Friday, January 19, 2018

How to prevent frostbite in chickens

Frostbite is a huge problem this time of year. With the record cold temperatures we've been having, many people are worrying about their chickens getting frostbite. Frostbite is caused by extreme cold, but moisture and wind chill contribute to it greatly. 

What is frostbite? Definition: injury to any part of the body after excessive exposure to extreme cold, sometimes progressing from initial redness and tingling to gangrene. Frostbite is treatable, though in extreme cases a chicken might lose part of their comb, wattles or even toes. Obviously it's better to prevent frostbite then to have to treat it and that's what I want to discuss today.

preventing frostbite | chickens

Frostbite affects chickens combs, wattles and feet primarily. Larger combs and wattles are especially prone to frostbite. I know everyone says "get cold hardy breeds" and it is true that many cold hardy breeds have smaller combs and wattles, thus not being as susceptible to frostbite. BUT it's a little too late to worry about that now, so lets just get to the steps you can take today!

Friday, January 12, 2018

How to incubate and hatch eggs

It's suddenly occurred to me that though I write about raising chicks all the time, I've never actually written about hatching them. I've been hatching steadily for about 8 years now and I've used everything from homemade incubators to cabinet incubators that hold almost 400 eggs. That's a lot of chicks! 

Since hatching season is rapidly approaching, I think now is the time to talk about incubating eggs and hatching chicks. First, decide if you should hatch chicks instead of buying them already hatched. Most people choose to incubate eggs that they purchased from a breeder to add a new breed to their flock. You can buy hatching eggs from a flock clear across the country and have them shipped to you. That's how I get most of my chickens, especially the fancy breeds. Others just like to expand their flock by hatching eggs from their own chickens.

How to hatch chicks

Obviously the easiest way to hatch chicks would be to just let a broody handle the egg hatching. That way you don't have to worry about temperature, humidity and all that jazz. This is easiest if you want to hatch chicks from your own flock. If you don't have a broody though you'll need to use an incubator and that's where it gets a little more complicated.

First, you'll need to get an incubator. There are two types of incubators. Forced air and still air. Still air incubator means there is no artificial air flow inside the incubator. Forced air incubator means that the incubator has a fan inside it to circulate the air. It's important to know what kind of incubator you have because the temperature requirements are different for each one.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Are your chickens warm enough?

It's been ridiculously cold for about 2 weeks now! I have gotten several calls and a gazillion messages, emails and DMs asking me if I think chickens can be warm enough without heat. Especially considering the extreme low temperatures as of late! Many parts of the country are having subzero weather conditions right now which is obviously very concerning.

Of course I firmly believe they can keep themselves warm as I've mentioned before. I even wrote about it in Should I Heat My Chicken Coop? Since this is a question that comes up every winter though, I decided to do a little experiment to prove just how warm chickens really are.

are chickens cold?

Chickens stay warm by fluffing up their outer feathers and trapping air underneath them. This air is trapped in the soft, downy feathers next to the body. That also explains why chickens sometime look all puffed up when it's cold out. This air warms up and acts like insulation. Knowing this, it's only logical that the air next to their body would register as much warmer than the air around them, if I could measure it. Luckily, I can do exactly that!

Monday, December 18, 2017

How to keep eggs from freezing in winter

During the long cold winter, farm fresh eggs become fairly scarce. Unfortunately cold temperatures can mean that the few eggs the hens do lay, freeze before we can gather them. Since those precious eggs are so few and far between this time of year, we certainly don't want to loose them to freezing!

Chicken eggs | freezing

Luckily there are a few steps you can take to insure your hens eggs do not freeze in winter. Even when they don't freeze though, eggs require a little bit of special handling in the winter months. Many of us keep our fresh eggs on the counter and we know that once refrigerated, eggs must stay refrigerated to keep them safe for consumption. 

Unfortunately, eggs laid in the colder months often chill to refrigerated temperatures very quickly. To be on the safe side, I store eggs in refrigerator instead of on the counter during cold weather months. Cold eggs will sweat as they warm up to room temperature. Sweating removes the protective bloom which can allow bacteria into the egg.