Easter Sunday Rabbit Road Trip (Plus Tiny Chicken)

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We were contacted last week by a local retirement home that desperately needed some bunnies for their Easter party, since they had advertised it everywhere and their previous bunny wrangler had backed out.

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We agreed, and spent a few hours today introducing some of our rabbits to a very enthusiastic bunch of seniors and their grandkids. As a special treat, Tiny Chicken the Old English Game hen came along as well.

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The bunnies did very well and were very well-behaved being placed on so many strange laps for photographs. They enjoyed their spacious box filled with treats while the kids gave them lots of love and attention.

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Tiny Chicken surprised me by being the best behaved little chicken I have ever seen. She sat quietly while being petted, picked up, loved and hugged by dozens of kids. She never once tried to fly off even though she is an excellent flier, and just calmly trusted that I would not put her into a dangerous situation. I’m very proud of her and now I know I can bring her to events with no problems. She was a huge hit.

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We couldn’t have done it without the help of our lovely Miss Nanaimo contestant who was stationed at the bunny pen making sure everyone was gentle with the animals. Thanks for a great day!

 

The Broody Banty Experiment

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I have a very determined little hen who has her heart set on hatching out some chicks this year. I don’t really need more chicks right now, but I’d like to see if she can do it.

All the chicks I’ve raised so far have been by artificial brooder and I’d love to watch a mama hen take on the job. I think it would be even more entertaining to see a bantam hen hatch out full sized chicks and boss them around even when they get bigger than her!

There’s always a market for chicks and layers around here so I think I would probably end up selling them unless I see one or two I like. I don’t want any expensive eggs for this, just some barnyard crossbred mutts are fine. I think I’ve located a source of fertilized eggs at $10 per dozen and that seems a fair price.

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First I’ve got to make sure she’s really serious about this. I know she’s serious but she has to be SERIOUS. For this, I’ve brought out the big guns. Fake eggs. These are some ceramic eggs I ordered off eBay some time ago and they look and feel exactly like real ones. I set them up in the nestbox for her and she was on them in minutes. Once she’s good and settled for a few days I’ll move her in the evening to a small seperate pen with everything she needs and give her the real deal. Then we wait!

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Weeding the Easy Way – Let Chickens Do It

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I do a lot of container gardening, and every year my containers sprout tons of annoying weeds before I have a chance to plant them up. I was looking at the mess in dismay until I remembered I had some girls who would be happy to weed for me. The chickens!

Now I just dump my containers in the pen and by the next day they are completely weed-free and have usually also been tilled quite nicely. Is there anything chickens can’t do?

3 Years, 1 Bucket – Fermented Grain for Chickens

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So, how does my fermented grain bucket look after 3 years of being refilled and never completely cleaned out or changed? Great!

Above you can see my 5 gallon bucket ready to be restocked. There’s about a gallon of liquid left and a few inches of grains. I always refill it before it gets too depleted because I want the goodness of all that mature bacteria to get spread around as much as possible.

Every morning my ducks get one scoop and my chickens and pigeons get two heaping scoops from this bucket and believe me, it’s the highlight of their day. They know they’ve been bad if I make them wait for it (like when they try to wake me up early for it by screaming bloody murder) and I like that I can continue to feed it all winter long and provide them with at least some type of “living” food when the plants are dead and gone.

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I add supplements every other time I refill the grains. I put in a good 2-3 TBSP each of kelp powder (the cheap stuff for gardens), garlic powder, cayenne powder and turmeric. I get these all for very cheap at a bulk store. Then they usually get two number 2 scoops of whole corn, two scoops of whole wheat, and a smaller scoop each of whole barley and black oil sunflower seeds. If I have other things lying around like wild bird seed that the wild birds don’t care for, I’ll dump that in too. The only thing I advise against using is pelleted or crumbled chicken feed. I tried that once and I got mold on top.

Everybody’s favorite is the (most expensive) corn and that gets gobbled up first. Least favorite and cheapest is the barley, but they eat it eventually. I always do my refill in the evening so the grains have a chance to absorb the liquid. I love the smell of the contents of the bucket, it reminds me of really good salad dressing!

 

 

Eggshells Instead of Bone Meal for the Garden

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Plants need calcium, especially things like tomatoes which will suffer from blossom end-rot without sufficient amounts.

I save all my eggshells and my birds generate about 5 to 10 pounds worth per year. I dry them, crush them and every spring I spread them all over my gardens. Today was eggshell-spreading day! There are usually none left over, but when there are they get fed back to the birds who love them.

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I really appreciate that I don’t have to purchase bone meal, which is a by-product of the beef industry. It’s nice using fertilizers that are generated right here on the property and it saves me money. I don’t bother crushing them to a powder, I just do the best I can and they decompose over time.

It’s a myth that eggshells will prevent slugs in your garden. Tests have shown that they actually attract them! If slugs are a concern for you, turn your eggshell into the soil so they’re covered. I don’t bother with this because my ducks eat most of the slugs around here and I like the way the shells brighten things up.

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Yes, it’s Safe to Use Advantage on Chickens

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This is a topic I’ve found it hard to find a straight answer on… Is Advantage topical flea treatment for dogs and cats safe for use on chickens?

The answer is yes. I have a Dorking hen who had been acting sluggish and had a scaly leg mite problem for quite awhile that wasn’t responding to natural treatments (diatomaceous earth and oil dips). I was worried about her and she hadn’t started laying yet this spring, so I decided to test out the treatment.

I wouldn’t recommend this treatment except as a last resort, but it does work! I gave her a 0.4ml dosage which is appropriate for her weight (0 -10lbs), administered to the back of her neck under her feathers. Within days, she had perked up and her sore legs began to heal. She even started laying! I did not eat her eggs for fear of contamination until a four week period had passed, but I have been giving them to my dogs and cats with no ill effects.

 

Chickens Move Out

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The young chickens are now almost seven weeks old and it was high time to get them out of my basement. Too much dust, noise and chicken stink!

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I was able to finish most of their brooder/mini coop today and they will be living outdoors from now on. I decided to add a floor since I don’t want rodents sneaking in and it’s always a good idea to have some ventilation underneath. Part of the floor is recessed with a solid bottom, and that area will contain bedding, the perch and food bowls with a solid roof covering it. The front ‘patio’ area has a mesh floor and will have a mesh roof that flips up on hinges. The solid roof will also be on hinges for maintenance. I still need to cut my piece of roofing and attach hinges so for now I have it wrapped in a tarp.

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The little attached run area will be where they spend their days in nice weather. Four Welsummer roos have already been sent to freezer camp, and I am now down to 16 birds. Pretty confident about two Cochin roos, and possibly a few more. They’ll be off to camp as soon as I know for sure.

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Since I’m raising the two breeds side by side, I’ve noticed some differences. The Welsummers are calmer, quieter and smarter. They figured out the roost first, and they tend not to squawk bloody murder like the Cochin/Brahmas when I pick them up. I definitely prefer quiet hens so this is a great development. All the Welsummer roos that I identified as chicks did indeed turn out to be males and that’s excellent as well. If I hatch them again I’ll be more confident about culling them without having to wait 5-6 weeks for secondary characteristics.

I leave you with a gratuitous shot of fluffy seven week old chicken butts…

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