Category Archives: Caring for Chickens

Tips and stories from experiences with raising backyard chickens.

Here’s Where My Chicken Coop Journey Began, Does It Sound Like Yours?

By Kelson Spear

About 15 years ago, I was still in high school. My folks lived in Alaska, and I stayed with my Grandparents during the school year.

My Grandpa had a farm with an old milking cow, and I would go out with him, sometimes, and help milk her. Everyday I got to enjoy fresh dairy milk.

Then, a little later in the day, we would go out to his big old chicken coop, gather up the eggs. And we would throw down some chicken scratch for the chickens to dig around in.

I always enjoyed helping him out on his farm. But you know, I was young. All I thought about was sports (and girls- of course).

And I didn't realize what my Grandpa had.

It was always peaceful at their house. There was a quiet stillness about their life that was so relaxing. We ate great tasting food together. I always enjoyed getting up early, sitting around sipping hot chocolate and talking about the day with them.


Now, warp ahead with me to the year 2007.

I had 2 girls by now and we live right SMACK, in the middle of a city. By most standards, our yard is bigger than many new modern homes in our area. Instead of 5000 square feet, we actually have a 13,000 square foot yard. But it's nothing compared to the acres my Grandpa used to have.

And even with today's 'HUGE' yard, we rarely have time to get out and garden, or even play outside anyhow. It seems I'm always working long hours and then trying to keep up on the housework.

Living in small spaces and working a corporate job has meant that I had to lose that close contact with the land and with nature.

But that love of nature has never left me. And I often catch myself day-dreaming about having some space to roam, and leisurely taking care of some animals.

The truth is, I grew up loving that peaceful lifestyle. And now that it's gone, I long to have it back.

And I know that raising chickens is not a replacement for those bygone days, but you know what...

I love the chance to get a little closer to natural food, and animals, and letting my girls get their hands dirty, and just spending time outside.

And I love that even in a sprawling metropolis, you can still have a little bit of space to connect and get back in touch with those old sentiments.

Small scale mobile chicken coops

So I built 2 mobile chicken coops. FROM SCRATCH.

In an attempt to get back to my bygone days.

And even though I told you that I used to spend time on the farm with animals, I NEVER used to help build anything.

I'm not a macho construction worker. And I don't play one on TV. If you knew me, you'd know that my mechanical skills are seriously lacking.

But this project was an awakening for me.

I have done things and thought in ways that I didn't know my mind OR body could. And I got the blisters and slivers to prove it.

You can do this.

My Flock in their coop

Can Your Chickens Survive In This Weather? Let’s See…

By Kelson Spear

When I started with chickens, I asked Mike (an Australian chicken expert with 26 years experience) about how to protect chickens from different weather conditions. I later quoted him in an article as Mike's area of Australia, "it rarely gets cold, so Australians don't have to worry about protecting their chickens from severe weather. What a luxury we don't have in the U.S."

If you re-read that quote, you'll realize that's about the dumbest thing I could've ever quoted about Australia. Maybe in Mike's area it isn't cold, but...

Australia is an entire continent (of course).

It has weather as varied as most that we get in America.

But you know, it takes a real ding-a-ling to screw something like that up for over a year.

To help satisfy my bone-headedness, (just in case you live somewhere that has various temperatures and weather conditions) - chickens can survive in relative comfort down to about freezing (or 32* Farenheit, 0* Celsius) - As long as they have protection from the elements. Below that temperature you probably need to provide supplemental heat.

More importantly, over-heating is a much bigger concern. So make sure your chooks have plenty of water, air-flow (ventillation), and shade when it's hot out.

melon cool treat for chickens in summer
Fruit such as melon straight from the fridge can make a nice cooling treat on a hot summers day.

Chicken Poo is Good for the Soil, and other Backyard Gardens!

I have a strange chicken topic to share with you today. I hope you don't mind.

When you think about it, chicken poop is a pretty nasty subject.
But some people get all excited when you bring up the topic.


Because chicken poo makes an excellent fertilizer for your garden, dirt, and soil. Chicken manure is a great source of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium - all of which are excellent fertilizer ingredients. Its fertilizer value alone is naturally higher than horses and cows. AND as chicken poo gets dryer, and more crumbly, the fertilizer values go up so that it's higher than goats, turkeys, ducks, and rabbits - per USDA published reports.

In general, one hen creates about 40, or so, pounds of manure per year. So, two hens could create enough manure to adequately fertilize a 10 foot by 10 foot garden area.

The majority of gardeners, though, will add the manure to their compost piles and bins with other things like weeds, leaves, fruits, grass, and other carbon-based life form ingredients,to make an excellent composting soil. You'll need to add the carbon ingredients, or the manure will overheat.

Once the compost is ready, gardeners can just add it to their garden soil during the Spring planting season.

So, if you have a small flock of chickens, you should definitely be able to supplement your own garden dirt with fertilizer, OR help your community by donating or selling it to others who might want an excellent soil fertilizer additive. That's completely up to you. It's just another bonus perk for raising your own backyard chicken flock.

I hope you enjoyed this quick little chicken coop tip.

Never Mind the Cholesterol Freaks! Chicken Eggs Are GOOD For YOU and For Your Chickens

By Kelson Spear

Let's start with a Quiz -

Which of these nutrients is essential for keeping your memory sharp?

A) Vitamin C
B) Choline
C) Beta-carotene

Give up?

The answer is B - Choline.

And do you know what the best source of choline is?

Egg yolks

And choline has TONS of benefits for your health, besides just your memory.

I've stepped very lightly, and lightheartedly, around the topics of eggs. But due to some things I've been reading recently, I can't hold it back any longer.

There are SOOOO MANY benefits to raising your own chickens. And getting fresh eggs and egg yolks every day is just one part.

chicken eggs in straw nest

How about this comment, from a registered dietician at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York:

'[Eggs] are an inexpensive nutrition powerhouse containing high quality protein, 13 essential vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and nutritive compounds - all within a 70-calorie package'

Unfortunately, eggs have been getting POOR press lately for their 'supposed' bad cholesterol and heart effects.


I would like you to check this out:

According to a recent Reuters Health article - a 6-week study showed that having 2 eggs a day doesn't adversely effect either cholesterol levels or endothelial functioning.

This study is also backed up the American Heart Association's recent blessing to a one-egg-a-day diet for good heart health.

Plus a "University of Washington study which showed that adding 2 daily eggs to the diet, recommended by the National Cholesterol Program, had no effect on plasma LDL (considered by the mainstream to be "bad" cholesterol) - even among those with elevated LDL"

Now I'm not coming up with this stuff on my own. These are official, medically based studies and recommendations.

I say all of this to encourage you. Growing chickens, and eating daily, farm-fresh eggs is not only fun and relaxing, but it's also good for you.

The next time someone says anything about eating too many eggs, you just tell them to check out the facts...

Not the hype.
Not the myths.

Just the truth about eggs

and how are they good for your chickens?

Imagine these scenarios :

1. You've run out of chick food (please don't) and nowhere is open, what can you give them as an emergency stop-gap?

Scrambled eggs! - after all it is the yolk in the egg that as embryos they took the nutrients they needed to develop from in the first place, and it also sustained them for their first 24 hours outside of the shell. Just be sure that they have some grit available so that they can process it and keep it plain (no added salt or anything like that).

2. You have a poorly hen, she is hardly drinking or eating anything and you are getting worried.

Aside from getting veterinary advice and keeping her isolated somewhere comfortable where you can monitor how she is doing, in terms of getting her to eat something, plain scrambled eggs can often do the trick and even though obviously not a cure for whatever is wrong, it does provide some nutrition which she would not otherwise get if she is refusing to eat. Incidentally plain yoghurt and plain porridge are two other foods that will sometimes be accepted by a poorly hen when everything else is being refused.

3. Your hens are laying soft shells and you want to try boosting their calcium intake a little to see if it helps. What can you give?

Their own egg shells is a valid option for this. Crush them up first so as not to give your hens any egg eating ideas. Baking the eggshells at around 200 degrees for about 20 mins can make the shells more brittle and easier to crush up.

Chicken Pens – Here’s One Reason You MIGHT Want to Pen Up Your Chickens

I know, at times, you might feel like chicken pens are too constrictive for your hens.

You may feel like it's unhealthy and unfair to keep them penned up up like that.

However ...

This is something you NEVER want to see your chickens doing.

Here's a couple shots of one of my neighbors hens ... going out for a stroll around the neighborhood.

chicken escaping from neighbours garden

chicken walking on fence

rogue chicken on fence

Climbing over your fence ... OR anyone else's fence. NOT GOOD!


Along with the fact that your garden is one of the best varieties of food in your chicken's world. Your neighbor's garden is the '2nd' best food in their world.

And if your neighbor catches sight of one of your hens ... it could be ... dead. No ifs ... ands ... or buts about it.

So, that is why I suggest a minimum mesh and wire height of 6 feet for fencing chickens into their chicken pens, or for keeping them out. WHY 'at least' 6 feet?

Because chickens CAN fly!

Yep ... And you want to keep yours alive as long as possible

So, this height should detain most chickens from crossing over the tracks, as they say. To be honest, 6 feet is really nothing for some chickens, so you might need to think about taller fencing, OR a covered run area, OR clipping (one of) their wings.

Poultry Wire / Mesh for Your Chicken Pens - 1" Mesh or Smaller is BEST!

The Chicken Coups Are Taking Over the World!

While this title may sound funny, it's not at all far-fetched. In fact, there are many people across the world who are trying to create, design, and build chicken coups so they can keep chickens in their backyards. And... No! I don't just mean the United States. People from Europe, Australia, Asia, and even Africa are seeking help and ideas for building better housing for their chickens.

The funny thing is... a 'chicken coup' could refer to the radical overthrow of any world government by chickens.

Imagine that!

Your little flock of chickens trying to operate a coordinated coup of your country's legislature. Far fetched? Maybe!

Be very afraid...
Be very afraid...

But for our sakes, let's refer to them as the growing movement of everyday people (that's you and me) who are deciding to raise our own chickens. And while 'green' is a big part of the political environment today, chicken owners may not face such a cheerful reception from their neighbors and local governments.

There is an abundance of information out there that will reveal how popular raising chickens has become in recent years. And this popularity has created a large complication. Here's where we bump into the rub of chicken coups. Raising chickens is becoming so vital and beneficial that now, governments, states, and even local administrators are beginning to take notice and get involved. In fact, here's a few samples of how this could cause problems for you, if you decide to raise chickens:

“Chicken owners are getting secretive,” said one Port Townsend chicken owner who didn’t want to give her name so her neighbors wouldn’t know she raised chickens. “We’re worried the city that would enforce bicycle helmet use would ban our chickens in city limits with new zoning regulations." Quoted from Janet Huck, Staff Writer for the Port Townsend Leader, in her article 'Could bird flu fly in?'

The above quote is an example of how local legislators are trying to control your ability to raise your own chickens.

And here's a short glimpse into the steps and strategies your government might take to control your chickens. This clip, from Louis Porter's article, 'Small farmers take dim view of avian flu plan', paints a startling glimpse into you could be affected by the government.

"She and others worry that the potential federal response to a virulent strain of avian influenza making its way to North America from Asia, Africa and Europe...

The federal plan would require livestock owners to tag their livestock, allowing the government to track them back to their origins if problems arise. Larger animals would probably need special ear tags. Smaller livestock like poultry would likely be tracked in flocks under the federal system, although some worry that small operations would have to put leg bands on individual birds.

Opponents are skeptical because the tracking plan, developed during the scare over mad cow disease, was hatched by a collaboration of federal officials, agriculture organizations and farm technology companies that make identification systems."

And with just two short extracts, you can easily peak into the potential problems you might face if you become a part of the growing chicken movement.

Now, if all of that scares you, please don't let it. The benefits of raising your own chickens are significant:

  • Healthier, more nutritious food
  • Greater educational opportunities, right at home, for your children
  • Maybe even a part time income
  • Potentially sharing and meeting the needs of others around you

The beneficial impact of raising chickens for third world and agrarian societies is even more dramatic. You will continue to see more and more news, and updates, as many people in your area and around the world join the chicken coups. This article is just an encouragement, and a warning for you, if you are thinking about being a part of the chicken coups.

The 3 Biggest Problems Owners Have in Raising Chickens!

"The 3 Biggest Problems Owners Have in Raising Chickens!"

The pains of raising chickens is talked about by chicken growers all the time. But is it really THAT important for you, if you have a backyard flock, to pay attention to other chicken owner's problems?

Sometimes in order to succeed we need to learn how not to fail. And when it comes to raising chickens, learning from others who have gone before us can be a huge help in dealing with our own flock's troubles. Plus being prepared for the disasters, which can strike at any time, will improve your chicken raising skills to an art form.

1. Protecting their flock against predators is the #1 biggest challenge with keeping your chickens safe.

It's not easy! And there are LOTS of animals out there who want to take the opportunity to eat your chickens. Raccoons, bears, snakes, hawks, coyotes, neighborhood dogs, skunks, and at times even other people might decide to take an opportunity to hurt your brood. Your number one defense against predation, is to be on your guard and ready all the time. Sometimes you can keep other protective animals with your chickens, around them and in their pens. Animals like pygmy goats, geese, guard dogs, or donkeys can sometimes be effective in helping ward off some predators.

Of course building a Sherman-tank strength coop will help as well, but even at that you are going to have constant sneak-attacks and attempts for your chicken's lives. So any time you hear commotion out of your flock, you're still going to have to check on them and make sure everything is okay.

You might also want to try some other protective strategies like... small gauge chicken wire, electric fences, and maybe ultrasonic noise deterrents.

2. Another big chicken owner concern is... 'how' to take care of a chicken once it becomes sick.

Many illnesses can hit your flock, things like upper respiratory infections (URI), fowl pox, Avian Diphtheria, plus a host of others. And unless you are already prepared to deal with the problems as they arise, you're going to need some help deciding how to care for them. For the most part, it is quite standard for most people to just allow the illnesses to take their course and see what happens with the chicken. And that might be okay for you. It may mean the hen will not survive, and you'll have to be okay with that outcome.

Your other main option is to visit a local veterinarian, treating your hens just like any other family pet, to see what's wrong with them, and to get the treatments as recommended by the doctor. Surprisingly, not a lot of owners raising chickens do this. However it is slowly becoming more and more common throughout the U.S. for owners to take one of their hens in to see the veterinarian for care. In fact, just recently I got report from a reader describing how her chicken's beak had grown irregularly, and so she took the hen in to the doctor for treatment. That was one of a only a handful of reported visits to the doctor for a chicken, that I've heard of.

3. The final big problem with raising your own flock is... cleanliness.

In this case, cleanliness is a vitally important part of keeping a healthy brood. From clean food and water dishes, to fresh bedding and laying material in the nest box, as the owner you get all the smelly benefits of making sure your chickens (and your food supply) stay clean.

The following cleaning and disinfecting suggestions come from an interview with Dr. Larrison:

Chicks need better sanitation than older chickens. Replace their floor covering every week, and do a top scraping every day until 10 weeks of age. Adults need floor covering changes every 2-4 week (depending on conditions), and a 1-2 time weekly top scraping. 4 time a year complete clean with quaternary ammonia or other viracidal compound.

So there you have the 3 biggest problems owners have with raising chickens. Hopefully it helps as useful warning for you, if you decide to keep your own flock, with the things that are going to be the most worrisome, and take up the biggest part of your time.