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This week on Backyard Bounty podcast we join Nicole as she shares 7 top tips for raising backyard chickens from some of her most loved podcasts
What You’ll Learn
- How to raise a large flock of chickens on pasture
- The dangers of heat lamps and safe alternatives
- How to use essential oils with chickens
- The basics of fermenting chicken feed
- Top tips for building the perfect chicken coop
- How to keep chickens safe from predators
- How to get started raising chickens
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Disclaimer: This website contains affiliate links, from which Heritage Acres Market LLC may receive a small commission from the vendor on the sales of certain items, all at no cost to you. Please read our full disclosure for more information. Thank you for supporting Heritage Acres Market LLC!
Nicole is a Colorado native and an outdoor enthusiast. A retired firefighter and paramedic, Heritage Acres Market and her family are now her main focus. When not working on the farm, she enjoys creating new content for the blog and recording new episodes of the Backyard Bounty Podcast.
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Resources & Links Mentioned
- How to raise chickens on pasture (Will Vogl)
- Dangers of heat lamps (Brad Davidson)
- Essential oils for chickens (Kerrie Hubbard)
- Fermenting chicken feed (Scratch & Peck Feeds)
- Key features of coops (Carolina Coops)
- Prevention and management of predators (Dr. Matt Springer)
- How to raise chickens (Annette of Azure Farm)
*Denotes affiliate links
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Common Backyard Chicken Questions Answered ft. Nicole from Backyard Bounty Podcast
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Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from HeritageAcresMarket.com, where we aim to educate and inspire you by sharing practical information to help your homestead thrive. And now, here's your host, Nicole.
Hello, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole, and today I wanted to bring you the top chicken keeping tips from some of our previous episodes. So this episode is going to be highlighting some of our previous episodes and bringing you the very best tips from those episodes. And I hope that you enjoy this week's episode, it's a little bit different, I know. But please let me know what you think about it. And if you'd like to hear more episodes like these in the future, and the best way to let me know your feedback on that is just to send me a text. And you can do that to my text phone number, which is 719-292-3207. Again, 719-292-3207. And that phone number will also be in the description as well. And without further ado, here is the episode. So our first tip comes from Will Vogel and from the episode "How to Raise Chickens on Pasture".
I follow a lot of people that do the regenerative agriculture, especially on pasture raising stuff. So I wanted to keep everything out on pasture. And, you know, I felt it's a lot more humane for the chickens, instead of keeping them bunched up in one static coop in a little shade and stuff. So we started making these structures that we can move around or pasture and give them an area for a week or so depending on weather and stuff. And then we have a portable fence. It's electric, meaning we set it up and the whole thing weighs like maybe 30 pounds. So it's super easy, lightweight. And then we have a portable charger that has a little solar panel on it and charges and it does a good job of keeping all the ground predators away, as well as the, you know, the chicken shock themselves like three times and they're like, okay, that fence is the boundary. I don't go over that. It's funny because this thing's only like 40 inches tall. And they could totally fly over if they wanted to. And they do sometimes. I mean, you get those few times really where they've been out of water for like two seconds, and you're filling the waterers in front of them. Right? And they're like, "Nope, we're getting out of here, we're dying". You don't you're like I just took the waters out of your thing.
You're fine, you know, but that's really the only time they ever jumped out of there. And so we don't even clip their wings, they for the most part, they stay contained in that as long as you give them a good sized area that will move them around. Our main coop now is a two horse trailer that we found us that was just in really bad shape. And so we fixed it up and put some perches in there. And since it's only a bedroom, we can put a lot more birds in there than recommended, you know, for like a backyard coop and stuff. Because they have tremendous amounts of area to roam around and whatnot. So during the day, they're not in that at all, but we can cram them in there pretty tight and night. And they actually they prefer that at night because it gives them more of a warmth. And you know, that close quarters gives them a lot more security, you know, and whatnot. So we can put about 100 birds in that thing. And then we're getting ready to build another one because we have about 200 new chicks coming on. And they're about a month old, almost. So we got a few more months before they go out and pasture because there's so little, you know, they just be taken out by all over hawks and stuff right now. But we got some geese that we raised with them. Each flock gets its own goose and it kind of deters the aerial predators as well. Because these geese are just massive, you know, they get a wingspan of like four feet, and they'll honk at any little Finch that goes over here. So they see the Hawks and they start flapping their wings and hawks are flying over there. I don't, I don't want to mess with that bird. Yeah, I'm gonna go get that rabbit over there. You know, we just kind of figured out a way to do it on pasture in a way that also deters the predators. One of the things we also do is we try and incorporate ways to enhance the wildlife on our farm. So that way that there is a food source for the predators as well, because hungry predators, you know, at some point, there's a point where they're going to be willing to go through your defenses essentially great, but if we can make our birds look a lot harder than, you know, the rabbits that live there, naturally, they're gonna go for the rabbits, right. So we've added habitat for the rabbits and stuff like that as well. Eventually, our hope is to start moving the pasture, birds being right behind our sheep as we move the sheep on a regular basis and of that way, they'd also serve the additional function of spreading the manure, sheep leave and eating any flies that lay their eggs in the in the maneuver, as well as you know, any of the maggots that start to hatch out of those. And then that way we break the fly cycle as well. And it helps us with pest control on that side as well as anything like grasshoppers in our pasture and stuff which we've seen that already had just you know, there's a drastic reduction in the grasshopper population harm. property.
Oh, sure, and happier chickens.
Oh yeah, they love them.
Those are some great tips. Thank you so much. Well, our next tip is from Chief Brad Davidson, who was actually one of my former co workers at the fire department. And we are going to highlight the dangers of heat lamps in this episode.
What we found in the last few years and especially this last year, we had four different fires during the year that were all caused by heat lamps that were improperly installed and improperly used, from the smallest chicken coop to a very large barn that luckily none of the animals got hurt in but destroyed the horse shelter that they were using. So there are a lot of different types of lamps out there that could be used or people are using. And I don't think they're taking the time to take a few seconds read up on the material, what they should be using. And using the right light bulbs, what we found in some of our studies and our research of what lamps that should be used as everybody thinks that they can just go to Walmart and buy just a heat lamp. And that's good, well, really, they should be taken time to check of the light bulb, make sure they've got the right bulb, the right wattage and make sure it is a true heat lamp and not a painter's lamp, which is easily confused and the difference you can tell is on a painter's lamp, the socket inside is made of plastic. And when you buy the red heat lamps, that's a 250 watt bulb and it actually gives off over 400 degrees of heat, which you know a little bit of over time and misuse will actually break down the plastic and causes short in the lamp. Whereas a true heat lamp the connection or where you screw the bulb into is actually made out of porcelain, and can withstand the heat that these light bulbs are given off. So that's something to kind of take into consideration and how they're mounting the lamps, you know, they're buying the ones was just a quick clip, where they just squeeze it and stick it on to a piece of wood. While those are falling off, maybe due to the wind out in the chicken coop or maybe the animals or maybe knocking off by accident. So making sure that you have some type of secure linkage on it to hold those on and make sure that the animals can't knock them off. The other thing that we were finding was they were sticking them way too close to the combustible materials. Remember combustible materials anything that you can burn over some time with heat with some type of heat source. So the true standard out there is anywhere from 24 to 36 inches distance away from your straw or any type of bedding that you're using in the chicken coops or the dog kennels or whatever. And making sure that there is some decent airflow, I know you don't want to have a lot of airflow for the cold, but at least to get the air moving in there. So it's not concentrating on one little area. So that's just a few things that we've been able to recommend then powering the lights, that's kind of important, making sure that you have the right extension cord if you don't have any power to your chicken coop or your kennel. And you know, it's okay to run an extension cord, if it's used properly, making sure that it's used for an outdoor use, not the little $1.65 zip cords that don't last very long those break down very easily. But if you have a good extension cord that's rated to be outside use and making sure that the connections are covered, make sure there's no moisture that can get into them and make sure that the animals stay out of them. So either use electrical tape around the connections, or wrap a little bit of plastic around there to keep the moisture out. So making sure that you have the right extension cord. Now an extension cord is not permanent wiring. So you cannot by fire code and safety reasons you're not supposed to be securing the wiring to any of the woods so it's out of the way. You want to make sure that it's freely, you know, laid on the ground, not a tripping hazard and things like that. So that's just a few things.
Wonderful. Thank you so much, Chief Davidson. And my next tip is from a dear friend of mine, Kerrie Hubbard, from City Girl Farming and Art and in this episode, we talk about essential oils for chickens.
I started using essential oils just because I want to just clean up my life a lot. And I realized really quickly that essential oils are like good for everything. It really are. And so my first experiment with the chickens was when I had, Charlotte, one of my chickens was really, really ill and I was positive that I would lose her that day because there was you know, there was nothing I could do for her and she just was really sick. And so I started researching some essential oils for chickens. And there's not a lot of information out there. But I started doing the research that I could find to see and some of the oils that I had would work for her. And I ended up putting some of them in a diffuser and I had her isolated and I ran the diffuser for a couple hours and she had an immediate reaction to not she was just like 100% turnaround. And I didn't really trust that because it's like, how can that happen so quickly. So I ran the diffuser again, I kept her isolated overnight and ran the diffuser again in the morning. So she got like three doses and she was completely fine with Charlotte. It was 100% turnaround feeling great after that she lived for years. So that was my first indication that essential oils could work really well with chickens and not just for me. You need to be really careful when you're using them, you know, with chickens and super highly dilute them, you know, be careful that you're not giving them ones that are gonna kill them because they're super sensitive so... it can do amazing things, but you also need to use some precautions when using essential oils with chickens or any living creature and or otherwise.
So with your chickens, what sort of ailments have you been able to fix with essential oils?
Um, a lot of respiratory things. You know, when our chickens get that "Darth Vader" kind of sound, I like to use a diffuser because it's nice, I think not actually put the oils on topically onto the chicken, although I do use some topically and for wounds, like not too long ago when my chickens had a big abscess on her comb, and I put a little salve that I made with essential oils on it. And the next day, it was almost completely healed. It was a crazy amazing, like, it's stuff that I wouldn't even believe if somebody was telling me that it's been so dramatic to watch also like chicken lice or cleaning the chicken coop or fly control or the use of the nest boxes. Like there's just a million things you can do with essential oils, with your with your flock. One of the things I say most is, you know, do your research and also highly diluted essential oils like the sap that I make, I use two drops of each of Helichrysum, Lavender and Frankincense and I put that in like a quarter cup of fractionated coconut oil, it's almost so diluted. When I first started doing that I thought it's so diluted like, you know, you can still sort of smell it but it's not like heavily scented and is it even going to do anything but it still it does amazing things. And you can treat bumblefoot with it. You can just lice and mites and all sorts of things. So it's great.
So if you had to say pick five oils that you would recommend keeping around for your chickens, what would be your top five ones that you would recommend?
Lavender and Helichrysum and Frankincense like I just mentioned, for the wound salve, there's all sorts of oils that you can use for flight control and stuff like that Lavender is a good one, Cedar Wood, different stuff like that. So it's hard to say five.
Wonderful, thank you so much, Carrie. Next we're going to talk about fermenting chicken feed with Scratch and Peck Feeds.
Scratch and Peck Feeds 12:17
It's basically lacto fermentation. So what it does, it makes more of the nutrients more bioavailable to the animals, because it's already it starts breaking them down so that the animal's body doesn't have to work so much to digest them, they just make them more digestible. And so the way that you can do that is you would take one part of the feed to one part water, and you would put a put that in a jar or if you've got a lot of chickens in your backyard, you could put it in a bucket, and you put a lid on it very lightly, you want to be able to let the gases escape. And then you basically let it sit anywhere from two to three days depending on the weather. If it's colder out, it's going to take longer, and you might actually want to bring it inside to help that process along. But after about two to three days, you're going to see some bubbling happening, you're going to smell a smell maybe like beer or sourdough starter, it's very much exactly the same process. And, and then you just feed that to your chickens after day three, and they will pretty much gobble up every little bit of it, it's it's a really great way to make the highest and best use of a mash type feed, which is what ours is, is not pelletized it's a mixture rather than a pelletisation of bead and so there's larger chunks of of ingredients in there. And then there's finer ingredients like say flax meal or a fish meal that's in there and fermenting allows all of that to be really well bound together. And the animals will be able to eat every every bite of it.
So one debate that I've seen with fermenting is so you put the water in with the feed and of course the feed absorbs it. Do you like to leave a layer of water covering the feed? Or is it okay? If the top of the feed once it absorbs that one to one water if it's exposed to air?
Scratch and Peck Feeds 14:28
Yeah, you want to keep it covered.
Scratch and Peck Feeds 14:30
We don't want you don't want the habit exposed to the oxygen.
Okay, yeah, might need to add a little bit more water?
Scratch and Peck Feeds 14:40
I haven't run into that myself but it certainly could happen. Oh, and if that happens just add more or the next time you you do it just start with maybe one and a half to one.
Okay. And if we're doing this outside is there any temperature range that you know like here it can get so hot you. You know, if it's over 100 degrees or something, is it unsafe to ferment? Or does it ferment for a shorter period of time?
Scratch and Peck Feeds 15:07
It's going to form it in a much shorter period of time. And I would, you know, suggest that you bring it in, you could bring it into a shed or a garage, or even into the house, especially in those extreme temperature variations. And on the other end, if it's super, super cold, it's going to take a really much longer for it to ferment, so that would be a good time to bring it in as well.
Okay, and if you leave it too long, let's say you forget about it, and it's been in there for longer than three days. Is it usable still? Or do you need to throw it out at some point?
Scratch and Peck Feeds 15:41
I would say that, you know, use your eyes and your nose in that. If it's starting to smell off super, super sour, it might be a little bit long. And then of course, anytime if there's anything like mold or anything weird that is forming on the top of it, you wouldn't want to feed that.
Scratch and Peck Feeds 16:03
Throw that away.
I've found it to be a pretty simple process, but kind of like you reiterated, I mean, really all you need is a food container and your feed and some water. And it really is not a complicated process.
Scratch and Peck Feeds 16:17
No, it's not complicated at all. It's just getting into the practice of doing it.
All right, great. And I know that if you haven't built a chicken coop yet, you probably wonder what are some of the key features? What you should have to make the perfect chicken coop? And we talk about that with this episode with Carolina Coops.
The first thing I tell everyone, you know, whether they're again, thinking about building a coop for themselves, or if they're out shopping around, the size, period,. Number one is size, and then I always ask people, are you going to be able to let your chickens free range or not? And that is kind of a trick question. Because I would feel confident saying most people end up letting their chickens free range at least most of the day. But I know, a lot of us brand new chicken owners were like, Oh, no, no, no, I got predators everywhere. I just, you know, can't have the thought of losing the chicken, which I get. I'm an animal lover. But I always talk to people, you know, no matter what your will end up letting your chickens free range. But it is just so important to understand if you can't, or you got those times where you just can't let them out to make sure that runs big enough. And then another mistake I always see people they don't they don't consider this. And actually just to make sure I don't confuse anyone to get the terminology correct. When I refer to a chicken coop, I'm referring to two parts of the entire structure, you got the hen house and you got the run, a lot of people will refer to the henhouse as the coop. But when I say coop, I mean the entire thing. So the run you want to make sure if you cannot free range is that chickens, when they're crapping on the ground, that the microbes, the soil can metabolize the nitrogen, all those droppings. And if you can't you run into problems. And you know, if you're on blogs, or social media, whatever you're talking about, I had to go in and clean out my run. And that's just a pain in the butt part about owning chickens that I disagree, it's not true. If you feel you got to go in and clean your run, your run's too small, you know. And then another thing a lot of people don't realize build that run tall enough to be able to walk into you think "I'm not really going to go in there", you are. Think about where chickens originated from. With that run, if you have a solid roof over the run, you're mimicking the forest, you're mimicking the canopy that's going to protect the chickens, whether it's from predators, but in our case, making sure that the run either doesn't have snow in it or keeps it dry, and also provides some shade. So that's another mistake I see a lot of people make is they don't take the time to invest in some type of solid roof. I love metal. There's many reasons for that, but they put screen on top of it. I think that's a huge "No, no", it really makes things worse. Because especially in wooded areas, when leaves are falling, they just get trapped on top of that screen and it starts to sag it starts to rust, it starts to create weak points, it doesn't look good. So when you have a solid metal, while again, I like metal but a solid roof, you're you're eliminating all that you're giving them shade. You're keeping the run dry, and you're protecting them from predators.
What size requirements are we looking for maybe per bird or for a flock of six or 12?
So when people are asking me what size coop should I get? That's where I have to explain again, we got to split that coop up in the two parts. We got the hen house and we got the run. Now let's say you can't free range that run size is critical to make sure we get now I often refer to what is called industry standard. Most people say minimum of 10 square feet per head for the run. And yeah, you could get away with that. But bottom line if you can't free range, the bigger the run the better. But bare minimum is 10 square feet per hen. And what is nice is if you stick around that number or more, one, you got to make sure that chickens can work. The worst, you got the people forget, yes, there are pets, we love them, we have pictures of them, we're putting them on social media, they need to work, you don't want them getting bored. So you got to make sure they have plenty of room to do what chickens do, and that is get out of scratch and eat bugs off the ground. But also that nitrogen load. If you have too many chickens in a small area, the soil just can't keep up with it. So I definitely minimum 10 square feet per hen. And that's also I'm referring to standard breeds, you know, if you're getting into bantams. In theory, yes, you could put that number in half. Now, the other part that is very important is the hen house. And that's where people need to remember the chickens do two things inside the hen house. sleep at night, on the roof bars, which are the tree branches before coops are invented. And they go into their egg box or egg clutch to lay eggs. So I often see a lot of people say "Well, I need three square feet per hen, I need four square feet per hen", or a lot of times local ordinances will demand that and I get it because they gotta give some kind of number for people to realize if they're gonna build a coop what size it should be. But I think that gets confusing when it comes to the hen house. I always start off with a roof bar. And I think of it like I like a king sized bed. So I go by what I call the one foot rule. I like 12 inches or one foot per hand on that roof bar. A lot of people especially my fans, and maybe not so many fans on my YouTube channel, I call my YouTube chicken police. They'll tell you "Oh, Matt, that's crazy and tell people that you can easily get away with eight inches per hen on the roof bar". And in theory you could but again, I like a king size bed. Why not give the girls more room especially if you like the breeds like I do that are fat and fluffy like your Brahmas or your Cochins. So the roof bar length that is really important. And then when it comes to the egg boxes or the egg clutch, and a lot of newbies, we all were there. I was there we all think well, one nest box per hen. And that's not true. So we tried to go by the average four to six hens per nest box, but everyone that has chickens, if you're listening, hopefully you're chuckling just today I went out there I had I think 13 eggs in one nest in one day, they will share it. And keep that in mind. Because as we dissect more about why we do what we do, and how we build our coops, even the egg clutch, I could spend an hour just talking about why we do what we do with the egg clutch. So those are the two things you have to start off with, one nest box for four to six hens, one foot per hen on the roof bar. Here's the important part. You can never ever have enough ventilation.
So here's where I always try to explain to people yes, you can say okay, I need three square foot per head. Now what you need is to make sure you're looking at how many square feet of ventilation do I have to cubic footage of my hen house? Cross ventilation, making sure that henhouse can breathe. And going back to why size is so important, when you have that headroom, one, it's like way healthier for the chickens, because they do have a sensitive respiratory system. You want to make sure as the gases need to escape out of that henhouse, they're going to go up. So why is ventilation so important, keeping the henhouse cool. If you don't have good ventilation, and you got this coop out in the middle of the yard, no protection, no shade. It's like a pressure cooker. It's going to keep getting warmer and warmer and warmer the air can escape fast enough to regulate itself to have that turnover. versus if you got a henhouse that can breathe. As that air warms up, it can escape it regulates right. One thing I do need to mention, which I don't think I have yet, which is another great topic. I had this conversation all the time, especially for my Southern customers is kind of funny. They focus so much on keeping their hens warm in the winter. And I always try to explain to them, we need to focus on keeping the girls cool in the summer. Chickens do very well in cold temperatures. It's the wind chill, that's a different story. You always want to make sure you can close off those windows. But when it gets warm out, make sure that that henhouse is not warm and doesn't stress out the chickens and again, you want to make sure you got dust in there, you got gases from the droppings just want to be able to let that escape.
Alright, Matt, thank you so much. He's so full of energy and great information. I just love talking to Matt. And next we're going to talk about a very common problem, unfortunately, when it comes to raising backyard chickens, and that's how to prevent predators and keep our flock safe with Dr. Matt Springer.
I hear a lot about raccoons. Unfortunately, that's one that I haven't had firsthand experience with. We're in southern Colorado and it's basically sort of desert plains sort of thing out here. So not too many issues with raccoons, but I've heard they can be quite challenging to deal with.
Dr. Matt 24:47
Yeah, I would make an argument in Kentucky at least they're probably our number one wildlife pest species in terms of the breadth of damage they can cause from you know, folks their backyard garden to getting into here, if you get one into a chicken flock, you probably won't have a flock left if they get into your pen. So, you know, they are all over the board and consider yourself lucky because they are clever animals strong, stronger than most people realize and will problem solve to get at a meal if they can.
So maybe we can just jump into talking a little bit more about raccoons. I don't know if there's much prevention of keeping raccoons necessarily, but as far as just, you know, not even letting them know that you have chickens, I think they're probably going to figure it out on their own. But what are some ways to keep them I guess, out of the chicken coop or keep bird safe?
Dr. Matt 25:43
Sure. So, you know, prevention is possible. Now, as you said, you know, they're gonna know there's chickens around, you can't you can't hide them from the raccoons or their noses are going to really figure things out. And the funny thing is, it's kind of a two fold strategy to deal with raccoons. First and foremost, you want to make sure you're securing your chicken flock at night, have them in a coop that is completely blocked off and inaccessible from anything on the outside. And that's true with a lot of predators, right? Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, you don't want to give the predators an easy route into the flock when they're roosting. The second thing is you want to try to limit the attractiveness of other items like the fee that you have to raccoons, because they're going to be either after the birds themselves, or they're gonna, you know, the problem I really had with them was they kept getting into my feeders, the tubes that I had on the outside of the coop and pulling them off the the pen and actually reaching in and eat that they didn't care very much about the chickens themselves, they wanted the actual food I had. So if you can find a way of keeping them out of the food, then you're kind of taking the two most attractive items away from them. And they're really unlikely to keep frequenting the area, if there's no reward for them to get there. So securing the flock at night, which is you know, it's nice that they really don't aren't active during the day. Because then you only have to really worry about if you want to free range from during the day Raccoons are really not as big of a threat. So secure them at night and secure that food. So the Raccoons are less likely to be around, it's really important that you make sure that everything is truly secure with raccoons. You know, I do a lot of talks about black bears because we are recovering black bear population and their closest relative is the raccoon they act very similarly, you say you really don't have raccoons, but I don't know do you have black bears?
We have one on occasion, we usually get about one a year that is basically lost and just meanders around and ends up in our area.
Dr. Matt 27:40
Yeah, so they they act very similar. So anything that you see, we see the videos of them like opening car doors and getting inside cars. That's like, that's basically raccoons, I think they act very similarly. Black Bears are just a 200 pound raccoon. So anything that they can get their hands on and start pulling out that they think they can get a reward. At the end, they're going to end they're super curious. So they start playing with things anyway. in extreme situations. If the prevention doesn't work, you'd want to then start looking at trapping them to remove them. Because once they figure out there's a food source. They're just like a problem black bear, they're going to keep returning to that food source.
You mentioned foxes, and I know a lot of people have issues with foxes. And I know that you mentioned things like electric fences or things like that. But I imagine digging is probably an issue with foxes again. That's one I don't have as much experience with we have coyotes here. What about foxes?
Dr. Matt 28:33
You mentioned digging and coyotes are just as guilty of that is foxes are to be honest, if you have free ranging birds, it gets pretty difficult to completely secure them right. You have a animal walking around in landscape that sometimes is not completely attentive to what other predators may be there. It is a highly attractive meal for things like foxes and coyotes. So there's a couple things that you can try to do on the free range inside and unfortunately, it's a lot harder to deal with them on the free ranging side, you know, the guard dogs is one now that's a pretty big investment. And also then you have to make sure you get the right guard dog that isn't gonna chase your chickens. That's one that you know, dogs are incredibly defensive against each other. So you know, wolves will eliminate coyotes. Coyotes will eliminate foxes, red foxes don't get along with grey foxes. It's it's a very much a pecking order on size. You can try to make sure that your birds are in areas that are in the open so that they can see a predator coming give them places that they can, you know try to get up in the air away from a fox. If they do have one that comes up keeping grass mowed short would be a great option so that there's you know Fox can't really sneak in on them. Keeping brush piles away so there's nothing that they can hide or uses camouflage that they're doing a stalk on the birds or you know, maybe offering more places for birds to escape to. However, you know, everything that you give us an escape route can also be used potentially as a hiding mechanism for the predator, do you sneak on, a stalk on the birds. The electric fence is definitely an option, if you have a smaller field that really can't be kept open digging is something that they can do. But they can't do it immediately, right? So there, it's not like they can dig a hole under a fence in less than a minute to get in there. Usually, it takes them a little bit of time. And that buys the birds enough time as long as you have escape cover that they can try to get to it. So if you have a more permanent pen, that they're not free ranging, one of the tricks that we do with foxes is you if there really are an issue with foxes or coyotes is you actually bury a fence into the ground about six inches and then bend it outwards by about six inches, so that when they come up to the fence, what they'll try to do is dig underneath it, and as they dig, they'll just hit another fence. And they're not smart enough to back up 12 inches and go again. Usually, that's enough to get them to stop digging.
I do that with all of my pens. And I've had really good success. I've had an issue with stray dogs with coyotes, and we had a badger one time, which was very strange. And that skirt, I called a skirt or an apron or whatever, around the pin actually kept all three. Obviously that wasn't on the same night. But it's kept all three of those predators out so that that definitely works very well.
Dr. Matt 31:28
Oh, if it's all on the same night, I don't know if I'd want to live where you live. That's for sure.
Yeah, that'd be a rough night.
Wonderful. Thank you so much, Dr. Springer, I really appreciate those tips. And I know I'm definitely going to incorporate some of those here for my flock as well. And last but not least, here are some just general great tips about raising chickens with Annette from Azure Farm.
You know, it I really feel like if you're gonna get chickens really have an idea of kind of what you want. It's hard because you know, with chickens, I mean, you probably you have so many but the whole chicken matho things that where you where you think like, I'm only gonna have five chickens. Sure you are what? Yeah, like, why would I need more space? Or why do I need to plan for that? I'm only getting five chickens? Well, I'm just gonna tell you, you don't just end up with five chickens.
I started with six for what it's worth.
Yeah, see. So it just, this is just how it works. It just multiplies and all these things. So the main thing I probably hadn't really known to plan for and all that is to really have a structure that worked well. And that was safe. And to figure out how I was going to do their daily kind of thing in terms of like do I let them free range or not, you know, is their area safe all those things because we lost a lot of chickens in the first little while that we had them. And you know, that was really hard because I was attached to them. And then I realized, okay, there's a few things we have to tweak and make sure there's proper, you know, fencing, and they're kupa secure and all those different things, which some people don't tell you, I swear everyone at first just talked about how awesome chickens were and nobody told me you could lose chickens, which is always a risk no matter what you do. But it's just nice to be prepared and have the right housing and environment and all that stuff.
Yeah, I had the same struggle. And that's that's actually part of how I ended up with so many birds because I had an initial coop and run and it was fine for the five birds and then it had some problems so I built something new and then I had this old run of course I had to put something in it so then I got the turkeys or the peacocks or you know whatever it kind of expanded from there but we actually have an episode with Matt from Carolina coops a few weeks back that has a lot of really good pointers for people that are looking to build their own coop and run but love that that has been a huge challenge you have to make it big enough that everybody's happy and easy to clean and easy to get your eggs in the right purchase and the right nest boxes and so they don't poop in their nest boxes that's been the probably the biggest challenge sort of predators for for us as well. So since you free range them every day, what sort of predators do you have in your area and I know that you said that you've lost some was that due to predators?
In our area, during the day it's hawks that's not an issue with the turkeys but it can be for the chickens and some of the ducks. The chickens we've definitely lost quite a few two hawks and what I hadn't realized is where you let them free range and do everything it's great if they can have places to shelter under. Whether that be it could be just brush or bushes or you know even just something that if if there is something coming from above they can quickly like scurry and go under, and at first the area that they were free ranging in didn't have that they were free ranging in a much like wider just kind of field and it was almost like "come eat me, here I am" type of thing. So I would say just make sure if they're free ranging that they have areas they can duck under or little structures to at night. Our issues would be Raccoon and Fox, Coyotes around here too, but it would be a little harder for them to get in. We've got the Donkeys and everything near the coop, so it'd be hard for the those larger animals to get near. But I know we lost Ducks and everything to Raccoon, especially because the Ducks sleep on the ground. And so, you know, that's always a bummer. But I will say for a longest time, I didn't have a rooster. And I guess you know, there's probably a lot of pros and cons. People could argue for that. But I've not lost hens. Since I've had a rooster. He takes his job very seriously, and it's helped.
That's one of the things I love about guinea fowl. And I always tell people if you have the space, and you don't have to worry about neighbors being upset about a couple noisier birds. is to add a couple of guinea fowl because they're so much more wild that they pay a lot more attention. And they won't leave the flock because they're very, very flock oriented. So they'll stay close with the chickens. But I always keep two to three guineas in with my chickens. Because they watch the sky, they watch the ground, and they are the first to see anything every time.
I love that. The rooster definitely alerts the hens and is on the alert and lets them know. And it's really kind of cool to see how animals communicate with each other and alert, and then they all kind of follow. And it's just very cool dynamics. So I've heard a goose Have you heard of that?
I've heard that too. I just don't have any personal experience.
I don't either. I've heard that what you have to just get one I guess is what people have told me because two will pair together and then they won't they won't watch but that one will watch a flock and alert to so I don't know.
I know. For us, our biggest issue is coyotes. We do have Hawks. And that's definitely a problem. But I haven't personally lost any birds, the Hawks, but the coyotes, they even come out in the middle of the day. And will pick them off.
Man, that's not fun.
And those are really hard. Because even if you have a fence, they can climb over tall fences. Sure is day and night. It's just I don't rearrange my birds unless I can actually be out there with them. So I'm doing yard work or something. And then we have a Rottweiler that has taken the role of Livestock Guardian Dog very seriously. She's very gentle to the chickens, doesn't hurt the chickens, but she even chases off like Tweety birds and doves. She loves them.
Unknown Speaker 37:38
I love that. It's hard. It's hard with animals. And I think it's one thing like, if you're going to get chickens just know that it's bound to happen. At some point, the first time it happens will be the worst. Yeah. And I would say just don't give up on having them. Because I do feel there's a lot of benefits and enjoyment from them, even if you do lose some. But you know, farm life, kind of will toughen you up a little, you just kind of just I don't know.
Well, and I think especially the people in an urban setting are surprised to find when a stray dog or a passing flock of some sort bird of prey comes in and loses takes a bird. So, unfortunately, I think it's just kind of part of the deal. And it's unfortunately inevitable.
Yeah, it's just something you just have to know what's going to happen at some point and just be prepared. Even if you take all precautions, you know, and I will say, like you said in a more urban like, or in a neighborhood because so many people have chickens. Now, dogs are a big thing, because dogs naturally will chase something, you know, unless they've been trained not to. And unfortunately, a lot of time it's, you know, a neighbor's dog or even people's own dogs who are not used to having chickens. So just, you know, kind of have to just be aware of that and, and train them or whatever you might need to do there because that's more disheartening. If it was your own pet that did it, then that would just really sad.
Aww.. poor chickens,
I know, right? We've gotten very depressing. Chickens are great. Chickens are so great. I just think it's good to talk about it only because people don't talk about it enough.
Obviously, there is a lot to learn about chickens, especially for somebody that maybe is jumping into it right now and hasn't had the time and opportunity to spend, you know, while researching or what have you. So I know that you have a chicken keeping class.
Yeah, it's so basic. I feel like you have tons of amazing resources on your site that you Yeah, it's just the basics. Like if you haven't had chickens, or even if you do and you want to maybe get a little more information about something it's just a pretty broad from baby to adult course to hopefully make you feel like you're prepared to care for them and you know what to do when they're little and as they grow and what to feed them and I go over like their coop and run and all those different things to help hopefully make you feel ready and capable of taking care of them and enjoying them. Because that's the fun part.
Well, I'm sure I mean, you can get information from my website and somebody else's website in this than the other. But sometimes there can be some contradictory information. So it's nice to have everything bundled in, in one little package that you can just go through and get the information.
It's all videos like I did video. So there's videos on each topic. So unlike an ebook, and again, like you said, there could be contradicting things. This is what's worked for me, you know, for the time that I've had chickens and all that I've learned. And of course, you know, you still learn things day to day, but I feel like it's good to share knowledge and help each other, you know,
Yeah, no, especially if somebody is new and just kind of jumped in, I'm sure that any resource would be helpful. So where can we find your course?
It's actually "HowToRaiseChickens.com".
Well, how about that,
Right? Let's make it pretty simple. I can also, you know, find me through like my Azure Farm website, or my Instagram. But yeah, we thought we'd make it easy, "HowToRaiseChickens.com", a quick thing I can remember.
And of course, I can put a link to that in the show notes. So that it's even easier.
With the chickens. I just think the main thing to tell people is, before you get them, you know, make sure you can have them wherever you live, because there's a choice and all those things depending on where you are. And then just research a little bit before you get them. It's hard to not maybe just run to the store and buy them when you see them, you know, but I think it's good to just be a little prepared and then you'll be more successful in raising them and having them for a long time and having them be healthy and happy.
Yeah, I agree. Just like anything else, you know, they're a living creature and and doing your homework ahead of time will make your life and there's a lot better.
Agreed, they do grow. They do have a weird, weird tween stage to you know, like, I think everyone's like, "Oh, baby chicks are so cute". And they are and then they get into like this weird, awkward phase. You know, where you're like, "What is that?" Like, it's like their kind of dinosaur looking like feathers, you know, before they get like, fully like, adult cute hen. So you know, you just have to be prepared. That's all.
Yeah, that "Oh, I hope that you don't look like this forever" stage.
Exactly. Nobody warned me at first. However, my husband one time was like, "Wow, they look different". I was like, "Yeah", and I had like, 18 of them. And like this brooder. And they were all like squawking and they just looked like wild. And I was like, "Wow, this is totally different". But it's very fun.
Yeah, I definitely think that whether or not you're getting chickens right now for you know, sort of a food security thing, or you just want to add them to your home or your farm or whatever, however you live. I think they're awesome. I think everybody should have chickens. They're great. They're great.
I very much agree.
Thank you so much, Annette. And for those of you listening, I hope you enjoyed this episode, something a little different. Again, please let me know what you thought of it. Do you want to hear more of these in the future? Do you never want to hear one again? Let me know I always appreciate your feedback. And thank you so much for listening, and I'll see you again next week.
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