How to feed the wild birds, but protect your chickens.

If you're like me you can't stand to see a hungry animal. It just kills me! I put out deer feed blocks in the snowy days of winter and hang suet from the trees. We have several bird seed feeders and I make sure they're always full in the winter. I love seeing the wild birds. We have so many different varieties here! While I love to see the birds, I need to keep my poultry in mind when I'm deciding how to feed the wild birds. 

Wild birds can transmit diseases like Exotic Newcastle disease, Avian Influenza, Fowl Cholera and Mycoplasmosis. These can be devastating to your flock! They can also have a variety of parasites like lice and mites. Sadly, having wild birds hanging out in your yard can expose you chicken flock to these problems. So...what to do?

Feed the birds, protect the chickens.

How to keep wild birds away from your chickens

First, place your wild bird feeders far away from your coop and free range area. This puts our feeders at the front of the property and the flock at the back, several hundred yards apart. I also put some feeders in a clearing in the woods....which is an acre or two from the chickens area.

Keep feeders off the ground. Hang them as high as you can. You wouldn't want your chickens pecking at the same stuff the wild birds are eating. 

Enclose the area under the feeders so the chickens can't get to it. A simple plastic fence will do. Something the chickens can't hop over. Hopefully they will never even find your wild bird feeding area, but if they do you don't want them to have access to spilled bird seed. 

Clean up wild bird poop. Many diseases are spread through the droppings so if you're walking through the poo and tracking it back to the coop, you'll be spreading disease yourself! Keep the area clean. 

We put the feeders away in the Spring. There are plenty of natural food options for birds during growing season. I would hate to get them reliant on us for feed so we don't feed in the warmer months. I like to think of it as 'helping them through the winter'. I'm afraid if I have wild bird feed of some type available year round, I will end up with an uncontrollable amount of wild birds. While I may be able to contain my own poultry flock, I can't guarantee the wild birds only go where I want them to. I already worry about them 'cleaning up' any spilled feed in the poultry area. (plus the bears rip them down to get at the feed but that's a whole 'nother issue!)

Keep an eye on the health of the wild birds. Watch for watery eyes, infected sores, lumps, and other signs of disease. Look at droppings left behind, they shouldn't be runny, bloody or mucous-y. 

There are some who will disagree with me I'm sure. Some people believe that any type of wild bird feeder is a bad idea when you have chickens. I'm not a vet, I'm only a Pa state poultry technician......so while I know a bit about transmittable diseases and testing for them (that's what I do, the testing) I certainly am not claiming to know what works for your individual flock. There are lots of wild birds anyway, and putting out feeders far from the coops  seem to cut down the amount of wild birds trying to get to the poultry feed. Your experience may vary, and as always.....do what works best for your flock!

~L

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Protect the coop floor with vinyl remnants

I'm sure you've noticed that the wettest part of the chicken coop is often where they poop the most. Being that most coops are wood, wet poop laying on wood for any length of time is not a good thing! This is why droppings boards are so awesome. 

Mounted just below the roosts, droppings boards (or poop boards as they're commonly referred to) catch the poop before it hits the floor. Poop boards can be cleaned easily (or replaced) keeping the wood floor dry underneath. However, there are some areas in our larger coops where placing droppings boards would be impossible. 

In the largest coop, some of the Guineas have decided against the roosts and instead prefer roosting on the ceiling braces. This puts them directly above the middle of the coop....and 7 feet up! No way to use a droppings board here. Instead we've decided to protect the floor...on the floor.

vinyl on coop floor

How to save a cracked hatching egg

I had a really bad thing happen last month. I broke a hatching egg that was less than a week away from hatching. It gets worse though.....my only roo from the d'Uccle pen had been taken by a hawk a few weeks before. His girls stopped laying eggs for a week or so after that, I assumed from the stress. By the time they got back to normal, I only got a few eggs to start developing before they all became infertile.

fix a cracked egg

So you can imagine my heartbreak when the lid of the incubator slipped out of my hand and crashed down on this precious egg. The egg was cracked in several places. I almost cried. Almost, but I know a cracked egg can still hatch so I just sprung into action. Meet Lucky: he came out of that broken egg & this is how I saved him.

October recap, fall on the farm

Fall is officially here. Halloween is over and it's getting really freaking cold! lol It's that time of year when the stores start bombarding you with Christmas and while I'm not quite ready...I know I have to accept the inevitable! *sigh*

chicken on a pumpkin
The cabinet incubators have been turned off for the season. Only a small Brinsea incubator remains...to be used only when absolutely necessary. It's time to make a firm decision on which breeders to buy from for the new year. I'd like to add 2-4 chickens to each flock...Marans, Silkies and D'Uccles. I'm still thinking it through though. The final trip to the auction was made. the last of the Guinea keets are sold. We're down to about a dozen (or less) Silkie chicks. Silkies are hard to stop from being broody, so I'll allow them to hatch a few over the winter. How many depends on demand. Sadly our Mille Fleur D'Uccle rooster was taken by a hawk. This picture was taken in the morning, by afternoon he was gone. 

chicken farm with pet chickens

He was an awesome rooster and we'll miss him so much. Luckily we had a few chicks left and selected a male to keep. We're already working with his son Romeo and hoping he'll be a good addition to the flock. (but still looking to add in a roo from another NPIP flock) I tried desperately to hatch the next few weeks of eggs from the hens. The first one to get close to hatching had a terrible accident! The incubator lid slipped out of my hand and landed on the egg crushing it! I was so upset, but managed to fix it and just over a week later little Lucky hatched. (I took pictures through the whole thing...the post about it should be up this week.)

baby chick

The chickens have loved playing in the leaves! I added some dry leaves to the run again. I do this every year and they love it! I posted about it last year: Using Fall leaves as Litter in the Chicken Run.

chicken standing on fall leaves

We gave them the rest of the pumpkins and Jack 'O Lanterns, a few zucchinis and some green beans that were getting a bit woody. The garden fence got pulled down and they have been having the best time just digging for bugs and eating weeds. They're turning the dirt and having a good 'ole time!

chickens in  the garden

I finally caught the critter that's been stealing the Guinea feed! I'm not real sure if it was a small rat or really big mouse, but he's gone now. It took awhile! He was a sneaky one. I caught a glimpse of him on the thermal camera a month or so ago. I knew the minute that I saw him that he had to go, it was just a matter of when. At first I closed up the traps every morning and put them back every night. I really doubted that method would work, but I didn't want the chickens getting into the traps and getting hurt or killed! (imagine if it snapped shut on a neck. *shudders*) After a week of that not working, I put the 2 traps side by side and built up the area around it with plastic trays and boards. It sat there undisturbed for another week or so. I would drop some dinner leftovers in through the top every few days, but didn't dare touch it. Finally he wandered in and got caught. Yeay! I've got the traps back out, but I haven't seen any rodent activity since he went away so I'm hoping that was it. Kinda cute though, isn't he?


small rat in safe trap

If these pictures look a little familiar, some of them have been posted on Instagram. I post there several times a day. My name on there is @MuranoFarms If you're not following me....please follow me and let me know you're a chicken person (or other farmer) so I can follow you back! I run a family friendly account, so it's safe to let your kids follow me too.

I guess that's it for now...have a great week and Happy Fall!

~L