Tag Archives: hen house

Lesson 454 – Roosting in the roost

We currently have 38 chickens in our flock three of which are bantams and are very small (think fat pigeons) and nine which are this years’ juvies (and at least two of those are roosters which will be moved out soon.) We do not have any giants in our flock. Some people question if we have enough space needed for all our chickens (and of course with my post yesterday mentioning that we’re going to close off 4 square feet of the pen, it means even less floor space available to the girls.)

But I’m not worried and here’s why.

Chickens are roosting birds. From the time they are bitty babies, they like nothing better than to roost on a stick or even an outstretched finger.

We have several indoor and outdoor roosting bars (which is really just a fancy name for wooden dowels.) some running from wall to wall and others free standing. At any time, you’ll find nearly half of the flock either in the nesting boxes or standing on a roosting bar. Once one hops down, another will take it’s place. In fact, I have never gone out to the henhouse and NOT seen birds on the roosts, it’s just kind of what they do. Chickens feel comfortable when they are up high, they feel safe and of course, there is the added advantage that their feet stay dry, something you want to encourage to avoid freezing in the winter and fungal growth in the warmer months. Continue reading



Filed under Backyard Chickens, chicken care

Lesson 432 – Where we belong

Late last night, we found out that power was restored to our house. Oh callooh callay!

Because our town had made the decision to hold school the next day (much to the kids’ delight there has been no school Monday through Wednesday) we made the decision to pack up and move out then instead of at 5:30 the next morning.

The kids were a little upset, they had to be pulled away from a movie that had been set up on a projection screen for all to watch. They hadn’t finished the large cups of popcorn everyone viewing the movie had been given.

The kids were tired, out of sorts and they had finally had it up to here with disruption after disruption. It showed in the bickering in the car on the way home.

Brush your teeth, get into bed, I kept repeating when we got home, we’ll find your math book in the morning.

Today, the kids are at school. Some of them are wearing socks they’ve had on for days, some are in need of an extended hot shower. All had to take cold items in for lunches, apples, granola bars, even the last of the emergency poptarts.

But they are back where they belong, in a routine that feels familiar. A life that feels in control.

While they were away, I walked around the house assessing our home that we had to leave so quickly.

The Halloween decorations are still up but as the town has moved trick-or-treating out to this coming weekend, they will remain up at least for a few more days playing games with my mind – witches and skeletons in the snow.

Limbs in the yard will need to be gathered and chopped in preparation for the wood stove which we WILL be getting. Continue reading


Filed under All things chickens, All things local, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, New Hampshire, Personal, Project Chickens before the Eggs, The Family

Lesson 431 – what a chick does at a shelter

Hi there. We’re still at the shelter and while we’ve spent most of the day away doing errands and checking in on the flock, we still find ourselves here at night taking advantage of the heat. I don’t know how many of you have had the experience of staying in a shelter but I thought I’d share with you, what it is a chick does while staying in an emergency shelter.

First of all, a chick relaxes. The kids are safe, the animals are tucked away for the night, despite the storm’s fury, all is well. It really is. Time to take a deep breath.

A chick must also see to Holiday decorations. Several young members of different flocks are here and let’s face it, Halloween in a shelter is not the best place to  be.  So to be festive (and to continue being a mom, above all else) this is how a chick celebrates Halloween in a shelter.

After a very short time, this is how a chick keeps clean. There’s a trick, if you pick the very last shower on the left and press the spigot twice, you can get warm water.

And lastly, this is how a chick spends the time in a shelter. She has to be around to supervise the kids (no basketball near others’ cots please) and she has to keep an eye on where those young pullets and cockerels are but like the village that a shelter eventually becomes, everyone sort of takes care of each other. People are given rides, older people are given food first, and moms get to put up their feet in order to read the book they’ve been dying to start – an opportunity to rest their bodies before the arrival of the next crisis.


Filed under All things chickens, All things local, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, New Hampshire, Personal, Project Chickens before the Eggs, The Family

Lesson 430 – the other side of the storm

Most of you know that we live in New Hampshire and if you’ve paid any attention to the national (and, from what I hear, international) news you know that we got WHALLOPED this past weekend from a huge freakish October snow storm (and this on the heels of that hurricane just a few weeks ago.)

We ended up getting about 9 inches of snow, which is not really a big deal in January when the trees are bare and have slowly hardened in the winter cold, but it is a big deal when the leaves are still on the branches. And that’s the situation we faced going into the storm, only the maples had dropped their leaves, the rest of trees were in trouble.

I’ve lived in New Hampshire a long time and have never been through a storm quite like that one. Power lines up and down our street were sparking as the snow laden trees bowed down to brush them, leaves igniting.

I called 911 when we saw the electrical lines were lighting up and was put on hold.

Around 10:30 p.m. as we walked around the neighborhood we saw that a tree on our property was actually on fire.

I called 911 when we discovered the fire and was put on hold.

It certainly felt like end-times.

I had read predictions that the storm would be catastrophic.

They were right.

The resulting destruction is amazing. Wires are strewn across roads, limbs and full trees are down everywhere. We lost some grand old long-time standing beauties during this one. Such a shame.

In our town alone, 98% lost electricity. Here it is Tuesday morning and we still don’t have electricity at our house. The most current predictions are that we’ll get it back sometime on Friday or Saturday.

We don’t have a generator or a wood stove. We have a cold, drafty house with no water. (Trust me, we’re in discussions to change this.)

Even still, we’re fortunate. This is a photo of a limb that missed our henhouse by inches, you’ll be happy to know that all of our chickens came through the night unscathed.

too close for comfort

Nothing fell directly on our house and the tree fire sputtered out once the power lines went dead. Our dog; Pippin is safe, the kids are fine (even Emma who was diagnosed with croup the morning of the storm.) We’re inconvenienced but what are you going to do? Life happens. We’re spending nights at a community shelter and days between the cold house, the local library, and the shelter.

We’re all warm and safe and counting our blessings to be among the lucky ones.


Filed under All things chickens, All things local, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, New Hampshire, Personal, Project Chickens before the Eggs, The Family

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


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 422 – Winter num-nums for the chickens – gag

I am starting to rethink the winter care for our chickens.

Until now, I’ve been telling people to include a little bit of suet in the chickens’ feed a few times each winter. My reasoning for this is that, even though it’s an animal product, the fat would do the birds good during the cold winter when they are burning more calories. (I suppose you could use peanut butter but the fear of having their beats glued shut from the paste frightens me.)

No one wants a fat chicken (unless you are going to slaughter it) but no one also wants a chicken that has starved during the cold months when the good fat and protein from insects is virtually non-existent.

I had always felt bad about this though. I had been taught to NOT give your chickens any meat at all (along with no onions or garlic), but I figured if we leave suet out for the outdoor birds that come to our feeder, we could give some of it to our chickens. It was sort of one of those “yeah, but…” decisions.

And then in one of my recent chicken workshops, some chicken owners told me that their chickens LOVE ham.

Well that’s a little weird. Didn’t that make them carnivores? A little cannibalistic? Continue reading


Filed under All things chickens, All things local, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicken fun, New Hampshire, Personal, Project Chickens before the Eggs

Lesson 418 – The compulsion of eggs

I recently came across this little bit of interesting hen information:

“Did you know… To produce one egg, it takes a hen 26-28 hours, and to do so, she requires 5 oz. of food & 10 oz. of water. After a thirty minute rest period she starts all over again! That’s one busy chick!”

I just think it’s amazing that these birds are so programmed to constantly produce like this. Granted, they slow down in the winter but they don’t stop. We’ll still be getting eggs from this endless production cycle.

You couldn’t stop this cycle if you wanted. It’s not within your reach to halt it anyway. It’s something that’s innate, a need, a compulsion to create this egg within her body and then to push it out, over and over and over.

It’s hard work, and just because millions and millions of other hens are also doing this, doesn’t mean that it comes without pain and some temporary discomfort. Continue reading

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Lesson 417 – Winding down for the season

It is amazing how a flock’s egg production drops so drastically in the fall (just as amazing at how it seems to pick up so quickly in the spring). Cold weather and dark days are a signal to the chickens to lay low, give their bodies a rest, recharge for the coming season.

We’ve gone from 19 eggs a day (from our roughly 30 laying bird flock which includes half a dozen bantams who are not daily layers to maybe 20 eggs total every other day. Nothing has changed in the diet, the birds are healthy, it’s all just nature slowing things down a bit.

I see this happening in our family, how we’ve changed from the quick, quick, cold tuna salad dinners served on the porch to the slow simmering beef stews that take time and leave you full and warm as you sit around the table, preferring to discuss the day rather than go away to the cold.

In the winter, I am always sluggish. I get up later (just can’t do it in the dark.) Our house is freezing so our bodies really feel the seasonal difference. We wear multiple sweaters in the house, wrap ourselves in blankets when we settle down to read a book or watch TV. When I write, I have to wear those Bob Cratchit gloves in an effort to keep my hands warm.

We slow down, we conserve energy, conserve heat. We regroup from the frenetic pace of summer followed by endless fall soccer games to the muffled quiet of cold. Continue reading

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Lesson 413 – Getting the coop ready for winter

Monday Night, I held another workshop on chickens. It resulted from previous classes requesting a more advanced chicken discussion covering care of and problems that can crop up in chickens.

One of the topics (and I’ll be covering them all in future posts) is winter care.

If you live somewhere where it gets cold (really cold) in the winter, (like us in New Hampshire) it’s time to start your preparations for the winter.

I’ve already talked about the bedding. There needs to be one last mucking out of your henhouse and from now on you just add a clean top layer to what’s there. This accomplishes a few things: Continue reading


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Lesson 410 – How to clean a chicken’s egg

Monday night I gave a workshop on backyard poultry owning for our local town’s Adult Education program.

This is the second time I’ve given this workshop and many who attended are also signed up for the advanced class next week on “now that you have a flock, what’s next?”

Monday’s class covered the basics. How to get chicks, what’s the difference between a straight run and sex-linked birds (a very important thing to know), and what to feed your birds as chicks and then as egg-laying hens.

We talked a lot about eggs.

First of all, when the eggs are laid, they are covered with a thin film of oil that acts as a barrier protecting them from bacteria and water loss (the water content of an egg is high, if the water evaporates from inside, you’re going to have a bad egg.) If you don’t wash the egg, it can sit on your counter for a few days un-refridgerated and still be good. Think about it, in colonial times, they didn’t have refrigerators, most often the eggs sat in the kitchen until they were ready to be used.

Once you wash that oil coating off, however, the egg must then be refrigerated. In the refrigerator it can last up to a few months, but a washed egg on the table will only last a few days.

There are a few questions that I always get asked, one of which is how do you clean the eggs? Continue reading


Filed under All things chickens, All things local, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicken fun, Eggs, Everything Eggs, New Hampshire, Personal, Project Chickens before the Eggs