Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

Pullets in the Tractor!

March 27, 2011

I received my new chicks on February 6th – all 26.  They stayed in the brood box for the first 6 weeks until they were fully feathered.

When the chicks are fully feathered, they’re able to be moved outside.

I did wait until we had a stretch of warmer weather and then into the Chicken Tractor they all went…

I love their first introduction to grass and dirt!  No one needs to show these girls what to do – they begin scratching the soil looking for bugs and tasting the ends of the blades of grass.  So much better than that Chick feed 🙂

I ordered the Rainbow Collection but I think they made a mistake and gave me the “Monochromatic Collection”!

Oh wait….there’s one red girl in the whole lot.

These pullets will live in the Chicken Tractor until they begin to lay eggs and then they’ll be moved over to the hen house.

So much better in here than in that brood box!


The Incredible, Edible Egg!

February 13, 2011

Courtesy of John Ingraham

Eggs themselves are remarkably resistant to germs like salmonella. The shell and proteins in the egg white normally do a good job of fending off pathogens. But eggs laid by a bird infected with salmonella will likely be infected, too.

August 31, 2010
Eggs have been getting a bad rap lately as the number of people being made sick by eggs contaminated with salmonella continues to rise.  But from an egg’s point of view all of this is a bit unfair.   Eggs get contaminated because the hen that’s laying them is infected. Eggs themselves — if they come from a healthy bird — are remarkably resistant to contamination.

John Ingraham is particularly interested in how eggs stay microbe-free. He is a microbiologist and a chicken owner, and he happens to be my grandfather. He has spent years exploring the world of tiny organisms and so-called “retirement” hasn’t changed that.

About a dozen chickens strut and peck in a large chicken coop tucked in between the clothes line and the gleaming pool in Ingraham’s back yard in suburban Sacramento. They’re quite vocal, and Ingraham points out the distinctive cackle that means one has laid an egg. They sound quite proud of the accomplishment.

Courtesy of Michael Rieger

Chickens wander around John Ingraham’s coop in suburban Sacramento. Ingraham, a microbiologist, is interested in how chicken eggs stay microbe-free.

Microbes and the Egg

There are very few places in the world that are naturally germ-free, but eggs from a healthy bird are one of them.  Ingraham says they stay that way because of their chemical defenses. Bacteria may get through a crack in the shell and the membrane underneath, but then the egg white fights back. In the egg white, there are three proteins that are very effective at combating bacteria.

One of these is called lysozyme. It isn’t just in egg whites — it’s also in tears, saliva and the drippy stuff that comes out of your nose. In fact, that’s how it was discovered by Alexander Fleming (who also discovered penicillin) — Fleming happened to notice that when drips from his nose fell onto certain bacteria, they died.

It’s a pretty neat trick. Lysozyme breaks the wall of the bacteria. And since bacteria are under pressure — like a balloon — if you break the wall, they explode. Lysozyme doesn’t work on everything, but it can pop a lot of bacteria.

But the egg has two other ways to kill invaders. One is a protein that prevents bacteria from getting an essential vitamin that they need. The other is called conalbumin, and it’s this protein keeps bacteria from getting the iron they need to grow.

It’s a pretty effective system, but Ingraham says that several years ago there was an incident where a certain egg processor suddenly had all of its eggs go bad. “No one could figure out why, and it turned out they were washing their eggs in iron pans,” he says. There was just more iron than the conalbumin could mop up, leaving plenty for the microbes.

Related NPR Stories
Salmonella Found In Chicken Feed Used By 2 Egg Farms </blogs/health/2010/08/26/129455842/feed-contaminated-salmonella-cases-rise?ps=rs> Aug. 26, 2010
Tracing Salmonella: Find Out Who Eats What, Where <> Aug. 24, 2010
Salmonella Cases Rise As Recall Of Contaminated Eggs Grows </blogs/health/2010/08/20/129321965/salmonella-recalled-egg-contamination?ps=rs> Aug. 20, 2010
We’ve been hearing some egg announcing cackles, so Ingraham reaches into the nest box and pulls out two very fresh eggs. The barnyard smell is unmistakable, and the eggs have a little sawdust stuck to them.  Ingraham says the eggs will stay microbe-free for several weeks, even at room temperature.

What About Salmonella?

But don’t we have to keep eggs in the refrigerator, and not eat things with raw eggs in them so we don’t get exposed to salmonella?

Ingraham says if the egg comes from healthy chickens, like his, there’s no problem. But as the current egg recall shows, chickens are notoriously susceptible to infection with salmonella. And if the chicken that’s laying the egg is infected with salmonella, it’s likely its eggs will be infected, too. That’s why we’re told to cook eggs and keep them cold — cooking kills the bacteria and cool temperatures slows microbial growth and helps the eggs last longer.

“Even a broken egg can last quite a while if it’s not cooked, but a cooked egg won’t last very long because you’ve inactivated the proteins,” Ingraham says.

Web Resources
“March Of The Microbes,” by John Ingraham <>

Chicken Workshop – March 19

February 7, 2011

From Eggshell to Nest Egg

Date:  March 19, 2011

Time:  9am – noon

Place:  Lazy B Farm

Cost:  $25 per person; $40 per couple

Chickens have become the new “niche” pet in recent years and they’re not just the old farm standard anymore!

Fortunately for us, chickens are fairly easy keepers and folks from the city to the country are enjoying the fresh, healthful taste of homegrown eggs.

If you’re considering chickens for your farm or yard, or you have them already and would like to do more, this workshop is for you.

Topics to be covered:

  • Chicks: ordering and caring for them
  • Pullets: what are those??
  • Chickens and Roosters – Egg laying versus Meat
  • Hen houses – design ideas and considerations
  • Chicken Tractors
  • Dietary needs and health issues
  • Egg Business- what do I do with all these eggs?!

You’ll be introduced to some of our very own chickens and chicks- up close and personal.   We’ll also take a tour of the Lazy B Farm hen house and look at two different styles of chicken tractors.

After this workshop you’ll be confident in your new venture of raising chickens and it won’t be long before you’re gathering your own eggs and enjoying farm fresh eggs for breakfast!

Please contact to register for this workshop or call 770-289-2301

Metal Nesting Boxes

October 15, 2010

Now that the weather has turned a bit cooler, it’s time for projects here on the farm.  On Labor Day weekend, we started working on the chicken area.  There were several things that needed my attention – one being the number of nesting boxes that were available for the hens.  At last count, after I added the new hens, I had 50 hens in the hen house and 8 nesting boxes.  Not enough…   Books say you should have 1 box for every 5 hens.  And of course, those chickens have not read the same book and they decide that 10 should use the same box!

I’ve been looking for metal nesting boxes for a while.  I love the efficiency of them.

I found some and picked them up last weekend on the way back from the mountains.

Each of the units has 12 nesting boxes – a total of 24 new spaces for my hens.  I scrubbed down the boxes and primed them with paint.

Then I spent the majority of the day painting them with rustoleum paint.  And, if I’m going to paint, it might as well be with fun colors!

The next day, Michael and I hung one on the outside of the hen house and waited….

The hens eventually became curious enough to start jumping up on the railings.  And yesterday…

Ali found 2 eggs in the nesting boxes!

My kids say the colors remind them of McDonalds 🙂  So I’m thinking, Egg McMuffins for breakfast?

Banding the New Hens

October 8, 2010

The longer I homestead, the more I realize how important it is to be a good steward of the resources I have available to me.  Last year, I kept track of the amount of chicken feed I was purchasing and the amount of eggs I was selling.

It was a rude awakening…I was losing a lot of money in the laying hen division.  As much as I enjoyed ALL my hens, some of them were past their prime and were consuming a lot of feed and not giving anything back in return.  I had to set my heart aside and look at this situation as an efficient steward and homesteader.

Here’s the plan I came up with and started implementing last season.  I bought different colored leg bands for the chickens.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these little colored plastic rings – they were more expensive than I’d expected.

But I needed them to make the system work…

I purchased all female chicks this spring and raised them in the chicken tractor.

When it was time to move them to the hen house, we banded each hen with an orange leg band.

Once all the girls were banded…

It was time to transfer them from the chicken tractor to the hen house.

Chickens start laying eggs at 5 months of age and they lay the most eggs in the first 2 years of their life.

I needed a system that let me know how old my hens were.  You can imagine with this many how difficult it would be to remember which year the hens were added to the hen house.

By looking at the color of their leg band, I know how old the hen is and how productive she is being.

Last year, 2009, I used yellow bands and green bands.  (I had the green bands already but didn’t like them as well as the colored ones.)

My goal is to have enough eggs to sell to at least cover the cost of my feed.  It would be great to make a profit, which is very doable if you have all young hens who are laying.

Now that the new hens are in the hen house and at the age to start laying, I’m keeping track of how many eggs we collect each day.  I put in 24 new hens and there were 25 from last season and before.  Our egg output is still not where it should be but we’re on the right track.  I know I still have some old hens in the house who are eating more than laying.  Eventually they will be culled from the flock.

And how are the new hens doing?

Just fine!

They are the majority and slowly establishing their positions in the house.

They’re beginning to discover the nesting boxes – this is a good thing!

As you can see, not all are happy with this new arrangement….

It’s not always easy making new friends in the pecking order, especially when you’re near the bottom of the order.

But as a homesteader, I need to keep reminding myself that there is a purpose for every animal and plant on my farm.  Stewardship of resources is vital in order to keep the systems efficient.  It’s so easy to allow all of this to become a huge drain on our finances if I’m not careful about managing our hens.  Their reason for being a part of our homestead?


Meat Chicks Arrived

June 15, 2010

Lauren came to me the other day and announced that we were running low on chickens in the freezer.  While I may be able to butcher a chicken faster than I can get in the van and run to the grocery store for one, I cannot fill my freezer as fast as the grocery store can.

Homesteading means thinking ahead….constantly.

How many tomatoes plants do I grow for eating, canning for the winter months, and for the consumption by bugs?

If I want a constant supply of beef in my freezer and it takes 18 months to grow out a steer, when do I call the local dairy to buy a bull calf, assuming they may have one available?

So, when Lolo came to say we were running low on chicken, I needed at least 3 months before I could restock my freezer.

I had to order my chicks and wait for them to arrive.

About 4 weeks in the brood box eating chick feed…

Then the rest of the time in the chicken tractor in the pastures.  Fed and watered daily, protected from predators.  Taking care that they don’t grow too fast because their legs break easily and I need them to grow to full weight.

Then we need to butcher, shrink wrap and place in the freezer – finally.

So let’s do the figuring….

2 chickens per meal for this family.

Chicken once a week for meals.

26 chicks in a mail order.

Minus 2 for normal mortality rate.

24÷2 = 12 meals

12 meals at one per week = 3 months worth of meals

12 -14 weeks for growing out chicks.

Order new batch of meat chicks every 12 weeks!

If we want to eat all natural poultry, this is the commitment level I need for my family…and that’s all part of homesteading!

New Chicken Tractor

June 9, 2010

I visited a farm several months ago and really liked their tractors.  Not John Deeres, Kabota, or Farmalls.  These were cages that held turkeys and were portable.  The designs were great!

So I took lots of pictures, brought them home and figured out what I would need to make something similar.  Here’s what I came up with….

The kids and I and our intern started work about 8 am and had the majority of this made by noon.

We made the frame out of 2 x 6 boards – 7′ feet long x 6’8″ wide.  The cattle panels that make the dome are about 4′ tall and I wanted them to overlap by a foot.

It took 3 of us to get the fencing inside the frame – one on either end and another in the middle to push it up.  The fencing is 16′ long and a little tough to maneuver over your head.

Once the fence was in place, we u-nailed it to the wood frame.

Next. we cut the backs and fronts.

The holes on the cattle panel are too big for chickens so we attached chicken wire to the inside.

Zip ties are a wonderful invention.  We used these and baling wire to attach the chicken wire.  We also used the baling wire to attach all the panels together – corners and overhead.

Michael stapled the bottom of the wire to the wooden frame.

Putting baling wire on all the connecting points between the back panel and the side piece.

Because of the tension from the cattle panel, I thought it would be important to reinforce the corners.

I wanted a door I could walk through so I had Squish paint the top piece for the door frame.  This piece would run across the entire front of the cage to add stability.

The back and front pieces stuck out too far for me, so I had the corners cut off without interfering with the integrity of the panel’s strength.

We had an 8’x6′ tarp and realized it was too small but we left it on and added the larger tarp.

This tarp is 8′ x 10′ and fit perfectly – right to the top of the chicken wire on the inside.

We zip tied the tarp to the frame.

Michael is about 5′ 10″ and his head is still below the roof.

I wanted a door for this contraption…

after a bit of thinking and collaborating, we decided where to cut the opening.  That purple board was wired to the top of this piece of panel and to the sides .

We cut a piece of panel and covered it with chicken wire.

Thanks goodness for Michael and his strength.  Folding back the wire on itself to make a hinge was the hardest part.

The completed door!  I reinforced the bottom of the door with another piece of wood to add strength and to fill a small gap.

I hung the feeder and waterer with chain.  The watering system isn’t completed yet – that will be another blog 🙂

This wood was untreated – it’s what I had in the barn, so I painted it to help preserve the wood.

See how that wood piece goes across the top?  And it gives me a place to put a hook to hang the pulling rope…

and a canvas for some creative painting!

I still need to add the wheels to the back corners to help with ease of movement.

But until this tractor goes out to pasture, it can be used as a dog kennel….

or a playhouse for children!  This little gal put her baby in the chicken feeder and called it a bucket swing.

Wished she had one for herself 🙂

So there you go!  Copy, modify, whatever.  Isn’t that part of being neighborly?  Sharing ideas and exchanging information?  Have fun!

We’ve since filled our tractor with chickens…

I covered the back with a tarp and attached two on the sides.  The ones on the side can be raised and hooked to allow more air flow and sunshine.  I also had to cover the top opening with chicken wire.  A couple of the hens thought it was great to fly up to the purple board, sit and survey the grounds for luscious bugs, and then hop to the ground to eat them!

Those Darn Broody Hens!

May 31, 2010

I have a broody hen in the chicken house.

Every year it’s the same story.

Spring arrives and her maternal clock begins to tick.  She becomes a little more ornery and starts hoarding all the eggs.  She puffs herself up, filling the favorite nesting box, and screeches at the other hens who are trying to get into the box to lay their eggs.

And I debate…

Do I let her try it again this year?  Will she stay on the eggs the entire 21 days?  If she successfully hatches these eggs, where will I put her and the chicks?

I relented and she’s sitting.  She’s been sitting for almost 21 days.

It used to be that it was very common to have hens that wanted to sit for 21 days and raise chicks.  There’s been so much genetic altering that it’s rare to find broody hens these days.   Our society has demanded a more efficient hen and a hen who’s out of commission for almost a month is not efficient.

It’s fascinating to watch our hen.  The patience to sit for that long in a 1’ x 1’ space, not caring about food and water but totally focused on keeping those eggs warm at an even 90º is amazing to me.  We do hand feed and water her.  It really begins to take a toll on them physically – their comb becomes pale and droopy, a sure sign that they’re not getting what they need.

Probably the biggest nuisance is the fact that other hens do squeeze in with her to lay their eggs.

And  my broody hen gladly accepts the new eggs, tucking them under her feathers to incubate.

So, now I have a lot of eggs, all at different stages of maturation.  I have no idea how many were original eggs and have been under her for 21 days.  Guess we’ll see.

Today, May 31, is day 21.  We’re excited to see if any hatch.  The new pen is ready where we’ll move mom and chicks.  I’m curious to know – if we move out the new chicks, will she keep sitting until some of the others hatch?  Would she go to day 25 or so?

Ahh, homesteading…curious minds want to know!

To follow the daily report on our broody hen, link to our Lazy B Farm page on Facebook:

This happened several years ago here at the farm.  Hopefully we’ll see this sight again today 🙂

Chickens: from Chick to Pullet

April 18, 2010

Our chicks have been outside in the brood box for the last several weeks.  I’ve been turning the light on at night for them so they don’t get chilled.  The chicks will “tell” you when they’re hot or cold.  If they’re too hot, they will spread out from one another, put their wings out to the side and pant like a dog.  If the chicks are too cold, they’ll group together very tightly trying to stay warm.  When they’re small, sometimes they will crush the ones on the bottom of the pile.

Our chicks are close to the pullet stage, aka the teenage stage.  They’re starting to get their adult feathers and they look a little funny with big, smooth feathers and baby, fuzzy down.

Once they are fully feathered, no more down, they are ready to be put outside.  Ours will go into the chicken tractors to be moved around the pastures.

When the pullets are close to 5 months old, they will then graduate into the hen house.  It’s important when putting new hens into an established group, that the new group being introduced has at least 3 hens.  Trying to put in a single hen can be harmful in a big house – the new hen tends to get picked on, sometimes to the point of injury.  If there is an injury, put vitamin E or any kind of ointment that is goopy and sticky.  Hens hate getting it on their beak and will leave the injured bird alone.

The hens in the house will establish a new pecking order, including the new chickens into the order.

It’s quite the phenomenon to watch how the hierarchy is established in the hen house.  And every time you introduce new hens into an established group, they start the pecking order all over again!

Training Dogs and Chickens

March 24, 2010

Molly is a Border Collie – an intense herding dog.  We rescued her from a family who bought her as a “family” dog.  They lived in a suburban neighborhood with an unfenced yard.  The family had 2 small boys.

We took Molly in when she was about 4 months old – she was driving the family crazy with the amount of energy she had and the boys were afraid of her because she was constantly nipping at their heels trying to herd them.

I was concerned our 7 acres wouldn’t be enough for her, but she’s done well and we keep her pretty busy with all the activity around this place.

Molly’s favorite animal to herd is the chicken.  The chickens are erratic in their movement and they make noise and flap wings and all of this just heightens the frenzy that Molly feeds on when herding.

She started herding right away when she came to the farm – no one had to teach her, it’s instinctive.

But we had a problem.  Molly was a little “mouthy” with the chickens when they got out and occasionally one would get hurt.  Molly never meant to hurt them, she was just doing her job.  Still, somehow I needed Molly to understand that the chickens were not play toys and she had to be gentler with them when trying to “move” them.

One day, Molly had injured a chicken and we put the chicken in Molly’s crate till her injuries were healed.

Typically, Molly was crated every night – she was still young and I didn’t want her running off.

Dave was at a meeting this particular night and wouldn’t be home till late.

Molly didn’t get crated because the injured chicken was in her crate.

I forgot to tell Dave why Molly wasn’t in her crate.

Do you see where I’m heading with this story??

Dave came home late like he’d said.

I was in bed like I’d said.

At 4 in the morning, I sat straight up in bed as the thought hit me – I didn’t tell Dave not to crate Molly when he got home.

Ugh…I knew I should go check on the situation but I really didn’t want to deal with feathers and blood and a dead chicken at 4 in the morning.

My other fear – if Molly had eaten the chicken, we’d have to get rid of her.  I’d been told, once a dog gets a taste of chicken, they will always go back for more.  We couldn’t keep a dog that was going to kill our chickens.

I prayed that I was wrong and Dave didn’t crate her, that Molly would greet me at the garage door and all would be good…

I dragged myself out of bed and stood at the kitchen door.  I didn’t see Molly.

It truly took every ounce of personal persuasion to open that door.  I was so sure the worst had happened.

I turned the light on in the garage and gingerly stepped over toward the crate, straining my ears to hear any licking sound from Molly.

Nothing – it was so quiet.

Another step and I would be in front of the crate.

I peered inside the crate…

Molly was pressed up against the front of the crate, fur sticking out through the bars.  She turned to look at me,  pleading with me to open the crate door.

I looked closer to see if I could see any feathers.


There, snuggled up close to Molly’s chest, was the chicken, sleeping quietly and contentedly, not a worry in the world!

I stood there and laughed, having a hard time believing what I was seeing!  Molly didn’t move a muscle but kept looking at me, begging me, with those big brown eyes, to please get her out of this situation.  She’d been sleeping with this chicken for several hours!

I quietly opened the door and Molly quickly came out, jumping all over me.  The chicken was a little annoyed to have lost her warm sleeping buddy.

I praised Molly over and over for being such a good girl and for keeping the chicken safe.

And you know – we never had another problem with Molly being too rough with the chickens!  Not only that,  she also trained Jack and Annie not to chase or hurt the chickens.

Now, I certainly don’t recommend this type of chicken training for dogs – but it sure worked for our Molly 🙂