Beginning Again

I see the last blog post I did was in May of 2013. That strikes me hard. That is the month my husband became seriously ill. He died in July of 2013, and for the past six years I have spent doing most of what originally took two people to do: maintaining a house and four acres, mowing, cleaning, repairing, as well as helping raise my grandson and being care-giver to my elderly mother, while doing my best to not lose myself. Chickens? I was too tired.

A few hens died and a few I gave away. I threatened to be done with chickens, yet, somehow I could not. Grandchildren loved them, and so did adult son. This summer two hens remained in the neglected chicken house and continued to give me smiles: our dear Buff Orpington Maisie from the very first flock and sprightly Lacy, a Black Lace Wyandotte, from the last.

Lacy gives an egg five days a week, and amazingly Maisie, who is seven years old now, was also laying an egg several times a week–until she went broody again back in July. She happens to be the hen I last blogged about, who went broody early on. With my son and grandchildren’s help and a kind woman, who provided fertilized eggs, the chicken house once again comes alive with five new biddies of various breeds. And I find myself once again interested and delighted.

I have had a number of messages over the years from women who want to raise their chickens gluten free because of their children having Celiac disease. A number have written of their frustration because of getting sick when trying to raise chickens and having to feed gluten containing commercial feed. My stats give evidence of people visiting this blog everyday.

If you are wondering: Can I raise chickens gluten-free? the answer is Yes! And it isn’t that hard.

Our dear Maisie proves this out. In these past years, I have also learned that feeding chickens does have to be difficult, expensive, or perfect. I want to again start sharing what I have learned about keeping chickens in a gluten-free zone so that others, especially children with gluten allergy, can enjoy doing so.

I spent about an hour sitting and watching the three-day old babies and the hens, and I videoed something interesting. There is commercial gluten-containing feed in the feeder, because the large house, acreage, and chicken house now belong to my son. What I observed is that when I brought in a simple bowl of enriched corn grits, cooked rice, and oatmeal, both the hens and the babies prefer it! They also prefer the bird seed mixture, especially millet seed. It was a surprise to see they chose the natural food over the commercial feed. Lesson learned.

Once again I am interested in raising and feeding chickens, but this time I am far more relaxed about it. I have learned that the feed doesn’t have to be perfect, and the chickens will still live and provide great pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Did With Our Broody Hen

No, we did not killer her.

After a month of removing her twice daily from the nest to eat, and sometimes taking her yards away into the orchard, my dear Maisie was still broody. I never did see her come out of the nest on her own. I decided to leave her in the nest and see if letting nature take it’s course would be the answer. After four days, I got pretty worried about her dying in there. I could just picture it, flies, stink, eww. Seasoned chicken raisers told me she would come out when she got hungry, but they were also the ones that said a hen gets over being broody in 19 – 21 days.

I did a lot of reading of people who said their hens stayed broody for 6 weeks, 2 months, and one person said her hen never came out of being broody. Boy, that thought put my hair on end. Another person said plainly that she planned to put her broody hen in the dog pen. Let me just say, I get it. (I do hope she planned to cook it.)

A broody hen has gone into the hormone mode for hatching eggs, never mind that she has no eggs to hatch. While in this ‘broody’ mode, she will not lay eggs. See the difference in Maisie’s comb and wattle. Her’s have shrunk and gone pale.

Maisie Broody

Contrast that to her sister, Goldie Girl, her comb and wattle bright red, the sure sign of the good laying hen that she is.

IMG_0921

Obviously, since my other 7 hens have not gone into this sitting behavior (thank goodness!), there was something within Maisie’s physical make-up that caused her to swing into the hatching egg mode. Only I do not have a rooster, and did not have eggs to hatch, nor did I want either.

In Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, author and chicken raising expert Gail Damerow mentions a number of times the need to cull the flock of those chickens that are sickly or not performing to their purpose, which for me is laying eggs. Thankfully I’ve not yet had to learn the skill of killing a chicken. I do have one girl who is lame, our dear Elvira, who walks around stiff-legged, but the dear girl is true to her purpose and lays an egg most every day.

A myriad of ‘cures’ are put forth to break a broody hen and get them back on track. You can read on this thread at Backyardchickens.com, or run a search. I think everyone and his cousin has what they put forth as a sure-fire method to break a broody hen.

In the end, I decided to get three fertile eggs from a friend who raises her own chicks and slip them under Maisie. So far she’s still broody, closing in on 5 weeks now, sitting on those eggs in a fit of hormone stupor. I have twice removed her from the nest to eat, which she does for about ten minutes, then makes her way back to the nesting box. Only, get this, she gets into a different nesting box, without the fertile eggs! Obviously the hormones only direct her to sit in the nest, not care about the eggs.

Oh, how purposeless hormones can make a being!

Big Happy Face to Farmers Helper Ultra Kibble

Ultra KibbleThis post is especially for all my celiac and gluten-intolerant peeps. I’m so excited! We bought happy face stickers to put on our grandson’s homework pages for when he does a good job, and I’m giving a Good Job Happy Face to the makers of Farmers Helper Ultra Kibble. According to the detailed ingredients list on both the package and the website, and I confirmed it by telephone– Farmers Helper Ultra Kibble contains no wheat, barley, or rye grains, nor any soy!

This fact is a wonder in the world of commercial poultry feed products. In addition to what it does not have, Ultra Kibble gets the happy face for things it does have, such as fish and salmon meal, probiotics, lots of veggie mashes.

The Ultra Kibble is formulated to be a supplement to your normal chicken feed of choice, not a main feed. The company says on their website: “Our products optimize avian health and minimize feed wastage.”

I already mentioned the Ultra Kibble for Chicks in an earlier post about our sickly chicks. I believe the supplement helpful in getting our puny biddies going, and now that I’ve discovered regular Ultra Kibble, I plan to put it in with the hens’ feed. I found the Ultra Kibble for Chicks at our local Tractor Supply, and I plan to see if my feed store can carry it.

Smiley_face_2Thank you, Farmers Helper for being such a help to our hens and our family. Good job!