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  • What type of wire should I use for my chicken coop?

    Chicken wire would seem like the obvious answer just based on it’s name alone. Unfortunately this is not the case. While chicken wire is great for keeping chicken in or out of any given area, it is terrible keeping hungry predators away. Chicken wire just isn’t all that strong so you shouldn’t trust it. We use two different types of wire, welded wire and hardware cloth. I have placed different pictures of the wire below to give you an idea of what they look like. Welded wire is as thick as a metal coat hanger and has gaps that are 2″ x 4″ wide. This is a tight enough mesh to keep out any animal that might eat your chickens. Some people think (rightly so) that the gaps in the welded wire are wide enough for an animal to reach through and grab a chicken. This might be the case, but most predators that will attach chickens are nocturnal and mainly come around at night when your chickens will be in the coop, where they can’t be pulled threw the wire. Hardware cloth is also a wire (no idea about the name) that is a thiner wire but has a tighter mesh. The gaps on hardware cloth is 1/2″ x 1/2″. Hardware cloth is more expensive and harder to work with. Whichever wire you choose just make sure to buy something that is better than chicken wire.

     

  • What type of roost bars do chickens need?

    This is one of those questions about chickens where if you read 5 different books about chickens (which I have) you will get 5 different answers. One book will tell you that the roost bar has to be perfectly round, where another says it has to be a flat board. The other books fall somewhere in the middle. We have found that using a finished 2″x2″ (which is actually a 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ with slightly rounded corners) work great. We don’t want to criticize any other roosting bar option. We feel, like most things when it comes to having chickens, if it is working well for you that you must be doing it right and stick with it.

  • AmeriCorps in Alabama building our garden beds

    A few weeks ago we flat pack shipped 15 – 4′ x 8′ x 24″ garden beds all the way to Alabama for an AmeriCorps project through the YWCA. It was a LOT of wood, and the project is for a great cause. Please check out there website and feel free to send a donation their way, they are doing great things. http://www.ywcabham.org/  An excerpt from their website (video below) –

    On Monday, the YWCA’s AmeriCorps members spent their Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national day of community service. The 33 members, along with the support of volunteers, including the YWCA’s new CEO Yolanda Sullivan, worked together to enhance the beauty and vitality of the historic Woodlawn community in honor of King’s legacy of service for the sake of others. The AmeriCorps members’ service also contributed to the ongoing effort of the YWCA’s YWoodlawn Revitalization Project, which has, over the past seven years, transformed several acres of once blighted housing into an award-winning neighborhood. The sunny weather and rich soil were great signs of good things to come.

  • Bully Chicken, Toxic Plants

    Hi Ben,

    This is Shannon from Oakland writing.  I have two chicken questions for you.  One is about evil, aggressive chicken behavior.  My barred rocks and the darker mystery chicken (not sure if you remember that one) have been ganging up on and attacking one of my rhode island reds.  I separated them, and all is peaceful with my 3 “sweet” hens but the two trouble makers are pissed off and on a time out in the tractor on the lawn.  Any advice?  Also, I have been letting them free range and wanted to know if I should be worried about them eating any potentially toxic plants.  The Bio Fuel Oasis in Berkeley had a printout of all these toxic plants, and I am sure we have many of them.  Are chickens smart enough not to eat the bad stuff?  Thanks so much, and I hope all is well.  – – Shannon

     

    Hey Shannon –

    Let’s start with the toxic plant issue first.  I wouldn’t worry about it at all.  Just like animals that live in the wild around many toxic things, your chickens won’t eat things that could kill them.  Never say never, but the chances of it happening are very small, so I wouldn’t worry about it.  As for your evil chickens, keep in mind that your chickens will establish a pecking order, the the chicken on the top will peck the others.  This is normal as long as it doesn’t get really nasty to the point that the chickens start to bleed.  The chicken at the bottom has a rough life, and will get picked on quite a bit.  It’s hard to know if what you are experiencing is normal or not without seeing it.  I wouldn’t worry about it unless it gets to the point of blood or they are preventing the chicken from eating food.  Let me know if that helps and if you have any more questions.  Thanks again for being a customer, and good luck!
    – Ben

     

  • Soil Depth for Plants

    Q: Is it better to do 12″ high or 24″ raised garden beds for my plants. What are the advantage and disadvantages?

    A: It depends on what you are planning on growing.  Smaller plants will do great in 12″ of soil; salad greens, strawberries, herbs, etc.  For the larger plants like tomatoes and melons you should do beds that are at least 18″ deep, and 24″ would be great.  If you are placing them in an area where the soil underneath is good quality soil that the plant can grow down into the garden beds can be a little shorter.  Having enough soil area for plants is more important than we think, and will make a big difference on the health and yield of your plants.

  • Different Aged Chicks

    Q:  I purchased three day-old chicks on May 4th.  I also ordered a fourth chick which was supposed to arrive on the 9th.  Unfortunately, the chick didn’t arrive until this Monday.  I was hoping I could put this tiny chick in with the older ones (guess they’d be almost two weeks old now), but one of them started pecking her so I had to divide my brooder with a screen.  Now my poor little day-old chick is all alone on one side of the screen and she seems lonely.  Do you have any suggestions for when it will be safe to put her in with the others?   Should I consider getting another very young chick in the next day or two so she will have a friend to play with?

    A:  A small friend wouldn’t hurt, but if you keep them separated by a wire wall for about 2 weeks they should be fine.  Make sure you give them plenty of space when you put them back together.  When you do, I would watch them for a little while.  The smaller one will probably start getting pecked, which is normal.  Just make sure the other chickens don’t start attacking her.  A good general rule is that as long as the chick doesn’t start bleeding she should be fine.  The amount of pecking should also start to decrease.  If the chick gets pecked to the point of bleeding or the other chickens relentlessly attack her, even when they have ample space, they need to be separated longer.

  • Chicken Treats, and a Healthy Chicken Diet

    This is a guest post by Nadja from the San Fran area.  She E-mailed me this and I think she shares some good advice.  Thanks Nadja!

    Please remind people to always provide laying hens with free choice oyster shell and a source of grit and to not give more treats than they can easily clean up in fifteen minute. I am involved with the chicken community in the SF Bay Area since moving down here, and most of the problems people have seem to be related to having seen too many movies where all the chickens were fed was scratch. Not only do excessive grain treats cause obesity, they imbalance the ration and can cause deficiencies. Obesity is linked to egg binding and other problems. I have seen hens driven to premature molt by well-intentioned owners who didn’t provide layer feed and provided scratch as the sole diet on the assumption that “free range” in the backyard would fulfill most of the poor biddies nutritional needs. A suggestion you could make is growing a little kale and chard for the girls as treat material; they like it, and in moderate amounts (that fifteen minutes or less to eat it), it is a good dietary addition.

    – Nadja

  • Chickens and Extreme Temperatures

    Q:  What are your thoughts on breeds to buy for our needs and environment. We want about 4 hens. Maybe 1 rooster. Only interested in eggs to eat. Live in Jamestown,Calif. Temps range from night time winter lows in the 20’s to 100 daytime in summer. Rare to get much snow . elevation is 1400′ We are in a rural area and are somewhat new at this.

    A:  Most of the standard backyard breeds will work just fine.  I would go with a dual purpose breed, which means they are good for eggs and the butcher block.  The best, in my mind, are Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks.  They can handle temperatures down into the teens without any external heating.  They are also great layers, you should get 5 – 6 eggs per chicken per week.  As for the heat just make sure they have access to shade, and that they have plenty of fresh water.  Also, chickens are easier than you might think.  I hope that helps and let me know if you have any additional questions.  Thank you for your interest, and good luck!

  • Chickens Loosing Feathers?

    Q:  I have a chicken (grey and black plymouth rock)  she’s loosing feathers more than usual, and especially around the neck area. Any ideas why?  I have a total of three chickens, they all seem to be in good health except the one loosing the feathers.

    A:  This time of year many chickens moult.  This is a process where their old feathers fall out and they will eventually grow new feather.  This is extremely common and is nothing to be worried about.  They will look scraggly and beat up for a while, but once their new feathers grow in they will look beautiful once again.

    If you have a question about your chickens feel free to ask, just fill out our contact form.

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