Like we mentioned in Part 1, horses have long teeth that continuously erupt out of the gums throughout their lifetime. It’s good that their teeth are constantly “growing” because their natural food source – grasses, hays, and forages – are very fibrous and abrasive, and chewing causes the teeth to wear down.
A horse’s upper molars are slightly father apart than their lower molars. This leads to uneven wear across the surface of the molars, and can cause sharp ridges or points on the teeth. These points can be as sharp as razors, and in the very least, will cause your horse discomfort. At most, the sharp teeth can cut your horse’s cheeks, the teeth could fracture or become infected, or they could even fall out of the jaw. A horse with poor dental condition may be losing weight due to not being able to comfortably eat. They may also show signs of discomfort while being handled or ridden, for example head tossing while carrying a bit. This is why routine dental exams and maintenance are key to horse health.
An average adult horse should have dental maintenance about every two years. Horse’s with dental abnormalities, like overbites, may require more frequent exams. A veterinarian or equine dentist will perform a process called “floating.” This is basically a process of filing down the edges and points of the teeth, and making minor adjustments to the alignment of the teeth. The procedure is not painful for the horse, but for ease of handling and manipulating the horse’s jaw, it is common to see horses given a sedative. The purpose of floating teeth is not to make the teeth perfectly flat, as they need some irregular surface to grind up food, but rather to create a fairly level match between upper and lower teeth, without any waves or points.
While the days are still long in late July, we are more than halfway through our annual trip around the sun. Each day grows shorter as the sun sets a little sooner in the evening. Decreasing daylight signals to your chickens that it’s time to molt. Some of your birds may have already begun the process, and the others will follow soon enough.
What is molting?
Molting is the natural shedding of old feathers and growth of new feathers. Chickens go through a few molts as they develop from chicks to mature birds, and after that they will molt every year in late summer or fall. If suddenly you take a look at your flock and notice your birds look a little naked, don’t panic! This is a perfectly normal and natural process.
What can I expect during molting season?
Each bird goes through their molt a little differently. Some might only lose a few under-feathers, and just look a little less fluffy than usual. Some have it a little rougher, and go totally bald. Most will be somewhere in between those two extremes. Feathers begin shedding at the head, then back, then breast and thighs, and finally the tail. Other than feeling a little exposed, your chickens should be acting normal.
You will notice a drop in egg production from your flock during molt. That’s because a hen’s body will put all it’s energy and protein intake towards the growth of new feathers. Hens might lay less eggs, or stop laying all together, until their molt is completed. The molting process can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 12 weeks, depending on the individual bird, but the average is around 7-8 weeks.
New emerging feathers are called pin feathers. They begin as a feather shaft covered in a waxy coating. These pin feathers have an active blood supply. If a pin feather is damaged, it may bleed profusely, even though the injury isn’t severe. If you experience this situation, it’s best to use tweezers and remove the bleeding pin feather.
Once the pin feathers have full come in, the waxy coating falls off, the blood supply dries up, and the feather unfurls. You may see these waxy casings on your coop floor.
What do I do during molt?
There’s a couple of things you can do to help your birds out during this time. While molting is normal, it’s an uncomfortable process, and they could use your support.
Reduce stress in the flock. That means avoid changing up the everyday routine, moving the coop, or bringing in new flock members.
Don’t handle birds unless absolutely necessary. New emerging feathers are extremely sensitive, painful even. It’s best just to let your birds alone until the molt is over.
Feed a higher protein diet. Feathers are made mostly out of proteins (about 85%). By increasing the protein in your chickens’ feed, you are giving them the nutrients they need to grow new feathers. Star Milling manufactures a 20% protein feed that is a great option for molting. It’ll give your chickens the boost they need to grow new, beautiful feathers
Our little chicks are in their 5th week of life outside an egg! It has been such a joy to watch Jordy be a mother hen to these two, and to watch the chicks growing and learning about the world around them.
Jordy is the epitome of an overprotective “helicopter mom”. She never lets the chicks get too far from her side, and never lets anyone else get too close. It has been quite a task to get photos of them or to check up on them, because we can hardly get within 10 feet of them before they are led away by cautious mama.
As the days and weeks pass by, mother hen is expanding the area she is comfortable letting the chicks explore. What started out as a small perimeter directly around the nest has grown to about half of the one-acre property. She is doing a great job of showing them the ropes – how to find delicious plants and bugs to eat, how to take a dust bath, where to find the best spot for a nap on a hot afternoon, and when to take cover from danger. She is in constant verbal communication with her chicks, and after watching them for hours, we have noticed different sounding clucks that must have distinct meanings. A “come eat this!” cluck, a “be careful kids!” cluck, and a reassuring “mom’s right here,” cluck for when they wander too far.
She is also starting to bring them around the rest of the flock more and more. Chickens are not welcoming of outsiders, and any new chick or chicken is viewed as an enemy to be eliminated. Sometimes even flock members that have spent time away, perhaps due to illness or injury, have to be reintroduced carefully. Mama Jordy is keeping a safe distance, but the other flock members are able to see and get used to the new additions being out in the yard. Jordy and the chicks are still sleeping in their cozy nest, and have not relocated to the coop just yet.
The chicks are growing like weeds, and at this age their juvenile feathers are really coming in. Based on their feathering right now, our hypothesis is that we have two girls. Of course, we could always be wrong! It’s still a guessing game at this point, and we won’t know for sure until about 16 weeks. We once had a chick we swore was a rooster right up until it laid an egg! Turns out she’s just a bit masculine in her appearance. So time will tell, but for now they are healthy and happy!
We wanted to write a short little article about your horse’s teeth, but as we were researching, we realized there was more to discuss than we thought! As it turns out, there’s a lot going on in your horse’s mouth. In Part 1, we’ll introduce you to the anatomy of a horse’s mouth, and what’s going on with those teeth. In Part 2, we’ll discuss why your horse requires routine dental work to maintain health and wellness.
OK, so here we go. Your horse’s teeth, starting from the beginning.
By the time a horse is 2 weeks old, it has 16 baby teeth. It is important for them to be examined early on. If a horse is born with an underbite or overbite, it could create challenges while nursing, or lead to a lifetime of dental abnormalities.
By 9 months of age, a horse will have all 24 baby teeth in place. Most horses will also have 2 wolf teeth and the first set of permanent molars coming in at this age.
Between 2 to 3 1/2 years of age, a horse will be replacing most of his baby teeth with permanent teeth, and growing in additional permanent adult molars. In a span of 1 1/2 years, a horse will have grown in up to 24 permanent teeth.
As you can see, there’s a lot of changes going on in your young horse’s mouth. If you notice them being fussy, unwilling, or uncomfortable, take a peak in their mouth and see what’s going on. Just like in human infants, having new teeth come in can feel unpleasant or painful.
A horse will lose all of his baby teeth by about 5 years old. Think about that next time you’re training and bitting young horses – they still have baby teeth and new teeth coming in! By 6 years old, all 36-40 of the permanent teeth are in position and in use.
Horse’s adult teeth are called hypsodont teeth, or long teeth. This means that there is tooth below the gum’s surface that will emerge and be used throughout the horse’s lifetime. As a horse chews on their coarse, fibrous forage material, the tooth is worn down, and new tooth will emerge to replace it. A horse’s teeth are about 4 inches long, with most of the tooth hidden below the surface of the gums. By considering the average wearing down and replacement of tooth material, experts have calculated that horses have about 25 years of use out of their adult teeth. As the tooth begins to run out, senior horses become prone to dental problems such as gum disease, diseased roots, fractured teeth, or loose teeth.
Check out Part 2, where we’ll discuss more in detail how the wearing down of a horse’s permanent teeth changes their shape, and what maintenance is required to maintain health.
Major pro of having a broody hen sit on eggs and hatch chicks: she does all the work.
Major con of having a broody hen sit on eggs and hatch chicks: you might miss out on all the excitement!
It’s a good thing we had our calendar marked with an approximate hatch day for our two Wheaten Ameraucana eggs, otherwise we’d still have no idea that the chicks were free from their eggs and out in the world!
We went to do our evening check up on Jordy. She was being extra grouchy and protective of her nest, growling at us and biting us as we tried to check on the eggs underneath her. So much so that we couldn’t get a good look at the eggs. We almost walked away before we noticed tiny little “peeps” sounding off, and a little yellow head poked out for a split second. The chicks had already hatched!
We didn’t actually have visible confirmation that both eggs had hatched for about 24 hours. We only knew we had at least 1 chick. It took two of us to move Jordy just enough to get a peak at our new hatchlings. Two healthy, fuzzy, little yellow chicks! We were disappointed that we didn’t get to witness “the miracle of birth,” but happy to see that the chicks were already dry, scooting around, and comfortably tucked up in the warm blanket of mama’s wings.
Jordy is certainly a proud mother, and deserves some kind of award for her fiercely protective, helicopter-mom style. She is in constant communication with her babies, and is always on the lookout for intruders. We can only get within about 5 feet of them before she puffs up and gives her chicks the cue to stop exploring and come seek protection under her wings. She even attacked the dog when it came over for a harmless, merely curious look at the new additions. There is no doubt that these chicks will be safe in her care!
Slowly but surely, mama will lead her babies further and further from the nest, and teach them about life outside. She will teach them to scratch and find food, take them over to the water bowl for a refreshing drink, and take a nice dust bath with them. They will remain separated from the rest of the flock for a while, until Jordy is comfortable enough to introduce them. Given Jordy’s ultra-protective instincts, it could take a while!
Chicks that are raised outside by a hen, rather than inside in a brooder, generally mature more quickly. They shed their baby down and grow in feathers faster, they grow in size faster, and since they aren’t under the light of an artificial heat lamp 24/7, their sleep cycles are more regulated by natural light. Plus they get the added benefits of getting plenty of fresh air and exercise. They also learn better social skills because of the teachings of their mother, and can integrate into the adult flock fairly seamlessly.
Keep checking back, as we document these two chicks as they grow and mature in to adult birds! Will they be hens or roosters? Let’s find out together!
14 days down, about 7 more days to go! Jordy the Buff Orpington hen is doing a great job sitting on her eggs and protecting her nest. Since we take a very hands off approach to this process, there won’t be much excitement until hatch day.
We make sure to check on Jordy twice a day, but otherwise leave her undisturbed. She is doing just what Nature intended. Her nesting location has worked out extremely well. The other more dominant hens have come over to investigate, but Jordy feels safe and secure under the tree branches. She has also been nice and cool, even during days the temperature has been quite hot. Overall, she’s looking to be in great shape and performing her duties like a champ!
While out feeding the horses one day, we heard a great big commotion – squawking, flapping, running, what a scene! It was Jordy! She had decided she was hungry, and needed to take a break from sitting. Every second she was away from the nest, she was a hormonal and worried mother. She was puffed up like a turkey the whole time she was eating! After about 5 or 10 minutes of getting some food, water, and a nice stretch, she made her way back to her nest. This was a great opportunity to observe her and evaluate her overall condition. She looks to be in good health, and doesn’t seem to have lost much weight at all. While sitting on eggs, a hen puts her body through quite the ordeal, eating and drinking only sparingly. It is easy for them to lose weight and become dehydrated. Jordy is in great condition.
It was also a great opportunity to go take a peak at the nest! We have our two eggs, hopefully developing into beautiful Wheaten Ameraucana chicks! Have you ever heard the phrase “to feather the nest” ? As you can see, Jordy has done just that! She has plucked a few feathers from her breast to make her nest a little more cozy.
At this stage of development, our chicks are basically fully formed. They are just tiny versions of themselves. They have down covering their entire body, a beak, and claws. Eyelids have developed over their eyeballs. Over the next 7 days, they will continue to grow in size, and utilize the nutrients within the contents of the egg. Did you know, an egg white and egg yolk is the amniotic fluid for a developing chick? Eggs are very nutrient rich!
Meet Jordy. Jordy is a Buff Orpington hen, and is just over 2 years old. Ever since she reached maturity, she goes broody in late Spring, and is always extremely determined to sit on eggs! She often needs to be searched for, because she has hunkered down in any number of odd locations, wanting to make a nest.
This year, rather than fight her urges, we let her sit on some eggs. We’ll keep up with her periodically in our blog series: Chick Watch.
Jordy has been “lightly broody” these past few weeks. She would sit on top of the flock’s daily eggs, but would easily be shooed off. She’d give her feathers a shake and a fluff, and then go on her merry way. She wasn’t fully committed. About one week ago, she … disappeared. We didn’t see her in the yard, and noticed she didn’t come home to roost one evening. So, the next morning, we sent out a search party. She was quickly discovered, holed up under a pile of trimmed tree branches. We knew this was it; she was ready to commit to sitting on eggs.
There is no rooster on the property, so any eggs laid by the hens at home do not have the potential to hatch. They are not fertile, and can never develop in to chickens. We purchased two fertile wheaten ameraucana eggs from our local feed store. They’ll fit right in to our flock once they hatch, as we have majority blue eggs layers.
Jordy had chosen to nest under a pile of tree branches in the far corner of the one acre property. Do we move her to the coop, or another location closer to the house? Or do we leave her where she is? A lot of thought went in to this decision. It is often considered ideal to have a hen nest in a convenient, extremely secure location, where she can be easily monitored and kept safe. However, there are several reasons why we decided to leave Jordy in her tree branch nest:
No real threat from predators. While yes, we realize that it is possible for a coyote or other predator to enter the yard, it hasn’t ever happened before, and doesn’t seem a likely scenario. It’s a risk we felt comfortable taking.
Privacy. Jordy is comfortable in the back corner of the yard, away from the rest of the flock and other animals. She will not constantly be bothered and feeling the need to defend herself and her eggs. This is especially important because Jordy is lower in the pecking order. The more dominant hens are pushy and nosy, and would constantly be invading her personal space were she nesting in the coop.
Shade. She is in an area that is shaded and cool at all times. Last year, she nested on eggs in the coop, in July. While out of direct sunlight, it was still so hot that we had to set up misters and fans. There were many days that we were worried about the temperature being dangerously high. In her tree branch nest she’s in the shade and will get a nice breeze.
Security. We took more trimmed branches and piled them up around her. She’s got a bit of a tree branch cage going on, and is well hidden. While we realize this isn’t incredibly secure, it’ll definitely do the trick for 21 days. “Back in the day on grandpa’s farm,” hens would disappear and make nests who knows where, and then reappear weeks later with chicks in tow! They do just fine on their own.
First things first, and a lesson learned from last year, we marked the fertile eggs with a pencil. This will help us distinguish the fertile eggs from the non-fertile eggs laid by our hens. Sometimes, when a broody hen leaves the nest momentarily to eat, drink, or relieve herself, another hen will decide to lay an egg in the same nest. Non-fertile eggs in the nest need to be removed regularly, as they will start to spoil if sat on for too long.
Given her isolated location, we set up a food and water station close by, so she doesn’t have to travel far to replenish herself. A hen sitting on eggs puts her needs second to her duty of incubating, and that will take a toll on her body. She will only leave the nest about once per day to eat, drink, and relieve herself.
Today is Day 7 out of 21 days of incubation. What do our developing chicks look like? The Poultry Site has a great explanation along with photos of chick development as it happens day by day. At the stage of development, our chick embryos have a head, neck, a body, and limbs. The beak is beginning to form. The brain continues to develop, but it now takes up less space in the body, as the body begins to grow larger. In just two days, feathers will start to form.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page and this blog as we post updates on Jordy and her eggs, which in about 2 weeks will be little baby chicks! We can’t wait!
If they haven’t already arrived, they’ll be at your barn soon! Flies are not only annoying to you and your horses, they can also bite and spread disease. Every summer is a battle to control the fly population and keep them from bugging your horses. There are several methods of fighting flies out there. The best approach is to use the methods that work best for you, and in combination with each other. If you attack the flies on multiple fronts, you won’t kill every single one, but you should still emerge victorious!
Bolster Your Defenses: Prevent Fly Populations From Growing
Implement good stable management practices to make your facility as inhospitable as possible.
Manage and remove manure, the housefly’s favorite meal. Clean stalls daily, and don’t let your manure pile get too big. If you’re working with a pasture situation, spread manure so that it can dry out and break down quickly.
Reduce wet areas, which draw in insects. Repair leaky plumbing, keep stalls dry, and eliminate standing water in drainage areas.
Increase airflow around the barn by installing fans.
Quickly dispose of garbage and keep any food in secure containers.
Attack With Effective Anti-Fly Tools
Common ways to protect your horses and control the fly population at the same time.
Create a physical barrier between your horse and the flies using fly masks, sheets, and boots. Fly masks are the most popular warm weather accessory for horses (If only they made it through the whole season without being destroyed! If only they stayed on your horse’s head and off the ground!). These mesh items are lightweight and breathable, protecting your horse from being bitten. There is also the additional benefit of some UV ray protection for horses with light skin prone to sunburn, or dark coats prone to sun bleaching.
Attract and kill adult flies using fly traps. There are several different kinds of traps available, so experiment and find out what suits you best. These can be very effective, but also pretty unsavory to handle and dispose of.
Make your horse less attractive to flies by applying topicals. These can be sprays, roll-ons, spot-ons, or shampoos. They can be composed of natural or synthetic insecticides, and there are dozens and dozens of options available. Fly spray is a staple item found in the barn. It works quickly and is effective in the short term, however if your horse is bathed or sweats frequently, the product can be short lived.
Go biological by releasing fly parasites. These are good bugs that seek out and eat fly larvae, preventing them from ever becoming adult flies. This method is very effective at preventing future fly generations from developing, but does not get rid of adult flies.
Take a further look in to these options and decide what methods will work best for you. Deciding factors might include where your horses are kept, the type of flies in your area, your budget, and maintenance level. Dealing with flies just comes with the territory of horse ownership, but you don’t have to take them lying down!
Around this time of year, when Spring is in full swing, your hens’ egg production has picked up, their appetites are good, and the sun is shining, you may notice a few hens going broody. Broodiness is triggered by hormones, daylight, and the availability of eggs to sit on. What does this mean to you as a chicken keeper? It means you may need to get involved and change your hen’s behavior.
What does “broody” mean and how do I recognize it?
When a hen is broody, it means her maternal instincts have kicked in. Her hormones are surging and telling her it’s time to sit on and hatch some eggs. It is pretty easy to recognize a hen that has gone broody. She will not be in her usual active, curious mood. She will stay camped out on a nest, whether there’s eggs in it or not. When approached by you or other birds, she will puff her feathers up, get very defensive, make a unique growling sound, and even peck at intruders. She means business and is insistent when it comes to sitting on those eggs!
If there are fertile eggs for her to sit on (and if you want baby chicks) –
If your broody hen is sitting on a clutch of fertile eggs, and if you don’t mind having a few baby chicks added to your flock, you are more than welcome to leave her sitting on those eggs. She will incubate the eggs at just the perfect temperature and humidity for about 21 days, and then you’ll have some new chicks added to your flock!
If your eggs aren’t fertile (no roosters present) or you don’t want chicks to hatch –
If your hen has gone broody, and there’s no possibility of her hatching eggs, you will need to intervene and put an end to her broody behavior, otherwise known as “breaking up” her broodiness. Why you ask? Because a broody hen will continue brooding until she hears the little peeps of baby chicks. Otherwise, she will sit on eggs indefinitely. This can have a seriously negative impact on her health.
The consequences of unwanted broodiness –
While a hen is broody and sitting on a nest, she will put all her energy in to sitting on eggs, and neglect herself in the process. She will only leave the nest to eat, drink, and relieve herself once or twice a day. She will become pale, lose sheen in her feathers, and lose weight. In hot weather, she can easily become dehydrated. While she can keep this routine up for 21 days, it is hard on her. Allowing her to sit on eggs that will never hatch is not fair to her and not in anyone’s best interest.
At the same time your hen is brooding, she will not lay any eggs, and she may inspire other hens to go broody as well. Broodiness begets broodiness. Before you know it, your whole flock could be on strike!
How to break up the broodiness –
As soon as you identify broody behavior, get to work on stopping it. The longer a hen is broody, the longer it takes her to snap out of it. There are many techniques out there for how to break up a broody, but many of them are ineffective or even inhumane. The best, easiest (for both of you!) course of action is to put her in a “broody breaker” pen.
A broody breaker pen is basically a wire bottomed cage. It can be a rabbit hutch, a dog crate, or something of your own construction. It will need to be raised off the floor, to allow air to circulate underneath. Your broody hen will live in the broody breaker pen with food and water, but no bedding. The design of the broody breaker pen is two-fold; is allows air to circulate and cool down the hen’s breast, and also makes her generally uncomfortable. Broody hens prefer small, dark, private areas where they can snuggle up in the nest and incubate eggs. By placing her in a location without these amenities, it sends a signal to the hen’s brain that it’s not time to hatch eggs.
It is essential to keep her in the broody breaker pen until she is fully back to her normal self. You can always test this by letting her out of the pen and watching her. If she gets all puffed up and hightails it for the closest nest she can find, right back in the pen she goes! Otherwise you are starting back at square one.
Some breeds of chicken are more prone to broodiness than others, and your hens’ individual personalities will also come into play. Some hens are frequent residents of the broody breaker pen, while others never quite feel that maternal need.
Keeping animals on your property, whether they be birds, rabbits, goats, sheep, cattle, horses, or any combination in between, will attract outside visitors. They might be small prey animals looking for a peaceful nibble of your livestock feed, or larger predators looking to make a meal out of your animals. You may want to consider getting a guard dog or watchdog to protect your herd. Who better suited for the job then, well, a dog? There are a few alternatives that might surprise you.
Guinea Fowl are incredibly noisy birds, and make excellent alarm systems. Fans of guinea fowl claim that they are able to recognize familiar faces, and will alert the arrival of any strangers. They are also incredibly brave, and are not phased one bit when standing up against cats, dogs, even people. One especially great quality of guinea fowl is that they will even take on snakes!
Anyone who’s ever met a goose knows that these birds are all business. They are alert, with keen eyesight and hearing, and can detect unwanted visitors quickly. They will sound the alarm, and honk loudly when they sense something suspcious, easily heard by even a sleeping human. Geese are also notoriously territorial, and aren’t afraid to stand their ground. Their first instinct is not to run, but to confront, and they will hiss and bite in defense.
Llamas have been used to guard small flocks on farms for years, and farmers will a good guard llama will tell you they’re worth their weight in gold. Not all llamas will have great guarding instincts, but those that do will not only alert you to intruders, but handle the intruders all on their own. There are numerous accounts of llamas battling with coyotes, foxes, or dogs to protect their herds. It is advised to only have a single llama on guard, as having two means they will ignore the herd and just hang out with each other.
Donkeys are a great option for guarding grazing animals like goats or sheep, because they have very similar care requirements. Donkeys are the silent guard animal, and will rarely notify their humans of intruders. Instead, they will fiercely protect the herd themselves, using kicks and strikes with their hooves and bites with their large teeth. Not only are these territorial animals excellent for guarding, but they can also function as pack animals, making them useful in more ways than one!
Ostriches & Emus
If you’re looking for something really exotic, how about getting an ostrich or emu to guard your herds? Standing over 6 feet tall and weighing over 150 pounds, these birds are incredibly intimidating! They can run over 40 miles per hour, and can deliver deadly kicks with their strong, powerful legs.