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Hens raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

Signs of Old Age in Chickens

After raising chickens for around 7 years, I’ve started to notice some concerning behaviors in my birds. Things like decreased egg production and slower fertility had me wondering about other signs of old age in chickens. But particularly symptoms of old age in my rooster, because he’s special. And I’ll miss him when he’s gone.

2 black Ameraucana chickens outside in shade
Megatron still makes time for his hatchery mate after all these years.

Like some of you, I’ve lost birds to predators, freezing weather, heat stress, and obesity. Shoot, I even lost one to a heart attack. But I’ve never actually lost a chicken to old age. Well, I might’ve. There were the Black Sex-links. Though this is different, because these birds are actually . . . getting old.

How Long can Chickens Actually Live

It’s more of a guesstimate than fact to say how long chickens live. And that’s due more to breed, predators, stress, illness, and any number of factors. But generally most people agree that chickens can live anywhere from 4 to 12 years. Although there was a hen named Matilda who lived to be 16.

black sex link hen walking on the grass
This is Sunshine.

Typically the birds on the lower end will be hybrids, but not always. I have one remaining Black Sex-link who’s 6 years old. And I think she’s completely healthy. However, she no longer lays eggs.

Signs of Old Age in Chickens: Appearance

Sometimes the first sign of old age in chickens is their appearance, such as

focused shot of thick feet of a chicken
Sunshine’s feet.
  • paler combs
  • dull feathers
  • dryer, scalier, and thicker legs and feet
  • and some hens have spurs

Activity, or Lack thereof

one brown and one black Ameraucana chickens outside
Chopper moves around the least, and she eats the most.

As chickens age, (read get older) they move slower, take more breaks, and rest more often. They may even walk stiffly. Also, for senior birds, they may have a more difficult time getting on roosting bars than they once did. Megatron started walking with a limp ever since his major fight with Baby Nay a year or so ago.

Egg Laying Changes in Hens

But for laying hens, they’ll also produce less eggs. And their eggs tend to get bigger each year.

Sex-link chickens have a good run of egg laying for about 3 years. But heritage breeds can lay longer. As in everything, there aren’t consistent numbers as to how long though. However I have some Ameraucana chickens that are also 6 years old. And they still lay eggs, but not everyday.

Changes in Roosters

2 multi-colored juvenile roosters outside
These juvenile roosters are not Megatron’s progeny.

One of the signs of old age, or aging in roosters is decreased fertility. You all know you have a cockerel full of raging hormones when he’s all over the yard, going from one hen to the next. And he doesn’t settle down until maybe the second year, if you’re lucky. But if you’re not one of the lucky ones, then it could just be the third year that he finally mellows out.

I read an article that said roosters stop crowing and mating by their third year. But the person who wrote the article didn’t have any chickens. So how do they know roosters do this, I’d like to know. My 5 1/2 year old rooster still crows all day long faithfully. And he still mates, even if he has slowed down a bit. His son just happened to be more enthusiastic about mating than he was.

Extra Fat

multiple chickens outside

Chickens love to eat. And they’ll eat just about anything. That’s why it’s important to feed them a proper diet, with the right amount of protein. And only about 2 tbsp of treats per 1/2 cup of feed.

But once hens are on the retirement path, they tend to rest more, as I pointed out. And they forage less. Thus, they’re not getting as much exercise, which means they’re likely to end up overweight from overeating.

Things You Can Do

If, like me, your chickens do more than provide eggs, then there are things you can do to help them as they age. Provide lower roosts or a ladder to help them get on the roosts. Continue to provide the correct feed for their diet to help prevent them getting fat. And since they aren’t getting around as easy as they once did, maintain a predator-proof yard.

To Conclude

chickens on a grassy field
Photo by Styves Exantus on Pexels.com

With the proper care, chickens can live into their teens. Although most don’t. (It’s comparable to us living into our 100s.) In reality most chickens live 5 to 10 years, depending upon the breed. What is the oldest chicken you have? Your comments are appreciated.

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Hens Protecting Your Backyard Birds raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

How Many Hens Should You have per Rooster

Since this blog’s inception, I’ve brought up ratios of hens to roosters many times. But depending on which website you visit, and whether you’re wanting chicks, there are conflicting proportions. So today, I’ll officially answer how many hens should you have per rooster. Further, we’ll also explore chicken mating, and possible problems associated with it.

I’ve seen ratios anywhere from 6 hens per rooster to double digits. Plus, the literature indicates some breeds mate more aggressively than others. However, when I tried to find out which breeds exactly, only aggressive chicken breeds showed up; not aggressive mating chicken breeds.

How Many Hens Should You have per Rooster

The smallest proportion I read of implied that you could safely have one rooster with 2 to 3 hens, if you so choose. Although the quotation specifically highlighted that the birds were adults, not juveniles.

Though I disagree with this quota for a few reasons:

  • First, chickens are considered adolescents until they reach ~ 17 weeks.

It’s at this point that backyard birds become sexually mature, which means they can breed, start to lay eggs if hens, or fertilize them if roosters.

mixed flock of ducks and chickens outside
Bakugo is the white duck making a b-line to Megatron. She always finds a way to spend time with him.

I have had 5 real roosters, since the first 9 didn’t count. And all of them, including the adult males, tread hard on the gals until the boys are around 3 or 4 years old.

For instance, Casanova, our first real roo, just started to be gentle before he died at ~ 3 years old. I imagine he was gentle because he was older and lighter; not because he was an adult. (He was the smallest rooster, and probably chicken, we had.)

And now my current senior rooster, Megatron, has slowed down considerably since I first got him. He is now over 5 years old, and in the past couple of years, he has become a more gentle lover to his girls.

But it’s at this specific age that a rooster’s chances of fertility decreases.

black Ameraucana rooster in the wind outside
This is Tiny Nuts; he’s a cool rooster. At least he thinks he is.
  • And lastly, I have over 30 adult hens, ~ 8 juvenile hens, and 2 adult roosters, one whom I informed you has slowed down.

So Megatron’s son, Tiny Nuts, who is around 1 – 2 years old is the main roo servicing the gals. And he has currently torn up maybe 10 hens’ backs; all in different conditions. Some with a few feathers out, some with a lot of feathers out. And some hens with back and head feathers out. All by himself, while he has mostly 30 hens to himself. And we’re supposed to believe that this adult is considered gentle? Yeah, I’m not buying it either.

Chicken Romance

Before I answer the main question, I’m going to dissect the courtship of chicken romance. It’s certainly different than human romance.

Cockerels first ready to mate are all over the place, running hither and yon from one hen to the next, all because they’re trying to sneak some nookie in behind the boss’s back. And they’re uncoordinated, rough, and generally look like they don’t know what they’re doing. Plus, the girls are all taken by surprise. And some of the hens are older than those boys and don’t want to be ridden by another roo.

However, as the cockerels mature into adults, they pick up some tricks to wooing the hens. They include

This is where the rooster will find a treat and make the look, look, look noise to attract a hen, all in the hopes of garnering her favor.

  • and dancing

Most people are familiar with the rooster dance. And it’s where the rooster drops one wing to the ground as he shuffles around the hen whom he’s interested in. Typically at the end of the dance he’ll try to mate with her.

Although some roosters aren’t interested in performing any tricks to woo the hens. They’re all business and just take charge. Casanova was really good about wooing the hens; I like to think it was because he was so small, and so needed to make a good impression. And Tiny Nuts is good about wooing. But that could be due to him being the bottom roo. On the other hand, Megatron could care less about that kind of stuff. He’s the boss.

Chicken Mating

2 chickens mating on grass outside
Baby Nay caught in the act.

Consider this a biology lesson in chicken procreation. But I’m sure it’s nothing you’ve never seen before. And generally chicken sex is fast, lasting no longer than a few seconds.

Typically, in a willing partner, the rooster will go up to the hen, and she will squat for him. Then he will grasp her neck feathers with his beak as he climbs onto her back, balancing himself with his feet. This act is referred to as treading. Roosters have no outward appendages; everything is internal. So both of their cloacas must touch in order for him to transfer his sperm, in what is known as the cloacal kiss. And once they are finished, both shake themselves. Plus, he doesn’t thank her for her time, give her a kiss, or even a backward glance before he’s on toward the next possible hen.

In addition, rooster’s sperm can last about 2 weeks inside of one hen. And if she’s a healthy hen that lays daily, that should equal about 14 fertilized eggs. But it takes about 25 hours for the sperm to fertilize the next egg in the hen’s body. Also, interestingly enough, hens can store sperm from more than one rooster at a time. And a single rooster can mate up to 30x a day, producing as much as 35,000 sperm every second of his life, which is 40x more sperm than a human male.

Potential Problems with Chicken Mating

purple stain on laceration on black chicken's back
Baby Nay did this to his favorite hen when we had him. Well, she ended up going broody, and we locked him in rooster jail; so she was able to heal perfectly without any more assault.

I already explained what it looks like with sexually mature cockerels. But if you have several, it will look like chicken gang rape, I kid you not. And the boss rooster won’t be able to control it. He may even join in to show his dominance, however the gals are the ones to suffer. That’s what Casanova did with every one of his 7 sons the first time we incubated eggs. I guess, he decided, if he couldn’t beat them, he’d join them.

Other signs of mating issues include

  • missing back feathers on hens’ backs
  • missing neck feathers from hens’ necks
  • skin lacerations where feathers are missing
  • and fights consistently breaking out between roosters

If you see any of the above, then it’s time to do something about your chicken mating situation.

Ok, So, How Many Hens Should You have per Rooster

mixed flock of domestic birds under a shade tree with kiddie pools

All right, so having only 2 to 3 hens per rooster is not feasible, because we learned that even though roosters are considered adults after their first molt (~ 1 year old), they don’t settle down until they’re around 2 or 3 years old. That’s when they mellow with the ladies and start treating them right. At least that’s been my observation with all of my roosters: a small Cream Legbar and all of my Ameraucana and Easter Egger roosters, all of whom are considered docile.

Therefore, if you’re seeing any issues with your hens then

  • put a limit on the number of roosters

Roosters are highly virulent until they reach ~ 3 to 5 years of age, which means they may mate aggressively until they start to slow down. They don’t even have to be an aggressive breed: case in point, my roosters. None of mine are considered aggressive breeds. Yet they still tear up my hens, no matter how many I have available for them.

So what’s the magical number? I personally think 6 is too small. Your hens will get damaged with 1 rooster per 6 hens apiece. Therefore, the more the merrier, if you can spare them. However, if you’re wanting to specifically breed your birds, then it’s recommended to have 10 hens per rooster, in order to maintain fertility.

  • separate the injured hens

Any hens with lacerations should be kept out of the breeding pool until they have healed. And apply Vetericyn or Gentian Violet Spray .5% daily. Plus, once they’re better, and feathers have started to grow, place a chicken saddle on their backs to prevent any more issues.

Many sites recommend putting the saddles on before the hens have healed. Though I noticed the feathers on our hens never grew back unless and until the saddles were off. Thus, the separation of the rooster(s) and injured hen(s).

  • isolate the roosters until needed for breeding

If you’re wanting fertilized eggs, or to breed your flock, keep your roosters separate from your hens in a distinct enclosure. In this way your hens won’t be misused.

To Summarize

one spotted olive egger rooster and one black Ameraucana rooster fighting outside

We learned that roosters are highly virulent, and therefore, mate aggressively until they’re about 3 years old. And because of that, it’s best to have at least 10 hens per rooster if you’re breeding them. Less than that, the roosters will definitely injure your hens with feathers torn out and back lacerations. Furthermore, we learned all about chicken romance and mating. And also that if there aren’t enough hens per rooster, not only will the hens be at risk for injury, but the roosters will constantly fight.

How many hens do you have for your roosters? And how do they get along? Your comments are appreciated.

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Chicks Hens Protecting Your Backyard Birds raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

Chicken First Aid Kit Contents

I’ve been an animal lover for 4 decades. But it wasn’t until 2015, or since chickens, that we started collecting what would be considered animal first aid items. If you have backyard birds long enough, sooner later, something will pop up, requiring you to have a few essentials. Thus, I thought it would be helpful to share some basic chicken first aid kit contents.

From the moment we’ve had dogs and cats, we’ve never had to perform any type of first aid on them. On the other hand, our fur babies have a veterinarian, whereas our feather babies do not. And unfortunately a lot of the advice online can be contradictory. Plus, some issues necessitate quick action. Therefore, we’ve had to learn how to take care of our birds ourselves. In addition, when we started out, we had a small flock. So, little by little, we began adding items to what became our chicken first aid kit.

Chicken First Aid Kit: The Container

chicken first aid kit with assortment of bandaids, scissors, electrolytes, etc, in a blue and clear plastic box

When we first started making our kit, little did we know that’s what we were doing. Hence, ours was in our medicine cabinet, until one day it was gigantic and no longer fit. Now we have everything in a tackle box that’s easy to locate and move. So get a caboodle, makeup box, or a tackle box. But make sure it’s

  • Portable
  • Within easy reach
  • And easy to carry

Chicken First Aid Kit: Chicken Hospital

black metal pet crate with old towel on top of it

Since most injuries and illnesses require separating the chicken from the flock, this is where you will house them until they are well enough to mingle back with the flock. Ideally you need

  • A pet crate or carrier

If possible, make sure the chicken hospital is big enough for the patient to be comfortable during their stay.

  • And old towels

Towels you no longer use are to help make the patient comfortable.

Some injuries aren’t serious enough to warrant total isolation from the flock. For example, if you have a hen with sores on her back from an overeager rooster, then she can stay in the the safety of the crate while still in the coop. That way she won’t worry about pecking order issues.

But more concerning problems of contagious illnesses demand the chicken be separated to prevent spreading the illness. Further, urgent medical issues require the bird to be isolated to help calm them down.

Online discrepancies abound, regarding whether to leave the chicken patient in the coop or isolate them. And both have valid reasons for their points. Personally, I’ve done both, depending on the nature and/or seriousness of the issue. But all the times I’ve kept my chicken patients away from the flock, they’ve been calm, and they didn’t seem lonely. In addition, my reasons were justified for keeping them isolated.

Chicken First Aid Kit: Disposables

baggie of cotton 2x2s, Coban, bandaids, and popsicle stick

When I made this list, I really wasn’t sure how to itemize it. As you’ll notice, some of these things can go in multiple categories. Plus, you potentially have some materials in your house now, which can also be taken from your own first aid kit; just be sure to replace anything you swipe from your personal kit. However, for the disposables, you need

  • Q-tips
  • Non-stick gauze
  • Disposable gloves
  • Coban or vet-wrap
  • Bandaids
  • And popsicle sticks for splints

Chicken First Aid Kit: Dealing with beaks, nails, and spurs

black and white battery-powered nail file and tube of superglue

Rather than putting these few items in their prospective categories, I just made their own section. Further, they all use the same supplies, such as

  • Dremel tool or other battery-powered tool
  • Superglue
  • And styptic powder or alum

Chicken First Aid Kit: Tools or Instruments

box of assorted sutures, hemostats, scissors, and surgical forceps

Once again, some of these you should have in your medicine cabinet. Although, with the rest of these items, we collected from various trips to the emergency room for sutures. And since hospitals just throw suture kits away after using them, we asked if we could keep ours. The rest I ordered. Therefore, in your kit you should have

  • Tweezers
  • Scissors or surgical grade scissors
  • LED headlamp
  • Surgical forceps
  • Hemostats and resorbable sutures
  • And disposable scalpels

Chicken First Aid Kit: Antiseptics

assortment of antiseptics and poultry first aid care

With the exception of rubbing alcohol, I had to order all of the items in this section, at one time or another. So make sure you have

  • Rubbing alcohol (to sanitize instruments)
  • Gentian violet .5%
  • Iodine
  • Sterile saline (for washing wounds)
  • and Vetericyn

Chicken First Aid Kit: Anti-inflammatories and Salves

big bag of epson salt, almost empty bottle of astroglide, and tube of hydrocortisone

From having a hen who’s egg-bound to having one with sour crop to having another one with vent prolapse, the following is what you’ll need in your chicken first aid kit.

  • Salve or Vaseline (for mites or frostbite in the winter)
  • Epson salt (has many uses)
  • 1% hydrocortisone (for vent prolapse)
  • and a Water-based lubricant

Chicken First Aid Kit: Medicine, Vitamins, Electrolytes, and Pain Relief

assortment of poultry medicine and vitamins for illness and injury
  • Neosporin
  • Enfamil poly-vi-sol infant multi-vits (without iron)
  • Medicine dropper
  • Electrolytes
  • Probiotics
  • Vet-Rx (for respiratory issues)
  • Fishbiotics (which is amoxil 500mg, for surgical procedures like impacted crop)
  • **And topical anesthetic spray, like hospital formula benzocaine (also for the above mentioned surgery)

**There is some mis-information, and thus confusion on multiple sites as to whether you can give any anesthetic to chickens. For example, multiple sites claim you can’t give anything to chickens if it has caine on or in it. And that’s not true. In fact, I watched a Dr perform a surgery on a chicken, after he injected it with anesthetic. And as far as I know, all anesthetics contain caines. Further, the chicken did not die; she survived the surgery and the anesthetic.

However, the real issue is epinephrine, which is added to local anesthetics to prolong local anesthesia and prevent additional blood loss. Thus, in someone who might have heart issues, or a small animal, it could present problems. But because benzocaine is only a topical, it is clearly the better option for backyard chickens. You can read more about it here.

Chicken First Aid Kit: Advice

advice lettering text on black background
Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

The items you see in bold are some of the first, and only, items we used while first involved with chickens. Though now it has definitely grown and evolved. You too may also already have some things you use on and for your birds. So the materials in bold are a suggestion only, to have on-hand what you will eventually need.

My last bit of advice is when Googling your bird problems, read at least 3 other suggestions, and not necessarily the top 3. They might not be right. And after you’ve received 3 suggestions from Google, cross reference them. For instance, if I read that something won’t work or is harmful, I Google why that something won’t work, like what will happen, especially if there isn’t a link to the original article. You’ll be surprised by how many answers you get that will contradict what you were just advised.

Lastly, taking care of injured or sick chickens is just like anything else: it isn’t cookie cutter perfect. Nobody knows your birds better than you. You will have to adjust and use your intuition based on your understanding of your flock. These are all suggestions according to my experience with my flock. And it has worked for us. But I Google several sources, and not the most popular ones either, and adjust the care instructions to gear them toward my flock.

Have you made a chicken first aid kit? Or have you had to use first aid on a chicken? Your comments are appreciated.

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Chicks ducks Extras Hens Protecting Your Backyard Birds raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

Can You Mix Ducks with Chickens

Chickens are often the first bird homesteaders will tackle before raising other livestock. They cite practical reasons: food, composting, and pest control. Since ducks are some of the smartest and hardiest, they debut on the farm after chickens. But before getting any birds, I’ll answer the question Can you mix ducks with chickens.

You can, in fact, raise chickens and ducks together. However, there are some slight differences with both kinds of birds. And, with careful consideration, you should have no problem mixing both. So, whether or not you’ve purchased any ducks, just continue reading.

Brooding Facts for Both Ducklings and Chicks

Recently I wrote an in-depth article explaining how to raise ducklings and chicks together. So I’m only going to list the main points.

  • Provide the same feed for both
chick feed in a shallow dish with chicks in a brooder

Contrary to popular belief, you can give medicated feed to ducklings, as I explained a short while ago. But no matter what, by the 3rd week, make sure the protein is no more than 18%, or your ducklings will be at risk for something called Angel’s Wing. And provide niacin in the form of brewer’s yeast, so the ducklings can thrive. (This needs to be provided lifelong in the duck’s diet.)

Also, regular chick fountains and nipple waterers work well with ducklings. However, shallow pans for feed are ideal due to their bills.

  • Similar brooder temperature for both

There is only a 5° difference between both birds when starting the brooding process. Therefore, just observe them to see whether they are cold or hot. If they huddle together, they’re cold. And if they move as far away as they can from the heat, then they are hot. And adjust accordingly.

  • Clean brooder daily

Both ducklings (and ducks) drink as they eat to prevent choking. And this causes a big mess in the brooder that needs to be cleaned on a daily, sometimes several times a day, basis.

  • Harassment
digital art of brown duck making fun of dark brown chicken on black background
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Depending on the number and breed of chicks and ducklings you have, could determine who does the bullying and who gets bullied. In my experience, our chicks have always done the bullying until they were juveniles. But by then, the ducks were much larger, thus the roles were reversed.

It’s definitely simpler to raise chickens and ducks on their own. However it’s not unrealistic to raise them together.

Teenager Ducks and Chickens

juvenile mixed flock of ducks and chickens

At this stage of development, your ducks and chickens are going through puberty. You know, their voices crack and they look fugly. In addition, you might notice your ducks bullying the chickens they once hung out with. But by the time they’re all adults, this behavior generally stops.

The 3 ducks we recently raised with our juvenile chickens bullied their brooder buddies. And they even tried to bully one of our cats. But that only lasted until the 2 juvie drakes were sold to someone in need of them, so the lone female no longer feels the need to bully. Thus, it’s the other way around again. Plus, when we raised Squirt, the boss drake, he was raised alone by me. Therefore, he really didn’t bully anyone, and no one bullied him. I’m still constantly learning about ducks. And I know I don’t know all there is to know about them.

Advice for Smooth Desegregation

Depending on the time of year and temperature will determine when you move your newbies outside. For instance, if it’s spring and still chilly out, then wait till the chicks are ~ 5-6 weeks old. However, if it’s summer and hot in the evenings, like it’s been lately, you don’t necessarily need a heat lamp. But still wait for the chicks to get to 5-6 weeks old for size. Then you need to

  • Check your coop space

Ducks need twice as much space as chickens do. And if your chickens use a ramp to get in the coop, you might need to come up with something so the ducks can get in too.

Also, ducks don’t use nesting boxes. Therefore, just put some straw on the floor of the coop, and they’re fine.

  • Circulate the air in the coop

You likely already have your coop well ventilated with your existing flock. However, since ducks emit ~ 90% moisture, there needs to be adequate circulation in the form of predator-proof windows and air exhaust vents on the roof.

  • Gradually mix your new ducks and chickens with the established flock

Put your juvenile mixed birds in a pen where they and your primary flock can see each other without aggression for a few days to a week.

  • Provide water
kiddie pool with ice in the shade
This picture shows ice in the pool; and that’s due to the triple digit heat lately.

This source of water is different from the drinking water. Though you will see both the chickens and ducks drinking from it. But if you don’t provide this water source for the ducks to bathe and preen their feathers, they can develop wet feather.

Mixing Adult Ducks and Chickens

Up to this point I’ve covered the basics from brooding ducklings and chicks together to integrating the juveniles with the adults. From the time the ducks are adults, they no longer hang out with the chickens they were raised with. Unless they happen to be eating, sharing snacks, or drinking together. Or unless you have a species-confused duck, like me.

Now it’s time to go over some final important details.

  • Continue to supply the same type of feed for ALL backyard birds

Once the ducks and chickens you raised are adults, they can eat layer feed like everyone else. And continue adding 1 TBSP brewer’s yeast to 1 cup of feed.

  • Carry on with same feeders and waterers

Since your duck-raised chickens are used to eating out of a shallow pan, continue that with the newbies. However, with your established flock, you can try keeping the technique you’ve been using. Though, if they start eating the newbies’ food, you may need to just switch everyone to the new method. And the same goes for their waterers.

  • Provide a watering hole
a couple of chickens and ducks mixed in with kiddie pools outside under a big shade tree

This is one of the most important points, because ducks not only love water, they need it. And not just drinking water either. They need access to a source of water to swim and bathe in. But again, it doesn’t need to be custom. You can just purchase a kiddie pool, and they will be content.

Also, when ducks swim, they poo; and they drink from this water source as well. And the chickens might too. So it needs to be changed at least twice daily.

At about this point, you might be wondering if chickens will drown in the kiddie pool. And the answer is debatable. Sure, chickens can’t swim like ducks. Plus, their feathers aren’t waterproof, and they lack webbed feet. But since they don’t like water the way ducks do, they usually only approach the watering hole to drink. From the time we’ve had our ducks and kiddie pool, no chickens have drowned. Though chicks should definitely be monitored.

Can You Mix Roosters and Drakes

black rooster stops by mixed mallard drake outside by a tree
In this picture, it looks like the 2 males are sharing a moment.

Given both roosters and drakes can be territorial, it’s only natural to wonder if you can have both at the same time. I usually only keep 2 adult roosters at any time. And they’ve never had a problem with the drake, whichever one I had, even when it was the sex-crazed Kirishima.

But it’s true that drakes might try to mate with hens. And this is usually the case when there aren’t enough females for the drakes. Just as there is a proper ratio for hens to roosters, there’s a proper ratio for ducks to drakes. Proper in this sense maintains harmony in the flock.

Therefore, to prevent abuse to your hens and ducks, and any fighting between roosters and drakes, provide enough females for both. You will find various recommendations on this subject. But I advise you to err on the side of caution, especially regarding mating season and drakes. Each rooster needs ~ 10-12 hens, while drakes require ~ 3-6 ducks each. You know what they say? The more the merrier.

What About Flock Dynamics

mixed flock of ducks and chickens outside near 2 kiddie pools under shade tree

Now that you’ve hypothetically (or realistically) integrated ducks into your flock, has the pecking order changed? Did you notice whether the ducklings, then juvenile ducks had a hierarchy remotely similar to the chickens?

Most duck lovers agree, me included, that ducks have a pecking order. Though it’s way laid back compared to chickens: they may chase, peck at (in their own way), or quack at someone. But usually the group doesn’t gang up on that someone, like chickens do.

In addition, the boss in each group is the male. But if there are 2 roosters, it is generally the senior rooster, unless he is weaker or has been challenged and fallen from grace. Drakes are different. The senior drake is more concerned with mating, from what I’ve observed, and so that influences most things. We had 2 juvenile drakes recently and Squirt ignored them; he’s only interested in the females. However, I’m happy to report, he hasn’t killed any ducks, unlike his predecessor. And the juvenile drakes, from what I observed, were just living life, being kids.

6 different types of ducks under a tree near a fence

Also, my roosters stay away from Squirt, although I’m not sure why. But then, they stay away from the ducks altogether; almost pretend like they’re not there. On the other hand, Squirt will get in Megatron’s face and yell at him only when Bakugo is flirting with him. Thankfully they haven’t come to blows yet.

So, Can You Mix Ducks with Chickens

While raising chicks and ducklings together can be difficult, it’s not theoretical. Plus, they form a unit until they become adults. And at that time they tend to stay with their own kind. Once adults, they might ignore one another, but they don’t squabble or fight each other. Furthermore, males of both groups are boss of the yard. However, if there was ever any contest, the drake would be the clear winner. Though it’s the duck’s callous disregard of the pecking order that makes one think they don’t even have one. But they do, in their own duck-ish way.

I sincerely hope I’ve answered any questions you might have had about mixing ducks with chickens. Do you currently have any ducks? Or are you thinking about adding any? Your comments are appreciated.

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Chicks Hens Protecting Your Backyard Birds raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

How Many Chickens Should I Have

Possibly you’ve seen the memes related to backyard chicken owners, with laughable signs of poultry addiction. They’re pretty funny and can be spot on. We were like that in the beginning too: Buying chicks, adolescent hens and roos, and always keeping our eyes open for more. But how do you know when you have enough? Or is it something you should figure out in advance? Well, I’m going to help answer the question, how many chickens should I have?

Assuming you’re not a commercial chicken breeder, and you already have birds, you likely know the legal situation of owning them where you live, whether in the city or suburbs. I live in the country on only an acre. And there are no limits like they have in the cities.

woman standing in the backyard grazing chickens
Photo by Константин Поляков on Pexels.com

But if you’re interested in getting into chicken-keeping and you live in the city, a lot of cities are now embracing raising chickens. However most don’t allow roosters due to crowing. Plus, there are limits to how many birds you can keep. So, if you live in an area with restrictions, that answers the question about the number of birds you can have.

Although, if you live on acreage, you have more freedom in the amount of birds you can own. In addition, it will affect whether or not you’ll keep roosters, because then it’s solely your decision. And since space won’t be an issue, collecting too many birds will be a temptation. Trust me.

How to Decide Chicken Numbers

Before answering our question, I’m going to present some facts that influence chicken-keeping. And, in effect, they will help determine how many birds you should have.

Decide the Amount of Birds Based on Purpose:

3 black and white Polish chickens
  • Layers
  • Or show chickens

So the first way to come up with how many chickens you should have, is knowing your reason for having them. Are you getting chickens to sell eggs? Or do you want show birds for competitions?

Solution to Choosing Birds Based on Purpose:

digital art of white Silkie receiving an award
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

If you’re getting layers, settle on how many eggs you want a week. Also, do you have a family? And are you going to try to sell eggs? Some breeds produce more eggs, and some less.

However, if you’re only getting chickens for personal use, then starting out with 3 to 4 hens will yield ~ dozen eggs weekly.

Similarly, for show birds, think about how many birds you need to enter competitions. But if you’re new to showing chickens, starting out with 3 birds is fine, as long as they’re all hens.

Decide on Number of Chickens by Your Space:

chickens on a grassy field
Photo by Styves Exantus on Pexels.com
  • Calculate how much space you have for any and all chickens
  • And if you already have a coop with run, then measure its dimensions to determine how many chickens you can fit in it

Most experts agree that each chicken needs ~ 3 to 4 square feet in the coop. That’s where the hens lay eggs and the birds shelter at night. And if there are predators, your birds will go there to hide.

In addition, figure another 5-10 square feet per bird in the run. The purpose of the run is managed safety for the birds to get exercise and daylight. But it’s not ideal for chickens to stay in confined space. They do best when they can forage and have free access to the whole yard. However, if you decide to keep your birds confined all the time, then calculate at least 10 square feet per bird.

  • And for pasture-raised or free-range chickens, plan on 250-300 square feet per bird
coyote loping on dead grass and snow in winter
Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Pexels.com

If you choose to have pasture-raised chickens, account for predators. So you’ll need a fence with hardware cloth to keep your chickens in and predators out. Living where we do, on only 1 acre, we don’t have that many. But we have neighbors with 5 acres who suffer coyote attacks, as well as other predator depredations to their flocks.

Determine Amount of Birds by Cost:

  • Financial commitment

Initial expenses are higher the more birds you have: if you don’t have a coop, you either need to build one yourself. Or you’ll have to buy one, or hire someone to build one. Plus, your monthly expenses on feed and bedding will be more. We spend ~ $200 a month on feed. And you’ll have added vet bills with more chickens. Not to mention, if you have electricity to your coop, that’s another expense that’s increased the more birds you have.

  • Can be labor intensive
man sweats as he's touching his head
Photo by Fabio Pelegrino on Pexels.com

Regardless of who makes the coop, they need one. Besides that and as a result of them eating, chickens poop a lot. So the more you have, the more poop you’ll have to clean out of their coop and run. Even if you clean in the recommended way, if you have 30 birds, it’s still a lot of work. Although, if you have a tractor coop and run, cleaning it won’t be as much of an issue, as I bring up here.

My 20-year-old daughter thinks we have too many birds. But I’m not there yet. Yes, we have over 30 chickens and several chicks. But some of our birds are close to retirement age with signs of a decrease in egg production, which is why I have chicks now. I’m preparing for the future.

So, How Many Chickens Should I Have

3 brown red Ameraucana hens by a wooden fence outside
From center going clockwise, Davis, Bumblecade, and Smiley.

To recap, if you live in the city or suburbs, check with your municipalities to find out their regulations. And that will give you the information you need. Though, if you live in the country, determining numbers really comes down to how many you can manage, financial and otherwise.

However, 3-5 hens is a great start to chicken-keeping no matter where you live. It’s kinda like just getting your feet wet. But the one hard and fast rule is that there has to be a ratio of no less than 10 hens to every rooster. Or else your hens will get abused by too much attention. I’ve seen it, and it isn’t pretty. Therefore, just make sure you get all girls.

If you have chickens already, how many do you have? And are you happy with that amount? Also, how did you decide on your chicken numbers? Your comments are appreciated.


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Chicks Hens Protecting Your Backyard Birds raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

How to Take Care of Chickens in Hot Weather

Last month several cities from Texas to California experienced triple digit temperatures. And the heat was made worse some places by humidity. Plus, due to La Niña, the heat’s to last for many areas. Further, we all know how important heat safety is for people. But what about animals? For instance, do you know how to take care of chickens in hot weather?

digital art of a brown chicken sweating
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

I’m sure everyone’s heard or read the story of the recent heat that killed the ~ 2000 head of Kansas cattle. Although cattle can sweat to some degree, chickens can’t. Therefore, they rely on us to make sure they don’t overheat.

Most poultry people say that chickens will pant in 80° weather. However I think that can depend on where you live. If you live further north, your birds will be used to temperatures there, not where I live. And vice versa. So you see, birds can acclimate to the weather.

For example, I have a flock comprised of mostly Ameraucana chickens, and they don’t start panting until the temperature gets to the 90s. However, the juvenile birds aren’t used to the temperatures. Thus, they look more bothered by the heat than the adults. Also, if the weather were to spike suddenly, then that could be an issue for all of them.

Additionally, chickens normally lose heat through their combs, wattles, and other non-feathered areas. But once the temperatures rise, heat loss changes to evaporative, which causes water loss. And a lot of water loss causes changes in electrolyte balance.

Signs of Light and Moderate Heat Stress

  • Chickens may pant, but otherwise still run around normal
  • And they may hold their wings away from their bodies

Solution for Light to Moderate Heat Stress

kiddie pool filled with ice water in the shade
  • Provide fresh clean water in waterers
  • Add ice to water
  • Cool down the run with hose
  • And provide icy treats

Dangerous Signs of Heat Exhaustion

sketch of a limp and lethargic chicken
Sketch, Courtesy of Paul Smith
  • Panting heavily
  • Wings held away from body
  • Pale comb
  • Or lethargic, limp, or unconscious

Solution for Heat Exhaustion

If you have a chicken in the above conditions, act quickly, because they are in danger of dying. The most important thing is they need to be cooled quickly.

  • Submerge them (to their necks) in cool water, NOT ice water.
  • And then move them indoors until they recover.
  • Also, provide them with electrolyte water in a medicine dropper, careful not to aspirate them.

Preventing Heat Stress and Exhaustion

It’s much easier to prevent a problem than trying to fix one when it occurs. Since we already know it’s going to be a hot summer, especially in the Midwest, let’s plan on an ounce of prevention.

Shade

mixed flock of chickens and ducks under oak tree
  • Trees in the yard

This is more of a longterm project. But when we moved into our house over 7 years ago, there were only 2 decent sized trees and a few small trees. Since living here, we’ve added several fruit trees and pruned the others. Now the birds have a choice of where to sit in the heat of the day.

  • Tarps or cloths on the run

If your run doesn’t have a roof, or it gets full sun, then add some type of shade for your birds.

Cooling Down the Coop and Run

person spraying chicken coop down with a hose
  • Misters

For evaporative cooling, this is an inexpensive solution. However, if, like us, you have well water, then you’d have to add a salt system to your outside water. Then that would require a whole-house water filtration system. And it could be cost prohibitive. So…

  • Hose the run

Spray down the dirt in the run with the trusty hose. So long as you don’t make it muddy, it will cool it down for the birds. You can also spray the outside of the coop for added benefit.

Ventilation

Likely your run will have enough ventilation. But coops are usually smaller. So install

  • Roof vents
  • Predator-proof windows to increase airflow
  • And if you have electricity to your coop, then add a fan for increased circulation. But be sure it and any cords are out of the birds’ reach.

Water

electrolyte solution for chickens
  • Provide multiple sources of fresh, clean, cool water
  • Locate them ideally in shady spots
  • When it starts heating up, add ice, ice blocks, or frozen water bottles to cool the water
  • Also, you can add electrolyte solution to the water
  • And since chickens won’t get in a kiddie pool, provide shallow pans of water for them to wade in

Feed

Given that digestion increases body temperature, birds won’t eat as much during hot weather. And you may notice egg production decrease as well. Therefore,

  • Feed your birds early morning or later in the day when it’s not as hot
  • Limit scratch
  • And provide frozen treats

Suggestions for Frozen Treats

cut up pieces of watermelon wrapped in Saran Wrap
whole kernel corn in muffin tins
  • Freeze 2 halves of a watermelon; then put them in the shade for your chickens to nibble on. It provides them with cool, refreshing water and ice. And it keeps them cool.
  • With 2 cans of whole kernel corn, fill each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin ~1/2 to 3/4 full and freeze. Then serve to your chickens in the shade.

Chicken Ice Cream

plate of blueberries mixed with plain yogurt
  • 1-2 c of plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 frozen banana, thawed slightly; then sliced
  • 2 c frozen blueberries

In a large plate or medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Then serve to your birds in the shade.

I have been making the above treats for my chickens since we started our real flock. And at first, they would react strongly to the frozen blueberries. However, now they’re all very used to them and welcome the cold treats. Plus, it’s funny to see them get brain freeze. They just shake it off and grab some more.

With the heat we’ve had, and are expected to have this summer, I have a list of things I’d like for our birds. Space is already at a maximum, so I want to increase the size of our coop, to make room for the newbies. Some of our hens and our senior rooster are in their older years. No telling how much longer they’ll be around.

Also, my husband needs to cut out a couple decent sized windows on their coop for air flow; then predator-proof them. And I would love to get an automatic waterer for them. But the only source of water is on the opposite end of our acre. We built their coop where there is more shade. So in order to supply them with an automatic waterer, we’d have to dig a trench and add pipe. My husband is going to look into it. With the amount of birds we have, it’s definitely worth it to me.

What do you do for your birds when it’s hot? Have you ever had one suffer heat exhaustion? What did you do? Your comments are appreciated.

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Hens Protecting Your Backyard Birds raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

How to Clip a Chicken’s Wings

Recently I wrote a post about certain breeds of chickens that could fly. And in it I mentioned three ways to prevent your birds from taking flight. Today we’re going to look more closely at wing clipping. Because, if you’ve never done it, it can seem daunting. Also, I’ll explain how to clip a chicken’s wings. However, first, let’s find out whether or not you should clip their wings.

Reasons to Clip a Chicken’s Wings

If you have pasture raised chickens, then you probably don’t have them penned in an enclosure all day. Which means you likely have fence line separating your property from your neighbor’s. And if you have one of those flighty breeds, they possibly frequent your neighbor’s yard. Therefore, the main reason to clip your birds’ wings is to keep them in their yard and on your property. And the other reasons to clip your chickens wings include:

mixed flock of chicks around raised garden bed with coop in the distance
This was our first raised garden bed, before we built the 4 1/2 foot fence dividing the yard. The chickens easily destroyed the garden, even with the chicken wire.
  • To restrict your chickens from destroying your garden, if you have one
  • In addition, to keep them from getting mauled by a predator
  • And lastly, to prevent them from getting run over by any vehicles, if you happen to live close to any roads

On the other hand, if you keep your birds in the run, then you don’t need to worry about clipping any wings. But just having a fence won’t deter a determined bird. Because, as I mentioned in my last article, some breeds can fly over 10 feet!

Pros and Cons to Clipping a Chicken’s Wings

person holding out freshly clipped wing feathers of a Black Ameraucana hen
We had to clip this hen’s wings after administering first aid; she flew into a neighbor’s yard, and my husband rescued her from being nipped by their dogs. Thankfully they weren’t big dogs, or the damage would’ve been worse.

A couple of the advantages of wing clipping are that

  • It’s safe and painless if done correctly.

Compare it to a dog getting its claws trimmed; but NOT to declawing a cat. Or it can even be compared to a human getting a haircut.

  • In addition, your chickens will re-learn behavior.

If you’re new to this, you might be scratching your head, saying, What? But it’s true, chickens can be motivated and taught certain behaviors. I’ve witnessed it in my own birds. With each bird that needs and gets its wings clipped, they no longer need to be re-clipped, because they’ve learned not to cross those forbidden boundaries.

  • And wing clipping is temporary, since chickens molt.

Thus, new feathers come in.

The disadvantages to clipping chickens’ wings include

  • If done improperly, it can cause bleeding
  • Also, if birds are in open pastures, roaming at will, then wing clipping limits their ability to get away from predators
  • And finally, some people think it makes the birds look less attractive

When to Clip and When NOT to Clip

Believe it or not, there are actually better times and situations in which to clip your chickens’ wings, if that’s something you’re considering.

mixed flock of mostly black juvenile chicks
  • First off, don’t clip any chickens’ wings unless they have their adult feathers.

Chicks go through several molts before they’re finally considered adults themselves. And if you clip their wings while they’re juvenile, you’ll just have to do it again. And again. Also, when feathers are growing, there will be blood in the shafts.

Growing feathers are dark or black, while fully formed ones appear clear or white.

you can clip as soon as the birds have all their adult feathers and it becomes necessary. (Emphasis mine)

Therefore, if your birds aren’t showing signs that they’re flying over any fences, then there’s no need to do any wing clipping.

  • And lastly, I already pointed out that birds in open pastures, roaming at will, would be hindered if their wings were clipped.

The BEST time to clip your chickens’ wings is when you have adult backyard birds that are repeatedly being a nuisance, getting into the neighbor’s yard, your garden, a busy road, or trying to get mauled by some animal. And most, if not all, sites recommend you first catching your birds. Forget that. Who wants to chase around a bunch of chickens all day?

Rather, here’s the alternative: Before letting them out in the morning one day, have someone help you clip their wings, one bird at a time.

mixed flock of black chickens in yard divided by wooden and wire fence

Materials Needed to Clip a Chicken’s Wings

  • Partner to help you

Having someone assist you with clipping your birds’ wings will make the job easier and go faster.

  • Good pair of scissors

You need sharp scissors to cut through the shafts; alternatively, you also could use sharp wire cutters

  • And styptic powder or alum

In the event you cut too short, and a feather starts to bleed, dip the feather in some styptic powder or alum, until it’s coated.

Instructions for Clipping a Chicken’s Wings

  • Get your partner and supplies; and without letting any birds out, (if that’s possible) set-up shop for wing-clipping

Since we can stand up normal in our run without trouble, that’s where we usually take care of things, like wing clipping. However, your coop and run may be different. If it’s smaller, you’ll have to get creative.

person in pink shirt holding Black Ameraucana rooster with one wing outstretched
Tiny Nuts already had his wings clipped, as you can see by the straight edges.
  • One person needs to hold the bird firmly, making sure one chicken wing is held securely against the chicken, so there’s no flapping, while the other person will clip the free wing
  • Next, have the person with the scissors locate the primary feathers; are the shafts dark or clear? If they’re clear, then they’re safe to trim
  • With a steady hand, only trim back the 10 primary feathers about 50% of the way; (unless you know your bird is a flyer, start small)
Notice the primary feathers.

Now, it’s at this point that a lot of sites suggest you’d be finished, because supposedly having one clipped wing would unbalance a chicken. And I also tried that approach my first experience with wing clipping. However, all of my Ameraucana chickens can fly with this unbalanced design. Hence, we clipped more. And when that didn’t work, we clipped more, and jaggedly.

  • Thus, you can trim only one side, but if you have one of the flighty breeds, like me, you just might have to go back and trim more than just the primaries and make it look ugly; remember to check the shafts, and if they’re clear, you can trim them
digital art of a chicken's wing
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Again, most sites adamantly advise against trimming the secondary feathers. But obviously they’ve never had Ameraucanas; otherwise they’d never suggest such a thing. Though there are a couple of sites that are familiar with the more determined flyers. So, if you have birds like I do, and you want to protect them, then you need to clip more than the primaries. It’s that, or risk them getting into trouble.

Conclusion

Wing clipping, if done correctly, is a safe and painless way to prevent your chickens from flying from the safety of their enclosures. Whether a few chickens or the whole flock like to get out, clipping wings can offer some respite.

Clipping a chicken’s wings is only temporary, and many sites suggest repeating the procedure annually. However, I disagree. Just like waiting to see if wing clipping is even needed, wait and see if repeating the process is necessary.

Black Ameraucana hen in front of brick wall
We’ve only had to re-clip this hen’s wings one other time after her molt; she learned her lesson after that.

For example, I have only had to repeat the procedure on one hen after her molt. The whole idea for me is to re-teach my birds, because they are teachable, contrary to what anyone might think. When their wings are clipped, they’re grounded for that time frame. So when their molt is ended, and their wings are in and they’re free again, hopefully they’ve learned not to go where we don’t want them to go. And that’s just what I’ve personally discovered happens with my own birds.

What do you think about wing clipping chickens? Have you ever done it?

Thanks for reading this post. Your comments are appreciated. If you liked this, please like, share, and please don’t forget to follow!

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All animals Chicks Extras Hens non fowl Roosters

Signs You’re a Crazy Pet Parent

We spend a lot on our pets. Not just in money, but also in time. Americans reportedly spend ~$2300 annually just on their cats and dogs alone. And that doesn’t even take into account chicken, rabbit, and reptile lovers. But there are more signs you’re a crazy pet parent than spending money on your pet.

While there are plenty of “crazy lady” memes, I use the term crazy a bit more endearing. Additionally, I don’t single out just women, because I’ve found that men can be just as fond of their pets. However, what does “pet parent” even mean?

The term pet parent is considered by some people concerned with the rights of animals to be more acceptable than owner

Collins English Dictionary

But it’s really just someone who looks after and cares for their pet.

Now I’ve broken this up into three sections. And the first set of signs you’re a crazy pet parent that we’re going to examine is the cat lover. Cats are mysterious. And they can be elusive or playful. Maybe you’re guilty of being crazy for cats. Or you know someone who’s heading down that path? Just continue reading to find out.

Signs You’re a Crazy Pet Parent: for Cats

You might be a crazy cat person if you

  • hardly go on vacation, because…what would happen to your cats?
  • may even read fiction books about cats with your kids
book titled Warriors with a black cat on the cover
  • talk to your cats, and reply to them when they meow
  • have more than a couple of cats
2 cats on a multi-colored and geometric bedspread covering 4 poster bed
  • gladly make room for your cat to be comfortable on your bed; BUT if some human tries the same, you push back
tortoiseshell cat lying on a person's lap while they're asleep
This is Meow Meow, when she still lived in the house and there was only Moses to deal with. She liked to sleep on me.
  • buy your cats presents
  • don’t get mad if your cat steps on your laptop keyboard, because she wanted to be near you and get your attention; however, now you just anticipate her and close your laptop to prevent any mess-ups
calico cat resting on a red bag
Whenever I’m working, Poppy joins me. But sometimes she tries to get me to stop.
  • sleep with cat food on the nightstand so the kitty knows where it is; cats are creatures of habit, right?
corner shot of multi-colored bed with bowl of animal food on nightstand
This is a daytime shot, however Poppy’s food does stay on the nightstand all night for her to find. It’s been like that since she was little.
  • don’t mind if the cat scratches the furniture
shredded textiles on footboard of bed
  • get them special treats
  • have cat themed items
  • FaceTime your cat in the event you’re ever away
  • celebrate your cat’s birthday
  • sing to your cat or make up songs about your cat
  • and if your cat takes your chair when you vacate it, it’s ok; you just take another one and move all of your stuff over

The second set of signs you’re a crazy pet parent that we’re going to investigate is the chicken lover. Chicken popularity has been going strong since Covid. So that means more crazy chicken parents. And the newer parents you are, the crazier you are. Trust me, I know. But that doesn’t mean that old chicken parents stop being crazy for their backyard birds. We just share our joys with fellow crazies.

Signs You’re a Crazy Chicken Parent

You might be a crazy chicken person if you

  • talk to your chickens
  • don’t run the chickens out of the garden even if you’re spouse tells you to
mixed flock of chickens in raised planter near a wooden and wire fence outside
  • make special treats for them
  • cook oatmeal for your family; and then make extra for your chickens, because they love it
oatmeal with raisins in metal pot
  • thank the chickens after they eat the treats
  • name all of your chickens
mixed flock of chickens and one guinea outside next to a house and fence
Percy, Sakura, Astrid, Sunshine, Dopey, Rex, Plo, Chopper, Smiley, Megs in the distance, Monday, Tuesday, the guinea Kurapika, and Soundwave. But I can’t really tell who’s on the other side of the fence besides Tiny Nuts.
  • have chicken t-shirts and wear them proudly
person wearing a purple and pink chicken t-shirt
  • read chicken blogs
  • have chicken themed items in and out of your house
  • save food for your birds, and ask others to do so as well
brown plate filled with spaghetti and salad with tomatoes
  • encourage the rooster; and believe that he actually listens
Ameraucana Maran mix rooster in a pet crate
This was Baby Nay a week after he beat up Megatron; and immediately after they both continuously fought. We had to separate them, then re-home Baby Nay. Hardest decision I had to make, because I loved them both. And they were both good roos.
  • are happier seeing and watching your chickens than TV; and they think you’re pretty darn special too
  • talk about your chickens to anyone who will listen, but you’re starting to notice their eyes glaze over
  • might have even let a weak baby chick sleep in your bed, snuggled in a hand towel
newly hatched chick on dull red towel
  • and when you go outside, your backyard birds flock to you

Finally, the last signs that you’re a crazy pet parent we’re going to consider is the dog lover. Dogs have been man’s best friend since, what seems, the beginning of time. They’re faithful, loving, and trustworthy. What’s not to like?

Signs You’re a Crazy Pet Parent: for Dogs

You might be a crazy dog person if you

  • set up play dates with your friends’ dogs
tri color beagle and west highland white terrier puppies playing on lawn grass
Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com
  • FaceTime with your dog when you’re ever away
  • leave TV or music on for your dog when you’re ever away
  • buy your dog toys
a dog lying on the floor chewing on a toy, surrounded by toys
Photo by Mathew Coulton on Pexels.com
  • flavor your dog’s food, because they don’t like plain dog food
  • take your dog on outings
sable Shetland sheepdog in the driver's seat of a vehicle
This was when we were moving from Dallas; of course he wasn’t really driving! That would be crazy!
  • let your dog sleep on your bed, even if they take up most of the bed
black, white, and brown dog asleep on multiple blankets next to a person
  • spell words out so your dog won’t understand
  • don’t mind dog hair on your clothes, furniture, or the occasional fur in your food
strands of pet fur on glossy wooden surface
  • baby-talk to your dog, no matter their age
  • love giving your dog belly rubs, and your dog loves it too
Australian Shepherd on her back on the grass
  • let your dog chew on you, because it’s how they say, “I love you”
Australian Shepherd has a person's hand in its mouth
Before I knew and loved Sophie as much as I do now, this behavior bugged me; now I know she’s just trying to hold my hand and get as much of me as she can when she’s excited.
  • have birthday parties for your dog
cute dogs in cones at birthday holiday
Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com
  • usually don’t go out of town for long, or go far
  • ignore anything your dog does that could be construed as bad behavior, because you love your dog; and “they’re such a good dog,” you say in the baby voice
  • and if you’ve ever stayed at a non dog-friendly hotel before, you might’ve snuck your dog in. Don’t worry. I won’t tell, if you won’t
sable Shetland sheepdog getting out of a black suitcase

There are some common traits all of these pet parents have in common that I have yet to list. Therefore, if you have cats, dogs, and chickens, please keep reading.

You Might be a Crazy Pet Parent if

  • On occasion, you’ve been known to spend more on pet food, bedding, litter, etc, than on your own groceries.
black wallet with dollar banknotes
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
  • Furthermore, you have more pictures of your pets than your children.
  • And you talk more about your pets than your kids. In addition, you’re more animated when you share about your pets.
  • Additionally, you post more on social media regarding your pets.
  • Also, going out of town for any type of vacation is difficult, because of all of your pets. So you don’t even know what a vacation is anymore. But it’s worth it, because who will love your pets like you do?
woman embracing the labrador retriever dog tightly
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com
  • And you admit that the word “fret” is in your vocabulary regarding your pets occasionally.
  • Finally, you might be a crazy pet parent if your neighbors are constantly trying to bring you strays.

Conclusion

This concludes the signs you’re a crazy pet parent. And I confess that I’m guilty of 98% of them. But it’s ok, because I love my pets. And if it turns out that you’re a crazy pet parent, it’s perfectly ok. Because, you’re accepted.

Also, I’m going on vacation next week for 10 days. So I might not post. We haven’t had a real vacation in 4 years. But back then we didn’t have the extra cats and our dog that we have now. We had Moses, but he was allowed to come on vacation with us then.

ocean under cloudy sky
Photo by Julia Kuzenkov on Pexels.com

In addition, the place where we’re going now is not pet-friendly. Although, that hardly matters, because Sophie would need tranquilizers to go on vacation. Anyway, this will be the first time that we left Sophie and Poppy for an extended time. So we have some anxiety about that. Therefore, if you think of it, please pray for our pets and neighbors. We have a lot of pets. Over 30, and some chicks that we’ll eventually sell. Thus, it’s a huge responsibility, however we have great neighbors.

Are you a fellow crazy pet parent? Do you struggle with going out of town because of your fur or feather babies? Or do you have awesome neighbors who help you out? Let me know how you handle these issues in a comment. And thanks for taking the time to read this post. Also, if you enjoyed this piece, please like, and follow for more.

Categories
Hens raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

Can Chickens Fly

When we were younger we learned that feathers and hollow bones allowed birds to fly. You may be curious to know that chickens also possess those traits. And yet, can chickens fly? Well, yes and no.

When chickens are only a few weeks old, they can fly or flit around. And that’s the closest they come to resembling flying around like other birds. But when they’re older, they don’t fly so much as use their wings to propel up and over objects. So they don’t cover much distance. That’s because not all of their bones are hollow.

Chicken Origins

colorful rooster on the ground
Photo by Paul Harrison on Pexels.com

Modern poultry descends from the Red Jungle Fowl, which has the ability to take off and fly away from danger. However this amazing bird isn’t suited for long flights. And present-day chickens have had this capability bred out of them with heavier body mass.

But still, there are backyard birds that have maintained this talent.

Chicken Breeds that can “Sort of” Fly

The following is a list of breeds that can manage the art of flying better than their counterparts.

Black Ameraucana rooster standing on wooden fence
Megatron, the rooster boss.

Heavier birds, like Wyandottes and Black Sex-links, can’t even get off the ground. Although, why would chickens want to fly in the first place?

Reasons Chickens Might Fly

  • The Grass is Always Greener.
mixed flock of chickens in a yard separated by a chainlink fence
In this picture, Tiny Nuts just flew back over the fence, while some of his hens stayed in the front yard. And one hen is on the fence, about to cross over to the other side.

Chickens love to explore and will go in your neighbor’s yard, because the grass and bugs are way better than what’s in your yard! Or maybe they just think the fence is some cool obstacle they’re meant to cross, and your yard and your neighbor’s yard just belong to the birds.

  • Henhouse Bullying

Introducing new birds, chicks figuring out the pecking order, and 2 adult roosters can and will cause some birds to seek out new territory.

I noticed that’s what Tiny Nuts has been doing with his harem, while it was raining yesterday, and he wasn’t allowed in the run. I figured out that he just wants his own place where he and his girls can live in peace.

Black Ameraucana rooster in a field
Tiny Nuts the Roo
  • Predators
raccoon standing on fallen leaves
Photo by Andrey Yudkin on Pexels.com

And the last reason backyard birds will fly away from their own yard is if there is a threat, such as a predator.

How High can Chickens Fly

6 ft tall wood panel fence
Our neighbor’s 6 ft tall fence. (The yellow yard stick isn’t truly a yard stick, as it measures 48 inches. It’s for comparison purposes.)

A four foot fence is not a deterrent to the breeds I listed above. For example, on separate occasions, both my Ameraucana rooster and his hatchery mate flew over my neighbor’s 6 foot fence. While their dog attacked Soundwave, Megatron slept in their barn overnight. But both were recovered and are fine.

Since having Megatron, I have seen some amazing aerodynamics. Also, his genes have been passed to all of his offspring. In addition, he inspires the other chickens to take risks as well, even if they can’t quite fly. They’re convinced the grass is greener.

How to Prevent Chickens from Flying

black chick flies over wire fence

I have seen material that suggests building a covered run or a taller fence as the right option. And though neither is bad, they just aren’t going to stop your backyard birds from flying over your fence if you have one of those “flying” breeds. None of mine have ever “flown the coop”. But when they’re approaching adulthood, they fly over the fence all the time. Further, you might not want to build a 10 foot plus tall fence all over your yard. And if you have a very big yard, it could be cost prohibitive.

Rather than building a bigger fence, another option posed by cleverpetowners.com is to trick their eyes with stakes and fabric. You can find their suggestion and instructions here.

backlit photo of clipped chicken wing

And the final option is wing clipping. Despite being somewhat controversial, if done properly, it is not painful to the birds at all. Furthermore, it isn’t permanent. The controversy stems from the idea that it promotes irritation, feather-picking, starting a vicious cycle. And that the birds whose wings are clipped are hindered from exercise and can’t get away from fearful situations.

From my own experience of raising chickens on an acre for 7 years, I can say that none of that exists. The birds whose wings we clip just seem to be expanding their territory. And usually it’s their rooster leading them into danger. Once the wing clipping has commenced and is finished, the only thing the birds find is that they can no longer go where they wish to go. So they have to be content in their own yard. There’s no feather picking and no irritation. And they certainly aren’t hindered from exercising, because they can still walk just fine.

As far as the fearful situations go, we only live on an acre; and the only predators that lurk around us are dogs or hawks. And the dogs can’t get to our birds with our sturdy fence. Additionally, our birds know to run to their coop at the first sign of danger. Or they use burst flight to get away, unless their wings are clipped. Therefore, if you live on a lot of land, you might not want to clip your chickens wings. I don’t think my in-laws do, and they live on 40 acres. Thus, they get a lot more predators. So, in that case, wing clipping could put the birds at a disadvantage.

In Conclusion

Black Ameraucana rooster flying vertically while dog and person watch
Can you see Tiny Nuts fly vertically? It’s not the best picture, but none of my birds need a running start to fly. And he was never in danger from Sophie.

We learned that chickens descend from Red Jungle Fowl, which can fly. And many chicken breeds can still fly vertically. We also learned that they fly to get to greener pastures and to avoid conflict and predators. In addition, most backyard birds that fly can easily clear 6 feet, while some can fly over 10 feet. Further, the suggestions to prevent your birds from flying include building a taller fence, tricking them with stakes and fabric, and/or wing clipping.

Thanks for stopping by! If you enjoyed this post, please like, post a comment, share, and please don’t forget to follow!

Categories
Chicks Hens raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

Best Chickens for Beginners

Not long ago I wrote an article about the best chickens for laying eggs. And the past few posts have been on chicks. But if you’re interested in backyard birds and aren’t too concerned about eggs or meat, then I’ll tell you the best chickens for beginners.

You’ll still have to take where you live into consideration. That’s because it will affect the birds you choose. Therefore, if you a pick a breed that has a large comb and wattles, living in a warmer climate will be ideal. Likewise, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, then picking ones with smaller combs would be better.

Further, some of these chickens were mentioned before as excellent egg layers. But all of the ones on today’s list, including the previously mentioned ones, are easy going, simple to care for, and for newbie chicken owners.

Best Chickens for Beginners: Ameraucana

Black Ameraucana hen and rooster eat a banana from person's hand

Ameraucanas are my personal favorite backyard bird. I have the black and red brown varieties. And if hand-raised from chicks, they never forget you. But, even if they weren’t raised from chicks, they learn and adapt quickly. Also, they come in beautiful colors. In addition, they are

  • Dual purpose
  • Lay ~ 200 blue eggs per year
  • Friendly
  • Not generally broody if you’ve gotten them from a hatchery; although I had one red brown one who did go broody; and the one Black Ameraucana chick she raised goes broody annually
  • Have a pea comb, so they do better in winters and in cool climates

Best Birds for Beginners: Australorp

  • Come in 3 varieties
  • Also dual purpose
  • Lay ~ 300 light brown eggs annually
  • Friendly birds
  • Can go broody, so if you want chicks, this is the best brooder
  • Have a single comb, so better suited for warm climates

Best Chickens for Beginners: Barred Plymouth Rock

Barred Plymouth Rock hen
  • Dual purpose
  • Tame and good with children
  • Lay ~ 200 light brown eggs each year
  • Can go broody
  • Also have a single comb, so they do better in warm climates

Best Birds for Beginners: Brahma

close up picture of a black and white Brahma chicken
  • Gentle giants, came from China
  • Dual purpose–used to be what we ate before the modern broiler
  • Very well suited to Northern climate with the pea comb
  • Stands confinement well
  • Can go broody
  • Comes in 3 varieties
  • Lays ~ 150 medium brown eggs annually, producing most during the winter

Best Chickens for Beginners: Cochin

  • Also giant and from China
  • Produces eggs during winter
  • Suitable for northern climates
  • Extremely gentle, including even the roosters
  • Broody; roosters will also brood chicks!
  • Comes in 9 varieties
  • Lays ~ 180 brown eggs yearly

Best Birds for Beginners: Easter Eggers

selective focus photo of a black and brown hen
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com
  • Dual purpose
  • Can be broody
  • Can come in a variety of looks
  • Lays ~ 250 colored eggs annually
  • Friendly
  • And combs and wattles will determine climate they’re best suited for

Best Chickens for Beginners: Orpingtons

  • Dual purpose
  • Come in 4 varieties
  • Lays ~ 160 brown eggs yearly
  • Calm and gentle
  • Broody
  • Has a single comb, so does better in warm climates

Best Birds for Beginners: Silkies

close up shot of a white Silkie chicken
Photo by Alex Arabagiu on Pexels.com
  • People primarily have Silkies for exhibition, though in Asia, their meat is considered a delicacy
  • Can go broody
  • Come in 6 varieties
  • Not a big egg layer, however they lay ~ 100 tinted eggs yearly
  • Have small walnut or cushion comb, so cold climates are suitable
  • Cuddly, lap chicken

Best Chickens for Beginners: Sussex

brown and white Sussex rooster on concrete surface
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com
  • Dual purpose
  • Come in 3 varieties
  • Lays ~ 230 tinted eggs annually
  • Docile, gentle and friendly
  • Can go broody
  • And has a single comb, so warm weather is more suitable

In Summary

So you see there are a number of backyard birds that would be great for first time chicken keepers. Additionally, most of them still produce a lot of eggs. And they’re friendly. Some even look and act like they could be lap pets.

Thanks for stopping by! If you enjoyed this, please like, post a comment, share, and please don’t forget to follow!