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Nativity Scene handmade from blown eggs: The Reason for the Season


As a parent, teaching my daughters the significance of Christmas is a responsibility I take seriously. Competing with the commercial noise generated by the retail industry can be a challenge, but not one that intimidates me. This year, I was determined to find fun, age-appropriate ways to engage my children in dialogue about the true meaning of the holiday beginning with a nativity scene.

 In searching for the perfect nativity scene, I found myself gravitating towards handmade, simple sets the girls would be able to play with and rearrange while fabricating scripts to their versions of the Christmas pageant. Looking at several nativity sets that were egg-themed, it occurred to me that eggs are the perfect vehicle for conveying the message of Jesus' birth, the egg itself being a symbol of new life


 I have plenty of blown eggs on-hand, courtesy of my backyard chickens and got busy crafting a nativity scene for my children.

How-to details:Since the eggs already had holes in each end, I sealed up the bottoms with hot glue, immediately dipping them in sand. This gives the egg some weight on the bottom and seals the bottom hole. I next funneled some sand through the top hole to give the egg some stability.  



Using scraps of material I have around the house, I began folding, hot gluing and dressing the Magi.


You'd never guess that Disney played a role in clothing the Wisemen, would you? Don't tell my daughters that I upcycled their tattered, Snow White dress, it was for a worthy cause! 



I stained some scrap wood with the faux barnwood technique here. My husband then made the barn structure, manger and a simple tray for displaying the nativity scene.  

I filled the base of the tray using the sand we keep for replenishing our coop floors and runs. I decided that sand was going to be the only substrate that would keep the pageant participants standing.  

The star was made by my children from cinnamon, applesauce and glue. Joseph's belt is made from jute and his staff, paper-covered craft wire.


I finished the creche in the wee hours of the morning and was delightfully surprised to find that someone had added their own, special touch to it.  ♥


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Chicken Coop Bedding: SAND, the Litter Superstar!


The material that covers the floor of a chicken coop is commonly referred to as “bedding,” which is more aptly termed “litter,” as chickens don’t sleep on the floor, they poop on it. Litter’s primary functions are to absorb moisture from droppings and water spills, keep odors down and facilitate coop cleaning. The most commonly used litter options are: wood shavings, wood horse stall pellets, sand, hay and straw, but which choice is right for you?

My first flock of chicks, their first day in the coop, on pine shavings. Much has changed since then.



Pine shavings were the recommendation I had seen most often when researching my litter choices. I knew it was absorbent, readily available at my feed store, and affordable at $5.00 per cubic foot. I had ruled out straw and hay due to their lack of absorbency, propensity to harbor mites and worst of all, to mold when wet. The last thing I wanted in my coop was a droppings-laden mat of
respiratory trouble for my chickens, so...pine shavings it was.


The reason I elected to use pine shavings over sand was that idea of fluffy shavings appealed to me aesthetically. I believed shavings would be a cleaner-looking, more comfortable bedding for my peeps. Wrong. What I did not take into consideration, was the frequency of cleaning required or the disproportionately high amount of shavings vs. droppings going into the compost pile. I was also blissfully unaware that my chickens would kick and drag the shavings out of the coop into the run. So much for aesthetics.


So, this spring, when a Facebook fan enthusiastically recommend sand and suggested that I try it, I gave it some serious thought. Due to location of our coops at the bottom of a hill, adjacent to wetlands, I have always used sand in our runs. I purchase 2 yards of sand each year at the cost of $15 per yard. It drains brilliantly and there are never puddles in the run, which is important to the health of our flock as wet conditions are a breeding ground for coccidiosis. The runs are easy to clean and the sand keeps odors and flies to a minimum. Since sand performs so well in the runs, I figured I’d give it a shot in the coops.


Admittedly, I was fairly skeptical that sand would be a viable coop litter choice, I just wasn’t convinced that it could dehydrate droppings as claimed, but since we have a pile on-hand, I concluded that it couldn’t hurt to experiment. Worst case
scenario was that I would hate it, scoop the sand out into the run and revert to pine shavings. No harm, no foul. (pun intended)


Even though most of the daily droppings fall on the droppings boards in my coops, I am still fastidious about the litter. When we had just one, 4’x6’ coop, cleaning it and replacing the shavings weekly cost approximately $5.00 per month. When we built our 8’x8’ Little Deuce Coop, the litter bill increased significantly, as did the amount of time required to
change the bedding each week. With the addition of the second coop, sand began to sound like a good idea. So, with shovel in hand...I passed it to my husband.☺ The chickens were pleasantly surprised by their new litter. 

My 8'x8' coop:

 Sand 6 

 My 4'x6' coop:

 Sand 7 

I even use sand in my brooders; the chicks love it and clean-up is a breeze with a kitty-litter scoop!
 Sand 8 

After having used sand in both of my chicken coops for the past six months, these are my conclusions: 


  • dehydrates droppings
  • doesn’t retain moisture
  • doesn’t decay or degrade
  • superior drainage (if water spills)
  • inexpensive ($15.00 per yard)
  • natural grit/no risk of crop impaction as with straw and hay
  • easy clean-up (a once daily scooping & bi-annual change)
  • doesn’t conduct or retain heat in summer (as straw/hay/shavings do) 
  • keeps feet clean and nails manicured  
  • exfoliates dead skin
  • cleaner feet=cleaner eggs, particularly in rainy conditions 
  • any dropped feed gets found and eaten, not lost in the litter 
  • dust-bath mecca 
  • no decomposition required in compost pile, great soil amendment to compost  
  • looks cleaner than other litter options because it is cleaner 

Feet stay nice and clean and nails are kept filed.

 Sand 9 

The annual sand pile doubles as a fabulous dust-bathing spot for the girls!

 Sand 10 

  • heavy to move 
  • dusty (as are shavings, straw and chickens, for that matter!)
  • doesn’t retain heat in the winter (but so what?my chickens don’t sleep in the sand) 

Our annual sand delivery must be transported from the driveway to the coops.

  •  Sand 11 


The best type of sand to use is a washed, construction grade sand that is silicate-free. River sand or red sand are fine too. We buy our sand at a local quarry for $15.00 per yard and use one to two yards per year for two coops (12x 14 total) and two runs (approx 260 square feet total).

Any water spills can be 'cleaned up' easily by raking the wet sand into the dry sand. The moisture dissipates very quickly.

Daily scooping is recommended, it takes all of 2 minutes with a handy bedding fork and a small piece of hardware cloth zip-tied to it. 

The hardware cloth used to make the coop scoop should be the smallest mesh available (the one shown proved to be too large).

 Sand 13 

Now if I could just remember that Facebook fan’s name so I could thank her...

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  Sand 20

Farm Fest 2012: A Commitment to Preserving our Agricultural Legacy in Suffield, CT

 Farm Fest 1

I live in Suffield, Connecticut, a small, rural community with a rich, farming history dating back to the 1600s. Each year, the town  gathers to celebrate our past and commit to preserving the town’s agricultural legacy at “Farm Fest.”  This past Labor Day weekend, we participated in the 10th Annual Farm Fest at Hilltop Farm, the focus of which is clearly on entertaining and educating the children about the importance of respecting and caring for our farmland and community. Our children enjoyed activities from harvesting potatoes to shucking corn, milking cows to riding ponies, riding in a tractor parade and observing bees making honey.

 Farm Fest 3 

 Farm Fest 4 

Next year, I think I'll bring real chickens and eggs to give the town's kids the full experience.

 Farm Fest  5
The tractor parade is always a highlight for us.

 Farm Fest 6  

 Farm Fest 7 

 Farm Fest 8 

 My friend, Lauren Hastings Kaplan, preparing for a milking demonstration.

 Farm Fest 9 

 Digging for potatoes.

 Farm Fest 9a 

Being a backyard chicken-keeper has fostered in me a genuine sense of connectedness to the land, my food and my community that I had never previously felt. My hope is that in sowing the seeds of rural pride with our children, their appreciation for the land and sustainability will grow into a feeling of civic responsibility for maintaining it.  

 Farm Fest 9b 

 You know you live in a farm town when you can recognize the cows by name. This is Ginger (left). She lives at Hastings Farm, where I sell my fresh eggs.

 Farm Fest 9c 

 The Wingmasters, Birds of Prey demonstration was riveting. The Red-tailed hawk was once on the brink of extinction due to the use of DDT but is no longer in danger due in part to the efforts of raptor rehabilitators such as Anne Collier (shown).  This partiular hawk was hit by a car and cannot be released back into the wild.

 Farm Fest 12 

 This 33 year old Golden Eagle named Dakota weighs 17 pounds and has a wing span of 7 feet. She used to be able to fly at speeds up to 100 miles per hour and take down an adult antelope until someone shot her in the wing, permanently disabling her.


 Farm Fest 12a  

 This Barn Owl is not indigenous to New England and despite having found his way here, is not cold-hardy, which explains why he and his friends can be found in barns seeking warmth.

 Farm Fest 12d 

A little bit about the history of Hilltop Farm: George M. Hendee, of Indian Motorcycle fame, founded Hilltop Farm in 1913, completing his “Monster Barn” at the beginning of World War I in 1914. Two years later, he retired to this 500-acre farm, raising a prized herd of Guernsey cows known as Hilltop Butterfats, which became well-known throughout the cattle breeding industry. He also established a model poultry plant for the breeding of White Leghorn chickens. Hilltop Farm became an important producer of milk, dairy and poultry

 Farm Fest 15 

The Hilltop Farm property:

 Farm Fest 14e

In 1940, Charles Stroh, a prominent Connecticut attorney and public servant, bought the farm from Hendee, who died in 1943.
Over the years, Stroh downsized operations and subdivided the farm. After Stroh died in 1992, farming on the remaining 250 acres soon ceased. In 2002, the Town of Suffield acquired 117 acres and “The Friends of the Farm at Hilltop,”a non-profit, all volunteer organization, was formed to save George Hendee’s 20,000-square-foot dairy barn from sale and possible demolition. 

 Farm Fest 15b 

 Farm Fest 18 

 Farm Fest 16 

The vision of The Friends of the Farm at Hilltop is to help people connect with the land and learn from it. They believe there is nothing that can’t be learned on a farm: caring for the land, growing food, building and repairing, responsibility, creativity, leadership, recycling, teamwork and more.  It is for these reasons that The Friends work to rehabilitate structures and bring the farmland back into production with crops, animals, conservation areas and hands-on learning opportunities. Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when this chicke coop might be restored to its former glory. It was a beauty in its time.

 Farm Fest 30

 For more images and information about this historic property that is the heart of the place I call home, please visit: 

 Farm Fest 40 

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Hurricane Preparedness for Backyard Chickens

 Hurricane 1 

We’re not accustomed to hurricanes here in the Northeast part of the United States and neither are our backyard chickens. With the forecast calling for Hurricane Irene to pay us a visit, I took a crash-course in hurricane preparedness while we waited and thought I would share what I learned. Take care and stay safe.

 Hurricane 2 


A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. The
cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms and, in the Northern Hemisphere, a counter-clockwise circulation of winds near the earth's surface. The main hazards associated with hurricanes are storm surge, high winds, heavy rain, and flooding, as well as tornadoes.

A storm surge is a large dome of water, 50 to 100 miles wide, that sweeps across the coastline near where a hurricane makes landfall.
It can be more than 15 feet deep at its peak. The surge of high water topped by waves is devastating. Along the coast, storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property. 

Hurricane winds not only damage structures, but the barrage of debris they carry is quite dangerous to anyone caught out in them. Damaging winds begin well before the hurricane eye makes landfall

Tropical cyclones frequently produce huge amounts of rain, and flooding can be a significant problem, particularly for inland communities. A typical hurricane brings at least 6 to 12 inches of rainfall to the area it crosses.

Tornadoes spawned by land-falling hurricanes can cause enormous destruction. As a hurricane moves towards shore, tornadoes often develop on the fringes of the storm. 

excerpts taken from:  


Regardless of where your flock rides-out the hurricane, there are basic preparations all of us should make.

Stock up on enough feed to last your flock at least one week.  

Buy extra feed in case it is not readily available following the hurricane.  

Store feed at least 2 feet above ground in a dry, flood-proof area. 

Stockpile enough water to last at least one week. Each chicken will require at least one gallon of water for every three days. If water becomes scarce, cut back on feed intake. 

Stock up your chicken first aid kit with basic veterinary supplies: bandages, Vetwrap, triple antibiotic ointments, etc.).

 Hurricane 4


If at all possible, evacuate your chickens to an indoor space like a garage or basement. Damage to the coop from high winds or a tornado can injure or kill them. 

 Hurricane 5 

Dog crates or rabbit hutches make great temporary quarters for small flocks. Wooden pallets can be used to create a makeshift
pen indoors. A tarp on the floor of a bathroom, covered with pine shavings can serve as a temporary holding area. Even cardboard boxes can be used as temporary crates. 

If you’ve got the time and basic sewing skills, here’s a YouTube video that shows how to make chicken diapers:  

 Hurricane 6 


If it is not possible to bring your chickens inside, there are measures you can take to heighten their safety during a hurricane. Most damage to coops, runs and flocks results from wind and flying objects, therefore, protecting them from these dangers ahead of the hurricane greatly reduces the risks. 

Trim dead wood and weak or overhanging branches from all trees around your coop.

Coops can be strapped down to ground ties as trailers are to reduce wind damage. 

Inspect your coop and run closely for loose boards, roofing, fencing, etc. Secure any found. 

Remove anything from inside the coop/run to reduce the risk of injury to your chickens by flying objects e.g.: loose boards, empty buckets, seats, decorative items, etc. 

Unplug or turn off all electrical power and water in the coop to prevent damage when power is restored.  

Do not put yourself at risk checking on chickens that remain outside but do check on them immediately following the hurricane.  

Securely close all doors and windows. Nail doors and windows shut, if possible. Nail ¾” thick plywood or boards over large windows.

Brace any weak walls. 

Check that roof rafters are securely fastened to the wall studs. 

Install hurricane straps or clips to help keep your roof attached to the walls.

Hurricane 3 


Check for injured chickens and tend to any that need first-aid.

Separate any injured birds from the rest of the flock. Chickens will peck at the injuries of other chickens, creating further damage and possibly killing them. 

Most animals are accustomed to being outside in bad weather but will be stressed from the hurricane, Adding vitamins and electrolytes to the water can help those who have become dehydrated.

Ensure a clean supply feed and water.   

Do not use feed that has been in contact with flood waters.  

Check your outdoor area to make sure that the area is clear of hazards such as broken glass, downed wires and fallen trees
before letting your chickens out of the coop. 

Beware of displaced wildlife (predators). The homes of wild animals get damaged during hurricanes and they will be active
after the storm. Shore up any breaches in coop security that may have occurred during the storm.

This is not an exhaustive list of things that you can do to keep your flock safe, but I hope that you find it a good resource for getting

  aa Grit Magazine
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Araucana, Ameraucana or Easter Egger (Olive Egger, Rainbow Layer): What's the Difference?

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 1 

What is the difference between an Araucana, Ameraucana and Easter Egger chicken? If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Even the experts disagree on some aspects of the histories of these chickens. I hope the following clears up a few of the basics for you.


 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 1b 

Araucana photo used with permission from  

Araucanas were recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) as a breed in 1976. They are blue egg layers with yellow skin, no tails, no beards and no muffs. They possess ear tufts, which are feathers that grow from a slender, fleshy flap just below the ear. The APA recognizes five colors of Araucana: Black, Black Breasted Red, Golden Duckwing, Silver Duckwing and White.

“Araucanas were first bred in the United States in the 1930's. They came from a cross between two breeds from Northern Chile, Colloncas and Quetros. Colloncas have no ear tufts but are rumpless and lay blue eggs; Quetros have ear tufts and tails but do not lay blue eggs.” 

Araucanas are frequently confused with Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers, not only due to misinformation, but often knowingly by unscrupulous sellers. Araucanas are scarce in the United States, likely due to the genetic challenges in breeding. The tufted gene in Araucana is a lethal gene. Two copies of the gene cause nearly 100% mortality in offspring (usually between days 18-21 of incubation). Because no living Araucana possesses two copies of the tufted gene, breeding any two tufted birds leads to half of the resulting chicks being tufted with one copy of the gene, one quarter of the chicks being clean-faced with no copy of the gene, and one quarter of the embryos dead in the shell, having received two copies of the gene.  


 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 2   

Ameraucanas have been bred from different strains of Araucanas since at least 1960 in the United States. The American Poultry Association recognized Ameraucanas as a breed in 1984. For an extraordinarily thorough and fascinating history of Ameraucanas, please see  

Ameraucanas lay blue eggs. Other traits include a pea comb, white skin, full tails, muffs and beards (always together), and slate or black legs; they have no ear tufts. The APA recognizes these colors: Black, Blue, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Sliver, Wheaten and White.

While Ameraucanas are more common in the United States than Araucanas, they are available only through reputable breeders, regardless of advertisements by hatcheries and other large-scale, distribution sources. If you are in the market for Ameraucanas and see an advertisement for "Americanas," be forewarned: there is no such breed. There is no "I" in Ameraucana. 


 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 4 

Easter Eggers (EEs) are not an APA recognized breed, they are a mix of different breeds. They are sometimes referred to as 'Rainbow Layers.' Easter Eggers are essentially descendants of Araucanas and Ameraucanas on one side of the family, and any other breed on the other side of the family. Easter Eggers do not breed true. To 'breed true' means that purebred chicks resemble both parents.

According to the Easter Egg Club of America, EEs are "the most popular chicken in America today."*  Easter Eggers lay a wide range of egg colors, including: any hue of blue and green and even pink on occasion. Other common EE traits include pea combs and wattles that are either small or absent.  They often have greenish legs and beards and muffs, but not necessarily. They can have any skin color. Their leg color can range from green to slate and even yellow. They can be found in an infinite array of feather colors, which makes them a beautiful and unique.

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 5 

   Eggs from an Olive Egger

OLIVE EGGER:   An Olive Egger is a specific type of Easter Egger, that is produced by crossing any dark brownegg-laying breed (Barnevelder, Empordanesa, Marans, Pendesenca or Welsummers) with ablue egg-laying breed (Ameraucanas, Araucanas, Easter Eggers). The hens of these pairings will produce a green egg.

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger 6 
     Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 10 

 Olive Egger adolescents (except for the one Black Copper Marans as labelled)     

The photos of Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers on this page are from my own flock, except for the Araucanas, which are captioned accordingly.

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 14

Araucana hen

Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 15 

Araucana Rooster

Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 16 

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 17 

Blue Ameraucana chicks (Bessie & Clarice)

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 19 

Black Ameraucana chickens (approx. 9 weeks old. One Blue Ameraucana to the left of the bench)

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana20 

Blue Ameraucana hen

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana 22 

Blue Ameraucana hen

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana23 

Black Ameraucana hen

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana24 

A sleepy Easter Egger chick (4 days old)

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana25 

Easter Egger chick (2 weeks old)

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana30 

Easter Eggers (approximately 12 weeks old)

 Ameraucana Araucana Easter Egger Americana32 

Easter Egger Hen with scissor beak aka: crossed beak.


 Olive Egger hen.

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Chicken Treats Guide. Don't Love your Pets to Death.

 Treats for Chickens 1 

If you’re reading this, chances are you have chickens that you consider pets and it’s no secret that we all enjoy spoiling our pets. We get a kick out of seeing them run to greet us at the mere sight of the treat container or the sound of the back door opening. It makes us feel good to see them happy and we are entertained by their antics when they compete for the coveted goodies. But the wrong type of treats and treats in excess can be harmful to their health, stunt growth, shorten their lifespan and interfere with production in egg-layers. So, what can they eat, what shouldn’t they eat and how much is too much?

 Treats for Chickens 2 

A good rule of thumb is: if you shouldn’t eat it, your pet chickens shouldn’t either (mealworms, insects and dirt notwithstanding). Common sense should be the guide in treat selection.The types of foods we require to maximize our own health are the foods we
should consider when spoiling our chickens: high protein, whole grains, low salt, low sugar, fruits and vegetables. Love your chickens, but not to death. Milk products are an exception to this general rule because birds are not equipped with the enzymes necessary to properly digest milk sugars. Think about it: mother birds do not nurse their young. Some yogurt on occasion is fine and does contain beneficial cultures, but too much can cause digestive upset and diarrhea. 

  Treats for Chickens 2a 

How Young?  Every new chicken-keeper wants to know how soon fluffy babies can eat treats. The answer is: any time BUT, if they are fed anything besides starter feed, they will need grit (tiny bits of sand/dirt) to aid in digestion. Starter feed is digested by saliva but other foods require grit for grinding in the gizzard (they’re a little short on teeth).

Given their tiny size and amount of food intake, a very small amount of treats can interfere with a chick’s nutritional balance, even if they're healthy choices. A chick’s growth, development and ability to defend against illness can be negatively affected by too many
treats. I am pretty conservative with baby chicks and snacks. It is fun to spoil baby chicks, but I feel that the potential harm outweighs any feel-good benefit. While not a treat, it bears mentioning that oyster shell should never be given to chicks or non-laying chickens as it can interfere with bone development and cause organ damage. 

 Treats for Chickens 3 

What’s the problem with excess treats? When chickens eat treats, they’re not eating feed, which is their primary source of nutrition even for free-range birds. Commercially prepared feed is very carefully and scientifically prepared to ensure that a chicken’s daily vitamin, mineral and protein requirements are met. Supplemental foods (treats/snacks) replace a portion of those essential dietary
elements to some degree. Excessive treats, even healthy ones, can cause any of the following: obesity, reduced egg production, malformed eggs, habitual laying of multiple-yolked eggs, vent prolapse, a protein deficiency, feather-picking, fatty liver syndrome, increased risk of heat stroke and heart problems. 

 Treats for Chickens 4 


Proteins: beef, chicken, (I know, it seems wrong), eggs, (cooked only so as not to encourage egg-eating) fish, insects (crickets are
delicious!) pork, worms (earthworms, mealworms), sunflower seeds 

Fruits: apples, peeled bananas, berries, coconut flesh, grapes, melon, peaches, pears, pomegranates, strawberries, raisins 

Vegetables: asparagus, beans (fully cooked if previously dried), beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn,
cucumbers, eggplant, greens, (kale, spinach, mustard) peas, peppers, pumpkin, squash 

Whole Grains: bread, cereal, pasta, oatmeal (cooked or not) 

 Treats for Chickens 5 


avocado flesh

tomatoes (can cause gastric upset in quantity) 

potatoes (not green) 

rice (a neutral treat) 

yogurt (probiotics are a better choice)

 Treats for Chickens 6 

 About Scratch. Scratch is affectionately referred to as ‘chicken crack’ for a reason; chickens love it, can’t get enough of it and it’s not the best choice for them. Scratch typically consists of cracked corn and a mixture of grains, which tends to lack an appreciable amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. Scratch should be thought of as chicken candy and only given in small amounts occasionally. *Scratch should not be mixed into the flock’s feed.* 


moldy foods 

uncooked, dried beans (contain phytohaemagglutinin, which is\e highly toxic to humans and animals) 

 Treats for Chickens  7 


MYTH: Chickens should not eat avocados. 

FACT: Chickens can eat the flesh of avocado in moderation. However, avocado pits and skin contain persin, which can be toxic
in significant quantities.

 Treats for Chickens 8

MYTH: Chickens should not eat raw potatoes or potato skins. 

FACT: Chickens should not eat GREEN potato skins. The green color indicates the presence of solanine, a toxin that affects the nervous system when consumed in large quantities. However, the average, healthy human would have to eat 4.5 pounds at one sitting to experience any neurological effects. Similarly, a chicken would need to consume large quantities of green potato skins to experience any effects. The leaves and stems of the potato plant DO contain high levels of solanine and are toxic to chickens. The take-home  message? If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t feed it to your chickens. 

 Treats for Chickens 9 

MYTH: Chickens should never eat onions.

FACT: Chickens can eat onions, chives and garlic in small quantities, occasionally. Sufficient quantities of onion and garlic can be  harmful to chickens, causing hemolytic anemia, aka: Heinz anemia. “The alkaloid N-propyl disulphide is present in cultivated and wild onions, chives and garlic, and affects the enzyme, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase in red blood cells,” which can cause Heinz anemia. You wouldn't eat a bowl of raw onions, chives or garlic, so don't feed them to your chickens as a side dish.  

 Treats for Chickens 9a 

Further reading: (salty foods are okay in moderation, occasionally as long as there is plenty of fresh water available, but never salt alone)  

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Poultry Lice and Mites. Identification and Treatment in your Backyard Chickens.


I’m a planner. I like to know what to expect when embarking on a new endeavor so that I can be as prepared as possible to handle situations as they arise. Before I got my first chickens, I bought every book and read every article and online forum I could find to research whether keeping  chickens was right for me. The majority of my research was extremely encouraging, however, each time I read the ‘external parasites’ and ‘diseases’ discussions, I promptly convinced myself that keeping chickens was for the insane. There were just too many diseases and nasty crawling things that I could not be any less interested in knowing how to identify, much less how to eradicate. Frankly, the long list of insects that could possibly live on my proposed pets made me itch.


I don’t know what it was that tilted the scales in favor of taking the plunge, perhaps it was the cute photos of baby chicks or the promise of a daily Easter egg hunt. Regardless, I’m here to tell you that most of the bad things that could go wrong with a chicken usually don’t and of the things that commonly do go wrong, they tend not to happen simultaneously. So, we handle them one at a time as they come up and maintain a general awareness of the possibilities. That is certainly true of external parasites. There are many types of external parasites, but being able to identify each is not as important as being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of an infestation
generally and how to treat it.


Monthly or bi-monthly flock inspections of each chicken should be performed in order to identify and address parasites before an infestation worsens and birds begin exhibiting signs of parasites. Particular attention should be paid to brooding hens as they dust-bathe less frequently than usual and are especially vunerable to parasites.Some of the common signs of any type of mite or lice
infestation in a chicken are: decreased activity or listlessness, pale comb, changes in appetite, a drop in egg production, weight loss, feather-pulling, bald spots, redness or scabs on the skin, dull, ragged-looking feathers. 


The two most common categories of external parasites are mites and poultry lice. Poultry lice are NOT the same as human head lice and people cannot contract lice from chickens.  



Northern fowl mites and Red Roost Mites are two of the most common poultry mites. These tiny, eight-legged insects can live both on the chicken and in the coop. They are partial to cracks and crevices in wood, roosts and inside nesting boxes.  

Mites can be grey, dark brown or reddish in color and can often be seen along feather shafts and underneath roosts after dark. Mites are active at night when they venture out to leech blood from chickens. With its moist, rich blood supply, the vent area is a favorite feeding ground of mites.



Typical signs of a mite infestation are scabs near the vent, eggs on the feathers and feather shafts and a light colored bird’s feathers may appear dirty in spots where the mites have left droppings and debris.A heavy mite infestation can lead to anemia and death of a chicken. Mites will bite humans, causing minor irritation in the affected area (and an urgent desire to take a gasoline shower).



Poultry lice are fast-moving, 6 legged, flat insects with round heads that live only on the chicken and its feathers. They are beige or straw colored and are typically found at the base of feather shafts near the vent. Poultry lice feed on dead skin and other debris such as feather quill casings. When parting the feathers near the vent to inspect for parasites, they can be seen briefly as they run away. The eggs laid by the female are seen at the bases of feather shafts.




In order to prevent infestations of lice and mites, the coop should be cleaned regularly with particular attention paid to disposing of loose feathers that can harbor hatching eggs (nits). Limit visits from fellow poultry-keepers who can transport the beasts on their clothes, footwear or equipment, (vehicles, shared farm equipment, etc.).  Keep poultry feed in a secure location so as not to attract wild birds, which can carry parasites and diseases. Always quarantine new birds for at least 14 days before introducing them to an existing flock to watch for parasites.

Provide adequate dusting areas for chickens to care for their own skin and feathers naturally. A dust bath is the chicken equivalent of a daily dirt shower. It helps them maintain their skin and feathers and controls parasites. Some claim that adding food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) to the dust bathing area combats external parasites. According to Gail Damerow in The Chicken Encyclopedia, adding diatomaceous earth, wood ashes or lime-and-sulfur garden powder to their dust bath is hazardous to their respiratory health and should be avoided unless they are "seriously infested" with parasites. Even in that case, she writes, "the benefit
may outweigh the danger of TEMPORARILY adding such materials." (p. 93 emphasis added)

I do not add diatomaceous earth to my chickens’ dust-bath areas due to their highly sensitive respiratory systems. I feel that good sanitation practices, frequent flock inspections and providing ample dusting areas are sufficient preventative measures for my flock.

  Miters 9 


Upon identification of lice or mites in any flock member, treatment should begin immediately. There are many different products employed to eradicate mites and lice with varying degrees of effectiveness, among them are: Poultry Protector, Pyrethrum, dog flea dips, flea shampoos, Poultry Protector, diatomaceous earth, Sevin Dust 5% (carbaryl powder) and ivermectin. When lice or mites are detected on one bird, the entire flock should be treated. Treating birds after dark when they have gone to roost is the easiest way to treat the entire flock.  I use Sevin Dust 5% to treat my chickens. While wearing a mask and with the help of another person to hold the bird, I dust underneath the wings and vent area of each bird sparingly but thoroughly. I also clean and treat the entire coop with particular attention paid to nests and roosts.


Treatment must be repeated twice after the initial application in 7 day increments, in order to kill the eggs (nits) that had not hatched at the time of the previous treatments.  

Further reading: 

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 With Polish Hen 


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