Spring Coop Cleaning with Deep Litter

coop cleaningSpring coop cleaning day is a big day when we have used the deep litter method of coop maintenance. This deep litter needs to be completely cleaned out as the temperatures begin to warm. It’s a big job. The deep litter has been accumulating for months. It’s time for a complete cleaning.

Since we  have 25 hens and roosters living in the 12 x 8  shed, you would think  that the smell would be pretty bad after a winter of no cleaning.  But, surprisingly, it is not. I use the deep litter method for chicken bedding during the winter months, and unless there is some water spilled, or moisture accumulating somewhere in the coop, there really is no bad odor. I do clean out the nest boxes more often throughout the winter.   

How Does Deep Litter Work in the Chicken Coop?

Basically, the way it works is, you add clean pine shavings and straw, in the fall, in preparation for the winter months. You can read more about this method here

Once the weather starts to stay warmer, it is time to throw open the doors to the coop and begin scraping out the winter’s bedding.  We do it by raking and scraping out all of the litter, straw, hay and any removable nest boxes etc.  Now it is time to begin the cleaning. 

First I carefully look in the corners, under nesting areas and around the doors for any signs of chewing from outside rodents. It’s important to stop any rodent infestations as soon as you see any signs.

Second, sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth powder around the nesting areas.  If you discover any moist or wet areas of the coop, let this area dry out before adding the new bedding.  

 

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As you can see in this picture, there were some wet spots under the bedding.  This was a recent spill from a bucket while trying to refill the water bowl. 

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On top of the Bantam chicken partitions, we use chicken wire and old feed bags.  The old soiled feed bags are removed and new ones are laid down.  The feed bags are covered with hay or straw.  As you can see, this is one of the popular nesting sites in our coop.

Next Step in Coop Cleaning Process

The next step in our coop cleaning is to replace the shavings or sawdust in the coop. I like to add some fresh hay or straw to any nesting areas. We  have a few nesting areas in our coop.

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All of the chickens love coop cleaning day.  They happily hunt through the pile of used bedding for any insects, bits of food or other treasures. 

We add fresh pine shavings and straw. Then the inspection crew moves in to give their stamp of approval.

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 Coop Cleaning at the Duck House

Meanwhile, across the way, the duck house has been stripped of it’s very wet bedding.  The duck house does get cleaned over the winter, unlike the chicken coop.  Each week, all of the wet soggy hay or stray and bedding is replaced with dry.  We try to do this on a dry breezy day, so that the house has time to dry out during the day. Keeping the duck house dry during the winter requires more frequent coop cleaning.

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During the summer months the bedding will be changed out more often.  The chickens will not need the extra warmth of the decomposing bedding during the summer. 

Making Rich Compost!

All of the material scraped from the buildings during coop cleaning can be added to the compost pile. After carefully tending the compost for about a year, the waste pile will be a rich compost suitable for adding to the gardens. Therefore, as you clean out the coops regularly, keep a system going so that you know which part of the pile is the older compost. Read more on turning coop waste into compost in this post.

Even though this may look like it takes a long time to accomplish, we really only spent a couple of hours on the coop cleaning. I hope this will give you an idea of how to keep your chicken and duck homes odor free and comfortable for your feathered friends.

 

For more information on coop cleaning read this post  on keeping your coop smelling fresh.

Interested in making compost from the chicken waste? Here’s how.

 

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Needle Felt Easter Eggs – Simple and Quick

needle felt easter eggsNeedle felt Easter eggs are quick and easy additions to your spring decorations. The materials for needle felt Easter eggs are few and the results are quick! Soon you will have a full basket of colorful needle felt Easter eggs to bring out year after year.

Here are the materials you will need

Wool felting needle. These often look like the ones pictured below.  A felting needle is very sharp so take care when handling it. Also, the shaft of a needle felt tool has barbs on the shaft to further pull the wool fiber together into felt. Be cautious and do not handle the lower part of the needle shaft.

needle felt easter eggs

Styrofoam egg (If you avoid Styrofoam, you can use a thicker wool to make an egg shaped core. Then proceed to decorate your 100% wool egg, as follows.  Directions on sculpting with wool can be found in this post.

needle felt easter eggs

Small amounts of dyed wool roving. This is the way it is often packaged for sale. If you have access to your own wool locks or roving, you could make your own naturally dyed roving using the process described here.

needle felt easter eggs

Needle Felt Easter Eggs Procedure 

Take a small piece of wool in the base color you want your needle felt Easter egg to be. Use one color or mix the roving pieces for a variegated effect.

Using the felting needle, stab up and down repeatedly , in a shallow method. Doing this repeatedly begins to lock the wool fiber together tightly, forming a felted covering over the Styrofoam egg. Add more roving as needed to completely cover the surface of the egg. 

 

Adding Needle Felt Easter Egg Decorations 

After you cover the egg in the base color of fiber, begin to decorate the egg using any design you prefer.

You can easily make vines and leaves by pulling off a small strand of roving.  Twist the fiber into a thinner cord and apply it to the egg using the felting needle. Work in small sections at a time, twist further, and proceed until the vine is how you like it.

needle felt Easter eggs

Using small bits of wool as opposed to larger chunks, will be much easier. You can always add more if the shape isn’t as large as you wanted it to be. Other simple decorations are polka dots, squiggles, stars, petal flowers, carrots, and simple butterflies. Take a look at the butterfly shown in the examples. The butterfly Easter egg was made by a new needle felter, in a class I recently taught. The detail is amazing! It really is that quick to learn this craft! 

needle felt Easter eggs needle felt easter eggs

You can try other methods of needle felting too. Use needle felting to create felt decorative accents on clothing, purses, and wall hangings. Sculptures can be created by needle felting, also. Take a look at a few free form sculptures I have created.

needle felt easter eggs

Free Printable! Instructions for Needle Felt Easter Eggs

Click on the following documents to print the directions for needle felt Easter eggs. Please help me share this post so others can also learn this fun, easy and enjoyable craft. Thank you!

Easter Egg Needle Felting (1)

needle felt Easter eggs

needle felt Easter eggs

 

 

needle felt easter eggs

 

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needle felt easter eggs using small bits of dyed wool roving or fiber. A quick craft that lasts for years.

 




How to Choose Chicks for Your Flock

choosing chicksIs it time for you to choose chicks to add to your flock? Maybe you are going to choose chicks based on egg laying, or breed characteristics. Perhaps you are looking to increase one particular breed in your flock. When you get to the feed store, how do you make a decision on which chicks from the bin, should go home with you. What breeds will serve your purpose? And, what if you choose a rooster!?

The Purpose of the Chicken 

Chickens serve more than one purpose on a farm or homestead. They are kept for fresh eggs and for meat. When you choose chicks, keep in mind your purpose. Many egg laying breeds are available in most feed stores and garden centers. Popular egg laying breeds include, Buff Orpington, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, Barred Rock, Speckled Sussex, Ameraucanas, Welsummers, Leghorns, and Australorps.  

Meat breeds include Cornish Cross and Freedom Rangers. These breeds gain weight quickly and within ten weeks you are ready to butcher. 

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Dual purpose breeds can be kept for both egg laying and meat purpose. These breeds are often heavy weight, large breed chickens. Some choose chicks from the following breeds when looking for dual purpose chickens: Brahmas, Buckeye, Jersey Giant, White Rock, and Delaware. 

Sometimes people choose chicks based on appearance. Chickens are enjoyable to watch. Fancy breeds are sought by people who are interested in showing chickens, breeding, and just because. Who can resist a fluffy silky, a comical Polish, or the rare Olandsk Dwarf.  There are so many beautiful breeds to choose chicks from and that is before we even consider the wide range of bantam breeds available.

How to Choose Your Chicks at the Store

When you begin looking in the brooder bins of chicks at the store, it can be somewhat overwhelming at first. They all initially look alike! But watch them for a few minutes and you will see some differences. Look for chicks that are easily and frequently moving to the food and water areas. The chicks that are not finding water and food may just need a bit more time or they could be sleepy. All chicks wake up at different times after hatching. The chicks that are freely moving around the brooder are you best bets at this point. 

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Some stores won’t allow the chicks to be handled for safety and sanitation reasons. If you can hold the chicks, do a quick tip to toe health scan on the chick before choosing it for your flock. Look for the following traits:

  1. Clear eyes
  2. Straight beak, not twisted or crossed
  3. Dry and fluffy downy feathers
  4. Legs are straight and strong, feet are symetrical and the chick can stand easily
  5. Vent area is clear of droppings. Chicks commonly get a day or two of clogged vent from sticky droppings. The vent area should be cleaned with a warm wet cloth to soften and carefully remove the clot of droppings. As long as the chick looks otherwise healthy, this isn’t a reason to leave a chick behind. 
  6. Pecking order starts young. Don’t be overly concerned if one seems to be a little bully. Wait ten minutes and it might be a different chick doing the same behavior.

Can You Rely on Vent Sexing and Wing Sexing?

Hatcheries rely on trained employees examining the chicks and determining if they are pullet or cockerel. Although some people are quite good at this, the margin for error is still present. Most hatcheries will give between 90 and 100% accuracy. Although you may order and pay extra for a batch of pullets, receiving a rooster can happen. 

Choose Chicks Based on Egg Color

White egg laying chickens include over 20 different breeds. The most popular or commonly available breeds are 

White and Brown Leghorn, California White, Ancona and Blue Andalusion. 

Brown egg laying breeds include, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, Red and Black Sex Links, Barred Rock, Partridge Rock, Orpingtons, Wyandottes, and the production hybrid breeds.

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Heritage Breed Chicks vs. Hybrid Breeds 

Heritage breeds, hybrid breeds, Bantams, Dwarf, what do all these terms mean to you when you choose chicks for your flock?

Heritage breeds are purebred chickens of a specific breed. The heritage breeds must adhere to the American Poultry Association standards with a traceable genetic lineage. The chickens must be from naturally fertilized, heritage breed eggs. These breeds are slower maturing, and true to breed standards as stated in the American Poultry Association.

Adding Bantams to the Flock 

Bantam chickens are popular with many people. The Livestock Conservancy defines Bantam chickens this way,
“Most bantams are scaled down models of large fowl and were developed for the pleasure of show”. The Bantams may be smaller but the eggs are still delicious. Use an extra egg for every two eggs called for in a recipe. Many chicken keepers with smaller properties appreciate the small sized Bantams. They don’t need as large a chicken coop and they are extremely beautiful birds, just like the full size chickens. 

Most of the time, adding a few bantams to a large sized flock will go smoothly. If you see pecking order issues, you may want to consider separating your Bantams from the larger chickens. In most cases, chicks of both sizes, raised together will do well. 

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Hybrid Chicken Breeds 

Hybrid chicken breeds are a result of crossing two or more heritage breeds. Many of the breeds referred to as sex – link are hybrid breeds, created to be extremely good egg layers. These are the breeds many people will choose for high egg production.  Many of these breeds can be sexed at hatch because they are a certain color only found on one sex. 

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What Methods Do You Use for Choosing Chicks?

Everyone is looking for their own special flock of chickens so it’s a good idea to choose chicks that will work for your purpose. Egg laying rate and temperament differ from breed to breed and chicken to chicken. A little research into the breeds before heading to the store can make the decisions easier.

 

 

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Forsythia Shrubs Give Beauty and Herbal Health

forsythia shrubsOur forsythia shrubs have been blooming for a few weeks. Often, one of the first signs of spring approaching is the bright yellow flowers up and down the spindly limbs of the forsythia shrub. Periods of extended off season warm days can cause the forsythia shrubs to bloom early. The plant is fairly hardy, though.  It can withstand some moderate late spring cold weather and still keep blooming. 

Lately, the forsythia shrubs have drawn my attention. I don’t know if I was craving the bright yellow blooms to uplift the winter mood. In any case I wondered often about this common shrub and wanted to know what other uses it might have besides brightening our early spring. (Have you tried Forsythia Jelly?  Sounds good!)  I wasn’t at all expecting to find herbal uses for the common shrub. My interest grew when I learned the forsythia shrubs are common in ancient Chinese herbal remedies for some common maladies.

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Forsythia suspensa 

Forsythia is part of the same family as the olive tree. It also produces a fruit after flowering. This is something I haven’t noticed before but I will be looking for the fruit this year, after the flowers have died off.

Forsythia comes in eleven different varieties. The most common is the ornamental grown Forsythia × intermedia . 

The variety, forsythia suspensa, is listed as one of the 50 Fundamental Herbs in Chinese medicine. Along with F. viridissima  the Forsythia suspensa was the early species brought to the western countries. F.suspensa is a weeping variety that often roots it’s limbs to the ground. Just like olive oil, forsythia contains the plant lignan, pinoresinol. These lignan food chemicals are important as antioxidants for our body. 

forsythia shrubs

Propagating and Pruning Forsythia Shrubs

Forsythia blooms in the early spring. It is easy to make new shrubs by letting the branches root in the soil while still attached to the parent plant. Start a new plant by bending the branch to the soil and anchor it in the ground. After it roots, it can be cut free from the parent shrub. Transplant if necessary. Rooting the flowering branches is also an easy way to create more shrubs to plant in your yard. Cuttings from forsythia shrubs can be forced to bloom by cutting and bringing indoors and kept in a vase of water. It’s a fun way to bring some bright yellow inside during a dark winter. 

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our shrubs really need a good pruning!

The forsythia isn’t very picky about it’s growing conditions. This is good for me, a haphazard gardener! If you give it some decent, well drained soil, almost full sun, and a light feeding of compost your Forsythia shrubs will give you a bright yellow show of color.

Pruning should be done after the shrub has flowered. The flowers form on the old branches and not on the new season’s growth. 

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Forsythia fruit herb used in traditional chinese herbal medicine isolated over white background. Lian Qiad. Fructus forsythiae.

Forsythia Shrubs as Medicinal Plants

Lian Qiao is the Chinese name for Forsythia. Because it has so many medicinal properties, you may find it offered in herbal skin preparations along with honeysuckle and dandelion.  Mostly, the raw fruit of the Forsythia is used to make teas, extracts, and oils. The raw fruit preparations have been shown effective against boils, skin infections, acne and inflammation.   

In addition, the leaves and stems, fruit and roots can also be used for homegrown medicinal purposes. Because the plant contains high amounts of oleanolic acid, it can help maintain the heart muscle. Another good quality is an effect on maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.  Most relevant to me was the information that a decoction of Forsythia can prevent vomiting.  I really dislike the stomach virus! In addition, traditional Chinese medicine shows forsythia to be a strong, broad-spectrum antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent. Making  a tea of forsythia leaves might alleviate symptoms of sore throat, diarrhea, and flu.

As a result of looking into more information on the forsythia shrubs in my yard, I will be rooting more plants this year. I am hoping  the local garden centers carry  some other species. I believe the forsythia shrubs we have are the common F.intermedia.  

Disclaimer- I am not a medical professional. All information shared here is for information and entertainment only. Do your own research and consult your health care provider before treating yourself with any product, plant or mixture.

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forsythia shrubs         forsythia shrubs

 




Emergency Chicken Health Care

Emergency Chicken Health CareEmergency Chicken Health Care

It’s a feeling of helplessness when you find one of your chickens hurt or ill and you don’t have anything on hand to begin treatment.   Many first aid kits for livestock or general purpose first aid kits will have some of the items necessary to help emergency chicken health care.  However, its better to build a kit that will meet the needs of your chickens. 

 What to Look For

First, it is important to recognize normal behavior for your flock members.  Chickens are almost always busy going about their daily business of eating, scratching and searching for more to eat and more to scratch.  They interrupt this activity to take a dust bath or bask for a moment in the sunshine. Each member of the flock will have its own personality that shines through in these activities and it pays to take note of this.  Now when you notice a marked different behavior or lack of activity, you can be alert to a possible health problem or injury.

Initial signs of illness can include, droopy appearance and standing off from the flock, lack of appetite, absence of egg production, loose runny poop, swelling of crop or other body part, discolored or pale comb or wattles. 

Early Care is Essential!

Providing early care is critical because chickens will hide the signs of illness as much or as long as possible to not look like easy prey. It also protects them from being picked on by flock members. Because they hide the signs of a problem, chickens can go down hill quickly. It pays to be prepared with a first aid box or kit that provides quick aid the chicken. You will lose precious time if you need to run to a store or wait for the veterinarian to return a phone call. For any life threatening emergency though, I would still recommend placing that call to the vet and then administer first aid while you await further instruction.

emergency Chicken Health Care

Start by having a safe and secure place to isolate a sick or injured chicken while you treat the problem.  The patient will need peace and quiet, access to water and food and the freedom from being harassed and bullied by flock mates.  Have this spot in mind ahead of time.  We never know when an emergency can occur. Electrolytes in the water can help at this point but use caution and do not force liquid into a chicken because you can cause the liquid to get into the lungs.  

Learn how to pick up and carry a chicken. The best way is to use two hands, covering the wings so they aren’t able to flap wildly in your face. Lift the chicken and turn it facing backwards while tucking it under one arm. Now you have control of the wings and the feet for carrying and examination purposes. 

When examining an injured bird, handle the chicken securely and firmly so it feels safe and not threatened. Avoid loud noises and sudden startling movements. 

Cleaning wounds

I start by cleaning out the wound with a sterile saline solution. Once clean of dirt and debris I can assess whether the wound will need a veterinarian’s care or if I can treat and bandage it myself. Next, give the wound a good rinse with hydrogen peroxide and/or Veterycin Wound Care solution. If bleeding is not controlled, try packing the wound with cornstarch which should slow or stop blood flow in the area. Plantain leaves can also slow the bleeding.

Leave shallow wounds open and not bandaged. Coat with an antiseptic like Blu-Kote to prohibit pecking by flock members of the red bloody area. Bandaging chicken anatomy takes some creativity. My favorite method of bandaging a wound uses  antiseptic ointment, covered by a gauze pad, followed by wrapping with gauze.  I finish the wrapping with a length of vet wrap, a stretchy self sticking wrap sold in farm supply stores.

How often you need to re-wrap the injury will depend on if you can let the chicken out to roam around with the flock or if it has to stay isolated to recover.  I suggest at least a daily check and apply clean bandages, which will allow you to check for healing or signs of infection.

Broken bones

Broken toes and legs can be splinted and wrapped much the same way as a wound.  Make sure to not wrap so tightly that the blood circulation is compromised.  Pipe cleaners, stiff cardboard, Popsicle sticks are all items that might work as splints for toes and legs. 

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First Aid Kit

These are the items I keep handy for chicken or any poultry emergency. 

Saline Solution

Hydrogen Peroxide

Gauze pads and gauze wrap

Vet Wrap

Corn Starch to control bleeding

Antibiotic/Antiseptic ointment 

Blue-Kote – blue colored antiseptic spray to coat the area and prohibit picking

Vetrycin Wound Spray

Cotton swabs

Tweezers

Syringe

Electrical tape to secure bandages because it doesn’t lose its stickiness when wet.   Emergency Chicken Health Care

And a large towel is helpful when holding a frightened chicken.  Use the towel to wrap around the chicken to prevent it from flapping and trying to escape.

emergency chicken health care

Hope this helps you become more prepared for chicken health care emergencies on your homestead.  Emergency chicken health care plays an important role in the bird’s recovery and prognosis.