Tag Archives: eggs

  • Egg Bound Hens

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    Considering that a chicken lays an egg every 26 hours or so, it's no wonder that things sometimes go wrong. Occasionally, an egg will get stuck in a hen’s oviduct and she will become egg bound. Signs of an egg bound hen include sitting on the ground or dragging wings, fluffing up, lethargy and closed eyes. Frequently, an egg bound hen’s tail will be down and most likely she will be straining or pumping her backside. Upon closer examination you may notice liquid dripping from her vent. You may even be able to feel an egg-shaped lump.

    Causes of Egg Binding - More common in young pullets, egg binding could be due to a large or double yolked egg that is too large to pass through, genetics, stress, dehydration, internal worms, low-quality feed, poor health or a calcium deficiency. Calcium is needed for proper muscle contraction. Too much protein in a hen's diet can also cause egg binding.

    You want to handle your egg bound hen carefully to avoid breaking the egg inside her. A broken egg can become infected and lead to peritonitis, which is caused by egg material stuck inside the hen and must be treated immediately with an antibiotic and probiotic powder to build up her good bacteria. Even if the egg is not broken, the condition must be treated quickly. An egg bound hen will die if she is not able to pass the egg within 48 hours, so once you have made your diagnosis, treatment should start immediately.

    Treatment for Egg Binding - Bring the hen into the house and soak her in a plastic tub in your bathtub.

    Submerge her lower body and vent in warm water with some Epsom salts for about 20 minutes, gently rubbing her abdomen. Remove her gently from the bath and towel dry her, blotting her feathers carefully, then blow dry her with a hair dryer set on low heat.

    Rub some vegetable oil around her vent and very gently massage her abdomen once more then put her in quiet, dark location - such as a large dog crate or cage. You want to create moist heat, so set the cage over a pan of hot water, put a heating pad and towel on the bottom of the crate or set up a heat lamp, then drape a towel over the cage.

    Give your egg bound hen an eyedropper of Nutri-Drench and 1cc of liquid calcium. Then give her some time to herself. Repeat the soak in the tub every hour or so until she lays her egg.

    As a last resort, a visit to a vet is recommended or, if you can see the egg, you can try to carefully extract the contents of the egg using a syringe. Then you will need to gently crush the shell, keeping the fragments attached to the membrane and remove it using vegetable oil squirted in and around the vent. This is risky and carries with it the danger of your hen contracting peritonitis, so should ONLY be used after all other remedies have been tried.

    Fortunately, being egg bound is not all that common, and there's a good chance you may never have a hen suffer from it, but it's still good to know the signs and how to treat it.

  • Bull's Eye! Lessons I Have Learned about Roosters from John Quincy

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    We have been keeping chickens for several years, but have always bought sexed chicks so we have never had any roosters.  Then this past spring, we hatched our own brood and out of 17 chicks, ten ended up being roosters.  We obviously couldn't keep them all - the neighbors would have organized a lynch mob to protest all the crowing and our hens would have had something to say about it too - but I fortunately was able to find good homes for all but an Olive Egger named John Quincy Adams.


    In the  ten months we have had him, I have learned a lot about roosters and how they interact with the rest of the flock.  Here are some of the lessons I have learned:

     

    1.  You don't need a rooster to get eggs. I actually already knew that, but it bears emphasizing because it's an oft-asked question on our Facebook page.  Hens happily lay eggs without a rooster in residence. The only difference is that the eggs won't be fertile. But fertile or not, they look and taste the same, contain the same nutritional content and both are fine for eating.  The only difference is the 'bulls-eye' on the yolk of a fertilized egg which is the rooster's DNA material. An unfertilized egg will have only a tiny white pinhead dot which is the hen's DNA material.  A blood spot on the yolk does NOT indicate fertility, it's merely a broken blood vessel.  I had never seen the bull's eye in an egg in person before and it's pretty neat - and unmistakable.

    2.  The rooster is not always at the top of the pecking order.  Our alpha hen, Orange Chicken, and a few others have made it clear that they aren't going to give up their place in the pecking order. So John Quincy is somewhere in the upper middle - and even sleeps a few rungs down on the roost each night.

     

    3.  Roosters don't only crow in the morning....they crow all afternoon and into the evening too. I have heard that some roosters even crow in the dark! Fortunately John Quincy only crows during daylight hours. But the notion of hearing a roosters crow at sunup and then not again for the rest of the day is hogwash.  He crows pretty much all day long.

     

    4. Roosters really do work to protect the flock.  When I let the hens out into the pasture, John Quincy roams the perimeter very vigilantly and sounds an alarm if he senses danger.  A hawk swooping by recently caused him to round up the hens and herd them under a bush where they stayed while he ran into the middle of the pasture, as if offering himself up to the hawk. Fortunately the hawk decided it was no match for me, our dog plus John Quincy and moved on. Then JQ gave the girls the 'all clear' signal once he had determined it was safe to emerge.  I still won't free range our flock unsupervised, despite his presence, because many a rooster has lost his life protecting hens and that's not a sacrifice I am willing to let the little guy take.  He is no match for a determined hawk, fox or dog.

     

    5.  Roosters are gorgeously regal. I think a hen with glossy feathers, bright legs and feet and shiny eyes is beautiful.  But roosters take the cake. With their long tail feathers, proud erect poses and air of authority, a well-cared for rooster is a sight to behold.

     

    6. Roosters can be mean.  But so can hens.  And the rooster isn't being mean for the sake of being mean. He takes his job seriously, and at times, even you are a threat to his flock.  Having hand-raised my roosters, I think they trusted and accepted me a lot more than they would had I acquired them as pullets, but there have been a few times when John Quincy has pecked me or gone at me, spurs first.  The latest was when I was trying to squirt saline into one of our hen's eyes. She was blinking and I wanted to rinse out any dust. She was squawking and putting up a fuss and John Quincy came right over and basically attacked me. But in his mind, I was hurting one of 'his' girls.

     

    7.  Roosters will protect the smaller and weaker members of the flock. John Quincy will routinely break up squabbles between the hens.  He steps right in whether two hens are fighting over a treat or space under a bush.  He also pecks any hens who pick on our smaller, younger pullets, who have taken to hanging around him for 'protection'.  Like a typical man, he can't stand female 'drama' and makes sure there isn't any in our  his run.

    8.  Roosters delight in finding 'treasures' and calling the hens over. I had heard about this but never seen it first hand. When they are out free ranging or I toss treats in their yard, John Quincy will make a high pitched, excited sound and then pick up a treat and drop it at the feet of the hen who he wants to have it.  It's very sweet.

     

    9.  Roosters don't need as much food as hens and won't touch free-choice crushed oyster- or egg-shell. Because they lay eggs, hens expend a lot of energy and nutrients and therefore have a higher calorie requirement than roosters or non-laying hens. Layers also need supplemental calcium to ensure strong egg shells.  The calcium should always be served free-choice in a separate bowl and not mixed into the feed so each hen can eat what she needs, and the roosters and non-layers won't eat any of it. If they ingest too much calcium, it can lead to kidney damage, and somehow they know that.

     

    10. Roosters often flap their wings before crowing to push oxygen into their lungs. Because they have very small lungs and a complicated respiratory system, and because crowing takes a lot of lung power, often a rooster will flap his wings just prior to crowing to push as much oxygen into his lungs as possible so his crowing will be as long - and as loud - as possible  Now aren't you glad they have learned to do that!

  • The Fall Molt

    Written By Don Schrider

    Early fall is the time our chickens change their feathers. As winter approaches, this provides birds with a brand new set to give them the best possible protection from cold, wind, and precipitation (snow, rain, and ice). It is a great advantage for our birds to change their natural “clothing” each year just when they need the most protection.
    This annual change of feathers is called a “molt”, and the fact that it coincides with the reduced daylight of fall and winter is no accident. In poultry, light stimulates the pituitary gland, causing hormone production. This in turn causes tissues to elongate and soften, including the ovaries, and results in egg production. As day length shortens, hormone production slows and egg production ceases.
    We also have feather moisture at play. When feathers are first growing, the body is able to supply the feather follicles with nutrients – the follicles are soft , moist, and sensitive. As the feathers complete their growth, nutrients are directed toward other bodily activities – such as egg production. During egg production, much of the nutrition consumed is directed into the eggs. After months at peak production, little to no nutrition is available to the feathers, so they begin to dry out. This drying out is enhanced as the body seeks to find enough calcium to form eggs. The result is not only dry feathers, but brittle feathers that begin to wear and even break. As day length lessens, molt begins and the birds have new feathers just in time for cold weather.
    In order to grow a good set of feathers, and for those feathers to last as long as possible, our poultry need good nutrition. This starts with a balanced diet having a good level of protein and vitamins. A good supplement can help ensure that adequate levels of oils and nutrients are available when poultry need them the most. Omega Ultra Egg™ offers a host of benefits as a supplement for molting poultry. The natural oils help produce wider, stronger, more weather resistant feathers. It also helps extend the useful life of feathers, these same oils making the feathers less brittle. The calcium and vitamins Omega Ultra Egg™ contains help provide increased levels of those needed nutrients.
    So why are oils important? Natural oils help repel water – keeping the body of a chicken warm and dry on damp days. Oils also help maintain flexibility and prevent the feathers from losing moisture as their structures endure use over prolonged periods. Essentially, the internal moisture content of feathers ensures that the feather barbules, the small, hook-like structures that web together to form feathers, are flexible from the inside so that they do not break open. When feather moisture is lost, either from the surface becoming brittle or from the internal feather structure becoming brittle and breaking, the feathers begin to wear more quickly and lose their insulating and protective properties. Brilliant feather sheen is the result of good oils in the diet and of good feather moisture levels.
    Calcium and protein also both play a role in feather makeup and quality. Protein is the main building block the body uses to grow and to produce feathers. Some producers find higher quality feathers produced from low protein feeds – causing slower feather growth and thus longer periods for the hens being out of production. My own experience, and that of those I have mentored, has been that better feather quality, and less time out of production, come when feeding higher protein feed (usually 18-22% protein feeds). Feathers contain calcium carbonate, and thus calcium is needed to grow and maintain good feathers. When hens are laying and there is too little or just enough calcium in their diets, feathers become brittle and hens may even peck at each other’s feathers a bit to gain this much needed nutrient. After all, there are no eggs if there is no shell; and we all know egg shells are made of calcium.
    Extra nutrition is needed anytime birds undergo stress. Molt and peak production are just two examples of stress. Bad weather or harassment by dogs or small children are two others. The best plan is to have this supplemental nutrition incorporated as a regular part of the poultry diet. In this way, there is no deficiency to overcome or to aggravate a weakened condition.
    I use Omega Ultra Egg™ as a supplement all year round. Not only do my birds have healthy feathers, it ensures that my birds have supplemental nutrition from which to pull during times of stress. The fact that the oils in Omega Ultra Egg naturally have the correct balance between Omega 3 and Omega 9 fatty acids, and that the eggs the hens are healthier for me is just icing on the cake.
    So as you care for your birds during their time of molt, be sure that they receive everything they need to produce strong, healthy feathers that will last them through the winter until molting season next year. You will have happier hens and more eggs for your efforts.
    Text copyright © Don Schrider, 2012. All rights reserved.
    Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. He is the author of the revised edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, which is due for publication this fall and will be available at bookstores by January, 2013.

  • Why Keep Poultry?

     

    Written By Don Schrider
    December. This is the time of year for reflection and for remembering what we value. Do you remember what attracted you to poultry? What was that early fascination? What benefits has this passion brought to your life? Why do you put so much work into this hobby?
    I start my winter mornings before the sun. I get up and go down to the barn where my guard dog greets me. The chickens hear me coming and the roosters all compete to be the first to announce the morning and breakfast. The world is largely cold and quiet in those dark early hours, but the chickens start to stir. They greet me with great interest and what I imagine is a bit of greedy hopefulness that the “man” may have a special treat today. Every now and then I even manage to remember to pause and just look around, watching the sky start to glow, smelling the fresh, cold air, hearing the sounds of the new day. Greeting each morning with the chickens is one of the wonderful experiences my hobby provides for me again and again.
    Each evening, after I get home from a long day at work, I go down to the barn for my evening chores. As I collect my eggs and empty water buckets (so I don’t have to beat ice out of them in the morning), I observe my flock and decompress from the tensions of the day. By the time I get back to the house I feel relaxed again. Keeping my chickens is the best therapy I have ever found, and has a way of bringing good to a bad day.
    In our family photo album is a picture of me when about 2 1/2-years old, showing a friend the neighbor’s flock of White Leghorn hens. Exposure to this and other neighborhood flocks probably is to blame for instilling the chicken bug into me. I remember standing and watching the chickens for hours. The way they interacted and moved and the noises they made fascinated my young mind. I still love to sit and watch the chickens. Their antics are humorous and even my neighbor, who was never fond of having chickens next door, has found watching the chickens to be a surprising delight.
    Now when I spend time watching the chickens there is an additional sensation – looking over birds with high caliber type and color is a visual experience that, for me, compares to drinking a fine wine. I love the glossy feathers and rich colors. As my flock has grown in quality over the years I have drawn more and more satisfaction from observing it. This satisfaction is perhaps enhanced, owing to the fact that I have produced my own stock for over twenty years now – each bird representing generations of my selecting decisions. It is a blessing to have my chickens.
    So as you reflect on the old year and plan for new, take a moment and consider all the joy keeping poultry has brought for you. What do you enjoy the most? Giving eggs to friends and family? Giving the birds treats?
    As you make resolutions for this new year, be sure to include providing your birds with the best care you can. This should include treats that keep them in the best condition and in perfect health. If Omega Ultra Egg™ is not a part of your feeding program, it should be.
    Text copyright ã Don Schrider, 2012. All rights reserved.

    Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

  • The Chicken Revolution

    Written By Don Schrider
    There is a revolution happening all across the backyards of America; a revolution of hen keeping has found its renaissance. If you are reading this newsletter, then perhaps you are a revolutionary, a patriot of local, sustainable cuisine, a libertarian of food independence, a builder of a new food system, and an independent thinker. If so, you are part of a growing group of people who care about the nutritional value of the food they consume and the impact it has on the environment and society. And maybe, just maybe, you have found that keeping chickens is just outright fun.
    Omega Fields has asked me to write a bi-monthly article for you. I’d like to consider this as more of a discussion, amongst we revolutionaries, and invite you to ask questions and share your insights. All topics regarding chickens are open. So send you comments to me at . To start this series, I’d like to focus on getting the flock in shape for the coming winter.info@omegafields.com
    Fall is the time of year when leaves turn red, yellow, and orange and fall from the trees. It is also the time of year that our best egg layers drop their feathers and produce the new ones that will protect their bodies all winter long. Feathers are an important part of the chicken — they help shed rain and snow, protect the birds from cool breezes, and trap body heat to help keep the birds warm all winter long. Feathers need to last an entire year, so the value of their durability, flexibility, and quality are much more than cosmetic for the home flock.
    So what does it take to produce quality feathers? Don’t commercial feeds contain all the ingredients needed to produce and maintain good feathers? The answer to the second question is “No.” Commercial poultry feed has been developed to supply just the bare minimum of expensive nutrients needed to keep a hen in top laying condition – no extra expense has been considered and no consideration has been made in its formulation for the production of high-quality feathers. As a revolutionary you need to understand that feed formulation has economics as its guiding principle.
    Feathers are comprised of many tiny, finger-like fibers, hooked at their ends, that are called barbules. As you might expect, the barbules hook together forming solid webs. It is the quality of these barbules meshing that gives good feather quality. Good feathers require a great deal of quality protein to produce. Vitamins, such as riboflavin, aid in producing durable, flexible feathers. And naturally occurring oils, such as those found in Omega Ultra Egg, are needed to maintain water resistance and sheen, and are used to prevent the feathers from becoming brittle and wearing out before the next molt.
    Quality feathers are an essential for pastured poultry as the feathers are the hen’s natural protection from the elements. So it is as the new feathers are growing that we poultrymen (and women) should concern ourselves with feeding to grow better feathers. I suggest to you that this is the best time to feed out supplements like: probiotics, poultry mineral supplements, poultry vitamin supplements, oils as found in Omega Ultra Egg, wheat germ, and codliver oil, and to feed a protein supplement, like fish meal, or feed a breeder quality feed such as game-bird breeder layer crumbles. Omega Ultra Egg has high percentages of protein and calcium to help increase the total amount of those necessary dietary items.
    November is also the best time to consider internal and external parasites. Both of these can reduce the quality of the feathers and will cause the bird to consume more calories to stay in good shape. There are some good wormers on the market for poultry, but if you don’t have access to these you can use an old method that was once sanctified by the U.S. Army (circa World War II), that of dropping walnuts with husks still on (preferably green husks) into buckets of water and allow to stand overnight. You use one walnut per gallon, though you can put in two or three walnuts and then add one or two more gallons of fresh water when you feed it out. This feedout a few times weekly will rid your poultry of internal parasites. For external parasites, I recommend adding wood ashes to the areas your chickens choose for dust bathing. This should be mixed in the soil a little bit so that it does not blow away. Don’t worry when your chickens eat some of the charcoal in the ashes – it is a natural anti-toxin and helps in the absorption of calcium. Your chicken poop may be black for a few days, but your chickens will be healthy.
    Speaking of calcium, the practice of offering oyster shell, or another calcium source, free-choice alongside granite grit, is still an excellent idea for pastured hens. The grit is needed to help digest the choice food the chickens forage and the grains we feed them. The calcium will allow our hens to balance their own diets when their forage does not provide the needed levels. A lack of calcium is also one of the main causes of poor feather condition during summer months and can even lead to feather-pecking and eating (as will low protein levels). Again, Omega Ultra Egg can help increase calcium levels in feed.
    So let’s feed our birds for good feathers and make sure they enter winter free of parasites. The result will be lower feed consumption, healthier chickens, and an earlier return to laying. The chickens will be happy and so will we!
    Text copyright ã Don Schrider, 2011. All rights reserved.
    Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

  • Wild Bill, Rudolph Valentino and Mr. Fugley

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    This fellow's name is Wild Bill. He gets that name as he has quite the way with the ladies. He is a white Leghorn Rooster. He would like to think that he is top dog, but he is not. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    That honor goes to his fellow. Mr. Fugley. We don't know what he is. His mother hatched him out and his dad could have been any number of roosters we had at the time. Poor Mr, Fugly, He may not be much to look at, but the ladies love him and he is ruler of the roost. Even the dogs leave him alone.

    A few more of Wild Bill. He spends a lot of time talking the big talk but is nowhere to be seen when Mr. Fugley comes around.

    This is Rudolph Valentino, he is named after the famous Latin

    lover from Hollywood’s early years. Quite the handsome fellow don’t you think?

     He is even brave enough to take on the cats.

     

     

     

     

     

    But this is what happens when he sees Mr. Fugley.

    Now this is what the roosters spend so much time fussing over.

    Girls.  Girls.  Girls.
     

    This is one of the ladies they spend so much time fighting over. Her name is Grace. All of the speckled hens like her are named Grace.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    All of the red ones are named Ruth.

     

     All the white ones are named Gladys.
     
     And all the ducks are named Richard. Don't laugh, It just makes thing easier.

     

     

     

    And here is why we keep Mr. Bill, Rudolph Valentino and Mr. Fugley around at all. They keep the hens happy. Happy hens make more eggs and more eggs make a happy me!

     

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