops awaiting your discovery. Gardeners and homesteaders alike can take advantage of these fruits and veggies because they're easy to grow, produce large amounts of food, and are packed with the nutrition both humans and chickens need to stay fit and productive.
Top 10 Sustainable Foods for You & Your Brood
Chickens and people love the following easy to grow herbs, fruits, and veggies. The good news is, they are crops that grow all across the country regardless of your gardening zone.
1) Broccoli Greens: Provide flowers for people, leaves and stems with a little grit for the chicks.
Nutritional Values: Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc
2) Nasturtiums: Grows annually with human grade foliage and flowers, plant them alongside your fence for the chicks to munch on.
Nutritional values: Sodium, Vitamin C
3) Beet Greens: Thrives in both warm and cool weather, chickens love these and you can add them to soups just as you would celery.
Nutritional Values: Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A
4) Carrots: Best of both worlds; carrots for your mirepoix and the healthy greens get gobbled up by the chickens.
Nutritional Values: Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin B-6, Magnesium
5) Clover: White clover for puddings, red clover for tea, chickens love it and it helps your garden by attracting bees.
Nutritional Value: Calcium, Chromium, Magnesium, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Thiamine, Vitamin C
6) Dandelions: Helps support a healthy digestive tract in chickens and people can add them to enhance delicious salads.
Nutritional Value: Protein, Choline, Inulin, Pectin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, B6, Thiamine, Calcium, Copper, Manganese, Iron
7) Greens: Oh, the bountiful harvest! So healthy, so nutritious, so yum and so big!
a) Mustard Greens
Nutritional Value: Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Vitamin C, Vitamin K
8) Berries: Chickens love these sweet treats and they grow very well in containers.
Nutritional Value: Calcium, Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin B-6, Magnesium
9) Sunflowers: Harvest and dry both the flowers and seeds in late summer, they store well and are packed with protein.
Nutritional Value: Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin B-6, Magnesium
10) Pumpkins, Melons, Zucchini, Squash: Grows well during the summer and easily stored for soups, pies and a super tasty treat for chicks.
Nutritional Value: Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin B-6, Magnesium
Hacks for Healthier Hens
Lisa Steele, owner of Fresh Eggs Daily states, "I have been fermenting whole and cracked grain organic layer feed with added oats and cracked corn. The chickens love it and I'm confident I'm providing them THE best diet I can." More good advice comes from Off the Grid News, "Learn how to grow fodder yourself inside. Fodder is an excellent supplement for your chickens in the winter months. It will boost the quality of your eggs, as well."
Adding more chickens to your flock is a delightful way to have more fresh eggs, friendly clucking, and silly antics to watch. In order to achieve a healthy, utopian environment for the whole flock, consider these tips when introducing the newcomers to the rest of the flock.
Chickens instinctively establish a pecking order from a very young age. This process establishes an authoritarian system, and determines dominance and rank. With new chickens in the coop, the status quo changes and the pecking order must be reestablished.
Chickens will fluff their neck feathers, strut, raise their wings, and peck at each other's necks to establish pecking order. The weaker ones will submit to the more dominant ones and effectively give up their rights to eating and drinking first, as well as access to the most coveted nesting boxes. This is a normal and necessary step to how the flock functions, but introductions should be made slowly and with care.
Consider the Breed and Size
Some breeds of chickens are more welcoming to newcomers than others. Hybrids, Buff Orpingtons and Plymouth Rocks are friendly, docile, and take to newcomers easily. On the other hand, Silkies or Rhode Island Reds can be very territorial and may not readily accept newbies.
Be sure to wait to introduce the chickens until they are all about the same size. Introducing younger chickens while they are still small in size will lead to inevitable bullying.
Eggs-amine Your Space
Make sure your chicken coop has enough space to accommodate everyone. This includes adequate space on the roosting bar, enough nesting boxes, free space around feeders and waterers, and plenty of personal space per chicken both inside and outside of the coop. Tight, cramped quarters lead to territorial, cranky birds that are more likely to fight.
When it's time to make introductions it is wise to not rush the process.
If you haven't done so already, check out our post from last week on tips for building a chicken coop; you might get lucky and find a coupon code!