Saturday, April 19, 2014

An egg of a different color

Have you heard about the Easter Egger chicken?

The Araucana breed was imported to the US in the 1920s . They are rump-less and have ear tufts. Some of the original Araucanas had the ear tuft gene, which was lethal when the chick gets a gene from each parent and will die in the shell before hatching. The gene that causes the blue/green egg color is dominant.

In the 1970s the Ameraucana was developed by crossing the Araucanas with other breeds: retaining the egg color, having a tail but without the ear tufts. Now many people and hatcheries are breeding the Ameraucanas to a variety of other chickens. 

"Easter Egger" eggs
This results in the Easter Egger--a chicken with many different sizes and colors. The egg color ranges from blue to green to olive to white or brown.

As always, post questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What happened to the spring chickens?

Where have all the baby chicks gone?
This has been a very challenging year for breeding chickens. The cold and snow seems to have affected the laying and hatching rate in both small operations and larger hatcheries.

Even though we keep the coops at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, some of our birds have yet to lay an egg. Other eggs are freezing before they're collected.

Blame the polar vortex, since this seems to be spread throughout the cold weather states. The hatcheries that don’t have a problem are running out.

My best advice is to hang in there. Things will get better with the warm weather.

As always, post questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tutorial: how to pull chicken spurs

If you have chickens, the time will probably come when you need to trim toenails and pull roosters' spurs. Sometimes this will be a proactive measure (to keep the birds from getting caught in wire or netting) and sometimes it will be a reactive measure (if they're getting mean or the spurs are growing into their legs.)

For a basic overview of chicken-related grooming, click here.

Here's a video demonstration of pulling spurs:

Step by step photos:

Hold the chicken firmly with its head tucked under your arm.
Notice Lisa's grasp on the chicken's legs, so it doesn't squirm away.
This will be a two-person job for beginners. (Guard dog not necessary.)


Use pliers to grab the base of the spur. Rock/twist pliers until spur snaps.
Notice Lisa is holding both legs with left hand to keep the chicken steady.

Do not be alarmed if a few drops of blood appear when the spur comes off.
It will dry and the bird is not hurt by this procedure.

As always, post questions in the comment section.
--Dale, aka Turkeyman

Friday, March 14, 2014

Brooding healthy turkeys

Looks like we might finally be heading toward spring here in the Midwest. 
On the farm, that means baby animals will soon be making their appearance. Whether you're raising 4H projects, Thanksgiving dinner or barnyard "watch dogs", that includes turkeys.

Unstressed poults fresh from the incubator.
Baby turkeys, or poults, require the same temperature in the brooder as other poultry. Start the temperature in the brooder at 95 degrees and lower it by five degrees each week. (Click the link for further details about building and heating a brooder.)

Turkeys are very susceptible to stress, which can cause problems. Usually, stress is caused by over-crowding or not lowering the temperature after the first week. The stress usually shows up at about the fourteenth day in the form of picking (cannibalism) of their wings and/or rear end. 

It is very important to watch for this, as a turkey that's picked will only last a couple of hours. I always say that the last turkey will pick himself to death.

There are two solutions that I have successfully used. Try to make it dark in the brooder and still maintain 90 degrees. Remember to leave enough light so they can eat and drink. You can also try putting tape over the picked parts. Masking tape works on the white birds and black electric tape works on the bronze. 

As always, post further questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Turkey day on the farm!

Dale picked up the turkey poults this morning from the hatchery for distribution to backyard producers, 4Hers and FFA members.

The turkeys' high-rise condos.

White poults, the breed most commonly used for commercial meat production.

Bronze poults, also used for meat production, but their dark pin feathers aren't always attractive to shoppers.

Altogether, Dale picked up more than 600 baby turkeys today to deliver to local farms. That's one more reason they call him Turkeyman.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Round table discussion for advanced backyard chicken enthusiasts

Have specific questions you'd rather ask Dale in person?
If you're in Southern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, your next chance is Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 from 6:30-8pm.

Ready to talk chicken!
Dale is hosting a free advanced class for backyard chicken enthusiasts at the Darien Town Hall. This round table discussion is designed for people who have chickens, have had chickens in the past or have taken the beginners' class. Beginners may also sit in on this discussion.

This class is offered in cooperation with the Delavan-Darien Recreation Departments, but is open to everyone. 

Please register here. 

If you cannot register, walk-ins are allowed.

Can't make the class, but have specific questions? Post them in the comment section.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Choosing bedding for your chickens

There are several excellent choices to use for bedding your chickens.
Probably should take the
shavings out of the bag first!

            • Pine shavings. One of the best.
            • Straw. Works fine.
            • Shredded newspaper. Tends to pack down with the manure, but it's great if it's free.
            • Tree leaves. Leaves aren't that absorbent, but another free option. 

Bedding to avoid:

  • Hay. The chickens like to pick through it, but the hay hangs together when you clean the pen, making it more labor-intensive. It's best to only use hay if it's chopped.
  • Cedar shavings. The cedar can be toxic to chickens and other small animals.
  • Sawdust. If chickens breathe this it can cause all types of respiratory problems. Chickens can also eat it and plug up their crop.
The deep litter method:

With this method, you do not clean out the pen, but keep adding bedding until spring. If you smell ammonia it's probably from around the waterer. Just clean that part up.

As always, post further questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman