Turmeric for Your Hens?

Turmeric for Your Flock-By now I’m sure you’ve seen at least some information go by about the amazingly positive benefits of turmeric on your health…but have you considered it for your flock as well? Turns out, many of those very same health benefits for you, are also good for your chickens.

Turmeric is a root (related to ginger) that contains the ingredient curcumin. Curcumin is a huge immune system booster in chickens (good for overall chicken health and wellbeing). It also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent (which is helpful with problems such as bumblefoot or other inflamed injuries chickens might sustain). Those two things right there would be enough for me, but the list goes on: Turmeric aids in digestion, eye and brain function, and respiratory issues. It can be made into a paste and used as an antibacterial medication.

I’m all about natural health remedies. Especially ones that are real food. I drink turmeric tea. I use it in cooking. I’m all about getting the natural anti-inflammatory benefits out of that yellow spice. Why not try it on my hens? But how?

What do you do with it?

You can make a paste from turmeric by melting some coconut oil and adding black pepper and turmeric to it. (Coconut oil and black pepper help activate the beneficial properties of the turmeric).  This paste can be placed as a free range option for your flock to eat as they wish.

You could also add some honey to the paste and use it as a topical salve for healing wounds on your chickens.

You can also mix up some of the above paste ingredients and add it to the chicken feed or to some other food such as oats or eggs (when it’s in its melted form so it’s easy to mix/pour into or onto other things).TurmericforEggs

TurmericInPan

TurmericinOats

You might need to experiment. My hens like it best when I add it to scrambled eggs. For this, I melt some coconut oil in a pan, add turmeric and fresh ground pepper and mix it all together, then add 1-2 eggs and scramble them into the mix. They gobble that up in a hot second and ask for more.

Having done bumblefoot surgery on a hen before, though, I’m all for experimenting with new and improved ways of making sure my flock gets some turmeric at least once a week in their diet. A little experimenting now could save a lot of pain for a hen in the future and a lot of hassle for me.

How much do you give a hen?

The general consensus for turmeric use with hens is 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of weight (so 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon for a backyard bird that typically weighs 4 to 7 pounds). You don’t want to over-do it, as turmeric also has blood thinning properties in large doses.

While I’ve been using turmeric with my flock for about a year now, always keep in mind I am not a vet. If you have concerns certainly talk to your vet. And never do anything that doesn’t sit right with you for your flock.

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Chickens in Winter: 12 Easy Solutions for Happier Hens

Brrrr. It’s been chilly here this past week with freezing temperatures and blustery winds. We barely got the new coop up and the girls moved in before the changing of the weather.  As I searched for the clear plastic to put up on the winter wind side of the chicken run (missing from the 2nd move within one year), and tried to find the parts to the DIY water heater, I was thankful my hens were in a dry, draft-free new coop.

Lots of people ask me what to do for their hens in the winter. Part of that answer depends on where you live and what kind of hens you have, as well as how they’re housed. But the simple answer is: Hens (largely) do better with cold than with hot temperatures.  Yet, there are some simple things you can do to help your hens navigate through winter. Here are 12 ideas:

Staple thick, clear plastic over the chicken run, at least part way up the wire sides, to give them a wind-free place to be. Most likely this plastic will also need to have 1×3 pieces of wood screwed over the top of the plastic to keep it from being ripped off by the wind.  (I learned this one the hard way, in the middle of a storm as I tried to wrangle large sheets of plastic in the wind and rain).

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Patch up the drafts. Now, this does NOT mean keep any air from getting inside your coop. Even in the winter, your flock will need ventilation inside the coop. Just make sure they’re getting in ways and in spaces there it’s not creating a draft on top of them. Chickens don’t like wind. And it’s hard for them to keep warm when the wind gets up under their feathers.

Add an extra layer of bedding on the coop floor as this will help create some insulation.

If you live in really cold areas, you might also want to add insulation to the coop walls. (However this idea is better done when its summer and you don’t have to be out in a freezing coop right now.)

Keep the coop clean in the winter, not just the summer. The fumes from the chicken poo create gases that aren’t the best for chicken lungs (go hang out in the coop for a while and you’ll understand). While it’s ‘easier’ to keep the coop cleaned in the summer, cleaning in the winter is important too.

Give the hens a bit more protein from time to time. This is especially true if they’re still molting. It takes extra energy to stay warm as well as to grow feathers. Protein helps both.eating-tuna

You can also feed them warm food (small amounts of oatmeal or scrambled eggs, for example). This should NOT replace your layer feed, and don’t go overboard. Treats are not meals. And too much of even a healthy (non-feed) food for your hens isn’t good for them.

Feed them cracked corn (in even smaller amounts) in the late afternoon before they go to bed. Corn raises their body temperature and will help keep them warmer through the night.

Some people add heat lamps to their coops.  I’ve never done this because chickens, with proper care and housing, will navigate through winter without heat. (I grew up in Montana and it was COLD there and our hens lived just fine without a heat source all winter). If you choose this option, though, be very careful because it’s a fire hazard.  (One year, when two local coops in one weekend burned down from heat lamps, a fire official suggested that if you put a bulb in your coop, don’t make it larger than 100 watts, and use a regular bulb, not a heat lamp bulb as it will generate enough heat in a small space to help warm the temperature). Don’t forget, too, that hens have a higher body temperature than humans and they will generate more heat all on their own.

Keep the water thawed out. Chickens need water to help them eat. It’s important to keep a water source for them to drink from so they don’t get compacted crops. (That’s no fun for anyone.) There are lots of options to help keep the water from freezing, including making your own heater for just a couple dollars.

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If you live in cold, cold areas another thing to consider (when the temps dip low for extended periods of time) is to put Vaseline on your hen’s combs and wattles. This will help keep them from getting frost bite.  Also, if you happen to have metal roosting poles, change them to wood!

I often get asked how you can tell if your hens are cold. One way is if they’ve puffed their feathers up so they look extra fluffy and are also standing on one leg. Sure sign they’re cold. But being cold isn’t necessarily the same as being dangerous or unsafe. Chickens can endure a lot more cold than we give them credit for sometimes (they are, after all, wearing down jackets).

Another question I am often asked is if I make sweaters for my hens. I only did that once, for one of my hens when she molted hard and late. She was visibly shaking from the cold. I brought her in the house and it took over an hour in front of the heater to warm her up (and stop her shaking).

So, yes, this one time, I made a hen a fleece pull over that she wore for a couple weeks while her feathers grew back in (at least grew in enough to help her survive without the fleece).

Olivia-coat

There are exceptions to everything, most of the time. My best advice is that and you know your girls best of all, so definitely do what you think is right in extreme situations.  But generally, if you feed them, water them and give them dry, wind free housing they’re usually just fine.

 

 

 

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Chickens Year-Round

I’ve been super busy these days moving (YET) again…twice in ONE YEAR is way too much. I’m still in the process of getting the girls set up in their permanent coop and unpacking. Whew. It’s a lot of work.

But, I wanted to take a tiny break from the settling in to show you one of my latest projects. I created a calendar full of chickens, goats, bees, and more and thought you guys might like it. (I’m an artist for my ‘day’ job.) Would you like one? 

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InActionCDCalendar

The calendar features one of my paintings on each month and it all comes in a special CD case that also functions as a stand (to put on your desk, kitchen counter, window sill, etc.) They’re $15 each and for those of you in the USA, I’ll ship it to you for free. (Out of the United States, we can chat about fees).
AllTheMonths

These would be great gifts…teachers, animal lovers, chicken people (notice chicken people get their own category. ha), friends you want to give a little something to, the work gift exchange, etc….the possibilities are endless….(don’t forget to pick up one for yourself, too!)  Buy them here.

PS Besides moving my household way too soon again, I’m also working on a whole new re-vamp of this blog and the City Girl Farming and City Girl Chickens websites (they are soon to all be in one place–yay!) Stay tuned for some fun giveaways when I’m ready to unveil the new, updated site. It’s going to be fun! I’ll keep you posted.

Lots of exciting changes in store!

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The New (Battered) Girl in Town

Meet Millie.Millies-first-day

Millie came to me a few weeks ago, after she’d been badly pecked up by her flock  sisters. Actually, Millie has been treated like this her whole life (of about one year), living with a flock that never accepted her into their hen club. Out of desperation, frustration, and concern for Millie, she came to live with me.

I wasn’t totally sure what breed of hen Millie was when she showed up (as she was missing so many feathers) but my best guess these days is maybe a Red Sex Link? (What do you guys think?) She’s VERY skiddish. VERY. Tiny birds flying FAR overhead will startle her. I don’t blame her, though, since she’s pretty much only known violence and being an outcast her whole life.

Millie came to my established flock only a week after my lovely, gentle Jessica (Black Sex Link) was beheaded by a raccoon. Jessica was the leader of my flock so there was already some pecking order re-positioning going on. I figured that might be a great time to introduce someone new.

The friends that brought Millie over also brought her a deluxe rabbit hutch to live in temporarily. I set it up near the chicken yard and also fenced off a section of the yard for Millie to hang out in without the threat of being bullied by my hens. Pecking order is a serious thing among chickens and I’d be setting Millie up for failure if I had just released her into my flock. Everyone needed time to get to know each other.

Hattie, my white Easter Egger, who is a strong contender for the top dog (er, hen) position with Jessica gone, was not happy to see a trespasser on the property. In fact, all my hens were extremely upset to see poor Millie move in. They paced a groove on their side of the fence, puffing up, strutting around, making all sorts of non-typical noises. Hattie even tried her hand at crowing (badly).

Hattie trying to show Millie who was boss through the fence (I re-enforced it with more wire after this episode).

Hattie trying to show Millie who was boss through the fence (I re-enforced it with more wire after this episode).

Poor flighty Millie just flitted about and worried about her new situation.

I knew things would eventually settle down. And they did.

After about a week and a half of this carrying on from my normally mellow flock, they moved on to more interesting things, still keeping their eye on Millie, but not in such a worked up way. I eventually allowed Millie into the larger chicken yard, with supervision and we’d have short recess times together. This transition wasn’t seamless, but overall it went well. Slowly I increased their together time and for the most part Millie is part of the flock now. (Goldie, the lowest hen in the pecking order in my original flock is the one who picks on Millie the most, reminding Millie that she’s the  boss of at least her.)

For now, Millie still sleeps in the rabbit hutch. She puts  herself to bed there just as the other hens put themselves to bed in the coop.  I do keep Millie in the enclosed area by herself for a bit in the morning to make sure she gets enough food (most of the fights these days revolve around food), but then she spends the rest of her day with the other girls.

Millie is settling in too. At first she wouldn’t let me get near her. And when I’d lift her out of the rabbit hutch in the morning, her poor body would just shake like a leaf. Now she patiently waits for me and allows me to lift her out to start the day.

She’s even eating out of my hand. And coming with the others when I call her.

When she first came her naked little shoulders were badly sunburned. So, I mixed up a HIGHLY DILUTED solution of essential oils and I spray her shoulders every morning. It seems to be helping her heal. And slowly her feathers are coming in, although her wings are still pretty naked.

I would have rather introduced Millie to my flock with an additional hen at the same time. This way she’d be more likely to have a ‘friend’. But I took what I got and I didn’t push the process.  Patience (which is not a strong suit for me) is essential when transitioning new birds into the established flock. I’m happy to say, although there’s occasionally a little bit of squawking, there’s been no blood and virtually no feather loss.

Millie

Millie seems to be settling in quite well and runs around having a good time with her new, much nicer to her, sisters. Once again, all is well in the chicken kingdom.

PS If you’d like more information on how to introduce new chickens to your flock, click here. Or more information on what the pecking order is all about, click here.

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The Top Chicken Blogs?

Chicken-Blog-Contest

I was notified last week that the City Girl Farming blog made it into the top 25 chicken blogs. From this list, there’s a voting contest to determine the top blog in the chicken kingdom. There are some awesome blogs on this list.  Some that I read. Some that you should read, too, if you’re interested in chickens and sustainability and other related topics.

Anyway, if you click on over to the contest, you can vote for your favorite blog. The voting ends on July 6th. And you can only vote once. And while you’re over there, check out some of the awesome blogs on the list. You might want to add them to your regular reading too!

Thanks everyone!

goldie

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Rescue Chicks

This sad tale has a happy ending. I thought I’d tell you that right off the bat. It did start out a bit shaky though.

About a month ago, my neighbor- friend, Audrey, drove up with a cardboard box full of the saddest looking chicks I’ve ever seen.  These poor babes reeked like rotten road kill. They tottered when they tried to walk because their crops were so swollen and disfigured they couldn’t keep their balance. All of them had droopy wings that dragged on the ground. None of them made any sort of happy chirpy chick noises. They mostly just stood still or toppled over or lay on the ground without moving.

The littles arrive

Bulging Crop

(There are obviously people in the world that should never own animals. This is a good example of some of them.)

My friend asked for advice on how to help heal these little birds. I wasn’t sure what to tell her. So, I did what I often do: I guessed.

First, I helped her set up a temporary chicken coop in my carport. I wasn’t sure if these chicks were in this terrible condition purely from their poor treatment, or if they were also sick. I didn’t want my hens to catch anything that might have just arrived with these babies. I also wanted to keep them safe from my full-sized flock. They were already very weak and didn’t need to be bullied.

Next, I suggested a bath. So Audrey took them into her house and bathed them with soap and water with a rinse in apple cider vinegar in water (to kill potential germs and bugs). She kept them in her bathroom overnight with a heater going and a diffuser wafting an essential oil blend (to build immunity and kill potential germy things they might be battling).

sick babies

Next, we needed to deal with their over bulging crop issues (Dolly Parton had nothing on these poor girls). I suggested a syringe and gently (and in small doses) feeding them drops of water and of oil mixed with wine. Audrey also massaged the crops to help pass whatever it was that had clogged them up so terribly.

Syringe

Six pathetic chicks arrived on the property and two didn’t make it. Honestly, I figured the numbers (at best) would be the other way around so we were all happy at their progress.

Then the person who had the chicks to begin with called asking Audrey to come pick up two more chicks. MORE? She had MORE??  Two very sick girls from the same flock were added to the chick hospital. One of these looked as close to death as you could possibly be while still being alive. But Audrey, empowered at their survival rate, determined to save this little one.

This chick couldn’t even lift her head. Audrey fed her little drops of water from a syringe. She did all the other things from above, too, that she’d done for the other chicks, but this one made no progress. She lay so still and lifeless she already seemed gone.

So, on a whim and with nothing to lose, I suggested she try feeding this baby a very watered down solution of my cat’s liver pate in a syringe in addition to the other things she was doing for her. Apparently that stinky cat food was the ticket for this chick as within just a couple hours she went from pretty much dead to roosting on Audrey’s finger.

Before and AfterNow these chicks (whom I affectionately  call ‘The Littles’) are making up for lost time. They’re growing like weeds and constantly chirping and eating and pooping and exploring, just like happy, healthy chicks do. One of the places they LOVE to explore is my art studio. If I leave the door open, even for a moment, they all charge in like a herd of rambunctious children. I spend lots of time shooing them out (and yes, occasionally picking up poop after them).

Snoopy LIttles

The Littles have had a few recess times in an enclosed fence so my hens could get to know them safely and the last few days they’ve been running around free ranging with the established flock. All is well in the chicken kingdom.

Meeting The Littles

Goldie meets the Littles

Except of course that they can’t stay forever in my carport and need a new coop built for them (the one my current flock lives in is too small for 5 more birds). But I’m so happy to have new babes on the property. And Audrey wanted to get chickens anyway, so it’s all working out.

And I’m happy, too, that they’re no longer suffering at the place they were before (although truthfully I’m sure they’d all be dead by now). Like I said, some people should never have animals. In this situation it mostly turned out positively in the end. We are happy they joined us. Even my old hens don’t seem to mind.

Yep, when life gives you sick chicks, create a new flock. After all, one can never have too many chickens. (Unless, of course, you’re one of those people that shouldn’t have any animals at all.)

hungry Littles

Seth

Roosting Littles

PS: Always remember I’m not a vet and am not advocating anything I’ve said in this post. I’m just sharing my personal story. If you need medical advice for your animals, please seek the help of a professional.

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Are chickens right for you?

Sylvia and Snowflake, the new girls on the blockSo you think you want chickens?

Someday?

Maybe?

It’s okay to not be sure. I mean what if you get yourself a backyard flock and then decide chickens aren’t for you? Then what?

If you’ve been wondering if there’s a way to figure out if chicken ownership is for you before you take the plunge, the answer is YES…sort of.

First, before you do anything, it’s probably a good thing to find out if you can even own chickens where you live. Does your town/city/area allow them? If so, what are the rules? Each town has different rules, so make sure you talk to your city hall to find the specifics for you. While you’re at it, if you live in an HOA or other area that has a set of rules apart from the city you live in, check with them too. Even if your city allows chickens, your neighborhood might not.

One you’ve uncovered the laws in your area, it’s time to talk to some folks who already raise chickens. If you don’t personally know anyone, or can’t find any chickens in yards near you when you go out on walks (and hope to catch their owners out in the yard), look for a backyard chicken class (many are free) or find a feed store and see if they can direct you to someone. Be prepared, however: Most backyard chicken owners are flipped over their flock. Their enthusiasm is catchy.

Did you hear the one about the chicken who crossed the road?

Books are also a good place to gather practical information and there are lots of good books out there. Here are a few I’ve books collected on my website which will give you a place to start. Reading about chicken ownership and the specifics required for their care will help you start thinking about whether you have what they will need. Do you have space in your yard? A good place for a coop? An area for them to free range? A fence to keep out the predators? Enough money to get going? (You can also hop over to the City Girl Chickens website and find lots of information to get you started.)

If you’ve made it this far and found out you can have chickens where you live, talked to people who have had them, and think you can swing it, take a deep breath. We’re not quite done.Linda and girls

It’s time for some soul searching. This part can be a bit tricky because you might not always know what you really think. But here are some questions to ponder:

  1. Why would you like chickens?
  2. Do you like eggs?
  3. How will you take care of them when you’re gone on vacation, etc.?
  4. Do you have the time and money to care for them?
  5. What will you do with them when they’re not in their egg-laying prime anymore?

All the education, talking, researching and thinking might give you a good idea about whether or not you should jump into raising chickens. But sometimes it might not. It didn’t with me.

When I was a kid, we lived on the outskirts of a tiny town in Montana and raised chickens, horses, occasional 4-H animals, and random other critters. I don’t remember bonding much with the chickens. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember much about them at all, except that I had a Polish hen named Phyllis Dillar.

After I moved to the city as an adult, I contemplated chickens, but I wasn’t sure I even liked them. I worried about smoldering mile high piles of chicken poo, and millions of buzzing flies. I worried that I’d be stuck with these creatures that might have the personality of a slug and smell badly and wreck the yard. I worried about costs, and unhappy neighbors and all sorts of things.

And honestly, I didn’t really see myself as an ‘animal person’. And, since chickens are animals after all, I didn’t know if we’d be a very good fit. So, I stalled and thought and worried and wondered…

One day a friend talked me into going to a backyard chicken class with her. I went, mostly to humor her (she’d just moved to a farmhouse just outside the city and romanticized a flock of her own pecking the grass beside her bright red barn). Little did I know that a beautiful gentle Buff Orpington hen in that class would sweep me off my feet and send me straight into chicken ownership as fast as my legs could carry me to the feed store. Nobody was more surprised than me (and believe me, most of my friends and family were quite surprised)!Some of my girls the day I brought them home.

If I would have been practical, I might not have rushed down and brought home 9 fuzzy peeping balls of cuteness. I still had tons of doubts how it would all pan out. But, all these years later I can say with CERTAINTY that bringing home those first chicks completely wrecked me. It changed my life for the better and I look to that one decision as a big turning point for me. My outlook on life, the way I relate to food, and what I think about animals and the world around me in general have all been greatly influenced by that small box of baby chicks.

For me, I’ve been nothing but pleasantly surprised. I thought I was bringing home chickens for eggs, but the eggs are such a minor side point to me now. My only regret in chicken ownership is that I didn’t do it sooner. I’m completely smitten with my hens. I can’t imagine not having chickens in my life. Ever.1

If I would have gone through the above exercises, I would have decided chickens weren’t for me. But thankfully I got them anyway. Sometimes you just don’t know until you do it, I guess.

There are some programs that have sprung up in a few places where you can rent a flock of hens for a while. They bring you the birds, the hen house and the things you need to take a trial run at the backyard bird gig. You try it, and if you like it, you can opt in to own the birds you’re renting, or buy some others of your own. It’s a great way to get your feet wet, so to speak.

If that isn’t an option in your area, spend some time around hens if you can. Offer to help clean out their coops. Do whatever you can to get a feel for what it would be like to own a flock of your own. (But also know that just like children, it’s a lot easier to care for your own than for others because they’re yours and you love them.)

So, I guess my best advice is, yes, study, talk, do your research and think things through. But don’t let fear stop you. Dig down deeper than those fears and see if there’s something more than fear telling you not to get yourself some hens.

Equally, don’t let popular trendy opinion sway you if chicken ownership really isn’t for you. They are a commitment and they do take time, thought and money, just like any other animal you own.

In the end, you have to go with your gut. I did. And there’s no turning back for me! (And because I’m super pro chicken, I’ll leave you with this list of over 20 reasons to consider raising some chickens of your own.)

Good luck in your decision making process. Let us know how it all turns out!

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