A complete guide to organic poultry keeping

Chickens

Although smallholding does not imply any requirement to keep livestock; most smallholders do keep some poultry and most smallholders do begin with chickens.

Chickens were one of the first animals to be domesticated way back in our distant past, and this was for more than one reason. Chickens are by far the least dangerous of all the domesticated animals we do keep, they are very productive both for meat and eggs, but however they do have their drawbacks.

The Up Side

Chickens when chosen well, will provide a small family with all the meat and eggs they need on little more than the area of the average garden, they are easily contained in movable arks (small mobile homes with both protection from the elements and an outdoor run.) These can be constructed easily by anyone with the inclination and a few basic tools, for far less than a shop bought mass produced unit.

Choosing your chickens is the key to success; if you are looking for just meat then commercial breeders have perfected some hybrid chickens, which put on weight very quickly. I believe however that this tendency to gain weight quickly in any type of hybrid stock is detrimental to the true flavour of the meat.

Choosing your chickens for good egg production has similar drawbacks many of today modern hybrid chickens will lay more than 300 eggs per year, they will even lay 300 good quality eggs. But they are often incapable of reproduction without assistance, and you will need to either keeping a few of an older breed just to sit on your eggs for replenishing your stock, or buying an incubator to artificially incubate your eggs. Both of these methods of preproduction will come at a cost, both financial and personal inconvenience. Paying to feed an older breed of hen that will go broody readily but not produce as many eggs as the hybrid is costly, an incubator is to my mind expensive and artificial, the personal cost comes in the form of failure as both hens and incubators fail at times.

For my own needs and my recommendation would be to choose an old breed that has proven to be a good dual purpose breed, i.e. will provide you with both good meat and a reasonable amount of good quality eggs. There are as with all choices drawbacks and compromises to be made, but in my opinion the pluses outweigh any of the drawbacks.

Some of the choices are as follows

Sussex

Varieties: Speckled, Red, Light

Standard Weights : Cock-9 pounds; hen-7 pounds;

Skin Colou r: White.

Egg Shell Colour : Brown.

Use : A general-purpose breed for producing meat and/or eggs, one of the best of the dual-purpose chickens, a good all-around farm fowl.

Brahma

Varieties: Light, Dark, Buff

Standard Weights (Light): Cock-12 pounds; hen-9-1/2 pounds;

Standard Weights (Dark and Buff): Cock-1 1 pounds; hen-8-1/2 pounds;

Skin Colour : Yellow.

Egg Shell Colour : Brown.

Use : A very heavy fowl for the production of heavy roasters, fair egg layers.

Wyandotte

Varieties: White, Buff, Columbian, Golden Laced, Blue, Silver Laced, Silver-Pencilled, Partridge, Black

Standard Weights : Cock-8-1/2 pounds, hen-6-1/2 pounds,

Skin Colour : Yellow.

Egg Shell Colour : Brown.

Use : Meat or eggs.

There are of course more to choose from but these are my favourite breeds and all are proven in their ability to produce excellent quality meat and eggs, as well as reproduce readily and without assistance of any kind. You will of course still suffer the inevitable failures of hatching but these breeds will prove to be a pleasure to keep, and of course the eggs will provide for your needs in cooking as well as reproduction, and the meat will be a pleasure to eat.

The Down Side

Chickens are easily lost; the array of diseases is vast and complicated. Chickens do not readily show any sign of some of the more deadly diseases and complaints that they suffer from; the first sign may be that you find them dead. I do not however see this as a reason not to keep them; they can be easily fed and provided for without drastic losses. The second and sometimes the greatest danger is predators; even the most aggressive cock will not stop your whole henhouse being wiped out by a fox in one night; rats, martins, buzzards, and polecats will all take chickens or their offspring, again none of these things are a reason not to keep them but your management of chickens will need to take all of these considerations in to account.

Feeding

Feeding can be as simple or as complex as you whish to make it; preparatory feeds are available which will take care of all of your chickens needs but for me this is far from ideal most super markets sell cheep chicken and eggs which will have been fed by exactly this means. For me the joy of smallholding is the superior quality food I enjoy from my livestock, this is due to an approach that takes care of my animals at a much higher standard than that of truly commercial factory farm. Smallholders can of course take the same factory farm approach to their livestock but it is not an approach I will advocate or instruct you in.

Feeding your chickens should take care of all of the nutritional needs they have but they will also enjoy variety as we humans do. Good quality high protein grains are the main stay of any poultry species food needs. Barley is one of the best of these grains and would take care of most of your chickens needs regardless of the use of the stock either egg layers or meat birds, but maize will give the meat of any chicken a different richer colour and taste. I have fed free-range chickens on a mix of barley and maize as well as food they can forage from their surroundings and they are hard to beat for flavour or texture, and the eggs from birds fed on the same diet will be unbeatable for flavour. I have experienced a drop off in egg production in birds fed on the same diet for six months or more and simply feeding them on a different grain such as wheat for a month or so seems to bring the production back up again. My policy is now to change the diet of my egg laying birds regularly avoiding the drop in production.

Two very important feeding tips not to forget.

• I. Chickens need water; it’s obvious; I know but if you forget you will pay in more ways than one. Bird health, weight, egg production will all be affected, if you do not give them a plentiful supply of clean water you could find your birds dead.

• II. Chickens need grit this one is not so obvious but it is nearly as important as water, your birds could be on the best diet in the world but if they don’t have grit they will not be able to digest their food. You can buy crushed oyster shell and mix it with their food but this is not necessary if you simply feed them on the ground they will take up soil and grit; this will suffice but of course you will have to feed them in a different place so the ground does not become an infected desert.

Housing needs

Chickens need housing for many reasons, and to be honest most of these reasons are orientated toward human management needs rather than to meet the birds needs. Chickens can and do fair very well on their own without any housing at all, they can avoid predators very affectively by roosting high in trees well before dark. Chickens can also tolerate both high and low extremes of temperature without detrimental effects to their health or longevity.

However chickens kept for food production in some kind of enclosure without trees to roost in will need a secure house to protect them with somewhere to roost as high as possible even if only a foot or so off the floor. If you do allow them to roost in trees and do not provide housing they will also lay their eggs all over the enclosure in any dark secluded place they can find, and you may not find the eggs. A house with roosting perches and nesting boxes that they can lay in is ideal but it has to be impervious to all of the predators mentioned earlier. This normally means you will need to open the house to let the birds out and lock them back in again just before dark. This is a routine that requires some discipline as many a smallholder has lost their hens the night they did not lock the henhouse after they returned late from a party, or the weather was just to foul to go out in.

Reproduction needs to be taken in to account if you whish to have your own hens hatch their own eggs. To help in this a separate house or ark for your broody hen will avoid your broody hen being bullied off of her nest by a more dominant bird. Even if she is only bullied off for a few minuets a day she may hatch her own eggs successfully but all the eggs laid after the first day or so of incubation will be left to die, this will adversely affect the success rate of your reproduction program.

Source: http://www.permacultureeden.com/livstock/chickens-2/

Best laying chickens suitable for smallholders

You may be limited by what your local breeders can supply. Magazines such as “Country Smallholding” have pages of adverts for poultry; if you live in a rural area, the local newspaper might also be a source.

Visiting breeders

Buy poultry from a reputable breeder; if at all possible, pick your hens up, so that you can have a look around. Most breeders will be happy for you to visit first to take a look at some hens and to get a feel for the different breeds. If you are unsure about anything just ask – a good breeder will be happy to answer your questions and to give advice. Be prepared to walk away if you are unhappy with the condition of the birds – don’t be tempted to take on sub-standard birds because you feel sorry for them.

Poultry auctions

Buying from an auction may get you a heap of grief, unless you know what you are doing. However, it’s good experience and very interesting, so it’s worth going along to a poultry sale just for a look, if you are confident that you can keep your hands in your pockets.

Your first flock

Start small; a flock of three hens is a good start (if one dies, you still have two as company for each other until you can restock). In a year or so, add another two or three to the flock. If you fill your accommodation to capacity on day one, in a couple of years you will have a group of middle-aged hens laying very few eggs and you will probably be too attached to them to do anything else than wait for them to die of old age. We’ve had one live to age seven, so it could be a long wait!

We started with three point-of-lay (POL) pullets in the spring of 2002; a Light Sussex, a Rhode Island Red, and a Black Rock. They lived in a small Forsham Cottage Ark that we still have and use.

Hens generally start to lay at about 20-22 weeks old, so the easiest way to start out is to buy point of lay (POL) pullets. These are easy to keep, you’ll get pretty instant eggs and you don’t have any cockerels to deal with because by that age, the two sexes are quite distinct. Naturally, this is the most expensive start up method.

Day old chicks

Another option is to buy day old chicks, but the level of stockmanship required is quite high, or certainly higher than buying POL, so maybe wait until you have some experience before trying this. You will also need a heat lamp or brooder and specialist feed. If the chicks you buy are from a sex-linked breed or strain, then you will be able to buy only female chicks.

Day-old chicksDay old chicks

In sex-linked breeds  / strains, the newly hatched female and male chicks will look quite different; in other breeds, both males and females will look the same (to the untrained eye) until much later, so you will almost certainly get some cockerels in the batch you buy.

Incubating fertilised eggs

You can buy fertilised eggs and hatch your own but, again, you’ll need some specialised equipment such as an incubator and a brooder, if you don’t have a broody hen, and you’ll have to wait 5 months or so for your first egg. The same issue around cockerels exists with hatching eggs as it does with buying day-olds.

The cockerel question

If you buy non-sex-linked day-olds or hatch eggs, you will inevitably get male chicks. Now is the time to think about how you are going to deal with this. The market for breeding cockerels is very limited. The cockerels of laying breeds, even from utility strains, take a long time to fatten and don’t produce the best carcases, but you can eat them. See the later section on raising birds for the table. Abandoning cockerels at a farm gate because you can’t bear to kill them is simply not acceptable.

Ex-battery hens

If you have a battery farm nearby, you might want to try to get some spent layers from there. The output might be a bit unreliable at first but you will certainly have the satisfaction of giving some birds a happy “retirement”. The Battery Hen Welfare Trust may be able to help if you fancy doing this.

How to prepare your chickens for a cold winter

Keeping your chickens fit and healthy through the winter months doesn’t have to be a painful task, with a little preparation and forethought this process can be accomplished with relative ease. When looking to prepare your chicken and their home there a few things that must be considered these include lighting, heating, ventilation and choice of food.

When to get prepared?

Is it ever too early to be prepared? That being said we recommend getting started by the start of October as the first frosts of winter can be potentially fatal to many of the less hardy breeds. Some of the best breeds of chick for cold climate include Ameraucanas, Black Giant, Buff Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks and Russian Orloff.

When the weather starts to worsen you will notice a dramatic decline in the number of eggs being produced by your hens, one great way of combating this problem is to install a light in the coop this can give the impression of longer daylight hours and in many cases keeps eggs coming all year round. It’s best to use a timer system when attempting this method as anything over 10 hours of daylight can disturb this hens sleep cycle.

The best light to use for the job is a simple 40watt bulb with reflector around 6 feet from the floor of the coop; this single bulb should be enough to provide adequate light for 180 square feet!

Heat

Here at the farm we use green house heaters in our main coop this give of low levels of steady heat that stop frost from reaching plants inside the greenhouse but they work in much the same way when it comes to chickens. Be warned overly warm coops interfere with the chicken’s ability withstand cold temperatures in the future.

When insulating the coop be sure to allow decent ventilation as without proper air flow condensation can build up leading to ammonia.

Food

As autumn passes into winter it can be a good idea to start supplementing your chicken’s diet with a higher density vitamin enriched feed. These vitamins can helps hens when molting as well as improving their ability to cope with the cold weather.

6 Great Ways to Get Your Chicken Coop Ready For Winter

When it starts getting cold, the chickens need a little extra T.L.C. to keep up egg production. Winterizing your coop can help keep the chickens happy, healthy and producing.

How you winterize your coop depends on your geographic location. For instance, those that live in the Midwest will see temperatures dip into the negatives, and their coops will need more care compared to those who live in the Pacific Northwest or the South.

No matter where you live, you will have to do some winter chores to keep your chickens clucking merrily along.

6 Ways to Winterize Your Coop

1. Clean Bedding

Ensuring that the chickens have fresh bedding such as straw or wood shavings to lay and roost on will prevent frost bite. For our coop, we like to use hay for our bedding, especially in the wintertime because it retains heat better. This will keep them more active during the day as well as control the smell of chicken droppings until your Spring cleaning. Move all soiled bedding to the compost pile to compost down for Spring or Summer gardens.

2. Coop Inspection

Check out the coop to ensure that predators have not found an entry in. Predators are usually more desperate to find food during winter and you want to protect your flock. During this time, I also like to check the roof of the coop to make sure there aren’t any cracks or holes. As well, check out the roosts and any other furniture to make sure it is still in good condition.

3. Batten the Hatches

During the warmer summer months having vents and hatches on the coop’s roof and floorboard assist with airflow, help to reduce humidity and any toxic ammonia from the hen house. During winter it is best to fasten the vents and hatches to reduce any cold drafts. Another solution is to wrap a portion of the coop with a tarp or plastic sheeting. This keeps moisture out of the coop, protects it from wind and further insulates it. 4-mil polyethylene film is low cost and readily available. Secure it to the chicken coop to ensure that moisture and wind cannot get through. Again, we want to ensure that the chicken’s body temperature stays at an optimum temperature.

4. Heat Lamps

Keep in mind that young chickens will require more body heat compared to a fully grown chicken. Further, the avian reproductive cycle, which is how a hen produces eggs, is stimulated in poultry by increasing day length. 14 hours of light is what a chicken requires to lay eggs and usually get these results during the warmer months. Having a light bulb hooked up to a timer can assist in continued egg laying. An added benefit to this is it creates added warmth to the flock. To provide some warmth, but not too much light, we use a 250 watt bulb in our coop. One heat lamp per 30 chickens will be sufficient. Light fixtures in the coop should be placed above feeders and waterers, and care should be taken to avoid having areas in the chicken house that are shaded from light.

5. Continued Flow of Water

For those of you who have to deal with frozen water trays in the coop, you’re not alone. This continues to be an issue for many keepers of chickens. One solution is to purchase a heated base for the waterer and run a heavy duty extension cord into the chicken coop. Another solution is to check on your chicken’s water more frequently. Bringing warm water out to replace the frozen water will be very welcomed.

6. Dietary Supplements

Adding grains such as corn in addition to their regular diet can add more fat to their bodies and at the same time provide more insulation and energy during winter. Grains shouldn’t replace their entire diet. We usually do 70% scratch and 30% corn. We also continue to supplement their diets with vegetable and fruit scraps for added nutrition.

Signs of Trouble

Check on your flock a few times per day to ensure the outside temperatures are not too harsh. If your chickens are huddled in a corner or making a lot of noise, take some time to make them more comfortable. Further, if chickens are lethargic or not moving, they may be ill and should be cared for.

Frostbite of the feet and combs are very common in winter months. If signs appear, thaw the affected area with cold water, slowly warming it to room temperature. Then apply a coating of petroleum jelly to isolate it from direct contact with the cold. Reapply two to three times during the day. Warming lights are especially helpful to prevent this.

Another sign to look out for during the cold months is a condition called “pasting.” This occurs when their anuses are blocked with droppings. If caught early enough, you can prevent the chicks from dying by slowly and gently removing the blockage with the help of warm water.

With a little extra attention, your coop will stay very happy during the cooler months. All it takes is some time to get it all prepped and ready.

by Tess Pennington See more at: http://www.naturalblaze.com/2013/11/6-ways-to-get-your-chicken-coop-ready.html#sthash.dkXxpScK.dpuf

The Baby Chicks are Here!

Sweet Dreams Creations

Finally!  The wait is over!  They we’re due to hatch on the 25th and they started hatching on the 24th!  I had been reading allot of blogs lately where their chicks were hatching a day early everyone blaming the heat.  So, I figured mine might just follow along and they did.  4 hatched on the 24th and 1 on the 25th.  Goldie was sitting on 8 eggs, 5 out of 8 not bad and it looks like their all girls!! Yeah!   I do the wing check and it for me works.  Here’s the You Tube video for you to watch if your interested:  Sexing Baby Chicks.

The last few days before they started to hatch, on 2 seperate days, we had hens manage to get into the broody box, while Goldie was out for her daily dusting, and lay eggs, so we had 10 total.  We had planned to…

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Poultry farming turns into money-spinner for ex-accountant

It is the desire to be her own boss that saw Lillian Akinyi Okwiri become one of the most successful poultry keepers in Kisumu.

Mrs Okwiri, 50, quit her job as an accountant after being in formal employment for only six months. To her friends, this was a risky gamble but she was convinced that time was ripe for her to go into self-employment.

“I always dreamt of being my own boss someday and I opted to hasten the process. What worried me most was whether I would still earn as much money as I did when I was employed,” she says.

After quitting her accounting job, she realised that she didn’t have enough money to go into poultry rearing, a market she had realised had few players.
She started with selling second-hand clothes to generate enough cash to venture into poultry keeping.

“I also started making ice-cream from my house and selling it to school-going children. I got a little cash and added it to what I was earning from the clothes business,” she says.

After a few months, she had raised Sh30,000 and was ready for take off. I had no formal training in poultry keeping, but had the urge to make money and that is what has seen me thrive, she says.

“I had done little research and realised that Kenyan traders import poultry products such as eggs from neighbouring counties. I knew that there was money in this venture,” she says.

She started with 150 day-old layer chicks costing Sh100 each and converted one of her bedrooms to house the birds.

After five weeks, the broilers were ready for the market while layers took between four to five months to start laying eggs. Soon she moved the chicken from her bedroom to a structure that could accommodate 600 chicks.

“I used local materials, wire mesh and iron sheets,” she says.

Counting her profits every day, Mrs Okwiri is doing booming business and is an envy of many in Kisumu’s Nyamasaria estate and has a total of 1,000 chicks—700 broilers and 300 layers.

She has turned into a beacon of success for many women who seek advise on poultry keeping.

Years later, does she regret quitting formal employment?

“I have no regrets because I made the right move. Had I clung onto my job then, I wouldn’t have made such impressive strides,” she says.
Mrs Okwiri says she gets at least Sh100,000 every five weeks from selling broilers which costs Sh400 each.

“ I collect close to 10 crates of eggs every day with a crate selling at Sh330,” she says

When business is at its peak, she says she receive orders to supply up to 150 birds per day. ‘‘During such periods, I am forced to wake up as early as 4 am and to hire more casual labourers,” she says.

She mainly sells broilers to hotels and learning institutions in Kisumu.

Mrs Okwiri says to attain her success, a lot has to be put into taking care of the chicken.

“A lot has to be done like buying feeds and drugs and these must be obtained from accredited dealers to guarantee quality. In the five weeks of rearing, the broilers use around five bags of starter mash which goes at Sh2,250 a bag and 17 bags of finisher pellet, with a bag selling at Sh2,850,’’ she says.

“The layers also eat a lot of food.” She says the chicks also have to be vaccinated against New Castle disease and given multivitamins.

Buying of feeds and drugs is a challenge because the prices go up but you have to feed the chicks to weigh more in order to fetch better prices,” she says. To those planning to go into business, she says: ‘‘Start-ups don’t pick up as fast as one may want but patience pays.”

She encourages women and youth to learn to be self-dependent.

“They should not just sit by waiting for miracles to happen; I challenge them to take their destiny into their own hands. I have a very supportive husband but that does not mean that I should not work,” she says.

County contracts to kill geese, bird lovers cry fowl

Geese

The distinctive Canada geese that populated the GastonCountyPark in Dallas were a joy to many who watched them through the years.

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But the birds’ excessive waste also prompted complaints from numerous visitors. So county officials, who agreed the flock had grown too large, paid to have 144 of the birds rounded up and euthanized Tuesday.

That decision to eliminate the entire flock ruffled the feathers of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, an Indian Trail nonprofit that says the county acted too hastily, when it could have simply had the fowl relocated.

GastonCountyParks and Recreation Director Cathy Hart said the county was simply reacting to a longstanding problem the best way it knew how.

“It’s pretty common for (overpopulation) to happen around ponds at schools, parks and airports,” she said. “This is a (euthanization) service that is used a lot, unfortunately.”

Carolina Waterfowl Rescue Director Jennifer Gordon said the county never made its intentions clear. Her organization had been trying to work with GastonCounty to manage the problem, and had already relocated some of the birds. Had they known the entire Canada goose flock was going to be destroyed, they would have relocated them all, she said.

“The bigger issue here is that all animals deserve to be treated humanely,” said Gordon. “They had options to do that and they didn’t use them.”

Birds seen as a nuisance

Non-migratory Canada geese populations have been on the rise in recent years. They stand out with their brownish gray bodies, black heads and necks and white face patches.

Yet while the birds are attractive, their droppings are less appealing to the nose and shoes. A single goose can produce a half-pound of feces per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division.

The waste often coated the grassy areas around the park’s ponds, athletic fields, picnic areas, concert stage, restrooms and parking lots. Before summer events such as Pops in the Park, the county had to repeatedly spend time and money power-washing areas and cleaning up feces, Hart said.

“It was really time-consuming,” she said. “We had citizens complaining they couldn’t even use the trails out there because of all the geese droppings.”

Canada geese are federally protected. But their increasing reputation as a nuisance has prompted the USDA to offer an option for removing them. Park staff must first try other approved methods to disperse geese and prevent them from reproducing, said USDA spokeswoman Carol Bannerman.

GastonCounty paid the Wildlife Services division $1,666 to send a team to the park Tuesday morning. The geese are moulting — shedding old feathers and growing new ones — and unable to fly away. So specialists herded the birds into a temporary corral, placed them in poultry crates and transported them elsewhere to be euthanized via gas.

“They are euthanized following guidelines approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association … and disposed of as required by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit,” Bannerman said.

No warning?

Hart said she made it clear to Gordon in early May that Carolina Waterfowl Rescue could remove any of the birds it wished to, and relocate them to a sanctuary.

“On May 23, they came out and removed a number of the birds,” she said. “We’ve allowed them to do that any time they wanted.”

About 10 domestic ducks and geese are still at the park, Hart said.

Gordon said it’s not normal for her nonprofit to rescue an entire flock of Canada geese.

“Realistically, we wouldn’t come in and take every bird from a park,” she said. “We left what was a very reasonable amount of geese out there.”

Rebecca Duffeck, a Carolina Waterfowl Rescue volunteer who lives near the park, has looked after the geese and ducks for years. She said there were no more than 40 to 50 Canada geese living there.

Gordon and Duffeck say Hart never divulged that a contract was being signed to wipe out the entire flock.

“We were talking to them, offering to help them with the geese and at no point did they tell us what they were really planning,” Gordon said.

The nonprofit could have transported the birds to a 300-acre preserve it owns in South Carolina, she said.

Hart said the county recently put up signs at the park directing visitors to not feed the geese. In recent years, park officials also tried measures such as enclosing picnic shelters near the ponds with temporary fencing, spraying the ground with goose repellant, allowing the grass to grow taller around the lake, and even removing fertilized eggs.

Gordon disputes that adequate steps were taken to manage the goose population. She believes the county violated the USDA’s requirement.

“There was no planning or thought put into this,” said Gordon. “If they don’t have a management plan, the geese will just return. And they can’t just keep killing geese over and over.”

Source: http://www.gastongazette.com/spotlight/county-contracts-to-kill-geese-bird-lovers-cry-fowl-video-1.164074#

Chicken therapy

Resident Sally Cross-Sevon was introduced to "Clementine."

Resident Sally Cross-Sevon was introduced to “Clementine.”

Ellen Levinson’s tone becomes nostalgic as she recalls how she felt the day last summer when Terry Golson placed a hen in her lap.

“Having that chicken in my arms and holding it against my body was profoundly soothing,” Levinson said.

But even in that moment, she wasn’t thinking so much about herself as her clientele. Levinson is executive director of Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley , a nursing home in Littleton that offers residential care for elderly patients with memory loss as well as short-term rehabilitation services.

“We deal with agitation a lot on the dementia unit,” Levinson said. “The chicken felt wonderful to hold. Something clicked. If I were agitated or upset, this is what I would want.”

She couldn’t have been in a better place when the idea struck her. She was attending a seminar led by Golson, a Carlisle resident whose acclaim as a poultry-raising authority has landed her on Martha Stewart’s TV show and in the New Yorker magazine.

During the backyard workshop, which Golson offers periodically, Levinson found herself thinking more about how the presence of chickens might affect her patients.

“We spent some time watching the chickens as they pecked in the ground and took dirt baths, and it was fascinating,’’ Levinson said.

“One of the issues present in people with dementia is short attention span. They can’t sit still for even half an hour. But if we had the chickens nearby, I started thinking, our residents would be able to watch them for a short time, move on to something else, then come back and watch them some more. It seemed like a natural fit.”

The notion wasn’t quite as far-fetched as it might seem. With its grass-rich campus amid what was once agricultural land in Littleton, the Life Care Center has already introduced several nonhuman inhabitants into the mix. Permanently installed on the 40-acre property are goats, llamas, an alpaca, and an indoor cat, and dogs come in for daily visits; Levinson wondered how her patients might react to chickens in their midst.

Levinson asked Golson to visit the facility and advise the Life Care staff on the viability of installing a chicken coop on the grounds. Golson loved the idea. After discussing with Levinson what would be required to set up a flock, Colson and the director of the facility’s memory support unit, Erica Labb, arranged a series of visits to introduce the residents to the idea.

It was during these interactive sessions that Labb, who describes herself as “not that much of an animal person previously, but now I’m becoming one,” was struck by something she doesn’t typically see during group events in her unit: rapt attention.

Unlike the more common animal-therapy programs in which dogs are trained to visit hospitals and nursing homes, the chickens are not expected to interact in any particular way with patients. And unlike the llamas, goats, and alpaca, which are kept on the Life Care Center’s front lawn, the chickens and their coop are right outside the large picture window in the activity room.

It became clear to Golson in her initial presentations that chickens carried strong associations for some of the residents. Many of them, now in their 80s and 90s, grew up around farms or had other memories associated with farm animals.

Resident Thelma Mollot, age 101, was introduced to "Beulah," by "Chicken Captain" Terry Golson (right).

Resident Thelma Mollot, age 101, was introduced to “Beulah,” by “Chicken Captain” Terry Golson (right).

“Chickens are innately engaging,” Golson said. “I made it tactile by passing around feathers and eggs. For some of these elderly people, it’s been years since they’ve touched an egg. For those who used to do a lot of cooking or baking, having an egg in their hand can be very evocative. For one woman who grew up in Italy, holding the egg tapped into memories of making homemade pasta.”

One of Golson’s areas of expertise is, for lack of a better term, chicken personality. It was important to her to find the right mix of fowl temperaments to make this experiment work. So she began the way she always does with newcomers: by getting to know them.

“Last winter, I ordered 26 chicks from a mail-order hatchery. Once they arrived in March, I observed their innate personalities and eventually chose the five that seemed the friendliest.”

Not only did Golson want the right social characteristics among the Life Care flock, she also wanted the nursing home residents to be able to distinguish among them visually, so she chose a variety of breeds and colors to make the final cut.

The chickens and their coop showed up at the nursing home late last month.

Labb came up with an inspiration for naming the birds; she chose from among a list of the names of the residents’ mothers and grandmothers. As a result, the tenants of Life Care’s new chicken coop are Clementine, Elsie, Beulah, Mae Belle, and Millie.

“My hope is the residents get to know the chickens individually and develop some interest in their social life,” Labb said. “They’ll develop favorites. Eventually, I hope they will participate in caretaking, feeding, gathering eggs. The goal really comes down to engagement.”

Labb never anticipated adding “chicken captain” to her resume, but a few lessons from Golson taught her what she needed to know about keeping the birds safe and healthy. The maintenance staff bears the brunt of the feeding and cleaning for all the farm animals at Life Care. At this point, having animals on the property is second nature to them. Not so for those farther afield; Levinson received a phone call from a representative of the center’s accounting firm in Tennessee, who wanted to know why the nursing home had just received a bill for a chicken coop.

Littleton resident Richard Carozza , a recent McGill University graduate who is applying to medical schools, has joined the Life Care team for the summer as a volunteer to apply his scientific research skills to the experiment.

“We’ve already discovered that Life Care has a lower usage of antipsychotic drugs than other facilities with dementia patients,” he said. “Could this be related to the presence of animals?”

And by extension, Carozza wonders, can he prove a measurable difference in the patients’ behaviors after they start interacting with the chickens? He will spend much of the summer investigating these questions.

So far, Labb and Levinson both say they are pleased with the residents’ interest in the coop, and eager to foster continuing interaction throughout the summer, including having the residents help gather eggs once the chickens start laying.

Golson would like to see this model extended to other long-term care and memory loss facilities, particularly if the same careful attention to detail is followed.

“Life Care went far beyond just throwing some chickens and a coop out onto the lawn,” the facility’s consultant said. “It’s important that this not be done in a slapdash way. It has to come across as a beautiful, well-cared-for flock, just as this one is.”

And the presence of the animals helps when the residents have visitors as well.

“It’s a way of connecting generations,” Labb said. “Nursing homes can be scary places for young children. People sometimes don’t know how to visit. The animals provide something for everyone to watch together.”

Golson, whose website (www.hencam.com) features live streaming video from her own chicken coop, believes that “watching chickens is both engaging and peaceful at the same time.”

“Having chickens in the backyard is like looking at the ocean. There’s a lot of movement and at the same time it feels calming. What could be better for memory-loss patients than this constant ebb and flow in which they can engage? It’s a perfect match.”

Source: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/west/2013/06/26/flock-chickens-provides-new-form-animal-therapy-for-memory-loss-patients-littleton-nursing-home/Oj9mrJmiCmAI74ryCe4JuK/story.html

Drought’s impact on duck dynasties

Top Photo
You know what they say about how ducks take to water.

What if there isn’t any water?

Dry conditions across California this spring reduced the population of breeding mallard ducks by nearly one-quarter, to levels not seen since the drought of the late 2000s.

In round numbers, the population decreased from 387,100 ducks last year to 298,600 ducks this year.

Reductions in water supply often make headlines for the impact on farms, cities and endangered fish. But this year’s poor duck count demonstrates how waterfowl, too, are susceptible to drought.

The results, released last week by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, have implications for the hunting community in Stockton and elsewhere, since hunting regulations next fall will be based in part on how many ducks were breeding this past spring. The economic benefit of waterfowl hunting in California has been estimated at more than $100 million.

Waterfowl are faring much better in other parts of North America, but 70 percent of the mallard ducks harvested by California hunters come from this state, making it important to ensure the birds have quality habitat and water here at home.

Caroline Brady, programs coordinator for the California Waterfowl Association, said she doubts hunters will be surprised by the reduction in population.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a shock because of the lack of water,” she said.

The good news is that populations could bounce back if next winter is wet. The numbers have fluctuated up and down over the past two decades, and bag limits are actually more liberal today than they were more than a decade ago, Brady said.

“The important thing to look at is the general trend,” she said. “For the most part there’s years when it’s really high and there’s years when it’s really low.”

But, she added, “Some water (next year) would do everyone some good.”

Ducks usually pair up in late winter, and once spring arrives, they work together to find a nesting site. They’ll pick one that is upwind and not far from water.

The problem during a year like this, Brady said, is that water is moved around so much, particularly on private lands.

Ducks that pick a nest based on availability of water may suddenly find themselves five miles from the nearest source.

Fish and Wildlife has been conducting its waterfowl surveys since 1955, flying fixed-wing aircraft up and down the Valley and over the farms and wetlands of far northeastern California. The California Waterfowl Association assists, using low-flying helicopters to watch for birds on the ground.

Mallards weren’t the only concern this spring. The total number of ducks of all species declined from 529,700 last year to 451,300 this year, which is 77 percent of the long-term average.

Source: http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130625/A_NEWS/306250319

Lucky Ducks

Seven ducklings are lucky to be alive after being pulled to safety from a storm drain in Ohio by Good Samaritans – but the baby mallards ultimately have their mom to thank for their rescue.

Columbus Discovery District Officer Bill Cobun was passing through a parking lot on the Columbus campus of Columbus State Community College Tuesday when he noticed an agitated duck standing near the grate of a storm drain.

The mallard was squawking as if trying to draw someone’s attention and appeared in distress, so Cobun approached the feathered critter for a closer look, suspecting that she might be ill.

Duck in distress: An agitated mallard was spotted standing near the grate of a storm drain in Columbus, Ohio, and squawking Duck in distress: An agitated mallard was spotted standing near the grate of a storm drain in Columbus, Ohio, and squawking

Stranded: Seven chicks had fallen down into the storm drain in a parking lot on the Columbus campus of Columbus State Community CollegeStranded: Seven chicks had fallen down into the storm drain in a parking lot on the Columbus campus of Columbus State Community College
WernerWerner

Hometown heroes:  Columbus Discovery District Officer Bill Cobun (left) and Police Lt. Dan Werner (right) answered the feathered mom’s distress call and came to her ducklings’ rescue 

When the safety officer made his way to the grate, he heard chirping coming from the underground nook.

As it turns out, the mallard was upset that seven of her chicks had fallen down into the storm drain and became stranded, ABCNews.com reported.

Cobun called for assistance, inadvertently alerting the college’s media relations coordinator David Wayne, who rushed to the scene of the duckling rescue accompanied by a videographer.

Meanwhile, college safety officers and Lt. Dan Werner, of the Columbus State Police, arrived in the parking lot and removed the grate.

The rescue of the trapped ducklings was captured on video showing the officers plucking the fuzzy yellow-and-black chicks from the storm drain and setting them free above ground.

Rescue mission: The officers remobed the grate, reached down into the hole and extracted the tiny trapped ducklings Duck tale: The officers remobed the grate, reached down into the hole and extracted the tiny trapped ducklings
ducklings ducklings

Freedom: The tiny baby ducks were released from their captivity, rushing to their mother’s side

Happy end: Once the ducks were reunited, they went about their business Happy end: Once the ducks were reunited, they went about their business

The tiny critters could be seen rushing to their mother’s side, one of them even flipping over in his hurry to reunite with his feathered parent.

Lt Werner, a self-described animal lover, said he was thrilled to help save the baby ducks from their predicament.

‘What amazes me is nature, how mama wouldn’t leave. She was staying right here. She kept looking in the hole to make sure they were OK,’ he said.

Once the tight-knit avian family were back together, the mom and her ducklings went on their merry way.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2345558/Lucky-ducks-The-heartwarming-moment-ducklings-fell-storm-drain-rescued-concerned-mother-looks-on.html#ixzz2XDsMFuKf

Ducknapped

The 'Culture Duck' at the Everglades Hotel has gone missing. A reward is being offered for its safe return.

reward is being offered for the safe return of a three-foot high ‘Culture Duck’ which has gone missing from the Everglades Hotel.

The Culture Duck, which “lived” on the piano in the hotel foyer, went missing this week.

The duck – a talking point for guests and visitors to the hotel – was created to celebrate Derry’s City of Culture status.

Neil Devlin, the hotel’s general manager, said: “The Culture Duck has been a vocal point of our City of Culture celebrations. At Hastings Hotels, we are well known for our quirky ducks so we thought it was only right to have a special duck to celebrate Derry’s big year.

“Our Culture Duck has sat on the piano since January and has greeted all of our guests and a host of celebrities, including the Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill, X Factor star Janet Devlin and rapper Wretch 32.

“There are mini versions of the ducks left for guests in their bedrooms to take home with them, but people also love getting their picture taken with the three-foot tall Culture Duck which is great as it provides people with lasting memories of Derry’s year as the UK City of Culture.

“As well as being a part of our family, it is also a part of our community as it was designed by Georgia Archibald, from Limavady Grammar School, who won the Design a Culture Duck competition we ran last year with all of the local schools.

“We are offering a reward for the safe return of our Culture Duck and are urging anyone who knows anything about its whereabouts to get in touch with us on Tel: 028 71321066.”

Source: http://www.derryjournal.com/news/everglades-goes-quackers-over-missing-culture-duck-1-5213652

Hi-rise hatchers

Thirteen eggs in a planter on one of Terry Allen Kramer’s terraces hatched the day she was having a luncheon for friends at her Upper East Side penthouse.

The wild ducklings were not only tiny but also hungry, so she put out dry cereal and shredded lettuce. “And then they wanted the lobster we were having for lunch,” said Mrs. Kramer, the Broadway producer whose hits include the Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots.”

Her ducklings might have been the only baby birds nibbling on cold lobster in New York City, but they are hardly the only mallards born on Manhattan’s terraces and roof decks, according to Michelle Gewirtz, a volunteer at New York City’s Wild Bird Fund.

Each year, Ms. Gewirtz rescues 10 to 15 clutches of baby ducks from rooftops, no place for them to learn to fly.

When Ms. Gewirtz, a licensed animal rehabilitator who has earned the nickname The Duck Wrangler, started rescuing birds eight years ago, the majority of the nests were on the Upper East Side. Mrs. Kramer’s East 69th Street terraces first became the nesting site for a female mallard three years ago, and again this spring.

“It’s amazing to think that you could be in New York City and wake up one morning and you have a family there,” Mrs. Kramer said. “I almost felt like God had touched me. I had to take care of them.”

This year, several nests appeared on the Columbia University campus and on roofs and in courtyards on the Upper West Side, according to Ms. Gewirtz.

Central Park is rife with predators – from rats to snapping turtles — and the female mallard looks for safer spots, Ms. Gewirtz said.

“So she picks these terraces that are nice and green and secluded,” she said.

Mallards are precocial, meaning the ducklings are born able to eat on their own.  Since there isn’t enough food for them on the rooftops, the Wild Bird Fund recommends a special high-protein food for ducklings and dark greens. Mrs. Kramer’s ducklings continued to like lobster, she said, but when her butler returned from Florida, he brought back live worms.

The Wild Bird Fund was created by two women: Rita McMahon, a former market research consultant, and Karen Heidgerd, the practice manager at an Upper West Side veterinary hospital, Animal General. They met after Ms. McMahon picked up a sick Canada goose alongside Interstate 684.

A year ago this month, after a decade of treating animals in Ms. McMahon’s apartment, The Wild Bird Fund opened a wildlife rehabilitation center on Columbus Avenue. Until then, New York was the only major city in the United States without one, McMahon said. The nonprofit organization aims to raise $330,000 each year from donations.  As a fundraiser Thursday evening, its showing the movie “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” starring Ben Kingsley. The event begins with at 6 p.m. at the headquarters of The Colonial Dames of America at 417 E. 61st Street.

In the first year, the staff treated 1,400 animals — mostly birds, from peregrine falcons to hummingbirds, and of course pigeons, along with woodchucks, chipmunks and assorted other wildlife. A turkey vulture was brought in with a broken wing after superstorm Sandy and now is at a rehabilitation center with another vulture.

One recent visitor to the center was David Usdan, a psychologist who has been looking after a clutch of about 10 ducklings that hatched on his building’s roof deck in May. He got food at the center and advice from Ms. Gewirtz on creating a pond out of  a plastic storage bin.

“There were a couple of mishaps with the ducklings, unfortunately,” he said. “I think five of them may have fallen off the roof. That was really sad.”

And then one day, two of the ducklings somehow made it to the street below. Traffic was stopped until they and the mother got safely to a parking lot next to Mr. Usdan’s building on 113th Street near Broadway.

“It was a crisis,” he said. “We had to figure out what to do. A big crowd was forming in front of the parking lot.”

He and his partner, Howard Brenner, shepherded the ducklings into a box, returned them to the roof and were relieved when the mother reappeared the next morning.  But since then another duckling has gone missing, and recently Ms. Gewirtz was plotting how to corral the remaining four.

She prefers to move the ducklings before they try to fly and risk falling to the sidewalk. They are eventually released in parks and on farms and estates.

“People who take care of these ducklings get super attached to them because they are adorable,” Ms. Gewirtz said.

Mr. Usdan said that he would be sorry to see his brood go, though he might get another visit next year. The mallards tend to return to the same place year after year.

Tina Chen, an actor and director who also lives on the Upper East Side, has had four clutches of eggs hatch on her terrace from what she thinks is a mother-daughter duo.  The first ducklings, though, were pelted to death by a fierce rainstorm.

“They were just so delicate,” she said. “It broke my heart.”

Determined to make sure the later ducklings survived, Ms. Chen fed them three times a day and kept them more than a month, in hindsight too long, she said.

A few weeks after Ms. Gewirtz moved them to Central Park, Ms. Chen went to try to find them. She believes she did.

“I looked and there were six ducks swimming as fast as they could,” she said. “When they got to the end of the pond, they jumped onto the ground and came towards me.”

But cleaning up after them was a lot of work, and at one point she erected owl and hawk decoys to try, unsuccessfully, to keep the female mallards away.

“I know they’re coming back,” she said. “They know this place, no matter how hard I try.”

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2013/06/23/rescuers-hatch-plan-for-ducks-that-land-on-manhattan-high-rises/

Rubber duck artist Florentijn Hofman doesn’t understand intellectual property

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It was announced this week that Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman will bring a smaller version of the Hong Kong duck to China’s capital for Beijing Design Week in September. Accompanying the duck will be Hofman’s inflated ego and wilful misunderstanding of copyright and intellectual property.

In previous coverage of the Hong Kong duck we’ve largely overlooked Hofman’s ridiculous statements (he claimed Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour would “never be the same“) about the “meaning” behind his work: ‘artist says pretentious thing about art’ isn’t really news. What is worth discussing however is Hofman’s equally ridiculous statements about intellectual property and the monopoly he seems to think he has on depictions of rubber ducks.

The stated objective of Hofman’s visit to Beijing Design Week is to “drive an awareness programme raising the sensibility towards intellectual property rights around China”. This is an admirable goal for sure, but one that is entirely unsuited to Hofman’s work.

As Jeremy Goldkorn pointed out on Twitter, rubber ducks predate Florentijn Hofman by a long time. The first rubber ducks appeared in the late 19th century as rubber manufacturing became widespread. In fact, the iconic nature of the rubber duck in pop culture is what makes Hofman’s work so successful, something he previously acknowledged. Since bringing his work to China however, Hofman (and his representatives) have taken a different approach, seeking to claim that companies that riff on or recreate the Hong Kong duck are infringing upon the artist’s “intellectual property”, a narrative that has been seized upon and bolstered by the Chinese press in a series handwringing editorials.

From a moral standpoint, Hofman’s case is fairly strong. Recreations/copies of the Hong Kong duck that popped up in Chinese cities were crass opportunism at best, a way to piggyback on the huge amount of goodwill Hong Kong was receiving from the duck’s presence in Victoria Harbour. What the recreations do not do is infringe upon Hofman’s intellectual property rights. Making a larger version of an existing object does not give one copyright over other depictions of that object.

When discussing copyright and creativity, the words we use matter. Hofman is well within his rights to say that copying his idea (of taking an existing object and making a large, inflatable version of it) is kind of a dick move, but to make this a debate about intellectual property only further degrades an already vague, unhelpful term.

tl;dr “Pretentious Artist Doesn’t Understand Intricacies of Copyright Law”

Source: http://shanghaiist.com/2013/06/25/rubber_duck_artist_florentijn_hofman_doesnt_understand_intellectual_property.php

Steadicam chickens

Did you know that chickens have image stabilized heads. It’s true!  It’s actually called the vestibulo-ocular reflex. Naturally (and… nerdily?) people started suggesting that someone should try making a steadicam using a chicken. Well, YouTube user Destin actually went ahead and did it… The results can be seen in the video  below.

Staffy and Gosling become buddies

An orphaned goose has formed an unlikely friendship with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier after being given a home at a dog rescue centre in Leeds.

Named Orville, the gosling was one week old when he was found alone and injured in Morley.

Brian Wheelhouse, founder of the Whitehall Dog Rescue centre in East Ardsley, said: “Ruby was there from the beginning and I think he saw her as a mother figure. He just started following her around and it got to the point where he wouldn’t go out if Ruby wasn’t there.

“She loves him and he loves her.”

People don’t care for chickens say Steve Carell

Steve Carell is worried he has offended a “chicken lobby” by admitting he doesn’t like the birds.

The actor voices the character of Gru in animated sequel Despicable Me 2. This time around Gru is a good guy, who is asked to help find a master criminal using his knowledge of villainous ways.

One part of the film involves an evil chicken, with Steve pondering about why birds are often malevolent in movies.

“I think it’s why we love to eat chicken because I don’t think we like them personally. So, we enjoy the taste of them but we don’t necessarily want to befriend them,” he laughed to BBC Breakfast. “I’m probably going to get into trouble for that one.

“This chicken is really funny, this chicken is a menace. The chicken in the movie is a villain and you know, chickens seem very innocuous, very benign, really a non-threatening animal. In this movie, the chicken poses probably a greater threat than the shark did in the first movie.”

Having a villainous chicken portrayed in the release didn’t bother Steve. He freely admits he is spooked by the feathered creatures and doesn’t like being around them.

“I’m not a big fan of chickens, I don’t love them. I know that there’s probably a chicken lobby out there that will be upset that I’m saying I don’t care for chickens,” he said. “I don’t want to say that all chickens are masters of evil… like anything else, there are good chickens and there are bad chickens.”

Steve is pleased Despicable Me got a sequel as it is the film his children were most excited about him doing. He has Annie and Johnny with his wife Nancy Walls and knew he’d nailed the character of Gru when he put on the voice for his kids and they kept asking him to repeat himself.

The actor’s comedy credentials are legendary and he reprises his role as Brick in the hotly-anticipated movie Anchorman: The Legend Continues. He loves the dopey character and won’t hear a word against him.

“I don’t see him as stupid. Are you referring to Brick? Oh he’s not stupid. He’s maybe counter-intuitive. Maybe you just don’t understand the level at which this man thinks,” he joked. “It’s a parallel way of thinking, I don’t think it’s a lesser way of thinking.”

Steve also touched on the death of James Gandolfini during the interview. The star passed away in Italy earlier this week of a suspected heart attack, aged 51.

The men appeared in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone together and Steve has nothing but praise for the late Sopranos actor.

“He was an incredibly sweet guy. He obviously was a great actor, everyone knew that side of him but I think when you knew him on a personal level – I didn’t know him extremely well – he was kind, he was generous and he was a little shy as well,” he said.

“I think he was a genius. When I had a chance to work with him everyone I know was jealous because this guy was the real deal, a consummate actor, but apart from that just an incredibly generous good man.”

Source: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/entertainment/news/steve-carell-people-dont-care-for-chickens-29363055.html

Helping a Chick Hatch When It’s Having Trouble

This is an excellent article for anyone thinking of assisting a chick to hatch. STOP. Please read this. It tells you everything you need to know to assist your hatchling and not inadvertently kill it!

Curiosity Cat

Rule #1: Don’t. Unless. But mostly don’t.

Sally Sunshine explains why, how it probably doesn’t need help and you are likely to kill the baby trying, and provides detailed instructions in case it really is necessary, right here. If you’re currently watching a chick struggle to hatch, and think you might need to help it, please read that link.

It is rare, but sometimes helping is appropriate. Today was one of those days. Mama hatched five eggs beautifully yesterday and today. Another died in the shell (more on that in a later post: Warning, it’s graphic). One pipped in the wrong end, zipped partway, and got stuck.

Following this video, I gradually chipped shell away, and cut the membrane (it was dried out and not active, which means there were no live blood vessels in it–a critically important positive sign when helping a chick). I followed the…

View original post 61 more words

Baby quail falling in sewers

It wasn’t a pretty sight, so Bruce Hampson swung into action.

A large brood of quail — two adults and a host of tiny, fluffy babies — were walking near Hampson’s Wheeler Avenue home in Parksville when one of the youngsters suddenly disappeared from the line after falling through a sewer grate.

Hampson lifted the grate and saw there were four of the mini quail in distress. He saved three. One drowned.

“I don’t know how many have fallen through over the years,” said Hampson. “There should be something done — it doesn’t seem right.”

To that end, Hampson said he called the city, the SPCA and the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. He said he believes some inexpensive steel meshes of some sort could stop this from happening again.

“They are beautiful little birds,” he said. “It would be kind of nice to save them — they are so cute.”

The city doesn’t believe there’s much it can do about the situation.

“Good on him (Hampson) for taking the grate out and rescuing the little guys,” said City of Parksville spokesperson Debbie Tardiff.

The city has approximately 1,400 catch basins like the one that felled the tiny quail on Wheeler Avenue.

“Realistically, it is not manageable to run around and put screens on them,” said Tardiff.

Robin Campbell of the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre also didn’t believe there’s much his organization could do about the issue.

“I’m sympathetic to the whole situation,” said Campbell. “It’s an ongoing problem, not necessarily quail but baby ducks.”

Source: http://www.pqbnews.com/news/212365351.html

Different types of quail cover

The northern bobwhite is the native quail species found throughout Arkansas. These predominantly ground-dwelling birds are primarily found in areas that contain large amounts of edge habitat. Edges are boundaries between different habitat types or land use practices.

The home range of a quail covey can cover as little as 20 acres up to 160 acres. In that home range, quail require various types of habitat, including: escape cover, nesting habitat, brood rearing habitat and feeding and loafing areas.

So, what is a “covey headquarters” and how does it fit into the equation for great quail habitat? Covey headquarters are patches of escape cover with dense, shrubby canopy cover and little ground-level vegetation. Headquarters are used by quail on a daily basis to provide protection against severe weather and predators along with resting and loafing areas.

The percentage of the landscape designated as covey headquarters can range up to 20 percent of the total area, with the remainder set aside for the other habitat components needed by quail. Covey headquarters should be provided in clusters of not less than 30 feet by 50 feet blocks of shrubs that are not more than 150 feet apart, which will allow the quail to have quick access to their escape cover if the need arises.

Shrubs that serve well for this habitat component include: wild American and Chickasaw plum, fragrant and smooth sumac, rough-leaved dogwood, deciduous holly, cockspur hawthorn and American beautyberry. Plum thickets are an excellent example of quail convey headquarters and occur naturally on many properties across Arkansas.

Existing Thickets — Protect and manage any existing plum or other shrubby thickets on your property. These shrubby thickets can be improved to better benefit quail. If invasive grass species take over the ground-level cover, those grasses should be treated with a herbicide, timing depending on whether they are warm season or cool season. This will re-open that ground-level cover making it easier for quail to move throughout the headquarters. Also, any over-hanging or adjacent trees to the plum thicket should be removed from the area. This strategy will help reduce predation from overhead predators and also provide a clear flight path for quail to escape from ground predators.

Creating Thickets — If thickets do not occur naturally on your land, they can be established by planting seeds, seedlings or container-grown shrubs. For beautyberry, dogwood and sumac, spacing should be on a 3 foot by 6 foot spacing. Other shrubs can be planted on a 5 foot by 8 foot spacing. Just remember, thickets intended for use as covey headquarters should be established in edge habitat, those areas of transition between habitat types and in open fields lacking shrubby cover. After you have identified the best location for your headquarters, the existing vegetation should be controlled using an herbicide before you plant the shrubs. This will promote the growth of your new plantings as well as open the ground-level cover to facilitate quail movement throughout the new headquarters.

Headquarter Maintenance — Whether you have existing or newly planted covey headquarters, you should avoid damaging these when conducting other habitat management practices on your property, i.e. prescribed burning or disking. Herbicides can be used to control invasive grasses within and around your thickets; however care should be used to avoid spraying shrubs. Also, livestock should be excluded from these areas to maintain the integrity of the thicket as a quail covey headquarters.

Source: http://www.magnoliareporter.com/sports/individual_team_sports/article_3631b0d2-d4ca-11e2-999a-001a4bcf887a.html