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Fall Chicken Care Tips For a Healthy Flock

fall chicken care tips

Getting ready for fall starts in the late summer. Fall chicken care thoughts begin to run through my head. Chilly weather will require some changes to routine, and buildings need to be checked for repairs. Using the days with pleasant weather to get these things done keeps us from repairing and scrambling during a storm. Are you preparing now? Here are some of the things we begin to do.

Health Check – Beak to Tail Chicken Checkup

Making sure that your individual flock members are ready to weather the upcoming changes is important. Some minor ailments can be treated successfully when found early. Are any chickens showing loose runny droppings? How about bony breast bones or crop issues? Is the flock eating a healthy whole grain organic layer feed? Quality ingredients help your backyard flock maintain a healthy digestive tract and resist parasites and other diseases.

Molting season has begun here. The flock requires an increase in protein during the feather regrowth period. You want to support this nutritionally with a well balanced feed and tasty supplements such as grubs, cooked meat scraps, and even scrambled eggs if you have any to spare. Help your feathered friends get fluffy before the snow falls and the temperature drops.

fall chicken care tips

What about Pumpkins and Chickens?

The facts about the health benefits of feeding pumpkin seeds and flesh might surprise you. We have all probably heard that pumpkin seed can help your birds repel internal parasites. While there is a tiny grain of truth to this and I have even said it before myself, there is more to the story.

Pumpkin seeds, in fact the whole pumpkin supplies a powerhouse of nutrients for the flock. Chickens love fresh pumpkin and it’s a great nutritional boost.

Pumpkins have a richly colored flesh that contains high levels of beta carotene. The beta carotene is the precursors to vitamin A. In addition, fresh pumpkin is a source of Vitamin C and E and contains most of the B complex vitamins.

Do Pumpkin Seeds Repel Internal Parasites?

Feeding pumpkins is a good part of fall chicken care And, if you can get a hold of some free pumpkins from neighbors or friends after the holidays, take them! If they haven’t been carved into jack o’ lanterns, they will store a long time in a cool area of your home or basement.

The seeds from the pumpkin are also packed with good nutrition. High in protein, pumpkin seeds are a smart choice for a chicken flock treat right in the midst of the fall molting season. Increasing protein during molt helps your birds grow in their glossy new feathers with less metabolic stress. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of vitamins, minerals and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Fall Chicken Care Tips

Another theory on fresh pumpkin is the possibility that the seeds will help your chickens avoid an overload of intestinal worms. This is a partial truth, so be careful not to count on it. Especially if you have birds that are suffering with internal parasites.While the seeds of pumpkin and other squash contains cucurbitacin which acts as a paralytic agent on tapeworms and round worms, it is a very mild treatment. In a mild intestinal worm situation, the pumpkin seeds may be enough to paralyze the worms so they can be excreted. But don’t count on it. In order to use the pumpkin seeds most effectively, a tincture should be prepared, and then used to dose each animal by adding it to the water.

Feed Healthy High Protein Treats as Part of Fall Chicken Care

Meal Worms are always a welcome treat and these little goodies are bringing a protein punch. Great for helping your chickens recover quickly after a hard molt and a great training tool. Chickens will cooperate better when meal worms are involved!

Seed blocks, peanut butter treats and other commercially available boredom busters are good to keep on hand for times when the chickens have to be cooped up. If you don’t normally purchase scratch grain, fall and winter are a good time to have some on hand. I feed a small amount to my flock in the evening during cold weather.

The key is to keep the amount of scratch or seed treats at a treat level. This should not become a major part of your chickens’ diet. Seeds are high in fats and can lead to obesity and internal fat deposits. Use the treats as a tool, to get the flock to go where you need them to go. It’s a great incentive for getting the chickens to go to the coop in the evening.

Coop Upkeep for Fall and Winter

Now that you have taken care of buying lots of pumpkins and treats for the fall and winter, what other fall chicken care steps should you take?

chicken on a nest

Managing the Annual Molt Mess

Molting makes the dust in the coop even messier. I recommend doing a thorough coop cleaning while the weather is still nice. Scrape out old bedding. Inspect for rodent holes, insect evidence, and wet areas. Take care of any structural problems now so you don’t have to take care of building maintenance during a winter storm.

  • Clean the roost bars and treat with DE powder (Diatomaceous Earth) . The DE powder will kill off any mites trying to take up residence on the roost bars. Another great product for pest control is First Saturday Lime. It is safe for children, pets, and your feathered friends.
  • Check for leaks in the roof, or other parts of the building. While you are checking for leaks, also check that your ventilation is optimal. Ventilation refers to the air flow circulating air inside the coop and keeping it from becoming stagnant. Ventilation is very important in winter because stagnant air can also lead to moisture collection. Moisture in the presence of sub freezing temperatures can lead to frost bite on combs, wattles and feet. 
Fall chicken care tips

Decisions about Heat and  Additional Light

I can’t speak about every area of the country but I will say this. Chickens are extremely cold hardy. If the coop is draft free, has good roof ventilation, can be closed securely at night and during storms, there is little chance that you need additional heat. After the chickens go through the molting, they grow in healthy new feathers and downy under feathers for winter. Chickens will go to roost at night, fluff up their feathers and cover their feet on the roost bar.

Chickens are built for cold weather

It is amazing to me, how much heat is generated by my chickens during the night. The coop is usually very comfortable inside when I arrive in the morning. The chickens are happy and there is less chance of fire. Only once in our chicken raising have we used additional heat. Now, perhaps you live in a particularly frigid area during the winter. I can’t make this decision for you. Draft free goes a long way to keeping the chickens warm enough. Don’t rush to heat the coop just because you are feeling the chill of winter.

Sidenote: Have you tried brooding chicks in late summer and fall? Read more in this post : The Best Time to Start Chicks

Another thing to consider is what happens during a power outage. If your chickens have not been allowed to acclimate to the seasonal change in temperature, they are more likely to succumb to cold if it occurs suddenly.

fall chicken care tips

Should Lights be Added to the Coop?

Adding light may in fact keep the hens laying eggs longer into the winter. I prefer to let them have a natural rest. We use lights only for a short time in the evening while we are cleaning up and feeding/watering the birds for the night. This extends their light by possibly an hour and is not really a factor in their egg laying. Naturally, egg laying slows down during the cold, darker months. This gives the hens a rest and allows energy to be used for warmth. I still collect enough eggs for our use during the winter.

As your hens age, they may lay very infrequently during the winter months. This is normal. If you can add more chickens in the spring, your young layers will carry you through the winter with enough fresh eggs.

Fall Chicken Care – Keeping Fresh Water Available

If your coop is a distance away from your home as ours is, you will need to plan ahead. Empty the hose after each use. Filling containers of water to keep at home will help you avoid frozen water when you are feeding in the morning. I refill gallon jugs and sit them by my back door. In the morning, I grab the water jugs and refill the water bowls with room temperature water from home. The chickens all run to get a warm drink!

With just some foresight and minor upkeep, repair and fall chicken care, you, your chickens and the coop will be ready for winter weather.




Chicken Gardening for You and Your Flock

chicken gardening for you and your flock

Are you chicken gardening? Chicken gardening means growing foods that can be used to supplement your chicken’s diet. Chicken gardening is slightly different than gardening only for people. Our flock of chickens, ducks, turkeys and guinea hens love all sorts of vegetable products and scraps. In the winter months, I ask the local grocer for the trimmings from the produce and then a feast occurs. During the rest of the year, we are able to grow fresh garden produce and herbs for our chickens, ducks and rabbits.

chicken gardening

Beginning in early spring, we plant the cool weather leafy greens such as romaine, kale, spinach, and cabbage. Also, broccoli and cauliflower like cool temps. Getting these plants started before hot weather hits is a must if you want them to survive a hot spell. Greens are one of the favorite treats for our flock and we save every bit that is not consumed by the humans, for the flock. If your property lacks abundant grass, feeding some other leafy greens can add essential vitamins and minerals into your chickens diet. Don’t overdo the greens however. Large amounts of fresh greens can lead to intestinal upset and runny feces. Cucumbers are a refreshing treat for the flock. Placing a large chunk of cabbage into a wire basket and suspending the basket at beak level adds a boredom buster to the flock’s day. 

Herb Gardening for Chickens 

I grow as big an herb garden as I can each year. Starting in the early spring with some seeds and some started plants, I tend the herbs and frequently harvest and disperse to the flocks here on the farm. Since some herbs are tender I grow them in raised beds or container gardens away from the chicken flock. I don’t want them trampled or the roots destroyed by a scratching chicken. 

There are very few herbs that your chickens can’t have as a treat or a health boost. In addition to garlic, pumpkins and dandelions, herbs will do the most good for your flock if fed fresh in small amounts frequently. In addition to herbs, many other plants are safe for chickens to consume. The herbs can be used to make infused oils, salves and teas to help correct health issues in the flock, too. 

Many herbs will lend specific benefits to your flock, marigolds, borage, carrots, and parsley, in particular, will boost egg laying and egg yolk color.

Don’t forget the benefit of growing herbs for the coop environment, too. Not only will the herbs freshen the air, calm the hens, and relax the egg laying mechanism, herbs are great at repelling rodents and insects naturally. I love snipping herbs on the way to the chicken yard. Sprinkle the herbs on the nests, in the feed bowls, and even in the water! An herbal “tea” will add many health benefits to your flock.

Edible Flowers for Chickens 

A great addition to your vegetable garden are edible flowers. Not only are some garden flowers good for insect repellent in the garden but chickens can eat some of the flowers too. Violets, roses, mallow, daisies and sunflowers are good choices for a garden that you share with chickens.

Pumpkins Take Room to Grow, But the Chickens will Love the Treat

Pumpkins are an essential treat on our farm. Last year was a great year for pumpkins and markets in our area were selling pumpkins at the most reasonable price I have seen in years. I supplemented what we grew ourselves, with a huge box of small pumpkins from the farmers market. We had fresh pumpkins to give the chickens up until March. 

Many chicken keepers point to the unproven fact that eating fresh pumpkin seeds will prevent worms in your flock. While pumpkin is a healthy treat, the real story is more complicated. Eating pumpkin seeds may not cure a heavy presence of intestinal worms but feeding pumpkin can help the gut stay healthy and unwelcome to future worms looking to stay. Pumpkins are also high in Beta carotene which helps promote good overall health. Make sure you give your pumpkins plenty of room to roam while they grow and provide well draining soil and almost full sun.

chicken gardening

Cool Treats for Hot Summer Days 

By far the favorite treat we plant is watermelon. Cool and refreshing to humans and flock members alike, nothing beats it on a hot, sultry summer day. I chop the watermelon into large chunks and they dive right in. The ducks will gobble up the sweet melon center all the way down to the thinnest rind. The chickens will eat the entire watermelon, rind and all. So the pieces the ducks leave behind eventually end up in the chicken run for the chickens to finish off. No waste here! If you have leftover cut up melon from a cook out, you can freeze the leftovers to bring out on a super hot day. Water melon Popsicles! It’s a nice way to keep them hydrated during the heat. Watermelons also contain valuable vitamins.

growing watermelon for chickens
chickens eating watermelon

Legumes – Cooked First!

Beans, such as green pole beans or peas are another item to plant in your garden for both humans and chickens and ducks. My ducks particularly love cooked green beans (Feed only cooked or sprouted beans!). Oh the quacking it brings on when I show up with leftover green beans. Tomatoes and corn are also welcome treats. We have trouble keeping the raccoons out of the corn. They seem to know exactly when we are almost ready to pick the corn. The night before that, the raccoons start partying in our corn field.

corn in the garden

Other Chicken Gardening Cautions 

When you are chicken gardening, you may be tempted to throw the entire plant to your chickens. This is not a good idea. The fruit of the tomato plant is an acceptable treat, but the green plant is toxic and can lead to illness in your chickens. Err on the side of caution and only feed the fruit and then compost your plants after garden season is over.

Plants from the nightshade family are toxic. These include potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. The chemical solanine is contained in the plants and green fruit of the plants in the nightshade family. Potato skins are toxic. Some people will cook the skins and feed them to the chickens. I have always erred on the side of caution and not given the potato peels to them, cooked or raw. If I feed the chickens any potatoes at all, it is cooked first and probably left over from our dinner! We love potatoes too! 

Other Potential Problem Veggies 

Eggplants – Again, not a big favorite of my flock, maybe because I just don’t give it to them.

Tomatoes- This is a tough one for me because my chickens have always loved tomatoes. The green tomatoes and the plant itself are potentially hazardous because of the solanine contained in the plant. I try to limit the amount of tomatoes to a few a week mostly because the flock seems to get some digestive upset from over indulging in tomatoes.

Onions have a different chemical in them that can prove to be toxic to chickens. Raw onions and the thiosulphate chemical can lead to anemia if fed to the chickens regularly. I don’t give them onions unless there are some cooked onion in a bit of leftovers from our kitchen.

Peppers- Again, fruit is fine and enjoyed, the plant and any unripened fruit should not be given to the flock. Avocados should be avoided and the leaves from the rhubarb plant are toxic. 

Fruit Trees 

If your chicken gardening efforts include fruit trees, you should know that large amounts of the seeds of apples can cause toxicity and death. The chickens will enjoy some apples for sure but skip the seeds containing naturally occurring cyanide, to be safe.

Many in the chicken raising community feel that it is acceptable to feed all compost items to the chickens. The argument has been that chickens will eat what is ok and stop or avoid foods they shouldn’t eat. In my flock observations, I have not found this to be true. My raptors will eat everything in sight, and they have free choice layer feed, two times a day of free ranging time and occasional treats from the garden and produce aisle. 

Chicken Gardening and Destructive Chickens 

If you do not fence in the garden with some material that keeps the chickens out when you aren’t watching them, you will not have a garden for long. Yes, the chickens will do a fantastic job of eating garden pests, aphids, tomato worms and will help with some weed control. Unfortunately, their ability to know when to stop scratching, and when to stop taste testing every tomato on the vine is limited. When using your flock for true chicken gardening, I suggest supervision!

These are just a few ideas to get you started on your chicken garden. The list of potentially toxic plants is not complete but is based on the more common garden grown produce. There are plenty of sources available on chicken gardening. Here are a few more references to help you get started.

chicken gardening

Other Suggested Resources on this topic:

What Herbs Keep Chickens Healthy

keeping chickens book cover



Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed!

The day I brought home the first two chicks, I  went against all the advice I give to people thinking about getting chickens. We had a farm but had no chicken coop or really any plan to build one. But two chicks followed me home from work at a feed store and the future was changed forever. Not long after, twelve more chicks arrived to keep the first two chicks company. We now had fourteen baby chicks growing up in our house but they could not stay there forever. It was very clear that in the near future we were going to need a chicken coop on the farm. 

 

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

We had two garden sheds in our yard. Downsizing was in order because having two sheds just meant that you saved and held onto twice as much “stuff”. We would use one of the sheds for a coop but first it needed to be emptied and then moved to the barn area. 

Getting Things Started

chicken coop timbercreekfarmer.com

The first step in converting the shed into a coop happens before the shed even arrives. Level the ground and get materials for elevating the coop off the ground several inches. You could use 6 x 6  timbers or cinder blocks. We opted to go with the treated lumber 6 x 6 timbers to raise the coop up from ground level. 

There are two main reasons to do this, one is to allow drainage and air flow under the coop and prohibit rotting. The second reason is to deter predators and pests from chewing into the coop from the ground. 

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Inside the coop we spread a layer of cement and let it cure for a couple of days to dry completely. This also deterred rodents from chewing into the coop from the ground level. 

Once that prep work is complete it is time to retrofit the shed and turn it into a coop. Some things you will need to add are listed below.

What to Add To a Chicken Coop

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Roosting bar /Roosting area– Many people use a 2 x 4 board as a roost. This should be turned so that the 4 inch side is flat for the chickens to perch on and comfortably cover their own feet with their feathers during cold weather. 

Add A Place for Eggs

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Nesting Boxes–  There are many formulas on calculating how many nest boxes for the number of hens in the coop. I will tell you that no matter how many nest boxes you have, all the hens will wait in line for the same box. Sometimes a few will crowd into one nest area. I recommend having a few nest boxes in the coop but don’t be surprised if one nest  box becomes the popular nest. Be careful to secure the nest box somehow. Nest boxes that are lightweight can tip over, trapping a chicken underneath. 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Windows– Our shed did not  have any windows in it. Before we could use it for a coop we added four windows in the back and two windows in the door. This allowed  cross ventilation, and daylight to enter the coop. Since chicken wire will not keep predators out, be sure to securely fasten quarter inch hardware cloth to any windows or ventilation  holes you cut into the coop.

 

Safety Concerns

Exterior latches–  We added a couple extra latches in addition to the door handle. We have a wooded property and the racoons are literally everywhere. Racoons have a lot of dexterity in their paws and can open doors and latches. So we have a secure lock down situation for our chickens!

A fan– Hanging a box fan will keep the chickens more comfortable and help with air circulation during the hot humid summer days and nights. We hang ours from the ceiling pointing towards the back windows. It makes a big difference. Be sure to keep the fan clean because dust will build up quickly from being used in the coop, which can become a fire hazard.

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Don’t Forget Regular Upkeep Inspections!

After building the perfect chicken coop from a garden shed, remember that upkeep is needed. Doing routine inspections, and repairs as outlined here, will help you get many years of wear out of the coop.

Necessary Coop Furnishings

Droppings board–  When this coop was first used, I didn’t know the importance of a dropping board under the roost bar. Stinky droppings accumulated under where the birds roosted at night, attracted flies and the chickens walked in the droppings! Ick!

The dropping board was very easily added and made a huge difference in keeping the coop clean and free of flies. You can read more specifically about our coop dropping boards in this post. Basically, the board is installed under the roost bar and is removed to clean the droppings off of it. If the board is attached you would use something like a garden trowel or cat litter scoop to clean up the droppings and remove them to the compost pile.

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Coop Extras

Our coop is not fancy. No frilly curtains, or interior paint. While all of that is fun, your flock will not feel less important if you don’t totally pinterest up the coop. (did you know pinterest could be a verb?) I did paint the one nesting box in a very cute pattern and added lettering that stated “Farm Eggs”. The girls still pooped all over it and decided to peck the lettering off of the top. I still think it would be fun to paint the inside and add some wall art. I’ll add that to this Spring’s To Do List!

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Before the nest box was added to the coop

 

 

 

DSC_0168

after the nest box was used

 I hope you enjoy this short video tour of our chicken coop!

I poured a lot of Do it Yourself Information and detailed step by step projects into my book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens (skyhorse publishing 2018)  You can grab a copy through local bookstores, Tractor Supply stores, Other garden and farm supply stores, and through my website.

For more on building your own chicken coop take a look at these  posts –

Pallet Project – Build A Cheap Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Expansion

How Much Space Does a Chicken Need Anyway

Coop Raising Day

Raising Chickens on a Budget




Grow Natural Dyes for Wool Crafts

grow natural dyes

You can grow natural dyes for wool in your back yard garden. As farm folks at heart, it’s natural for us to prefer do it yourself projects. The winter often finds us leafing through seed catalogs, planning our gardens for spring and summer. If you also love wool, consider adding some seeds for dye plants to this year’s garden plots. While this article will concentrate on how to choose plants that grow natural dyes for wool, quick searches will yield more information regarding dyes for other fibers, such as cotton and linen.

You may be familiar with some of the following plants that grow natural dyes, and not realize that they had this potential use. Other’s will be new to your garden choices. Surprisingly, some are often considered invasive weeds, that is until you see the beautiful color the plant yields for your yarn.

How to Select the Right Seeds for Dye Gardens

When choosing seeds for any garden project, check your gardening zone for compatibility. The plants will thrive if given the right environment and care. Most of these are easy cultivars, meaning they thrive even if you think you have a black gardening thumb.

grow natural dyes

When growing a plant that has a tendency to “take over the garden, such as mint or madder, plant in a large container to restrict spread. Consider the variety of colors that you are planting. Having some that produce primary colors will eventually yield a rainbow of colors by over dyeing and combining dyes.

Easy Growers for the Dye Garden

Marigolds

Marigolds walked me through my very first natural dye experiment. The color from marigolds is potent and growing these beauties is easy in most areas. I collect the flowers as they begin to wither and let them dry on a screen. When completely dried, I store the flowers in a bag until I have enough to create a dye pot of golden yellow color. All of the species of marigold will yield dye color. The result will vary depending on the amount of yellow or orange flowers you collect.

grow natural dyes
Marigold

Growing marigolds helps repel annoying garden pests. As a companion plant they often keep pests from eating your produce. The bees and butterflies love gardens full of marigold blooms. Marigolds don’t require much of a green thumb to grow. Sun is preferred and not too much fertilizer please.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus or Rose Mallow is easy to grow. I found plants growing wild on the edges of our property, so I am guessing it is also spread by birds. The plant adds a lot of blossoms to your garden, and grows into a tall bush.

The link below opens to a printable version of my hibiscus dye recipe for dyeing wool yarn.

Gather the flowers and use fresh or dried for later. I usually gather flowers from my dye plants as they begin to dry or wither on the plant. I enjoy planting flowering species for both dyes and to give the pollinators a reason to stop by my garden.

grow natural dyes
yarn color from dried hibiscus petals

Dried Hibiscus can also be purchased, as it is sold as a tea. Make sure you are purchasing only dried hibiscus petals. The color from hibiscus is a wide range of pinks and lilacs. Mordant your wool fiber first for best color staying power.

Solar Dyeing with Hibiscus Petal Dye

My favorite way to process wool yarn with hibiscus petal dye is the solar dye method. Using very warm water to start, and keeping the dye bath in the sun for a few days prevents over heating the dye. Reds and pink natural dyes are susceptible to turning brown if over heated.

Zinnia

Zinnias yield soft yellows, tans and lighter browns. It’s funny to think that all the vibrant color of the zinnia in the garden creates such a soft dye pot of color. Zinnia dye requires twice as much flower material as weight of goods to be dyed, 2:1, so be sure and plant a large patch of zinnias!

grow natural dyes

Coreopsis

Once you grow natural dyes from the garden, you will want to expand! At least that’s how it worked for me. Birds and pollinators love the flowers. Save the blooms as you dead-head as you can use these dye flowers fresh or dried. Both the annual C. tinctoria and the perennial versions can be used to grow natural dyes. The plants aren’t too particular but they do appreciate a sunny location and well drained soil.

grow natural dyes

Rudbeckia -AKA Black-eyed Susan

This is one I am still collecting flowers in order to try. Other dyers report that the black eyed susans will yield a celery or light green color on wool. You will need a good crop of flowers though as it is recommended that you use 1:1 ratio of weight of flowers to dry weight of yarn. Gage Hill Crafts has a good tutorial about the process.

Rudbeckia
Rudbeckia

Hollyhock

Plum, purple and dark red dyes can be found in dark hollyhock blossoms. Plants are biennial, so don’t expect blossoms the first year. Hollyhock dye can also be processed in a cold dye bath overnight.

Grow Natural Dyes from Herbs

You see green, but the primary color derived from a pot of mint will be yellow. Since mint is so prolific, it’s easy to harvest a pot of mint for a dye bath. To change the yellow to green, add a teaspoon of iron, (ferrous sulfate) to the dye bath after straining out the plant material.

purple dead nettle in the basket yields a strong yellow which can be modified to green with a small amount of iron in the after bath.

Other forms of mints often grow wild as invasive weeds. Purple Dead Nettle is a variety of mint that can often take over your yard. Instead of composting the weeds, make a dye bath for wool yarn. For best results when dyeing with mint, leave the yarn or wool in the dye pot overnight.

Rosemary

Two large bunches of rosemary branches will create a large dye pot with plenty of color for wool yarn, when simmered for a couple of hours. This was a beautiful soft yellow color on wool.

Other Grow Natural Dye Options

Weld

Weld and Japanese Indigo are easy to grow additions to your dye garden. Learn how to harvest and process Indigo before cutting the plant because it needs a fermentation process in order to obtain the beautiful dark blue dye.

Weld, Reseda luteola , produces a clear yellow dye from the leaves and flowers of the plant. It does best in a sunny location but will tolerate partly sunny spots. Growing your own source of primary yellow supplies you with options when over dyeing with indigo or possibly woad. I found good suggestions on growing weld, harvesting, and saving seeds in this article.

Japanese Indigo

Japanese Indigo, Persicaria tinctoria, grew very successfully in my garden. I ended up with quite a lot of material. The first process I experimented with was the Ice Water Bath process. This method does not produce the deep indigo shade you might expect. The color is more of a sea green or pale mint. In order to harness the expected indigo blue, read up on the harvesting and fermentation vat method of creating indigo dye.

Persicaria tinctoria

While it is time consuming to grow indigo, harvest correctly and process the leaves, the beautiful blue dye is worth the effort. The pretty pink flowers of the indigo plant are a great addition to your cottage garden. Indigo spreads so consider planting it in a large container.

Nature Works Together when You Grow Natural Dyes in Your Garden

Once you have your dye garden your journey with natural dyes is just beginning. The possibilities are limitless, with mordants, modifiers, and even the different seasons bring to the artist. (if you want to learn the basics of natural dyeing, read this post) The beautiful colors from your garden grown dyes will complement each other, just as nature works together. Growing your own dye plants will bring beauty to your garden and then to your wool crafts.




Why Keep the Rooster with Your Flock?

Why would you keep the rooster? The general feeling from most chicken keepers seems to be just the opposite. Rightly so in the case of neighborhood rules, or possibly having small children around. But in many cases, if you keep the rooster, your flock will benefit from a good leader.

When you picked up your chicks this year, the little fluffy balls of fun were so cute! No doubt one was your favorite. Now that the chicks are reaching 10 to 12 weeks of age, you have begun to notice something a little different about your favorite chick. It may be slightly bigger, stand a little taller, have bigger feet and it may be growing a slightly more noticeable comb or wattles. You may have a rooster! But will you keep the rooster?

Sexing Chicks is Rarely 100% Correct

Before you get upset and jump to possibilities and options, lets explore some reasons why you might want to keep the rooster. If you can legally keep the rooster in your neighborhood or town, there are some good reasons to have one around. You may have heard that a rooster is mean, ornery, and dangerous. These reasons can be true but they are not always the case. (Read more about Cranky Roosters in this post.)  I am not advocating keeping an overly aggressive rooster.

I find the roosters are a great addition to our flock. We currently have fourteen roosters. Before you make a move to have my sanity checked, let me tell you that they are not all staying! But we do keep quite a few throughout our six flocks. They work hard every day, keeping the hens safe. Let me explain a few reasons that I am glad we keep the rooster.

The Rooster as a Peacekeeper

Peacekeeper – The rooster in a flock is in charge. He will assume this role and do what he has to do to maintain his position. Other roosters may be able to be part of the flock, too, as long as they don’t challenge him. In addition, the rooster will keep the hens from squabbling among themselves. In the absence of a rooster, a hen will often take the role of flock leader.

keep the rooster

Keep the Rooster for Flock Protection

Protection – Roosters are on alert most of the day, watching for predators, alerting the hens, and making sure they take cover. While the hens are dust bathing or eating, the rooster will stand guard and stay alert to possible danger. When a hawk or some other predator is spotted, the rooster will sound the alarm. He is calling the hens back to safety. If they free range, this might be a bush to hide under, or the nearby coop. In our case, with multiple roosters, the alarm is picked up and the other roosters begin to gather their hens too. It’s quite amazing to witness.

The Rooster will Provide

Providing – The rooster will search out tasty food bits and call the hens over to enjoy the snack. He makes sure that his hens get started eating first in the morning and then he begins to eat too. In addition, roosters provide the necessary actions for having fertile eggs, in case you want to hatch out eggs in an incubator or let a broody hen set on a clutch of eggs.

Keep the Rooster

The Crowing?

Crowing–  Now I am sure you are wondering how I can put a positive light on this noisy ear splitting wake up call. First, roosters don’t necessarily start crowing before  dawn. Ours will often stay quiet until they hear me in the feed shed, dishing up breakfast. Roosters crow to warn other roosters to stay away. They also crow to celebrate, such as when breakfast arrives, after mating, or to show pecking order. In addition, they will crow to let the hens know the location of the flock, when it’s time to head back to the coop at night and various other reasons. But the best reason for flock security would be the crowing to warn of an approaching visitor.

keep the rooster

While you may decide to re -home your cockerel and just keep the pullets, I am very glad I kept one particular oops rooster. Even though I ordered all pullets, we received a rooster in the bunch. He is a white rock cockerel who we named King.

I see benefits and uses when you keep the rooster. Let me know how your surprise roosters turn out.