Friday, December 13, 2013

Upcoming Poultry Classes

I am excited about the great line-up of classes I'm presenting beginning this January. I'm featuring classes for the new chicken keeper, along with topics for those of us who are currently keeping chickens and want to learn more. To register for any class featured below, contact Shawn at City Folks Farm Shop.

Classroom at the Urban Coop
Wednesdays,  Jan 15 to March 5, 2014 6:30 to 8pm  Cost: $99
This is an 8-week class series on keeping chickens in an urban setting. We will cover everything from permitting and city code, raising chicks to egg production and health and safety. Certificate presented.

Working for Chicken Feed
Thursday, Jan 23, 2014 6:30pm  Cost: $25
In this one night class, we will cover everything you need to know about maintaining a healthy diet for your backyard flock. This workshop coincides with the introduction of a bulk grains section at City Folks Farm Shop. We will be blending up some tasty chicken feed that you could serve for breakfast at your own table!  Bring a spoon for this hands-on course.

Chicken Boot Camp
Wednesdays, March 19-April 2, 2014  Cost: $45
Ready, set, go!  This jam packed 3-week intensive on keeping chickens may leave your head spinning!  We will cover all the basics of urban poultry care. Homework is required!

Poultry 2.0+
Tuesdays, March 18-April 8, 2014  Cost: $65
Join local "friends of a feather" as we explore more advanced topics such as: successfully increasing your flock, diagnosing illness and other chicken maladies, developing your own feed recipes, other poultry such as geese, turkeys, quail, ducks, etc.

To register, contact Shawn at City Folks Farm Shop  614.946.5553

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Snow Chickens

Now that we have had several snowfalls here in Central Ohio, you have probably experienced the amusement of watching your chickens deal with the snow. Each flock is different and individuals deal with it differently.

For the most part, my hens were snow woosies.  They did not want to get their feet wet, or the snow was too cold, or whatever.  I'm sure it was complaining that I heard in their voices. If there was snow outside of the pop hole door in the morning, the boss hens would gaze outside and contemplate their next move.  Usually, the decision was to go out, but how to avoid the snow was the question.  Many times there were bare spots near the coop, which would allow the girls access to the outside without having to walk on the snow. Usually, a couple hens would "accidentally" walk in the snow, and then they would realize that it really wasn't the big deal they initially made it out to be. At that point, it was OK to walk in the snow. Such drama queens!

I always loved the tenacity of my hens.  Most wanted to be outside, not matter what.  This group of hard core hens usually included several Barred Rocks. I did have a few though, who took one look outside and turned around. Some would attempt to fly onto a bare spot, giving it their best effort, but usually falling short. Some would opt to stay in, others would leap to perches or bare spots outside. If the boss hens took too long deciding on their course of action at the door, sometimes a more timid, but very determined bird would tuck and run towards outdoor freedom, getting pecked the whole way. This usually resulted in the timid runner shrieking as she exploded out the door, leap-flying her way toward a bare spot or safe place to perch. This was usually a Leghorn, but occassionally my Americana hens would do this too.

Even tho I had thousands of chickens, I babied them as much as I could. Most times, after a big snow, I would lay down some old hay or straw outside of their pop hole door and around in the paddock area. A few arm fulls, or a couple flakes of hay made a very nice mat for the hens to walk on outside. Some days, the wind was just too strong or too cold, and I did not open the doors for them that day. Those days they got other treats and goodies to keep them busy such as an old cabbage, pumpkins, sunflower heads, or expired produce I managed to procure from one of my egg accounts.

All in all, hens get through the snowy season just fine. Encourage your girls to get outside. They need the sun this time of year. Enjoy their snowy season antics!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Top 10 Chicken Breed Recommendations for the Urban Flock

Are you thinking about getting chickens?  Check out my recommendations for urban poultry breeds for your backyard.

Top 10 Urban Flock Breeds

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Upcoming Chicken Class

Tuesday, October 29th, I will be presenting a class on "Winterizing the Urban Flock", beginning at 6:30 pm at City Folks Farm Shop in Clintonville, Columbus, Ohio.

In this class, I will be teaching basic guidelines for keeping your flock warm and happy over a typical Ohio winter.  I will also have tips for you, the chicken keeper, on coping with daily chores and unhappy hens during the winter months. Only a few spaces left for this informative course.  Contact CFFS today to register!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Chickens and Tomatoes

So much is happening at the farmstead this time of year. The garden is now into harvest mode. The year's first honey has flowed, the young livestock are weaning and the pressure canner stands at the ready in the corner of the kitchen, clean and ready for processing the harvest. It's a busy time of year as preparations are made for the upcoming winter months.

The spring chicks have been growing and exploring all summer. The young pullets are beginning to lay and entering into the next stage of their lives as hens. The older hens, your good layer girls, are beginning to molt and may have stopped laying for a while. It's vacation time for them.

Cross the harvest with your chickens and it can spell disaster or a delightful composting system. Chickens love ripe tomatoes. In fact, chickens love most anything red. Try wearing red socks or shoe laces into the coop sometime! They are drawn to the color red, as are most animals, and will find their way into your garden if you have not secured it well. There is nothing more disappointing than to go to the garden to pick your first ripe tomato, only to find that it had been previously enjoyed by one of your free ranging yard birds.

Tomato tips

-Do not feed too many. Remember the addage, "Everyting in moderation". Tomato is a nightshade and nightshades need to be used with caution.

Use chicken wire to protect plants in your garden
-Do not substitute tomatoes for chicken feed. Hens need protein to produce eggs. If they do not have enough protein, they may stop laying. 

-Do not allow your chickens to roam freely in the garden. Wire off your tomatoes and other yummy vegetables so there will be veggies for you and your family.

-I've heard several people say, "I gave my chickens tomatoes and they stopped laying."  I know this has happened to some folks and I think I have an explanation as to why. Tomatoes come ripe at the same time of year as the annual molt begins in poultry. If chickens are eating lots of tomatoes, they may not have room for their regular poultry feed. Not enough protein in their diet will reduce egg production.

Too much tomato!

Chickens make wonderful composting animals. After your garden has run it's course, or after the frost, fence it off and let the chickens clean it up before winter sets in. Their efforts make winterizing the garden less of a chore.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Molt

Soon enough, the long, lazy days of Summer will shorten as we get closer and closer to Autumn. The shorter days have an effect on most all natural cycles. Chickens are no exception. Autumn is the time the hens will go into their annual molt. A molt is a period where the chickens undergo a loss of old feathers and regrowing of new feathers. In chickens, this process is usually about 7 weeks to three months.

If you have not experienced a molt before, I've outlined some highlights of that here along with tips to get through this natural cycle smoothly and without frustration.

Who Molts

A young hen will usually not molt her first year. On rare occasions, a hen may have a "mini" or partial molt in the fall of her first year, especially if she was an early chicken, hatched in Jan-March.  Chickens typically molt at 18-20 months of age and once a year thereafter.

What to Expect

Beginning sometime in the late summer or fall-August through Oct, you will begin to notice a reduction in egg production. You will see lots of feathers in the bedding of the coop and in the run. The hens may become more quiet, not quite as enthusiastic about eating at feeding time, more timid and seem to be suffering from a general malaise. When you pick up a hen to check her condition, you may notice that she is losing feathers on her neck and breast.

Molting Barred Plymouth Rock
All of this is perfectly normal. A chicken can take up to three months to go through a molt, during which time she doesn't typically lay. Some hens will lay on occasion, or pick up laying again once they have a majority of their feathers. Other hens may take the winter off and not resume laying until the following Spring.

Differnt breeds of chickens go into the molt at different times in the fall.  Some breeds molt early and others late.  Don't be surprised if your hens are still growing feathers when the snow flies!


Hens do not lay during the molt, so stock up on those eggs!  Come August 1 in Ohio, stop selling or giving them away and start hording them for yourself. Remember, eggs last 3 months in the frig, so plan accordingly. Once the molt of over, the hens will resume laying, but not as prolifically as before. Many, especially the rare and heritage breeds, do not resume laying until Spring.

Special Needs During the Molt

A chicken needs extra protein in their diet at this time. The extra protein is needed to grow new feathers.  Switch hens to a chick or grower ration--some folks will use game bird or turkey feed during the molt.  Meal worms are especially good for hens right now.  Other protein ideas include live worms, cat food or dog food, meats such as browned hamburger, meat table scraps, boiled mashed eggs, grasshoppers and other insects, quinoa, etc. 

When the Molt of Over

Having had an egg farm, I needed my girls to get back to work asap after their molt vacation. I used artificial lighting to bring them back into production. I kept lights on for 15 hours a day, year round to keep them in production. If you don't care about winter laying, keep them in natural light and you may get eggs here and there through the winter. If you are desiring eggs all winter, I strongly suggest putting lights on your hens after the hens have molted. 15 hours of light is less than the natural maximum of 16 hours and worked well for me. I used automatic timers to turn on lights in the morning and evening to extend the daylight hours to 15. A 40 watt bulb is all you need.

Note two immature feathers
If your hens have clipped wings and you want to keep them clipped, you will have to do this again after the feathers are fully regrown. Clipping the wings before the feathers are fully grown may result in having to do it again.

Forcing the Molt

Most of the commercial egg production farms schedule their hens into molt. You can force a molt by withholding feed and reducing light to 7 hours a day. I never forced a molt, since my philosophy was to stay natural, so I do not have any first hand knowledge of exactly how to do it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Reasons Why You Should Learn How to Home Butcher

I grew up on a small sustainable farm in Indiana. I learned early how the circle of life works on a farm. The values learned there I still hold today. One of them is learning to butcher your own meat animals. I believe that eating meat is a choice, and I firmly believe that if you choose to eat meat, you should go through the process of taking an animal's life and processing it into food at least once. I feel this process is the best way to connect you to your food. I also feel it instills a greater appreciation and reverence for the life of meat animals. If you are unable to take an animals life for food, I strongly suggest that you re-examine your reasons for eating meat.

2silos broilers

Have you thought about what you are going to do with your old hens when they are no longer productive layers? Do you have a culling plan in place for severely injured or diseased chickens? What are you planning to do with what you thought was a large pullet but has turned out to be a rooster? Have you ever considered raising meat chickens for your family? Did you know that one of your biggest expenses in raising meat chickens is processing?

2silos broilers
I feel a home butcher is the kindest way to cull or harvest your chickens. Packing up your chickens and taking them to a small scale poultry processor or Amish family for butchering is a hugely traumatic process for them. They are not in their familiar, secure surroundings and you are nowhere in sight to lend comfort. Your chickens have had a fabulous life at your place, why not let them stay home for their one last day?

Many feel that it's just too much to cull their own chickens or do their own butchering. Some people are squeamish about blood and guts. Others are kind of freaked out about the killing part. True, there is death, blood and guts. That's just part of it. Death is part of the life cycle. The killing part is hard, there's no doubt about it. Especially when it's an old favorite hen who's time has come. But, when you chose to have chickens, you took on the responsibility of their lives and their deaths.  I think it's much better to die an quick intended death than a death from predation, accident, disease or at the hands of strangers.


I am teaching a class on Home Butchering, Saturday, August 10 from 9-12 pm in Columbus, Ohio. Class participants will each receive a live Cornish cross broiler chicken to butcher, clean and take home.  Participants will have the opportunity to choose how to butcher their chicken. If you have an old hen or rooster you wish to butcher, you may bring it.

A local pathology vet instructor, Tracy Papenfuss, will be on-hand to conduct a necropsy on our demo birds for those interested in learning the anatomy of a chicken or those interesting in learning to do their own necropsy.

To find out more or to register, follow the link below. 

Home Butchering Class August 10, 2013

Ready, Set, Lay!

It's nearing time when spring pullet chicks are getting ready to start producing eggs.  The first egg are so exciting since you have been waiting months for this big day! Once your girls reach 16 to 17 weeks, you will begin to notice that they are filling out--they are growing their third set of feathers. Their adult hackle feathers come in and so do lower "dust ruffle" feathers. They get what I call their "girly" curves and they become friendlier towards people and less skittish.

Golden Comet pullets

Make sure you nesting boxes are hung and have fake decoy eggs in place by 17 weeks.  Line the nesting boxes so the hens are nice and cozy in the boxes. We want them to be cozy in the nesting boxes and not cozy on the floor in a corner. Make the nesting boxes as appealing as possible, since this is were you want them to lay. Put a couple golf balls, or wooden eggs in the nesting boxes to encourage them to lay in the box.  Hens like to lay eggs in clutches, so they gravitate toward nests  that already have eggs.

Salmon Faverolle pullets

Your hens will also start to submit to you. When a hen submits, she will stop and squat, putting folded wings slightly out to her sides. This is the submissive pose she gives the rooster when he comes around to breed. I usually scoop up the hen when she submits to me and use the opportunity to do a quick inspection. 

The beginning small eggs are called "pullet eggs" since they are laid by pullets. Expect unusual eggs to be found at the onset of laying.  Small eggs, no yolk eggs, no shell eggs, double yolk eggs, long narrow eggs, eggs inside of eggs (yes, this can happen) are all normal. These are all edible, so enjoy!  The Amish prefer the small pullet eggs since they have a lighter more mild taste than regular chicken eggs. After about 6 weeks of laying, the hen regulates her cycle and the eggs gradually become larger.

Two regular sized eggs and one Welsummer pullet egg

pullet egg, regular egg and double yolk green egg

soft shell pullet egg
At the point of lay, you may lose a pullet. I usually had 1%-2% loss at this time. Typically it occurs if a pullet's reproductive organs have not developed properly or a pullet becomes egg bound. Keep an eye on your girls during these beginning stages of laying. It's fun to try to figure out who is laying and which types of eggs they are laying. If a hen lays a speckled eggs, she will probably always lay a speckled egg. Take a chair into the coop during laying time and watch who goes into the nest to determine who is laying which eggs. It's interesting to watch the egg laying process.

Enjoy your chickens!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Henzilla, Breaking the Broody Hen

So, your hens are laying well. Each is giving you about 5 eggs a week and you are pleased with your success in raising laying hens.  All seem healthy and normal, until one warm day, you step into the coop and your find one of your hens flattened like a platter in the nesting box. She makes horrid rasping noises as you approach. 
Broody Buff Orpington hen
She is all puffed up and has an unpleasant disposition. Avoiding the sharp beak, you pick her up to inspect her and notice that her breast is bare, as if she is molting. You set her down on the ground and she remains puffed out almost to three times her normal size. She sits there, clucking and clucking, not moving, giving you the stink eye. The other hens either avoid her or run up and peck her comb. She yells something offensive at you in Chickenese and rushes back into the nest, clucking all the while. You watch her for a few days to see if her symptoms change.  They don’t. She doesn’t seem to be eating much. She’s certainly not laying.

Broody Americana hen
How did yesterday’s sweet little hen turn into today’s Henzilla? Don’t worry, your hen is not sick. She’s not broken either, this is a normal phase of life. What you have is a broody hen, in other words, a hen that wants to be a mother. The maternal instinct is strong within females of any species and a hen is no exception. A hen will “go broody” when her natural instinct to sit on a clutch of eggs and incubate them becomes active. This is usually triggered by warmer summer weather. The heritage breeds are more likely to go broody, as this trait is bred out of hybrid commercial laying hens. I have found that Buff Orpingtons and Bantams of all varieties go broody most often.  Those chickens labeled as “good mothers” have a reputation for being the most broody.   

If you want to hatch eggs, I recommend that you place fertile hatching eggs under the hen as soon as she goes broody. You don’t need to do anything else. The hen will incubate the eggs and you will have chicks in about 21 days, provided the eggs were fertilized.

As long as the hen is broody, she will not lay. Some hens can go multiple attempts in a row to hatch eggs. This is very hard on the hen, as it depletes her resources (fat and body heat) and she eats and drinks very little during this time. She won’t starve, but will loose conditioning. She is also at risk of loosing her position in the pecking order (not always a bad thing) and can become a target for pecking attacks from other hens. She is also an object for varmint attacks in the hen house since she is not safely roosting at night.
Broody bantam Americana hen
I have heard several methods for breaking the broodiness of the hen. As a former owner of an small organic egg farm, I've had more than my share of broody hens. Here is my tried and true, sure-fire method of breaking the broodiness of your sweet little hen  and have your girl back to her usual self in in less than a week.

Steps to Stop the Broodiness

You will need the following equipment:
·       Pail or dishpan
·       wire cage—this can be a live critter trap, small pet cage, old rabbit hutch, etc.
·       Small clip-on feeders and waterers to hang on sides of wire cage
·       Length of chain or rope, optional
·       Tennis balls, length of tube, small rock, brick, etc., optional

Outfit cage with clip-on feeder and waterer. Place feed and water in cage. Do not place bedding in the cage, the chicken needs to be on the wire floor for this method to work. Find a protected location to place the cage. You can either hang the cage or set the cage on top of a moving base or a tennis ball, food can, brick or other small object. The cage needs to be wobbly and moving. The cage should be teetering or swaying, not in a fixed location or platform. 
Notice the tilt in wire cage
 Now for the high drama part. 

Chicken in a bucket
Place cold water in pail. Remove hen from coop and dunk her several times or hold her in the water until her breast/keel area feels cold*. You now have a mad, wet hen. Place the mad, wet hen into the broody cage. Leave the hen in the broody cage for 4 days, checking on her daily.
The Broody Cage of Shame
Old school method
The reason why we put the hen in an unstable wire cage is to get her as far away as possible from an environment conducive to incubating eggs. The wire floor of the cage can be cool and drafty, not warm and cozy. The unstableness of the cage does not allow the hen's eggs to remain safe and in one location.  

I’m assuming that you have become a somewhat of a chicken whisperer at this point in your chicken rearing experience. You can probably read your hen's noises well and can determine when something is wrong. You know your hen's normal sounds are more along the lines of a “bock-bock” or “puck-puck”. You have probably noticed that while she is broody, she changed her tone. She clucks, a lot. When the hen’s broody "cluck-cluck" voice changes back to her normal "bock-bock" voice and she is no longer puffy, she is no longer broody. Do give her at least 4 full days in the broody cage to confirm that she is no longer broody. A hen may go back onto the nest and resume setting if she still clucking.

And that's it. Your hen is no longer broody and will resume laying eggs soon. You may now put the hen back into her regular coop. I recommend putting her on a roost at dusk in the main coop.

*This cold water dunking step can be skipped if desired.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Easter Egger chicks

I love chicks, don't you? I love to put my hand in a box of new chicks and feel their down on the back of my hand. I can watch them for hours. Their antics in exploring their surroundings are very entertaining.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Stinky Brooder - Tips to keep the brooder clean and fresh

So, you've got chicks.  Fantastic!  You have started your foray into keeping chickens.  You are at the onset of an amazing journey. I imagine you have a great brooder set up for your babies. Food, water and grit all taken care of and in place. The brooder lamp hanging above the fluff balls keeping them warm and cozy.  Everything in the brooder is wonderful and picturesque, just as your imagined. Everyone in the family is in love with the cute little peepers. It's all quite darling.

Rhode Island Red pullet chick

Enter week two. Starting to get smelly yet? Not yet? It will, very soon. Yeah, not so darling now.

Chicks grow amazingly fast during the brooding stage. They loose almost all of their baby fluff and grow their first set of feathers in three weeks. They eat a lot and poop even more, or so it seems. Lots of poo gets real smelly, real fast. Stay on top of the stink with these brooder tips.

1.  Stir frequently.  I always use pine shavings in the brooder. Pine shavings smell piney fresh and are easy to fluff. Stir at least once a day, twice a day during the third week of brooding.
2. Remove caked bedding.  Rather than stir in caked droppings that have accumulated overnight, scoop out the obvious manure and stir the rest of the bedding.
3. Freshen by adding new bedding.  A handful or two of fresh bedding daily helps keep brooder smelling fresh and clean.
4. Remove wet bedding at once.  Water spills happen. Remove the wet bedding and replace with fresh.
5. Keep feeders at chest level. Chicks can easy dump their feed onto the brooder floor. Nothing smells worse that wet, soiled soybean meal! Real n-a-s-t-y!
6. Move chicks to coop when they are four weeks old. The chicks begin to use their feathers immediately after they grow in. They are ready to explore a bigger environment at this age. You can use a heat lamp in their coop for a few days to ease transition of the move.

By keeping your brooder fresh and clean, the experience of chick rearing is more enjoyable. Have fun with your little peepers.  They grow and feather out so fast! 

Class Reminder

Chicken Boot Camp, Week 2 is tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 30th. Class starts at 6;30.  We will talk about rearing, health and bio-security, predation and chores.

Upcoming Butchering Class
There has been quite a bit of interest in a class on chicken butchering.  Shawn at City Folks Farm Shop is now scheduling a butchering class for August or Sept. This will be a hands-on class in which you will each receive a live chicken, butcher it, clean and dress your chicken and take it home. Cost will be around $30.  i will let you know exact dates.  You can sign up with Shawn at City Folks Farm Shop.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Homing Pigeons too

This is my second post!  Yea me!
I want to raise homing pigeons too.

Go me!

My First Post

This is my first post!

I'm Denise and I love animals, primarily farm animals.  I believe that everyone on the homestead needs a job, animals too!  I once had thousands of chickens.  Now I live in the city and am preparing to keep my first urban chickens.