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




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.
  • 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.

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.




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.

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.




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.




Treating Bumblefoot in Chickens

bumblefoot

Bumblefoot, in poultry, is something that occurs more frequently in moist warm conditions. Just the kind of weather we experience on the East coast most of the summer.

Think about it this way. Your hands are never fully dried and your skin gets soft and somewhat fragile. The skin on your hands is soft and you are working around rough items in the yard. The next thing you know, you get a splinter! But you can’t pick it out of your hand…. because you are a chicken! You don’t have tweezers or thumbs so the splinter just sort of festers and works its way into your soft skin.

Dirt and germs go along with  the splinter and the next thing you know the germs have taken over. An infection has brewed inside your skin but the spot where the splinter went in, has healed over. Now what?

Bumblefoot- How it happens….

treating bumblefoot

That, of course was  an analogy of how bumblefoot can occur. The chicken is walking around in muddy wet conditions. The skin on the bottom of the foot is softened. The chicken jumps off the roost, or scratches in the dirt and ouch! Something sharp penetrates the skin on the bottom of the foot.

Another way a chicken’s foot is susceptible to a bumble foot in chickens infection is the type of roost. If the roost is rough or extremely narrow such as the top of a metal fence, the way the chicken has to grip the roost can lead to bumble foot. Roosts should maintain the foot in a relaxed  gripping position, where the resting chicken’s body covers the entire foot.

Now that we know some of the factors behind a chicken getting a bumblefoot infection, what do you do?

When I took care of the first bumblefoot infection in our flock, I read as much as I could. Most of the information available at the time, recommended a type of surgical procedure using a scalpel to cut into the foot and remove the core of infection. Many in the chicken community still recommend this approach and avian veterinarians if you can find one,  will use this approach.

treating bumblefoot
A foot soak in Betadine solution and vetrycin spray to clean the feet and disinfect

Other chicken websites and chicken caretakers began to treat the infection with out using invasive techniques involving surgery and were having good results. As we often do, I took what I thought were the best parts of each method and have a method that works and that I am comfortable using. Fortunately, bumblefoot infections in my flock are not all that frequent. But I have had success using either method. The non-surgical approach is much easier for most people to stomach though, so I will describe that here.

What to Look For

The first clue that something is wrong may come from observing your chicken’s behavior. Often the chicken will be hesitant to walk on the affected leg and foot. It may hold the foot up off the ground or stay hunkered down on the ground. Upon lifting the chicken up and looking at the bottom of the foot, this may be what you see. An obvious sore or abscess that has formed on the bottom  of the foot. 

Bumblefoot is a Staph Infection.

 When working with a bumble foot infection it is a good idea to wear disposable exam gloves.

First you should gather up your supplies for treating the infection.

preparing supplies for treating chicken wound
I cut the strips of vet wrap and hang them near by so I can grab the next strip quickly.

Here’s what I use:

  • Saline solution to rinse and clean
  • Veterycin wound and infection spray
  • Triple antibiotic ointment (make sure it is the kind with NO pain reliever added)
  • Gauze pads, 2 inch by 2 inch
  • Cohesive bandage cut in long strips
  • Electric Tape
  • Scalpel in case you need it.
  • Tweezers

Find a Quiet Place to Work on the Chicken

Next, you will gather up the chicken and take her somewhere calm to work on her. I usually include snacks of meal worms or some other tasty morsel to sweeten the deal.

A quick tip- When working on a chicken, tipping them upside down and tucking the head and wings under your arm can give you a good angle for working on the feet and seems to calm the bird down.

Look at both feet. Hopefully there is only one foot infected with bumblefoot,  but sometimes both feet will be affected.

Cleanliness!

I like to clean up the foot and start with a clean area. I stood my hen in a mixture of Betadine and Vetrycin wound spray. After the foot bath, I dried her feet and tucked her under my arm to control the wings while I worked on the foot. In this case the infection had abscessed already so I was also dealing with an open wound. I cleaned it out as best I could, not really using the scalpel to cut into the foot but just to clean away the debris and any scab. Tweezers might also be helpful at this point.

bumblefoot

Next I soaked a gauze pad with Vetrycin spray and held it on the bumblefoot wound. I wanted the solution to soak in. I prepared another gauze pad to get it ready for bandaging. 

While holding the clean gauze pad with Vetrycin and triple antibiotic ointment on the wound, grab one strip of vet wrap. Hold the end of the vet wrap strip around the shank on  the lower leg. Bring the vet wrap down and between two toes and back over the top of the foot. Continue wrapping in a figure 8 style through the toes and around the foot ending back up on the shank. I often use two or three strips of vet wrap on each foot.

Bumblefoot

When the wrapping is completed, grab the strip of electrical tape and again, starting on the shank do a wrap that will hold the vet wrap bandage in place, ending up on top or on the shank. The electrical tape will hold the bandage job in place and resist moisture that might allow the bandage to unwrap and fall off. 

wrapping an injured chicken foot

Observe the Chicken for a Few Minutes

Slowly allow the chicken to return upright and set her on the ground. She will inspect the bandage job but should be able to walk normally and scratch at the ground. The bandage will keep most of the dirt from reaching the bumblefoot wound site. 

treating bumblefoot

The bandage should be changed every day and a cleaning done on the bumblefoot wound. Reapply a fresh bandage. After a week you should notice a difference in the appearance of the bumble. It should start to look less inflamed, less swollen and sore  and look like it is healing. Usually, in the cases I have treated, the wound is well on the way to being completely gone within a month’s time. Good routine care is the key, along with observing that the problem is starting to go away and not get worse. If you start to see signs of infection returning, feel heat in the foot and leg and notice the chicken not acting well, you should seek veterinary assistance.

bumblefoot
healing up nicely. notice that the inflammation is gone and the wound is nearly gone

Disclaimer Statement

I am not a vet and any suggestions, or procedures are given just as a farming method of dealing with an infection. Therefor, No guaranteed results  are given or implied  If you don’t feel comfortable treating your own chickens, then you should seek out a mentor or a veterinarian. But, my advice would be to try to learn from the mentor so you can be more confident when an illness or injury occurs in your flock.

Other than an early molt happening, Ms. Featherfoot is healing up nicely!

treating bumblefoot