Nov 172010
 

 

Chicken Hazards

Common Chicken Hazards That Can Result In Lost Birds

Whether you have decided to keep one or two chickens in your back yard or you have a flock of 30 or more plus birds, there are always chicken hazards that you need to think about.  Checking for chicken hazards in your back yard will save you from losing chickens unnecessarily.

If you only have a few birds, it can be devastating to lose even one of them.  Even if you have a large flock of hens, it is still sad to lose a bird if you could have prevented it.  I cannot tell you how many chickens that my friends and I have lost over the years.  Sometimes it was due to something unexpected that couldn’t be planned for and sometimes it was just bad luck.  Chicken hazards that are left unfixed can lead to the loss of several of your beloved birds every year.

Predator control is one of the top chicken hazards you must address.  Predators like dogs, cats, raptors, raccoons, possums and foxes just to name a few, can decimate your chicken flock in no time flat.  The areas that you keep your chickens in must be securely fenced and predator proof.  If your chickens don’t free range, you need to do daily checks on the fencing to make sure that nothing has dug under or has chewed through the fencing or the chicken coop.

A fox can decimate your entire flock in under five minutes just because they love the chase.

Gates that are not properly secured are common chicken hazards.  Check out your gates and make sure that they all close securely.  Many gates are loose at the bottom and it is possible for a predator to squeeze through and get to your flock.  Gates can also be dug under so you may want to bury some wire or some rocks in these areas to help keep your chickens secure.

If you have free range chickens, you are going to have some losses no matter what you do.  One of the best things you can do is to fence your free range chicken area with a small mesh fence or chain link fencing.  This will help keep some of the predators out.  The most effective thing I ever did was to plant tall grasses and ever green bushes to provide cover for the birds year round.  I lost a lot fewer birds by doing this one simple thing.

Make sure that common chicken hazards like water buckets and ponds are not in your bird area.  I recently had a rooster drown in a water trough that I had put out for my horses.  The poor guy must have perched on the edge of the trough and fallen in.  Unfortunately, hens and roosters can’t swim.

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Keeping backyard chickens can be so much fun but I hate it when I lose a chicken to a common chicken hazard that I could have prevented.  You can get more tips on chicken keeping, worming and different chicken breeds by CLICKING HERE.

Sep 132010
 

Raising backyard chickens has become more and more popular these days.  With the recent salmonella scares, chicken eggs being contaminated and thousands of people getting sick, it’s no wonder raising chickens has become so popular.  If you are considering raising chickens, then you will need to know where you can find the best chicken coop blueprints.

While there are a lot of standard chicken coop blueprint designs available online, not everyone wants the same old chicken house that the neighbor down the street has.  Given that a large, well constructed chicken coop can cost a lot of money to build, you need to know what before you get started.  Having a very detailed chicken coop blueprint before you get started can make the whole process a lot easier.

Before you start building a chicken coop for your backyard chickens, you have to take a few things into consideration.  Chicken coops may look fairly easy to build but a very good question to ask yourself before you start is, how handy are you?  Are you a DIY warrior who can build anything you set your mind to or do you not know one end of a hammer from another?

Assuming you are a DIY expert, go out there, get chicken coop blueprints that you like and build your own unique chicken coop.  If you are not so handy, you will need to either hire someone to build a chicken coop for you or get a ready made kit that is pretty easy to assemble.

Before you start building your chicken coop, you have to stop and think about the following things:

  • How many chickens you are going to raise?
  • What chicken breeds have you chosen?
  • Will your chickens free range or will you need a portable chicken coop and run?
  • How much room you have for your chickens?
  • What type of fencing you need for predator control?

 After you answer the questions above, you will also need to consider things like:

  • Where to locate your chicken coop for proper drainage, air flow and sunlight.
  • Create easy access areas to allow you to clean, gather eggs and do maintenance.
  • Decide where to install access doors for your chickens.
  • Doors and predator proof latches for your doors.
  • Your structure needs proper ventilation for the health of your chickens.
  • Where are you going to place your nesting boxes?

You could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out some of the things listed above but a good chicken coop blueprint will already have take some of this into account.  If you decide to design your own structure, be sure and consider the things listed above.

Anyone that is fortunate enough to be very handy and owns a lot of tools will be able to go online, locate a couple of chicken coop blueprints and modify them to design your very own, unique chicken house.  I can tell you from personal experience that the pride you feel when you watch your hens scratch around in their new chicken house is second to none.

Assuming you are not so handy with the tools, you can still go online or visit a store like Tractor Supply and find some great chicken coop kits that you can buy.  Usually, they tend to be easy to put together, even if you are not very handy.  But if you don’t feel you are up to the job or you don’t have the right tools, you can always hire someone to build you a chicken coop.

The size, shape and special features of your chicken coop will be impacted by your budget.  The larger your chicken coop is and the more special features you add, the more it will cost to build.  But, the flip side of that is you only have to build a hen house once.   Chickens are not destructive by nature and will not usually deliberately damage your hen house.  So build the biggest and best chicken coop you can the first time around and it will be there for years to come.

Check out these chicken coop plans. You can take a look at everything for $4.95 for 21 days and if you don’t like it, you won’t pay a penny more. These are great designs and are easy to follow.

Aug 242010
 

What ‘free-range,’ ‘cage-free,’ ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ truly mean. Are they really safer?

In the wake of the nationwide recall of eggs for contamination with salmonella, many consumers may be wondering what types of eggs are healthiest and safest to buy?

More than 90 percent of U.S. eggs come from caged hens. These birds have a space smaller than the size of a sheet of paper to move around, and live in filthy conditions. Aside from animal welfare concerns, that’s bad for our health, too, Pennsylvania State University shows, because researchers recently found eggs raised on pasture are much more nutritious than eggs from their caged counterparts.

6 things food industry execs aren’t telling you

Penn State’s study, published recently in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems found that pastured hens—ones kept outside on different pastures where they can exhibit natural behavior and forage for bugs and grasses—boasted higher vitamin and omega-3 fatty acid levels when compared to their commercially fed, battery-cage-kept counterparts. Eggs from pastured hens contained twice as much vitamin E and 2.5 times more total omega-3 fatty acids as the eggs from caged birds contained.

12 reasons to buy only organic

What it means
There are dozens of claims that manufacturers can make on egg cartons. Some of them are meaningful, but others are just ways to trick consumers into thinking they’re buying eggs from happy chickens. (Remember, 90 percent of chicken eggs produced in this country come from the worst type of production system—battery cages.)

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In an ideal situation, you would purchase your eggs from a local farmer in your area who raises chickens on pasture with plenty of space per bird, and uses moveable, open-air chicken houses, sometimes called chicken tractors, to protect the birds from predators. (You can look for this type of farmer on LocalHarvest.org.) Of course, you could also raise backyard chickens, if you have what it takes.

Eliminating cruel chicken cages is a matter of human health as well as animal welfare. The farther you take chickens away from their natural behaviors, the worse the quality of their eggs or meat.

“When you put four or five chickens in tiny cages, they can’t engage in normal chicken behavior—pecking in the dirt, dusting. If they’re in a cage, they can’t do any of these things,” explains chicken expert Gail Damerow, author of the classic Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (Storey, 2010). (She hasn’t purchased a store-bought egg since 1982.) “The pressure of the wire cages against their feet causes infections, their feathers rub off on the side of the cages. Basically, they’re just totally frustrated. They’ve got nothing to do. They can’t run around and eat flies and take dust baths. They just sit and lay eggs—what kind of life is that?” One result of all that stress and cruelty is that confined birds’ eggs contain less nutrition than eggs from hens with room to roam.

Why organic eggs are worth the cost

What the labels on the egg carton really mean:

“Cage-Free” “Cage-free is certainly not like Old McDonald’s farm,” explains Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States. But it’s a lot better than battery cages, where most eggs are produced. “Cage-free” means that animals are not kept in cages, but generally they are kept inside in an enclosed building. While this is less than ideal, at least this setup gives animals a chance to spread their wings and lay eggs in nest boxes, which is closer to their natural behavior. Cage-free does not imply antibiotics were not used on hens.

“Free-Range” or “Free-Roaming” Usually these types of operations allow chickens outside of cages in barns or warehouses, but they aren’t required to provide the animals any specific amount of time outside—or even exposure to sunlight indoors. There’s no third-party inspection required for free-range claims, and the chickens can be debeaked or forced into molting through starvation, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

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“Organic” A USDA-certified organic label means the eggs came from hens that were not enclosed in battery cages, and that must be offered access to the outdoors. However, this doesn’t guarantee that the animals ever go outside. Organic eggs come from hens that were fed certified-organic feed, free of antibiotics, pesticides, and other animal products. Forced molting and debeaking are permitted in certified-organic production. Annual inspections are required.

“Natural” This means that the finished product hasn’t undergone certain unnatural processes; in this case, that product is the egg. However, just because eggs are labeled natural doesn’t mean a hen wasn’t pumped up with antibiotics or other unnatural substances. And it certainly doesn’t mean the chickens were raised in clean, humane conditions. For all intents and purposes, natural means nothing.

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“Pastured” Pastured chickens should be housed on grassland in portable shelters that are periodically moved to give the chickens fresh pasture, but there’s no third-party inspection required to ensure that’s what’s really happening. Your best bet is to buy eggs from pastured hens at a local farm that raises the hens organically, ensuring they’re not exposed to pesticides, animal by-products, or antibiotics.

“Omega-3-Enriched” This means hens were fed feed with an increased amount of omega-3-rich flaxseeds. However, pasture-raised hens are already higher in beneficial omega-3s, and they get to be outside. Technically, caged hens could also be fed flax feed, so don’t equate this label with better living standards.

“Certified Humane” This means birds are not kept in cages, but they can be kept indoors. They at least have the space to perform natural behaviors. The program of Human Farm Animal Care sets limits on the number of birds that can be contained in the same area, and outside inspectors perform audits. The program does not, however, require that the animals eat organic feed.

“United Egg Producers Certified” Shapiro says this, along with “natural,” is one of the most misleading claims made on an egg carton. While forced molting is prohibited under this certification, debeaking is allowed, along with other cruel and inhumane practices, such as the use of battery cages.

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Aug 062010
 

chicken runMaking A Chicken Run

The dream of many people who decide to raise backyard chickens is to have then free range. But, the sad fact is that not everyone can raise free range chickens and having a chicken run is the only viable solution to keeping your chickens alive.

Making a chicken run may be necessary for a number of reasons:

  • You live in an area where your chickens are not allowed to roam.
  • You don’t have enough room to keep your chickens safe and off the road.
  • There are too many predators and you would lose too many chickens.
  • You don’t like chicken droppings all over your yard, porch, deck, etc.

Whatever the reason, making a chicken run doesn’t require you to be a rocket scientist nor does it have to break the bank.  The goal of making a run for your chickens is to give your chickens room to move around during the day and still keep them safe and contained.

When making a chicken run, the size will depend on how many chickens you have.  If you have a small flock of chickens, you will only need to make a space that is around 10 square feet.  But if you have a large flock of chickens, you will need to consider making one that is much larger so that your chickens are not overcrowded.  Overcrowded chickens are more stressed, more prone to disease and will not lay as well.

Before you start making your chicken run, you need to consider the following things.  small chicken run

  • It needs to be constructed to keep predators and pets out.  Sometimes predators will dig under your chicken run so take that into consideration and bury some of your fencing.
  • Use good quality lumber to build a chicken run that is strong and will be long lasting.  I used 4×4’s along the base when making a chicken run for my chickens and it made the structure very sturdy.
  • Consider using a hardwire mesh when making your chicken run.  It’s a great material because it’s tough, it can be bent to mold around the chicken run and predators can’t squeeze through it.
  • The hardware you purchase for doors and windows needs to also be animal proof.  Many dogs, racoons and foxes have the ablity to open latches on gates and get to your chickens.  So always buy latches that have pins or that you can put a clip through.
  • Consider intalling motion detector lights around your chicken coop as a predator proofing method when making your chicken run.  Most animals will run when a blinding light comes on.  If you can see your chicken coop from the house, you will also know when something is lurking around and threatening your chickens.

Raising chickens is a fun way to become more self reliant but it can be heartbreaking to go out in the morning and find dead or missing chickens.  Take the necessary precautions when making your chicken run so that your chickens live long and protected lives.

Check out these links if you need chicken run blueprints or just want some different ideas before you start making your chicken run.



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