Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to Eat a Lizard

Leigh here -

This may be the last post I actually get to write myself for the next few weeks. I have taken off my brace just for the occasion - LOL. Surgery is tomorrow. (Please remember to send me your articles on natural chicken keeping methods!)

Anyhoo - since typing has been painful lately, this post will be mostly photos of an exciting event that took place in the chicken yard the other day.

This "event" serves as a reminder that our chickens need plenty of meat protein in their diets! This is most important if your flock does not free range very much. 

Meat Penny - 
(oops! Freudian slip!) 

Penny is my Production Red hen who faithfully lays an egg every day. She hasn't taken a break from laying since she presented us with her very first egg a few months ago.

The other day while out free ranging, Penny scored BIG! She was lucky enough to catch our resident Blue-Tailed Skink. The chase lasted for about 15 minutes.

 If you find a lizard, 

 you will make a lot of friends!

 Your friends will want to "see" your lizard.

 Don't let them "see" your lizard.

 Instead... Run!

Run as fast as you can until you find a private place to drop and inspect your lizard.

 When you drop your lizard...

 Inspect your lizard. Be certain that it is still a lizard.

 If it is still a lizard, pick it back up,

 and RUN!

Once you have run around enough to catch the attention of EVERY bird in the entire chicken yard,

hide... and EAT your lizard.

And that, my friends, is how to eat a lizard!

Tell us - what kinds of meat do you feed your flock (aside from lizards)? 

By Leigh


Friday, August 23, 2013

Blue Laced Red Wyandottes

By Karen -

I posted this previously on BYC, but feel it may need to be reviewed again...

I've seen so many questions about peoples' birds, pics, etc...

First, as far as color is concerned, blue laced red Wyandottes are just that...  they are blue (but can also be black or splash, since blue does not breed true), they are laced (a complete NARROW band of blue/black/splash around the center color), and they are RED.  In this case, red is not just your 'run of the mill' red like you'd see in a black breasted red whatever, but the deep dark mahogany red seen in the old heritage type Rhode Island Reds... 

This breed has no place for anything resembling gold, copper or fire-engine red. There is also no place for poor or incomplete lacing, and birds that have wide lacing will not breed true either. Over all, the blue is the easiest part to get right on this breed. It is also the most insignificant aspect of what makes a bird a BLRW.

And honestly, getting the color right is by far the easiest part of breeding GOOD blrw... it's the type that seems to be lacking 9 times out of 10, IMO...  Or just flat out ignored in some cases, I think.  But without type, all you have is a pretty chicken. NOT a Wyandotte.
So here's a brief refresher from past discussions regarding Wyandotte type...

One of the most commonly misunderstood (or even flat out ignored) is the proper profile a Wyandotte should have.

The following is from an old text regarding the Wyandotte standards...  useful for seeing right and wrong as far as overall body shape (ie, type)

the genetics behind lacing (good and bad):

Pg is the pattern gene, Ml is the melanizing gene, Co is the Columbian gene. Each one is dominant over the wild type (shown with a +). If all 3 mutations are not homozygous (2 copies of the mutation present) then the appearance of the lacing is changed.

the black tip mentioned above - AKA spangling  - can be seen in the image below, including proper and improper feather markings in a laced bird.

I hope this helps clear up some of the 'mystery' behind a beautiful variety and breed.
Here are my two large fowl birds, the others were killed by predators recently. I'm hoping to start hatching again once the hen is done being broody. The last picture is my bantam BLRW rooster. I'm searching for a better hen to use with him, as she appears to be more of a partridge than laced.  None of these birds are perfect, but were the best I could find and afford when I started breeding this variety. I lost one unrelated hen (black laced bred by J. Foley) and a black laced red pullet that was maturing very nicely from this breeding pen.
blue laced rooster (LF)
 splash laced hen (LF)
blue laced bantam rooster

Submit an Article to NCK - Readers! I Need Your Help!

Well - some of you may have noticed it's been a little more quiet around here than usual. For that I apologize! It's not for lack of chickenish things to write - the truth of the matter is that I have a severe form of tendonitis that is affecting my left hand and arm. In fact, I will be having surgery to fix the problem on Thursday, August 29th.

You may remember this photo from the article on the cracked egg?

Yeah - the nice thing about that brace is that I can take it off (like I did to write this... and like I pretty much do every day... all day... because it's hot, itchy, sweaty... and because the condition isn't going to get any better by wearing it.) 
Well - the doctor is on to me and my brace-shedding shenanigans.

When I wake up from surgery, I'm going to have a cast on my arm, and (unless I can find just the right tools) it will be there for 6 WEEKS!

So here is where YOU come in!

This blog has been built on the knowledge of many. I can not take credit for all the wonderful information out here - I rely on many guest bloggers and when I write articles myself, they are filled with information I have learned from others or from research I have done to satiate my own curiosity on certain subjects.

So - I need guest bloggers!!

Do you have an experience you'd like to share? Is there something you're curious about and want to research? Is there something you do for your chickens that you think others would like to know about? Do you have a neat chicken-related story you'd like to tell?

Natural Chicken Keeping wants to share your experience!

We do stick to certain guidelines for the things we publish on the blog, so stories you submit need to fit the following criteria:

  • Should not push the use of antibiotics, chemicals or other less-than-natural methods. (If you're a regular blog reader, this will seem like a no-brainer - LOL.)
  • Should be factual - We love links with scientific/organic back-up or other types of "proof" that a method works. If it is personal experience, share the details that help us understand how and why your method works.
  • Personal stories are fine too! Did you have success saving a chicken's life using natural methods? Do you just have a fun story about something that happened with your chickens? Do you have interesting observations to share? Did you build a coop that you're proud of?
  • Photos! Photos are wonderful if you have them, but don't worry if you don't. For certain subjects I may be able to either use photos I have taken in the past, or capture a few with relevance. (Just call me the one-armed photo bandit...)
  • And yes - if you have your own blog and there is an article you wrote in the past that you think is worth sharing, we can publish that too.
Natural Chicken Keeping retains the right to decide which articles to publish and to edit articles for grammar, spelling and content - but YOU will receive credit for your article if we publish it (and a link back to your personal blog or website if you have one).

By submitting an article, you are giving Natural Chicken Keeping permission to use your fantastic article content on the Natural Chicken Keeping Blog and site. You will be given credit for your content and an offer to link back to your own blog or website. Natural Chicken Keeping reserves the right to post submitted content where it is deemed fit and for as long as we see fit. Natural Chicken Keeping has a great respect for the readers and guest bloggers it serves!

So - let's work together as the awesome community of natural chicken (poultry) keepers that we are, and share, share, share!!

You may post content on our Forum HERE or email me at



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shrink Wrapped or Sticky Chicks? Why Chicks Have Difficulty Hatching

By Chrissy in CA

Hatching eggs isn’t always as easy as setting eggs in an incubator, waiting 21 days, and waking up to chicks on the twenty-first morning. There are a few things that can go wrong – especially in less-expensive incubators. Humidity and temperature issues can cause chicks to become “shrink wrapped” or to be overly-sticky at hatch.

The highest risk of shrink wrapping is after the eggs have externally pipped, have already been in lock down with high humidity... and then the incubator is opened for some reason. If the ambient humidity in the room is lower and the temp is cooler than the humidity and temp are inside of the incubator, (which is often the case) then opening an incubator lets a rush of cool, dry air into the incubator that exchanges with/replaces the warm moist air in the incubator, and does this inside the eggs as well. That is what dries out and shrinks the membranes. The membranes were moist, and then quickly lost moisture and shrank when the cold dry air rushed in. This is why incubator instructions always clearly state not to open the incubator until the hatch is completely over. 

Shrink wrapping can also happen to eggs that have only internally pipped, but is a little less likely and less damaging since the air and humidity can't exchange as quickly thru an un-pipped shell. This is why we can get away with waiting to lock down eggs until they have internal pipped and we can also candle prior to lock down without doing damage. Personally, I wait until I see internal pips before locking down... I have never had any shrink wrapping issues doing this.

High temps can also cause shrink wrapping, especially in forced air incubators with fans when there is not enough humidity in the incubator. Moisture is continually being lost at a time when the chick needs a little extra moisture to keep the membrane from becoming leathery/tough, when the chick needs to stay slick enough to spin in the eggs and also when the extra moisture is needed to keep the shell a little softer.

Sticky chicks are usually caused by overly high humidity during incubation that did not allow the chick to grow as large as it should have or let the egg lose enough moisture as the chick developed, so at hatch time those chicks are coated with more liquid (albumen) than they should be. A sticky chick's movement is restricted, but the stronger chicks usually manage to hatch ok (just extra sticky). The weak chicks will expire trying to hatch because they just don't have the strength. if they can't spin, and can't zip, they expire. Sometimes that extra sticky liquid can clog the chick's nostrils (aka drowning the chick), and the sticky liquid can also cause the opening of the internally pipped membrane to glue down onto the chick's nostril shortly after they have pipped internally, suffocating it.

(This chick was "sticky" at hatch, but is now a healthy, happy pullet.)

This is why it is important to know your incubator – practice managing the temperature and humidity prior to trying to hatch chicks. If you are experiencing losses at hatch, chances are it has to do with one of the above factors. Invest in a good hygrometer (or 2) and good thermometer(s) to keep inside your incubator – checking them regularly throughout incubation and hatch should alert you to any issues.

To hatch chicks, an incubator should remain at about 99.5 °F for all 21 days. Many people use a “dry incubation” method where humidity levels are kept lower (16% - 40%) up until the eggs internally pip, while other people keep their humidity a bit higher (40%-50%) throughout incubation.

At lockdown or after the chicks have internally pipped, humidity should be raised to about 65% and the incubator should not be opened until the last chick has hatched... or they'll chop your fingers off with a light saber...

(Just kidding! But I did think this picture was cute - the reflection of my flashlight used for candling gave the appearance my chicks were Jedi knights.)

Hope this helps, and happy hatching!

Chrissy in CA -
(Photos and lame humor by Leigh) 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Holes - A Tribute to my Livestock Guardian Dog


She came to us with holes.
Holes in her nose, in her face
from fighting with other dogs...
and holes in her training.
"You know what you're getting, right?"
The breeder had asked us.
"She's vicious. She'll leave
holes in your arms. She'll leave
holes in your other dogs.
Be careful with this one!
She's dangerous - she could hurt you."
But the breeder was wrong -
or so I thought.

So we took her
and filled her holes
with love.
Lots of love.
From the first day.
On the second night she slept with our other dog,
and on the third day she adopted our autistic daughter.
They were both 2, you see.
They were meant for each other.
meant to be.
Where ever our daughter went, Brandy
was by

And then another child was born,
early. Too early.
She had tubes and wires and
Down syndrome and I found
I needed help.
There were holes
in my support
Holes in my life
and at age six
yes, six,
Brandy became a certified
and filled the holes seamlessly.
She could quell one of my
older daughter's
with love.
Filling the holes in my daughter

And the years passed and then came
But as life would dictate
there were holes...
holes in the fence where predators
might creep through
but there was Brandy
and Brandy filled the holes
And all I had to say was
"No chickens!"
And the chickens were safe
for no predator
from the ground or from the sky
would risk that dog, those teeth
that could make holes...
in predators... but not -
no - never...
in chickens.

But over the last month a hole grew.
A hole in the function of the left ventrical
of my sweet Brandy's heart.
And I watched my dog,
my 10-year-old dog,

Today the chickens said, "Goodbye."
There was one last car ride
and the prick of a needle
and even though I held her tight in my arms
I watched her fly
And looking back I see
just how right the breeder was
for tonight I hurt...
I ache
from holes
big, giant, aching
but they are not in my arms
nor in other dogs.
These holes
These holes made by my Brandy
are in


Monday, August 12, 2013

'Chickens! Illustrated Chicken Breeds A to Z'... as Reviewed by Chickens

When Sarah Rosendahl contacted me and asked me if I'd like to review her book, 'Chickens! Illustrated Chicken Breeds A to Z' I thought it would be a lot of fun! But when I received the book, it almost instantly walked out of the room in the hands of my two daughters who promised they would return it when they were done reading it.

Apparently they were not done reading it for a number of days. Finally I issued an "Over Due" notice from the Library of Mom threatening dire consequences if the book was not returned in a timely manner. When that didn't work, I tore their room apart and finally found it under a pillow, where it had been stashed right next to a flashlight. Hmmm...

It goes without saying that the kids really enjoyed the engaging artwork and breed facts in this book - and when I finally got the chance to read it, I did too!

But the interesting thing was the reaction the chickens gave it when I took the book out in the chicken yard for a few creative marketing shots.

So - here is the review of this lovely book, as given by my rooster, Sorenson: 

Today a strange object appeared in the chicken yard. Because we are chickens, it is our sworn duty to check all strange objects for bugs.
But, before bug-eating could commence,
it was my job as a rooster to make sure the strange object would not eat the hens.
I got closer. The strange object did not eat me, but it did flutter a bit in the breeze.
Sadly, this strange object didn't have any bugs at all...
...but upon closer inspection I saw... CHICKENS!
I saw chickens that looked  like some of my friends...
...but the ones in the bugless object wouldn't squat for me. Pretty soon Penny came over to look too.
And then Elinor came over. We decided we really liked the beautiful, non-squatting chickens in the strange object!
And that strange objects like this should be shared with friends!

And there you have it, my friends - everybody on the farm enjoyed the beautiful artwork in this book. 

Annnnnnd.... there it goes in the hands of my youngest once again.

So, while I'm sure this wasn't exactly the book review Sarah Rosedahl had in mind when she approached me, I'll bet not every artist and author can say that their work is chicken-approved! 

We give this book 4 out of 4 chicken scratches for the radiant artwork.