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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.




Water Glassing Fresh Egg Storage

Spring brings on the egg laying which can quickly lead to an abundance of fresh farm eggs. What methods work for fresh egg storage? One method called water glassing has been around since pioneer days and probably earlier. Is this method of fresh egg storage safe? Let me share with you what one of my friends learned using this method. Barbara Whitford Fox wrote the following guest post for this site. Barbara and her husband farm in Utah and she can be messaged through Facebook or Instagram.

fresh egg storage using the water glass method

Guest post by Barbara Whitford Fox

During the late fall and winter, our chickens don’t produce quite as many eggs as we would like. One of the things I love about the homesteading lifestyle is the self sufficiency. It bothers me when I have to buy eggs. Food preservation is a key aspect of homesteading and self sufficiency. I began to look at different ways to preserve eggs. Freezing eggs individually is one method. Dehydrating cooked eggs is another but the amount of work seemed daunting to me. Pickled eggs are also good but not for everyday. None of these methods gave me the fresh egg satisfaction that I was seeking.

Water Glassing for Fresh Egg Storage

In my research I learned about a way to preserve fresh eggs. There are numerous ways to get longer storage of fresh eggs. This method uses no electricity and no fancy equipment. The water glassing method was used in the 1800’s. Deciding I had only the risk of it not working and ending up with rotten eggs, I set up my experiment.

The following describes the method I used for water glassing fresh eggs storage. Here are the items you will need.

  • three gallon food safe plastic bucket with a lid
  • pickling lime-https://amzn.to/3mZAzxS (calcium hydroxide) often found where canning supplies are sold Other names may include slaked lime or hydrated lime.
  • clean water. If your water is high in iron or other mineral content, you may want to purchase distilled water.
  • scale for measuring the lime. (8 ounces of lime by weight for each quart of water)
  • eggs! 7 or 8 dozen will fit in the bucket but you can preserve the amount you choose. Do not wash the eggs. Use eggs clean of dirt.
 white food grade three gallon bucket

The bucket can be found in the paint department of home improvement or hardware stores. A large crock can also be used for water glassing fresh egg storage, but the crock will be heavy once filled.

Using the clean water, and weighed lime, stir to mix the two together and dissolve the lime. Some people suggested boiling the water before adding to the lime for easier dissolving. I used cold water and the lime never fully dissolved. Next time I will boil the water first. Cool the water to room temperature.

Collecting the Eggs to Preserve

You will want to use fresh eggs that you collected recently. (Within the past few days) Do not wash the eggs as that will allow the lime to seep into the eggs. Washing the eggs will remove the bloom on the egg that is added as the egg is laid. It protects the egg from bacteria. For this reason, do not use store purchased eggs for water glassing!

fresh egg storage

Start adding eggs to the bucket of lime water. As you add eggs, try putting them in pointy side down. When you add more eggs it’s easier to get them to stay that way! I ended up with about 80 eggs in a 3 gallon bucket. Honestly, I lost track of how many but this is a close estimate.

Did it Work as a Method of Fresh Egg Storage?

I began the experiment at the beginning of September. I left the eggs at room temperature until the middle of February. It was time to try the eggs. Did this fresh egg storage method work?

fresh egg storage water glass method of egg storage

First, I broke a fresh egg from that day’s collection into a glass bowl. Taking a second glass bowl, I broke a water glassed egg into it. Side by side the eggs were identical. Both eggs smelled exactly the same. Now it was time for a taste test! The water glassed egg was dropped into the frying pan and a little salt and pepper added, just as I do with our fresh eggs. I took a bite. Amazing! It tasted just like the fresh eggs we had for breakfast that morning. Six months in the water glassing solution and the eggs are as fresh as they can be. I am super excited to have found and tested this method.

Fresh egg storage

What You Need to Know…..

A few things you should know when you have your own water glassed eggs.

  • If you are going to hard boil the water glassed eggs, first do a pin prick through the shell. After sitting in the water glassing solution, the egg shells are no longer porous, and will quickly pop when you start to boil or steam the eggs.
  • Rinse the water glass preserved eggs well before use. The lime water will cause the eggs to curdle if it drips into the bowl of fresh egg.
  • The eggs will feel very smooth when removed from the solution.
  • Store the bucket or crock in a cool area of the house, out of direct sunlight. This is true of any preserved food.

The water glassing method is said to preserve fresh eggs storage for up to two years. I am not sure I want to do that. For our family, keeping the eggs fresh for six to eight months is plenty of time.

Editor note: The recommendation is to store and use the eggs within the same year. Older water glass preserved eggs can start to rot.

fresh eggs in bowls

A Word About Using Lime

It isn’t expensive. If you’ve found yourself with quite a bit of lime left over after this process, you can use the lime in the creation of other pickled items. Although pickled eggs do not call for the use of pickling lime, here’s a tasty recipe for pickled eggs should you want more than one fresh egg storage idea.

If you are looking for a lime product specifically made and safe for chickens and livestock, look for First Saturday Lime.

I love the connection to the past that this method brings. I was talking to my father who is 84 years old. He remembers going into the pantry when he was young and getting eggs out of a big bucket of water. Of course he had no idea at the time that it was lime water. This was just how they preserved eggs on the farm. I love that we can use this method and bring back some of the old ways to our homestead.




Can Chickens Eat Mashed Potatoes?

can chickens eatCan chickens eat mashed potatoes? Believe it or not, too much of any food can upset the delicate balance in the chicken’s digestive tract. Being Omnivores means that technically, chickens can eat anything they want to eat. Their diet in the wild would consist of varied plants, bugs, dead animals, and live rodents. However, they have some of the choice taken away from them when we keep them in coops and runs.

Faced with a delicious plate of mashed potatoes, next to the regular dish of layer feed, the chicken is going to binge eat those potatoes! In the wild, they wouldn’t have this handed to them in such a great quantity. And there’s the key to the question, can chickens eat mashed potatoes. They can, but everything should be offered in moderation. Offering too much of any food besides layer feed, free range grasses and bugs, can lead to stomach upset. 

Can Chickens Eat Vegetables Fresh From the Garden?

What about other foods commonly left over from our family meals. Cooked vegetables are almost always ok to serve to your chickens. Can chickens eat all vegetables raw, right from the garden? The answer to that would no. Some raw vegetables contain chemicals that are toxic to chickens. Vegetables from the nightshade family includes, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. The solonine in these plants is the toxic substance that can build up in the chicken and cause toxicity and death. The fruit of the tomato and the pepper is fine in moderation, when it its fully ripe. Never allow your chickens to feast on the tomato plants, pepper plants or any of the green leaves from the nightshade family.

can chickens eat

Note* Sweet Potatoes are not from the nightshade family. They are from the morning glory family and the sweet potato and the leaves are both safe to eat.

 

Greens – Most greens are good for chickens. The exception would be spinach which contains a heavy amount of oxalic acid. This compound, in large quantities can interfere with the absorption of calcium. Small amounts of spinach aren’t a problem but large or frequent feedings of spinach, beet greens or Chard might lead to soft egg shells.

The leafy lettuces, kale and other greens are great treats for the flock. 

Can Chickens Eat Dairy Foods Like Cheese, Milk, Yogurt?

During a recent episode of viral information on social media, a discussion was going on about whether or not chickens can have dairy foods without consequences. There was a huge response with people again arguing that they do so all the time, and have no stomach upset in the flock. Others mentioned that chickens lack the enzyme necessary to digest milk protein (lactose). Yogurt can provide a boost of calcium, protein, energy, and probiotics and yes yogurt is a healthy food for humans. Chickens can benefit from small amounts of unsweetened plain yogurt. It does provide some probiotic benefits. 

However, it is a dairy product. Large amounts of dairy are not good because it can lead to loose stools and upset stomachs. So again, we come back to that age old rule of moderation and small amounts. Feeding a large bowl of yogurt might not kill your chickens or lead to toxicity but it probably will cause some digestive upset.

can chickens eat

Most Chickens Don’t Like Citrus Fruit

There are differing opinions on feeding citrus. There isn’t any definite evidence that it is harmful. Too much citrus and vitamin C, can lead to weaker egg shells because it interferes with Calcium absorption . I am not too worried about this because mine reject citrus fruit anyway. I have heard this from many other chicken owners. 

can chickens eat

Meat Scraps

Being omnivores, chickens can handle eating meat protein. Have you seen the excitement when they catch a field mouse? Even a snake is a delicious form of meat. So feeding them the carcass from a roasted chicken, if you aren’t making bone stock, is fine. Fried or fatty meat should be avoided and anything cooked in a heavy sauce could lead to diarrhea.

can chickens eat

Legumes and Beans 

Fully cooked beans can be fed to the chickens. Raw beans of all kinds contain hemaglutin which is a natural insecticide and toxic. The cooking or sprouting of beans or dried beans destroys the chemical and then the beans are safe to feed to the chickens. So your leftover green beans and other legumes from dinner are perfectly fine to give as a treat.

A Few Other Foods to Mention 

Onions and Garlic are from the same family but contain different chemical make up. The allium family, particularly onions, contain large amounts of thiosulphate, a toxin. It is interesting though, that garlic contains very little thiosulphate. Garlic is completely safe and extremely healthy to add to the chickens diet.

Chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol are three of my favorite treats. But the chickens should have none of these substances.

Avocados– These actually do contain a fatal toxin in some parts of the avocado. I do not give any part of this to my flock.

Apples– Some people may mention that fruits with seeds and pits can be toxic, too. They can but it’s a much lower toxicity and mostly the chickens will just eat the fruit. To be safe, cut up the apple and don’t feed the cores. Remove the peach pits. This is not a problem with watermelon which is a favorite treat!

Rhubarb – This is toxic in so many parts that I wouldn’t take the chance of feeding it to my flock. The leaves are toxic to people too so be sure to avoid them in your foraging.

can chickens eat

Toxin Build Up in Chickens

I know many will read this and argue that they or their grandparents always fed the chickens green tomatoes, or onions, or any number of things, and no chickens died. And they would be correct. Very few toxins will kill people or animals immediately. However, toxins eaten on a regular basis or in such an amount that buildup occurs over time, will die or become sick. You may not tie it back to the potato peels you fed to the chickens three times a week. Or the free ranging in the garden where they had access to pepper plant leaves and potato vines.

It’s the same with people. Toxins in our food build up in our bodies over time. We are just beginning to realize that plastic packaging, chemical dyes, and other contaminants can cause problems with kidneys, nervous system, and the heart. The liver is a prime candidate for toxin build up leading to disease too. Our poultry and livestock are no different. They can eat many different foods that we share with them. It doesn’t mean it is without risk or without an effect further down the road.

What to do 

My final point to answer the question “can chickens eat…?” is this. As our grandmothers said, everything in moderation. In the past, few farmers kept a large flock of chickens over the winter. The best layers might have been kept but most were processed for food so they didn’t have to be fed through the winter when free ranging food was scarce. Not keeping hens past a year or two probably didn’t show the toxicity symptoms that might show up in older hens. This is your flock. You get to make the decisions. Remember that not every bad decision will have an immediate consequence. Also, not everything you do is not going to endanger the life of your chicken.

Feeding a good quality layer feed, supplemented with safe foraging and free ranging, and delicious safe treats from your kitchen will help you keep a healthy flock. Meal worms and dehydrated grubs are tasty treats that normally don’t lead to problems. Remember that the answer to “can chickens eat” this food is, only in moderation. 

 

can chickens eat

can chickens eatCan chickens eat mashed potatoes? Believe it or not, too much of any food can upset the delicate balance in the chicken’s digestive tract. Being Omnivores means that technically, chickens can eat anything they want to eat. Their diet in the wild would consist of varied plants, bugs, dead animals, and live rodents. However, they have some of the choice taken away from them when we keep them in coops and runs.

Faced with a delicious plate of mashed potatoes, next to the regular dish of layer feed, the chicken is going to binge eat those potatoes! In the wild, they wouldn’t have this handed to them in such a great quantity. And there’s the key to the question, can chickens eat mashed potatoes. They can, but everything should be offered in moderation. Offering too much of any food besides layer feed, free range grasses and bugs, can lead to stomach upset. 

Can Chickens Eat Vegetables Fresh From the Garden?

What about other foods commonly left over from our family meals. Cooked vegetables are almost always ok to serve to your chickens. Can chickens eat all vegetables raw, right from the garden? The answer to that would no. Some raw vegetables contain chemicals that are toxic to chickens. Vegetables from the nightshade family includes, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. The solonine in these plants is the toxic substance that can build up in the chicken and cause toxicity and death. The fruit of the tomato and the pepper is fine in moderation, when it its fully ripe. Never allow your chickens to feast on the tomato plants, pepper plants or any of the green leaves from the nightshade family.

can chickens eat

Note* Sweet Potatoes are not from the nightshade family. They are from the morning glory family and the sweet potato and the leaves are both safe to eat.

Greens – Most greens are good for chickens. The exception would be spinach which contains a heavy amount of oxalic acid. This compound, in large quantities can interfere with the absorption of calcium. Small amounts of spinach aren’t a problem but large or frequent feedings of spinach, beet greens or Chard might lead to soft egg shells.

The leafy lettuces, kale and other greens are great treats for the flock. 

Can Chickens Eat Dairy Foods Like Cheese, Milk, Yogurt?

During a recent episode of viral information on social media, a discussion was going on about whether or not chickens can have dairy foods without consequences. There was a huge response with people again arguing that they do so all the time, and have no stomach upset in the flock. Others mentioned that chickens lack the enzyme necessary to digest milk protein (lactose). Yogurt can provide a boost of calcium, protein, energy, and probiotics and yes yogurt is a healthy food for humans. Chickens can benefit from small amounts of unsweetened plain yogurt. It does provide some probiotic benefits. 

However, it is a dairy product. Large amounts of dairy are not good because it can lead to loose stools and upset stomachs. So again, we come back to that age old rule of moderation and small amounts. Feeding a large bowl of yogurt might not kill your chickens or lead to toxicity but it probably will cause some digestive upset.

can chickens eat

Most Chickens Don’t Like Citrus Fruit

There are differing opinions on feeding citrus. There isn’t any definite evidence that it is harmful. Too much citrus and vitamin C, can lead to weaker egg shells because it interferes with Calcium absorption . I am not too worried about this because mine reject citrus fruit anyway. I have heard this from many other chicken owners. 

can chickens eat

Meat Scraps

Being omnivores, chickens can handle eating meat protein. Have you seen the excitement when they catch a field mouse? Even a snake is a delicious form of meat. So feeding them the carcass from a roasted chicken, if you aren’t making bone stock, is fine. Fried or fatty meat should be avoided and anything cooked in a heavy sauce could lead to diarrhea.

can chickens eat

Legumes and Beans 

Fully cooked beans can be fed to the chickens. Raw beans of all kinds contain hemaglutin which is a natural insecticide and toxic. The cooking or sprouting of beans or dried beans destroys the chemical and then the beans are safe to feed to the chickens. So your leftover green beans and other legumes from dinner are perfectly fine to give as a treat.

A Few Other Foods to Mention 

Onions and Garlic are from the same family but contain different chemical make up. The allium family, particularly onions, contain large amounts of thiosulphate, a toxin. It is interesting though, that garlic contains very little thiosulphate. Garlic is completely safe and extremely healthy to add to the chickens diet.

Chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol are three of my favorite treats. But the chickens should have none of these substances.

Avocados– These actually do contain a fatal toxin in some parts of the avocado. I do not give any part of this to my flock.

Apples– Some people may mention that fruits with seeds and pits can be toxic, too. They can but it’s a much lower toxicity and mostly the chickens will just eat the fruit. To be safe, cut up the apple and don’t feed the cores. Remove the peach pits. This is not a problem with watermelon which is a favorite treat!

Rhubarb – This is toxic in so many parts that I wouldn’t take the chance of feeding it to my flock. The leaves are toxic to people too so be sure to avoid them in your foraging.

can chickens eat

Toxin Build Up in Chickens

I know many will read this and argue that they or their grandparents always fed the chickens green tomatoes, or onions, or any number of things, and no chickens died. And they would be correct. Very few toxins will kill people or animals immediately. However, toxins eaten on a regular basis or in such an amount that buildup occurs over time, will die or become sick. You may not tie it back to the potato peels you fed to the chickens three times a week. Or the free ranging in the garden where they had access to pepper plant leaves and potato vines.

It’s the same with people. Toxins in our food build up in our bodies over time. We are just beginning to realize that plastic packaging, chemical dyes, and other contaminants can cause problems with kidneys, nervous system, and the heart. The liver is a prime candidate for toxin build up leading to disease too. Our poultry and livestock are no different. They can eat many different foods that we share with them. It doesn’t mean it is without risk or without an effect further down the road.

What to do 

My final point to answer the question “can chickens eat…?” is this. As our grandmothers said, everything in moderation. In the past, few farmers kept a large flock of chickens over the winter. The best layers might have been kept but most were processed for food so they didn’t have to be fed through the winter when free ranging food was scarce. Not keeping hens past a year or two probably didn’t show the toxicity symptoms that might show up in older hens. This is your flock. You get to make the decisions. Remember that not every bad decision will have an immediate consequence. Also, not everything you do is not going to endanger the life of your chicken.

Feeding a good quality layer feed, supplemented with safe foraging and free ranging, and delicious safe treats from your kitchen will help you keep a healthy flock. Meal worms and dehydrated grubs are tasty treats that normally don’t lead to problems. Remember that the answer to “can chickens eat” this food is, only in moderation. 

can chickens eat



How to Avoid a Chicken Coop Fire

We are heading into the prime season for a chicken coop fire. Cool weather leading into actual cold weather begins and soft hearted chicken keepers try to keep the coop warm. There are methods to keeping the coop comfortable for chickens and still avoid causing a chicken coop fire. The same prevention strategies will also help avoid barn fires.

Understanding the Chicken and Cold Weather

We might be tempted to view chickens as fragile, helpless birds that need us to dress them and supply a heater in the coop. Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are some less cold hardy breeds of chickens that may need special care, the majority of chicken breeds can withstand even subzero temperatures in fine shape. Here’s a great article written by a chicken keeper in a very cold area of the country.

What You Can Do

There are things you can do to lesson the risk of a chicken coop fire.

light bulb and cord covered in heavy layer of dust. This is a chicken coop fire hazard.

If you reside in an area with lengthy sub zero winter temperatures, look for the full size, hardy breeds such as Orpingtons, Brahmas, Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshires, Sussex, Delawares, and Buckeyes, to name a few. These breeds and others will feather out heavily after the fall molt. The down feathers under the flight feathers will grow in thick and fluffy. The down layer insulates by expanding, creating a layer of warm air close to the chicken’s body.

Chicken coop fire title image for pinterest

Roosting bars, positioned so that the chicken can cover it’s feet while roosting, helps prevent frosty toes and frost bite. The roost bar should be big enough for all to claim a space. You will notice on cold nights the chickens will perch closer together to share body warmth. They know instinctively what to do to survive cold weather.

Provide a coop that is well ventilated but draft free is the best coop structure.

roof line vent in chicken coop blocks good air flow of damp air. Chickens will be colder in a damp coop.

In short, providing the correct environment for your chickens will help you avoid using additional heat and prevent chicken coop fire.

Cleaning the Coop to Avoid a Chicken Coop Fire

Cleaning the coop with fire prevention in mind includes more than cleaning out the floor and nest boxes. Other areas will have formed cob webs or dust bunnies, and often these hang down from the ceiling, adding to the risk of a chicken coop fire. If the dust bunnies sit too long on a hot light bulb or heat bulb, they can cause sparks and lead to a chicken coop fire.

Barn and Chicken Coop Fire Safety

Here are some tips to help you increase your farm fire safety awareness.

  • Using power strips, or surge protector blocks can actually increase your fire risk. Drawing too much power can overload the wires and cause a fire.
  • Choose heavy duty extension cords if you have to run electricity to the coop or barn. I get it. We don’t have our barn and coops wired for electric. I know it’s a risk and we check the cords for heat, frequently. When using extension cords, choose the heavy duty outdoor rated cords. Going for the bargain cords in this scenario is adding barn and chicken coop fire risk to your homestead and your animals lives. Don’t skimp on this.
  • Clean the dust from ceilings, light fixtures, bulbs, cords, outlets. Just clean the dust, ok? Seriously though, chickens cause dust. I don’t know how but they do. We don’t even brood chicks in the house any more because of how much dust they create. Big chickens equal more dust. Those dust strands on the ceiling are a fire risk if you have light bulbs, cords, and heat lamps. Grab the broom and sweep the ceiling and walls. Dust any light bulbs. All of this goes a long way to reducing the risk of chicken coop fire.
  • Heat lamps are dangerous. I know, I hear you sighing. You’ve probably heard it all before and think that your system is safe. At best, you might lower the risk of fire. Using a heat lamp in an outdoor chicken coop is the number one cause of a chicken coop fires. Yes the alternatives cost more money. But, it’s my homestead at risk and my animal’s lives. There are safer alternatives for keeping chicks warm. Ninety Nine percent of the time, chickens in an enclosed coop do not need additional heat provided. If you’re cold, put on a sweatshirt. Your chickens are most likely fine if they are healthy and have a draft free coop to shelter in. Check these alternatives to heat for chicks.

Where do you store your animal hay?

  • Hay storage is another potential barn and chicken coop fire disaster. Any moisture left in hay, can cause spontaneous combustion as the hay sits. Wet hay causes heat to build as it ages. Store your hay away from the barn and monitor the temperature. Break open any hot bales. In addition to being a fire risk, hot hay bales can cause mold to grow. (Don’t feed moldy hay to your horses, goats, or sheep.
  • On the same topic, hay does not make a good winter bedding for your chickens. The moisture content of hay is higher than straw and can result in a damp coop. Dampness can lead to frost bite and respiratory problems.

Predators and disease aren’t the only causes of death for chickens. Unfortunately, a chicken coop fire can wipe out your flock, and possibly spread to your family home. Take the precautions now while getting ready for cold weather. Let’s have a safe winter!




5 Tips For Pecking Order Drama

Pecking order, and the associated drama, is a real phenomenon. If you added new chicks to your flock this year, you are probably going through the steps to safely integrate them into the flock. The chicken flock pecking order will be upset for awhile and drama will ensue. But there are a few steps you can take to minimize the drama.

Understanding Flock Pecking Order

First, understand what the chicken flock pecking order is, and how it helps the flock operate on a daily basis. The chickens in your flock will, for the most part, work this out among themselves. Only occasionally is our interference justified or needed. Chicken flock pecking order keeps peace in the coop. Chickens are smart creatures. They learn to recognize their place in the ranks and for the most part, stick to it. Unless a change is made.

Pecking order

Maintaining a pecking order is actually less stressful for a flock although it may appear harsh when we witness it. Chickens are smart. They learn their place and go on with life, peacefully for the most part.

Make Sure the Chicks Get What They Need

Your pullets will still need appropriate access to a great quality food and fresh water. This will be an important factor as the chicks are introduced to the existing flock. Pecking order rules often call for a senior hen to put the newcomers in their place. This can be as harmless as a gentle peck on the head or escalate to a full attack. Stay calm! While something should be done if chickens are truly attacking each other, overreacting won’t help.

Pecking order

Pecking order won’t be a problem when you begin the transition to the full flock, if you use my method. Here’s what you will need:

  • A metal enclosure made of sturdy wire, fencing, or a dog pen.
  • Some sort of cover for the pen, to keep the older chickens from flying into the pullet pen. If the wire is study enough, a sheet of thin plywood will do. In other cases, use a tarp and secure it to the sides of the pen.
  • Separate water and feed bowls inside the enclosure. At this point your pullets may have transitioned to a grower ration. This is fed sometimes as a step up from chick starter feed, for pullets not ready for layer feed. The protein level is a drop down from the starter feed but still high enough to support growth and development.
  • A place in the chicken run to set up the pullet enclosure. It won’t be for long. After a few days you can begin letting the pullets out while you are able to observe pecking order behavior.
pecking order

More About Pecking Order?

Having multiple feeders or bowls of feed helps the new flock members find plenty of food. The same is true of any herb or grit supplements. Eventually this will calm down and everyone will automatically run to their usual feeding area.

chicken pen
A pen inside the large chicken coop for the grow out chickens.

Who Decides Who Is Acceptable in the Pecking Order

Single combed chickens rank higher in the pecking order than other comb styles. The chickens in the popular group may have similar comb styles.

Adding a few new kids to the chicken flock pecking order upsets the status quo. Remember the new kids in school? Some of the cool kids would make some attempts to get to know them. Then it would be determined if they fit the criteria for being part of the cool kids group.

If not they would have to go search for friends elsewhere. It’s about the same for chickens. They check each other out. The hens wonder if they will be replaced in the Rooster’s affections. Its all quite anxiety producing. Until it all settles down again. And it will.

Pecking Order

Here are a Few Tips to Help Make the Transition as Stress Free as Possible.

1. The chickens will get to know each other a bit through the wire. Don’t be surprised to see greedy hens and roosters trying to stick their heads into the pen to get more food! It’s all part of the pecking order plan.

This is not the quarantine that you would use for bringing home new chickens, but the method used to introduce your new pullets to the main flock. If you purchase pullets, be sure and quarantine them before adding to your flock.

2. Remove the barrier when you can be present to observe the behavior for awhile. I usually check periodically throughout the first days of adding new flock members.

3. Feed choice. Have plenty of feed (I cover how much food a chicken needs in this post) and water areas set up so that the chickens who get chased away can go to a different bowl. This will help ensure everyone gets adequate nutrition even with mild pecking order issues. When the pullets are still too young to eat layer feed (before 16 weeks), feed the entire flock chick feed or grower feed. Offer plenty of free choice calcium supplement for your laying hens. They will take what they require.

Add Some Private Spaces…

Pecking Order

4. Have some places for the timid chickens to hide or go behind, under or into when being chased. Lean a pallet against the fence for a hiding place. A downed tree limb makes a good hiding place for smaller chicks too. Be creative but make sure the structure is safe for your birds.

5. Unless the pecking and chasing is severe, try to not interfere! It’s hard and especially when we have soft hearts ourselves. Unless a chicken is being picked on by many others, and is being held down and pecked, I do not intervene.

Try to remember that we made it out of middle school in one piece! The chickens will survive the initiation into the flock. Good luck with your chicken flock pecking order.

Here’s a good article on feeding younger chicks so they have a great start in life too.

This post is sponsored by Scratch and Peck Feeds. See the benefits in your flock by choosing high quality, organic, non-gmo feed from Scratch and Peck feeds.