Pictures of Chicks and Chicken Artwork – The Sequel

I have been seriously, ridiculously, over-the-top busy working on chicken breed artwork for GRIT Magazine‘s 2015 Guide to Backyard Chickens Issue, and I have had little time to come up with awesome chicken keeping articles for you over the past days… So I hope you will enjoy a bit of visual fun instead.

One of my lovely Swedish Flower Hen pullets, Sofia, went broody at the ripe old age of 9 months and has hatched out a beautiful clutch of four chicks! I’m quite sure she would have hatched five chicks, but unfortunately my 11-year-old daughter, who is in the autism spectrum, dropped one of the eggs about 4 days prior to hatch. We were both very sad about the loss, but everyone makes mistakes!

We’re thrilled for the four that have hatched! Three of the four are out of my pullet Greta who took the title of Champion Pullet at a local county fair poultry show. (Read more about the show here.)

Look at these sweet babies!

 (Both parents are BIG – but I didn’t expect the chick to resemble a Rottweiler! Hee-hee-hee!)

 

 Classic first-time-mom look. Where did YOU come from?”)

(“OK kids… get back under mamma!”)
Watching chicks just never gets old! I might have spent the day out there staring at the new family if I hadn’t been so busy with the artwork. Here’s what I have been working on for GRIT Magazine over the past week:
 (Red Dorking rooster and Silver-Grey Dorking hen.)
(Sicilian Buttercup rooster and hen.)


What do you think?

Leave a comment… tell us – do you have any Dorkings or Sicilian Buttercups? 
If not, what breeds you have and how many?

I’ll go first – 

I have mostly Swedish Flower Hens for breeding and my eatin’-egg-laying flock is comprised of Easter Eggers and Red & Black Sex Links. I have a total of about 70 chickens… and all but the chicks have names.

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Fall – The Best Time to Plant Garlic (Your Chickens Will Thank You!)

Fall is the best time to plant garlic – specifically just after the first frost. If you live in Australia, please flip this post upside down you you can read it better (and don’t plant garlic until spring)… and if you happen to reside in a place like Grand Cayman, it probably isn’t advisable to wait until after the first frost as it could indicate that Hell is finally freezing over – in which case planting garlic might be the least of your worries!

(And for those who don’t know, there is an area in Grand Cayman by the name of Hell. I’ve been there and quite enjoyed it!)

Anywhooo -

We have long touted the benefits of feeding your flock garlic and we recently came across a wonderful article recently that we would like to share with you:

Garlic for Chickens

And if you would like more information on planting garlic. check out this article by Mother Earth News!

All About Growing Garlic 

http://naturalchickenkeeping.com/online-poultry-show.html

((Don’t forget to check out our online poultry show!) 

What is your favorite recipe (for people) that includes plenty of fresh garlic? We’d love for you to share below!!

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Chicken Artwork – Roosters and Hens

In today’s episode of You Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine…

Of course as you may know, we are hosting our first ever  Online Poultry Show. Yes – we want to see YOUR chickens because we know how much you enjoy them and how special they are to you. We want you to show them off!
(You can click the photo link below for more details and to see the current entries!)

http://naturalchickenkeeping.com/online-poultry-show.html

And since you going to show us yours, I’ll show you mine!

You’ve seen tons of photos of my own birds throughout this blog, so instead of showing you photos again, I’ll show you some of the birds I’ve been painting. I’m going through a list of breeds and creating artwork based upon those breeds. I figure that by the time I’m 103, I’ll have at least a third of the known breeds translated into art form! (I hope.)

And to put a twist on it, I want you to comment down below with your guess about what breed each photo represents. Now… some of these aren’t quite done, but I know there are folks out there who will recognize these breeds for what they are.

And a hint… these are in alphabetical order.
 
1.

 (I’m still working on this one. I want more detail in the roo and I am going to re-work the shape of the hen.)

2.
 I’m pretty happy with this one.)  =)

3.
 (You know? It’s hard to get good definition and detail in black chickens!)

4.
(If you follow our FaceBook Page, you’ll probably know what breed this is!)

5.

I still need to paint this guy a girlfriend! I’m pleased with how he turned out.)
  

6.

 (Can you name the breed? 
Extra points if you can name the rooster – he was one of the first of this breed in the US!)

And don’t forget to check out our Online Poultry Show!

OK – Show us your crazy chicken-recognition skills!
Who can name all the breeds?

GO!

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Working for Chicken Feed

While my husband diligently searches for a job and my flock muddles its way through a molt, we have found ourselves in a position where we can’t afford chicken feed. Normally our chickens earn their keep in sales of fertile hatching eggs, but of late I have been lucky to collect 1 – 2 eggs per day.

So I’m getting creative again because, by golly, I want to do something to earn their feed!

So this post isn’t about my birds and me at all. Nope – this post is about YOUR birds and YOU!

A few weeks ago (before my husband lost his job) I showed one of my birds at a poultry show for the first time… and I had a blast! I still enjoy peeking up a few times a day at the trophy my pullet won. (I’m a proud mamma!)

So why not share the fun of showing with the Natural Chicken Keeping readers?

So let me proudly introduce the first ever Natural Chicken Keeping Online Poultry Show! This is your opportunity to show your birds without leaving your home, and you just might get a trophy or Award Certificate in the mail if your bird is judged one of the best in the show!

So enter a bird (or as many birds as you like), help feed my flock while my husband hunts for a job, and possibly get your very own shiny trophy to prove to your spouse or friends that you’re not the only one who thinks your bird is amazing!

Interested? Click the photo link below for more details and to enter! And don’t forget to tell all your poultry-loving friends! The more entries we get, the more awards we will send out!

http://naturalchickenkeeping.com/online-poultry-show.html

Oh – and while entry fees will help me cover the cost of the prizes, I will gladly accept award sponsors! Your name or your business name can be printed on the award you choose to sponsor, and get a sidebar banner on the Natural Chicken Keeping blog through the rest of 2014!

And as ever,
Thank You for your support!
You are appreciated more than you know!

~ Leigh

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The Truth about Guinea Fowl

Are you considering getting a flock of guineas? (Do you have masochistic tendencies?)

Guinea fowl are commonly used to control tick and mosquito populations on farms around the world. They will also kill and consume snakes – even poisonous ones. These birds truly excel at keeping large areas clear of biting insects.

If that is what you need, guineas may be for you… but there are some things you should know before purchasing keets (young guinea fowl).

 Oh sure – they’re cute now…

Guineas originated in Africa. There are a number of varieties and colors. Most have a bony growth on their head. An extra-large growth gave the Helmeted Guinea its name. And the more I learn about guineas, the more I am convinced that the term “bone head” had to have been coined by someone who owned guineas.

Guineas are NOT chickens. While they are classified as “domestic” fowl (because so many people think they own them) they are very wild-natured and flighty. Much like your neighbor’s annoying, yappy dog that barks incessantly for every leaf that falls off a tree, guineas will sound a raucous alarm at the slightest thing. The sound resembles somebody using their fingernails to try to energetically remove the paint from a chalkboard… but amplified to a decibel that could peel the paint off your walls.

Guineas are heavily reliant on their flock. Heaven forbid they somehow get separated from their flock. This happens all the time among my own flock of guineas when one or two forget where the door to the coop is and run back and forth along the wire screaming for the rest of the flock to come save them. It can take most of the day for them to figure out where the coop door is.
(They’ve only been living in that coop for their whole lives, so… )

While attentive to potential dangers (like a new flower blooming in the yard or a saber-toothed tiger swallowtail butterfly) they don’t possess much forethought and will often attempt to roost in strange places right out in the open where any passing raccoon or owl could easily pick them off as they sleep.

While chickens will return to their coop night after night to roost, guineas may or may not… and usually not in the case of my own flock. Either they will suddenly make a group decision to perch on the side of an above ground pool with their butts hanging over the water you spent the day getting clean for tomorrow’s picnic (as one of my friend’s flocks did) or they may carry out a hostile takeover of your chicken coop, going so far as to boot the chickens they don’t care for right out the door.

With such unpredictable roosting behaviors, I personally choose to round my guinea flock up each evening and herd them back to their coop. This is one of the most effective workouts I have found for myself yet. I could put an AQHA champion cutting horse to shame with my guinea-herding moves! As talented of a guinherd (it’s like a shepherd but for guineas) as I am, once or twice a week they will evade me and race back across the pasture and I will have to run after them and start over. I can’t tell you how fun I find this. (Because I don’t.) You may wonder why I go to the trouble of chasing them each and every night? I worry about predators taking them and losing all the feed, time and effort I have put into these little freaks birds. If anything is going to eat them, it better be myself and my family!

Another difference between guineas and chickens is their mating behavior. When one keeps and breeds chickens, it is common to have one rooster to every 5-10 hens. You’d think that would make a male of any species a happy camper… but NO! Guineas are monogamous and  mate for life. If you want to keep a flock long-term, you really need to have a 1:1 ratio of males and females or inevitably some errant male will become a serial rapist and all your females will go into hiding… or leave.

Guineas do lay eggs, but usually only in the spring (their season can vary depending on your location in the world). As for how those eggs taste, most guinea “owners” never find the nest to find out. When it comes to nest-building, guineas have mastered the art of finding a place YOU will never stumble upon… but all-too often located right outside of a fox’s den. Once there are 20-30 eggs in a nest, a guinea hen or two may decide to go broody. They generally do a good job of sitting, right up until they are consumed by the fox. It is not uncommon for multiple hens to brood together. Their mates will often stand guard over them throughout the day (your best chance of finding their nest is to follow the mates) and once it becomes dark, the mates will wish their ladies luck and abandon them to go roost where they can poop in your pool or on your car.

If a guinea hen or two is fortunate enough to survive brooding a nest of eggs, she will inevitably lose all of her keets on the march back home. Keets are very sensitive and becoming soaked through in dewy grass can be their end. Or mom will proudly parade them about for a bit and then fly up and roost in a tree, forgetting completely about the keets she just spent weeks in peril to hatch. Or she’ll leave them out in the rain, or fly off without them or abandon them when she sees a hawk.

Adolescent guinea keet – starting to lose its down and grow in spotted adult plumage.

Your best bet for hatching more guineas is to lock your flock in a coop during egg season and provide them with nest areas. If you accidentally leave the coop door ajar, there is a good chance you won’t see the hens again for almost a month… or ever.

Don’t try to buy full-grown guineas from someone who has become tired of them. While they have limited flight capabilities and even more limited intelligence, guineas fancy themselves the homing pigeons of the poultry world and the minute you let them loose, will leave. They won’t make it home and you will never locate them. Ever.

If raised from keets, guineas can be tamed… somewhat. 
The ramifications of taming a guinea may haunt you for the rest of the guinea’s life.  
In my daughter’s case, they decided to roost outside her bedroom window and alert her to every passing car, deer or squirrel… all night… because they loved her…

In short, guineas are idiots.

But… since our current guinea flock has been free ranging (and it took them 4 days to figure out how to go out the coop door) none of us have had a single tick and our dog has not required any measures to keep fleas at bay.

It’s also fun to tell visitors from the city that these strange looking birds are a group of zombie chickens that showed up after a full moon one Halloween.

If I can add one more redeeming factor, guineas are delicious! The meat is juicy, tender and flavorful. It is a flavor and consistency somewhere right between chicken and turkey. And for what ever the reason, it seems that the dumber the bird, the better they taste!

So… got ticks? Don’t mind dealing with a bird who will never win an intelligence contest (unless there is a “Lack of” category)? Then give guineas a try. If you don’t like them, you can always eat them… or gift them to someone you don’t care for as a practical joke. (But don’t blame me in the 1 in-a-million chance one of them finds its way back to you.)

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From The Farm Blog Hop
And check out our first ever Online Poultry Show!
 
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To YOU – who Helped My Family

Thank You!

Clearly you understood that we are a proud family and very much want to work for everything we get. That is why you sent a $200 gift card for the Food Lion grocery store (a grocery chain with a store in our town) to us under the cover of anonymity. 

My family is truly, honestly thankful!

And to all of those who have become sponsors of the Natural Chicken Keeping blog, who have commissioned portraits or scheduled photography sitting with me…
Thank You!

We never expected this and never wanted to be in a position where we needed this kind of help (who does?)… but YOU have helped us in immeasurable ways!

You have supplied us with groceries or are giving us a chance to earn something towards our bills following the loss of my husband’s job.  

You have also made us feel humbled and blessed in the most wonderful of ways. Please know that while we may or may not know your identities, we are thankful for your presence in our lives today!

Today my husband has been away for more than 8 hours helping a wonderful older gentleman cut firewood. If you follow Natural Chicken Keeping on FaceBook, you may have seen the following status update:

“There will always be times in our lives that we are challenged. While at first it may feel like we are breaking down, like a muscle we must break down a bit and become sore in order to grow stronger.

My family is faced with hard times right now – it’s true… but that does not prevent us from seeing the beauty in this world and the kindness around us. We have been shown great kindness from friends on the internet we have never met in person in the form of art, writing and photography jobs for me. People have purchased my eBook (a BIG thank you to all who have given us opportunities to earn something towards bills and food).

So let me tell you a little story.
In order to prepare for the upcoming winter, we located a used wood-burning stove as it will keep costs down for us and allow us to be self-sufficient where heating our home is concerned. We went to pick the stove up, and met the kindest, most wonderful people you can imagine! We sat on the porch, shootin’ the breeze for hours.

Later we went down to show the kids the garden where they helped dig up potatoes, pick fresh vegetables and apples. After spending nearly 5 hours with some of the nicest people we have ever met, we left with our old Suburban filled with not only a large wood burning stove, but potatoes, apples and vegetables that will last us for weeks!

My boys will be going up there to help cut firewood in return for enough firewood to get us through the coldest of winters… and we have made the kind of friends that will become more like family for years to come.

Yes – these are stressful times for my family. Yet a day like today does so very much to restore a person’s joy in life itself!
And I am feeling amazingly thankful and happy!”

Doesn’t that just restore faith in humanity and good, kind people?
Yes – that’s where my husband went this morning and he’s still not home at 7:30 p.m. tonight. (My 19-year-old son would have gone with him, but thankfully he is working today. He just recently got on part-time at Walmart and we are proud of him!)

Yes – it can be a very depressing and stressful thing to be in a position where we don’t know what tomorrow will bring or how we will pay bills, but we can clearly see that our cup is half full! And we are so thankful! (Have I mentioned how thankful we are?)

My husband and I have applied for a wide range of jobs in our area. We are actively seeking employment… but we don’t have full-time work just yet. I am sure it will be coming our way soon!

Please know that whether you have allowed us to work for you or have given us a means of feeding our family anonymously, your actions are appreciated more than you could ever know! We don’t take this lightly.

A little something I’ve been working on for someone over the last week. :-)

Our youngest is fighting yet another round of pneumonia… times are what they are, but YOU make it all worth fighting for! Never underestimate the value of optimistic thinking. Never forget to stop and smell the roses – to see the beauty amid the chaos. Never lose your faith in humanity. This life is worth the fight.

Our most sincere thanks to our friends and Natural Chicken Keeping readers.
YOU are what this roller-coaster of life is about. 

If we didn’t experience the hard and bad times thrown at us, by what comparison would we measure the amazing joys life has to offer? It’s all about perspective, is it not?

…And now back to our regularly scheduled chicken keeping tips.


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Molting Season – Fewer Eggs and Fewer Feathers



Molting season is upon us, and with it comes a reduction in egg production and possibly some raggedy-looking chickens.
In the late summer and early fall, chickens that are about one year of age and older go through a seasonal cycle where they shed their old feathers and grow in new feathers to keep them warm through the coming winter. This can take a lot of a chicken’s energy. It can also lower a chicken’s immune system because resources from the food it eats are being redirected to growing all those new feathers.
Two of my boys before and during a molt:
  

So what can you do to help your chicken through a molt?

Watch for Feather Picking/Egg Eating:
Often when a chicken is molting they crave protein. Some will break and eat eggs to get it, and others may pick out their own feathers and eat them. Yummy, no? Still other birds will pick their friend’s feathers to snack upon. You may see bare bottoms (apparently the fluff under the vent is considered a special delicacy). What can you do? See the next point:
Boost Protein Levels:
Make sure your flock is getting between 18% and 22% protein throughout the molting period.
You can buy bagged feed (many meat bird and chick feeds have these levels of protein – just look at the nutritional analysis on the bag).
Feed your chickens meat. The best meats for your birds this time of year are raw liver and any unprocessed meats. Cooked is fine, but avoid things like bologna and hotdogs as they are filled with preservatives and fillers. Article: Just Add Meat – Chickens are Not Vegetarians! (NCK)
Another option is fish food available at your local feed store – often in 50 lb bags. This feed can have protein levels as high as 35%, so give only a little bit each day as a supplement to their regular feed.
Good recipes for molting chickens:
Don’t Worry About the Eggs:
It is not uncommon for hens to lay odd eggs at an irregular pace during molt. Where a hen may have laid 5+ eggs a week like clockwork, she may now be laying 1 or 2. You may get objects lovingly known as “fart eggs” at this time. These are tiny little eggs – often without a yolk. You may get eggs with soft shells or no shells. Rest assured, it is likely ALL because of the molt!
Egg production will return after the molt is done. 

Monitor Health:
Molting won’t last forever, but remember that during this time your birds’ immunity to disease and illness may be lowered. Watch for any signs of illness like fluffed up feathers, hunched stance, discharge from the nose or eyes and lethargy. If you have already boosted protein and your birds aren’t stressed out, it is unlikely they will become sick at all. It is more common for older or weaker birds to have these problems.
Use the Molt to Your Advantage:
This is a very good time of year to check your birds over. With fewer feathers and fluff, it is easier to see external parasites like lice and mites. If you discover a problem, click HERE for information on getting rid of them naturally.
This Too Shall Pass:
Molting usually takes a few weeks, and different breeds will sometimes molt at different times. Two of my Silkies are all done with their molt and looking better than ever, while my adult Swedish Flowers and egg production flock are looking like a gaggle of hobos that had a run in with a heard of porcupines.
Anatomy of Feather Growth:
Pin feathers
If you have chickens with bare spots, you will first notice a small nub forming, signaling the growth of a new feather. As the sheath of the feather lengthens it may be appear to be a different color than the rest of the fully-grown feathers on your chicken. This is because pin feathers have a blood supply in the shaft during development.
If a pin feather becomes damaged or broken, it can bleed quite a bit. The best thing to do if this happens is to use needle-nose pliers to gently pull out the pin feather at the base. This will allow the bleeding to stop much sooner at the skin level. A new pin feather will develop and grow in the following weeks. Your birds will bear a slight resemblance to porcupines at this stage… so be sure to have a camera handy to record this humorous event.
Feather Sheath

You will notice as the blood supply diminishes from the growing feather that a tuft may appear from the top of the sheath. Just like a sword sheath, a feather sheath is just that – a covering. As the feather barbules develop, the sheath flakes off, exposing the newly grown feather. During this time, your birds may appear to have horrific dandruff. No need to grab the Head & Shoulders shampoo – the flakey residue from the sheath will fall off as your chicken preens or takes a dust bath. 

And finally, your birds will look better than ever once their new feathers have completely grown in! Your black birds whose feathers may have faded to a reddish-brown in the summer sun will be a shiny, dark black once again. Red birds will appear darker red, white birds will look freshly bleached and all the other colors will be vivid and rich once again. 

Yes – that is the same chicken!

Egg production should bounce back up after molting is complete (though remember that as the days shorten, most birds will not lay as well as they do in the spring and summer).
And there you have it…
Oh – and be sure to check out our new sponsors on the header and left sidebar at the top of the page! 
Chicken decor, soaps and we have a 
New York Times best-selling author up there!! 
And his new book features a rooster – how cool is that??

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So Thankful for YOUR Support!

Yes – YOU. My readers and supporters.

I have received so many emails and messages of support, work ideas and even a few photography and portrait jobs! How can I ever thank you for helping me by sharing my post? I suppose this will have to do for now and I’ll just have to keep sharing good chicken keeping information in an attempt to repay so many kindnesses! :-)

Of the many, many responses I got, 95% were so kind, caring and helpful! I feel so humbled by the outpouring of concern! You all are the best!!

And you know what I forgot to mention on my last post? I have something else to offer those who really do want to help my family! For those of you with young children or grand children, I have a brand new eBook out. It can be read on a Kindle Fire, on a smartphone (through the free Kindle application), on an iPad, tablet, laptop or desktop! It’s called The Elephant’s Tail and you can find it by clicking the title or the picture below for only $2.99:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MLDFAKY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00MLDFAKY&linkCode=as2&tag=natuchickeep-20&linkId=CB2DFK6WQSIJROSI

(If you do buy the book and your children enjoy it, I would LOVE for you to review the book on Amazon.com – the more reviews it gets, the more clicks it will generate.)
And thank you in advance!

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Of course any time a post like this is shared with so many, there will be those who misunderstand the words I have fashioned together. There will be nay-sayers and not-so-nice rumors. I’d like to clarify a few things for anyone who felt offended…

Some folks took issue with the following statements:

“I am personally not comfortable with the idea of asking for money, so I am not going to. If at all possible, I would like to EARN some money.
I’m very sorry to say that in our present situation we will be swallowing our pride and putting in for state assistance. It’s a mortifying state to be in for anyone. We lost a house and our life in Texas to medical bills when our youngest was born and we have been rebuilding from the ground up since then. I really don’t want to lose our current home.”

I received messages and comments from quite a few people who mistook this as a shaming of those who set up fundraisers or receive state assistance.  I’m very sorry if you felt that way, but that is not what I said.

I shared my feelings. I am not comfortable with the idea of asking for money. Some people are not comfortable around spiders. Some don’t like clowns or the idea of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane… that doesn’t mean they dislike or wish to shame circus-goers or paratroopers. It is simply an expression of MY personal feelings concerning MY actions. I am also prone to feelings of sadness right now, but I don’t hate people who aren’t sad. LOL!

Then I said, I’m very sorry to say that in our present situation we will be swallowing our pride and putting in for state assistance. It’s a mortifying state to be in for anyone.

Sadly, this was also seen by some as a personal attack of those who ask for help or who receive state aid. 

OK – for a little perspective, let me start a list of statuses you probably won’t see anyone posting on FaceBook:

“Hooray! We’ve been self-sufficient for years now, but thankfully we will be depending on state aid for a while. What a great feeling to know we are just pennies away from losing everything!”

“I know you have a job and I don’t right now. I’m gonna need you to get a higher paying job and give part of your earnings to me, mmmkay? I know you won’t mind, so I’m not sorry.”

“I had so much fun in line at the grocery store! My SNAP card (food stamps) really started some great conversations. Everyone assumed that I was an honest, hard-working woman with an entrepreneurial way of getting some extra food.”

“I need a little help right now, and these memes I see all over the internet are just the boost to my self esteem that I needed!”

Yes – I am well aware that state aid was designed for families in situations like mine… but there are many people who aren’t in this world. With so much negativity about those who collect state aid, why wouldn’t I feel mortified – even for using the programs as they were meant to be used? If someone took offense at my emotions, perhaps it has more to do with their own feelings about needing state help. If you are sensitive about this, understand that we ALL are. I’m not shaming you. I’m expressing that this is a VERY hard thing for anyone to do.

A few were offended that I expressed I was thankful it was just the loss of a job and not cancer… because they have a loved one with cancer. I’m so very sorry your loved ones have cancer, but wouldn’t you agree that cancer is worse than the loss of a job? My point here is that I am putting things in perspective. There will always be someone who has a harder situation than your own. My cup is half full right now and I am thankful our situation is not worse than it is.

Some people suggested privately that my husband and I just have to learn to live within our means. Fear not! We have no home phone, no cable, no manicures or fancy cars. Our youngest car is a well-used 2003 Honda with plenty of digits on the odometer. I, myself have a very well pimped-out 1995 Chevrolet Suburban… and by “pimped-out” I mean an incomplete paint job, decades-old french fries mummifying under the seats and a pervasive odor of… umm… mildew I believe – from the leak in the seals around the back ambulance doors. I haven’t been working over the last few years because our youngest has a bit of a chronic pneumonia issue which means we get to go visit all our friends at the hospital a couple times a year on average for a few days. We adore the staff of the PICU, but we try to avoid bugging them too much! Check out what they did a few years ago – my daughter had been in bed for so long she had a hard time walking. To get her up and moving, the staff of Roanoke Carilion Memorial Hospital did THIS:

Finally, somehow, somewhere the rumor mill started grinding out information that I do in fact have a fundraiser going to benefit my family. Better yet, another popular chicken blogger has donated to it! For those who would like to perpetuate this rumor, please attach the link below so I can find it, get the money and buy groceries and feed for my chickens! For those of you who donated to this non-existent fundraiser, I certainly hope you donated non-existent money. And I thank you!

I have NO issue with other people who have fundraisers! None! It is simply my choice not to have one at this time… and if I do start one in the future, it will be attached to some entertaining video I make of myself doing something completely ridiculous so that you feel you got your money’s worth… or there will be art involved that you will receive… or some other crazy service. I am a creative genius (well… that’s what my mom told me once…) so there WILL be something attached if I get to the point where I need to start something like this. There just isn’t one at this time, so don’t believe everything someone else says unless they attach a link or some other form of proof.

I am not a catty person. I don’t have any arguments or wars going on with any other bloggers or readers. I don’t judge others who do things differently. I simply don’t do drama – with two special needs kids, there is enough drama at home. LOL!

I am a chicken blogger and I am currently faced with a tough situation. I am looking for ways to earn money so we won’t lose our 2.7 acres and super-sexy 1973 singlewide trailer. I am looking for ways to find stability and financial independence for my family.

So I hope I have answered any questions that may be floating around out there.

And to the many, many people who reached out to me with kind words and potential jobs, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! People like you make the world a better place!

~ Leigh

Hard Choices for Hard Times – Please Read

Today my husband lost his job.

There – I said it. It will take a while for the sting to dissipate from those words. Of course this means I’ll be looking for a job. He’ll be looking for a job. We’ll be scraping for a while.

As many of you know, we just bought a new micro-farm. Thankfully our monthly mortgage payment is pretty cheap, but with two special needs kids (autism and Down syndrome) we’ll be faced with some challenges for a little bit. Jobs are not easy to come by in this economy.

I am personally not comfortable with the idea of asking for money, so I am not going to. If at all possible, I would like to EARN some money.

I’m very sorry to say that in our present situation we will be swallowing our pride and putting in for state assistance. It’s a mortifying state to be in for anyone. We lost a house and our life in Texas to medical bills when our youngest was born and we have been rebuilding from the ground up since then. I really don’t want to lose our current home.

But you know what? It’s not cancer! We are so lucky that it’s not cancer. Or the loss of a child. Or a spouse. It’s just the loss of a job and it’s something that hundreds upon thousands of others have faced in the last years in the US.

As I stated before, we will not be asking for handouts.

I am asking for a chance to earn money.

I am a writer, a photographer and an artist.

First: I have LOTS of advertising space on this blog, and right now I will accept ANY advertising provided it is not out of line with a NATURAL type of lifestyle. (I won’t allow advertising for toxins or chemicals.) But pretty much anything else is a possibility. Kids clothing? SURE! Natural herbs or juices? Why not? Chicken stuff? Even better!!

Second: I do custom portraits. Because of our tight finances over the last years, I have modified my art to an electronic format. What this means is that you can be emailed progress on your custom art pieces and  if you purchase the rights to this artwork, you can have it published or printed in any format you like! These can be put on canvas or on giant-size posters. They can be put on T-shirts, cups and calendars. There are no limits to the use of this artwork. I specialize in animals and birds, but I will consider ANYTHING… and I’m not bad, either. Here are some examples of my art:

Third – I am a photographer. You have seen my photos throughout this blog. If you are within a 100 mile radius of Wytheville, VA and need a photographer for animal shots, family shots or what ever, here I am!

Fourth: Have I mentioned I like to write? I’m not too bad at that, either! Is there something you need written or edited? Perhaps I can help.

I know there are a lot of folks in tight financial situations right now. I know that not everyone needs advertising, art, photos or writing… but there is still something you can do if you feel compelled.

Share this! Share this with anyone who might know someone who has a friend who wants a custom piece of art. If a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend uses my services in any way, YOU have helped a family in need earn money for our electric bill and food.  It would mean an incredible amount to us.

It’s not the end of the world… just the beginning of a new life. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m willing to work for this new life.

Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing it!!

Very sincerely,
Leigh Schilling Edwards

Email me at: shabbychicken@hotmail.com

Preparing and Showing Your Chicken at a Poultry Show

Yesterday I tried something I have never done before. I took one of my Swedish Flower Hen pullets to a poultry show at a county fair. One of the neat things about keeping this blog is that it has pushed me to try things I might not have otherwise tried, like fermenting feed, raising my own meat birds and… entering a bird in a poultry show.


When I was younger, I showed horses in Hunter, Jumper and Dressage. Showing horses is totally different than showing poultry… with the exception of showing halter horses (something I’ve never tried).
(The above is what I did… a LONG time ago!)


In poultry shows decisions are based upon a bird’s conformation – the shape of the body – as well as condition and correctness. In the US, one can learn about a breed’s Standard of Perfection (SOP) through the American Poultry Association (APA) and various breed-specific clubs.  

When it comes to the bigger APA shows, years of good breeding practices, chicken expertise and planning go into competing. The show I went to was not one of those shows. Right now, entering one of those shows with my birds would be like entering a green-broke mule in a Grand Prix jumping competition. As much as I love making folks laugh, that wouldn’t be my choice of ways to do it! LOL!  (And that’s not to say that a mule couldn’t jump at a Grand Prix level with years of training… but currently, to my knowledge, mules aren’t a recognized breed – or species – at top-rated horse shows.)


Anywhooo… 

My goal in going to this country fair poultry show was to learn something about showing in a low-key environment where fewer people would be likely to laugh at my half-baked efforts. I did some research online and found two very helpful links which I will share at the bottom. Each one had great advice from slightly different angles, so I have compiled some of the suggestions here.


Depending on the show you plan to enter, you can take as many or as few of these suggestions as you care to. Now let me warn you, if your child is entering a 4H show, you should go all-out if you want his/her chicken to have a chance. Those shows can be super competitive!


A Month (or so) Before the Show:

Feed: Make sure you are giving your birds a good, healthy diet! This is a key to good coloration and feathering. Fermenting your feed is a great way to ensure your birds are in top condition year-round. It may even be a good idea to boost protein levels to around 20% for adult birds a few weeks before the competition (unless your bird is prone to being over-weight). 

Parasite Control: For top health, make sure your birds are free of external and internal parasites. Regular dusting with wood ash or Diatomaceous Earth is a good, natural way to keep external parasites like lice or mites at bay.
Feeding ground up pumpkin seeds, cayenne pepper, garlic and/or putting Shaklee Basic-H2 Soap or regular blue Dawn dish soap (not the concentrated stuff) in the water will all help control internal parasite loads without the use of toxins and chemicals.

Pull Broken Feathers:
Use needle-nose pliers to pull out broken wing, tail and foot feathers. Pulling out the feather and shaft completely will allow new feathers to grow in without waiting for the next molt. 

NPIP Testing:
About 2 weeks before the show, get your bird tested and put the paperwork in a safe place until the show.

Confine Your Show Bird(s):
Many serious poultry show competitors help their birds get show-ready by keeping them separated from flock members in a wire-bottom cage. This is done for a number of reasons. It helps prevent other birds from picking on them and damaging their plumage, it reduces exposure to external or internal parasites and it keeps them cleaner.

Now this is one of the reasons I will likely never become a serious competitor in APA shows. For me, allowing a chicken to be a chicken makes me happy. Dust baths, scratching in the dirt for bugs and lounging with buddies on a sunny day are not on the daily agenda for serious show birds. Many birds seem to do just fine with this kind of life. If you truly want to show in the bigger poultry shows, this is one of those things that you probably need to do to be competitive.

Several Days Before the Show:

Bathe Your Chicken:Yes – you need to do this at least 2 days before the show to give all the down and feathers time to dry thoroughly. Looking around the internet it seems that the highest recommended chicken shampoo is Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. Some folks use buckets of warm water to bathe their chickens, but you can also use your kitchen sink.

The following photos are a dramatization of the steps discussed for the purpose of adding color and interest value to this post.
My 11-year-old took these photos, and I didn’t want to be all wet and soapy if she needed camera help.

First, thoroughly wet your bird with warm water. Next, add soap. Be really gentle when you’re washing those feathers. Vigorous scrubbing can damage or even break the feathers. You just want to gently work the soap all the way down to the skin using small, circular motions with your fingertips. Please try to avoid getting soap in your bird’s eyes!
While your bird is soapy, use an old toothbrush to gently scrub non-feathered legs. If you have a feather-legged breed like a Silkie or a Cochin, you’ll need to spend some time gently washing the legs with your hands. 

Rinse your bird thoroughly with warm water.

If you are showing a white bird, you may want to use Bluing Pet Shampoo. DON’T use too much and don’t leave it on very long! When used properly this stuff can really make white parts a really bright white. But if left on too long, you’re going to have to decide if you really want to take a bluebird to a poultry show. 

After you have rinsed any soap or bluing out with water, use a mixture of clean, warm water with a few splashes of vinegar in it (white vinegar is probably best, but apple cider vinegar will work too) to rinse your birds again. This will remove any soapy residue that can gather on your bird’s skin. 

Lastly, one more rinse with fresh, warm water to remove some of the vinegar smell.

Remove your bird from the bath area and wrap it up in a large, absorbent towel. Once again, don’t rub your bird vigorously. Just gently squeeze. Then move the towel in the direction of the natural lay of the feathers until you have as much of the excess water out as possible.

Blow Dry: You can use a regular blow dryer to dry your bird. Do NOT use the Hot setting. This can scorch and fray the feathers and even burn your bird. Use a Medium or Cool setting and keep the dryer moving at all times. Again – even on these settings the feathers can be burned or damaged if the dryer is aimed at the same spot for too long.
Once your bird is mostly dry, you can place it in a cage in the sun for a short time to help it dry, provided it is not too hot or cold outside. 

Trimming the Beak and Toenails/Claws: Now that your bird is nice and clean, it’s time to trim some of those pointy ends off. You don’t want your bird to make a lasting impression on the judge with it’s dagger-like claws! 

Beak: You can use a nail trimmer made for dogs, a fingernail clipper or even wire cutters to carefully nip the sharp point off the upper part of the beak. Don’t take too much off! Just the tiniest bit to make the beak less dagger-like. Round the clipped edges by filing with a heavy-duty nail file or a dremel tool.

Nails/Claws: Just like a cat or a dog, a chicken’s claws have a sensitive, blood-filled quick in each claw. It is easier to trim the claws of birds with lighter (yellow) skin as the quick is more visible. If you have a dark-skinned bird like a Silkie, you’ll have to be cautious and wing it. Have styptic powder (blood stop) with you just in case you nick a quick. Even corn starch or flour will work in a pinch.


And once again, after trimming, use a file or dremel to round any sharp edges.

Pack: Be sure you have a list of necessary items to take to the show with you, and pack what you can ahead of time. Here is a sample list:
  • NPIP paperwork
  • Pine shavings to bed your bird on after the show
  • Water in gallon jugs – How many gallons you take depends on how many birds your taking and how long you will be there.
  • Feed – take more than enough to last until you get home.
  • Feed and Water Dishes – the type that clip to the side of a wire cage are very useful.
  • Hand sanitizer – biosecurity is very important at poultry shows!
  • A roll of paper towels for quick cage clean-up before the judging
  • Baby wipes for last-minute leg or feather stain clean up
  • Vet Rx , Vaseline, Organic coconut oil or baby oil for the comb and wattles. (Some folks will use Vet Rx on the comb and wattles to shine them up and make them nice and red, and then use another oil around the beak, eyes and earlobes.
  • Large ziplock bags… because you’ll find plenty of uses for them!

    Day of the Show:


    Arrive Early:Get to the show a bit early to give you time to register, find your assigned cage(s) and allow your bird(s) to settle in.

    Biosecurity: Don’t touch any birds but your own!

    Highlight: Apply a small amount of oil/VetRx to comb/wattles and oil around eyes/ears/un-feathered legs to shine them up a bit and show them off.

    Food Considerations: Make sure your bird has a chance to eat and drink a few hours before judging starts. Withhold food and water for about 2 hours before the judging as a full crop can alter the silhouette of your bird’s conformation.

    Keep it Clean: Do what you can to clean up any droppings in the show cage as quickly as possible. You don’t want your bird to step (or even worse) lay down in it before the judge comes around. 

    Last Minute Once-Over: Check for any stains on the legs or feathers, and pat any ruffled or frayed feathers back into place.  

    Stow Your Stuff: Don’t leave any belongings in or around the cage area. This includes food and water dishes. When the judge comes around, the only thing s/he should see is your bird. Bring a bag and put ALL your stuff in it and take it with you when the show area is cleared for judging.


    Have FUN!:
    Especially if you have kids. Remember that the effort and the experience are the most important parts of showing for children. If you are a breeder and showing your bloodlines as an adult, take it for what it is. Not winning does not mean your birds suck. Each judge will have slightly different tastes and preferences. Sure – the Standard of Perfection is first and foremost, but a tie between two otherwise equal birds will be broken by the judge’s individual tastes.


    Biosecurity… Again: Your bird may be exposed to disease at a poultry show. After the show treat it as you would a new bird and quarantine your bird appropriately when you return home. (Link)


    Me?? 
    I had a blast! I went for the learning experience and I took a pullet of a breed that is not APA recognized. Greta is one of my finest Swedish Flower Hen pullets and a real cuddle-bug. I figured with her friendly, laid-back personality she wouldn’t get as stressed out as some of my birds might. 

    In an APA show, a non-recognized breed can not receive awards above a “Best of Breed” type classification… but although the judges at the country fair were APA judges, it was not an APA show.

    I can’t tell you how shocked I was when Greta took the Champion Pullet honors!


    The lighting was poor as it was after 9:00 p.m. when the show wrapped up, so I promised Greta we would recreate her 15 seconds of fame when we got home…

    Chicken Glamor Shots!



    Here are the links I found very helpful when I was researching what I needed to do to not embarrass myself too badly:
    http://www.pathfindersfarm.com/Prepping.html
    http://www.harvestbreezefarm.com/PreparingforShow.html

    Best of Luck and Happy Showing!
    *

    From The Farm Blog Hop