Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chickens for Karen

My dear husband, Jim, has agreed to build me a chicken coop for my birthday; which is coming up very soon on April 12.  Meanwhile, I have been gathering information about chickens so I can start off running instead of making some stupid mistakes with my first flock of sweet little chickens.

This blog will be lots of chicken information amassed over several weeks.  I have also ordered the pictured book for reference:

An inspiringly clean chicken coop 
Here at Sunset, we solve the problem of the nightly droppings cascade by having a henhouse with an open-mesh bottom. The whole structure sits on stilts (high enough to prevent a hungry racoon from shooting an arm up through the mesh and grabbing a chicken leg), and the droppings fall through to a straw bed underneath…which we periodically rake out into our compost bin. It’s a little less work than emptying a hammock and seems to suit us and our chickens.

Michelle Tullis, the clean-coop owner, also elevates her feeder and waterer so that dust, dirt, and feathers don’t get mixed in. Admirable.

Our solution is to simply hang the feeder and the waterer from the top of the coop’s roof. It works, sorta. We still get a fair amount of dirt in the water, and twigs and such in the food. So I love the way Michelle has positioned rocks and pebbles around both—no way any chicken can kick up dirt from stone!—and we might do the same. She’s clearly spent some quality time watching her birds and analyzing their behavior.

Anything a chicken-owner can do to keep a coop clean is a good thing. It keeps both hens and humans healthy. And helps deter R-A-T-S.
My husband came away from reading an article on a chicken desease called, histoplasmosis.  I swear I thought he was going to nix my chicken dream until today.  He read on the internet that this desease is not a problem here in Oregon.  Ah, the dream continues.

I am sorry that I have lost the link to where I found some of this information.  It might be emails that my husband sent from his office as he researches his own chicken information.

Some of the following was forwarded to me by my husband from his searches on the internet.  You can see where his interest lies.  He is all things about reasons not to have chickens like what could possible be harmful or just wrong with allowing chickens into your life.  Needless to say, it is still valuable information even if I didn't go out to find it. 

Backyard poultry

Backyard poultry have become increasingly popular in recent years as interest in locally produced food, including eggs, has grown. Many local municipalities allow a limited number of domestic fowl on residential properties. Before getting a backyard flock, it is important to understand issues related to legal aspects, husbandry and health, and diseases that can be spread by poultry to people. Fortunately, there are many great resources available locally and online for owners of backyard poultry.

Backyard poultry husbandry

Educate yourself about poultry husbandry before getting your flock. For chickens, you will need a coop and enclosure with proper feeding and watering systems where your flock will be comfortable and safe from predators. The presence of chickens on a property might attract domestic dogs and cats as well as wild predators such as raccoons, coyotes, foxes, bobcats and cougars. In addition to the danger predators present to the chickens, their presence increases the chance of conflicts between predators and humans. It is important to have sufficient structural protection to prevent predator access to your chicken flock.

If you decide to compost manure and used beddings then it is important to learn how to do so safely to avoid contaminating your garden with dangerous pathogens (organisms that can cause disease). Proper composting creates heat, which will help destroy potentially harmful bacteria. Control of rodents around chicken coops is extremely important as mice and rats are attracted to the feed, will contaminate the area with their droppings, may eat the eggs, and can damage structures. Rats will kill and eat baby chicks. Furthermore, rodents carry diseases that can spread to people such as leptospirosis and hantavirus infection.

Keeping your flock healthy

You can greatly decrease the risk of disease entering your flock and persisting in soil, droppings and debris by following 
6 basic backyard biosecurity tips recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

1.     Keep your distance -- Restrict access to your birds and allow only people who take care of your birds to come into contact with them.
2.     Keep it clean -- Use a designated pair of shoes or shoe covers, and a designated set of clothes or clean and disinfect your shoes and clean your clothes before entering the coop.
3.     Don't haul disease home -- New birds should be separated from your flock for 30 days. Birds that have been to fairs or exhibits should be separated from the rest of your flock for two weeks. Clean and disinfect poultry cases and other equipment that have been to another location where birds are present.
4.     Don't borrow diseases from your neighbor -- Don't share birds, lawn and garden equipment with other bird owners.
5.     Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases -- Early detection of signs is very important to prevent spread of disease. They may include sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, diarrhea, lack of energy, poor appetite, drop in egg production, or sudden death of multiple birds.
6.     Report dead and sick birds -- Immediately report dead or sick birds to the WA State Department of Agriculture's (WSDA) Avian Health Hotline at Program at 1-800-606-3056 or the USDA Veterinary Services Office at 1-866-536-7593 or your local veterinarian.

Individual dead birds weighing less than 15 pounds can be disposed of in the household garbage. Place the bird in two sealed plastic bags. A bird weighing less than 15 pounds may also be buried on the owners' property. But disposal in the garbage is usually a better option to avoid predators digging up the carcass. When a disease outbreak is suspected or you don't know the cause of death, you can report dead birds to the WSDA or USDA by calling the toll-free phone numbers listed above. They can also provide consultation on how to dispose of several dead birds.

Disease risks to people from poultry

Baby chicks and ducklings commonly shed bacteria such as Salmonella that can cause human illness. Young birds are often shipped several times before they reach a permanent home. Shipment and adapting to new locations causes stress on birds and makes them more likely to shed bacteria in their droppings. Salmonella bacteria can be shed in large numbers in the droppings. They can be on the shell or inside the egg.

Birds infected with Salmonella do not usually appear sick. Salmonella infection is spread via the fecal-oral route. People can get infected by ingesting Salmonella bacteria if they don't wash their hands after contact with poultry or their contaminated environment or by eating food or drinking water or milk that has been contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Person infected with Salmonella can spread it to others if they don't wash their hands after using the bathroom.
Infection with Salmonella can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, vomiting, and dehydration. The risk of infection and more serious illness is higher for children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

There have been several outbreaks of Salmonella infection in people resulting from contact with baby poultry, including a multi-state outbreak in 2011in which almost half of the cases were 5 years of age or younger. In 2006 three different Salmonella outbreaksassociated with baby poultry were reported.

Campylobacter is another bacterium that is common in poultry and can cause human disease. Infected poultry can shed Campylobacter in their droppings. It can cause diarrhea, cramps and vomiting in people. Raw or undercooked chicken is one of the most common sources of human infection.
Avian influenza (or bird flu) occurs naturally among birds. Backyard poultry can get infected by contact with other birds, including wild birds. Currently, public health officials are concerned about an avian influenza virus (known as H5N1) that has been sickening poultry and some wild birds in other parts of the world including parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. H5N1 virus does not usually infect people, but a small number of cases have resulted from people having direct or close contact with H5N1-infected poultry or H5N1-contaminated surfaces.
To avoid getting infections from poultry, it is important to follow these guidelines:

1.     Always wash hands thoroughly after touching chickens or ducks or anything in the area where they live. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
2.     Do not clean cages, feed or water containers, or other poultry related equipment inside your house or in areas where food is prepared.
3.     Do not let live poultry inside your house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, or outdoor patios.
4.     Do not snuggle or kiss baby poultry, touch your mouth or eat or drink or smoke around baby poultry.
5.     Do not give baby poultry to young children. Children younger than 5 years of age should not touch baby poultry.
6.     Keep eggs and left-over egg-containing foods refrigerated at 45ºF or less at all times. Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
7.     Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs, including restaurant dishes. Cook eggs until the white and the yolk are firm (145ºF) and eat promptly.
8.     Thoroughly wash hands and all food contact surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs. Then disinfect food contact surfaces as follows:
    • Apply a mix of 1 teaspoon liquid household bleach per gallon of cold water.
    • Do not rinse.
    • Let air dry.
    • Prepare the bleach solution fresh daily.
 Safe handling of eggs from your backyard flock
    Eggs can contain harmful bacteria including Salmonella. Salmonella bacteria can be on the shell or inside the egg. Always wash your hands with soap and water immediately after collecting eggs or working in the chicken coop. For your protection follow these instructions for collecting and cleaning eggs:

    Maintain clean and dry nest boxes, change nest material as needed to reduce dirty eggs. Gather eggs at least once daily.
    Clean eggs soon after collection, but only if soiled. Minimal cleaning preserves the natural protective coating.

    Acceptable egg cleaning methods include:

  • Spot clean or lightly sand the stains or small dirty spots with sand paper.
  • Quickly rinse with warm running water using a spray bottle, then immediately wipe dry with a single disposable paper towel.
  • Do not soak eggs or use detergents or cleaners not approved for egg cleaning.
  • Eggs are a perishable food, so cleaned eggs must be held under sanitary conditions and refrigerated at 45ºF or less at all times.
  • Thoroughly wash hands before and during egg handling to minimize cross-contamination of finished eggs.
Food safety tips

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.Salmonella is the single most important foodborne disease now. In addition to contact with live poultry, people can get infected with Salmonella bacteria by eating raw or undercooked poultry products or other food that includes raw eggs (e.g. cookie dough) or has been contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. The tips below can also help prevent other foodborne diseases such as infections with Campylobacter and E. coli.

  • Keep eggs and left-over egg-containing foods refrigerated at 45ºF or less at all times. Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk or eat products made with unpasteurized milk (e.g. cheeses).
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs or raw or undercooked meat, including restaurant dishes.
  • Do not cut vegetables or other ready-to-eat foods on the same cutting board as chicken or meat without thoroughly cleaning the knife and the cutting board first.
  • Cook eggs until the white and the yolk are firm and eat promptly.
  • Use a food thermometer to check that poultry and meat are hot enough to kill harmful bacteria:
  • Poultry: 165ºF
  • Ground meat (beef, pork and veal): 160ºF
  • Pork (except pork sausage): 145ºF
  • Steaks and other beef, veal, lamb, and fin fish: 145ºF
  • Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water before or after contact with raw eggs or meat.
  • Thoroughly wash all food contact surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs or raw poultry or other meat. Then disinfect food contact surfaces as follows:
  • Apply a mix of 1 teaspoon liquid household bleach per gallon of cold water.
  • Do not rinse.
  • Let air dry.
  • Prepare the bleach solution fresh daily.

I have wanted chickens for years so I would have a limitless supply of chicken poop for my gardens. 

The Scoop On Poop
 Let’s talk poop!  Chicken poop, of course.  Is it the somewhat unspoken topic many chicken owners just tolerate, or is it a subject with a lot of humorous potential?  In this article I will regale you with some of my own chicken poop experiences that I have known and loved.First of all, chicken poop can be poetic.  I even made up a rhyme about it:  Manure tea will burn a tree!  Isn’t that catchy?  I learned this the hard way, as I have learned a lot of my chicken poop lessons.

I had wheelbarrow full of chicken manure and dirty bedding that I was shoveling out of a coop.  I left the wheelbarrow out in the rain and it filled to the top with water.  I thought, well, this is great!  Now I have liquid fertilizer!
So I wheeled it over to a young curly willow tree and dumped half the water off onto the roots.  A few days later, the top half of the tree looked like someone had taken a blow torch to it.  My bad!

I hoped for a month that the whole tree wouldn’t die, and luckily it didn’t.  Just the top half.  I pruned off the burnt parts and now the tree is thriving again, but that was a close call.   Wheelbarrow manure water (patent pending?) is hot stuff!

What is meant by “hot?”  Some people say “hot” manure is really a sub-category of “green” manures.  Which is a manure that is too high in nitrogen content to be used on plants.  Why too much nitrogen all at once is bad for a plant I am not exactly sure.
Maybe a chemist can help me with that question.  Other sources say that it’s not how much nitrogen is in the manure but rather that the nitrogen is very readily-absorbable by plants, and they take up too much and it “burns” them.  Again, why it actually causes plant cell destruction is something I wish I knew.

Chicken Protection

I found a way that some people use to keep skunks and other animals from entering the coop to steal my eggs and maybe even kill the poor defenseless chickens on this forum:

I'm thinking that I could pile rocks on this area that would also make it difficult to dig into.  I have an endless supply of rock that I dig up every time I plant anything. 

I loved this idea of a chicken moat, but it will need to wait.  It would take me a long time to make it happen around my vegetable garden.  I might make a run around the garden without a house and just transfer the chickens to run around in the "moat" for a day at a time. 

A moat is simply a strip of dry land, enclosed by two parallel fences, which surrounds a family's garden. Throughout the day, the hen patrol moves all around the garden (but never in it), munching on all those things hens love: weeds, seeds, worms, tiny pieces of stones and (best of all) bugs.

It be great if chickens also ate gophers!!

The best laying hens for egg production:  

Leghorns: These hens lay very well, with an average of 300 (white) eggs per year. However, they do not sit on their eggs and will not go broody. Most modern laying breeds have some Leghorn in them.

Rhode Island Red: One of the top breeds for egg production, they lay high quality brown eggs. There is also a Rhode Island White that lays brown eggs (we have six RIW hens).

Sex Links: Chickens bred for egg production, sexed at birth by color. Commercial breeds have been dubbed Black Star and Red Star, and are very good layers of brown eggs. However, they are hybrids and thus do not maintain the color characteristics through subsequent generations.

The best laying hens for egg hatching:

Cuckoo Maran: Not the most prolific layer, but a very good setting hen that lays quality brown eggs.

Rhode Island Red: Popular for backyard flocks as the females are good layers and the males make good meat birds. They will set on their eggs. However, the sex-link versions and other hybrid Rhode Island Red strains will not go broody.

Light Sussex: A bird originally from the UK, also dual-purpose (meat and eggs).

Plymouth Rock: An American breed whose hens will go broody and whose males are good for eating as well.

If your best laying hens won't hatch their eggs, but lay a plentiful amount and have had a rooster around long enough that the eggs they lay are fertile, you can always hatch your own chicks using egg incubators. It's not terribly hard, and then you just need a brooder house or, for smaller operations, a good heat lamp and a box, to raise the baby chicks until they can survive in an outdoor pen.

Once you've had a flock for some time and have tried many different breeds of chickens, your own best laying hens might surprise you. Enjoy them!  

I have not decided just what chickens I will end up with.  I know I prefer green and brown eggs so that will be a factor in my decision.  My neighbors have such chickens so they will be help in making sure I get the ones I want.

I hear that those pretty Silkies are hard to deal with because of their fluff beyond reason giving them foot problems.  Beauty isn't always the best choice.  The above illustration shows a similar bird called a Sultane.

I have an orchard and plan to make sure my chickens will be able to feast of the apples that fall to the ground in the fall.  I won't be picking up apples any longer!  My chickens will benefit and I will save myself from one more job.  I'll gather eggs instead.

I always grow pumpkins for pies, but often have too many for my own use.  It was good to see this information on Pinterest.  Raw pumpkin seeds can be used as a natural wormer in chickens.

Growing Your Own Forage Blend is Easy You don’t have to be a Master Gardener to grow your own Chicken Forage Blend. All it takes is a little know-how and a short list of supplies. My instructions will only show you how to grow one 17 inch flat of the seed blend, but if you understand the concept of successive gardening, you can schedule multiple sowings two weeks apart for a continuous supply throughout the growing season

Peaceful Valley sells the Chicken Forage Blend in one pound bags, perfect for making small batches. ;A 1-pound bag of Chicken Forage Blend sows about 20 of the 17 inch seed flats; or if your backyard allows for more space, you can buy the seed blend in bulk and plant an Omega-3 lawn for your chickens to graze on.

For those who can't free range their chickens, like me I also just read about a neat idea where there are basically 4 runs surrounding the coop so you can rotate your chicken through those areas giving the old ones time to rejuvenate. I like the idea of sowing something other than grass to peck at and trample.  We have two dogs along with a large male hunting cat.  I'd hate for a chicken to die because I didn't bother to protect them.  I found this on Pinterest.

If you want to see more of what I have found on Pinterest, Here is the link to my Chicken Information Board.  I also have a board on Pinterest for Chicken Coops along here is one for other coops on Pinterest.

See you soon with more about my life up the Winchuck River on my little plot of land with full sun and warm summers without the coastal fog.  Maybe I will blog about my efforts to grow marijuana for my mom's cookies....hmmm


Patty said...

I am do excited to have found your blog! I am a first timer in raising these girls and I want to do whats good for them. We live on a small piece of property. No CH&Rs and we can have up to 3 ladies. My husband just purchased our fist coop. We'll be reading all that we can to see what the next step is. There is a closed in pen with their ladder and chamber with a nesting box. We will be getting a small chain link fence to keep them into the side yard. Thank you so much for putting up the information you have.

ספא במרכז אורגני ואקולוגי said...

Great ideas & information
Beautiful chickens
Around our Eco organic private spa We grow chicken too.

Anonymous said...

It looks like a lot of good info here but I have to put in a plug for Australorps. We have 4 girls and average 6 eggs a day most of the year it drops to 2 or 3 a day when its really cold late December thru February and only 4 a day in July and August. They have great attitudes and have never been sick.

Mel 26 said...

Ik heb 3 Silkies, 2 Cochin, en 2 Wyandotte kriel kippen. Ze zijn nu 6 maand en half oud en leggen nog steeds geen eieren! Is dit normaal en hoeveel eieren zullen ze ongeveer leggen per week? Ik ben nog maar pas begonnen met het houden van kippen, graag wat info hierover aub!...

Mel 26 said...

Ik heb 3 Silkies, 2 Cochin, en 2 Wyandotte kriel kippen. Ze zijn nu 6 maand en half oud en leggen nog steeds geen eieren! Is dit normaal en hoeveel eieren zullen ze ongeveer leggen per week? Ik ben nog maar pas begonnen met het houden van kippen, graag wat info hierover aub!...

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We blog about our rural area in the Pacific Northwest . This blog is all about my life and the places where my mind wonders from day to day. Have fun reading and looking at pictures. We welcome comments.

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We moved to our current home on the Wild River Coast of Southern Oregon from San Jose, CA. Our family consist of Jim and Karen, two dogs and two cats. Karen's passion is gardening. Jim's obsession is building electric powered fishing kayaks and fishing.