Category Archives: Housing

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

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

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/

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

A Honking Mess

Too many geese in the ArcticScientists hope increasing hunting pressure will bring the expanding population of Ross’s geese under control and stop them from overgrazing and destroying their habitat in Arctic Canada.

Wildlife scientists want Inuit hunters to kill more Arctic-nesting geese in an effort to manage populations so out of control the birds are destroying their own habitat.

Experts acknowledge the plan isn’t likely to work and admit they don’t know what to do about ballooning numbers of Ross’s geese that are denuding large areas of the North.

“It’s really unprecedented in waterfowl management history to have a population that’s out of control and can’t be controlled through hunting,” said Jim Leafloor of the Canadian Wildlife Service. “We’re not really sure at this point where it’s all going to lead.”

Ross’s geese — which migrate between Canada’s northern coastline and as far south as California — were once hunted so extensively that their numbers were down to a few thousand in the 1930s. Environmental protections and the spread of agricultural practices that favour bird foraging have changed all that.

Kiel Drake of Bird Studies Canada estimates there are now about two million of the small, white geese. Together with about five million lesser snow geese — which have tripled their numbers since the 1970s and have similar habits — that spells big, honking trouble.

“It’s the way they feed,” said Leafloor. “They strip vegetation from fairly large areas.”

Sky-filling flocks are hammering their tundra nesting grounds in the Queen Maud Bird Sanctuary along the Northwest Passage. The destruction follows their migration path south, through the coastal marshes of Hudson Bay and James Bay.

“A lot of that habitat is already destroyed,” said Leafloor. “The losses there just continue to mount and expand into other areas.”

Grazing geese strip the land bare, exposing soil and peat. Recovery is slow in the Arctic’s cold climate and poor soil.

Ripping out vegetation also changes the flow of soil moisture. It draws salts to the surface and prevents normal plants from growing back. That, in turn, affects other birds and animals.

Last week, wildlife service officials asked the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board to agree to have Ross’s geese declared overabundant, which would allow managers to expand the hunting season. The board has made a recommendation to federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, who is to make the final decision.

“We think the population of (Ross’s geese) might be small enough that it could be controlled through hunting,” Leafloor said. “That remains to be seen.”

Snow geese were declared overabundant in 1999. Hunters are allowed to shoot them spring through fall, but it hasn’t made much difference.

“We think that’s an example of a population that’s beyond the ability of hunters to control.”

Nor is Mother Nature likely to take a hand by reducing numbers through overcrowding and disease. If their regular habitat becomes too degraded or crowded, the birds just find another area and strip it.

Others stay behind and eke out a living on their original feeding grounds, preventing recovery.

“The problem expands as the population expands,” Leafloor said.

No one really knows how much of the Arctic is already affected. And no one really knows where the problem is headed.

“Nobody knows what the limits are,” said Leafloor.

“We don’t know what the carrying capacity of the Arctic is. We don’t know how much food is there and how much natural habitat is available to support these geese.

“What we’re doing right now is monitoring them and watching the changes in population size and documenting changes in their range.

“But beyond that, what do you do with multimillions of geese?”

Source: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/a-honking-mess-goose-population-out-of-control-in-canada-s-north-1.1337986#ixzz2XEN8CfUW

The case against antibiotics in poultry

More than 50 billion birds a year are produced in industrial poultry hatcheries worldwide.

On January 4th, 2012 the FDA quietly prohibited the “extralabel” or unapproved use of the common (yet strong) cephalosporin class of antibiotics in cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys to be effective April 5, 2012. The FDA says it is taking this action to preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans, for it has been noted that as cephalosporin use increases in animal agriculture, human effectiveness diminishes.Cephalosporin antibiotics are a stronger cousin to penicillins. Doctors currently use cephalosporins to treat pneumonia, strep throat, tonsillitis, bronchitis, urinary tract infections and to prevent bacterial infection before, during, and after surgery.

Currently, unapproved use and abuse of antibiotics for food-intended animals is common practice. Sources say, some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are being fed or injected into cattle, pigs and poultry on industrial factory farms.2

One such unstudied and unapproved use of cephalosporins in food-intended animals, is their injection into poultry eggs. Although the FDA has approved the use of cephalosporins on animal farms for various specific veterinary purposes, such as curing an existing infection, the unapproved or “extra-label” use of cephalosporins, to suppress potential future infection, by injecting doses into chicken eggs just before the eggs hatch, has become widespread.

Every five weeks, a large poultry farm sees a delivery of newly hatched chicks (which have been mechanically injected with a third generation cephalosporin just prior to hatching). The chicks are then rapidly fattened with a feed laced with low-dose antibiotics, most likely amoxycillin and tetracycline, which are currently allowed in animal feed and will continue to be allowed in feed by the FDA.3 When the chicks reach three and a half pounds they are sent off for slaughter. Years ago, it took two months to fatten up a chicken, today they can eat their way to 3.5 pounds in just 33 days. Today’s low dose antibiotics are the reason the birds are bulking up so quickly. Upon exit of the chickens, the floor of the once crowded pen is cleaned for the first time in over five weeks, the month plus of excrement that the birds have been sleeping and sitting in from day two of their lives, is scraped away, and the process repeats itself. These are the types of conditions that set in motion the use of preventative antibiotics.

The FDA has taken a bold and much needed first step to reign in antibiotic use. FDA officials, scientists and physicians have been warning for years that antibiotics in agriculture pose a “serious public health threat” and action needs to be taken on the issue, but no concrete steps to limit the drugs had been taken until the January 4th announcement.

Another way to decrease antibiotic use on factory farms is to reduce demand. There appear to be three options: become a vegetarian, buy from a local, sustainable, humane farmer, or, for those who are capable, start your own small scale hatchery or poultry farm! The number of people dependent on big industry would decrease, and many a chicken and turkey would lead a more dignified life.

While we’ve all heard that over-prescription of antibiotics to people is one cause of resistance, another major cause is due to the unrestricted use of antibiotics on factory farms. And not just when animals are sick: healthy animals are fed antibiotics every day because it makes them grow bigger, faster. Marketplace tests 100 samples of chicken for antibiotic resistant strains of sakmonella. www.cbc.ca

The U.S. animal farming industry consumes over 30 million pounds of antibiotics per year.

Antibiotic use on U.S. livestock in 2010:  Cephalosporins- 54,207 pounds (24,588 kilograms),  Penicillins- 1.9 million pounds (870,948 kg),  Tetracyclines- 12.3 million pounds (5.6 million kg). www.mnn.com

The use of penicillin and tetracyclines – the fattening drugs the F.D.A. has chosen not to regulate – increased 43 percent and 21 percent from 2009 to 2010. In anticipation of the new law, the use of cephalosporins dropped 41 percent from 2009 to 2010.3


*1)  www.miller-mccune.com

*2)  newsfeedresearcher.com

*3)  bittman.blogs.nytimes.com

Studies:

Leverstein-van Hall, MA et al. Dutch patients, retail chicken meat and poultry share the same ESBL genes, plasmids and strains. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 2011.

Pappas, G. An Animal Farm Called ESBL: Antimicrobial resistance as a zoonosis. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 2011.

Further Reading:

About cephalosporins: www.emedexpert.com

FDA Press Release: www.fda.gov

www.huffingtonpost.com/factory-farms-antibiotic-resistance

In Germany, although non-therapeutic use of antibiotics has been banned – conditions are poor: www.spiegel.de

Source: http://www.inspirationgreen.com/antibiotic-chicks.html