How to Start Your Backyard Flock

The current chicken renaissance has gathered momentum. It is now common to find coops in both urban and suburban backyards. This may be attributed to the surging interest in organic and local foods, and the fact that most people find chickens to be great pets. If you are considering bringing some farmyard into the backyard, then this short read will guide you on how to get started.

Why keep a backyard chicken?

Backyard chickens are increasingly popular because they are inexpensive, easy, and produce eggs!

    • You are in charge of what goes into them, which I’m guessing will not be the antibiotics, steroids, and other drugs that may be in store-bought eggs.
    • Chicken manure and eggshells produce fantastic nitrogen-rich fertilizer that is excellent for growing food.
    • They offer natural pest control by  scratching and pecking for larvae and insects to eat.
    • Most chicken breeds make great pets and enjoying cuddling and petting.
    • You can get the freshest eggs possible, mostly with fewer calories and fat than those bought in the store.

Important tips for starting your flock

Here’s what to consider before purchasing your first chick:

#1 – Understand the local regulations

The first step is to check the municipal laws or any homeowner association requirements on rearing backyard chickens. Some areas have limits for the maximum number of animals kept in each household. Most communities ban roosters, but this may not be a deal-breaker since hens can lay eggs without them.

Furthermore, some areas will require you to have permits and a signed agreement from your neighbors. You may also need to appear before the zoning board to discover restrictions on the placement and size of outbuildings. Some areas, however, have no restrictions at all.

By understanding the local requirements, you will be able to begin your project without any conflict with your neighbors or homeowners’ association.

#2 – Pick your breed

One advantage of rearing chickens is that you raise beautiful birds with a range of unusually colored eggs.

Most breeds come in two varieties: standard or large breed, and bantam (typically a quarter the size of the large bird). Both varieties do well in the backyard. However, standard breeds lay larger eggs than their counterparts.

When choosing your unique flock, consider the physical and behavioral characteristics as well as each breed’s climate suitability. Check out our comprehensive guide to find the right breed of chicken suited just for you.

#3 – Build the coop

Not only does it provide shelter for your chickens, but it also forms part of your backyard landscape. So when planning for your coop, consider the chicken’s needs and aesthetics.

You may build a stylish coop that complements your home, or even create a fancy customized coop that includes leaded stained glass windows placed above the nesting boxes. No matter what you choose, create the perfect space that you will love and with plenty of room to keep your chickens happy and healthy.

#4 – Feed and take care of your new pets

Your new chickens may be accustomed to digging up part of their food, but you also need to provide chicken feed. Their diet should be balanced and match their specific need such as if they are chicks, layers, or for meat. Moreover, growing birds, young chicks, and layers have specialized poultry feeds to keep them healthy. As a treat, you can feed Ace Hi or Kelley’s chicken scratch, or add vegetable scraps or grass clippings into the run.

Lots of water is particularly essential for consistent laying. If a layer goes for over 12 hours without drinking water, then this would mean weeks out of production.

Your birds ultimately become your friends and will appreciate the way you interact with them. They may get accustomed to a particular call or noise and will always flock around the gate with their cute ‘awk! awk!’ greeting noises.

#5 – Chicken health

As with any other animal, health problems also affect chickens. Therefore, you should always call your vet to help you with diagnosis and treatment whenever there is a health issue. Notably, you should monitor their health every day and you can even create immune support at home for your new flock.

Healthy birds are active, alert, have clean eyes, and silent unnoticeable breathing. Seek assistance if you notice dropping wings and tail, weakness, discharge from eyes and nostrils, paralysis of one or more limbs, or loss of appetite.

#6 – Gardening with your chicken

Although they are mostly kept for their fresh egg supply, backyard chickens can also benefit the garden. At the end of the gardening season, release your birds into the gardening space and see how they will go crazy! They will uproot the stalks and stems of weeds then gobble up the remaining overripe or damaged vegetables.

Any seeds or insects in the soil will also be eaten. Furthermore, the hens will peck apart the vegetable remnants such as carrot tops, broccoli stems, kale, and chard. All this will be done with endless curiosity and enthusiasm.

There is a lot to consider when raising backyard chickens but ultimately you will be rewarded with lots of feathered friends that will save you money in many ways. If you have already checked the local ordinances and understand the necessary commitment, there is no better time to start your backyard flock than now!

Beat the Heat! Keeping Your Chickens Cool in Summer

chickens wading in a small pool

Every year the summer feels longer and hotter.  We hide indoors, with the air conditioner blasting, drinking ice water and wait for the sun to go down.  We tell ourselves we’re moving to a colder state.  We manage it until winter comes.  But what about our animals?  What about the most delicate of our animals, our birds?  How do chickens beat the summer heat, and what can we do as chicken keepers to help them get through it as comfortably as possible?  Keep your chickens cool in summer with these tips and tricks.

Chickens cannot sweat to cool themselves off.  Instead, they pant, or breathe rapidly.  They also hold their wings slightly out from their body, allowing air to flow through.  In high temperatures, this is not enough to keep them cool.  In extreme temperatures, your chickens are in danger of heatstroke.

Provide an escape from the sun with shade, shade, and more shade.  If your birds are free-ranging around the yard, they stand a good chance of finding a bush or a tree to hide under.  They may even seek refuge under a parked car or on your patio!  If your chickens are housed in an enclosed run, it is essential that you provide them with shade.  Know the position of the sun throughout the day, and put up a barrier to block its rays during the hottest parts of the day.  If your birds cannot get out of the sun, they do not stand a chance.

Keep the air moving.  Setting up a fan in the coop or run will help your chickens significantly.  It will cool the surrounding air and reduce humidity.  This is a particularly helpful strategy for chickens that are housed in enclosed coops and runs, as a natural breeze may not always reach them.

chicken standing in water pan

Provide easy access to cool water.  Where do your chickens hang out during the day?  Make sure there is water nearby, so they don’t have to go far to reach it.  Put out additional water sources.  Make sure the water is not in direct sun, so that it heats throughout the day.  Keep it in the shade to keep it cool.  Not only do you want to make sure your chickens have drinking water, consider setting up a mist system, putting out a kiddie pool, or making a little mud and wet sand.  As the water evaporates off your chickens, it acts as sweat does on our bodies, and carries heat away.  They may enjoy walking through a cool puddle to cool their feet off, and a nice mist can cool surrounding air temperatures by up to 20 degrees.

Ice ice baby.  Put out frozen gallon jugs, blocks of ice, or toss a bunch of ice cubes into a feed pan.  You can even add ice to water dishes throughout the day to keep it cool.  Chickens can drink the ice water as it melts, or place themselves close to it to stay cool.

Frozen treats!  Frozen watermelon makes the perfect summer treat for your chickens.  Its wet, mushy, cold, and tasty!  They’ll enjoy eating it, and they’ll get a hydration boost from the melon’s high water content.  Don’t over do it and feed them too much, or you might start seeing pink droppings everywhere!

chicken eating frozen watermelon

If your chicken is in distress, act fast.  If you see a chicken panting excessively, looking pale and lethargic, you must act quickly.  Immediately take your bird and submerge it up to its neck in a cool water bath.  Their body temperature must be reduced as quickly as possible and this could be a life saving measure.  Consider bringing your vulnerable chickens indoors.  Spending the afternoon in a dog crate in the air conditioning may not seem like their ideal day, but it is much more comfortable than the heat outdoors.

 

Take Your Dog to Work Day is June 22nd!

dogs running through office

Today is June 22nd, which means it’s Take Your Dog to Work Day!  How many of you brought your buddy with you to the job?  Are lucky enough to be able to bring their dog to work every day?

We are seeing a trend that more and more companies are allowing employees to bring well behaved pets with them to the office on a regular basis.  This perk is joining the list of more traditional benefits like gym memberships or subsidized childcare.  Perhaps because for millennials in the work force, pets are important family members too!

Caring for animals has many physical and emotional health benefits, and those carry over to a work setting.  They are a great source of stress relief and contribute to a more relaxed atmosphere.  Animals also help people be more social, and break the ice in tense or uncomfortable situations.  Rough meeting?  It’s a good thing you have a friendly furry face waiting for you back in your office, ready to love you unconditionally.

dog wearing glasses at computer desk
Why so serious?

Interested in getting hired at a dog friendly company?  Here is a short list of a few companies to look into!

  1. Bissell – Grand Rapids, MI
  2. Amazon – Seattle, WA
  3. Zynga – San Francisco, CA
  4. Salesforce – San Francisco, CA
  5. Google – Mountain View, CA
  6. WorkDay – Pleasanton, CA
  7. Zoosk – San Francisco, CA
  8. Ticketmaster – Beverly Hills, CA
  9. Petplan – Philadelphia, PA
  10. Replacements – Greensboro, NC
  11. One Call Now – Troy, OH
  12. G5 – Bend, OR
  13. AnchorFree – Redwood City, CA
  14. TRX – San Francisco, CA
  15. Kimpton – San Francisco, CA
  16. VMWare – Palo Alto, CA
  17. Build-A-Bear Workshop – St. Louis, MO
  18. Autodesk – San Rafael, CA
  19. Activision Blizzard – Irvine, CA

What’s Up with Daylight Saving Time?

Time.  It’s complicated.  Some days it moves slowly, other days we wish we had more of it.  This Sunday, March 11, we lose an hour of it.  Daylight Saving Time will begin and continue until we “fall back” in October.  But what is the reason behind this tradition?

Spoiler alert:  It’s not for farmers!  If you’ve heard that before, it’s purely a myth!  Farmers have always been opposed to the idea.  Why you ask?  Because plants and animals don’t read clocks!  Farming schedules are set by the sun, not the clock, and changing time around twice a year can be confusing and make it difficult to get work done.

There are a few individuals in history who all had a general idea of daylight saving time.  Benjamin Franklin is often given all the credit, but what he proposed (rather sarcastically) was that people just wake up earlier in the summer.  In 1895, George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand, proposed a two-hour time shift that would allow him more time for bug hunting.  Not many years later, William Willet in Great Britain was inspired to conserve daylight while out horseback riding one morning.  He is the one who officially proposed legislation to British Parliament.  It was not a smashing hit with lawmakers, however, and didn’t really go anywhere at the time.

In 1916, two years into World War I, the German government needed to find ways to save energy.  They thought back to Willet’s idea of moving the clock to have more daylight working hours, and gave it a try.  During this time, coal was the primary power source, and there was a measurable savings in energy usage by changing clocks to capture more daylight hours.  In 1918, the United States first implemented Daylight Saving Time as part of the war effort.  The Standard Time Act that Congress passed including Daylight Saving Time, and also defined time zones within the United States.

After the war ended, so did the federal Daylight Saving Time, and things were left to local governments.  It got a little out of hand, and Time Magazine described the system as ”a chaos of clocks.”  In 1965, there were 23 different start and end dates just in the state of Iowa!

The biggest complaints came from the transportation industry.  They pushed the hardest for federal regulation, which resulting in the Uniform Time Act of 1966.  This established a permanent Daylight Saving schedule for everyone, starting on the last Sunday in April and ending on the last Sunday in October.  States can opt out, but the entire state has to do so (as opposed to city or county) and Congress has to sign off.  In 1986, Daylight Saving Time was extended to the first Sunday in April.  In 2005, it was extended to begin the second Sunday in March and end the first Sunday in November.

Who in the government is in charge of regulating Daylight Saving Time?  The Department of Transportation.  The Chamber of Commerce is also a big supporter of Daylight Saving Time, because if there is still daylight after we leave work, we are more likely to go somewhere and spend money!  Don’t be fooled, studies have shown that Daylight Savings Time does not actually save any energy in the modern day.

Are you a fan of Daylight Saving Time?  It depends on how you like to spend your day.  Would you rather have a brighter morning or a brighter evening?

Those who are big fans of Daylight Saving Time most likely live in a northerly place.  That’s because the farther you live from the Equator, the more drastic your seasons will be.  The top and bottom parts of the globe receive drastically different amounts of daylight based on the time of year.  In Fairbanks, Alaska, the longest day has 22 hours of daylight, and the shortest day has only 3 hours.  This is very different from locations closer to the Equator.  In St. Augustine, Florida, the longest day has 14 hours of daylight, and the shortest day has about 10 hours.

Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time.  That’s because is so darn hot!  During the summer, the only time it’s bearable to be outside is at night.  Residents prefer the sun to set early, so they can leave the house comfortably.

Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands do not observe Daylight Saving Time.  They are all located relatively close to the Equator, so the length of daylight is pretty consistent year-round.  Changing clocks is basically just an inconvenience.

Observing Daylight Saving Time continues to be controversial.  More and more people are wondering why we do it, and wonder if we should keep doing it.  More and more state governments are bringing it up as a point of discussion.  Will this tradition continue?  Only time will tell.

The Facts on Dog Flu

dog under a blanket looking sick

Do you get a flu shot every year?  Have you ever had the flu?  Did you know your dogs can get the flu too?  Here’s some facts you should know about Canine Influenza.

  1. Dog flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by specific viruses.
  2. There are 2 strains of the virus that specifically infect dogs: H3N8 and H3N2.
  3. The virus is spread through the air.  Dogs who are kenneled together, living in shelters, or socializing at the park are susceptible.  The virus can also be spread through contaminated objects like toys.
  4. There are no reported cases of dog flu transmitting to humans.  However, given their constantly changing nature, it is scientifically possible that one day the virus could be transmitted from dogs to humans.
  5. Symptoms include cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and poor appetite.
  6. Not all dogs will show symptoms.
  7. Cases can range from minor to severe.  Dogs can develop secondary bacterial infections resulting in pneumonia or even death, although the percentage of those cases is very small.  Most dogs recover within 2 or 3 weeks.
  8. Treatment consists mostly of supportive care.
  9. There is a canine influenza vaccine available.  If your dog is often interacting with other dogs, you may want to ask your vet about vaccination as a preventative measure.
  10. If you think your dog is sick, seek veterinary attention.

 

Fun Fall Activities for Fido

All you dog moms and dog dads out there know that one of the best parts of owning a pooch is that they’re portable!  We love them so much we want to bring them everywhere with us!  And since it’s officially “Pumpkin Spice Season,” you may be looking for some fall themed dog-friendly Sunday Funday trips.  We’ve put together a few ideas, check ’em out!

Head to the pumpkin patch.

pumpkin patch dog

Wear matching sweaters.

Go for a hike.

Play in a pile of crunchy autumn leaves.

Enjoy some tasty pumpkin treats.

Take a camping trip.

Play a friendly game of football.

Have a snuggle and a snooze!

 

I Found a Stray Dog, Now What Do I Do?

photo of brown/black stray dog

Naturally as animal lovers, our first instinct is to help an animal in need.  If any of us came across a stray dog, we want to see that animal be reunited with its owner.  So if you ever find yourself trying to catch a dog, keep these things in mind.

  1.  Always make your safety  a first priority.  Keep the dogs safety in mind as well.  A frightened dog can act unpredictably.  It may become aggressive out of fear.  If you feel unsure about approaching the dog, it is best to keep your distance and contact Animal Control authorities.  If the dog appears approachable, maintain caution and use your common sense.
  2. Assume every dog is owned and loved by someone.  No matter what condition you find it in, the dog might have someone who’s missing it.
  3. Check the dog for any identifying marks.  These can be ID tags, ear notches, or scars from old injuries.  These will help the dog be identified by its owner.
  4. Take the dog to a local vet office and have it scanned for a microchip.  If a dog is microchipped, its owner can be contacted.
  5. By law, you are required to turn the dog over to local authorities.  The dog needs to be taken to the animal shelter so that its owner can find it.  Many good Samaritans turn strays into the shelter as a last resort, out of fear the dog will be euthanized.  But remember, the shelter is the first place an owner missing their pet will go.  So not only is it the law, but it is in the animal’s best interest for you to take them there immediately.
  6. Search the area for “Lost Dog” ads, and post some “Found Dogs” ads yourself.  In your ads, include a small black & white photo, a brief description of the dog, and your contact information.
  7. When speaking to the dog’s potential owner, ask questions.  Rather than you describing the dog to them, have them describe the dog to you.  Make the caller give you specific details, as a way to screen out anyone with less than good intentions.

By following this procedure, you will be more likely to reunite a lost dog with its owner.  As an animal lover, that should make you feel pretty awesome!  Just think about how you would feel if someone returned your dog to you.  You’ve given that same joy to someone!  Well done.

 

Beware Foxtail Grass: A Threat to Your Pet

The warming spring temperature means great weather, blooming flowers, and spending more time outdoors with your family and pets.  It also means that many grasses are dispersing their seeds, and foxtails are in abundance.

Foxtail Awns

Foxtails are bushy looking spikes containing seeds in certain species of grass.  Their shape makes them perfect for clinging to your pet’s fur, your shoes, and your socks when out for a walk.  It is very important that you remove any foxtails on your pet’s coat, as they can pose a serious health risk.

Foxtails easily become embedded in fur, and have a way of working themselves deeper and deeper in to your pet’s coat, eventually reaching the skin.  Foxtails will pierce through in the skin, burrowing into soft tissues and organs.   The can even enter the body through nostrils or ear canals, and become further embedded in those pathways.

Embedded foxtails will cause infection, distress, hearing loss, trouble breathing, loss of vision, and even death.  Once foxtails have made their way inside your pet’s body, surgery is required to remove them.

So what can you do to keep your pets safe during foxtail season, but still enjoy time outside?

  • Remove any grass species with foxtails that grow in your yard
  • While out walking, stick to clear pathways and consider keeping pets leashed – also a good idea for snake season!
  • When you return home, give your pet’s coat a throughout examination, checking for hidden foxtails.  Your furbabies sure won’t mind the attention and pets!
    • Pay extra attention to areas like the underarm, between the toes, in nostrils, and in ear canals.
  • Go to the vet immediately if you notice any signs your pet may have an embedded foxtail.  Head-shaking, fits of sneezing, eye irratation, and visible skin irritation are all clues that there may be a foxtail that has become embedded.  You might also notice your pet generally being bothered or uncomfortable, or chewing on the affected area.

So go out, hit the trails, and enjoy the beauty of Spring!  Just be aware of those little stickers, pickers, and foxtails that could wreak havoc on your pet’s health.