Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Supplemental lights for chicken?

Well then, here are my thoughts and considerations on adding supplemental light to the coop - to keep the egg laying up :)

For those who wonder why: When the days get short and the dark period increases, hens ovaries take a break. Increasing the light duration to over 14 hours per day stimulates the chicken system to lay more eggs in the winter months, when the days are shorter. Or rather, not seeing such a long dark time - the hen's ovaries don't go "dormant". So some folks will start the day early by turning on the lights in the morning when it is still dark outside.

There is always the question: will it hurt the hens to keep laying all year? Will it shorten their life span? Does she have enough eggs? And, for the animal welfare folks: is it abusive?

Hm - professional folks will tell you: it does not shorten their life span. At least, I suppose it has not been studied so therefore I would not expect to see any evidence. Of course, most all professional layer farmers get rid of their hens after 18 months - so really, how do we know?

But then, would you mind if the hens died earlier if they stopped laying, or greatly reduced the number of eggs they lay?

Will the hen run out of eggs by continuing to lay through the winter: no.

Is it healthy for her to keep laying so much all the time - no - and in fact, artificial light is only recommended as long as you allow the hens to molt and take a break from laying to recharge every year as well as have high quality and adequate nutrition.

So this year - looking at my feed cost and the fact that I don't eat meat or eat grains: I would LIKE more eggs ...

I could put electric in the coop via a card and I could get a timer to start their day early, checking the total sunlight perior and then adjust the time. After their molt - I'd enjoy more eggs .... enough to sell some too, which does help with the feed cost (organic feed cost especially)

But I am thinking: I don't know that it does not hurt them ...who is to say what it really feels for them to "have to" lay an egg a day, more or less. all year - being tricked into perceiving that it is really "springtime". There is no place on this planet where sunlight is over 14 hours every day all year long - not a single place.

And even if there were - hen would lay and brood (take a break from laying) lay and brood.

I am quite undecided about it - for this year, I welcome the break they are getting - including from the roosters, who can mingle with the flock without anyone getting too much attention, fighting or bare backs ...and that is a good thing.

I am still getting enough eggs to eat for myself - and i can tell you, p ay a premium for them - and they are worth it :)

I LOVE they they are getting all their feathers back - they needed to molt - and needed the break.
Hopefully the pullets will take over soon ....

It is always a balance game and what your priorities or preferences are.

If you DO decide to supplemental light in your coop: fluorescent is really bad for chickens.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chicks and their mamas

We have chicks this year, 3 of my "non-broody" breed layers went broody  and after having a plan for the males of the hatch, and there will be some, I let them have some eggs. Even the phrase "breaking a broody" sounded very violent. It was a great experience, lots of learning about this being broody and hen raising chick thing and there are many pictures and some of the adventures on facebook and if you have questions about broody hens and their chicks, check out this page MAMAS and BABIES and the many sub-pages.

I like the blogspot format, but after the "government spies on everything" on facebook and blogger etc  revelation, I am attempting to move what I have to share onto the chicksandweeds website and some of it onto QuanYinGardens from now on.

You are invited to come over and I'd be delighted to see you there.

Blessings and Happy Chickens to you

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Should I give treats to my baby chicks

What should I feed my baby chicken - and can I give them treats?  are questions I have come across often enough I decided to post it:

Investigating "green" stuff
Leaving aside the issue of organic-no GMO  and non-organic feeds = genetically modified foods, you can't go wrong with chick starter. So get a bag of it to start with. When using chick starter only, you don't need grit. If you feed other things, you will need grit too- small stones that chickens need to grind up the food in the gizzard.

This is all assuming you got chicks in the mail or have hatched them yourself.
The answer to - Should I give my chicks treats? or Should I give my chicks anything other than chick starter? - depends on your philosophy: If you consider a mother hen - weather permitting, she'd take out her chicks on day 1 - foraging and offering all kinds of found foods. I tried to imitate that the best I could.

Mother nature does know what it is doing when it comes to feeding chicks, so my answer is - yes, give variety - taste and texture, starting after the stress of getting there (chicks in the mail) is subsided. Consider however that if you allowed them to be raised on fully foraged food - they'd be getting 50% vegetarian, the rest bugs, worms and such. So if your treats are low protein and you give too many'll skew the  total nutrition too much.

So keep the treats few enough not to be too low on the protein.

Why would you want to give "treats" 

One of the reasons you might want to give treats  is to get the chicks used to you and your hand. Gently and often handled chicks will be more trusting and friendly with you later.
Another reason to give "interesting" foods is:  decrease boredom - one of the 2 main  reasons for stress pecking, next to not enough space.
Get them used to a variety of food taste and texture, including those you might want to feed in case they ever got sick. If they are sick, they will be less likely to try out new foods, so if they already learned to love watery zuccini and kefir got a way to give them liquids too.

I used a plant dish and put some of their chick starter on it as well as a clump of earth with grass on it. some of the veggies & the bugs. Chicks love to scratch and find things to peck.

What can you give as treats? - I went slow - At first, you can start with some cooked vegetable as treats - like a little broccoli, chard, zuccini. Interestingly, my chicks only went for the green stuff, never wanted carrots. After a couple of weeks, since there were so many bugs in the roses - I dumped them into a cup and gave it to them in their forage dish ....they had no trouble with those. High protein treats would be a crushed up hard-boiled egg, tiny bits of cooked meat off bones, if you do eat meat. If you got some small larvae in kitchen compost, those will work. Mine loved - and still do love scrambled eggs. I did also give them strawberries since they were in season - be careful with too much sugary liquid though ..diarrhea possible.

I also took some crumbles and mixed it with home-made kefir (live cultures) - they loved that too.

And then, at 3 weeks - they had their first "outing" - can't keep them from scratching and pecking then ....they loved it.

So - main nutrition, unless you have a foraging mother hen - is chick starter - enjoy the rest - and keep it interesting for them - it's fun for both of you. Remember - chicks need to scratch and peck - it is inborn - a boring small space with nothing to do will lead to pecking each other.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

DIY simple Garden Egg Recipe

It is spring, my September chicks also have come into lay and  I am having some for egg recipe experiments.

I do lunch 3 times a week for anywhere between 8-12 people, mostly nice salads and bean soup.
Given the mixed dietary requirements - some no beans, some no milk, some no cheese, some no tomato, almost all no wheat -> that leaves me with a certain cooking limitation.

I went online to look up some vegetarian egg dishes - and the ingredients across the board really were not suitable.

So I went simple, pretty much with what we have - mind you ...only the eggs and pasta are really mandatory. Experiment!!!!!

  •  8 oz un-enriched spelt pasta (a little less than 1/2 pound for the European readers)
  • 7 Beyond Organic Garden eggs :)))))))))))))))))))) from my happy chickens.
  • 2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 2 grated carrots
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1  small package of organic mushrooms
  • about 4 oz of grated organic cheese
  • parsley
  • salt
  • olive oil

spices: none used

Put on salted water to precook the pasta, cut the mushrooms, saute and add the carrots and spinach ...saute then cover, preheat oven at 325 F
beat the eggs and add the milk after

drain pasta, make sure not overcooked (give it a minute or 2 or 3 less than the instructions say)
put pasta in oiled baking pan
add the sauteed vegetables, including liquid - mix gently with pasta
add the egg almond milk mixture as evenly as you can.
(add spices you might like)
cover with the grated cheese
bake for 30 minutes

makes 4 - 8 servings

garnish as desired, parsley works well

It was meant to go with the salad - but I misscalulated the prep time - give it 30 minutes, plus the 30 minutes in the oven

It tasted GREAT, was well received and is a keeper :)

Since I don't really care for a lot of spicing, just salt will do fine for me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Just a chicken ?

Just a chicken - well ..

Golden Polish
The other day I was happy that one of my roos found a home. He had been scheduled for culling but the Universe cancelled his date by sending bad weather. ..and he got adopted 2 days before the next cull date. Now he'll be roo for 10 hens and have a large coop and pretty much free range...and then he was put in a wire crate, open in a pick-up truck and off he went. I had a question I asked via e-mail but never heard back - and so I wish him the best rooster life, and also realize: for many, even as they may love chickens, chickens are still "just a chicken" - and he'll be the open truck and cage.

He had a sweet elegance

And so here is a picture of another young roo - he went off this morning with some of his brothers to where they are being "harvested". Granted, the place there is so peaceful ... I'd want it during my passnig - but their life ended. Sometimes you read: we "don't get attached to those" to the ones due for "freezer camp". Folks joke, find another way, some way to not actually have to face the killing of a beautiful being. I am not saying that for us who are giving them and their flock life, that we don't have to manage it ...just saying - I never see pictures of those that went to that infamous "freezer camp" as if they were not beautiful amazing young birds, deserving to be seen and loved. Is this really some morbid fascination, dwelling in some sentimental guilt pain, or is it simply this:

These guys are beautiful and full of rooster-life. I love them. They get their pictures taken as the others. They get exposed to the crates and being touched and taken off the roost so they are not so afraid when the time comes. They get a few extra treats on their last day. And I pray for all the roosters (using the Karma Wash and Clear Light Orb) - all of them ...and best I can tell, the ones given a helped by that - and the ones that are culled, have had a peaceful passing. In any case, I like this way of "Play to Pray".

I understand about "just a chicken". I understand that actually a peaceful passing now might be better than a bad life for a few more months with a horrible death. We just never know when sending out a bird what fate actually awaits them, unless we really know the people and check on the birds, because, to many - no matter what, they are still "just a chicken".

Each and every one of my chickens, hens or roos, are loved. Things are not perfect, flocks need to be balanced.
May the love stay with them, the part of them that is essential and everlasting, and there is comfort in that they actually had a chance at a chicken-worthy life on earth.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Toxic foods for chickens

Got treats ?
Generally, you’d think birds know what is good for them and what is not – except maybe not -> chickens have been known to eat styrofoam pellets and plastic. Most toxic foods also don’t leave the bird dead the next day but cause organ damage and illness. In any case, here are some foods to avoid feeding your chickens that might find their way onto your kitchen scraps:
  • Raw green potato peels    -> Toxic substance called Solanine.
  • Anything real salty     -> Can cause salt poisoning in small bodies such as chickens.
  • Dried or undercooked Beans     -> Raw, or dry beans, contain a poison called hemaglutin which is toxic to birds.
  • Avocado Skin and Pit    -> Skin and pit toxic to birds.
  • Chocolate  -  chocolate can be poisonous to most pets.
There is a question about apple seeds – and yes, there is cyanide in them but you don’t have to go as far as taking out all the apple cores in your orchards apples ;)

Q - How much does it cost to ship a chicken?

A - A LOT for most people's budget.

Economy Nests - fit 2 of the roos each box
First of all, contact UPS or Fed Ex to ensure that you will be allowed to ship the animal you want.

USPS  ONLY ships birds by express mail and might require you to prearrange with the expediting shipping office and get a number. So you are way better off to check with them before you show up at the post office. Also, make sure to alert the receiving post office.

USPS will ONLY ship in approved boxes. I used Horizons and for small numbers of boxes, I got my boxes here: Matthews Oak Ridge Farm Boxes For Shipping Gamebirds, Waterfowl, Poultry, Chickens, & Pigeons 

I wanted to ship 9 month old roosters. The trip was from California to Texas.

BOXES: I paid 64 dollars plus change for 2 economy boxes ( Economy nests $16.95 each plus S&H) and 2 single boxes ($ 1 to 14- $6.10 each plus S&H). That included the cheapest available shipping rate.

The economy boxes are said to weigh about  2.5 lbs each and 1.5 lbs the single, plus 1/2 - 1 lbs for straw and a few apple slices.

Don't get fooled by the "weight does not matter up to 70 lbs" FLAT rate express shipping. The dimensions of the boxes DO NOT qualify for that rate.

These here are the single bird boxes. The roosters were able to turn in them, but 2 would NOT have fit - and the box would have been too heavy.  The single boxes have a 10 lb limit written on the outside of the box.

Shipping cost at the post office in January and March of 2013:

economy box with 2 birds 13 lbs 9 oz -> $ 97.40 at the post office plus $16.95 for the box and what it cost to get the box shipped

economy box with 2 birds 11 lbs 14 oz -> $ 89.85  plus $ 16.95 for the box and what it cost to get the box shipped.

single bird total weight - 6 lbs 10.9 oz -> $ 66.05 at the post office plus $ 6.10 for the box and what it cost to get the box shipped.

single bird total weight - 5 lbs 15 oz -> $ 60.45 at the post office plus $ 6.10 for the box and what it cost to get the box shipped.

As you can see, it seems to be a little cheaper to ship more than one bird at once. If I did this regularly - I would be crazy or rich....and if i were rich, I'd have a property where I could keep the roos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


They guaranteed delivery within 48 hours - though it is supposed to be overnight. For best chances, I was told to get there early enough to get the birds out with the first pick-up. The receiving party contacted the regional post office and drove over an hour to pick up the birds THE NEXT DAY .... so that went really well. If they had not done that, it might have taken the other day ...don't know.

What about NPIP - the national poultry improvement program certification?

I did without, but I did include the NPIP from the facility I originally got the birds from, and the date on that was April 2012, so that was within the year.  Some states (3 I read) have very strict criteria, the one I was shipping to was not on that list. Apparently the USPS and the states are not at this time enforcing the "you must have a health certificate or NPIP certificate with your birds" coming into the state or else all that strictly.
As I said, I included a copy of their original NPIP and added a statement as to their health, just in case.

If you sell & ship birds professionally or cross state lines for show regularly ...get informed or certified. One cautionary note though: Just because someone is NPIP certified does not mean they have healthy birds in terms of lice or mites or coccidiosis etc. Also, the certificate is only valid for 1 year.

I was just trying to re-home my beautiful roosters to a home where they potentially may live a good rooster life.

I shipped 6 and as you can see, for the price I could have gotten materials to build a dividable coop with it for them....and I was willing to build one or 2. Alas, that would not have handled the crowing and the intolerant neighbor in this agriculturally zoned area. I really think they should move into a retirement community, where surly no one is allowed to make a peep to disturb the peace.

But I don't own the property....and I am happy that some of my best and most precious, beautiful  and loved roos found a home and that I could pay to send them there. The one on the right: that is "Big Boy" - the sweetness of my flock. He was allowed to bring the Splash Blue Andalusian - who would otherwise have been culled.  But I do miss him ....

The recipient was willing to pay a (smaller) part of the cost, paying for the boxes basically, but connecting over the internet and not knowing folks it helps to feel that they didn't just want free birds for their dinner table and they sent some pictures of them in their new home. I thank them for that - and I feel that they will do good with the birds and wish them the very best with all those roos :)

Now you want to know the real price of eggs? - PRICELESS

3 of "my" roos in their new coop-home. Thanks to the folks in Texas - I hope it all works out.