Tag Archives: meat for chickens

Lesson 677 – Meat for chickens

Meat for the chickens

meatFor some reason, when I first got chickens I had assumed they were vegetarian. After all, they ate the grass and leaves from their coop yard which was augmented by grain feed.  An occasional bug? Well that hardly counted as meat, right?

I have since come to learn that chickens love meat. In fact, I’ve seen them go crazy for it.

I first started looking into this when a woman in one of my chicken workshops once told me the story of how her chickens seemed to adore ham. When she would put her scraps in the coop, the chickens would pounce on them. Of course, this discussion gave rise to the question that perhaps the story of Green Eggs and Ham wasn’t so farfetched after all? Continue reading

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Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care

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 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

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