Category Archives: Reader’s stories

Lesson 446 – Double yolked eggs and other oddities

If you take one of my chicken workshops, then you learn how chickens form and lay eggs. The first thing I always do is draw a chicken oviduct on the white board. It’s not that hard to draw because essentially the oviduct is simply a long twisted tube.

So let’s start at the beginning. Roughly every 18 hours (more for some birds, a little less for others) a hen releases an egg. That’s the yellow part that is blamed for our cholesterol counts being high.

As it travels down the oviduct, a gelatinous membrane is added. That’s the white of the egg, also called the albumin and is the stuff of which lovely meringue is made of.

The egg then continues to travel down the twisty oviduct. Because it is being rolled over and over, the fibrous strands inside (called the chalaza) twist which helps to anchor the yolk within the albumin.

Once the egg reaches the lower portion of the oviduct, calcium is deposited around the egg creating the shell. Continue reading

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Lesson 426 – Cold and flu season for the chickens

A bit of a Public Service announcement.

In my chicken workshops, I cover a little topic called Biosecurity. Basically it’s steps you can take to protect your flock from outside illness.

A healthy chicken is a healthy chicken

Treat your flock as you would any other animal, I tell my classes. Wash hands, wear boots to the chicken yard that are left at the door. Chickens are not dirty animals but they can carry diseases.

Just be smart.

I warn them about things like if you go to a county fair and touch the livestock, wash your hands and change your clothing (including shoes) before you interact with your flock (bet you didn’t think of that one) Same thing goes if you visit a farm, or your kids go to a petting zoo.

And if you introduce a new chicken into your flock, you need to isolate her for at least a week to see if she has any symptoms of disease.

I told my class about how we were nothing but lucky when we purchased our adult hens. We didn’t know any better and simply put them in the hen house with the others. Luckily what could have been a recipe for the destruction of our entire flock, turned out to be nothing more than a happy home-coming.

This past weekend, I got several emails from a person who had been in my class and who was in a spot with his chickens. It seemed that while on Craigslist (trying to get rid of two roosters) he saw an ad for some free egg laying hens. Such a deal right?

Except that very few people (other than breeders) want to get rid of egg laying hens. Those are the bread and butter of your flock. I would be suspicious of anyone offering an adult hen (this is not to say that there aren’t legitimate offers out there, just make sure you clear them first – do your homework.)

He contacted the owner, picked up the birds, and put them in with his flock (of two, now that the roosters had been removed.) Within a day he noticed that one of the new birds was sneezing. Not a good sign, chickens can get flu like illnesses (bird flu, anyone) that can make them very sick. With the sneezing it’s also tough to control the illness’ spread throughout your flock.

Should I isolate her? He wrote me.

There are all kinds of expressions to answer that one and “closing the barn door after the horse is out” is the one that first came to mind. The damage has been done. If the bird was infected (and it certainly sounded like a sick bird, healthy birds just don’t sneeze) then it’s too late. His entire flock was in danger. He went to a local feed shop and got medicine to treat all the birds.

The salesperson at the feed store told him that he should throw away all eggs while the birds are on the medicine and for a few days afterward. Good advice. Store eggs are loaded with antibiotics and hormones but home eggs are (hopefully) not. Store eggs have a certain level of medication that is allowed (I know, gross) and when you are treating your own flock, it’s tough to regulate that level. You could end up with super-antibiotic infused eggs. Continue reading

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Filed under All things chickens, All things local, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicken talks, Life Lessons, New Hampshire, Personal, Project Chickens before the Eggs, Reader's stories

Lesson 405 – Lauren Scheuer – a Good Egg

When you choose to have chickens you automatically join a brotherhood (actually, it’s more like a sisterhood) of friends where everyone seems to know your name. Chicken owners can always recognize each other from across crowded rooms, it may be the wood chips in our hair, the chicken tattoo on our wrists (don’t worry mom, I’m not there quite yet) or the calm look in our eyes when we think of reading a book in our backyard surrounded by our gentle, clucking ladies.

Lauren Scheuer author of the blog Scratch and Peck – true stories of a small flock of remarkable individuals – and other critters, is one such person.

For the life of us, we can’t figure out how we connected (obviously there was the chicken thing going on) but we did.

Lauren loves her chickens. I love our chickens. There’s the connection, ’nuff said.

Except that Lauren is also an artist who draws the most incredible pictures of her chickens and their adventures. (The story of her chicken Lil’White going to Petsmart is nothing short of inspired and check out the story of the melon rind feeding.) Her chickens have personalities, they have adventures. My kind of gal.

I’ve never met Lauren (she leaves lots of comments on this blog) but I just know that one day if we do meet, we’ll spend many house chatting about our chicks over coffee and some fresh blueberry buckle (with cream.)

Lauren has graciously let me put a piece of her art up on my blog. Just look at this picture. Doesn’t it make you want to smile? Hearts and chickens – adorable.

Scratch and Peck - Lauren Scheuer Cutest chicken picture ever.

From her website, Lauren describes her life as:

Lauren’s flock includes a special-needs hen named Lucy, a fixer-upper chicken named Pigeon, and Marky the Terrier. Lauren is a professional illustrator specializing in kids’ books, games and puzzles. She’s done a whole slew of books for American Girl, (comment: Addy and Emma! did you read that?) and her clients include Boston Museum of Science and Roger Williams Zoo. Lauren works from home where she can enjoy her critters, her teenage daughter, husband, messy house, facebook,…. When she’s not outside, she can be found inside, looking out.

A special needs chicken???!!!! A messy house????!!!! Clearly chicken owners are without doubt birds of a feather.

Pleased to have you in the flock Lauren! You’re a good egg.

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Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, Chick Literature, Chicken art, Chicken fun, Good Egg Interviews, Inspiration, Literary-chicks, Reader's stories

Lesson 308 – How much space does a chicken need?

It’s a matter of space – just how much room does a chicken need.

The start of something big.

This weekend, I got the following question from a reader; Brian regarding how much space you should allocate for chickens. I get this question a lot so I have included the entire email converstation here (trust me, it’s worth reading).

I know you’ve probably covered this somewhere in your blog, but I can’t find it. You’ve said that you have a 12′ x 25′ area for your 33 chickens. That’s about 9 square feet per chicken. Does that area include the henhouse or is it just the outside run? What I’m looking for is a good recommendation for the number of square feet per chicken for the inside area and the number of square feet per chicken for the outside run area. I’ve searched the internet and the numbers are all over the place from what seems to be a ridiculously small area to some that sound more like a palace. I sure would appreciate tapping your brain on this one. Thanks.

Here is my response to Brian:

Space requirements vary depending on the breed of bird you have and with whom you are speaking.

http://www.animalhouses.biz/stallions.html

If you look on this page, the red coop at the top is ours. The enclosed area is 4 x 6 with a 6×6 pen. That held about 23 birds (we have some very small birds so it wasn’t that crowded). Continue reading

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Project Chickens before the Eggs – Lesson 237 -more chickens from Vietnam

And now for your entertainment, more pictures of chickens taken by my sister who is currently over in Vietnam on a business trip. (and yes, while there she is seeing more than just chickens but these are the photos that are absolutely fascinating me).

In an earlier post, Peg mentioned that she saw lots of Roosters who appeared to all be getting along. Alas, no photo was sent with that comment so I emailed her to see if she had more pictures. (now remember where she is? isn’t this just amazing?? I can show my age by telling you that I remember when instant Poloroid pictures were considered High Tech and here I am getting instant photos of chickens from halfway around the world)

Peg obliged me by sending two more photos. In the first here, yes indeed, there are several roosters who do appear to be getting along quite well. Hoo-ray for Vietnamese roosters, perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from them.

And then in this beautiful photo we see a mama hen taking care of and protecting her baby chicks.

Some things simply transcend boundaries.

If you want to read more about Peg’s adventures in Vietnam – click here.

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Filed under All things chickens, Chickens in travel, Life Lessons, Project Chickens before the Eggs, Reader's stories, The Family

Project Chickens before the Eggs – Lesson 210 – Sometimes it’s not easy having chickens

In one of my other secret identities I write about B2B (Business to Business) marketing. I know, I know, it compares not to chickens but it does pay for the kids’ (all 6 of them remember?) shoes. 

I recently got this letter from Doug Spak who is a consultant working in the B2B space helping companies and individuals create and deliver presentations that inform, inspire, and motivate their audiences.

This story just goes to show that chickens (yes chickens) cross all boundaries and enter all hearts – if you are willing to let them. Although it doesn’t have the best of endings it tells of a connection we can all make with the earth, our food, each other. It is touching and inspiring, my kind of story.

Thanks so much for sharing this with us Doug. Continue reading

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Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Project Chickens before the Eggs, Reader's stories, The Chicken Challenge