Tag Archives: Agriculture

Essential kit for the chicken keeper

Boy feeding chickens

Having the right kit on hand means you won’t be caught out when one of your birds is off colour.

If you are new to keeping chickens, picking up any poultry magazine or visiting stockists of poultry equipment and feeds can prove a little daunting given the amount of kit on sale. You will want to do right by your birds and ensure the husbandry of the flock is spot on, but are what essentials should you invest in?

Every poultry keeper should have at hand a field kit: the sort of stuff you will need one or more items from at least once a week. I find it useful to put them all in a bag or box so they are to hand. (It’s also ideal if you are away from home and have someone else caring for the birds.)

Torch – it’s often easier to handle and treat chickens after they have gone to roost; they tend to be much calmer then and can be easily handled. It does mean you will be working in the dark, so you’ll need a torch. Investing in a good-quality head torch, particularly one that has adjustable beam strength, will mean you have both hands free to deal with the chickens.

Scissors – a strong, sharp pair of scissors for cutting string, bandages, plasters and most of all, flight feathers, if there is a flighty one who keeps jumping out the pen.

Toenail clippers and nail file – most chickens will keep their toenails worn down by scratching around, but birds kept indoors or on soft ground may require a bit of a pedicure. Plus you may need to attend to the spurs of some cockerels.

Leg rings – having a range of leg rings in different colours and sizes means you can quickly and easily mark an individual bird. This can be particularly useful if administering treatments to the flock and will help identify those who have been treated from those yet to be dealt with.

Pliers or wire cutters – these are not only useful for emergency fence repairs but are also ideal for quickly removing plastic leg rings.

Feeding syringes – a collection of different-sized feeding syringes are essential for administering fluids such as medicines down the chickens’ throat.

Latex disposable gloves – these are not a frequent requirement. but when it comes to vent-related problems such as a prolapse or vent gleetthey can make the task much easier for the keeper (and probably more comfortable for the chicken too).

Vet’s antiseptic spray – ideal for treating minor wounds to birds but can also double up as anti-feathering pecking spray in minor cases of plumage pulling.

Petroleum jelly – not only does this serve well as a lubricant for sticky catches and locks it can also be applied to the combs of birds during extremely cold weather to reduce the risk of frost bite and applied to dry patches of skin on the face or legs. It’s also handy when treating for scaly leg mite on the chickens should they become infested.

Cotton buds – for delicate tasks such as cleaning around the eye or nasal passages of the birds.

Purple spray – works in much the same way as the vet’s antiseptic spray, however it has the advantage of being visible. This means it can also be used to quickly and temporarily mark birds, either post-treatment or for further selection. Don’t use on chickens you intend to exhibit, though, as it can be difficult to remove fully.

Pet carrier or dog crate – you can never have too many pet carriers for transporting or quarantining chickens. Plastic dog or cat carriers are ideal for single or small numbers of chickens, but be sure to disinfect after each use to avoid any possible transferral of pests or diseases.

Vet’s telephone number – it may not be necessarily needed by you, but if you have friends or neighbours looking after your stock when you are away it could prove invaluable.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2013/jun/12/essential-kit-chicken-keeper

Raising Turkeys from Poults

If you’re starting your turkey flock with day-old poults, you are probably wondering how to make sure they grow into healthy, happy adult turkeys. With some preparation and care, your baby turkeys will thrive.

Set Everything Up

Just like for baby chicks, you’ll need to set up a brooder for your turkey poults. A turkey poult brooder is just the same as one for baby chickens, so you can use these resources to design your brooder. The key is to have everything set up and warmed to 95 to 98 degrees before your poults arrive. Also similar to baby chicks, the poults will huddle under the lap if they’re too cold, or stay at the edges of the heat source if they’re too hot. So while a thermometer can be a helpful guide to temperature, especially before the poults arrive, use their behavior as your guide.

You will raise the heat lamp a few inches each week (and roughly 5 degrees lower) until the temperature is the same as the outdoors or the poults are 6 weeks old. You’ll also want to have feeders and waterers filled and placed properly. You don’t want them right under the lamp, but you also don’t want them too far from the center. Place them so that the poults can get to them easily without getting either chilled or overheated. Hanging feeders can prevent poults from standing – and pooping – in the feed or knocking it over.

Use pine shavings – never cedar – for the bottom of the brooder. Once poults are three weeks old, some farmers like to use clean sand. It can be cleaned just like cat litter and keeps the brooder dry.

Finally, make sure you have their roosts and pen ready for them to move to after they outgrow the need for the heat lamp and are ready to move to pasture.

As Soon As They Get Home

Once your poults arrive home from the feed store or from the post office, inspect each one as you remove it from the transport box. Dip its beak in water as soon as you put them into the brooder, so they learn where the water is and how to drink. Remember that especially for shipped poults, they will be stressed from the transport process. Make sure they eat and drink well for the first two weeks.

Preventing Problems

Turkey poults are particularly prone to “starving out,” which means that some poults will get pushed away from the feeder or hang back, and will actually starve to death despite food being available. Keep a close eye on poults while they’re feeding to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Overcrowding can also contribute to starving out, so make sure you have plenty of room for your poults. You’ll want at least a 10×10 space for a dozen day-old poults, and as they get bigger they will need more room.

Add a Roost

By three weeks of age, you can add a roost to your brooder. Teaching turkeys to roost early helps when they’re eventually moved to roosts later. Plus, they will sleep warmer and more comfortably.

Feed Them Properly

There are many different feeds for poultry. Medicated, nonmedicated, starter, grower – what to pick? Turkeys need high protein, more so than chickens. A gamebird or poultry starter that has around 28 percent protein works for the first 12 weeks. Medicated or not is your choice; many small growers like to use nonmedicated feed. After 12 weeks, the feed can be lowered to 20 percent, but any lower and your turkeys won’t grow as big as they could.

Move Them Outside

As your poults grow, you will need to make the brooder bigger so they aren’t crowded. As mentioned above, each week you will raise the lamp and lower the temperature about five degrees. Or, you could switch to lower-wattage bulbs as they grow. Much like vegetables, you will need to “harden off” your turkey poults by gradually exposing them to outside temperatures. By three weeks, they can have access to an enclosed “sun porch” on nice days – but keep them inside on rainy or cold days.

Make sure they are fully feathered and at least eight weeks old before moving poults to their new outdoor housing. You can give them access to outdoors but still provide the lamp at night for a week or two, and then finally move them to their new, grown-up turkey roosts and pen. Check on them nightly for a few days after the transition. Make sure they don’t get damp or chilled.

The Chicken of Tomorrow

I love this documentary.  It’s a real eye opener into the progression of chicken farming in the 1940’s.

The Chicken of Tomorrow deals with poultry farming and egg farming in the mid-1940s in the USA. It was filmed to educate the public about how poultry and eggs are farmed, it also deals with how advances in genetic engineering and technology produces a larger chicken. Eggs are farmed and kept in industrial incubators, and an equal number of chickens are used for meat and other products. Altogether, this produces more food for less money, and allows people to support local poultry farms without breaking the bank. This is relatively similar to today’s poultry farming despite there now being technological differences.

The Happy Chick Company

The Happy Chick Company Logo

Here at the Natural Poultry Farming Guide. we never thought we would find another group of people as potty about poultry and chuffed with their chickens as we are… but then we discovered the happy chick company.

They specialise in providing a complete chick hatching experience for nurseries, schools and care/retirement homes – an educational, engaging and thrilling experience which, importantly for us, ensures all chicks are safely rehomed afterwards.

Chick Hatching at Schools

So what do schools and retirement homes in these areas have to look forward to?

The hatching experience begins early in the week when the delivery is made.  The team, who know everything there is to know about chicks, sets up the incubator which ensures temperature and humidity levels are closely controlled – all the time taking great care to explain everything. Detailed information and instructions are left behind and further questions can be answered by the advice line, available 7 days a week, 7am until 10pm.

Shortly after delivery, expectant “mother hens” will see signs that their chick is on the way. They will see the eggs wobble and may even hear cheeping coming from inside the egg.  The happy chick company suggests that you make your own clucking noises at the egg – you may feel silly but it really does work and you may just hear your chick cheep back at you.

Chick Hatching at Retirement HomesChicks can be expected to hatch by the Thursday evening.  Once dry and fluffy, the chicks are transferred to a brooder box. Again, the happy chick company provides all the equipment the chicks need, leaving students or residents free to enjoy watching the chicks and their antics.

A week later, the happy chick company team returns to collect the equipment and the chicks… Here we should issue a warning. Chickens are addictive! So it can be a very sad moment for everyone involved.  In many cases, individuals choose to adopt their chicks permanently. In these circumstances the happy chick company first ensures the ‘adoptive parent’ is suitable and then provides an aftercare support service. All chicks that are not adopted in this way are rehomed.

Like glasses for chickens!

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Recently while doing some research into ways of stopping chickens from pecking each other, I  came across this picture on http://parkerpoultry.wordpress.com/.

A chicken wearing what looks like sunglasses or blinkers.  Huh?

So I did a little digging, and not only can you buy blinkers for chickens to help prevent cannibalism, but  many years ago you could buy eye glasses for the same purpose!

Now apparently, chicken glasses date back to the early 1900′s. In fact, United States patent 730,918 was granted to Andrew Jackson Jr. on June 16, 1903. Andrew’s patented chicken glasses were basically an early version of safety glasses for poultry as they were meant to help protect chickens from getting their eyes pecked by other birds in the flock.

Patented safety glasses for chickens were used to help prevent their eyes from being pecked by other birds.

In an effort to improve the functionality of chicken glasses, in 1939, National Band & Tag Company founder Joseph Haas created “Anti-Pix”. Anti-Pix were small aluminum framed glasses with heavy gauge red plastic lenses mounted on hinges. Small stainless steel pins, inserted through the nostrils, held the glasses on the top of the chickens beak.

Drawing for US patent 730918 - Chicken Glasses

When the chickens held their heads upright the red lenses rendered the birds color-blind, eliminating their ability to detect raw flesh and blood.

You see, chickens are instinctively cannibalistic and have a natural tendency to peck one another. Pecking is the chickens way of establishing hierarchy within the flock, which is where the term “pecking order” comes from.

Also, being that the red lenses were mounted on hinges, the chickens had clear and unobstructed vision while lowering their heads to feed.

Here is a great newsreel from 1947 about chicken glasses.

Anti-Pix advertisement from the National Band & Tag Company catalog circa 1940

Unfortunately, it seems that you can no longer buy those fancy hinged chicken glasses and it also seems that they are pretty rare these days. If you happen to stumbled upon any while picking through an old barn or an antique shop, make sure to get them appraised because some of them are quite valuable could put a few extra dollars in your pocket.

While good old chicken glasses are no longer available for purchase, blinders are still produced and used on chickens to help prevent pecking. If you’re in the market, you’ll find that some blinders have pins and others are pin-less.

Do your chickens have a pecking problem? Would you ever accessorize your chickens with fancy rose colored glasses? Leave me a comment and share your thoughts!

Source: http://thepioneerway.com/farming/glasses-chickens/

Providing Suitable Dust Bath Areas for Your Chickens

OK, so chickens don’t wash with water the way we do. They use soil to clean their plumage instead and it is vital to their health as it is the method by which they remove lice etc. Plus, they enjoy it and happy chickens produce good eggs! Outdoor chickens can usually find plenty of soil to fulfill this purpose but if you have to keep your chickens indoors for such reasons as cold weather or protection of predators, it is a great idea to include a dust bath for them. This is a great little article about dust baths.  Click on the picture or the link below to go to the original article.Featured Image

Providing Suitable Dust Bath Areas for Your Chickens.

Poultry Diseases Up Close – Sour Crop

Sour crop and impacted crop, also known as crop binding, although relatively uncommon in chickens, is still something you need to watch out for in your flock. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on the web about how to deal with this condition; many of the home remedies and solutions are extremely dangerous, and often very cruel for the hens.

Typically, a hen’s crop will become impacted by something the chicken has ingested. The blockages could be the result of the hen ingesting tough grasses, sawdust, straw, hard grains or meat bones that get lodged in the crop.

Chickens may exhibit a large bulge in the crop area, diminishing weight, isolating themselves from the flock, hunching down or protecting their injury. The bird may also jerk their neck around trying to dislodge the blockage. Additionally, the stuck items in the crop may begin to rot, resulting in a sour smell coming from the chicken’s beak.

The Chicken Health Handbook explains that ‘Even if the bird continues to eat, nutrition cannot get through. The swollen crop may cut off the windpipe, suffocating the bird’.

Examination

To determine if your chicken may be suffering from sour or impacted crop, gently pick up the chicken and see if you can feel a hard or squiggly bulge in the chest; gently running your hands over the chicken’s breast area should be enough to feel if the crop is distended.

There may be a food bulge in the crop, particularly if the hen has just eaten – the crop is similar to a food storage pouch.  However, if the hen is exhibiting any of the other behaviors associated with this condition, such as head jerking or refusing to move, then a blockage in the crop is a distinct possibility.

Carefully open the chicken’s beak and have a sniff to see if there is a sour smell. Although the odor is difficult to describe and may vary depending on what the bird has ingested, it should be obvious that there is an unusual and unpleasant smell coming from the chicken’s beak.

If you suspect the chicken may have a blocked or impacted crop, it is best to isolate the chicken and only provide water or organic vegetable broth (we use kale and broccoli broth) to confirm that the hen is not able to pass faecal waste.

If you determine that the chicken does have an impacted or sour crop, there are several options on how to deal with it. The first option is to contact a qualified veterinarian for advice. Many of the farm vets will have experience with this condition and will be able to offer suggestions on how to deal with the problem.

Our largest, most healthy, hen recently had a combination of sour and impacted crop, and although we were able to help her pass the blockage, our veterinarian explained that often the chicken may have something else going on that causes the initial blockage problem such as tumors, sores or ulcers. The blockage may also be lower down in the hen’s innards and the only evidence you see is in the distended or engorged crop.

Impacted Crop

An impacted crop will generally feel much harder than a sour crop and a lubricant may be needed to help move the blockage. The application of small eyedroppers of organic vegetable oil (do not use petroleum-based oils) mixed with water into the chicken’s beak may be used to help lubricate the crop contents. However, it is vitally important to ensure the liquid is inserted well past the small hole at the base of the tongue that leads to the hen’s lungs.

Once the oil is added, the crop can be gently massaged in a downward motion to help further lubricate the crop and move the blockage through the hen. This may take several applications over the course of two days.

Keep the hen separated from the flock so you can monitor if she is passing any blockage. Provide her with access to water and/or vegetable broth. See the Recovery information below.

Sour Crop

If the crop feels very squishy and there is a foul smell coming from the chicken’s beak, the chicken can be assisted to help remove the sour liquid.

One option is to ‘vomit the chicken’. However, this is a dangerous procedure and should not be undertaken in a careless manner. If the ‘vomiting’ is done incorrectly it may result in the rotten fluid ending up in the chicken’s lungs which could lead to pneumonia. The procedure is best attempted with two people and under the guidance of a veterinarian.

Wrap the bird in a clean towel and gently tilt the bird forward (not backward) so that her body is vertical to the floor and the head is close to the ground while massaging the crop contents gently toward her mouth. You may need to open the beak to allow the vomit to flow out. The chicken should remain upside down for short durations only – 15 to 20 seconds maximum.

Repeat one to two times only. Allow the chicken time to rest and do not handle the bird roughly. When you think the hen has emptied her crop (partially or fully), be sure to keep the hen separate from the flock and give her time to rest. This may be repeated in two days time, though it is extremely important to not overdo this procedure.

Some veterinarians recommend assisting the chicken to pass the contents of the sour crop through the stomach and waste system as explained in the Impacted Crop section.

Surgery

Surgery should not be conducted at home, and at no time should someone cut into, or expose the innards of, a fully conscious animal as this is a form of animal cruelty, and may, in some states or provinces, constitute animal abuse. There are numerous accounts on the web of backyard farmers cutting open a chicken’s chest and crop and removing the blockage. These accounts are not verified and it is important to consult with a qualified veterinarian before conducting ‘surgery’ on an animal.

If you cannot afford a veterinarian and are determined to perform the surgery at home, it is extremely important that you do not cut into a fully conscious animal as, aside from it being an act of cruelty, the animal’s ability to recover may be greatly diminished from trauma and/or shock. Ask your veterinarian for a sedative to ensure the animal does not experience pain during the procedure.

Use extremely sharp, sterile scalpels, wash your hands and the area where you intend to cut thoroughly with alcohol (not the kind you drink) and ensure that you know where you should be cutting. Carefully clean and close the wound after the procedure and isolate the hen until the wound heals.

Alternative treatment options: Add a drop of Rescue Remedy to the chicken’s water with a pulverized homeopathic Traumeel tablet and/or the remedy Arnica – these supplements will aid the hen in her recovery.

Recovery

When your hen is recovering, provide her with a clean, quiet and safe environment where she can remain until she recovers. Provide clean, filtered drinking water and/or an organic vegetable broth with the addition of a few drops of organic oil such as olive oil or vegetable oil which will lubricate the inside of the chicken and help her continue to pass any blockages. Ignore all suggestion to use petroleum based oils or kerosene with chickens.

If the hen is droopy, consider inserting small eyedroppers full of blueberry water (mush up blueberries and extract the liquid) with the addition of molasses, honey or brown sugar. You can also add the homeopathic and flower remedies suggested above.

Withhold food for one to two days until you are sure she is able to pass waste again. Once she is passing waste again, slowly reintroduce soft foods – options include soft corn, finely grated apple or lettuce, plain yogurt, overcooked and finely chopped vegetables including chopped broccoli, kale and chard, or favourite fruits like mushy ripe watermelon and honeydew.

Choose food options that you know the hen will enjoy, but that will not lodge in her crop again. Monitor the chicken to ensure she is passing the food properly again and it is not building up in her crop again. Do not allow free access to large quantities of feed until you are sure she is out of danger and the blockage has passed. When the hen is back to normal, always ensure that she has access to oyster shell or grit.

Consider adding small amounts of lactobacillus or acidophilus to the hen’s food to ensure the repopulation of healthy bacteria in her stomach and aid in healthy digestion.

The chicken may need antibiotics if an infection develops from the blocked crop and/or surgery complications. Speak to your veterinarian.

Alternative treatment options: Add a drop of Rescue Remedy to the hen’s water or food along with a ground up homeopathic Traumeel tablet – both these supplements will aid the hen in her recovery.

Preventative Measures

Do not feed hard treats, grains or table scraps that can lodge in their throats or crops. Chickens should not be fed bones or large chunks of meat that they are unable to break up. Always ensure your flock has constant access to grit and oyster shells.

Source: http://www.greenmuze.com/blogs/green-muzings/2208-chicken-impacted-crop-or-sour-crop.html