backyard chickens

Free Range Chicken Eggs

| September 21, 2015
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

True free ranging chickens, who are given a high quality feed, lay the best eggs. However, when it comes to finding the next best thing, quality eggs at the store, a consumer is faced with misleading egg labels.

The labels on eggs hardly mean what you’d expect them to mean.

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Cage-Free, just means a chicken isn’t forced into a tiny cage where it lives out its entire life. It doesn’t mean they have good quality of life, quality feed, or will ever see day light. They could be confined to poultry houses, which are basically large sheds, where the chickens are packed shoulder to shoulder their whole lives.

Free-Range, you may think is a chicken that has full access to the outside and forages freely. However, USDA regulations don’t specify the quality or size of an outside range. Nor do they specify the duration of time a chicken must have access to that outside range.

Certified Organic is a term independent of the Cage-Free and Free-Range terminology. A caged chicken can receive feed that is USDA certified as organic, and therefore the egg is considered organic. If you aren’t familiar with the organic certifications, or the listing of ‘made with organic ingredients’, they also both utilize grey areas that are designed to deceive consumers, whilst allowing large producers to more easily list their goods as ‘organic’.

Shady schemes of ‘non-medicated’ and ‘hormone free’ chickens, has even lead some poultry producers to treat chickens while they are still in the embryo.

So basically, unless you know how a chicken is raised, and what it is fed, you won’t have a good idea by just reading the labels.

Research your egg source and you may learn you aren’t getting what you think you are paying for.

A lot of people ask if its worth raising your own chickens. We think it absolutely is. If you have an opportunity to keep poultry, seriously consider it. If you can’t keep poultry, find a local person who raises chickens the way you’d expect, and get your eggs through them.

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Coturnix Quail Hutch

| July 18, 2015
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Quail_Hutch_Coturnix_BlueUnfinished Cotunrix Quail HutchCoturnix Quail Hutch Unfinished BackCoturnix Quail Hutch Inside

I had been planning on keeping quail for a while. After some consideration of breeds, I finally decided on Coturnix quail, and stuck a few eggs in the incubator. The count down had begun. I had between 14 and 26 days at the earliest and latest extremes to build a quail hutch. Like all the wood working I do, I try to take pride in my work. I wanted to build something that was attractive, and highly functional.

I decided two build a two compartment coffee table and quail hutch combo, appropriate for breeding quail, and keeping males separated.

The hutch includes the following features:

  • Vintage, antiqued two compartment coffee table design.
  • A sturdy and durable design. Yes you can sit on it, have coffee on it, etc.
  • A foot print of 4′ x 2′, with a separator for each half.
  • Hideaway bench seat style doors on top, taking up half the length of each of the two compartments.
  • 2 front doors, screened in with 1/2″ hardware cloth.
  • Secure latches all around.
  • 1/2″ hardware cloth floor, with a sliding poop tray.
  • Wiring with 2 ceramic bulb sockets. Allows for brooding, as well as heating in cold winters.

So far, the few quail we hatched love their home, and so do I. Its dual purpose, meets our needs, and functions as quality outdoor furniture. Its the kind of thing that the significant other doesn’t mind looking at everyday. I hope this helps you with your own quail Hutch build. If anyone is interested in owning one, I would consider drafting plans. I’d really like to do what I can to help out fellow friends, preppers, homesteaders, and backyard poultry keepers.

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Blind Chickens

| July 12, 2015
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Helen.jpgHelen-the-blind-chicken.jpgEvery now and then a chick hatches without eyes, an infection that caused blindness in the embryo, or poor development of eyes or eyelids due to nutrition. Some breeds or hybrids are more susceptible than others. In some cases improvement happens, or eyelids can be assisted in being opened.

In a recent run of 50 pullets, our friends ended up with a blind Buff Orpington chick. We saved her from the gallows, and named her Helen. I know, not very politically correct, but people are way too sensitive and I could honestly not care any less.

Anyway, Helen stayed in our brooder box with food in one corner, water in another, and lamp over the middle. She became accustomed to the location of her food and water, and would excitedly announce every time she found them. However, at two and a half weeks Helen started to chirped loudly and incessantly. All her needs were met, and it became apparent that she was calling for other chicks. Given the opportunity to socialize, our hens weren’t sure what to think of Helen. They were too old to adopt her into the flock, and already had a close bound and pecking order.

Helen would calm down, if held and handled. But this was not a long term solution. Helen needed buddies.

Randomly, during a business banking meeting to sign some documents, I discussed Helen with my banker. She said she had experience with blind chicks, raises 150 chickens year to year, is used to getting blind chickens paired with ‘seeing eye buddies’ and would be happy to adopt her. Helen was adopted, and was introduced to two chicks her own age. Helen will not be the loneliest chicken ever, and from the sound of it, will live a full chicken lifetime as an egg layer.

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Backyard Chicken Coop

| May 6, 2015
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Keeping backyard chickens is a growing trend amongst everyday Americans, and for good reasons. Darn cute chicks, that will eventually provide fresh eggs daily! Add to that, the perk of avoiding purchasing lesser quality eggs from the grocery store. Who wouldn’t love that?

It’s been a few years since we had our own chickens, so we decided to get four little girls of our own with the idea to maybe add a couple more later. We needed a coop, and after looking at a bunch of prebuilt chicken coops that lacked desirable features for insanely high prices, there was no question that we would be building one ourselves.

We’ve built large coops before, more for utility than looks, but this one would be a bit different. We designed around our needs and desires: mobility, room for 4-8 chickens, easy to clean, safety from predators, ease of access to eggs, and an attractive elevated design.

We sketched out a few design ideas, decided on an appropriate size, a rustic trapper lodge look, complete with simulated copper roofing, buck antler mount, covered porch style entrance, and two box nesting box with hinged roof for external access.

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Chicken Coop Lodge

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Chicken Coop Wyoming Weather Vane

The girls (Meet them in this post) will have an 8 foot by 3 foot run to stretch their legs when they can’t free range. The 3 foot tall run is enclosed with 1/2″ hardware cloth.

The coop sits nearly 3 feet off the ground, is framed in 2×3 doug fir, includes an attached elevated nesting box, and conceals a plywood sliding poop tray. The exterior is finished in cedar, and roofed in galvanized metal that has been painted with a hammered copper paint. The front door is trimmed with 1 1/2″ furring strip, the same material that supports the front door awning, and covered with roofing material to match the main part of the coop.

4 1 1/2″ holes were drilled out for ventilation. Ventilation holes were placed in the top of the coop, two holes on each side of the coop, and screened in with a metal mesh to prevent unwanted guests. The vent holes also added an aesthetic touch of realism. The weather vane is a little tribute to Wyoming, and an aesthetic touch.

We did use as much recycled and salvaged material as possible. The galvanized roofing was purchased at a salvage scrap material shop, so were hinges, corner braces, tee braces, door handle, ceramic lamp bulb holder, and a power cable. Nearly everything was in its original packaging, and just a little dusty and aged. Buying materials from a salvage shop not only keeps perfectly good excess building scrap out of landfills, but saved about 75 dollars in chicken coop material costs.

The Chicken Coop Trapper Lodge cost less to build than the commercial offerings, fits our needs, and has the aesthetics we desired. Some items, like heavier 1/2″ hardware cloth were more expensive than cheaper poultry wire, but provide superior protection for our girls, and so we determined it was worth the spend.

We will probably add an electric wire perimeter, that cuts off when the door to the run is open, to prevent an accidental shock to the chickens, and provide added security against our local predators: snakes, coyotes, mink, fox, stray animals, and Racoons.

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Meet The Girls – Baby Chickens!

| April 30, 2015
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

After a few years of being chicken and other poultry free, and wanting to have a small flock of chickens, we decided to get four chicks. The girls will more than likely show up in Gardenisto posts from time to time, like when I post up the chicken coop build, so we took a few photos and decided to introduce the girls. Here are the chicks, the weather finally permitting, on their first day outside.

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Meet HoopleHead a Buff Orpington, Joanie an Ameraucana, Red a Rhode Island Red, and Eightball a Black Australorp.

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