Chickens, Keeping Chickens

Oh No!

Eek!!! I have a chicken emergency!! Poor, sweet, Miranda is suffering, and I can’t figure out why. I’ve spent the day treating all the possibilities, including cleaning out the coops, in the middle of a hailing thunderstorm. (Yes, afterwards I did reward myself with my favorite Earl Grey tea from England, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, and cuddles with a baby chick and my six year old, in front of the fire.) So today, instead of giving advice, I am asking for it from all you wonderful chicken experts!

(And I promise to post completely adorable baby chick pictures later! 😊)

A couple weeks ago Miranda, our Rhode Island Red hen, seemed to be molting, mostly on her neck and chest. I kept an eye on it, looking for the new feathers to grow in, and checked for mites, but didn’t see any. It has gotten worse, so today I did a closer inspection. You can’t see it until you pick her up, but Miranda has a red, raw, bald streak, from her neck down her chest, almost to her vent!

I’m going through the possibilities in my mind. Here’s a list of what I’ve thought of:

– Mites

– Rodents chewing at night (so horrific, I know!)

– Vent gleet

– Feather picking, either by her or another chicken

– Broodiness

I don’t think it’s vent gleet, because the area immediately around her vent has feathers still, and doesn’t seem irritated.

I saw pictures of rodent chewing (how awful!) that look similar, which is why I thought of it. I’ve had an ongoing battle against rodents in the chicken run. But there hasn’t been any evidence of them in the past couple of months. So I don’t think that’s it.

So I’m back to mites. As soon as I realized it was a possibility, I thoroughly cleaned out the coops, replaced all the bedding, and treated it with diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is completely safe for chickens, but the tiny fossils of the diatoms slice and kill any bug with an exoskeleton. If it is mites, I’ll need to treat the whole flock, and the coops. It’s a lot like when you find out your kids came home from school with lice – a huge hassle!

I brought Miranda inside, gave her a bath with epsom salts, got her warm and dry, treated her legs and raw areas with Vetericin, and then covered them with Vaseline. I’m keeping her quiet, warm, and isolated. I still haven’t seen any mites, but am not sure what else to do. I’ve given her water with apple cider vinegar, honey, and garlic powder, which is supposed to help her immune system. I’ve given her choices of oats, plain yogurt, and scrambled eggs. Oats have been shown to help with mites. The yogurt and scrambled eggs are for probiotics and protein (in case it is feather picking, which can be caused by not enough protein). Also, Miranda seems a little underweight, so I’m trying to get some extra calories into her, and my girls LOVE yogurt.

Miranda could be broody, and picking her feathers because of it. If that’s the case, I wonder if she’d like to try raising some baby chicks? (since I happen to have a few right now!) But if she does have mites, I don’t want to expose the chicks.

I’m still not exactly sure what I’m dealing with, but am treating it on multiple fronts, hoping just to solve the problem. Regardless of the cause, how do I stop poor Miranda from picking herself raw? Do they make cones of shame for chickens? Do I use a chicken apron, except in the front? Do I put her back with the flock to avoid stress, or keep her warm and quiet? I’d love any advice from all you chicken experts. Thanks you guys!

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #chickensandhens #farmlife #chickenfarm #urbanfarming #chicks #farmlife #chickenlife #urbanfarmer #farmlifestyle #chickenlove

Chickens, Getting Started with Chicks, Keeping Chickens

Speaking of Chick Poop!

If you’re going to bring home baby chicks, you need to know about “Pasty Butt”. Just like human babies, you need to keep the little chick babies’ bottoms clean. If the poop dries on the chick’s bottom, it can block things up, which a little chick can die from. So you need to check their little fluffy bottoms daily, especially when they are tiny. When you find one with Pasty Butt (because you will), you’ll need to wash it VERY gently. It is important to use warm water, like you would for a baby bath, and not to pull any down out. If you pull down out, it can cause bleeding. Also the chick needs her down to stay warm. Some people use cotton swabs. The method which works best for me is to hold the chick with one hand, and create a little baby bottom bidet out of my other hand by cupping it under the chick, with a trickle of warm water running into it. If you keep the chick warm, she may actually relax or even take a nap. It will take a few minutes of soaking for the poop to loosen. You can use a little mild soap to help loosen it, but be very gentle! You will be amazed how tiny and fragile a little chick with a wet bottom seems. If you are grossed out by touching chicken poop, nitrile or latex exam gloves are fine. After you have shampooed the poop out, gently dry the chick with a paper towel or cloth. You’ll need to use a blow dryer, on low, to dry the chick’s down until she is fluffy again before you put her back. Keep the chick against you, and shield her with your hand as you blow her dry, so that you can feel the temperature and air pressure. Be careful not to blow her little wings the wrong way.

Giving this Pasty Butt baby a little bottom bath. She was super relaxed and happy!

Some people put a bit of Vaseline on the chick’s vent afterwards. I’ve never needed to, but if the vent seems irritated, or if the “Pasty Butt” persists, a little Vaseline can’t hurt. It’s also a good idea to have some Vetericyn (animal-safe wound care) on hand, to use for any abrasion, or any other injuries. If Pasty Butt persists, adding some corn meal, or mashed hard boiled egg, to their feed, can help. Also, try providing some chick grit. And finally, make sure that the temperature is neither too cold nor too hot in their brooder. Temperature is so important for these tiny babies!

Ok, that’s all I have to say about baby chick poop for now. I don’t think I’ve ever written the word “poop” so many times at once! 😂

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #farmlife #coopdreams #coopgoals #prettyeggs #chicks #chickpoop #pastybutt

Chickens, Getting Started with Chicks, Keeping Chickens, Things I Like

The Heat Source

Keeping chicks warm is one of the most important parts of raising new chicks.

Baby chicks need at least part of their coop to be 95-100 degrees for the first two weeks. Then it should be reduced by 5 degrees a week, for a month, until their feathers have grown in.

We keep our youngest baby chicks in front of the fireplace, which, in the winter, always has a pilot light lit and is warm. I’ve made a window in one side, with hardware cloth and duct tape, to allow the warm air in. I had read horror stories of fires started by heat lamps, and decided they were too risky. So our first batch of chicks were warmed by the fireplace, and a waterproof, fire-safe, pet-warming pad, under half the crate (only half, so that they could move away from it if they got too hot). There was a lot of starting and stopping the gas fire, worrying that they were too hot or too cold.

But a more consistent heat source would make life easier for everyone. Last year I bought a brooder plate. It was about $60, which is more than I usually spend on chicken supplies. But it has been worth it. It’s safe, holds a steady temperature, and adjusts higher as they grow. I really like it.

I also put a sticker thermometer on the inside of the box, to easily keep an eye on the temperature. Even so, we still keep them by the fire when they are tiny. It’s cozy there, and so fun to watch them!

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #farmlife #prettycoop #coopdreams #coopgoals #prettyeggs #chicks

Chickens, Getting Started with Chicks, Keeping Chickens

The Brooder Box

This is our newborn chick nursery for the first few days. You can see it’s just a standard storage box. For our house, it’s important to have a clamped lid, because we have two curious house cats. The lid also helps contain the heat. Also, although the chicks are too small now, they will be able to jump and flutter out of the box sooner than you think!

I’ve drilled a few circulation holes in the top, and a larger hole in the side to run cords through. I also have holes with bamboo sticks for baby perches.

We’ll graduate to bigger chicken homes along the way. But this is the first step.

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #farmlife #prettycoop #coopdreams #coopgoals #prettyeggs #chicks

Chickens, Getting Started with Chicks, Keeping Chickens

Food, Water, and Chicken Poop

You can get “chick starter” electrolytes to add to the water at your feed store. Chicks don’t love it if they know there’s an alternative, so it’s best to use it right away, or some will hold out for plain water. Chick water gets yucky, quickly. So I only fill the little red waterer less than half way, so as not to waste the expensive electrolytes. I change it frequently. Putting the waterer on a small block helps keep the water more clean. Just make sure your littlest babies can reach it. The block trick helps keep the food more tidy also.

If you don’t have a waterer, you can also use a shallow dish or bowl for water. Put small stones in it so that the chicks won’t drown. (This definitely can happen.) You will want to change the water in the dish frequently, because the chicks will poop in it. You’re going to get used to chicken poop. It’s part of having chickens. Just make sure to wash your hands after each contact. 😁

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #farmlife #prettycoop #coopdreams #coopgoals #prettyeggs #chicks

Chickens, Getting Started with Chicks, Keeping Chickens

Are You Considering Chicks?

My favorite feed store (with gorgeous heritage breeds) was sold out of everything but roosters after the long weekend – so we had fun cuddling the chicks, but haven’t gotten any yet. But soon!!!

If you’re thinking of getting chicks, but nervous, this is for you.

First of all, you can totally do it! It’s not as difficult as it seems. You’ll learn as you go. You’ll make it work. And it is so rewarding!

Second of all, even though I really shouldn’t get more chicks, I have selflessly decided that I must, for your sake, get at least a few. 😊 I’ll walk you through the steps.

Do you remember Julia Child on PBS in the 80’s? When I was little, my mom would assemble the ingredients, pour a glass of wine, turn on Julia, and cook along with her. This will be like that, except that I’m no Julia Child, (who is one of my idols). However, like Julia, I believe in making mistakes and getting messy (or is that Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus? Yet another brilliant woman!)

We’ll start this week with how to prepare before you bring home your chicks. So pour yourself a glass of wine (or coffee), start picking breeds, and stay tuned. 😊

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #chickens #eggs #cooptofork #coop #barn #farmlife #coopdreams #coopgoals

Family, Garden

Fairy Gardens

Our sweet neighbor came over to play with Elizabeth today. But Elizabee had homework. So, even though Emily is a “big kid”, she spent the afternoon with Daisy, teaching her to plant a fairy garden. 🧚‍♀️ 🧚‍♂️ I just love that girl!! ❤️❤️❤️

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #chickens #eggs #cooptofork #coop #barn #farmlife #coopdreams #coopgoals #fairygarden

Chickens, Family, Silly Chickens

Blue Silkie

Oh my goodness!! I almost forgot about this! This right here is why I wanted a silkie chicken!

It was an overnight pioneer historical re-enactment at Sutter’s Fort with the all the kids. Daisy fell in love with this fluffball of a chicken! She followed it around all day.

(And, by the way, wasn’t she the most adorable doll-baby prairie girl?) ❤️❤️❤️

And also, no, I won’t be posting pictures of me in my pioneer getup after two muddy days of no sleep. 😂

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #chickens #eggs #cooptofork #coop #barn #farmlife #coopdreams #coopgoals #silkie