Articles from skullgrrrl

A few years ago I decided to make annual records of everything I got for free (ok, so I’m a bit OCD, but its been fun and informative to look back on them). I place online ads or answer them; finds things at the side of the road or in the free pile at a garage sale; get fruits and veggies from our local food recovery program, ask for scrap material at building sites, etc. This post is about all my chicken related finds as an inspiration to others about how you can save things from the...
One of the challenges of keeping chickens is to determine the sex of chicks and young birds. It’s not an exact science, but it does get easier after looking at many birds – you begin to recognize patterns if you can watch chicks from hatch till maturity. Sexual dimorphism is the differences in appearance between males and females of the same species, such as colour, shape, size and structure. They are created by the inheritance of sex-linked genes responding to varying amounts of sex...
If you keep chickens long enough you’ll run into most parasites, injuries, illness and disease. I’ve only had to deal with one prolapsed vent, and there’s a reason they call it ‘blow out’. A vent usually becomes prolapsed when there is an problem passing a soft-shelled or very large egg and there is prolonged straining. The lower part of the oviduct turns inside out and protrudes through the vent (think of it like a hernia). It can be quite mild and easily remedied or severe and potentially...
We all know that calcium is required for egg shell production. If we have a hen that lays soft or thin shelled eggs we boost her calcium intake. So what should we be giving our flock to assist our girls to make strong, healthy egg shells? More egg shells, of course. I ask my egg customers to return their clean dried egg shells, then crush them up and add them to their pellets. It’s a great source of free calcium. If you’re thinking about how to tweak their diets foods that are high in...
I'm fortunate to live on an island without a lot of predators: big (bear, fox, coyote, bobcat) or small (skunk, opossum, snakes). We do have transient cougars, but the deer population is quite healthy so there've been no run-ins with farmers or pet owners. We're not without predators: there are eagles, hawks, owls, mink, marten and raccoons. Ravens can take eggs and birds and even kill piglets and lambs. Some people are plagued with successive waves of different predators. I have neighbours...
I've shown off my birds a lot, but thought I'd share some of my set up. It’s a rainy, grey day but everyone cooperated for the photo shoot. I'm not a farmer, I'm a hobbyist and decided I wanted both a practical and aesthetically pleasing coop and pen. I spend a lot of time with my birds so I wanted it to be clean and attractive. My 1200' sq ft pen contains: • A 13’x8’ ft coop, concrete foundation, insulated, wired and divided into two sections. One is the main coop accessible by an...
The first time you see a chicken dust bathing it can be a bit worrisome. Is it having a seizure? In its last death throes? Nope, just playing around in the dirt. It’s a bit counter-intuitive: you have to get dirty in order to get clean. Chickens don’t use water to bathe like some birds, but prefer loose soil that they spread around their bodies by flapping and rolling. This activity shakes small parasites, like mites and lice, off their feathers. It also coats their feathers, which keep...
Here’s a follow up to my article “Pullet or Cockerel? Understanding Sexual Dimorphism Will Help You To Figure It Out”. Sexual dimorphism is the differences in appearance between males and females of the same species (i.e. combs, size, colour, etc). Knowing what those differences are will help you sex your birds. After I posted that piece someone asked if this works for crests as well. And the answer is: yes. I have had many crested birds, mostly crosses derived from Polish, Appenzeller...
If you buy eggs from a store they are graded and those with imperfections aren’t sold. Once in a while you might see flaws in a farm egg but you probably haven’t given it a great deal of thought. Here’s the lowdown on some egg oddities. Double yolks commonly occur in new layers when yolk release is mistimed and two yolks travel down the oviduct together. Older hens tend to lay larger eggs because the oviduct loses elasticity over time. A double-yolker rarely hatches. Eggs with no shell...
From my Bitchin’ Chickens News – an insert that gets added to every egg carton: •It’s a myth that chickens lay an egg a day. You know that because my supply is up and down throughout the year. Laying cycles are affected by molting, winter daylight shortage, hot & cold weather, illness, stress, lack of fresh water or weeks of incubating eggs and taking care of chicks. •Most hens are productive layers for two years before slowing down, but some continue to lay eggs for several years. One of...
Warning: Photos are not for sensitive viewers Several years ago, I was given an 18-month old Gold Laced Wyandotte. The previous owner, who had had her for 9 months, said she had only ever laid a handful of eggs. In the 4 months I had her I don't know if she ever laid. She appeared healthy (beautiful feathers, red comb), ate, drank and ran around. One day I saw her in the nest box and was excited that she was finally going to start laying. My optimism was premature because later, when I...
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