Easter Sunday Rabbit Road Trip (Plus Tiny Chicken)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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!




Weeding the Easy Way – Let Chickens Do It


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


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.


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


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.


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.



Yes, it’s Safe to Use Advantage on Chickens


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


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!


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.


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.


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…



Fermented Grain for Chickens 2.0


I wrote some time ago about fermenting grain for my chickens. Back then I was doing it in a large glass jar in my kitchen. Yeah, that was never going to last.

Last fall I started getting serious about fermented grain. I tried so many times to grow fodder for my hens over the winter, but nothing I did could prevent mold from taking over every tray. I wanted the girls to have something ‘alive’ to eat during the cold months, so I set up a 5 gallon bucket beside the coop and dumped in a bunch of different grains and covered them with water. That’s about how hard it is to get started.

Currently I use whole corn (it’s crimped in the photos because the feed store gave me the wrong stuff last trip), whole wheat, whole black oil sunflower seeds, whole millet, whole oats, whole barley and some wild bird seed that the wild birds couldn’t care less about.


It worked great. I read somewhere that you could add layer pellets to the bucket too, but when I tried that I soon had a case of moldy top scum on my hands. I dumped that batch out and started over, and now I don’t put regular pellets or crumbles into the mix. I haven’t had any more issues with mold.


After a while I got adventurous and started adding things. I got some kelp powder, turmeric, garlic powder and cayenne. Now each time I add new grain to the bucket a tablespoon of each supplement goes in too. It smells great and the birds love it. Not simply the chickens but also the pigeons, ducks and pheasants.

The cayenne keeps rats away and was the trick to jumpstarting my Ameraucana hen into laying again this spring after she seemed a bit ‘stuck’. Did you know cayenne is one of the ingredients in the special red-factor ‘color enhancement’ food you can buy for canaries?  Birds don’t have the ability to taste capsaicin so to them it’s just extra delicious.



Chick Update and New Brooder Finished


The little chickens are now nearly five weeks old and they are maturing fast. Today they went outside for the first time to enjoy a little bit of the warm weather and sunshine.


While they explored, I finished their new brooder as they have definitely outgrown the livestock watering trough they started out in. I decided on a 4′ by 3′ by 2′ high brooder, which is ok for this amount of chicks for now, but is designed to comfortably hold only about six growing chickens. It’s in my basement presently, but once the roof and perhaps floor has been added it will be moved outside .


As soon as the cockerels start making themselves known, I will be selling off all but the best two or three pullets of each type. I’m pretty sure I know which Welsummers are roos, but the Cochin/Light Brahma crosses are not as obvious. I did see my favorite, the largest one, sparring with other chicks today while outside in a distinctly male-type way, but nothing is definite yet. If you’re interested in some chicks, you can reserve them now by contacting me.


Meanwhile, the three bantam chicks have been separated out into their own small brooder. They are just too small to be in with all those big boisterous large fowl chicks and they were getting trampled. They’re much happier now.



Chicks at 10 Days Old


Well, all the baby chickens are doing great. Nobody has died, although there were a couple of mild cases of pasty butt, which is unusual here. I think the heat lamp may not have been quite low enough in the first couple of days.

They are a very nice batch of chicks, they all come running when I make my “chick, chick, chick” call, and they gather around my hand as though it were a mother hen.

I think you can tell a lot about the adult birds from the way they act as chicks. I’ve had very docile, calm chicks like Buff Orpingtons, and I’ve had very skittish chicks like my Black Copper Marans. Although my adult Maran hen is perfectly friendly now, she’s more interested in chicken things like being at the top of the pecking order and getting the best roost at night and yelling for fermented grain in the mornings. Whereas my Buff Orpingtons were more likely to follow me around while I was gardening and carry on chicken conversations with me.

I have my favorite chick picked out, of course:


You may recall that I hatched out eight Light Brahma/Cochin cross chicks. This one is my favorite. She came out with the same partridge markings as the Welsummers, although the spots on her head are more ornate. She almost looks like a turkey poult to me, she’s surely the biggest of the bunch. I’m calling her “she”, because I’m hoping for a hen. Here’s a top view:



After much online research I was unable to conclude whether Cochins and Brahmas are fast or slow feathering breeds. It seems that even color variation may play a part in which sex feathers out first, so all I know is that I have two fast feathering Cochins, and six slow feathering ones. My favorite chick, as you can see in the photos, is fast feathering. There is also a black Cochin chick who is fast feathering. So it could mean two things, either I have two hens and my favorite is a hen, or I have six hens and my favorite is a rooster. He/she is also one of the most friendly and outgoing chicks out of all of them, so does this lean towards roo? Either way something good will come out of these eight.

Below you can see an example of one of the slow feathering black Cochin cross chicks. You can see that his flight feathers are much shorter, he has almost no tail feathers coming in yet, and even his toe feathering is very slow.


Here is one of the reddish-colored Cochin cross chicks that is also slow feathering. The wings are still just little nubs but the red lacing coming in on the flight feathers and toes looks very nice.


Next up are the Welsummer chicks. Although they came from what I would consider very small pullet eggs, they are big, robust chicks that are pretty cool, calm birds. Welsummers can be sexed by color because they are born with the distinctive partridge pattern, and from what I can tell I seem to have four roosters and eight hens. I like those odds!

Female Welsummer chicks will have a defined dark V shape on the top of the head, a dark brown eye stripe, and two defined dark lines on their back. Here’s a top view photo of a future hen on the left and a rooster on the right.


Here’s a side view of the female chick, you can see the dark eye stripe:


And here’s a side view of the male chick, with a weakly defined eye stripe:


And a pair of females seen from the side and from above:

Last but not least are the three tiny Old English Game chicks. They were all fast feathering and of course I’m hoping for all females. They are growing very slowly compared to the large fowl chicks and I may have to separate them out in the next few weeks, since I use a hanging nipple waterer and everyone has to be able to reach it. They’re so tiny I can’t see that being much of a bother though!