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




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.




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.

There are some important considerations when choosing chicks from the bin. Before heading out, know how many chickens your coop and yard can support. Be aware of the local laws on chicken keeping and the number you can legally keep. Some breeds grow larger than other breeds. Larger hens are obviously going to take up more space in the coop! Even though the weak little chick sitting in the brooder may look like it needs saving, try to choose the healthier looking, active chicks. It’s a sad fact that not all who hatch will grow into chickens. 

 

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. 

choose chicks

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. 

choose chicks

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.

choose chicks

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. 

choose chicks

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. 

choose chicks

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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10 Wild Herbs for Chicken Health

wild herbs for chicken healthDo you forage for wild herbs for chicken health for your flock? When we keep chickens in coops and runs, we have to provide the majority of the nutrition. Present day chicken keeping varies and the picture may be totally different than in days gone by. A few generations back, our grandparents kept chickens free ranging in the barnyard. Some chickens were kept in small backyards, roaming freely, eating all the bugs and wild herbs they could find. Those wild herbs for chicken health were a free food and very beneficial. 

Due to growth, suburban sprawl, fewer farms, and more people working off the homestead, chickens are often kept penned up for their safety. The chickens might still get some free range time, but leaving them out to roam freely can often lead to predators having a tasty chicken snack. Bugs and some greens might survive the run but most green plants will be eaten quickly by the flock. In order to provide a well balanced diet to the flock, chicken keepers rely on manufactured chicken rations. The chicken food is formulated to meet all the nutrient needs of a laying hen or growing meat chicken. The packaged food may not meet the need for fresh vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, that wild herbs for chicken health can provide. Just as in our diets, nothing beats fresh food for providing nutrient dense nourishment.

wild herbs for chicken health

If your flock is able to roam and forage safely, you will notice the different types of plants and herbs that they enjoy. When they find a delicious species of plant there is often great excitement and cackling. All the other chickens come running to taste the treat. Usually chickens will ignore plants that are potentially toxic, as long as there are plenty of other choices in foods available. In the wild or in free range flocks, chickens forage all day long. Dandelions, chick weed, wild violets, jewel weed, plantain leaves and clover are some of the wild herbaceous plants chickens love to snack on.

wild herbs for chicken health

Benefits of 5 Wild Herbs for Chicken Health

Smart weed – Antioxidant, Antibacterial, Antifungal and aids respiratory health.

Wild Violet – circulatory aid

Plantain – use for wound care, anti-diarrhea and anti-inflammatory.  Delicious green leaves full of antioxidants and vitamins

Nettle -Minerals, Calcium and Protein  Harvest carefully for your flock and dry the leaves so you don’t experience the sting

Chickweed – Natural pain reliever, high in vitamins and minerals  Great source of nutrition

wild herbs for chicken health

Other Highly Nutritious Safe Wild Herbs for Chicken Health

Purple Deadnettle – While it is completely edible, deadnettle isn’t the best tasting early foraged green. Purple Deadnettle is not related to Stinging Nettle. It is anti – inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal. Since it is often an early appearing wild plant on the east coast, it can be a good source of health benefits, before other plants are waking from winter. The bees love it too. 

Lambs Quarters– Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. 

Mugwort – Often cited as a plant that repels external parasites such as mites, fleas, and lice. Not a bad idea to have this growing around the yard!

Wild Wineberry and leaves– Chickens can eat raspberries and wineberries are a similar plant. My chickens don’t go crazy over the berries but our wildlife sure does. If I don’t get some harvested from the vines quickly, the deer and birds eat them all! Rest assured though, if your flock loves the tiny wineberry, it won’t harm them, if eaten in reasonable amounts.

Clover – As part of a general free ranging foraging situation, clover is a good food for chickens. It should be well balanced with other plants due to it’s blood thinning capability. High in minerals, vitamins, and protein, clover is easy to find among the plants growing in your yard. 

wild herbs for chicken health

Toxic Herbs Chickens Should Avoid

Buttercup

Rhubarb 

St. John’s Wort

Mullein – A small nibble of the leaves or flowers probably won’t hurt the chickens, but the seeds are known to be toxic. I was disappointed to learn this, because we have a lot of mullein growing in our woods. It does have many good medicinal properties for people, both in the fresh yellow blooms and the dried leaves. Your free ranging flock will most likely totally ignore the wild mullein.

Other toxic herbs and other foods can be found on this list.

Wild Herbs for Chicken Health

There’s no need to feel you are letting your flock down if you have to keep them penned in a run during the day. This is the responsible thing to do for their safety if you have predators able to access your yard. You can, however, add to their diet by providing fresh weeds and herbs for them. Picking a basket of wild herbs for your chickens will help them stay healthy and resist illness.  It is a simple thing to provide wild herbs for chicken health.




Luxury Chicken Coop Upgrade

Chicken coop upgradeOur coop is a converted garden shed.  It contains the basics of chicken life but no chicken coop upgrade. Slowly, we have added some upgrades and replacement parts, repaired windows, holes, and secured the flooring.  No real luxury for the chicken coop, just a nice sturdy structure.  I guess the chickens have been reading some lifestyle magazines because Whynnie’s latest diary entry is a list of what the flock thinks is “necessary”. Read what Whynnie feels are important features in a chicken coop upgrade.

Whynnie Discusses How to Add A Chicken Coop Upgrade or Two

Dear Diary

It’s me Whynnie.  I don’t know how to break the news to the farmers around here, but this coop is outdated and sorely lacking in amenities. Did you see that new coop that arrived here a few weeks back?  I heard that it has a lot of upgrades.  The rumor is that it even has a screen door!  I do not know why the baby chickens got to have that coop.  Seems to me it should have come to us first.  But never mind about that.  If the farmers will just meet these simple requests, no further actions with the chicken housing administrator will need to happen.  

 

First, We want an automatic door.  Occasionally they are late arriving in the morning and we are kept waiting to get out and greet the day. This would be a convenient chicken coop upgrade.   Believe me, no one wants to be stuck in the coop with three roosters once they wake up.  At least in the run, they are distracted a bit and leave us to get a bite to eat.  

Second item- An automatic watering system for the coop and run. Yes I know the farmers change the water tubs out twice each day. But the automatic water system would give us fresh water all the time.  And it could be connected to the warm water during the cold times. Think of the convenience!  And while we are on the subject, how about if they throw in a snack machine.   I’m thinking healthy snacks like blueberries, cracked oats, sunflower seeds, bundles of fresh herbs.  Oh dear, now my beak is watering!

Chicken coop upgrade

Chicken Coop Upgrade in the Run

We need a garden in the run.  I see a garden out there, so I know they know how to plant stuff for us to choose.  We need one without a fence around it.  Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and more, right outside our front door.  Now that’s a great upgrade.  

chicken coop upgrade

And in the Coop….

Inside dust bathing area.  I want to take a bath even on rainy days.  The farmers should put a small dust bathing station in the coop for bad weather. That would seem to be a simple chicken coop upgrade  

We have roost bars, and nesting boxes but they could use an upgrade.  There should be privacy curtains on these nesting areas.  And please knock before entering.   A girl likes to have her privacy for egg laying.

The Most Important Chicken Coop Upgrade – According to Whynnie

Last but not least, this screen door issue.  I look at that new coop with the fancy secure screen door and I can’t help it.  It is what I want it for our coop. Think about how wonderful it would be to have a securely covered screen door.  This would help keep us safe it the evening when it is too hot to have the coop doors closed before dark.  

I will also need to talk to the farmers about the media center.  This should have been added already. I am missing all my Netflix shows.

Sad to say the old coop just isn’t what she used to be.  Yes we have safety, security and protection from the elements.  There’s plenty of roosting space, especially with the the new roost set up.  Plenty of nest boxes and feeders for calcium supplements and grit too.  This is about staying up to date and taking care of your real estate.  Surely the farmers can see the importance of these items. 

Signed

Whynnie

 

Chicken coop upgrade

So friends, what have you done to your coop to add a chicken coop upgrade or two?  Please tell me what you think of  Whynnie’s list in the comments section .