Episode 27 Show Notes
We Are Back!
Suzy and I are back from vacation, and sadly we were not able to put out an episode last week. Unfortunately, the reason for missing an episode is not because we were on vacation. No, we diligently produced an extra episode to be released while we were gone, but when we returned home I came down with a cold and lost my voice. Three, days later, Suzy caught my cold and she lost her voice! So, we’re sorry we didn’t publish an episode last week, but we are back!
Questions from Justin [01:45]
Justin, our good listener from New York emailed to ask two questions. First, he wanted to know what he should use for litter material for his chickens. Living in the city, grass is not an option. He had heard that sand can cause respiratory issues and that wood shavings can cause mites.
Our first litter preference (other than letting the chickens poop directly on the lawn) is pine shavings. You are correct that pine shavings may increase the possibility of mites, but chickens on any type of litter can get mites. To help control them, sprinkle food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) on the shavings every so often, and make sure you check all your hens once a month for parasites.
Many people prefer sand because you can scoop out the clumps as you would do with kitty litter. There have been enough reports of respiratory issues with chickens on sand that we have never used that as a litter medium and generally do not recommend it to others.
Justin’s second question is about his seven week old pullets, and whether it is getting to cold to put them outside. Will they make it through the winter months being so young?
Once pullets and cockerels become fully feathered, they are good to go outside. Their feathers will protect them from some pretty cold temperatures. Chickens can actually handle the cold easier than they can handle extremes in heat. Currently, your nighttime temperatures are around 50. You don’t need to worry until they get down to below freezing. In the next few weeks, we will have an episode on winterizing your chicken coop and keeping your chickens warm during the winter months.
Eggtoberfest Recipes [07:57]
Suzy added two new German egg dishes to the recipes section of our website. Check them out for an eggtoberfest treat!
Great iTunes Review from Rachel [09:30]
Rachel gave us a really nice review on iTunes. It came in the morning we left for vacation and it really put a smile on Suzy’s face. You may have heard of the five love languages… Suzy’s love language is iTunes reviews. Thanks Rachel… you are awesome!
How Can You Go On Vacation When You Have Chickens? [12:03]
As we mentioned, Suzy and I just got back from vacation, so we thought this would be a good time to talk about strategies to help your flock do without you for a week.
Fortunately, chickens are very easy to care for, and it is pretty easy for them to handle life without you for a week. Here are some things to consider:
Chicken Sitters & Chicken Hotels [15:29]
At first, it may seem like a really good idea to have a chicken-knowledgeable person watch your chickens. There are many form of this, from the chicken sitter who takes care of your flock in your yard to the ‘chicken hotel’ where you drop off your chickens while you are gone.
In our minds, the biggest drawbacks to these concepts are bio security. By watching other people’s chickens, sitters and avian hoteliers can easily become a conduit for diseases that would pass from another flock to yours. That makes this options a little too scary for us.
Fortunately, you do not need someone who is really knowledgeable about chickens to watch your flock.
Here is what we did:
Food & Water [19:24]
We have forty chickens divided into seven chicken tractors. For a full month before we went on vacation, we conducted several week long tests to see how much food and water each tractor would need to support its residence while we were gone.
When you do these tests, make sure you do them at roughly the same time of year that you will be gone. Chickens consume more water during the summers and more feed during the winters. Don’t rely on how much they were eating or drinking six months ago.
Also, make sure you do your tests under similar conditions. If you house your flock in a chicken tractor and you usually move it every two days, make sure you don’t move it during the test week, because you won’t be there to move it while you are away. This will definitely affect their feed consumption.
Egg Collection [24:24]
Our biggest concern was that when the eggs started to pile up, one of the chickens would discover how tasty they are and we would come home to an egg-eating hen.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a chicken expert to collect eggs. We had our neighbor come by each day to collect them. She loves animals and most importantly, she doesn’t have chickens of her own, so there is no bio security issue.
One big concern while we were away was predators. Everyone has a unique setup to protect their flock. If you don’t have someone who can open up the coop every morning and close it every night, you may want to leave it open. If you have a protected run area, you still have some predator protection if the coop-to-run door stays open. You may want to add some additional predator-proofing measures while you are gone. Maybe add an anti-digging skirt around the run or tractor. Maybe add the little red predator eye lights, or motion activated lights, to scare predators away.
Another option is to install automatic doors that open and close the coop door at preset times. If you try one of these, make sure you test it for a month or more before you go away to make sure it works. The last thing you want is a broken door that traps the chickens inside – or worse, traps them outside – for a whole week.
Check your flock for parasites, both internal and external, a month before you go on vacation. That way, if you find any pests, you will have time to treat them before you leave.
Try to avoid changes that will cause stress for your birds right before you leave. In our case, we decided to move two hens who usually live in a small tractor in with a mating trio that occupies a much larger tractor. These five birds, although they bunk separately, play together often. We usually let them out to play together and they spent a lot of time with each other.
Even so, we moved them into a common coop a month before we left to make sure they would handle the transition without any squabbles or stress.
Unusual Situations [34:14]
As easy as chickens are to care for, sometimes things go wrong and they need a little help. Make sure you discuss possible unusual situations with your amateur chicken-sitter, and be clear about how you want him or her to handle those situations.
Make sure they know where you keep your chicken first-aid kit. It would be a good idea to also give them the name and phone number of a knowledgeable chicken keeper who can help them with “chicken tech support.” There are a lot of issues that can be resolved with a little advice over the phone.
Write Things Down [40:05]
After discussing all of the instructions and unusual situations that can happen, present your amateur chicken sitter with a written version of what you discussed. That way, you can be sure they will remember what to do several days after you are no longer reachable.