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Posts Tagged ‘poultry’

postheadericon Small Livestock for Small Spaces

Urban and small space homesteaders are learning they don’t have to limit themselves to plants in their endeavors to be self-sufficient. With the rising popularity of small livestock who are thriftier and multi-purposed, it is becoming more common to find chickens or even goats in backyards as well as barnyards.

 

Finding the right small livestock for small spaces doesn’t have to be hard. Match your needs and goals with the right animals and everyone wins.

Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces redbarnblueskies.com

Small Livestock

If you’re considering adding animals to your homesteading project or you just want some smaller livestock to work with, here are some suggestions that may suit your needs.

Chickens

Chickens are the obvious first choice when it comes to livestock that can be kept in a smaller area. They’re the most popular and the easiest animal to get started with. And as we’ve discussed before, they are the gateway livestock for new farmers.

 

Before you even go look at the chicks at the feed store, determine what you want them for. Are you after daily eggs and a chicken in the pot for every Sunday dinner? Then you’ll want a breed like the Plymouth Barred Rock. They’re multi-purpose birds bred for heavy egg production combined with a tasty, meaty carcass.

Plymouth Barred Rock Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces

If you’re wanting to fill your freezer fast with great tasting chicken, raise a bunch of Cornish cross meat chickens. They’re bred to bulk up fast and provide a meaty 4-pound broiler carcass in only 7-8 weeks.

 

If you’re wanting a fluffy piece of yard art that wanders around your garden for comic relief, you might look at some of the exotic breeds such as a Cochin or Polish hen. Figuring out why you want chickens can help you choose the right breed or breeds for you.

 

Although the breeds are all different, the basic care is the same. They need food, water, shelter, and a place to lay their eggs. While the food and water stay the same, you can be as simple or elaborate as you like with the shelter and nest box areas. As long as the chickens have a safe, dry, draft-free area to roost at night, they’ll be content.

Goat Trio at Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces redbarnblueskies.com

 

Goats

Goats are available in many breeds and come in full sizes and miniatures. Which breed or size you choose should depend on many factors. These include but aren’t limited to:

 

     ~ Available space – As with everything else, smaller animals require less space (and feed). If you are very limited in the area you can allot to goats, you may consider some of the minis. Several of the breeds are heavy milk producers in spite of their petite size.

     ~ Purpose – Goats have been used for multiple purposes over the centuries. Milk, meat, fiber, and hide are the physical resources they provide. The different breeds have been designed to excel in one or more of these aspects. Goats are also tasked with pulling carts, carrying packs, and being used for weed abatement and control. They are a multi-purpose creature that can definitely pay their own way.

     ~ Containment – Goats are notorious escape artists. Until you are prepared with a securely fenced area to house them, you might want to reconsider goats – large or small. They will get out and wander the neighborhood, leaving destruction in their path. Your neighbors won’t appreciate your goats eating their rosebushes and patio chairs.

     ~ Time – With their extremely high intelligence level, goats need attention and stimulation. They love company and get bored easily. Plan on spending quality time with your goats. It is well worth it as they are very affectionate and entertaining animals.

Quail at Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces redbarnblueskies.com

Quail

Aside from their beauty and compact size, quail are another type of poultry that can be a delight to have. They are industrious little birds that lay eggs on a regular, daily basis – more routinely than chickens. Of course, their eggs are on the small size, but they make up for that in quantity. Pickled quail eggs are a true delight that everyone should try at least once.

 

Quail are easy to care for and have very basic needs. Compared to chickens which need 3-4 square feet each, quail only require one. They can be kept in hutches up off the ground, similar to those of rabbits. They can also be kept in pens or coops, but not in with the chickens. Chickens carry diseases that can be deadly to quail. As long as they are in pens that are separated by at least several feet, they will be fine.

 

 

One thing that most beginning quail keepers aren’t ready for is how violent quail can be toward each other. The males can over breed and scalp the females if there isn’t a large enough girl to boy ratio or a large enough space to provide escape routes. The males become quite aggressive and can kill or seriously wound the other birds if not monitored and allowed room to roam. Provide lots of hiding places, overturned flower pots are ideal.

 

Because the quail are so fertile and prolific, they are an economical and even profitable source of meat and eggs. Selling quail eggs and meat to fancy restaurants is something to consider if you are looking into raising them on a larger scale.

Rabbit at Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces redbarnblueskies.com

Rabbits

Rabbits have always been a popular choice for those with limited space, in the city or the country. They can be kept in hutches, pens, and even in your backyard running around on the lawn. It is easy to keep their pens clean. Their droppings (pellets) are great for fertilizing your garden as they’re not “hot” like chicken manure. Their diet is simple with a heavy emphasis on greens. Which rabbits you decide to raise will depend on what your goal is – breeding, fur, or meat.

 

Most rabbit breeds are known for having large litters so they tend to be a good investment that multiplies quickly. You must keep a close eye on the mothers/does, especially if it is their first litter, as rabbits can be cannibalistic and eat their young. Keeping them as stress-free as possible will help deter this, but it can be an issue with some breeds or individual rabbits.

 

Because rabbits are a great project for beginners, they are a top choice for 4-H and FFA members just getting started. They are an easy to handle type of small livestock and non-threatening for young children. They’re an easy animal to get into financially as there are not a lot of large expenses initially and the returns can be considerable in a short amount of time.

 

So do you have small livestock? What kind of animals do you prefer?

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postheadericon 5 Ways to Help Your Chickens Beat the Heat

With temperatures soaring to dangerous, record-breaking highs here in the middle of California, we are struggling to keep our animals cool(ish) and comfortable. We are constantly looking for ways to help the livestock and chickens beat the heat.

Chickens Beat the Heat at Red Barn Blue Skies

When the heat blows the top off of the thermometer, we have to come up with other methods of cooling the birds down – even to the point of housing them in an air-conditioned room. It is important to do everything we can to ensure the health and happiness of the critters in our care.

5 Ways to Help Your Chickens Beat the Heat from Red Barn Blue Skies

Internal Cooling System

Chickens operate with a higher core temperature than our own with a normal range around 104 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Because they don’t possess sweat glands, chickens are forced to pant in order to lower their body temperature. They will also hold their wings out so air can reach the bare skin under them.

Think about how it feels when your armpits are sweating and you raise them up – AHHHHHH.

Woman with Arms Raised at Red Barn Blue Skies

When the air is at least 10-15 degrees below their own temps, the birds can easily avoid being stressed by the heat. Contrary to the belief of many newbie chicken people, they actually do quite well in cold weather. But once the mercury rises, so does the danger.

The birds lose the ability to dissipate the heat on their own if their own temperature goes above 110 degrees or more. They can go from seemingly “ok” to severe distress in a matter of minutes.

So with that in mind, here are 5 ways you can help your chickens beat the heat.

Chicken Beat the Heat at Red Barn Blue Skies

Cool Fresh Water

As mentioned above, providing your birds/animals with fresh water that is cool enough to drink is the top priority – always. Notice the words in bold? COOL ENOUGH TO DRINK. You can have an entire pool in front of them, but if they can’t or refuse to drink it, it doesn’t do them any good.

Animals are just like us, if the water isn’t refreshing and is actually hot – we’re not going to drink it. Your animals not getting enough water is a critical problem as it contributes to dehydration as well as a higher core temperature.

Red Barn Blue Skies Chickens and Waterers

Place the waterers or pans in spots that are shaded all day, especially in the afternoon when it’s the hottest. If you can, have multiple watering areas and sources. Frequently topping off their water during the day with cold(er) water will help. Many people place ice cubes or bottles they’ve filled with water and then frozen, into the water pans or troughs. This helps keep the water cool enough for your birds to drink.

Poultry Vitamin and Electrolytes Help Chickens Beat the Heat

 

Adding an electrolyte solution to your birds’ water helps them replenish their stores and encourages them to drink more water. If you don’t have any poultry-approved electrolytes on hand, Gatorade or Pedialyte will definitely do in a pinch.

Added Airflow

If you are so equipped and set up, you actually could allow your birds to cool their heels in a coop that boasts some form of air conditioning. There are several ways to accomplish this:

Industrial Fans to Help Chickens to Beat the Heat at Red Barn Blue Skies

~ Evaporative or “swamp” cooler. These are fairly inexpensive and are a great way to cool off a building or room. They must have a continual water source as they cool by the process of evaporation. Keep in mind though, that once temperatures reach the century mark, they become less effective. Humidity is a side-effect of evaporative coolers that can be unwelcome when there is already a lot of moisture in the air.

~Fans and misters are an even less expensive alternative and are well-suited for both inside the coops as well as out in the runs or pens. The idea is to keep the air moving and the misters or foggers bring the temps down even more. Don’t worry if your birds are scared of the system at first, it won’t be long before they’re standing right in front of the fans with their wings spread as if for take-off.

Turken in Mud as Chickens Beat the Heat at Red Barn Blue Skies

~Wetting down the ground can help cool your birds even without a fan’s assistance. As any air moves over the wet ground, it makes the surrounding area just a bit cooler.

~ Be sure to remove anything that might block airflow to your birds. This includes equipment, tarps, and even tall grass. The more air they have moving towards them, the easier it will be for the chickens to beat the heat.

Frozen Strawberry at Red Barn Blue Skies

Tasty (Frozen) Treats

Even if you’re not in the habit of giving your birds treats, frozen goodies can be a great way to help them cool off AND encourage them to drink more water.

A very popular method of accomplishing this is to freeze bits of fruit or vegetables such as frozen peas in ice cube trays. Placing these frozen cubes in the water dishes does double duty: as the ice melts, it cools the water and as the fruit or veggie becomes more visible, the birds will investigate and peck at them. This encourages them to take in more water, even if they didn’t intend to drink it.

Help Your Chickens Beat the Heat at Red Barn Blue Skies

 

Placing black oil sunflower seeds in water dishes and letting them float around also catches the birds’ interest. Besides alleviating boredom, they’re being induced to stick their beaks in the water to capture the seeds. Think “bobbing for apples” on a chicken-sized scale.

Dustbathing Chicken tries to Beat the Heat at Red Barn Blue Skies

Let Them Pretend to Be Ducks or Pigs

One of the things that might surprise you is that your chickens WILL stand in water to cool off. Using small dishpans, cement mixing trays, and even kiddie wading pools are a great way to give them an extra tool in the fight against the heat. Walking around in a couple of inches of water helps them cool off quickly.

Contrary to what you might see in the cute videos online, chickens really aren’t swimmers. Their feathers and down becomes soaked and heavy and they sink. If they can’t stand up in a body or puddle of water, they drown. Period.

Hen and Chicks at Waterer at Red Barn Blue Skies

So when you are offering your birds water to play or stand in, keep it shallow. If you have baby chicks running around, make sure they can’t hop into a pan of water and have no way to get out. If you can’t get around it, place a brick or rock or something they can climb onto until they’re rescued.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on any water troughs or barrels that you keep filled for your large animals. It is a horrible sight to find one of your birds drowned in the horse trough.

While it may sound funny, making a nice little mud hole really can make your birds happy. They will find a nice cool spot on the ground and root and roll around, just like a pig. So don’t be afraid to make a few mud puddles for your chickens to find and wallow around in. They’ll appreciate it.

Chickens Beat the Heat at Red Barn Blue Skies

Give Them (clean) Space

Overcrowding can be a huge issue when it’s hot. While it’s never a good idea to have your birds crammed into too-tight quarters, at least in the winter that extra warmth isn’t as deadly. The birds need to have room to spread their wings out and seek cooler, moving air.

Regarding the birds’ space, keep it clean. As manure and litter decompose, they produce heat and ammonia. By removing it on a regular basis, you can help keep this unwanted source of additional heat to a minimum – plus it’s healthier for all involved. It will also reduce the number of flies and other pests which only add to the stress of an already over-heated bird.

Help Your Chickens Beat the Heat in the Shade at Red Barn Blue Skies

 

In conclusion…..

The main thing to remember is to keep an eye on your birds and be vigilant. Start with plenty of shade and water and go from there. Most of these suggestions can be adapted to your other livestock, household pets, and even yourself.

Stay cool people and beat the heat this summer. Let me know if you have other ways of keeping your animals cool.

5 Ways to Help Your Chickens Beat the Heat

redbarnblueskies.com 5 Ways to Help Your Chickens Beat the Heat 2

postheadericon Eggciting Contest for National Egg Month

May is officially National Egg Month according to the American Egg Board. It’s time to celebrate our “incredible, edible eggs” and our lovely hens who provide them to us.

May is National Egg Month at Red Barn Blue Skies

National Egg Month

If you’re like me, your hens are kicking the egg production into overdrive. You probably have fresh eggs overflowing the counters, fridge, and everywhere else you can put them. While you’re working on putting different storage methods to use, you can also try to win some great prizes with your own recipes!

Enter the Egg Challenge Contest sponsored by the American Egg Board. Celebrate with them on social media and share your favorite ways to use eggs in your everyday diet. You can win some great prizes – even an awesome KitchenAid Mixer similar to this one!

Hurry and go enter your own egg recipe- just like this personal favorite of mine – Chile Relleno Casserole. Yum!

You can enter once a day so go out and share those ideas.

 

postheadericon Chickens Fascinate Me Too Stuart

Chickens fascinate me and apparently I’m not the only one. When I was searching for a photo of MADtv’s Michael McDonald portraying Stuart for my goat parkour post, I came across a different photo of him. I had to share it as this one really hits home and says it all…

 

Chickens Fascinate Me at Red Barn Blue Skies

 

That’s really all I have for today. I’m a nerd who really misses MADtv with Stuart and Miss Swan. And chickens fascinate me too. How about you? Do you like Stuart or chickens or both?

postheadericon Protecting Your Farm with Good Bio-Security Practices

Bio-security is something every farmer or rancher should be aware of. It doesn’t matter if you have 6 pet chickens or 60 breeding birds, 5 head of cattle and 3 pigs. Protecting all of these animals is a priority. The key to keeping them safe is to use common sense and follow good bio-security practices.

 

redbarnblueskies.com Goat Kids Playing Red Barn Blue Skies

 

Ways in Which Disease is Spread

By knowing how diseases are transmitted, you can lessen the chances that your animals will contract any of them.

  • Just like people, healthy animals can become ill from sick ones. The usual methods are contaminated feed or water and actual physical contact. Dead or dying animals need to be removed immediately from common areas.
  • People can be carriers and bring disease home with them. They then spread the germs around unknowingly. It is easy to become contaminated on your person, clothing and shoes, feedbags and even your vehicle.

 

Photo of Julie's green muck boots at redbarnblueskies.com

 

Prevention is Key

Apply basic bio-security measures to every type of animal – whether domestic pet or livestock. It is less expensive and much easier to stop the spread of disease to begin with, than it is to fight it once it’s taken hold. After your animals have been exposed, it is already much harder to play catch up and you may still lose some of your livestock.

  • Good bio-security practices should become a part of your everyday routine. Any employees or visitors to your farm should be made aware of and asked to follow your rules. If at all possible, refrain from outsiders interacting with your livestock. For those deemed necessary visits, disposable clothing and footwear is a simple and useful precaution.
  • Overcrowding is something many people overlook. When you have too many animals in too small of an area, your risk for disease and illness skyrockets. Stressed animals are weakened and more susceptible to anything floating around.
  • Stay aware of local issues. Be sure you know what is happening in areas your animals may travel. This will include your dogs as well as the bull you’re loaning out for breeding. If you are told of any illness or issues, keep them home until it is resolved.

 

Red Barn Blue Skies Pig behind Fence

 

  • A simple precaution that is invaluable is to quarantine new animals. This is also good practice for any of your current animals who may be acting a little off or showing some signs of sickness. Any animals returning home from elsewhere such as a show or that prized bull who went visiting the neighbors should also do a little time in isolation. By keeping them from immediately contacting your healthy livestock, you can stop any disease from spreading if they have become carriers. A thirty-day quarantine is the widely accepted standard for this preventative measure for most animals.
  • Feed contamination can be easily prevented by keeping your feed covered, dry and free of mold. Rodents can’t ruin what they can’t reach.
  • Many other domestic animals and wildlife can be carriers of disease without showing visible symptoms. Keep contact to a minimum. This includes wild birds interacting with your poultry.

 

redbarnblueskies.com hand sanitizer bio-security

 

The Power of Clean

The number one weapon in the bio-security battle is cleanliness. Regular disinfection and having everything neat and orderly is a huge step towards fighting disease and illness on your farm.

  • All equipment needs to be cleaned regularly and disinfected when possible.
  • Regular cleaning is a necessity with ongoing manure and waste removal.
  • Always wash well before and after any contact with all animals. You must avoid the cross-contamination between healthy and sick livestock. Work with any ill or quarantined animals last in order to not carry germs or disease to the healthy ones.
  • Have your own special clothing and shoes to use when working with your animals at home. Don’t wear these clothes away from home and don’t wear your “town clothes” to the barn.

 

redbarnblueskies.com Pair of Oxen for bio-security article

 

Good Bio-Security Practices Should Become a Way of Life

The better educated you become regarding good bio-security habits, the better armed you will be in fighting the onset of disease. Stay on top of learning what illnesses are common or currently making the rounds for your particular livestock and the area where you live.

By taking precautions to keep your animals healthy, you are ultimately protecting the health and safety of you, your family and possibly your livelihood.