Backyard Chickens, Chicken Health, homesteading

Heat Busters for the Coop!

We’ve got a scary Heat Wave starting today in California. Other states around us are going to be affected too. This could last for 7-10 days, break and then start anew!

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For those of you who have chickens but haven’t yet had to put a plan into place for protecting your ladies from extreme heat: NOW is the time. The key elements for helping your chickens beat the heat are water, shade, and ventilation. Here are some tips:

  1. Evaporative Cooling: If you have good soil drainage and moving air, you can spray down the ground with water early in the day. As the heat of the day increases it will pull some of the heat with the evaporating water, keeping the chicken area a bit cooler. Using misters can also be helpful, though they are a bit more expensive to install and run especially if you’re in a cooler area that doesn’t normally require you to help your beat the heat except for short heat waves like this.
  2. Freeze Treats: Frozen watermelon seems to be the favorite but other melons, berries, and veggies can work just as well. You could even mash or purée your mixed kitchen or garden scraps, put them in a metal bowl and freeze it for a chicken slushee!
  3. Extra Waterers: Leave out more water, and even extra water containers as the chickens will be drinking more often and shouldn’t have to stand around a crowded watered waiting a turn.
  4. Air Movement: Do you have a portable fan you’re not using while you’re out for the day? Run it out near the coop on an extension cord to keep the air circulating. This works especially well if it blows towards the chickens over something cold like a bucket of ice.
  5. More Shade: If you have potted plants, patio furniture or other large objects in the yard, rearranging them near the coop short term will help to cast more shade. Alternatively, o draped over the run can help create a larger shaded space. Something like this:

NKTM 50%-60% Sunblock Shade Cloth, Cut Edge UV Resistant Shade for Plant Cover, Greenhouse, Barn or Kennel

Don’t forget to remind your fellow chicken keepers about protecting their hens! For more ideas, visit the Dare 2 Dream Farms Forum.

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Backyard Chickens, Breeds, Fresh Eggs

The Backyard Chicken Egg Rainbow: Selecting breeds for their distinctive egg colors

From the moment that we began selling our eggs locally, the importance of displaying beautiful colors in each of our egg cartons was second only to the health of our hens. As a new farm, and as farmers who learned by trial and error, we were extraordinarily busy. We used daylight hours for working outside on the farm, and when it turned dark, we turned to indoor tasks such as customer service, marketing, research & development, web design, and egg washing. We frequently washed eggs into the hours that should no longer be considered night, but can’t yet be called morning. After hand washing and packaging our eggs, we frequently reconfigured egg cartons to evenly distribute the most beautiful eggs and maximize the beauty of every carton so that when our customers opened their cartons to cook, the eggs would unfailingly make them smile. We were one of the first farms in our area to place such an importance on the beauty of each dozen eggs we sold. We were lauded by our customers and the farm amassed a very loyal following.

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When food makes us happy, we place a higher value on how it’s made and where it comes from. We’ll spend the extra time and money to find it and purchase it from a small farmer who valued it enough to grow it well. We will take the time to prepare it for a nice meal, and we will savor that meal, or share it with family and friends. Placing value on food such as this nourishes our bodies, our homes, our relationships, and our communities.

This is one reason why backyard chicken keepers are obsessed with the colors of the eggs all their hens lay. A colorful box of eggs can make a gorgeous host gift, teachers gift, trade, and more. From dark chocolate brown eggs to creamy tinted eggs and all the shades of blue and green in between, here are a list of the breeds that lay all the egg colors you’re looking for.

Araucanas – The South American tufted and rumpless Araucana lays gorgeous sky-blue eggs.

Ameraucanas – The bearded Ameraucana, bred forth from the Araucana in America, also lays a stunning blue egg, but the breed has been relieved of it’s deadly tufted gene, and the rumplessness that causes fertility issues.

Barnevelders – Though the shades vary tremendously based on the quality of the bird, the Dutch Barnevelders are known for laying a darker brown egg.

Cream Legbar – Instead of laying just one color of eggs, this British breed may lay either a light pastel blue or green egg.

Easter Eggers – These are Ameraucanas that are not show-quality, or true-bred; but they lay a larger size and higher number of eggs that have a magnificent range of colors from blue to green.

Isbar – This Sweedish chicken’s eggs vary from light mossy green to dark olive green.

Marans – Though the French Marans chickens are highly sought after for the rich dark chocolate brown of the Black Copper Marans eggs, this breed is quite difficult to obtain. Other Marans may lay beautiful dark brown eggs, though not quite as dark, depending on the quality of the breeding and the Marans variety.

Olive Eggers – A cross between any green or blue egg layer and a dark brown egg layer gives you a hybrid that lays a beautiful olive green egg.

Penedesenca – The flighty Spanish Penedesenca also layes a gorgeous dark brown egg, though is a much harder bird to keep for backyard chicken keepers.

Welsummers – Another Dutch chicken prized for large dark brown, and often speckled, eggs.

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Backyard Chickens, Chicken Coops, Chicken Health, Farming, homesteading

6 Tips for a Rodent-Free Coop

If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll ask you for a glass of milk. But, if you give a mouse chicken feed, fresh water, warm bedding, and a safe place to sleep, he’ll make a home in your chicken coop, invite his friends, contaminate the feed and water, and introduce parasites and diseases to your chickens.

Like the boy in that adorable children’s book, I don’t get particularly squeamish from rodents like mice. Rats, on the other hand, no thank you! But together, those rodents can be vectors for nearly 50 different diseases affecting chickens and humans, most notably salmonella, and can also commonly carry mites into the coop. Infestations of rodents have been linked to both farm and house fires. Rats also love chicken eggs, and in extreme cases, they can even prey upon baby chicks or sleeping chickens. So, as cute as the field mice may be, its always best to keep them away from the coop.

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Field mice: totally adorable, but best kept away from your chickens. Photo by: Bottle Branding
  1. Keep chicken feed and water out of reach. Chickens will give chase to rodents during the daytime, and they’ll occasionally catch them successfully. Mice and rats, being nocturnal, will come to feast when the chickens are sound asleep, so it’s best not to leave out a buffet for them.
    1. Store bulk or bagged feed securely; think metal feed bins or locking metal trashcans. Mice can chew holes in feed bags, and even through plastic feed bins and trashcans.
    2. Remove the chicken feed from the coop at night when you’re out locking up the chickens and store it safely with the bagged feed in a metal container. Alternatively, you can suspend the feeder so it hangs to keep it off the ground. Rats can cling to rope or even chain, so smooth cable is the best choice. Treadle style feeders require a hen’s weight to open and will easily keep mice from accessing the feed so you don’t have to remove it from the coop nightly.
    3. Clean up spilled feed.Even if you remove the feed every night, anything that’s on the ground will be a gold mine for rodents. TIP: Switch to pellet feed to help prevent chickens from making a mess with their food.
    4. Manual waterers make fresh water easy to access for rodents. Empty them nightly, and refill them with clean water in the morning for your chickens. Alternatively, switching to automatic watering systems like nipple waters will keep them from finding water in the coop.
  2. Eliminate large holes or gaps in the coop. Rodents can chew through wood and plastic, and mice can squeeze through openings even smaller than one inch.
    1. Use 1/2 inch hardware cloth or sheet metal to cover any large holes or gaps in the construction of your coop, and to enclose the run completely.
    2. Bury wire around the perimeter of the coop and run to prevent rats from tunneling to get into the coop.

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      1/2 inch hardware cloth used to cover ventilation holes in a chicken coop
  3. Tidy up the coop. Rodents thrive in messy, cluttered areas that don’t see much activity. Keep the coop clean, and the area around the coop free of debris to eliminate places where rodents can make a nest.
    1. Change the bedding regularly.
    2. Store fresh bedding in a metal container.
    3. Eliminate clutter and debris around the coop where rodents can hide.
    4. Keep the grass mowed around the coop, and the weeds at bay.
  4. Harvest eggs daily. Rats love chicken eggs, so leaving eggs in the nesting box overnight give them something to come for.
  5. Use Mint. Mint grown around the coop or dried and used in the nesting boxes or bedding can help deter rodents from coming around the coop. It’s important to note that this solution cannot be employed successfully on it’s own, and should be used in tandem with good coop and flock management to experience true benefits. In addition to keeping the rodents away, mint can also benefit hens through aromatherapy.

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    Mint grows easily and can be used fresh or dried in a chicken coop to deter rodents.
  6. Adopt a cat or dog. Even if the dog or cat doesn’t hunt rodents, the smell of a larger animal in the area will help keep mice and rats at bay, as well as other larger predators on the hunt for chicken dinner. Just be careful not to adopt cats or dogs with a prey drive.

If prevention is unsuccessful, don’t be hard on yourself. Although rodents do not always show up in areas with chickens, they are a natural cohabitant. There are plenty of ways to eliminate a rodent population but it’s necessary to be very cautious with traps and poisons.

 

 

Backyard Chickens, Farming

Top 5 Vegetables for your Chickens – Each Season of the Year

Chickens will love what your growing in your garden, just as much as you do!

You may be wondering what is good (and maybe not so good) to be feeding your chickens from the garden and kitchen compost.

Do I feed my chickens pumpkins all year round?

Should I avoid onions and avocados?

Are there some greens that are better than others?

The answers are actually very easy to find. NATURE PROVIDES! Each season, there are a variety of different vegetables that are able to be grown and they differ based on temperature, climate, sunlight, and precipitation. In the Summer, the garden is full of fruiting vegetables and juicy berries. In the Fall, summer squash, corn and beans begin to grow. During Winter, there are pumpkins and root vegetables. And in the Spring, greens, celeriac, and avocados! During these seasons, it is a fantastic idea to plant a little more for your chickens, feed them all scraps, and make sure they are getting an abundant amount of leftovers from your garden. Whether it be just the weeds and vines, or the seeds of your squash, or the tops of your root vegetables. If you’r not using them, your chickens will love the treat!

Spring Vegetables

-Lettuce and Leafy Greens – All are excellent to feed to your chickens and are full of nutrients and water, creating a great treat for the dark orange egg yolk!

-Flowers – Nasturtium and rose are excellent for Vitamin C, Chrysanthemum helps boost immunity, and Marigolds have the ability to heal skin.

-Asparagus – This dainty vegetable has a cleansing effect to maintain good health and immunity as well as properties to raise serotonin and dopamine which can improve mood and overall well being!

-Herbs – Oregano can be used as a natural antibiotic; Bee Balm can aid in respiratory and digestive health; Mint can help repel mice and bugs in the coop; Thyme acts as a natural bug repellent; and Parsley is high in nutrients and can boost blood vessel health.

-Avocados – These delicious tree fruits will be enjoyed by chickens! It is best to avoid feeding chickens too many though, because the flesh is high in fat and can then pose health problems. Skins and pits are fine in moderation; they will be avoided if not enjoyed.

Summer Vegetables

-Beans – Best if feeding only as a kitchen scrap after being thoroughly cooked and a good source of protein for eggs and healthy feathering.

-Tomatoes – With so many varieties available, it is safe to feed chickens the fruit of a tomato plant. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, especially picked right from the garden.

– Bell Peppers – Peppers contain a high amount of Vitamin C and some Vitamin B that is great for chicken skin and system functions. Hot Peppers can alter the flavor of your chickens eggs and should be fed in moderation.

-Strawberries – It may be hard to share these with your girls, but they are a good source of Vitamin C and sugar, boosting energy and happiness!

-Melons – High in antioxidants and great for a hot summer treat during the long days in the sun, melons are a treat and also a great source of sugars for happiness and energy. Cucumbers are similarly beneficial for chickens!

Fall Vegetables

-Carrots and Beets – Along with many root vegetables, both contain anti carcinogen properties and are so loaded with Vitamin C! They will turn your egg yolks that dark orange, indicating a nutrient rich egg.

-Zucchini – Zucchini flesh and seeds act as a natural dewormer, a great way to assist in preparing for the winter deworming treatment. Worms can tend to be more of a problem in the Fall and Winter.  Feeding zucchini, onions, garlic, and pumpkin insides is a great way to naturally treat any load of worms.

-Sunflower Seeds – When the sunflowers start falling over and drying up, feeding chickens the seeds and shells is good for egg production and healthy feathers, preparing for a winter molt.

– Green Beans & Peas – Great to feed cooked or raw. Can be fatty and should not be fed in too much excess or as the only treat from the garden.

-Onions and Garlic – Although they may alter the taste of your eggs, both onions and garlic will work as a natural dewormer. If they are changing the egg flavor too much to your liking, just lighten the amount your giving them.

Winter Vegetables

-Cabbage – A great “toy” to hang from the roof  with a string, chickens will peck at it until it’s gone. Cabbage also provides a good source of nutrients when the summer veggies are out for the season.

-Broccoli – One of the favorites, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, which acts as a natural disinfectant for chickens and can aid in fighting off winter illnesses.

-Pumpkins – Also full of delicious seeds and flesh, you can bet that the only thing left will be the outer shell. The seeds are a great dewormer for your chicken during the winter and a good source of protein for hardy eggs and feather production when coming out of a molt.

-Kale – Like most dark leafy greens, Kale is an excellent source of nutrients needed in the winter months. Just like its dark dense color, kale is dense in nutrients making great eggs.

-Celery – This vegetable is fine to feed your chickens, as long as it is not the only thing they will be eating. It is super fibrous and should not be fed without chicken feed or other garden treats.

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This is just a touch of items that you can grow in your garden to supplement your flock. It is very important to feed your chickens the correct feed, first and foremost. If they are getting the runs from eating too much of the supplemental garden goodies, you can give them milk or some dairy, which will help harden up their poops and keep things from getting too messy.

You can plant a portion of your garden just for your chickens and they may just come some excellent garden helpers!

 

Written by: Kelsie Crane

Backyard Chickens, Chicken Health

5 Ways to Prevent Roundworms in Winter

I tend to love winter. Winter forces you to come inside early and let your body rest, snuggle up in some blankets over a movie and nice warm mug of hot chocolate, or spend time with your family having memorable and important conversations. But my husband, ever the farmer, despises the shorter daylight hours and the limits it puts on what he can accomplish and what he can grow. He swears the feeling is like a vice squeezing the life from him. But there’s something we can agree upon – winter is hard on our chickens!

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Dare 2 Dream Farms – hens foraging in the wee winter hours of daylight.

Roundworms are easily the most common worm to afflict backyard chickens, and your feathered babies are especially at risk in the winter. Roundworm eggs thrive with the limited hours of daylight and excessive moisture brought by winter. Infections are most commonly caused by chickens ingesting food or water contaminated with feces. Once infected, hens can suffer from serious symptoms that if left untreated can result in death. Here are five ways you can help prevent your chickens from getting an infection of roundworms.

  1. Prevent and remove standing puddles of water after rainfall. Roundworm eggs thrive in moist environments. Puddles of dirty water contaminated with feces are teeming with eggs and are a high risk for your sweet chickens when they’re looking for a convenient drink of water. Create a gentle slope for rainwater to run off or bring in a well-draining ground material like sand.
  2. Keep the grass cut short. UV rays can help to kill roundworm eggs, but there are precious few hours of sunlight in the winter. Plus, with increased rainfall, the yard will also grow more quickly, and the tall grass and weeds will protect the eggs from the sun’s UV rays. Keep the grass cut short so the UV rays can reach the soil and help keep roundworm eggs in check.
  3. Keep feeders and waterers clean. Use feeders and waterers that are designed for poultry in order to reduce fecal contamination, and make sure they stay clean. Put all food for your chickens in the feeders rather than on the ground for them to eat. Don’t let chickens roost or sit on top of feeders or waterers to contaminate them. You can also use one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per gallon of water to help keep the waterer clean.
  4. Clean the coop more often. If one egg is ingested, roundworms are quick to spread via feces. Rake the run and clean out the shavings in the coop more often than normal to reduce the amount of feces that could potentially be ingested when the birds are foraging.
  5. Be vigilant of wild birds. Roundworms are not host specific, and wild birds can easily spread an infection of roundworms to your backyard chickens. Now is the time to pull in your bird feeders, turn off the bird baths, and stop attracting wild birds to your yard. It’s also a good idea to move chicken feeders and waterers to areas that are harder to reach for wild birds.

Most importantly, know the clinical signs of roundworm infections so you can act upon them immediately:

  • increased feed consumption
  • weight loss
  • dull feathers
  • diarrhea, or fecal matter stuck to the feathers below the vent
  • pale comb, wattles and facial skin
  • listlessness
  • in serious infections, roundworms appearing in chicken droppings
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A Salmon Faverolle hen suffering from worms, with pale facial skin and the evidence of diarrhea stuck to the feathers under her tail.

If one or two birds show clinical signs of a roundworm infection, chances are that the entire flock is infected but not yet showing symptoms. It is best to treat the whole flock all at once. To determine if your chickens have an infection, seek out a veterinarian who can perform a fecal float test for you using the droppings from your chickens.

Backyard Chickens, Chicken Behaviors, Chicken Health

A Dusty Chicken is a Clean Chicken

Chickens have a natural way of keeping their feathers clean, healthy, and free of pests: dust baths! Rolling around in the dirt is a fun, social and preventative health measure that is important for all chickens.

Dust Bathing Social Bathing Dirt Bath

Description

Watching your chickens take a dust bath can be highly entertaining. They scratch at the dirt, making sure the spot is just right. Next they plop down in the wallow, wings flapping and legs kicking, working to cover all of their feathers with dirt and dust. Once sufficiently covered, the chicken will stand and shake out her feathers, leaving a cloud of dust behind, and proceed to preen her feathers. Seeing a dust bath for the first time may be alarming for humans, as chickens can lie very still in a shallow hole or their quick and repetitive movements can be mistaken for a seizure. Chickens like to take dust baths a few times a week, all year long.

Health Benefits

Dust baths are more than just fun and relaxing for your chickens, they are a natural preventative health measure for your birds. The dust absorbs the buildup of excess oil that parasites feed on, such as lice and mites. It helps diminish the population of any existing external parasites by smothering and suffocating them. Lastly, the preening that follows a dust bath helps to remove those pests. When given ample space, dust bathing is a social activity where multiple chickens will bathe together at once. In limited space, the pecking order determines who gets to bathe first.

Natural Bathing Areas

Chickens with room to roam will find themselves a spot to take a dust bath. Dry, cool places with loose soil or dirt are prime locations. Loose soil makes it easier for chickens to dig a small hole to roll around in. Keep an eye out for holes that are dug in dry areas where both you and your chickens have access, as they can be a tripping hazard. An open spot in your garden can be a tempting place to make a dust bath, but you can help prevent this by providing a specific dust bathing space for them in an area that works better for you.

Creating a Bathing Area for Your Chickens

If your chickens are confined to a smaller area, it is a good idea to provide them with a space to use for dust bathing. Most importantly, choose a place that is kept sheltered and dry. You can build a space modeled similarly to a children’s sandbox or raised planting bed, or repurpose something as simple as a large cat litter box, an old tire, a plastic swimming pool, or a storage container. Fill the area with dirt, dry soil, plain potting compost, mulch, sand, wood ash, or a mix of what you have on hand. You can also add beneficial herbs or food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) to their dust baths, but do your research before adding any foreign elements.

Let’s keep our chickens healthy and happy… and dusty!

Backyard Chickens, Farming, Fresh Eggs

Collecting, Cleaning, and Storing Eggs

You’ve built your coop and raised your chickens, and now they’re FINALLY laying eggs! But what do you do with all the eggs your girls start to lay? After the eggcitement of the first egg is all over, its time to find a routine for collecting, cleaning, and storing your fresh eggs. Here are some tips to get started with the right habits.

 

COLLECT DAILY, PREFERABLY IN THE EVENING

Chicken eggs are a commodity for animals as well as for humans. The smell of chicken eggs will likely attract pests such as rats, skunks, possums, and raccoons which you don’t want near your chickens. Collecting eggs daily, especially in the evening, is the best way to prevent those predators from coming around at night. 

It’s also a good idea to collect chicken eggs every evening to prevent the chickens from dirtying them, breaking them, and eating them. Chickens sometimes sleep in their nesting boxes, or walk all over a nest of eggs with dirty feet, making the eggs harder to clean. If they accidentally break one while climbing over a large nest of eggs, they will eat it out of curiosity. They may even begin to eat eggs out of boredom during the winter months when they’re stuck inside. Once they begin to eat their own eggs, they can form a bad habit that is really destructive, and really hard to break.

 

STORING EGGS

Eggs are laid with a natural mucous coating over the shell called a ‘cuticle’ or, more commonly, a ‘bloom.’ The bloom protects the egg from bacteria and controls the amount of water and air that is passed through the shell. This naturally keeps the eggs as fresh as possible without refrigeration, which is why you can keep fresh eggs in a cool, dry place such as your counter or cabinet rather than a refrigerator. However, they do stay fresh even longer if they are unwashed and refrigerated. Once the bloom is washed away with water, they do require refrigeration to keep them from going bad. We recommend collecting your eggs and keeping them unwashed in a clean carton in the refrigerator, and then washing your eggs just before using them. 

KEEPING THEM CLEAN

The saying “prevention is better than cure” goes for dirty eggs as well. In addition to collecting daily, the easiest way to have clean eggs is to keep a clean nesting box. Routinely check the nesting boxes and remove or replace dirty shavings, especially during winter when mud is prevalent and chickens have no manners to wipe their feet! Discouraging your hens from sleeping in the nesting boxes also helps tremendously. Keep roosts away from nesting boxes, and preferably in a higher place than the nesting boxes. 

DRY CLEANING

If you must wash your eggs before you store them, it is best to dry wash them. Dry washing uses an abrasive, such as sandpaper, an abrasive sponge, a sanding block, or other abrasive utensil to scrape or rub off any dirt or poop. This leaves the majority of the bloom intact and keeps the egg as safe as possible while still removing the yucky stuff. 

 

 

WET CLEANING

If you must wash them with water to remove the dirt and poop, be conscientious about the way you wash! Be sure the water you’re washing with is at least 20 degrees warmer than the eggs as washing with colder water creates a vacuum which sucks bacteria into the egg. It’s best not to soak them in water, but rather to wash them under running water. If you must use detergent, it is best to use natural dish detergent rather than antibacterial soaps.  

HOW LONG DO EGGS LAST?

Eggs should last approximately 45 days from the date they were laid if kept in the right conditions; however you should use them as soon as possible for maximum freshness and taste. After eggs are approximately one month old, it is best to test them for freshness before using them.

FLOATING EGGS TO TEST FOR FRESHNESS

To test for freshness, you can float your eggs. The broad side of the egg is filled with an air sac. The older the egg, the more air fills the sac. The more air is in the sac, the more the egg floats. Place your egg in a large bowl filled with cold water. If the egg sinks to the bottom and stays laying on its side, it’s still fresh and good to eat. The higher the broad side of the egg floats up, the older it is. If the broad side of the egg floats straight up and leaves the egg standing on the pointed side, its nearly a month old and should be eaten before it goes bad. If the egg floats right to the top, it’s old and probably is no longer good to eat.


FOR MORE TIPS ON EGGS AND MORE BACKYARD CHICKEN TOPICS

Visit the Care Guide section of our website at www.dare2dreamfarms.com. If you have any tips you’d like to share with your fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts, leave a comment below!