Nothing is more exciting than starting off your chicken raising adventure! Whether you're starting a coop to harvest precious eggs, raising birds for meat, or just enjoying the company (and sometimes cacophony) of a flock of beautiful birds, you'll need to make sure your yard is ready!
The most important investments you'll make for your chickens is quality housing and a safe outdoor space to frolic.
Chicken Coops: Size Matters!
The size of your coop depends on the number of chickens you plan on having. You don't want to overcrowd poultry! Floor space should be your number one concern when planning your coop.
Per Coopsandcages.com "Ideally, every chicken must have at least 3 feet space. Therefore, if you have 5 birds, you'll have to get an enclosure that measures 15 [square] feet. In addition to the recommended 3 feet space, every coop must also have a roosting area, a nesting area, and a feeding area."
Chicken Runs: Shady Pastures
Fit your yard for chickens with plenty of shade and plenty of water. You can hand water chickens once or twice a day or purchase automatic chicken waterers. These still need to be checked every day! Chickens love dust baths, so a nice dry spot of dirt would really be appreciated.
Finally, shade is key! Chickens can suffer from heat exhaustion in the summer, so make sure you have some methods to cool down your yard, and plenty of shade.
Welcome to an amazing new hobby! You're going to have so much fun! Check out the rest of our blog for more great chicken articles and stories, and to learn more about our PopWorms! ECO and PopWorms! PRO chicken treats! Your chickens will thank you!
If there's one thing chickens love, it's insects! We might have their lack of taste buds to thank, or maybe chickens know how good insects are for them.
They'll eat just about any type of creepy-crawly, including ticks (which aren’t insects, but are closely related to spiders!). Eating these not only makes your yard a safer and more comfortable place to be, but it's good for your flock, too.
Benefits of Eating Insects
Insects like crickets and grasshoppers, and other arthropods such as millipedes and spiders are a good source of protein for chickens. In addition to being nutritious, chasing down these meals fulfills your chickens' natural instinct to forage for their food; a free (and fun!) source of food for your feathered omnivores.
Remember that no matter how "buggy" your yard is, chickens cannot survive on these alone. Be sure to feed your flock complete feeds regularly, and always have clean water available.
Some Words of Caution
Certain types of flies are not only annoying, but they are harmful to chickens. House flies and blow flies (the metallic blue and green flies) can cause a skin condition commonly called "flystrike." These flies are attracted to droppings, leftover and rotting food, and untreated or open wounds on your animals. Because flystrike can be fatal, it's important to keep your coop and the area around it clean.
If your chickens are free-ranging, be mindful of harmful pesticide use on your lawn or garden. While your chickens are foraging, they will be exposed to any chemicals applied in their environment. Pesticides may make your birds sick, and we know how precious your flock is to you!
Supplementing Nature's Supply
Depending on where you live and how hungry your chickens are, you may want to supplement your local insect supply. If you have the time and space to raise your own larvae on food scraps from your kitchen. Popworms! Live are an excellent choice. If you are interested in building a container for raising PopWorms! Live that can automatically provide the mature larvae to your chickens, check out this past blog post. Chickens love to chase after their snacks.
For chicken keepers who don't want to deal with live insects, PopWorms! ECO and PopWorms! PRO are at the intersection of nutrition and convenience. Sold by the pound, these dried black soldier fly larvae offer up a nutritious treat with a puffy, crunchy texture. Whichever type you choose, your chickens are sure to love them!
Use the code LABOR and receive 20% off orders of PopWorms! ECO, PopWorms! PRO, and PopWorms! Live (valid until 9/6/2019)!
So you've taken the leap, bought the chickens, and now you're dreaming about all the fresh eggs and other benefits your new coop will bring you. But, now you are wondering: who knew chickens could be so noisy? Don't worry, you're not alone. Navigating the noise of domestic chicken flocks is one of the most frequently searched questions for prospective backyard farmers, but luckily the problem isn't insurmountable.
When it comes to deciding what birds fit your needs, research is key. Certain breeds, like the free-range loving Ancona, are hardy and intelligent, but tend to be pretty vocal. Calmer breeds, like the tenacious Australorp or the beautiful and broody Orpington, are quieter, and might be a better fit for your home coop. Whatever the breed, roosters will always be louder, and they can create drama in your flock.
Time and Reason
Many breeds of chicken are naturally quiet, but even these birds will speak up if given a reason. Pay attention to the sounds your birds are making and when. Chickens will often make an excited noise when laying an egg, or cluck busily after laying as though to announce her accomplishment. They are also much more vocal when they feel in danger, so heightened noise levels may mean that your birds are uneasy. Make sure you're providing them with a safe shelter they can retreat to when they feel threatened. Which brings us to the next point.
Depending on the breed, your chickens will likely need 12 to 14 hours of light in order to lay, but providing a sheltered, safe-feeling space for them to retreat is just as important as giving them access to the outdoors. Nervous chickens are noisy chickens, so if your birds are constantly clucking, it might be that they're telling you they don't like their coop.
As with all aspects of backyard farming, it's important to know the rules. Look into your local sound ordinances, or any specific restrictions your area may have on raising chickens. You don't want to literally bet the farm on keeping your coop a secret, only to have the chickens themselves give it away. Additionally, many localities have laws against owning roosters but not hens, so make sure to study up!
August is here and chicken fanciers everywhere struggle to keep their beloved chickens comfortable. First things first though, you need to know the signs heat stress in poultry:
If you're seeing any of the above symptoms you need to act NOW to cool your birds. Obviously, fresh drinking water is key. Start by offering your birds lots of fresh, cool water. Water pans (especially metal or black rubber) can get pretty hot during the summer. Very hot water is not appealing at all to poultry, and unless you've got automatic watering systems you'll need to put some extra effort into providing adequate cool water.
Put out extra water pans. Keep them in the shade if you can.
Bring down the temperature in your yard rapidly by spraying your whole yard down with a water hose. Spray it all, bushes, trees, fences, go ahead and spray the coop exterior. You can spray inside too if no one is setting.
Some breeds, and some individuals for that matter, may enjoy a hop in a kiddie pool with a few inches of water in it. Put it in the shade if possible.
Shade helps a lot! You can either purchase poultry shade systems or rig up something of your own. You can get pretty creative, nail tarps over fenced corners, hang old banners between fence posts, bust out the canvas canopy that's sitting in your garage. Re-purpose camping tents by setting them up and cutting out the sides and bottom. Right now aesthetics don't matter so much as lowering the temperature and UV exposure for your birds.
Take a look at your coop. Is it clean and well ventilated? Open any shutters and vents. If your chickens are plainly suffering you can set up fans, however they may be a bit of a fire hazard. Don't leave the yard if you have fans running.
One last bit of advice. Some people like to give their chickens frozen fruits during the hottest summer months. This is cute and fun, but remember that sugar increases body heat, and that your chickens will actually maintain a higher body temperature to digest frozen goodies. So while frozen fruits can be a yummy snack and fun to feed, don't feed it when your chickens are experiencing heat stress. Save those for tomorrow morning before it gets hot.
Summer is in full swing. Temperatures are in the 90s, and people are looking for shade. What better time to chill with your chickens in the backyard? Just, make sure your chickens have ways to stay cool, too.
Dehydration is the first sign of possible heat-related problems. Just like humans, chickens' electrolytes become unbalanced when dehydrated. It is a good idea to add electrolytes to their water to lessen the impact of dehydration.
Make sure their water is cold. Cold water helps regulate a chicken's temperature so keep it readily available during hot weather. You may need to change the water periodically to keep it cold.
To keep chickens hydrated, place berries in water and freeze overnight. Set the frozen treats out the next day. The chickens will peck at the ice and berries, creating another way to keep them hydrated.
Make sure the chickens have a shady place to rest. If possible, construct their coop to provide ventilation. You could consider placing a fan in their coop, but only operate it in the daytime when you are at home.
Reduce the bedding in the coop to a minimum. Thick bedding acts as an insulator, holding heat in the coop.
You can mist the chickens and the coop. If misting isn't enough, you can wet down the coop and create cold water puddles for the chickens to walk through to cool off.
Leave the chickens alone as much as possible. Chickens generate heat when they interact with other chickens and with humans. In close quarters that could significantly increase the surrounding temperature.
Cut back on hard to digest foods. Chickens generate heat when they digest their food. The harder their system works the more heat it generates.
See if your chickens like to swim. Fill a kiddie pool with an inch or two of cold water. Watch them jump in, or not.
As you look for ways to stay cool when the temperatures rise, remember these tips for keeping your chickens cool.
It's hard to imagine a world without chickens. Thankfully, we don't have to. Have you ever wondered about the history of the chicken? They don't really look like other birds, and they can't fly long distances, but it seems to us that they have always been around. Here are a few facts about how the chicken we know today came to be.
According to the Pennsylvania State University extension website, the chicken belongs to the genus Gallus of the family Phasianidae. Gallus domesticus is the classification of the domestic chicken. Its ancestry can be traced back to wild jungle fowl from Southeast Asia; specifically, the Red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus or Gallus bankiva). It is believed that chickens were first domesticated at least as early as 2000 B.C. The chicken of today came to be after many centuries of careful selection and breeding.
Introduction to the United States
The Smithsonian website states that archeologists believe that the domesticated chicken was first brought to the New World by Polynesians who reached South America a century or so before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Valued particularly as a source of eggs, they played a minor role in the American diet until well into the 20th century. The breakthrough that turned chicken production from a casual enterprise to the broiler industry of today, came with the fortification of feed with vitamins and antibiotics.
Some of the most popular breeds of chicken in the US include the Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, Ameraucana, Orpington, and the Golden Laced Wyandotte. All of these are egg-laying breeds.
Urban Chicken Farming
In rural areas of the country, raising chickens has always been a common source of fresh eggs and meat. The backyard chicken craze that is so popular in urban centers today, began as more people want to take part in home-grown agriculture, the local-food movement and the desire for really fresh eggs. Grassroots movements have successfully lobbied to overturn city ordinances that outlaw backyard poultry farming. Because there is worry about noise, odor, and public health, some cities have adopted a limit as to how many chickens can be kept per household.
The backyard chicken farm is here to stay because not only do chickens provide a prized commodity, they also make wonderful pets. So, add to the urban craze, and don't forget to treat those backyard chicken pets right by supplementing diets with Popworms! Eco and Popworms! Pro today!
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.