Information and unique products for Dogs, Cats, Rabbits and Backyard Chickens

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Pros and Cons of a Fence-Free Flock

There is no shortage of information out there on the internet about keeping backyard chickens, ducks, and other poultry for your household to enjoy for eggs and other benefits. Many websites offer places to purchase or even instructions to build your own coops, fences, and even mobile hen cages to keep your birds in one place, but what about keeping them fence-free?
Our flock is free to roam the yard – an option that has shown to have both benefits and a few setbacks. Considering these may help you decide whether to give your own flock the same level of freedom, or to keep them confined for their own safety.

The Pros

  • One commonly known perk of keeping a small backyard flock is that they’ll help keep the bug levels down in your yard. This benefit only grows with the amount of ground that your birds are allowed to cover. My own flock tends to wander toward the wooded areas of the property during the day, both for protection and to eat the insects there. This is great for those of us who live in areas that are plagued by mosquitos in the summer.

Free Range Chicken Image
Free Range Chicken Feed: Bugs and Weeds

  • Chickens and other backyard fowl who are free to roam and eat insects all day require less feed than those with more limited space. Our flock’s diet is probably at least 75% grass and insects during the warmer months, with chicken feed serving as supplemental to their overall diet. This in turn means richer flavored, more nutritious eggs from your hens.
  • If you have more than three or four laying hens, a fence-free flock can help to keep the peace between your chickens, roosters, and any other types of fowl you keep. Larger and especially multi-species flocks can lead to more frequent disputes and fights between your birds. Our own flock has about twenty birds in total, and it’s very common for us to witness a few scuffles when everyone is gathered in the same spot for food, roosting, or to get out of the rain. During the day, however, they scatter into fluid groups that wander around different areas of the yard, and a relative peace is kept. This is also great for those of us who raise chicks now and then, because jealous roosters or even other hens may peck at and even kill younger chicks.
The Cons

Fox and Hen facing off.
Natural Enemies

  • The most obvious reason for fencing in your flock is to protect them from predators. Raccoons, possums, dogs, and birds of prey such as owls and hawks are just a few common predators that may want their own chicken dinner. We’ve lost more than a handful of chicks and smaller birds over the years. Fences and covered areas can deter these predators and keep your flock safe and happy.
  • If you like hunting eggs down every few days, then a fence-free flock is for you. Many birds will lay their eggs in the same nest for protection purposes, so it’s common to find eggs from several different hens in the same spot. After a few days of their latest laying spot being emptied, however, the hens will move on and look for a new place to build a nest. If you have a larger yard or one with a lot of nooks and crannies, your daily routine might include a daily egg hunt. Occasionally I’ve found large nests hidden away, and have been forced to toss any eggs I find there simply because I don’t know how old they are. One way to deter this is to use a wooden or plastic decoy egg. Placing one in an existing nest will encourage your ladies to lay their eggs in the same spot. You can also encourage your hens to lay eggs where you want them to by keeping them cooped up in a smaller area for a few days. Once they’re used to laying eggs in one area, they’re more likely to continue. Try combining this method with a couple of decoy eggs for the best results.
  • Other dangers and risks your flock may face without a fence include traffic on busy streets or highways, or the fact that your birds may just wander off, exposing them to predators and other dangers. If you think these are likely, keeping your flock in an enclosed area is probably the better option.

 Consider the size of your own flock, your yard, and whatever predators may be within range to cause trouble.
Whether or not you decide to keep your backyard flock behind a fence has plenty of benefits and problems, no matter your decision, but taking all of your factors into consideration can help you determine the best option for you. Consider the size of your own flock, your yard, and whatever predators may be within range to cause trouble.

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The Easy Step Bed Stair For Dogs

The Easy Step Bed Stair was designed specifically for smaller pets up to 75 lbs.  


Its deep steps give your pet the ability to get their entire body on each platform and a shorter step height makes climbing the stairs easier for pint-sized pets. 

The new space-saving design allows the stairs to wrap snuggly around furniture taking up less room in your home. 

These stairs feature a hinged back panel that lifts up for easy access to storage space underneath the stairs. 

Carpet treads remove easily and are machine washable. 

Setup is literally “a snap” as the stair easily snaps together (no tools required).

  • "L" Shaped stair layout take up less space in room
  • Rubber grippers on bottom keep stairs secure and in place
  • Hinged back panel for access to storage space
  • Snaps together very easily (no tools required)
  • Low step height (5”) and deep stair landings 25.5” high
  • For small to medium pets only

Capacity 75 lbs

31"L x 14"W x 25.5"H 


$257.15 ea With Free Shipping to locations within the Continental USA.

Save 20% ( $51.43 ) through Nov. 25, 2014


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

6 Pests That Can Wreak Havoc On Your Coop

Banish These 6 Coop Pests from Your Coop—Naturally! Photo courtesy Catherine L. Walters/iStock/Thinkstock (
Courtesy Catherine L. Walters/iStock/Thinkstock

6 Pests That Can Wreak Havoc On Your Coop (And How to Banish Them Naturally!)

Watch carefully for signs that mites, ticks and other nuisances are at work in the coop, and take immediate action to get rid of them for good.



By Audrey Pavia

Although your chickens may be the darlings of your farm, once a pest invasion strikes the coop, nurturing them back to health can be a headache. Chickens are keen at hiding signs of weakness, so you might not notice right away if they’re being attacked by biting lice, mites or flies. It’s important to take careful notice of signs that these poultry pests are at work and take measures to keep them and other chicken threats out of the coop. Here are six of the most common coop pests and natural ways to keep them at bay.

1. Ticks
A species of bloodsucking anthropod, Argas persicus, commonly known as the poultry tick or fowl tick, can discretely feed on your chickens. You’ll likely discover these pests by taking a close look at your coop—ticks hide in the crevices of the coop structure and crawl out at night to feed. Although it’s difficult to see ticks on your chickens, you’ll get a clue to the presence of these arachnids when you notice your chickens are reluctant to go inside the coop at night and seem agitated when they try to roost.
Treatment: To minimize the risk of ticks in the coop, caulk the crevices, which is where ticks hide and breed. If ticks have already taken up residence, use a knife to scrape out the ticks from every crevice and hose out the entire coop. Once the coop is dry, you can then fill all crevices with caulk.

2. Mites & Lice
Northern fowl mites (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) and chicken mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) can infest chicken coops, making your birds’ lives miserable. Like poultry ticks, they hide in dark coop crevices during the day and come out to feast on the blood of the chickens at night. They can cause chickens to stop laying eggs and to scratch and over-preen. You can see these tiny insects crawling around if you examine your chickens at night while they’re roosting.
Treatment: If your coop has been infested with mites or lice, scrub out the coop with a 3-to-1 water-to-bleach solution. Scrub coop crevices using a toothbrush, and dust the coop (and your chickens!) with food-grade diatomaceous earth. Give your chickens a tub with fine dirt or dust sprinkled with some of the DE so they can self-treat with therapeutic dust baths. In the case of a severe infestation, a vet may need to prescribe a medication, such as oral ivermectin.

3. Rodents
Mice and rats like to visit chicken coops and help themselves to the food. Lured by chicken feed, scratch and other chicken treats, rodents will leave their droppings behind and contribute to unsanitary conditions in your coop. They might even bring mites along, which can infest your chickens.
Treatment: Rodents are most active at night, so remove scratch and pelleted food in the evening and put it back in the morning. Surround your coop with tight wire mesh, attached to the frame, so mice and rats cannot squeeze through. If you already have chicken wire on your coop, reinforce it by putting the smaller mesh overtop.

4. Flies
House and stable flies are the most common fly pests to invade your coop. Attracted by fresh feces, they can cause terrible damage to chickens with open sores, so chickens that are being bullied and have missing feathers and wounds are most susceptible. Some flies even lay eggs on chicken’s vents if the chicken has diarrhea.
Treatment: It’s easy to keep flies at bay by cleaning your coop regularly and changing the bedding often. Monitor the health of your chickens, and intervene if one or more chickens are being pecked at repeatedly. Watch for chronic diarrhea, and treat with the help of a poultry vet. Practice natural fly control on your property by eliminating damp areas where flies breed, and by using sticky fly traps near the coop.

5. Ants
If you like to give your chickens fresh food, you’ve probably discovered ants in your coop. These busy scavengers are experts at locating fresh produce, no matter where it is. Ants are also drawn to broken eggs, and will swarm a coop not long after an egg breaks. While ants can’t harm a healthy chicken, young chicks or sick or injured birds can become victims of biting ants.
Treatment: To prevent ants, remove uneaten fresh food after the chickens walk away from it and clean up any broken eggs right away. If you find ants swarming in your coop, spray them with an all-natural kitchen cleanser or a 1-to-1 vinegar-water solution. This will kill the ants without harming your birds.

6. Predators
The deadliest pests to invade a coop, predators can decimate a flock. If domestic dogs and cats, coyotes, raccoons, or even bobcats find their way into your coop, your chickens can be seriously injured or killed.
Treatment: The best way to keep predators out of your coop is to ensure it’s secure. The coop’s mesh wire should be no larger than 1-by-1-inch and should be securely fasted to a wood or metal frame. Dogs and coyotes will try to dig under the coop to gain access, so a cement or attached wooden floor is essential to keep your flock safe. You can also bury mesh or wood to deter digging predators, but it needs to be at least 1 foot deep. Raccoons are dexterous and will open latches. Make sure doors are raccoon-safe by using a carabineer to secure them.

About the Author: Audrey Pavia is a frequent contributor to Hobby Farms magazine. She keeps a flock of bantam chickens at her home in Norco, Calif.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kitten Carrier

Hooby Groovy Kitten Carrier

The Hooby Groovy Kitten Carrier is hand-crafted specially for curious kittens who love cosy little cubby holes. Kittens can easily get used to travelling if they're feeling safe and comfy in their carrier. 
The Hooby Groovy Kitten Carrier is designed as a comfy kitty cubby box that's cosy and pretty enough to use at home as their regular bed.



  • Door flap is secured shut with a magnet on the top of the box to ensure your little kitty is safe and secure during travel. 
  • 11 peekaboo fly-screen windows so that kitty can still look out and satisfy their little kitty curiousity while the fly-screen ensures that they won't be able to escape out of their carrier if that noisy bird outside is just a little too enticing!
  • Personalised tag with your kitty's name embroidered on it so they know that this is their carrier. Be sure to leave me a note during checkout to let me know what your kitty's name is!
  • Trimming pictured above is brown, however I can also create the carrier with other trimming colours, just choose the trimming colour you would like in the drop down box above. 
  • Carrier can be dismantled into 3 major pieces so that it can be shipped and stored flat to save space. Putting it together is a simple matter of clipping the pieces together with the snap fasteners attached.
  • Straps are made of felt and heavy duty belting. 
  • Carrier is made of a wooden frame is that wrapped in high quality 2mm thick felt, ensuring a strong structure while still having an interesting and comfy texture that your kitty will love. 

Dimensions: 40cm x 30cm x 30cm / 15.75in x 11.8in x 11.8in
Weight: 2.36kg / 5.2 lb
 *The Hooby Groovy Kitten Carrier is made to order, creation time may take up to 4 weeks from time of payment.
*The pillow pictured above is not included with the Kitten Carrier. Hooby Groovy pet pillows will be available in the near future.

Shipping within Australia is via regular Australia Post parcel mail, delivery is within 3-4 business days and tracking is included.
Shipping to destinations outside of Australia is via Australia Post Express Post International, delivery is within 3-7 business days and tracking is included.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dog Agility: A Sport for You and Your Pup

Dog Agility Is A Sport 

If you’re ready for a new challenge, consider giving dog agility a try. Although the training for agility requires time and patience, the sport offers obedience, social skills, and fitness benefits for dogs and is enjoyable for people as well.

Sara Woolverton, handler of 5-year-old Scout (pictured), has been competing for two and a half years and says the commitment is well worth the benefits. “Scout and I both love it. You can tell from her face she has a good time.

To get involved, start with a basic
understanding of dog agility and a positive attitude

What Is Dog Agility?

Dog agility is a sport in which dogs navigate their way through a variety of obstacles led by their handlers’ directions. “The dog knows everything he needs to know within the first one to two years,” Woolverton says. “After that, it’s all about the person. The art of it is in the person communicating to the dog what it is he needs to do.” Since agility competitions prohibit food or toy incentives, dogs rely only on their handlers’ vocal and motion cues to direct them through obstacle courses.

Benefits of Dog Agility

Agility training cultivates a strong bond between handlers and dogs, since dogs must follow their handlers' instructions carefully through courses. But the physical aspect of the sport is also a positive reason to participate. Training for obstacle courses is a great way to keep dogs physically fit. Agility also offers an opportunity for both owners and dogs to spend more time outside.

The Social Advantage

Agility can also improve dogs’ social skills since both competitions and training classes facilitate friendships. Woolverton says that Scout and her friend Sophie, a blue border collie, met in class a year ago and are now inseparable. Woolverton has also seen a change in Scout’s personality since she began agility. “She’s always been on the shy side,” says Woolverton. “She’s a retriever who doesn’t like to retrieve. But doing agility has made her more active and approachable.” Agility allows dogs to gain confidence, which will make them more comfortable in social settings.

Understanding the Basics

If agility sounds like the sport for you and your dog, it’s time to get started. First, Woolverton suggests that dogs complete a basic obedience class. After you have built a relationship with your dog in obedience class, enroll in agility classes. But Woolverton warns that agility classes can fill up fast. “It can take a while. But if you find one you want, it’s worth waiting for,” she says. Plan ahead by joining the waiting list for agility while completing the obedience class. In agility classes, dogs will learn a variety of tricks that they can perform in competitions.


Jumps are one of the basic obstacles dogs will learn in agility classes. The height of the bar depends on the dog’s ability and size. Learning jumps is a gradual process, according to Woolverton. Dogs will start by simply walking over a pole lying flat on the ground, and handlers will raise the pole height gradually, making sure the dog is comfortable at each height before moving up. Although dogs may be persuaded with treats or toys in training, handlers will be disqualified for using any incentives during course runs in competitions.



Dogs also learn tunnels in agility class. Similar to the way they learn jumps, dogs will learn how to master tunnels by slowly increasing the difficulty. Dogs first learn how to walk through a hula hoop, then a foot-long tunnel, and eventually the large ones used in competitions. Tunnels are Scout’s favorite obstacle. “Even if it’s not where she is supposed to go, if it’s right ahead or nearby, she will go through it anyway because she enjoys them so much,” Woolverton says.



After your dog has mastered training and you feel comfortable directing her through obstacles, it’s time to sign up for your first competition. During competitions, dogs are judged on speed, accuracy and ability. Competitions are held all day for multiple days. Woolverton warns that during warmer months the events are hot and tiring for both handler and dog. She suggests purchasing a shaded carrier and keeping water bottles close for both human and dog hydration.


Advanced Agility

With continuous improvement, your dog can qualify for the advanced level at competitions. Woolverton says that handlers should be aware of tricky obstacle sequences at this level. “For instance, they will put something out that looks really attractive to the dog, like a tunnel,” says Woolverton. “But the handler has to get the dog to go in a different direction and take something else.” To prepare for higher level courses, handlers should devote practice time to improving their directions and train dogs to run obstacles in a complicated order.

One Rule to Remember

No matter what level of competition you're in, keep the sport enjoyable by avoiding an aggressive attitude. Focusing too much on winning is bound to change agility from a fun activity to a frustrating chore. During competitions try to focus on improvement instead of winning, and enjoy yourself. “It allows you to let go,” says Woolverton. “Getting first place is great, but it’s really about if we had a good time. If it’s not fun, it’s not healthy, and your dog will run better if you’re both having fun.”


By Sonja Bistranin, eHow
Photo courtesy of Sara Woolverton

Read more :


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Antique Egg Carrier

Antique Egg Carrier from the early 1900's
Carrier is Approx. 13" x 13" x 11" Tall

Carrier is constructed of wood with a sliding top and carry handle. 
Original cardboard egg dividers fill the carrier with the ability to hold 36 eggs on each layer

Most of the 36 artificial eggs in the first level are made of wood
with a few plastic exceptions

This carrier is in beautiful, excellent, clean condition from TWIN BROOK FARMS, GARLAND, MAINE

A must have display piece for the Chicken enthusiast.

$86.50 plus shipping to locations within the continental USA.


The 4 Musts About Chicken Perches

Where And How Do You Put Perches in Chicken Coops?

By Cody Sorensen, eHow Contributor

Perches allow chickens a healthier sleeping environment.

Chickens need perches in their coop to allow them to sleep without standing in their feces. Chickens roost on perches in the wild to avoid predators at night and during the day. Perches in a chicken coop help fulfill this natural tendency. 

Well-placed perches help keep chickens from pooping on each other and from getting injured. Chickens need to have perches that provide enough surface area for them to balance on while sleeping. Placement, spacing, length and height are the four things to consider during the installation process. 


The perches need to be placed toward the back of the coop away from nesting boxes, windows and doors. This placement will ensure the chickens stay out of harmful drafts and out of the nesting boxes at night. 

The perches need to be secured to the walls of the coop and installed level. A bubble level can help you accomplish this. Un-level perches cause chickens to fatigue one leg more than the other. This can result in chickens falling off the roosts at night.


Chickens need space to accommodate the varied temperaments in a flock. Some chickens don't mind roosting shoulder to shoulder, but others won't allow any neighbors within 12 to 24 inches. 

Install the perches so that each roost is 12 inches apart. This will help keep the more aggressive birds from pecking at the less aggressive ones above or below them. 

Stagger each perch 12 inches up or 12 inches below subsequent perches. 

Offset the perches by 12 inches so you don't have any perches directly on top of each other.


Count the number of chickens you have in your flock and then multiply that number by 1 foot. Each chicken needs a minimum of 1 foot on the perch. If you have 12 chickens, you need to install 12 feet of perch space. 

The length and amount of perches you need to install depends on the width and design of your chicken coop. If your coop is 3 feet wide, you'll need four 3-foot long perches to accommodate 12 chickens. Always provide more than the minimum to keep your chickens comfortable.


Never set roosts higher than 4 feet off the ground. When you place them higher than this, the risk of injury increases. 

Chickens can get rather feisty when they begin roosting in the evening. Chickens have a pecking order and the dominant birds always goes for the top perch. This process often causes some of the submissive birds to fall off the roosts. 

A fall from a roost higher than 4 feet can cause foot, leg and wing injuries. Always keep a 6- to 8-inch layer of pine shavings on the floor to help cushion falling chickens.

Read more :

How to Build a Chicken Roost or Roosting Rod

Roosting rods should easily support the weight of several chickens.

Chickens instinctively spend the night off the ground, making a roost an essential feature for any chicken coop. The simplest kind is a horizontal rod or pole suspended above the ground or floor. 

Materials for roosting rods can range from wood dowels to tree branches, but they must be suitable for a chicken's feet to grasp comfortably, yet sturdy enough to support the weight of several birds. 

One of the easiest materials to use is standard 2-by-2 lumber, which is milled with slightly rounded edges. A roosting rod supported by notched supports, or cleats, makes it easy to remove for cleaning the coop or replacing the rod.

Plan the Roosting Rod Location

1   Determine the number of roosting rods you’ll need based on the maximum number of chickens living in the coop. Provide at least 8 inches of roosting space per chicken.

2   Plan the height of each roosting rod. While some commercial freestanding roosts can be only about 6 inches tall, chickens prefer to be higher off the ground. You can place them as high as you like; just make sure the rods are at least 12 inches off the ground and that the birds have plenty of headroom while roosting.

3   Arrange the locations of multiple rods for adequate space, leaving 18 inches between side-by-side perches. You can also arrange rods diagonally (at an ascending angle), leaving at least 12 inches of horizontal and vertical space between neighboring rods. 

Do not position rods directly above one another, as the lower perches would be in the line of fire from droppings.

4   Mark the rod locations onto the coop’s walls. Rods can extend between any two opposing walls or other supports, or can run diagonally between adjacent walls.

Cut the Rods and Cleats

5   Cut 5-inch lengths of 2-by-4 for the ends of each rod, using a circular saw, miter saw, or handsaw. These are the cleats that will hold the ends of the rods.

6   Cut each rod to length from a 2-by-2 so it fits easily between the supporting walls of the coop at the marked locations. If the rods will sit diagonally, cut their ends at opposing 45-degree angles.

7   Sand all surfaces of each rod with 100-grit sandpaper to remove any sharpness and splinters.

8   Mark and cut a 1-1/2-inch-wide by 1-1/2-inch-deep notch into the top edge of each cleat, to accept the ends of the rods. Cut the notches by making multiple parallel cuts with a saw, then chiseling out the waste pieces and cleaning up the bottoms of the notches with a wood chisel. For diagonal rods, make the notches at a 45-degree angle across the top edges of the cleats.

9   Drill four pilot holes through each cleat, spacing a pair of holes evenly at either side of the notched center area. Use a drill and countersink-piloting bit to create a recess for screw heads.

Install the Rods

10   Position a cleat on its mark on the supporting wall, with the notched edge pointing up. Use a torpedo level to make sure the top edge of the cleat is level.

11   Fasten the cleat to the coop wall with four deck screws. The screws' length should be 1-1/2 inches plus about 3/4 of the thickness of the coop wall (or support) material.

12   Position a second cleat on the opposing support wall. Set one of the rods into the notches of both cleats and make sure it is level, then fasten the second cleat as with the first. Repeat the process to install  the remaining cleats and rods.

Read more :


Wyandotte Hen

This is a Wyandotte hen with chick. This breed comes in many color combinations - this being my personal favorite.  -- 

This is a Wyandotte hen with chick. This breed comes in many color combinations - this Golden Laced is one of the most gorgeous. 
Originaly found on 

Wyandottes are a favorite amongst backyard flock owners for their dependable egg laying, easygoing nature, hardiness, and the great variety of beautiful feather patterns available. Silver Penciled, Golden Laced, Blue, Columbian and White Wyandottes are all rather rare. 


Golden to left & Silver Laced below

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Raising Multiple Species in Your Backyard Flock

Raising Multiple Species in Your Backyard Flock

Raising Multiple Species in Your Backyard FlockMore and more people are adding a small flock of chickens, ducks, and other species of fowl to their own backyards, and for great reasons: fresh eggs, free fertilizer, and fewer bugs, to name a few. A common question, though, is this: Can multiple species, such as chickens and turkeys, coexist in the same space without causing problems?

The short answer is: Yes! At my household we have kept chickens for several years, but in the past year began adding ducks and turkeys to the mix. Today we have about fifteen chickens of various breeds, three ducks, and five turkeys. Although there are species-specific brands of feed out there, our flock all dine on the same pellets our chickens have always enjoyed, as well as the occasional fruit and vegetable scraps. Our birds are also completely free to roam the yard, and the majority of their diet comes from grass and insects consumed throughout the day.

The Bottom Line: Space
We haven’t had many issues with our birds fighting, but a major factor to that has been the fact that our birds are completely free range, fence free, and have about four acres of space. Those with smaller flocks will obviously not have this level of space requirement, but having enough room for your birds to separate to keep the peace will be very beneficial. At night, our chickens roost in the coop (and on top of our hay bales, sigh), the ducks go off to wherever they go at night, and our turkeys line up on a section of fence for the night. By day, our ducks and turkeys actually stick together – I’ll explain why later – and the chickens more or less keep to themselves unless food is presented. Occasionally the entire flock will come together in one area, particularly during rainy weather or if a hawk has been spotted. Any fights I’ve seen have been short-lived and are usually over food, but having a little extra space seems to be ideal.

Beware the Boys
Most chicken owners know that having more than one or two roosters is a big no-no, but my advice would be to use that rule for whatever type of backyard bird you decide to add to your flock. Getting chicks and ducklings can be a gamble, and you’ll inevitably end up with more males than you wanted from time to time. Last year we ended up with four drakes out of a batch of five ducklings, which ended up being a bit of a disaster. Once grown, the drakes banded together and regularly attacked our chickens, hens and roosters alike. I even caught them trying to drown a hen in the kiddie pond from time to time. We’re now down to two drakes, who spend most of their time following the duck hen around and protecting her, and thankfully our tom has never seemed to trouble himself with the smaller fowl. Our ladies will peck and squawk at one another now and then, but the yard is a much more peaceful place with fewer roosters and drakes around.

Raising Multiple Species in Your Backyard FlockThe Benefits
Despite the occasional squabble, having a multi-species flock has had a few great and unexpected benefits for our yard. If you’re hoping to hatch and raise chicks, a turkey hen is a great addition to your flock, and here’s why: Although turkeys lay far fewer eggs per year than most breeds of chicken or duck, they tend to go broody very easily and will sit on any eggs you put under her. Our lady has hatched two batches of eggs this year, and we had to stop her from sitting on a third.

Because our birds are completely free range, nests tend to pop up all over the place, but one advantage to this has been that all of our ladies will share one or two nests at a time. Not only does this make finding eggs easier, but it’s led to some interesting surrogate motherhoods. Our turkey raised a few of her own chicks, but also raised a handful of chickens and ducks at the same time! Even now, when our springtime chicks are grown, the duckling that was raised by turkeys still follows his adoptive siblings around the yard. Besides being adorable, this has probably led to a more peaceful backyard.

If you can give your flock the extra space and keep your male population to a minimum, adding multiple species to your backyard can lead to some unexpected benefits, not to mention interesting flock drama to watch from your porch. If you’ve been keeping chickens and wonder what it might be like to add some variety, my advice would be to give it a try! 


Why Aren't My Hens Laying?

Why Aren’t They Laying?

Egg production or the lack thereof, is a big concern for most folks with chickens. We love our fresh eggs and we want them daily! It helps to have a realistic expectation of what a chicken can produce and for how long. Many people think that chickens produce an egg a day, everyday, but they don’t. Most laying hens produce 5 eggs a week for 2 to 3 years. But, during that time they will take a little break for a few weeks in order to molt. There are many factors that play into your hens producing consistently at these peak production rates


Rowdy Roosters

Get rid of the roosters! Too much “horseplay” will reduce laying because they are stressed. One rooster is plenty for up to 15 hens. If you aren’t planning to hatch any of your eggs then a rooster isn’t necessary at all. The only other benefit of a rooster, if he’s a good one, is that he will keep your hens calm and help guide them to yummy tidbits when they are out foraging.


Age Matters

Raising Multiple Species in Your Backyard Flock
How old are they? If your hens are 8 months to 3 years (some say just 2 years) then they should be meeting these regular production rates. Peak production is the first 18 months of laying. Older hen’s production goes down significantly after the 3 year mark. You can keep them or cull them but don’t count on them for regular eggs.
Feed, vitamin and mineral intake are all significant factors in egg production. Laying hens need at least 20% of their diet to be protein. Lay pellets can be bought that are 20% protein; if they free range they’ll also get protein from greenery and hopefully a good compost pile to play in too. Vitamin and mineral supplements are a good way to ensure the proper intake of trace minerals and vitamins, even if they free range, because no soil today can provide all the necessary nutrients.
Water must be tested. If you haven’t had your water tested you need to do this. Your water may contain high rates of dissolved calcium which would cause reduced production and make laying much harder for your hens. How much salt is in your water? This matters because insufficient salt causes production to go down. If you’re worried about your fluoride and chlorine intake you probably don’t want high contents of those for your hens because this gets passed on through the eggs. Water testing kits are available at county extension offices.


Potential Pests

Pests such as lice, mites, worms, rodents and predators all cause loss of production. Treat lice and mite infestations on a regular basis with Ivermetin. Dust your coop with diatomaceous earth regularly to keep re-infestations down. There are several good wormers available as at your feed store or pet store. It’s also important to keep your coop inaccessible to rodents, opossums, raccoons, dogs and other predators this is crucial to keeping your hens happy, safe and producing. Close holes, cracks and crevices that could permit unwanted visitors and make sure coop doors can’t be opened by raccoons. Those coons are clever little critters, always looking for eggs and chickens, so make sure you use child-proof hooks with the springs to keep them out.


Weather Problems

Weather is another factor that affects production. When it’s cold, add a light to your coop so that you ensure your hens are getting 14 to 15 hours of daylight. Chickens burn more calories when it’s cold in order to stay warm so be sure to increase their feed and treats accordingly. Another aspect of weather that negatively impacts your hens is rain: don’t let rain into your coop if you can help it. Hens really don’t like getting wet and a drenching will really stress them out. Make sure they’ve got somewhere that is dry and keeps them off wet ground too.
isolated chicken with egg
Comfortable nesting makes for happy chickens and more eggs. If you have clean inviting nests with comfortable bedding your girls will want to nest and lay. Fresh hay, newspaper pellets or shredded paper all make for great nests.


Breed Specifics

Know your breed. Are you raising laying chickens? If you’re raising a meat chicken and expecting it to lay at these production rates then you’re going to be disappointed. If you are raising laying hens but their not adapted to your climate they won’t meet maximum production either. For example, a Turken is better adapted for cooler climates and won’t lay as well in hot climates.
All-in-all a happy, comfortable chicken is going to reward you with regular eggs for a long time.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nesting Box Herbs - Chicken Aromatherapy

Fresh and dried herbs have amazing health and well-being benefits...and also provide a bit of aromatherapy for your chickens.

By Lisa - Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl

eggs Freshly laid eggs in a nesting box full of herbs 

My coop never smelled so good until I started adding an herbal blend that includes mint, basil, lemon balm, lavender and rose petals in the nesting boxes.  The first time I put the herbs into the nesting baskets, one of my hens actually fell asleep after laying her egg. Now that's one relaxed hen !
grace  Buff Grace sitting in the nesting box

Fresh or dried herbs in your nesting boxes not only work as insecticides, but also have anti-bacterial properties, and can act as natural wormers, anti-parasitics, insecticides, rodent control, stress relievers and laying stimulants.  They will help a laying hen feel safe and relaxed while she is sitting, and calm a broody hen, as well as repel rodents, flies and other parasites. Plus they look so pretty !
boxes Nesting boxes filled with fresh herbs

They will also benefit newly hatched chicks.  Research has shown that wild birds will line their nests with fresh herbs and flowers, especially those that contain essential oils. The newly hatched baby birds benefit by rubbing against these herbs in the first few days of life.  Same applies to baby chicks. The chicks will also eat some of the herbs, thereby garnering even more health benefits from them.

Here is a partial list of common herbs and flowers and their beneficial properties:

Basil - antibacterial, mucus membrane health Catnip - sedative, insecticide
Cilantro - antioxidant, fungicide, builds strong bones, high in Vitamin A for vision and Vitamin K for blood clotting
Dill - antioxidant, relaxant, respiratory health
Fennel -laying stimulant
Garlic - laying stimulant
Lavender - stress reliever, increases blood circulation, highly aromatic, insecticide
Lemon Balm - stress reliever, antibacterial, highly aromatic, rodent repellent
Marigold - laying stimulant
Marjoram - lay stimulant
Mint (all kinds) - insecticide and rodent repellent
Nasturtium - laying stimulant, antiseptic, antibiotic, insecticide, wormer
Oregano - combats coccidia, salmonella, infectious bronchitis, avian flu, blackhead and e-coli
Parsley - high in vitamins, aids in blood vessel development, laying stimulant
Peppermint - anti-parasitic, insecticide
Pineapple Sage - aids nervous system, highly aromatic
Rose Petals - highly aromatic, high in Vitamin C
Rosemary - pain relief, respiratory health, insecticide
Sage - antioxidant, anti-parasitic
Spearmint - antiseptic, insecticide, stimulates nerve, brain and blood functions
Tarragon - antioxidant
Thyme - respiratory health, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-parasitic

Toss a few handfuls of mixed cut herbs into your nesting boxes and refresh them as needed.  Your chickens will benefit from them and you will enjoy how nice your coop smells.  

Read more:


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

15 Accessories for Your Chicken Coop

Choosing from the many accessories available for your chicken coop can be overwhelming. Use this guide to determine what you need right away and what can be added to the wish list.

By Cory Hershberger , Hobby Farms Assistant Editor

Hen House and Hutch Design by Purina Mills

So you’ve launched into your very own chicken-keeping adventure. You’ve done the research, narrowed down the breeds you’d like to raise, and now moved on to the final piece of the puzzle before placing your order with a hatchery: the chicken coop. Many different coop options are available to poultry keepers, from store-bought, pre-assembled chicken arks to DIY enclosures of all shapes and sizes.
No matter what your chicken coop might look like or what your end purpose in chicken-keeping might be, a number of accessories are available that can enhance your chicken-keeping experience, making it as easy and fun as possible, while keeping your beloved brood safe and healthy.

Basic Accessories
These coop accessories are essential to all coops, keeping your chickens fed and hydrated and providing them with adequate sleeping and egg-laying locations in their cozy home. Before you start thinking about fancier add-ons, make sure you incorporate these fundamental enhancements into your flock’s coop.

Nest Box
Because hens seek a secluded place to lay their eggs, nest boxes, complete with clean, dry bedding, are an essential feature of most chicken coops. David Frame, a Utah State University Extension poultry specialist, recommends placing the nest box (or nest boxes, depending on how many chickens you own) in darker areas to promote its usage. He also encourages poultry keepers to have a good amount of nest boxes accessible: “Even though the rule of thumb is one nest box to about five hens, I suggest having more nest boxes available than that to discourage overcrowding,” he says.

Roosting Bars
Most chicken breeds roost, or perch, to sleep at night. To enhance the chicken’s comfort, some keepers provide roosting bars for their birds to perch on throughout the night. It’s a good idea to include at least one bar per bird (or a bar long enough for multiple birds to perch on), and Frame recommends smoothing off the edges on the bars’ top surfaces to minimize potential foot discomfort.

The most important element in a chicken’s diet is water, so ensure that clean, fresh water is available to your flock at all times to avoid issues with growth and egg production and to keep your birds healthy. Waterers come in an assortment of types and designs, such as a portable fountain-type drinker and a bell-type drinker that can be hooked up to a low-pressure water line.

“Always put in more waterers than you think you’ll need,” Frame says, as this can help accommodate shy chickens and allow for the availability of fresh water in the event of a spill or malfunction.

Food is another vital ingredient for a healthy flock, and like waterers, feeders come in a variety of designs, including feeders that can be hung from the coop ceiling and bucket feeders that can store a few days’ worth of feed. Frame emphasizes that floor feeders need to have a lip deep enough to minimize feed spillage onto the coop floor. He adds that excess feed should be stored properly. “Always store unused feed in closed containers, such as Rubbermaid bins or covered plastic garbage containers,” he says.

Heater and Thermometer
If you plan to hatch and raise chicks, a heating element and a brooder thermometer are absolute necessities. Because chicks cannot produce enough energy to keep themselves warm (this is why mothers cover the chicks with their bodies), a heating element, such as a heat lamp, is essential to their survival. A brooder thermometer also allows you to monitor the actual temperature of the chicks’ habitat, raising or lowering the heat as needed.

Comfy Accessories
This category of accessories is for the chicken keeper who is willing to splurge a little on their coop for additional safety or ease of care. None of these add-ons is required for a healthy and productive flock, but they could make tending to your poultry much easier.

Waterer Upgrade (Heated and/or Continuous Flow)
In addition to the basic waterers mentioned above, additional designs can make providing water for your brood much easier. A waterer with a heated base will keep the water from freezing on cold days and nights, as will a continuous-flow design, which also keeps the water from becoming stagnant.

Depending on the size of your coop, it might be possible to attach wheels to the frame and move it around the yard. As a side effect of their scratching and picking at the soil in search of bugs and plant material to eat, chickens aerate the ground under their feet while fertilizing it with their droppings. By moving the coop around your property, you can spread these benefits across your whole plot of land, minimizing potential destruction to your grass.

Electric Fencing
If you have a free-range flock, electric fencing is an excellent way to keep your birds contained while keeping them safe from predators. “In trials, we found [electric fencing] even discourages raccoons from entering,” Frame says. Electric fencing can be implemented in a number of ways, including a simple one- or two-wire system, electrified poultry netting, or hot wires added to existing fencing.

Edible Plants
You can supplement your chickens’ diet with edible plants, including spinach, lettuce, watermelon, cantaloupe and comfrey (which Frame notes is a particular favorite of many birds) to vary their diet and provide them with additional nutrient sources. Frame discourages the consumption of grass, however. “Grass clippings are hard to digest and may cause impaction, and folks often treat grass with herbicides and insecticides,” he says. For more information on chickens and edible garden plants, check out “Garden-variety Chickens” in the March/April 2013 issue of Hobby Farms.

Boredom Busters
To provide a little variety in your flock’s diet and keep them busy, you can either purchase or make an edible block treat. These treats usually contain an array of ingredients, including various grains and meals along with some all-important grit to help with digestion. As your chickens break apart the block treats little by little, their natural scratching and pecking instincts are encouraged by the treats, keeping them healthy and entertained all at once. Frame also notes that chickens love to scratch and pick at alfalfa, especially in the winter.

Upscale Accessories
These add-ons are for chicken keepers who want to take their coop to the next level, and they range from gadgets designed to help protect and watch over a flock to embellishments and decorations aimed at beautifying coops from the bottom up.

Coop D├ęcor
 Chicken coops don’t have to just be functional; they can also add to your farm’s overall style with keeping your flock safe and sound. Tiffany Kirchner-Dixon, photographer and blogger at The Fancy Farmgirl, keeps function in mind with her coop’s decorative touches, such as the stylish wall hooks she uses to hold egg buckets and feed scoops; the galvanized, lidded buckets where she stores extra feed; and the coop’s predominant feature—a classic chandelier that keeps her hens laying year-round.

Kirchner-Dixon advises keepers to meet their chickens’ basic needs before adding decoration, but she points out that even the basics can be stylish. “Even creature comforts can be pretty, like the vintage ladder I use for the chickens to roost, or the vintage windows and shutters I added to the coop for ventilation,” she says. She suggests keeping decorative items either on the outside of the coop or up high in the coop itself and to keep small, shiny items away from the coop entirely.

Green Roof
To fully maximize the space that your chicken coop occupies, consider building a coop with a green roof. With a little extra construction, you can grow plants right on top of your chickens’ cozy home. It does require extra planning to ensure that the coop can hold the soil and plant weight, as well as a waterproofing membrane to keep moisture from sinking into the structure itself. Incorporating a slight slant to the coop’s green roof (or any coop roof) also allows you to collect rainwater in a rain barrel to help with your flock’s water needs or water plants around the farm.

Automatic Door Closer
For free-range chickens, installing an automatic coop-door closer will make locking your chickens in the coop at night a cinch. These coop doors are set on a timer to open in the morning and let your flock out to roam and subsequently close at night to keep the birds locked in the coop. Despite their convenience, Frame advises chicken keepers to perform frequent checks to ensure that the door closer is working properly. “[Automatic door closers] require frequent monitoring to make sure they don’t close birds out if they malfunction,” he says.

Solar-powered LED Light
If you have a long-standing problem with predators, such as raccoons, coyotes or foxes, encroaching on your chicken coop at night, consider a solar-powered LED light to help keep your flock safe. These lights gather power during the day and flash a small red light from dusk until dawn, which predators perceive as a threat, causing them to keep their distance from the coop.

Video Camera
For an illuminating look at the goings-on of your flock, try installing a video camera in the coop for the inside scoop on your chickens’ behavior. Frame points out that this can be very entertaining, of course, but it can also be informative, too. “If you really want to be enlightened about what goes on in the coop at night, add infrared [to your camera],” he says. “This may help [you] get an understanding of rodent and other varmint challenges.”

Hen House and Hutch Design at top of this post is by Purina Mills



A dozen Do's and a dozen Dont's of Keeping Chickens

Granary Hen House 3ft with Timber Roof

A dozen Do's and a dozen Dont's of Keeping Chickens

Some poultry keepers may not agree with this list, and some will say "well, for goodness sake, thats just common sense". But, after the success and popularity of our recent Flyte so Fancy Health Chart it was suggested, by many of you, that we put a few basic chicken keeping 'rules' in a list.

This we have put together from the the most common questions we receive on our Help and Advice telephone line.


DO collect eggs regularly to avoid egg eating and broodiness, at least twice a day if you can.
DO make sure your birds always have clean water, so keep it unfrozen in winter and don't allow an algae build up in summer. Keep it free of debris and poo.
DO give them access to layers pellets in a feeder all the time, mixed corn is a treat.
DO check the house regularly for Red Mite particularly the perch ends - with a torch is best.
DO clean the house regularly once a week at least. It is then less of a smelly onerous chore. Disinfect the house once a month with poultry disinfectant.
DO make sure the perches in the house are higher than the nest boxes to prevent your birds sleeping in the nest boxes (it makes them, and their eggs, dirty).
DO a regular check of their poo and learn the signs of worms or coccidiosis.
DO ensure adequate ventilation in the house to prevent respiratory diseases and suffocation. More chickens die from poorly ventilated houses than from draughts (which they also do not like) but poor ventilation leads to condensation and mould spores, especially in plastic-type henhouses.
DO enrich their run area with perches for example, to prevent boredom and also give them a draught-free sheltered area for protection from the wind and from the sun.
DO make sure your children wash their hands thoroughly after handling the eggs or birds.
DO worm your birds regularly either with Flubenvet twice a year or, a herbal remedy like Verm-X or Chicken Wormwood once a month.
DO check the birds regularly for lice at the base of the feathers and use a louse powder or Diatom powder on them and in the house.



DON'T overfeed with treats like mealworms, pasta, sweetcorn, garden bird seed, etc. You can make them fat and ill.
DON'T use hay for bedding, it breeds mould spores when damp and although straw is ok, be aware that used in the henhouse it can harbour red mite due to its tubular nature. Chopped Hemp Bedding is much more favoured these days.
DON'T heat your henhouse in winter. Your girls will be fine with their feathery coats and a higher carbohydrate diet. Hens cannot adjust their bodies to rapid changes in temperature like humans can so you would be potentially killing them with kindness.
DON'T introduce one new bird into your flock - she will be bullied mercilessly. Ideally you should add say, 3 hens to 3 hens. If you have a much larger flock then say, 6 hens to 12 hens.
DON'T allow their run area to turn to mud. This is very unhealthy for them, it breeds harmful bacteria and parasites. Use a hardwood woodchip to keep their run clean.
DON'T feed them cat or dog food (even though they love it) as this generally contains cooked chicken and you don't want them to turn into cannibals do you? 
DON'T feed them too much sweetcorn or sunflower hearts as it upsets their digestive system and gives them yellow runny poo. Keep only as a small treat once a week if you wish. Don't feed them peanuts, rapeseed, nighshade family, pea family foliage - all are toxic to poultry
DON'T wash or soak soiled eggs in detergent or plain water to clean them as bacteria can be drawn into the egg through the porous shell (newly laid eggs are porous but the older the egg the less porous which is why it is best to only make boiled eggs when they are several days old). Use a proprietary Egg Wash.
DON'T allow spilt food to remain on the ground as it encourages rats.
DON'T use household cleaners and disinfectants, such as washing up liquid or floor cleaners, for the house and utensils. Use only products that are animal safe and poultry specific.
DON'T put feeders and drinkers in the henhouse (if at all possible) as any spilled food will encourage bacteria as well as the birds scratching in the dirty litter. Spilled water encourages damp litter which can breed coccidia parasites and can raise the humidity of the house. They do not need food and water overnight.
DON'T believe that those cute looking foxes will not kill your chickens given the slightest opportunity. You only have to forget to close them at night once and, whether urban or rural, a fox loves a nice warm chicken dinner.

.Chicken Dustbath & Feeder Shelter.A unique design from Flyte so Fancy, a Dustbath that doubles as a Feeder Shelter - or - a Poultry Feeder Shelter that doubles as a Dustbath.