Extras recipes


This recipe is one that’s been handed down to me from my mom, which was handed down to her from her own mom; then back generations, originating in Sicily. And they resemble biscotti in a lot of ways, only they are Sicilian cookies. Also, when looking up Papatelli, I saw pictures of them that looked like biscotti. However none looked quite like the ones passed down in our family. They also sound like Italian pepper cookies, in the way that the recipes resemble each other with similar ingredients. Though our cookies are called Papatelli. I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients for Papatelli

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Cocoa
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp each of Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, and Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Orange Rind with juice
  • 1 Cup of Raisins
  • 12 oz of Sliced Almonds; (recipe originally calls for 1 lb, but we add a little bit less)
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil; (I use Grapeseed Oil)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Milk for Moistening; (just a splash to moisten the dough)
papatelli dough
The remaining dough after rolling up half into the shape of a sausage.


  • First, preheat oven to 375°.
  • Next, measure and mix all dry ingredients, except raisins and nuts.
  • In separate bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, orange juice, and vegetable oil.
  • Then, gradually add dry mix into the wet mix, mixing on low to medium speed. And add splash of milk as needed.
  • Last, add nuts and raisins, and continue to mix by hand, adding more flour to your hands if needed to keep dough together.
  • Then, on a floured surface, split dough into 2 and roll out like sausages, 1 inch wide and slice diagonally, ~ 1-1.5 inches long.
  • Next, place the dough 1/2 inch apart on baking sheets.
  • Then bake for 15 mins.
  • Finally, cool and enjoy!
Sicilian pepper cookie or papatelli dough
What the dough ends up looking like.

Now everyone in my extended family makes these cookies with a white glaze for extra sweetness. However we don’t, since my daughters and I love these cookies just as they are out of the oven, once they’ve cooled. The blend of spices, chocolate, nuts, and raisins make these cookies the perfect snack. Furthermore, they’re deceptively easy to forget how many calories you’re ingesting. We can readily eat several of these before a meal, after a meal, or in place of a meal. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Sicilian pepper cookie or papatelli

What are your Christmas traditions? Do you have a favorite cookie recipe that you make in your own family?

raising happy, healthy chickens

How to Introduce New Chickens to the Flock

If you’re a backyard chicken owner, then it’s likely that with the onset of every spring, you are familiar with the desire to purchase new chicks or chickens. This hobby can be very addictive. So this post is intended to help you know how to introduce new chickens to the flock. Because, otherwise, the new birds can upset the pecking order or bring diseases to your backyard birds.

quarantined chickens for introducing backyard birds

How to Introduce New Adult Chickens to The Existing Flock

When introducing adult chickens

  • Never introduce solo chickens to your flock.

Chickens can be mean. Even if you follow all of the recommendations for introducing new backyard birds, if you only present 1 chicken to your existing flock, that bird will inevitably be abused. It stands a better chance if you at least present it with one or 2 other birds. I don’t recommend adding more than that to a well established flock. This is because, more birds can greatly upset the pecking order, especially dependent upon the breeds you’re introducing. Which could cause stress in your existing hens, possibly making them stop laying eggs.

  • Don’t allow the new birds around your existing members until after you’ve quarantined the newest ones.

This way you can make sure the new birds are disease and parasite free. You don’t want to possibly give the rest of your flock something. Most people recommend keeping the new birds away from your established flock for a month. But I’ve also seen numbers ranging from no less than a week to 30 days. Also, while you are monitoring the new chickens, be sure to wash your hands when going from them to the existing flock.

  • Watch for pale combs and wattles, feather loss, lethargy, and scaly legs on the new members.

If you purchased the new birds from a reputable dealer, it generally isn’t necessary to isolate the birds for so long.

And then, once you’re satisfied that the new members are healthy, put them somewhere the rest of the flock can see them, and vice versa, preferably for a few days. If you can put the newbies in an enclosure, in the run, so the newbies and existing ones can observe each other, this is the ideal way for everyone to start getting to know each other without excessive violence. You want to do this for at least a couple of days. Because it helps to alleviate stress in the pecking order when the birds are finally let loose in the yard and coop.

  • Finally, add the newest members, at night, to the coop.

Chickens can’t see well in the dark, so this makes it the perfect time to sneak in the newbies. Then monitor behaviors in both the new birds and existing flock the next morning.

It would be unusual if you didn’t see members of your established flock peck the newbies. This is perfectly natural and acceptable. They are establishing the pecking order with the newest members. And depending on the breed(s) of chickens you have and then recently acquired, it may be limited to only pecking here and there.

However, there are more aggressive/dominant chicken breeds. And if the newest members happen to be one of those breeds, then you might see more than pecking. That’s because those hens will more than likely want to ascend to the top of the pecking order.

Wyandotte/Cream Legbar Hen

If one of the birds starts bullying, and you know which one it is, then remove that bird from the group. Put her somewhere like in a cage or a separate enclosure, away from the rest of the flock, with food and water. And after a couple of days, reunite her with the group. If her behavior hasn’t changed, purchase Pinless Peepers. They sort of act as blinders for the hen’s eyes, which will prevent her from bullying.

If the whole flock (or the majority) is bullying one hen, first you’ll need to check her over for injuries. You’ll more than likely have to separate the bullied hen from everyone since there’s too many doing the bullying in this case. And usually the bullying is due to an injury or a quirk the hen has, that the rest of the flock sees as a weakness. It will continue in this situation for as long as the hen lives.

juvenile chickens

How to Introduce New Chicks to the Flock

When introducing chicks to the flock

  • They should have their adult feathers. Sooner than that, they could get hypothermia.
  • Most people recommend that the chicks be adult size, (so no longer chicks) before putting them in the general population.

We followed this advise with the first, second, and third set of chicks we purchased and our first set of incubated chicks. However, as we got accustomed to raising chickens and our particular birds, we stopped waiting till the chicks were full size.

I don’t suggest this until you are very familiar with your flock and know their temperament. As I mentioned above, some chicken breeds tend to be more contentious than others. So, this will dictate how and when you introduce new chicks to your existing flock.

  • After their adult feathers are in, put the new chicks in a cage or an enclosure in the run. This serves the same purpose as when you’re introducing adult birds to the flock; so they can see each other.

With our second set of incubated chicks, we waited till they had their adult feathers and then brought the chicks out, in a pet cage. And then we put it in the run, so that they could see the adults, and the adults could see them. We only had 5 that time, so the cage was big enough for them. They also were protected from the adults (thus the cage), and they were protected from the elements and predators (thus the run). We did this for a few days before letting the chicks free.

We discovered that the adults didn’t pay any attention to the chicks. Because they didn’t deem them a threat to their food or position; they never attacked the chicks. It was only when the chicks got around the same size as the existing birds that the head pecking began. Also, those chicks were some of the smartest chicks we ever had. When it was time to be locked up at night, I would go out there and call them to me, to follow me, and they followed me to the coop to get locked up.

  • Finally, add the chicks to the coop, in the evening. And monitor the existing flock’s behavior the next morning.

Perhaps the most important thing to be careful of when adding chicks to your backyard is predators. You have to watch out for predators for your flock already, however there will be added ones for chicks. Cats, Mississippi Kites, and crows are just a few of the creatures that will not hesitate to attack chicks, but ignore the big girls. And that is merely due to the size difference.

And if you have a rooster, you can’t rely on him to protect the chicks. If he ignores them, he ignores them. Until they get to a certain age and size, they pretty much don’t exist.

introducing chicks to existing flock
Our Ameraucana Maran chicks.

Should You Add a Rooster or Not

Now what do you do when and if you want to add another rooster? I have read other blogs that are adamantly against it, proposing that it’s impossible. Stating and affirming that there will be bloodshed if it’s even attempted. However, I’m here to refute that, because anything is possible. Take most of my roosters, for example, who have not only been introduced but lived together without actual bloodshed.

No one can actually claim that it’s impossible for roosters to get along no matter the situation. And by the same token, I can’t guarantee that all roos will get along. Just, anything is possible. But a good rule to follow is to have 10-12 hens per rooster. And that’s not to be nice to the roos; it’s for the health and safety of the girls.

Since I brought it up, introducing a rooster to the flock is similar to bringing in a new hen:

  • Quarantine him for at least a week or more.
  • Next, have a physical barrier, like a cage, between the flock and the new roo, so they can see each other for a few days before they are thrust together.
  • Introduce the new rooster, in the evening, in the coop.
  • And the following morning, monitor everyone’s behavior.
Cream Legbar Ameracauna Cockerel
Cream Legbar, Ameracauna cockerel.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post here how our Cream Legbar roo was good with his girls relationally, but he was a coward; he’d bring danger to them while opposing us, his benefactors. So, my girls and I wanted to bring someone else in to teach him some manners. That was a joke.

introducing roosters to existing flock
Our Blue Andalusian rooster, Starscream.

We traded a couple of Black Sex-Links for a Blue Andalusian, adolescent rooster we named Starscream. We had a good number of hens, so the girls would be ok, we reasoned. And we wanted our short, scrawny rooster, Casanova, to have someone else to attack instead of us. But that didn’t quite work out the way we wanted it to; they became best buds.

We separated Starscream for the requisite amount of time, then we put him in an enclosure, so the adults could gawk and get accustomed to him. This was the only time Casanova showed true backbone as he made his rooster noises and did his rooster dances for this newcomer.

When we let Starscream out with the other birds, we thought for sure we would have just recompense on our enemy, Casanova; that the Blue Andalusian was going to solve our problems. Boy, were we wrong. Not only did he not solve our original problem, but he created another one.

That he was sexually mature was a fact, but going after the hens was not the issue; we expected that, and once again Casanova proved what a terrible rooster he was, letting this newcomer in and having his way. Yet I have a feeling it was more about self preservation than anything else. If they got into anything at that point, Casanova might win a fight, because of his spurs. And even though they were about the same height, the Blue Andalusian looked weightier than Cass. It would only be a matter of time, I was sure, before Starscream challenged him. We only had to wait, right?

Troubles with Too Many Roosters

We didn’t realize how bad things were with this new roo until one night my husband and I slept without our fan on. Starscream literally screamed (read crowed) all night long. He barely crowed at all during the day; it was like he was being respectful to Cass during the day, in front of him, while at night, he was telling everyone, especially the hens, “I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man!” I felt so bad for our neighbors, especially the ones who live closest to the coop.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that he crowed all night. All. Night. Long. It kept my husband and me up; I could only imagine the hens couldn’t sleep either. Maybe it was the name we gave him. We were asking for it, right?

We had Starscream for a month and a half to two months before we heard his ‘all-nighter’. That, coupled with the chicks we had brought in over the course of several months (4 introduced as almost adults due to their size, and 5 new adolescent chickens, including Starscream), started having an effect on our established hens and egg production, which I cover in another post. At that point something needed to be done, because he wasn’t serving a good purpose for my girls. I couldn’t continue to wait for him to challenge Casanova and possibly crow all hours of the night, stressing the hens out.

So, if you end up in a situation where your rooster or spare roo is stressing your hens out, you have a few options.

  • You need to cull him. This is the fastest method of solving the problem. Although, sometimes people have a difficult time with that option. It just depends on how serious the issue is. Are your hens actually getting hurt? Because spare roosters can do that too! Is egg production down?
  • Re-home him. This is the best solution. If you can find someone to take the roo off of your hands, everyone wins. Ask around and post something on Facebook; you might get lucky.
  • If you can’t find someone to take him, you can always Google for animal sanctuaries. Sometimes you have to pay a small fee for them to take in the animal. But, it’s worth it.

In Conclusion

Basically introducing roosters, chicks and adult chickens is very similar. You quarantine the adults to make sure they’re not sick. But with chicks, wait until they’re feathered out. And then satisfying the requirements, you place the newbies in an enclosure separate from the established flock, where they can see each other for a few days before combining them in the coop in the evening. Have you ever had any crazy chicken introduction stories? What about chickens bullying other chickens? Your comments are appreciated.

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Why I Started Blogging

My name is Kristina, and when asked why I started blogging, I easily answer, “Because I love to write.” However I’m not a published author. Although I have no lack of things to fill my time. Such as: I’m a part-time employee, wife, and mother of three daughters. Two of whom are still at home. And now I manage two websites, my husband’s and my own.

Ever since I was little, I loved writing and animals. Also, I used to want to be a veterinarian when I was small until I found out there were certain things vets were required to do to treat the animals. And like veterinary medicine I wanted to be a writer or an author when I ‘grew up’. Though I don’t remember my dreams being encouraged, so I pursued something I didn’t really have the heart for. In any event, I stayed with it, and I have enjoyed it.

I began my blogging journey when I started reading numerous articles about women pursuing and succeeding with their ‘side hustles‘ during the pandemic. So I decided blogging was something I could certainly try, because my passion for both writing and animals has not waned in the least. And living in such uncertain times right now, hopefully my efforts are successful.

Furthermore, I have numerous things I’d like to write about. I even have a work of fiction, though it’s unpublished, because I’m still working on the prequel. Anyway my most prolific subjects right now, and the ones I will spend more time focusing on, are my chickens. Although at times I will blog about the other animals we have and even include recipes.

I would love to hear from other people like me who are where I was when I first started out owning and raising chickens. There’s definitely a lot of hands-on learning involved with backyard chicken-raising. However I gained so much wisdom by reading what other people went through, and I still do! I would also love to get feedback from other bloggers.

If I achieve my goals with my blog, I will be extremely happy. And I might even start a new blog, one completely unrelated to chickens.

raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

What Is The Point Of A Rooster?

Have you ever experienced both the good and bad side of a rooster? You know, where one day he’ll attack you and the next day he does something amazing for his flock? When you get attacked by an 18 inch tall bird, you may ask yourself why you even have him there. So, what is the point of a rooster anyway?

In one of my posts I brought up how our first rooster would attack every member of my house any moment we walked outside. If you’ve experienced this, you understand it gets tiring real quick.

Many people may wonder why we didn’t just get rid of the rooster, and the answer to that is twofold: no one would take him, and he served a purpose. So that’s the focus of this post.

The Point of a Rooster

There are a few points to having a rooster, that bear getting attacked by him. And they include

To get more chickens

I get asked all the time if you have to have a rooster in order to get eggs. And the answer is a resounding no, because hens will produce eggs whether or not there’s a rooster. But if you want chicks, or more chickens, from your own flock, without purchasing them from a breeder or feed store, then yes, you need a rooster.

Incubating your own chicks can be an amazing experience, especially if you have children. Even if you don’t incubate, you might have a broody hen at some point. And you know all about your chickens, any illnesses they’ve had, their whole history. Whereas, with store bought chicks or adult birds, you know really nothing about them. However that’s not the only reason to have one.

4 incubated chicks

Communicate with and protect his harem of hens

Another key point in keeping the rooster around is the different sounds and calls he has. Roosters have particular sounds they make which can mean different things. From warnings about danger to letting his girls know about goodies he’s discovered, his calls are distinct. For example,

  • Food sounds

A rooster will make his very own clucking sound that signals to the hens that he’s found something especially nice. A good roo will often sacrifice eating so he can give treats to his girls but often with ulterior motives. Many times you can notice roosters mate with a hen after making his “Look, look, look” sound. The rooster entices the hen with treats before enjoying the fruit of his labor.

  • Noises about danger

A good roo will make an ‘oo oo’ sound which indicates danger. Unfortunately our first rooster wasn’t skilled at looking for actual danger; he was too busy thinking his humans were the sole source of peril.

Both roosters and hens will squawk when they are alarmed.

  • Responding to the hen song

Another familiar sound roosters make is the egg song. However it isn’t limited only to roosters; both hens and roosters participate. The egg song is when a hen lays an egg and then she sings a song about it. Or cackles and squawks for a long time. And in the middle of her singing, the rooster joins in the melody. Some claim that the hen is proud of her work, but not all agree.

Likewise, others think the birds may be trying to lead predators away from the eggs by drawing attention to themselves. I suppose, simply on an instinctual level, anything is possible, but I know my birds. I know that if a dog started running after my hen, she would run back to the coop, not away from it. Not out of a desire to get the dog to eat the eggs and spare her. I don’t think my birds think that deeply. No, I know they would be extremely scared, and they run to the coop when there’s danger.

Another possible explanation is that the hen is signaling that she’s done laying her egg; and trying to find out where everyone is, and thus the rooster answering back. A lot of times our rooster will run to the coop to get her.

mohawk haan crows close up
Photo by Pixabay on
  • His crow

What does the all too familiar cock-a-doodle-do mean? He could be announcing that he’s the boss, or he could be talking to distant roosters. Maybe the roosters are challenging each other or trying to establish the boundaries of their own kingdoms.

Teach the hens

Sometimes, not always, a rooster will get in a nesting box, because he’s showing the hens what to do. He’s teaching the hens where to lay eggs. Casanova, our first rooster, took his job very seriously, and he was the only roo we had that did that.

rooster in nesting box
Cass in a nesting box.

The older hens usually teach the younger ones how to look for food and where to lay eggs. However, roosters have also been known to do this as well.

Another Purpose in having a Rooster is

They maintain order in the flock

The rooster is at the top of the pecking order. No one, except you, outranks him. Most roosters will keep and maintain peace in their flock. If there are difficulties in flock members, he will settle it. So having that order makes it worth it to have a rooster.

I observed this about my roo one afternoon, as I was watching my birds. He was good with relationships. At least with his own kind. A couple of the older gals were dust bathing, and they have certain favorite spots for doing that. Well, Chopper, one of our Ameraucanas, saw a Black Sex-Link in the bathing hole. So she grabbed the hen by her comb, with her own beak, and commenced dragging her out of the dust. Less than 2 seconds later Chopper realized her mistake. She erroneously thought she was forcibly moving one of the younger Sex-Links. But she actually did that to Loki, our oldest Sex-Link, and probably higher on the totem pole than Chop.

Loki the chicken
Our Sex-Link Loki.

Loki was ready to clobber Chopper when she was on her feet, and Chop was right to be afraid. Because Loki was a lot heavier than she was. Chopper made a huge mistake, but Casanova stopped the girls from getting into anything. He was right there, this midget, smaller than Loki, except for his tail feathers. It was like he was talking to both of them, only I had no idea the exact words he was saying.

He would look from one to the other, bob his head up and down, make some noises. I know he was talking to them, calming them both down, and it worked.

He Maintains Order With His Dance Moves

Another thing you want to consider when keeping a rooster is they dance. There is the big showy dance where he’s putting himself on display for a mate, in hopes of luring one in. And then there’s the smaller two-step one where he just makes a couple of steps around the hen.

Girl holding rooster
Our youngest holding her arch-nemesis.

The second type of dance is for keeping his girls in line. And that’s more typically the kind of dancing I see from my roosters, current and past. The hen might have disagreed with him, rejected his offer of love, gone off on her own, or started to get in a fight with another hen. But, whatever it is, he will go get her and do his two-step little dance. Rarely does he have to bow up and show her who’s boss in such an aggressive display.

He Maintains Order by Getting a Wayward Hen

Speaking of hens going off on their own, good roosters will bring back a wayward hen. Or at least join her to make sure she’s protected.

Megatron, my Ameraucana, is a very good roo as he shepherds his hens well. He reminds me of the parable in the bible about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to retrieve the one lost lamb. He does that for his girls.

I have many more stories I can share about roosters and hens, but I’ll stop here for now. I would love to hear your comments.

Protecting Your Backyard Birds raising happy, healthy chickens

Types of Chicken Coops

There are so many things to think about when starting your small backyard flock. Or even your large backyard flock. You get the chicks, the heat lamps, the different feeds. But one of the most important considerations is the coop. What kind should you get? Should you buy pre-made? Or should you build it yourself? And there’s a ton of info on the types of chicken coops out there.

I already mentioned in a previous post that when we had our broilers we only had a temporary shelter. Very temporary, because they were thrust upon us, and we had nothing to work with. We just moved into our house, so we were tight with our money. Buying a pre-made coop wasn’t an option. However, when our daughters brought home 7 chicks from East Texas that summer, my husband had to come up with something better.

Building Your Own Coop

If you have a small flock and don’t have time to build something, buying a pre-fabricated shelter is a great option. Although, if you have a bigger flock, you’ll need to either build the coop yourself or hire someone to build it. Most pre-made shelters are designed with smaller flocks in mind. Think under 7 birds.

My husband has been involved with art, design, and different stages of construction most of his life. He enjoys it, so it was a no brainer for him, deciding to build the coop. The hard part was finding time and coming up with a suitable design. He checked out some books at the library for different designs and got a basic idea before gathering supplies.

Coops Out of Re-Purposed Materials

There are so many different ways to make a chicken coop. All you really need is creativity; you don’t even need money in some cases. Although, you need to make sure predators can’t get into it.

When we were thinking about a chicken coop, there had been a tornado that touched down less than a couple minutes away from us. So there were a lot of fences down. A friend of mine went through her neighborhood and constructed her coop out of old fence.

small chicken coop

My husband didn’t want to do that. He said it’s more difficult to use wood that’s already been used. But due to our budget, we couldn’t afford to get what we wanted. So, he went to the new home subdivision near us and asked the builders if we could take their ‘trash’. They said we could have it, which consisted of the wood we would use to build our first chicken coop. The only reason they threw it out was because they made a mistake with it. Instead of trying to fix their mistakes, they would just throw out the wood and start with new.

We got the shingles from someone else my husband worked with. He just re-roofed his house, and all we had left to do was paint it. I think the hardest part of building that chicken coop was my husband getting the telephone poles into the ground. That’s what the coop stands on.

built small chicken coop
Completion of the first coop with a ramp for the birds.

I have seen coops made out of discarded trampolines. Again, the most important element is making them predator-proof. You can check out some ideas here.

If you plan on starting small or have a small flock, you can find manufactured coops on Amazon. You can also go to your local feed store. One year we even saw some at our Sam’s Warehouse.

foundation being dug and chickens in background
The chickens helping to dig the foundation for our second chicken coop.

When our first batch of incubated eggs started hatching, we didn’t have a coop big enough for 20-something birds. It only had 9 nesting boxes but no run. It was basically just a small shelter from the elements and a place for the birds to lay their eggs. However, with the certainty that we were going to have more birds, we needed a new place for all of them.

Temporarily we placed the chicks in a big Rubbermaid box with a heat lamp, pine shavings, plastic waterer, and chick-starter. We left them in this setting until the adult chickens had a new home. At that point we could bring the new chicks to the first coop we built; it was the perfect size for bite size birds.

huddled group of adolescent chickens
Our chicks.

It took my husband and son-in-law 4 or 5 days to build the new coop from start to finish. And when it was completed it was like a penthouse compared to what the birds had before.

mixed flock of chickens in the run of a chicken coop

Whether you purchase a prefabricated coop or build your own, make sure it’s the right size for your flock. The coop is where the birds rest at night, the hens lay their eggs, and where they run to when there’s danger.

Nesting Boxes

Chickens don’t necessarily need an abundance of nesting boxes, unless you have a very large flock. We currently have 29 chickens, 1 guinea, and 4 ducks. And only 2, or at most 3 boxes, get used. Ever. They sleep on a roost, so installing some roosting poles is also important. You would be surprised at how some birds want the whole roost to themselves. Our first roo was like that. He would peck the claws of whoever was next to him, making them jump off. We currently have a hen that’s like that; she doesn’t want anyone next to her on the roost.

Our big coop only has 12 boxes. In our experience the hens usually like to lay their eggs in the same nesting box, so we didn’t figure that would be an issue. And it generally isn’t. They always have plenty of space; they just choose not to use it, preferring the space someone else is occupying instead.

Mixed flock of birds roosting in a chicken coop
The guinea pair, roo, and a couple of hens.

Mobile Coops

We have a run attached to our big coop, but we didn’t with the first one. I have seen some that are detachable; I’ve also seen coops that are mobile. This can be beneficial, because it can be moved around the yard due to its light weight. Also, the birds won’t denude the grass in just one area. It also means less clean up for you, equating to fresh air for the birds and less disease. But if you have one that’s attached or are purchasing/building one that’s attached, it’s not that big of a deal; it’s just another area to clean.

There are pros and cons to having either a permanent or mobile coop and run. Though, probably one of the biggest arguments against the tractor design would be dependent on where one lives. If, like me, you live somewhere where it gets super windy or experience frigid winters, including ice and snow some years, this option wouldn’t be ideal.

Once September rolls around, we can get gusts of up to 40 mph or more. Not to mention the threat of tornadoes in the Spring. The last thing you want is the hen house being knocked over. A few weeks ago we had an early winter storm which downed power lines. Ours didn’t go out, because ours are buried, thankfully. But people were without power in several areas of our state for weeks. Then two weeks ago, we had one of those terribly windy days that we have, and power went out again. What makes the tractor design ideal is also what makes them unsuitable in contrary weather.

white and black opossum on brown rock
Photo by Skyler Ewing on

Something else to consider when designing or buying a coop and run is how to predator proof it. I have had friends that never locked their birds up at night, just letting the chickens fend for themselves. I’ve also had a friend who had a window on their coop for their birds. One friend just had a coop and no run made entirely out of fencing material. In all three instances the birds were killed by predators. Rather than placing chicken wire on the run, my husband placed hardware cloth or wire mesh, which is extremely strong and durable. The only things that can get through, besides bugs, are mice. A lot of people think chicken wire is a good option. But it is very malleable and snakes can fit through the holes. You need something tough and wire mesh is it.


The last thing to take into account when deciding on a chicken coop is the size of your flock. There’s a lot of different material online on how to figure out the size of your coop based on the size of your flock. Are your birds free-range? Or are they going to be in the run all day? When we first built our big coop, we only had 8 birds. Then we expanded to 20 for a long time. And now we have 29, plus ducks, and chicks. But not all the chicks will stay. However we still have our small coop, that we use for broody hens.

A good rule of thumb is 2-4 square feet bird, unless your birds will be confined all day; then more space is better. Since our birds stay out all day until they put themselves in at night, they have enough space. Although, if we ever increase our flock, we’ll need to build an addition.

Do you have a preference for your coop and run? Do you live somewhere that isn’t as windy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

Why Roosters Attack

Have you ever wondered why roosters attack? Or have you ever been attacked by a rooster? Well, it was after our daughters brought home our first batch of chicks that we started noticing changes in our rooster, Casanova. He seemed highly interested and invested in the chicks, I suppose, because it would be more variety for him once they matured.

Well, one day when we let the chicks out in the sunshine, they pulled out some of his tail feathers, flustering him. They could have been considered adolescents at the time. But, as we were putting them up, he got upset with us and started showing typical rooster behavior.

Why Roosters Attack

I’m sure everyone is familiar with a rooster attack. Or has seen it, either in real life or on a show or a movie: where the rooster will start pecking the ground, get this crazy look in his beady eyes, and seem to square up, before he actually bows up with his neck feathers flaring out. That’s how far Casanova went with us and the chicks, which he now regarded as his property.

mixed flock of chickens in a small coop
Our small flock in their first coop.

Once the new birds were big enough and used to our property as their home, we opened the coop up so that Casanova and Natalie could get in there with them at night as well. We had a plank board, that rested from the entrance to the ground. This was so they could walk up and down as they pleased, except at night, when we closed it up.

Thus began what seemed like a lengthy, almost daily, battle with our 1-foot high roo.

Why do roosters attack? At the time I didn’t know, I couldn’t fathom why he went from a docile creature to something I wanted to beat in an instant. If you’ve ever had a rooster or experienced their behavior, you will understand where I’m coming from. I went out there to feed and water them, bring them treats, and take care of them, which the girls seemed to appreciate. But he literally bit (or pecked, in this case) the hand that fed them.

Every day, sometimes several times a day, Casanova would attack, not just bow up. And he would use his spurs. Thus he attacked everyone at my house. Not equally, no. But none were spared. My youngest daughter was scared to go outside. Even though he was small, he still scared her.

Different Opinions

I looked up information on this bothersome problem, and there were many different opinions out there. And there still are. I read that I needed to: dominate my rooster, love my rooster. Or my personal favorite: act like a rooster, just a tougher one, because that’s supposedly how he viewed me.

Let me just tell you that none of that worked on that bird.

Maybe Casserole (nickname we started calling him) was just stubborn. Or maybe the people who wrote those posts had different roosters. I don’t know, but he wasn’t going to change.

I had heard that roosters are supposed to protect the flock, so it was confusing when I would see this pipsqueak run through the flock of girls for cover when a hawk was flying over, yet attack one of us when we brought goodies out.

colorful rooster on a person's lap
Casanova, sitting in my daughter’s lap.

It wasn’t until after Casanova died, and we already had a newly matured, replacement rooster, that I figured it out.

My rooster, Megatron, has never attacked me, and I don’t think he ever will. He respects me. Casanova saw me as a rooster and wanted to challenge me. Daily. He wanted to challenge all of us that he considered roosters. I didn’t understand that until he was gone and Megatron acted so differently, almost gentlemanly. He also sees me as a rooster, however he doesn’t want to provoke me. Because he knows I’m the boss. Also, he never fought with the old tiny roo and never even crowed till Casanova was gone.

Black Ameraucana rooster standing in a yard
My roo Megatron.

Do you have any experience with a rooster attacking? How do you handle it? I would love to hear your comments and how you handle your own disorderly roosters.

Chicks Hens raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

New Chicks

While my daughters were in East Texas visiting grandparents, they decided to get some chicks. These new chicks ended up being quite different than our first batch of birds. Additionally, the girls decided on a mixed flock: Ameraucana, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, and Black Sex Link.

When the birds were brought home, we kept them inside with a heat lamp for a few weeks. Then we brought them outside to their new home. This was the first coop my husband made out of upcycled wood, telephone poles, new nails, shingles, and a coat of paint. And originally it was for Casanova and Natalie to call home.

black sex-link chick
One of our Black Sex-Link chicks.

It didn’t take long for our girls to name those little chicks. However they didn’t keep their original names. Because, as they got older and got some personality, their names had to fit.

We had two Silver-Laced Wyandottes, which were the oldest chicks in the bunch. They also became the dynamic duo leaders of our little fledgling flock. In addition, we had three brown-red Ameraucana chicks, and two Black Sex Links, bringing our flock to nine members.

chickens eating grass
From left, Echo, Casanova, Natalie, Loki, Fives, and Chopper.

Soon we and the birds got into a routine. For the 9 of them, they had a nice green backyard and plenty of space. And we worked on getting more trees. They would serve as shade for the summer months, and hopefully add to everyone’s diet.

It wasn’t until that Winter, when the birds were locked in their coop, due to a heavy snow, that we got our first eggs from them. It had taken around 6 months for the first eggs, and we were so excited.

Deciding to Add More Chicks

The following spring we decided to increase our flock. But, being uncertain about how and when hens go broody, we bought an incubator and started collecting eggs. At the time I felt like we went overboard. I think we had around 20 eggs to incubate on the likelihood that at least half would be cockerels. And if so, we wouldn’t keep them, as I explain why in another post.

incubated eggs
Our first home-grown chick and the remaining eggs.

We ordered a simple, inexpensive incubator for our eggs. So we were responsible for turning the eggs. Although it had a mechanism to adjust the temperature, there was no way to know what the temperature was. Thus, I ordered a digital thermometer with a humidity gauge on it. But there are many different kinds of incubators out there, depending on how much you’re willing to spend and what your needs are.

It takes 21 days for a fertilized chicken egg to fully develop and hatch. Therefore, we dated all of our eggs from the day we took them from the nesting boxes. And because we had such a small flock, my daughter, Hannah, and I knew which chicken laid which egg. I can’t say that about all of our chickens today.

Egg lit up from behind with veins inside
Candling one of our hen’s eggs.

After a week, we candled the eggs. That’s where you take a bright light, like a flashlight, up to the egg, in a dark room. It’s to see whether the egg is fertilized. It’s called ‘candling’ because candles were originally used. Though how they could see anything is beyond me. We now have Cuckoo Marans, and we still have ‘Caunas, which both have thick eggshells, making it difficult to see if the egg is indeed fertilized.

egg with a crack and x marked on it
Our first pipped egg.

When the first chick was ready to hatch, it pipped, or started pecking the shell with its beak tooth. That’s a horn-like projection on the end of its beak, that falls off a day or two after hatching. Next, the chick unzipped the shell with his beak tooth, around the circumference from where he started his pip.

newly hatched chick
Only One Canoli.

Chicks that Hatched

13 chicks hatched within a day and a half. And we lost only 2, besides the eggs that were never fertilized. One egg never hatched, while 1 chick died either from stargazing, which is a thiamine deficiency. Or it had wry neck, which is also a vitamin deficiency. The other option is it could be genetic. Either way the chick only lived 1 week no matter our efforts.

I vividly recall being mesmerized by this batch of chicks, really invested in almost everything they did. Perhaps that’s because it was a completely new experience for me. I soaked up everything I learned about them and chickens in general.

two newly hatched chicks
Two newly hatched chicks.

We took eggs from each hen, fertilized by our Cream Legbar. But mostly we stuck with the Ameraucanas. And we only took 2 eggs from our Sex Link, and one of those chicks was one we lost. Though we still have the other one that we named Oddball. She resembles a Barred Rock, however she has her dad’s huge comb.

We got a couple of pullets from the Wyandotte hens as well. One was the second chick to hatch out of the clutch. And she is healthy, and still today tends to be a bossy hen like her mom. However, the other one hatched with one foot/claw not fully formed. We surmised that it was a genetic issue. And since we don’t have chicken vets where we live, that wasn’t an option to see one.

If you’re a pet lover like us, then you understand why we didn’t put Kix down. She could get around, and she adapted easily. Further, the other chickens didn’t bother her once they established their pecking order. Not to mention, she had a special place in our youngest daughter’s heart. So we kept her, and she lived 2 years.

Then, after her good foot got infected, we knew it was futile to give her antibiotics. Because she lived outside, and her foot would only get reinfected. Letting Kix go was one of the most difficult and saddest decisions we had to make. But we knew it was better for her.

deformed chick
Kix, our Cream Legbar/Wyandotte mix.

The reason the one Sex-Link hybrid didn’t live is simply part of the risk. I’ve read instances where many chicks were hatched from a similar pairing, Cream Legbar and Black Sex-Link, with one or two losses. It’s a risk that there will be genetic issues, though I didn’t really understand that going in. Since then I haven’t incubated any more Sex Link eggs.

mixed flock of chicks in a small coop
The first thirteen chicks we hatched.

Unruly Cockerels

Only One Cannoli was our first chick to hatch, and he was a cockerel like 7 of his brothers. Although, he was the only one who bonded with us the way he did, most likely because he was the first-hatched. So when he cheeped and peeped, we came immediately. And by the time the others were hatched, they had each other. Only One Cannoli only had us for the first few hours of life.

Cream Legbar cockerel on a girls shoulder
Only One Cannoli with my second daughter. He liked to perch wherever.

We kept the cockerels for 3 months before they totally got unruly. But then we had to slaughter them, because the hens come first. We tried to find homes for them, however where we live, no one wants roosters. They weren’t broilers, so they weren’t fat. Though I was still able to make a few dishes with the meat we got from them. I made roasted chicken, which didn’t hide the gamey taste. However King Ranch Chicken (or Cannoli in this case) and chicken soup tasted good.

Since our first batch of home-grown chicks, we’ve incubated only several more times. And we either went with more manageable numbers or more . Also, we purchased more Sex Links, but locally and only once more. And I’ve bought more ‘Caunas, which I’ve driven from 2 to 6 hours to get the ones I wanted, since they are my personal favorite. And last but not least, we’ve had some hens go broody, yet we still have only allowed manageable numbers.

I would love to hear from you if you have any comments or any stories about your own adventures with chicks.

Hens raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

Getting Started with Chickens

We inherited our first birds when we moved into our current home on an acre. And we were told they were Leghorns, and were supposed to be good layers. So we were excited. There we were, just getting started with chickens.

I live in a small town southwest of Oklahoma City with my family. But originally I’m from Dallas. Therefore, I was more familiar with fashion and makeup trends than with a farm and chickens.

brown chicken
Photo by Maxine Novick on

Furthermore, my first experience with chickens was several years ago on my mother-in-law’s ranch in East Texas. Unless you count eating chicken. She ordered some Rhode Island Reds, which at the time, I had no idea what that meant. I certainly wasn’t aware of all the breeds out there. Or that I would end up having my very own flock.

Getting Started: First Steps

To say we were unprepared is a gross understatement. We had no feed, no waterers or feeders. And we didn’t have a coop either. But at least we had a fence around our half-acre backyard. That was something. Plus, my husband was, at the time, busy working as a fireman/EMT.

Thus, with his schedule, and lack of immediate funds from buying our house, we decided to make do with a temporary shelter. We made sure there was good ventilation, a roof, and that the shelter would keep them dry. Also, it kept critters from getting them. However it was nothing like our birds have today. It was just an emergency shelter.

Getting feed, waterers, and feeders was the easy part. And once we had the temporary shelter in place, along with their necessities, we put the chickens in their shelter.

The Chickens: Not What We Expected

white hen on the ground
Our first hen Natalie was actually a broiler.

It was maybe 2 or 3 days after we got the chickens that we noticed they didn’t seem to do anything. None of them did anything. Except if you consider laying down an activity.

We didn’t so much as inherit the eight chickens as someone my husband worked with gifted them to us. And the local feed store, where he lived, told him the birds were Leghorns.

Well, shortly thereafter, we did some reading and educated ourselves. Then soon discovered that what we had were not, in fact, Leghorns at all. They were broilers!

After the kids recovered from their disappointment of having named the birds, we changed their diet to what they were supposed to eat. And three months later might have signaled the end of that adventure. But in the time we had with our lazy, fat broilers, my daughters and I learned some things about chickens. And some things about our meat chickens too.

We soon realized that most of them were cockerels, who I might add, wouldn’t live to see adulthood. Although there was one pullet in the mix that we were determined to save from her fate. So we called her Natalie.

Our chickens, such as they were, liked to sit or lie in the shade at the fence-line that separates our neighbor’s property from ours. In addition, our neighbor has a couple of dogs, cats, goats, etc. So one day, when all but Natalie and one cockerel were gone, one of my neighbor’s dogs was busy digging under the fence to get at the broilers.

Natalie was smart for a broiler; smart and different. She didn’t stay in the shade at the fence. She would walk around the property and stop sometimes to look at the chickens on the other side of our property. So when the neighbor’s dog attacked, she got up and ran for cover (as much as a broiler can run), while her brother got snatched under the fence and perished.

Cream colorful cream Legbar rooster on ground
This is our first official rooster, Casanova, a cream Legbar.

Getting Started: Layer Breeds

Our neighbor felt very bad about the loss of our last meat bird. Therefore, he vowed to repay us for our loss with another rooster.

small white chicken egg on ground near white hen
Natalie and her first egg.

Natalie laid her very first egg during the few months that we waited for our new rooster. And she continued to make her rounds around the half-acre.

Before the new rooster arrived, we had a real coop for the couple. And we were definitely prepared unlike with our first birds.

The new rooster was a short little thing, compared to other roosters I’ve seen and had, but very colorful with beautiful tail feathers. For a while we had no idea what breed Casanova was. When I asked my neighbor for incubating purposes, he guessed at game hen. But then I saw pictures of birds like him, along with his progeny, so it’s no longer a mystery.

Being a broiler, Natalie was a lot bigger than Casanova. Therefore, it was interesting to watch them together, especially at first. They seemed to get along. And our first experience with a rooster overall was not a bad one. Though that started to change when we got chicks.

Casanova and Natalie in their coop at night.

I now have over 30 chickens, 7 ducks, 2 of which are broody with 0ver 20 eggs between them. And one broody hen, while I’m currently incubating 60 chicken eggs.

How did you get into chicken keeping? Your comments are appreciated.


Getting Started

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20160303_170629-1.jpg
Our first hen Natalie was actually a broiler.

Our First Chickens: Not What We Were Expecting

I live in a small town southwest of Oklahoma City, but originally I’m from Dallas, so I’m more familiar with fashion and makeup trends than I am with a farm and chickens. My first experience with chickens was several years ago on my mother-in-law’s ranch in East Texas, unless you count eating chicken. She ordered some Rhode Island Reds, which at the time I had no idea what that meant. I certainly wasn’t aware of all the breeds out there or that I would end up having my very own flock.

We inherited our first birds when we moved into our home on an acre. We were told they were Leghorns, were supposed to be good layers, so we were excited, however they didn’t do very much, just laid around most of the day.

We didn’t have a coop either, just more of a temporary shelter which kept critters from getting them.

We didn’t so much as inherit the eight chickens as someone my husband worked with gifted them to us. The local feed store where he lived, 12 miles from us, told him the birds were Leghorns.

Well, shortly thereafter we did some reading and educated ourselves and soon discovered that what we had were not, in fact, Leghorns at all, but broilers!

Well, after the kids recovered from their disappointment of having named the birds, we changed their diet to what they were supposed to eat, and three months later might have signaled the end of that adventure, but in course of time my daughters and I learned some things about chickens in our time with our lazy, fat broilers.

We soon realized that most of them were cockerels, who I might add, wouldn’t live to see adulthood, although there was one pullet in the mix that we were determined to save from her fate. We called her Natalie.

Our chickens, such as they were, liked to sit or lie in the shade at the fence-line that separates our neighbor’s property from ours. Our neighbor has a couple of dogs, cats, goats, etc. Well, one day when all but Natalie and one cockerel were gone, one of my neighbor’s dogs was busy digging under the fence to get at the broilers.

Natalie was smart for a broiler, smart and different. She didn’t stay in the shade at the fence. She would walk around the property and stop sometimes to look at the chickens on the other side of our property. I often wondered what she would think. Well, when the neighbor’s dog attacked, she got up and ran for cover while her brother got snatched under the fence and perished.

Our neighbor felt very bad about it and vowed to repay us for our loss. With another rooster.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20160115_140709-1.jpg
This is our first official rooster Casanova, a cream Legbar.

Natalie laid her very first egg during the few months that we waited for our new rooster. He was a short little thing, but very colorful, with beautiful tail feathers. Being a broiler, Natalie was a lot bigger than Casanova, so it was interesting to watch them together, especially at first.

They seemed to get along, and our first experience with a rooster overall was not a bad one, although that started to change when we got chicks.

I’d love to hear your stories about your first chickens or your experiences with them, so please leave comments or feel free to ask questions.