Grubs and Mealworms Can Help with Molting

 

Chickens love grubs and mealworms. Feeding these high protein dried insect treats during molting, increases the protein fed to the flock. Increasing the protein is one of the positive things you can do to help the chickens recover quickly and easily from the hard, seasonal, fall molt.  Take a look at some of the facts about molting in chickens and why feeding grubs and mealworms to the birds is so beneficial.  

What is Molt in Chickens?

During the seasonal or yearly molt, your chicken will lose a large percentage of her feathers and actually look rather depleted and unwell. Some chickens weather this phenomenon easier than others. Different years can hit the same hen with different strengths of molting.

grubs and mealworms

The first molt a chicken encounters is in their first few months of life. The chickens will go through this “baby” molt and lose the baby feathers, sometime after the first three months. Mostly this molt is seen as piles of downy feathers gathering in the corners of the coop. The chickens don’t look as war torn as their older coop mates, who are going through a full molt. The second molt in your chickens life occurs between 10 to 12 weeks of age. Often called the juvenile molt, the chickens will lose the baby feathers and begin to grow in the first grown up chicken feathers, getting  them ready for winter. At this stage your juvenile chicks are still eating a starter ration, typically higher in protein, so their nutritional needs are being met.

As the days begin to shorten, after the Summer Solstice, the first molt will be triggered in your older chickens. Molting as an adult chicken is necessary as they prepare for winter. Having broken, damaged, dirty and old feathers is not optimal for the cold weather. Healthy feathers are used to keep the chickens warm.  Molt typically begins to show on the head and neck and proceed down the sides and back of the chicken. Not all chickens follow the typical pattern or we notice the molting once it has reached the back and sides of the bird. Hens and roosters both have a seasonal molt.

Why does Molting Affect Egg Production 

Feathers and eggs are both high in protein. The chickens cannot keep up with the demand and the egg production will go on standby until the molt and recovery are over. Once the hen has regrown her feathers and is fully able, egg production will begin again. Although, this is often the same time winter and lower egg production due to less daylight. Have no fear. The molt, increased protein and rest period will have your hens laying strongly when spring arrives.

How Can We Help The Chickens Recover 

Before the molt even begins, make sure your chickens are in the best physical condition. If you follow a natural worming protocol, continue with that as the summer winds down. This is not the time for any other stress factor to rear it’s ugly head. Making sure that your flock is receiving the best level of nutrients will keep them in good health during molting.

Feeding increased protein levels during molting can strengthen the recovery and feather growth. This can be easily handled by supplementing the regular layer ration with treats that are high in protein. 

grubs and mealworms

Tasty Grubs to the Rescue!

A delicious and nutritious way to keep the flock happy and increase their protein intake is to feed grubs and mealworms.  The folks from Tasty Worms offered me a bag of dehydrated grubs to give to my flock this summer and fall. I can, without a doubt, tell you that the flock appreciates that I said yes to the offer.  I have been feeding a treat of Tasty Grubs the last two weeks. Although we are not in full molt yet, a few of the chickens are starting to show feather loss. Not only do the Tasty Grubs smell good, you see from this photo, the chickens went crazy for the taste. 

grubs and mealworms

I was told by TastyGrubs representative that the chickens might need to get used to Tasty Grubs. Not these chickens! They were so excited and dove right into the bowl. I had to pick up the bowl and distribute the worms around the yard to get them to slow down.

I wondered if it was just the fact that Tasty Grubs are a new product for us to give as a treat. The excitement over the Tasty Grubs continued with each time they have the grubs. Meal worms have been a favorite treat for many years. Feeding grubs and mealworms is part of my usual spoiling of the flock.  After all, I want my chickens to stay healthy and to know that I bring good things.  As we head into molting season, I will be grabbing the grubs and mealworms as I head up the hill to the poultry coops. Even our picky small flock of ducks enjoys the treat of grubs and mealworms on occasion.  Ducks molt too!

Grubs and mealworms

The chickens in coop 2 are almost to laying age. They also enjoy a snack of grubs!

Why Choose Tasty Grubs?

Tasty Grubs are the newest product from Tastyworms.com. The guaranteed analysis for Tasty Grubs is Guaranteed Analysis: Protein 36%, Fat 31%, Calcium 4%, Phosphorous .67%, Moisture 9%.

Not only a good source of protein, but Calcium and Phosphorus for health and egg production, too. Made in the USA, and no stabilizers, preservatives or other additives find their way into Tasty Grubs.

Other Ways to Help the Flock During Molt

Don’t handle molting chickens too often. The pin feathers that are growing in are uncomfortable. Chickens actually feel some pain when picked up during molt. Handle the molting chickens only when necessary. 

Stick to the normal routine as much as possible. Switching routines causes stress, as does lack of water, poor nutrition, extreme heat or cold. Broody hens that are also molting are going through a double stressful situation. Often a broody hen will trigger molt just by the lowered food and water intake she has during egg setting.

Reduce or eliminate stress from other sources.  If you know that the family dog sniffing around the coop causes an upset, keep the dog away from the coop area. Be extra vigilant against predators at this time of year. Fox and raccoon are hunting, to put on weight for the winter. An attempted attack at this time will lead to an even higher level of anxiety in the coop. 

grubs and mealworms

 A huge benefit of Tasty Grubs, dried black solider fly larvae, compared to others who are trying to produce their own version. They do not  use any manure or garbage to feed our black solider flies. These flies will eat just about anything, as many flies do. Some companies will cut costs and collect food from dumpsters or manure from farms to feed the supply. But not Tasty Grubs! They are feed pre-consumer food residuals (distillers grains, cookie meal) No bovine or ovine ingredients. No stabilizers, preservatives or other additives are added. All natural, dried fly larvae. Sounds almost appetizing doesn’t it? 
 
grubs and mealworms
 
 
Disclaimer
I received no monetary compensation for conducting the taste test review with my flock of chickens.  I was given a free bag of Tasty Grubs to use for this purpose. It has been a pleasure to work with the company and I want to say thanks for allowing my flock to experience this yummy treat.

grubs and mealworms

Can feeding grubs and mealworms help your chickens get through a molt faster?

grubs and mealworms

For more information on Molting check this post




Adding New Poultry and Livestock

adding new poultry and livestockAdding new poultry and livestock to your farm or homestead is commonly done in the spring. How do you avoid the common pitfall of adding too many, too soon? I use the following three questions when evaluating our homestead’s ability to carry more animals.                                       

  • Am I adding only the animals I have room for?

  • Can I  afford to care for the new animals properly?

  • Do  I  have the time and physical ability to care for the new additions along with the current stock?

These are important questions for me, and maybe you, to use when evaluating adding poultry and livestock. I do understand the way having too many animals can come about.  They are so cute and start out life looking so helpless.  How could we not want to take them all home and add to our homestead?  Really, how much trouble can more goats, chickens, ducklings, lambs really be?  Yes, I do understand.  But I will give you some thoughts to ponder about the steps you should take when bringing home new animals to add to your already existing flocks and herds. 

Adding New Poultry and Livestock

Bio-security is a term used to describe the care used when adding new animals or disinfecting equipment, or pens used by one group of animals before being used by another group.  Animal Bio Security aims to stop the introduction or spread of various diseases or infections into your already existing animal groups.  The key components in animal bio security are prevention and containment.

adding new poultry and livestock

With this in mind, the first thing you should do before bringing home that homeless duck, unwanted goat kid, or free chicken is to make sure it appears healthy.  Even if there are no obvious signs of illness, take the time to care for the new addition in an isolation coop or pen.  Do not let it interact with your current animals until you are certain it is healthy.  Most recommendations point to ten to thirty days of observation, before integrating into the current  flocks or herds. 

If you can add more than one bird or animal, it gives those in isolation a buddy to hang out with. Some people will use one of their existing flock members as the new friend for the newcomer. Of course this has some inherent risk and if an illness is introduced, you can lose both the new animal and your existing flock member. Adding new birds and livestock is a tightrope walk! There is no one right way, but always use a period of quarantine so you don’t end up with your entire flock suffering and ill.

Adding New Poultry and Livestock

Chickens

After the quarantine period, I use the following method to begin introducing a new flock member.  Place a crate in the middle of the chicken run with the new flock members inside.  (This is the same method I use when introducing pullets to the flock)  After a day or two of this introduction, I begin to let the newcomers out while I observe for any problem behavior. 

Pecking order behavior is normal and will occur. Watch for severe attacks, otherwise let the chickens begin to work things out. After a couple days of this, put the new comers into the coop at night as the flock is going to roost.  Continue to observe closely for a few days to make sure there are no serious altercations.  Most times, there will be little to no problem with new flock members.  Use enough feed bowls or feeders to ensure that all the chickens have access to food and water during the adjustment period.

 

Adding New Poultry and Livestock

Don’t be afraid to get dirty.

Ducks

I have had both easy times and hard times when adding new ducks to a flock.  Occasionally, male ducks  get very territorial about the female ducks and become aggressive.  You can remove the aggressive drake and let the newcomers adjust and then re enter the drake after things have settled down.  This may work and has worked for me in the past.  Young male ducks are especially hard to adjust to other male ducks.  Having enough space for the ducks to get away from each other also helps. I have also separated the flock’s males and females, so they can avoid the natural hormonal drive.  I have found ducks tend to be quite cliquey and ostracize any newcomers. This will eventually work itself out  but at first it can be sad to see the newcomer being rejected and chased away.

 

Horses, Goats, Sheep

When adding pasture animals, I try to always do the introduction in the morning after a feeding.  This will lessen the aggression concerning food issues.  Goats and Sheep will  head butt each other and it may look quite aggressive but it is normal.  Horses and ponies will chase and nip at each other or do nothing at all.  Observe closely at feeding time and feed separately when necessary.  Most cases will work out with little or no intervention if each animals needs are met.  With goats and sheep make sure to have more feed bowls than animals and spread the feed out so even the low animal on the herd pecking order has a chance to eat. 

 

 

Adding New Poultry and Livestock

Housing

Do not overcrowd the existing housing.  Overcrowding can lead to stress and stress can invite disease due to weakened immune systems.  Adding new poultry and livestock can overcrowd your coops and barns, leading to hygiene problems, and overly soiled bedding. This also stresses the natural ventilation in the building.  

adding new poultry and livestock

Budget

If your budget for animal feed is already feeling tight, adding new poultry and livestock may not be a good idea.  Remember, they may be cute and need a home, but you still have to feed and care for them. Feed costs mount up quickly. It’s important to budget some funds for emergencies such as veterinarian help or natural occurrences from bad weather. 

Time and Energy

Make sure you can physically care for the new animal, even when it is full grown?  Do you have the energy to clean up more stalls, pens or coops?  Are you strong enough to handle a full size sheep when the new cuddly lamb becomes a full grown feisty whether? 

adding new poultry and livestock

 

I think we all want to believe that we can handle what ever we take on but its good to take a long realistic look at the future before adding new poultry and livestock to your homestead.  

adding new poultry and livestock

adding new poultry and livestock 

How to Prepare for Baby Goats from Homestead Lady

 

Building a Homestead from the Ground Up from Beyond Off Grid

 

 

 




When Can Chicks Go Outside?

when can chicks go outsideOne of the top questions I am asked is when can chicks go outside. The need for warmth is key to a growing chick. The growing period is important and making adjustments at the right time is crucial to their future health and well being. The answer really depends on you providing the need for warmth, safety, food and water, where ever you house the brooder.

The first weeks of life you are dealing with rather fragile beings. They require a very warm environment. Even if you have a shed, garage or coop with electric, the heat source will be needed 24/7.  As the chicks grow, you will see them venture away from the heat source more and more. The chick’s downy covering will give way to new feathers. You can start to reduce the heat level gradually. Starting with the brooder near 100 degrees F, gradually reduce the heat by 5 degrees each week.

when can chicks go outside

If the chicks are mostly feathered and the weather is warm enough at night, you can gradually begin to wean them from the heat. This won’t happen for the first few weeks of life, however. Chilling is one of the leading causes of chick death. Once a chick gets chilled, it is hard to bring them back. The first few days are critical in giving your new chicks the best start. 

when can chicks go outside

 

When Can Chicks Go Outside?

As the chicks begin to grow, the mess becomes messier. You may begin to wonder if they will do just as well, outside of the brooder, in the coop. I want to encourage you to wait as long as possible before doing this. Not only can the chicks become chilled and suffer illness from being moved too early, but you set them up to become ill from bacteria and parasites.

Chicks are growing rapidly and need free access to food and water. Moving them to a coop situation where they will come in contact with staph, e-coli, coccidia, and Mareks disease is risky. Chicks need good nutrition, and time to build a strong immune system before being moved outside.

when can chicks go outside

I hedge a little on my answer, because each breed feathers out at a slightly different rate. And each area of the world has different weather patterns.  Sometime between 4 and 6 weeks of age, depending on the weather, the chicks may be able to begin living in the coop. 

Some people are successful with leaving the chicks in the coop and run during the warmer daytime, and bringing them into the garage or home at night. The answer to when can chicks go outside is a variable situation!

This does not mean that the chicks are ready to be integrated with the big chickens. You will want to take that slow and easy, when they are a little bigger.  

when can chicks go outside

When Can Chicks Join the Flock

If you watch a mother hen take care of her babies you will see that she protects them from other flock members. It takes a bold chicken to mess with a mama hen. In the case of chicks raised by humans, we have removed this protective barrier. We must use safe practices to integrate the new young pullets to the flock. Gradual and slow are the terms to keep in mind. 

My usual time line for introducing the new chicks to the flock is around 10 weeks. The chicks must be fully feathered, and on their way to similar size of the chickens they are joining. Adding small bantams to large breed, more aggressive hens is not always going to end well. A sharp hard peck on the head can damage a tiny bantam pullet. In addition, a full size rooster trying to mate with a small bantam pullet can damage or hurt the little one. I have had some bad outcomes from integrating small breeds into large breeds so I don’t recommend it. On the other hand if they are raised together, I  have had no such issues.

when can chicks go outside

When chicks are losing the baby appearance, feather growth has come in, get some sort of enclosure to put them in as they begin to experience the big kids area. I do not recommend just tossing the chicks into the big chicken’s area. Let them both get used to each other through a fence, dog crate, or some other wire enclosure. The chicks will still have their own food and water so they are sure to get plenty to eat and drink. You may need to keep the food and water in the middle of the pen so they big chickens can’t reach in for a snack. 

when can chicks go outside

Fully Integrated Flock

Once the chicks don’t seem to be getting much attention through the fence, from the flock, you can try some short intervals of letting them out.  I try to keep an eye on this and I do rescue anyone who seems to be picked on. Placing some hiding spots around the run.  One year four of our pullets liked to hide out behind the coop door. I have also leaned a piece of plywood against the fence for a lean-to. A fallen tree limb with leaves can provide cover, too.

when can chicks go outside

Is There a Right Answer?

When can chicks go outside and when can chicks join the flock are important points to consider when raising chickens. I think that the answer depends on a lot of factors. Weather, coop set up, and breeds of chickens, are some of the variables involved. What tips would you add about when can chicks go outside? How did you introduce your chicks to your flock? I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments.




Free Range Ducks Pros and Cons

Free range ducksFree range ducks are happy ducks! When we first started raising ducks, we didn’t let the ducks roam the farm. We didn’t feel that the property was set up for free range ducks.  The poultry area backs up to woods. Woods, where raccoon, fox and an occasional coyote make their homes. Eventually we gradually began letting the ducks and chickens out of their pens for free ranging. Other property modifications were made to add safety for the free range ducks

 Free Range Ducks

I started raising ducks years ago, for eggs, and to hopefully hatch some ducklings! We have been fairly successful on both goals. The hens are very reliable layers and although our broody hen failed to set long enough to hatch out the ducklings, we did hatch four in the incubator. Ducks get along well together even though I do notice some inner cliques among the ducks we had first.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Our ducks live in a rather large duck complex with a large building with two attached covered runs, two pools and all you can eat buffet of duck food and bugs. I brought in grass, weeds, vegetables and meal worms regularly to supplement. All was well, but after visiting a friend’s home and seeing her ducks free ranging during the day, I had a strong urge to let the ducks taste some freedom.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

 

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Three of the four ducklings hatched in the incubator

 

Free Range Ducks

Psst. that’s not the way out!

Being surrounded by woods and woodland creatures, I was still hesitant to let them roam too freely. I set up a large perimeter using a mesh poultry fence. It’s a pretty classy set up, but they were just having too much fun in the fall leaves to notice the boundaries. At first, our dog was concerned that I may have lost my mind. He tried to tell me that the ducks were out roaming around!

Our Free Range Ducks Today

So, yes, the ducks have had the opportunity to free range the poultry area.The area is large and the ducks respected the mesh fencing. The mesh fencing won’t keep out predators but it will slow the predator down, giving us more time to react.  In addition, when I leave the farm, the ducks must return to their duck house and duck runs.  I don’t think I will ever become comfortable with them free ranging the property while I am not watching out for predators.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Why Let Them Be Free Range Ducks?

There’s no arguing with the evidence that free range ducks are happy ducks. What other benefits are there in free ranging ducks? 

Ducks need protein

Bugs and grasses are the ideal food for ducks. Duck pellets are a nutritiously balanced diet. However, ducks allowed to free range, choose the balance of protein, minerals,and vitamins. Free range ducks have low incidence of abnormal wing and bone development such as Angel Wing. 

Ducks need exercise  

Letting the ducks out to roam lets them move around more than they will in the pen. Doing so will decrease duck obesity. Did you even know that was an issue? Domestic breeds of ducks were intended to be used for meat. They gain weight quickly which is optimal if you are raising meat for your family or market. However, many of us also keep domestic ducks for pets and for egg production. Obesity will lead to other health problems in your duck. Foraging and free ranging for food is a healthy option. Calories are burned as the duck enjoys the found morsels. Always supplement with a high quality duck ration when the ducks are in their coop and pen. Ducks that are laying will need the extra nutrition and calcium. 

free range ducks

Insect Control

Ducks are great at clearing out pesky larvae, grubs and beetles. Insects are a protein packed snack and apparently very tasty. Letting the ducks free range around the garden will  help with the pesky insect damage.  of course they will also help themselves to your tasty vegetables if you don’t take precautions or supervise the free ranging in the garden.

Damage to lawn and grass is much less

There is less lawn damage when the ducks are free ranging.  When we put up the pens around the duck house, the area was grassy. Not long after, the area was a mud pit when it rained. Having no where to roam, the ducks just continued to dig for insects in the same spot and eat every bit of green vegetation. Since we started letting them free range for a good portion of the day, they rarely make a mess except close to the swimming pools. 

 

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

 

Free Range Ducks

Not a bad life!

When I leave the farm, the ducks must go back into the enclosed runs. We just have too many hawks, racoons and foxes around to leave them out in the open. For now they will have to be content with this step. It may be all I can bring myself to do in our setting. I realize a lot of people have totally free range ducks but I think its important to remember that everyone has a different comfort level on the topic of free ranging poultry. Each farm or homestead has a different set up, too. For now, I am happy that the ducks can have some free ranging time.

 

free range ducks

 

free range ducks




Shearing Sheep – Tips for Shearing Day

shearing sheepShearing sheep has to be one of the hardest farm tasks. It can be enjoyable but it is always hard work. For ten years, my husband and I tackled the job ourselves. We would spend multiple weekends shearing sheep and fiber goats. The results got better as we learned how to shear a sheep, and became more skilled. But the time commitment was enormous, and during both seasons, there is so much other work to be tended to also. It was accepted as a way of life but, it was definitely taking its toll on our bodies and lives.

As our flock grew and included more sheep, out of curiosity, I called a professional sheep shearer. I was very happy with the quoted price and even better, she was acquainted with the breed of fiber goats we raised and knew how to shear the Pygoras.

For the last few years we have used professional sheep shearers to shear our flock.  The job, that used to take multiple weekends, is now completed in just a few hours. I know not everyone can spare the money to have the animals professionally sheared. But if you can save or reserve the funds for this, I recommend it.

Shearing Sheep

As shearing day approaches we start to prepare the area for shearing. Our barn, like our home, doesn’t always stay neat and clean. Clearing the barn isle of hay and equipment, gives us a place to shear if the weather is very hot or rainy. We also prepare an outdoor area, near where the sheep are housed.

Shearing  Sheep – Tips for Success

Remove all feed from the sheep and goats the night before shearing

 It is easier on the animal if they do not have a full rumen while being sheared. I do let mine have some hay to munch on overnight but we do not feed anything the day of shearing.

 Make sure the sheep and goats are kept dry

Collect the animals in a small sheltered pen where they are accessible and out of any rain/wet weather. It takes up a lot of time if you have to collect animals from far pastures. Have a lead rope ready if your animals are reluctant to be caught and removed from the herd. I have two that walk right out and let us start work on them without issue. But most of ours need to be cornered and led by a rope, with someone behind them, providing encouragement! We don’t show our sheep and goats and they never leave the farm. I know that some animals are more used to being led around and it is an easier job.

shearing sheep

 Have an area ready and cleaned up

Have the electric on and the extension cords ready. If the day will be sunny, choose a shaded location or possibly work in the barn if there is enough room.
Gather your bags or boxes for collecting the wool. I don’t have time for much skirting while the shearing is going on. If I see a patch that is definitely too felted or soiled to be of use, I will discard that immediately. Otherwise most of the wool goes in the bag for later skirting.

Practice good bio security measures

The blades should be clean, disinfected and in good working order. If your animals have tested positive for CL or any infectious diseases, let the shearer know so they can take extra precautions when cleaning up after working with your herd. Foot rot or scald is contagious so definitely point this out if you have any animal suffering from it.

 If the weather is extremely hot, be aware that this is a stress factor

Try to work in the shade, and watch the animal carefully for signs of tongues hanging out signaling heat stress. Also, watch the respiration and stop immediately if the animal shows signs of heat stress. Your shearer may want to reschedule the appointment if conditions are extreme. Have water available to keep hydrated while shearing sheep.

Shearing Sheep

 

Alert the sheep shearer to any body or skin issues

 Know where any lumps, skin issues, or wattles, are on your animal and alert the shearer to these areas. A few of our fiber goats have wattles in odd places. 

Don’t over do it

 We have the shearer trim hooves while shearing sheep. Its a great time to get this job done. On the other hand, we do not recommend that you use this time for dosing worming pastes or liquids, vaccines or other medications. Shearing day is stressful enough and adding in medications is contraindicated.

I have talked with other sheep owners who do not like to have the feet trimmed during shearing. It can possibly leave blood drops on a clean fleece if the hoof is nicked during trimming. Also the bits of hoof can get stuck in the good fleece. This is a decision you and your shearer need to make. 

shearing sheep

 

Keep other distractions such as dogs, children, other animals away from the shearing area.

I think that it’s wonderful to share farm happenings with friends and family. Letting people visit can be very educational. My advice would be to have a good plan in place. Remind people observing that the sheep need to stay calm. Everyone needs to stay out of the way so the shearer can do her work shearing sheep. Request that pets be left home on shearing day. It might be a good idea to check with your shearer before issuing any invitations. Shearing season can be very stressful. The shearers are in high demand and have many farms to visit.  

Shearing Sheep

We know how to shear and have the equipment that we were able to afford. But professional equipment makes the job go much faster. For the size flock we have, it would not be cost effective to purchase that grade of shearers.

This is a video of one of our pygora goats being sheared. This method used is less stressful for the goat because it’s fast and they can’t struggle. Micah was chosen to be the featured goat in the video.  It took less than seven minutes for Anne to have Micah looking clean and handsome.

For more information on Star Gazing Farm and Anne’s Shearing work visit http://www.stargazingfarm.org/

shearing sheep

Please visit our handmade shop on this site to see all of our yarns and other handmade products. 

Shearing Sheep