Archive for April, 2013

New Chicks at Belmont Feed and Seed 4-19-2013

New chicks are expected at “Belmont Feed & Seed” tomorrow. 

-Isa Browns/Red Stars
-Amber Sex Links
-Buff Orpngtons
-Barred Rocks
There are Cuckoo Marans pullets, too. 

Coop-building Class: May 7 at 7 PM, Oak Park Conservatory

If you’re getting chicks, this is the class you’ll need to learn about building a safe and comfortable home for them! In this class, you’ll learn about the basic needs of adult chickens (they’re not fussy, really, but there are some things you need to know!). Find out the essential components of a coop, things to avoid when choosing construction materials, important construction tips, and see different coop styles.

Date: May 7
Place: Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield Street, Oak Park, IL 60304
Time: 7 PM to 9 PM

 For more information, contact the Oak Park Conservatory.

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Gardiner

Fatty Hemorrhagic Liver (Hepatic Lipidosis) [CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES]

Here’s the necropsy report for the day. Yesterday I visited a friend who has chickens in the city, and her birds were fine; today she called with a dead hen. The hen had died between 2 PM and 4 PM today.

The hen had laid (and eaten part of) a soft-shelled egg. When I opened her up, I found a HUGE amount of fat and a massive amount of blood in the body cavity, seemingly a liver hemorrhage. In addition to the liver issues, she had a nice collection of ascaris (roundworms) in the intestinal tract (one was over 2 inches long). Her gizzard contained very little grit and a large amount of grains/vegetable matter and some plastic pieces.

Dr. Sakas of Niles Animal Hospital reviewed the necropsy pix and said that the underlying comdition was the fatty liver, and death was caused by an aneurysm. She died shortly after laying an egg, and the strain of egg laying can cause a hemorrhage.

Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipdosis) is also seen in caged birds (like parrots and parakeets) that are fed a diet of strictly seeds. A diet that is too nutrient dense, as well as lack of exercise, can cause fatty liver syndrome. Fat builds up in the liver and the body cavity and can cause shortness of breath, organ failure, egg binding, and hemorrhage. I’ve taken my parakeets off of a seed diet and put them on a pelleted formula for this reason. [NOTE: Diet conversion of caged exotics must be done slowly and under very careful observation. Birds to do not take to change well and can starve themselves to death during a diet conversion. Check with your avian veterinarian before trying this on your own.]

My friend doesn’t overload her birds with bread, mealworms, or other treats, but as I observed the birds eating from the feeder, they were picking out the bits of corn and leaving the mash. I advised her to feed a finely ground mash without the bits of corn, a crumble, or a pelleted food to prevent the hens from picking the “marshmallows” out of the “Lucky Charms” and leaving the “cereal” behind.

I also suggested minimizing the amount of food available to the birds, limiting it to about 1/4 lb per bird per day. More exercise would probably be beneficial, too.

The pictures below are not for the faint of heart!

The gizzard

The gizzard

Yellow fat with coagulated blood from liver hemorrhage

Yellow fat with coagulated blood from liver hemorrhage

Roundworm (Ascaris)

Roundworm (Ascaris)

Fatty liver with large blood clot to the left

Fatty liver with large blood clot to the left

Yellow fat in the body cavity

Yellow fat in the body cavity

Gizzard contents

Gizzard contents

Want to see if your city allows chickens?

Many municipalities have their laws online. See if you can find your location’s legal code. You can also see if your town is included in this site’s database. 


Thoughts on Roosters

A few thoughts on roosters from my ag colleague, Deborah Niemann, of Antiquity Oaks Farm Blog. Deborah is also a published author. You can read more about her and her books on her website. 

We were vegetarians for 14 years when we got chickens, and we never had any intention to start eating chicken or any other meat for that matter. I bought three roosters with my 24 hens so that they could set and hatch chicks and continue the cycle of life, and I didn’t mind the idea of having more than the recommended number of roosters because they are so pretty, and I thought (naively) that beauty should be valued as much as eggs.

After two years, we had 40 hens and 24 roosters. Well, as beautiful as the roosters were, the hens looked horrible. Almost all of them had bald backs, no feathers, and raw skin from being mated constantly. Roosters have a non-stop drive to reproduce, so they are chasing hens and jumping on their backs all day long. When you have one rooster for every ten hens, it’s not a big deal. When you have more than one rooster for every two hens, the poor girls are literally “run ragged.”

One day I walked into the barn and discovered that one of the roosters was completely blind and had one eye that had been completely pecked out. I knew the roosters had been fighting, and I’d break it up when I saw it, but I couldn’t be around 24 roosters 24/7. My husband and I argued about putting him down or having him live out his life in a cage, and by the time I’d convinced my husband to chop off his head, he had died. A week later, we went through the same thing again, and by the third time this happened in two weeks, we realized that the roosters were very unhappy with all the competition and were seeking some type of equilibrium. We could either let them continue killing each other, or we could reduce the playing field ourselves. After much debate, we decided that a quick ax to the neck would be far more humane than letting them kill each other slowly. When they fight, they peck at each others’ heads until one is blind and/or brain damaged. This does not lead to a quick death.

We have 32 acres, and although we have fencing to keep out coyotes, the chickens can go through or fly over it if they want, and some of them do. We once had a couple of “brother” roosters who would range out about ten acres, and one day we found one of them staring into space in the corner of the chicken house. We had seen them fighting the day before. So, although hens don’t fight if they have plenty of space, having enough space is not the issue for roosters who are testosterone-driven.

Allowing roosters to live out their natural life is a really nice idea, and one which I thought I could achieve — before I actually tried. I suppose you could keep them caged by themselves, but I don’t see that as a terribly fulfilling life. If you want eggs, roosters will die somewhere, sometime. Either you buy sexed pullets, and the left-over cockerels die at the hatchery, or you buy straight-run, and the roosters live a few months before becoming dinner or perhaps a little longer before they kill each other. No, not every rooster will die in those fights, but I can tell you that even the winners look like they’ve suffered a lot of pain.


Upcoming Events

Saturday, April 13: 

Saturday, April 20: Earthfest, Oak Park, IL

Saturday, April 27: Kenosha Market, Kenosha, WI, information to come

Saturday, May 4: Plainfield Expo, Plainfield, IL

Chicken-keeping classes, Plainfield, IL, information to come

Saturday, June 1: Chicken health workshop, information to come

Hen lays monster egg in China

All right, this just HURTS!

Check out this video of a HUGE egg laid by a Chinese hen.

As to the comment about rice being the cause of the monster egg, that wouldn’t cause the monster egg. It looks like a formed egg got stuck in the shell gland and was shelled again, along with 2 fully formed yolks. Enjoy!


Chickens in Orlando, FL

Chickens in Orlando, FL