Caring for Chickens in Winter

by Dalia Monterroso, The President of Chickenlandia

An edited version of this article originally appeared in the Little Farmer Blog.

Winter is Here

It’s happening. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. Everywhere, new chicken keepers are starting to feel concerned about their flocks. Will their feathered friends be okay in low temperatures? Does there need to be a heat lamp in the coop? Surely chickens can’t withstand several days or weeks of snow? It’s just so awful out there!

As a Backyard Chicken Educator, I hear these concerns every year from new chicken keepers. These are valid concerns, especially for those who live in climates with extreme or wildly fluctuating weather. My goal is to calm people’s fears and give them confidence in their choices. Though it may seem like there’s only one way to care for chickens in the winter months, I find it’s better to talk about varying situations and allow people to make informed choices according to their own unique situations.

Do Chickens Need Supplemental Heat in Winter?

Pardon the pun, but this is a “heated” topic within the chicken community. As with most things, the answer is not as simple as it seems. Depending on breed, healthy, adult chickens generally do not need supplemental heat. Most laying chickens sold in farm stores or from hatcheries are cold hardy and thus can handle cold temperatures just fine. If you question this, consider that there are chickens living in Minnesota, Alaska, and even Siberia with no supplemental heat!

Contrary to what you might think, it’s actually moisture that is the problem in the winter, not the cold. This is why I recommend you have good ventilation in your coop while ensuring it isn’t drafty where your flock roosts at night. It’s natural to think that you must seal every nook and cranny and close every window to seal in the heat. But that’s actually a recipe for disaster! Let me explain.

Moisture is the Enemy, Not Temperature

When chickens sleep, they generate moisture from their breath. Their droppings also contain moisture. If you have their water container in the coop that will release moisture. And if you have ducks living in the coop with them, well, you get where I’m going. Good airflow in the coop will create a dryer environment, staving off things like ammonia buildup, respiratory issues, and even frostbite. You can learn more about the importance of chicken coop ventilation by watching this video.

With good ventilation and no drafts where your chickens roost, it’s very unlikely that supplemental heat will be needed even when the temperatures get below freezing. Remember, chickens are wearing thick down coats and cuddle up together at night to keep each other warm. However, if you feel like you’re doing all the right things and you’re still running into problems, if you have very old chickens or young chicks, or if you have breeds that aren’t cold-hardy, you may consider a safer heating option for your coop. In these scenarios, I recommend a radiant-type heater like the Cozy Coop or the Sweeter Heater. These panel heaters are made especially for use in a chicken coop and are far less of a fire hazard than a heat lamp. If you must use a heat lamp, be sure to clean it often and secure it well.

Frozen Waterers are Super Annoying

When I experienced my first winter with chickens, it was kind of a shock how quickly their water would freeze. I found myself hauling heavy water buckets from the kitchen sink to the chicken yard several times a day. As you can imagine, I was not excited about this chore! My life became so much easier once I invested in a heated waterer made especially for my flock. I even have some heated dog bowls that I use for the ducks and to keep fermented feed from freezing. I know it’s an extra expense, but in my opinion, adding a heated waterer to your list of winter supplies is a lifesaver. That being said, for some folks, it’s just not possible. This video can help.

Do What’s Best for You and Your Flock

I will never fault a new chicken keeper who’s worried about the welfare of their chickens during the cold months. In my opinion, that’s a sign of good chicken parenting. But rest assured, your flock is likely going to be just fine, even if you need a few extra layers over your pajamas when you’re doing your chicken chores!

Yes, I Use Diatomaceous Earth (and my chickens aren’t dead)

Chicks Before Clicks

I know, I know, such a provocative title. The fact is, provocative titles get clicks. Even more click-baity are captions that illicit fear, indignation, or at worst, rage. Alas, such has become the nature of journalism, social media, and the blogosphere. I make an effort to temper the urge to participate in such behavior but I’m part of the game and thus have to work to stay relevant. Even so, I try to remain true to who I am: someone who brings people together, not pits them against each other. I also truly care about the health of our chickens and our planet. I hope I never forget that there are real humans and chickens behind the “likes” and “follows”.

Here I am making a dust bath for my chickens that includes DE.

So, what does all this have to do with Diatomaceous Earth, you ask? Well, basically, DE (as it’s referred to in chicken circles) has gotten a tremendously bad rap. The vitriol against it and sometimes against people who use it can get more intense than a broody hen. I confess that I’ve felt annoyed and defensive toward those who have challenged my use of DE. But then I take a step back from the madness and remember: they just care about chickens, and when you care a lot about something it can get emotional.

Jessica Lange taking a very messy dust bath in dirt, wood ash, and DE.

So, I want to take some of the emotion out of it and look at the cold, hard facts. Or at least the facts that we have access to. First off, I want to acknowledge that natural products used in chicken keeping have less science surrounding them. There’s just not as much of an incentive (translation: there’s not enough money to be made) to perform studies that aren’t geared toward large-scale agriculture. That being said, we do know a thing or two about DE, where it comes from, and the different types there are. We also know enough to make an educated guess about its safety. Is it 100% benign? No. Is it as dangerous as it’s been presented to be? No.

Let’s Break it Down

Microalgae microalgae-ing.

Diatomaceous earth is made from the million-year-old remains of diatoms. The skeletons of these microscopic sea creatures are composed almost entirely of silica, aka silicon dioxide, which is an essential nutrient naturally present in our environment. The type of diatomaceous earth that should be used in chicken care is made from amorphous silica. But there are actually two kinds of diatomaceous earth: amorphous and crystalline. Amorphous DE is considered generally safe by the Food and Drug Administration. Crystalline DE is not.

This silica-rich rock off the coast of Greece would make a great dust bath!

Amorphous DE can be found in numerous products we use every day, including makeup, toothpaste, medicine, and even the food we eat. Its effectiveness as an insecticide comes from its ability to dry bugs out and damage their exoskeletons with its abrasiveness edges. Once amorphous DE gets wet, however, its insecticidal power disappears. This is why I generally don’t recommend it alone as an internal anti-parasitic, although I know many who swear by it for this purpose and there is this positive study on it.

Crystalline DE is treated at high temperatures and is often referred to as “pool grade” due to its use in filtration. It’s not useful as an insecticide and is known to cause lung damage in humans and animals with prolonged exposure. When using DE for chickens, it’s essential to only use products labeled food grade, which is the amorphous type and must contain less than 1% crystalline DE in order to acquire that label. Although this low percentage of crystalline diatomaceous earth does present some level of risk, it’s minuscule when compared to the risk of a parasite infestation or the use of other synthetic anti-parasite treatments. Remember: Crystalline DE becomes problematic with prolonged exposure and Food Grade DE might contain trace amounts.

Natural Doesn’t Mean Harmless

We must protect the bees at all costs.

I’m a proponent of diatomaceous earth, but I’m still careful to limit its use to dust baths, the coop, or on the chickens themselves. Just because DE is a natural substance doesn’t mean it can’t negatively affect the ecosystem, especially when it’s overused. If you were to spread DE all over your chicken yard, it wouldn’t just ward off unwanted parasites, it would kill beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies, and even microscopic critters we can’t see but we definitely need in a balanced environment. So, yes, use DE. But please, be responsible with it.

So, what do you think? With this information in mind, do you feel safe using diatomaceous earth? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments. And remember, no matter what your answer is, you’re always welcome in Chickenlandia. 🙂

Cool stuff to click on:

Make Your Own DIY Dust Bath!

Diatom Information

Fact Sheet on DE

Study about the Benefits of DE for Chickens

The Age-Old Practice of “Cold-Brooding” Baby Chicks

By Dalia Monterroso, The President of Chickenlandia

How did chicken farmers raise baby chicks before electricity?

I often sit and ponder about how things were done long ago. When I say “long ago”, I’m talking about before Amazon Prime, before iPhones, and even *shutters* before Netflix. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m so old I remember when kids’ television shows (think: Loony Toons) only aired on weekdays from 3 to 4 pm and Saturday mornings. We had to watch commercials and even remote controls were futuristic! Alas, sometimes the world I grew up in seems like a dream that never really happened. I wonder how my great-grandmother would feel about the world we live in today. And I wonder…how the heck did she brood baby chicks without an electric heat source?

My first batch of baby chicks!

Cold-Brooding Baby Chicks

When burning questions concerning chickens keep me up at night, I feel have no choice but to go down the chicken rabbit hole so you don’t have to. I must say, though, there really isn’t a ton of information online about brooding chicks without electricity. I found a few blog posts and videos about raising chicks off-grid, but most of what I could find was about heat lamp alternatives that still required power. Even my collection of mid-1900s chicken books mostly focused on wacky contraptions that, to be honest, seem pretty dangerous through my modern lens. But through it all, I did manage to piece together some nifty ways in which baby chicks can survive without heat. The practice is called “cold-brooding,” and if nothing else, understanding how it works could be extremely helpful in the event of a power outage.

Chicken Math gone awry!

More is Better

Chicken keepers like to joke about a phenomenon called “chicken math,” which is the tendency to get more and more chickens despite ominous looks from our spouses. If you decide to cold-brood baby chicks it’s important to know that more is actually better in this case. Under natural circumstances, baby chicks rely on their mother’s fluffy body to keep them warm. The younger chicks are, the more in danger they are of getting chilled. If there is no mother hen or artificial heat source available, baby chicks will naturally turn to each other for warmth and comfort. This is why it is best to have no less than a dozen chicks if you plan to cold-brood. You want them to be able to huddle together so that they can generate enough heat to keep from getting chilled.

Baby chicks hanging out indoors like they got it like that.

Your New Housemates

You may or may not know this already, but baby chicks generate a ton of dust, especially if they are being kept on shavings. Because of this fact, I often suggest keeping your brooder in an area other than inside your house, such as a garage or shed. This is not the best option for cold-brooding, however, because the ambient temperature needs to be at least above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If possible, it’s safest for your chicks to keep your brooder near your family’s heat source, such as a wood-burning stove or fireplace. Keeping them near your heat will be a much-needed layer of protection against becoming too cold.

Keep Them Cozy

I normally say that as long as there are no drafts or other dangers present, the more space you can give baby chicks the better. This is not the case if you are cold-brooding. Having your chicks in a smaller space (not over-crowded, but cozy) makes it easier for their environment to retain heat. In fact, some cold-brooding set-ups consist of two “rooms” for chicks, one small, very insulated compartment for chicks to go into, huddle, and warm up together, and another compartment with feed, water, and some space to stretch their legs. If you have your chicks inside where the ambient temperature is above 70 degrees, one area should work just fine. Many of you likely have a plastic bin that might be too small if you were using artificial heat but is perfect for cold-brooding. Having a smaller brooder will also make it easier for you to insulate their space by placing thick blankets over and around it. Of course, always make sure there is adequate ventilation and clean their brooder often to ward off any ammonia build-up.

Snuggle Bugs

Give them something to snuggle with

Baby chicks can generate heat by snuggling under or near something cozy such as a feather or wool duster, a wool blanket, or even a stuffed animal. Make sure anything you offer them is free of chemicals such as fabric softeners or artificial fragrances, as well as loose strings that they can get caught up in. You also don’t want to use a blanket so heavy that a chick could get stuck beneath it. Above all, use common sense.

If you are the diligent sort, you can wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and offer it to them to warm up near. If you decide to do this, just be sure you are checking it often and make certain it stays warm even overnight. Once your baby chicks get used to a heat source, you want to keep it on offer until they can be slowly weaned from it as they grow into their adolescent feathers.

Mama and LOTS of babies

‘Tis it Really the Season?

If you are considering raising chicks without heat, it’s best to plan that baby-raising according to the seasons. There is an important reason that mother hens normally go broody in the spring: it’s so her babies will hatch during an ideal climate when she doesn’t have to worry about them getting accidentally chilled. Even when you’re brooding chicks indoors, keeping the ambient temperature above 70 degrees can be more difficult and definitely more expensive in the cold of winter. This is why it’s better to hold off acquiring your baby chicks until later in the year after things warm up. In the Southern USA, there are times when the temperatures are so high in the summer that chicks don’t need additional heat even if you wanted to offer it! So, make things easier on yourself and your chickens. Remember: cold-brooding works best during the late spring and summer months.

A healthy, hardy hen.

Bullet-Proof Babies

Baby chicks that survive cold-brooding often grow up to be very hardy and healthy adult chickens. As with most things, though, there are risks to raising chicks this old-fashioned way. It is an unfortunate possibility that you may lose a chick or chicks because they became chilled or otherwise stressed. For this reason, my soft heart will always recommend using a mother hen or artificial heat source. However, I must acknowledge that not every person has access to heat lamps or heat plates, so I wanted to be sure this information was out there in an organized way. If you choose to cold-brood your baby chicks, I’d love to hear about it! Let me know about your experience in the comments.

This article is featured in my online course Chickenlandia’s Backyard Chickens 101 – A Chicken Course for Everyone! Find out more about this easy and interactive course by clicking here.

Chickenlandia’s NEW Book is Now Available for Pre-order!

I can’t believe it’s finally happening…

Words cannot express how excited I am to finally be sharing the pre-order link for my new book Let’s All Keep Chickens! which has been a labor of love for nearly three years. Since I became a Backyard Chicken Educator over a decade ago, I’ve been gathering the information I need to put it all together. For the months that I was actively writing, I would sit in my youngest son’s bed and type away as he fell asleep. That’s how I was able to get this done, by squeezing in moments to write whenever I could. It was hard, but it has been so worth it. You can find all the purchase options for Let’s All Keep Chickens! by clicking the link below:

Pre-order Let’s All Keep Chickens! here.

Aren’t chickens awesome?

This one is different…

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I have to say that I don’t think there’s another chicken book like this one on the market. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many great chicken books, some of which I have used in my own education throughout the years. But Let’s All Keep Chickens! is different because my goal is not only to share with you the ins and outs of chicken keeping but also to inspire you to use this age-old practice to enrich not only your life but also the world. I really mean that! 

The actual release date for the book is February 28th, 2023, just in time for baby chick season! Leading up to the release, I’ll be updating you via social media regarding any interviews I’ll be doing and any in-person events I may be participating in. It’s going to be a very busy and very exciting time, so make sure you’re following me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Me and Gizmo sporting the same hair LOL

Chicken Keeping is for everyone.

I’m so glad we have found each other on this wild chicken adventure we’re on. I hope you will take a moment to pre-order my book and share the link with your friends. But even if you can’t buy my book or my online course, remember: there’s a ton of FREE content on my YouTube Channel and Podcast. And above all, remember that you are always welcome in Chickenlandia! 

Make Your Own DIY Chicken Coop Diffuser!

Give your chickens the benefit of gentle aromatic essential oils

Written by Kelcie Paulis, Chickenlandia Presidential Advisor

As an Amazon Associate, Chickenlandia earns from qualifying purchases through some of the links below.

In Chickenlandia, we often talk about the use of essential oils (EOs) with chickens. But it’s important to understand that oils can be powerful and their use around poultry should be done with careful consideration. Some gentle EOs can be safely diffused (“diffuse” means to dispense the EO’s aromatic molecules into the air) within your flock’s coop, creating a more healthful and good-smelling environment for you and your chickens. Many people use electric diffusers in their homes, but for use within chicken housing, I do not recommend electric diffusers as they may add unwanted moisture to the coop. For EO diffusion with chickens, I suggest simply placing a few drops of the oil onto a porous material and hanging it in the coop or placing it near a chicken needing assistance, such as one suffering from respiratory issues. Many materials you have laying around your home can work great for this purpose. It doesn’t have to cost anything or look pretty to be functional. Good options include wood beads, felted wool, lava stone, terracotta, old washcloths, a dry sponge, paper towels, cardboard toilet paper rolls, etc.

My most recommended oils to diffuse within the chicken coop include:

  • Lavender – Calming, Respiratory relief
  • Peppermint – Repels flies, Respiratory relief
  • Rosemary – Repels insects, Respiratory relief
  • Melaleuca – Repel mites, Respiratory relief
  • Clove – Repels red mites, lice, & fleas
  • Lemon – Refresh the coop smell, Respiratory relief

Today, I want to share with you a cute rainbow diffuser I made to hang in my coop (it’s so much more aesthetically pleasing than the dirty old rag I had hanging in there before). And I’ll give you all the directions for how you can make one yourself below:

Here’s what you’ll need:

Cut three lengths of the thick rope to form your rainbow arch.
Each piece should be slightly longer than the last.
I cut my pieces at 16″, 18″, & 20″

Choose your three colored cords. You can get creative with any color combination.
Cut one 120″ cord of each color.

Starting with your rainbow’s innermost color, Tie one end of the colored cord onto the shortest (16″) rope, leaving about 4 inches of the rope before the knot.

Begin wrapping the colored cord around the rope, tucking the end of the cord in with the rope.

Continue wrapping the colored cord for 7 inches.

Once you have 7 inches of color wrapped, tie the end of the cord into the rope and trim off the excess cord.

Glue down the end of the cord to secure.

Shape this piece of rope into an arch shape and now you have the first arch of your rainbow done.

Next, tie your chosen middle arch color onto the 18″ rope, leaving a 4-5 inch space at the rope end.

Wrap the colored cord around the rope until you have 9 inches of color.

Tie off and cut the remaining colored cord.

Glue down the cord end to secure.

Now you have your middle arch done!

Tie the 3rd colored cord onto the remaining 20″ rope.

Repeat the wrapping process with the final color until you have 10 inches of wrap.

Tie, cut, & glue the color cord to secure.

Next, bend the 3 colored wraps into arches together, to form your rainbow shape.

Beginning with the inner, smallest arch, hot glue the colored arches to each other.

Glue in the short section, continuing to form the arch shapes as you go.

Repeat the gluing process with the third color.

Unravel and Trim the ends of the rope to your desired fringe length. I cut mine about 2 inches below the color.

Taking the piece of thin rope, fold it in half and tie a knot in the middle. Glue this knot onto the back, center of your rainbow.

Here’s where will add our ‘diffuser’ options.

I am using natural unfinished wood beads and a felted wool ball.

Add your diffuser beads onto the hanging cord.

Tie a knot at the end for hanging.

And Ta Da!

Does this look like a project for your chicken family to try? If you happen to make one, be sure to post your diffuser on Instagram and tag Welcome to Chickenlandia! We’d love to see it!

And if you’d like to check out more of my macrame creations you can follow me at Wild Moon Knots on Instagram and Etsy.

Top Chicken Breeds for Beginners

By Kelcie Paulis, Chickenlandia Presidential Advisor

With so many different breeds of chickens out there, it can feel daunting to choose which ones are the right fit for your first flock. Each breed has its own unique set of characteristics, and, similar to dogs, has been bred for specific traits for generations. Some breeds are higher maintenance, some are easier to tame, while others have more skittish, free-spirited tendencies. There are chickens that have great egg production, while others are mostly there to look cute. Choosing the right breeds for your situation can make a big difference with how your chicken-keeping experience goes. I have raised many chicken breeds throughout my life and would like to share with you my top breed recommendations for beginners.

Barred Plymouth Rock

The Barred Plymouth Rock is a classic backyard chicken with striking black & white plumage. “Barred” refers to their color variety and “Plymouth Rock” is their breed, but they are often referred to simply as Barred Rocks (Plymouth Rocks do come in several color varieties but are less commonly available). Barred Rocks are an American breed, originating from Massachusetts in the nineteenth century. There are a few simple reasons that they quickly became one of the most widely kept chicken breeds, first in the United States, and then across the pond as well. Barred Rocks are known for their good egg production of large brown eggs at an average of 200 per year. Their health hardiness and resistance to both cold and heat make them suitable for many environments. They are also early feathering, which makes chicks a little quicker to develop their protective layer of feathers.

Barred Plymouth Rocks have a single comb, and clean, featherless legs. I always think of Barred Rocks as the “Easy Management” Chicken. While they are not known for being broody too often, they do make excellent mother hens when encouraged to set and are usually quite trustworthy when raising their own chicks. But these aren’t their only redeeming qualities. Barred Rocks are generally a docile breed, great for families, children, and backyard living. Their mellow temperament makes them exceptionally tameable and responsive to human interactions. They are naturally curious, making them good foragers and free rangers. Barred Plymouth Rocks are a good fit for almost any scenario.  

Easter Egger

Ohhh, those blue and green-tinted eggs! Many of you probably picture a whole array of egg colors when you imagine collecting a basket full from your backyard birds. And with the majority of chicken breeds laying classic brown or white eggs, it’s those pretty blue and green tints that add some color to the carton. Easter Eggers are the most widely available and beginner-friendly colored egg layers. Often marketed as “Ameraucanas”, they don’t quite qualify as a “true” breed because of the crossing of varieties among hatcheries. This means the Easter Egger’s plumage comes in a wide variety of colors and markings, with no set true color varieties.

With their Ameraucana or Araucana lineage, Easter Eggers sport the same adorable cheek tuffs and beards, giving their faces an extra bit of character.  Easter Eggers have been around for a long time and have continued to gain popularity. They are known for being curious and friendly, are great egg layers (averaging 200 eggs per year), seldom go broody, and are both cold and heat-hardy. Easter Eggers are active birds who enjoy free-ranging, but also tolerate the confinement of backyard coops. I would consider them among the most low-maintenance chickens for beginners. They may not be purebred, but these “mutts” will win over your heart.   

Buff Orpington

Orpingtons were developed in England (Orpington, Kent, to be exact) during the late nineteenth century. Although they were bred to be dual-purpose (good for both eggs and meat), throughout the years they have gained the most popularity in backyard flocks and poultry shows. Orpingtons come in many color varieties, but Buff is the most popular and commonly available.

Buff Orpingtons are the quintessential plump, curvy barnyard hen. Their stately bodies are heavily coated with feathers, making them oh so fluffy in appearance. They have clean, featherless legs and a single comb. Their fabulous skirt of dense feathers makes them extra cold-hardy. As for laying ability, you can expect an average of 175 large, brown eggs per year. Buff Orpingtons are known for having docile and friendly dispositions, making them well suited for families & children. In addition to all these attributes, Buff Orpingtons have a reputation for going broody and making excellent mothers. These large birds do tend to be “lazier” than other breeds, preferring the feeder over foraging. All will be forgiven once you witness their fluffy butts come running for a treat!

Black Australorp

While Black Australorps are the most recently developed breed on this list, they might just be the most well-rounded. In the early 1900s, Orpingtons were imported to Australia in an effort to create a bird well suited for Australia’s unique climate. They were bred with Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Minorcas, & Langshans to help improve egg production and gain other desired traits such as hardiness in both cold and hot climates. The result was one of the best backyard egg layers out there (Australorps lay large light brown eggs, at a rate of 250+ per year), with stunning iridescent black plumage. Australorps are inquisitive and curious birds who enjoy free ranging and foraging, but also tolerate confinement well. They have a shyer demeanor than their Orpington cousins, but are not skittish and settle in quickly amongst humans. Their calm tendencies make them an excellent choice for backyard flocks and families.

So what do you think? Will any of these breeds make it into your flock? Let me know in the comments! And of course, if you need more help with your beginner flock, check out our popular online course for beginners and intermediate chicken keepers here.

Avian Influenza: Rule One is Don’t Panic

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is a concern but not an emergency (yet).

Written by Dalia Monterroso, The President of Chickenlandia

You may have heard in the news that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been confirmed in wild birds, factory poultry houses, and backyard flocks in some areas of the United States. To find out if your community has been affected, click this link.

The Poultry Industry is greatly affected by HPAI.

Many folks aren’t aware of this, but Avian Influenza is very common among wild birds. Most of the time, it’s what’s called Low Pathogenic, which means it’s not as dangerous to the wild bird population, poultry houses, or small backyard flocks. Sometimes, however, a circulating strain is very threatening to the poultry industry. Such is the case with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Learn more about HPAI by clicking here

Waterfowl are at high risk for HPAI.

My job as a Backyard Chicken Educator is to give you the best information I can while empowering you to feel confident in your chicken-keeping journey. I want to let you know that I’ve been through previous HPAI cases in my community and I likely will again in the future. If there are active cases where you live, it’s important to follow the guidelines suggested to you by your local authorities. If your community does not have active cases, following the simple suggestions I offer in this video will help to hopefully avoid all manner of disease in your flock, as well HPAI. Just click the play button below to watch the video.

Good luck out there, friends! Let me know how you’re feeling about all this in the comments.

DIY “Chicken-o-Lantern” (Free Template) Plus The Benefits of Feeding Pumpkin to Chickens

By Kelcie Paulis, Chickenlandia Presidential Advisor

Fall is my absolute favorite season. I love the crisp air and all things spooky. Our family’s Octobers are full of traditions, one of which is pumpkin carving. I’ve carved more pumpkins in my life than I can count; all kinds of different things, including the classics and unique creations I designed myself. This year, as my 5-year-old was picking a cat shape for the 4th year in a row, it occurred to me that I’ve never carved a chicken pumpkin before. I mean, we have chicken yard ornaments for Christmas so why not have chicken-o-lanterns for Halloween?

Just in case you also need chicken-o-lanterns for your porch this year, here is a FREE Printable Hen Carving Template for you to print and carve your own!

Scroll right to see how I carved mine:

My chicken-o-lantern was clearly broody, so I added some chicks for her!

You can print them HERE.

Light them up!

And now Mr. Benedict Bones has a little family on the porch with him. 

Now for my friendly reminder to

The Benefits of Pumpkin

Both pumpkin flesh and seeds are beneficial for your poultry.

Benefits of Pumpkin Flesh: 

Low in fat- pumpkin is high in fiber and low in fat, making it an ideal low-fat treat for fall. 
Vitamin A- pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A boosts the immune system and helps regenerate cells. 
Vitamin B- is important for proper energy metabolism & affects almost all of the body’s systems. 
Vitamin C- most people know about all the great benefits of vitamin C, and those apply to your chickens as well. Vitamin C is also a very beneficial supplement to add in times of stress. 
Potassium- is critical to healthy development, especially in chicks. 
Bonus- Hens that eat pumpkin tend to lay eggs with a deeper orange yolk.

Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds:

Vitamin E- is very important to a chicken’s neurological and immune systems. Vitamin E boosts the immune system. Deficiencies in it can lead to development problems. 
Zinc- Zinc is an important mineral to chicken development. Especially in growing chicks. Lack of it can lead to bone deformity and stunted growth.
Deworming?- Ahh the great pumpkin deworming debate. You can watch Madame President’s YouTube video about Pumpkin Seeds and De-worming HERE.  

Whether you believe in the deworming powers of pumpkins seeds, there is still no denying that feeding them to your flock is a wonderful, healthy treat with lots of benefits!

So feed them the pumpkins! They’re gonna love it!!

  • Chickenlandia Presidential Advisor,

DIY Macrame Chicken Swing Tutorial

By Kelcie Paulis, Chickenlandia Presidential Advisor

Something a Little EXTRA

As an Amazon Associate, Chickenlandia earns from qualifying purchases through some of the links below.

Have you ever felt like your chicken coop needed something a little extra? You know, like bougie extra? No? Just me?

My husband and I are currently in the middle of building our new poultry barn and I’ve been dreaming up the finishing details. Naturally, I want to add some extra touches like vintage screen doors, repurposed nesting boxes, and maybe some corner roosts. But then I started brainstorming about all the cute things I’ve seen others add to their chicken runs for enrichment; things like musical toys screwed to the wall, fancy dust baths, and even swings. That’s when it hit me. I can make swings.

For those of you that don’t already know, in addition to my Chickenlandia advisory duties, I make and sell fiber art through my Etsy shop Wild Moon Knots. I make macrame wall hangings, plant hangers, and fun pet accessories like these little parrot swings:

Super cute swing for rainbow chickens!

I decided I could design a chicken-sized version of this swing. Because why not? My chickens deserve to live that boho-chic life and so do yours!

Not only did I make this Macrame Chicken Swing, but I’m also going to share how I did it so you can make one too. Don’t be intimidated by the word “macrame”. This design requires learning only ONE beginner-level knot. 

You can also follow along with my TikTok video tutorial here:


Make a Macrame Chicken Swing with me…. #bohochickens #chickenswing #chickens @welcometochickenlandia

♬ Stories 2 – Danilo Stankovic


Here’s what you’ll need:

400 Yards of 6mm Cord (cotton, jute, or paracord are good choices)
1” diameter Square Wood Dowel
2 Metal O Rings (1”)
2 Metal Carabiner Clips
Measuring Tape
Drill with ¼” bit

Step 1:
The Wood Dowel. This will be the roost of your swing. First, trim the dowel to your desired length. You can make it small for bantams, or double wide for extra space. I cut this one to 18 inches long, which is the perfect size for both my standard and larger birds. Next, drill a ¼” hole in each end of the dowel. Set it aside until the end.

Step 2:
Cutting Cord. This is my least favorite part of working with cord. But at least it’s over quickly!
Measure and cut your cord. You’ll need 4x – 100 yard lengths (300 inches).

Step 3:
Macrame. Take 2 of the cord lengths and center them draped over an O Ring. 

Next, we are going to learn how to tie Half Square Knots:

To make a half square knot you will start by working with the two outer cords, these are your working cords. The two center cords are filler and remain in place.

Taking the left cord, cross it over the front of the two center cords and behind the right cord.

Now, move the right cord, passing it over the left cord and then behind the two center cords. Pull the right cord through the loop on the left side.  

Pull both the left and right cords until tight. 

That’s it! Seriously. 

But now comes the time-consuming part. Like knitting, it takes time to repeat the same movements to get your final desired result. Get cozy and repeat this same knot over and over.


As you continue this knot a spiral will begin to form.

You can determine how long you would like your swings ropes to be. I recommend measuring where you would like to hang it so that you get the perfect length to fit your space.

I will be making my swing 40” long. 

Once you have the first spiral to your desired length, do it all over again with the remaining two cords and metal ring.

Repeat Steps 1 through 3.

Step 4:
Attach the wood dowel. Pull the two center cords from the spiral through the hole in the wood dowel. Then take the two remaining outer cords and repeat four more half square knots to secure the dowel in place.
Repeat on the other side.

Step 5:
Trim & fringe. Cut the remaining cords to your desired length. I leave between 5 to 10 inches from the bottom knot. Unravel the ends of the cord to create a fringe.
Tip: to make the fringe extra fluffy you can brush it out with a comb.

Step 6:
Hang it! Attach a carabiner clip to each of the metal rings and hang it up.


Happy Chicken

Ok, maybe not all the way done. I’ll be honest, it took some encouragement to get my chickens to try it out. Because, you know, big scary new thing in the run and all. 

Once I showed my two friendliest ladies how to use it, the others became less afraid. It took a few days, but I’ve been surprised to look out the window to see some of them using it a few times already. And use it or not, it looks super cute in the run! 

If you make one, share a picture with us! I can’t wait to see it!

If Your Chicken is Wounded and You Don’t Know What to Do, READ THIS.

By Kelcie Paulis, Chickenlandia Presidential Advisor

As an Amazon Associate, Chickenlandia earns from qualifying purchases through some of the links below.

Wounds are bound to happen at some point in your chicken-keeping experience. Whether it’s from fighting, predators, something in the environment, or simply a mystery, chickens can be a bit thin-skinned. Luckily, chickens are also surprisingly resilient creatures. I’ve seen them heal from all manner of injuries and wounds. Most minor wounds can heal quickly with a little TLC and some savvy First Aid. If your chicken is wounded right now and you’re trying to decide what to do, let’s break it down in a few easy steps.

Note: In Chickenlandia, we aim to use natural products whenever possible. Some of the suggestions below aren’t totally natural, but in an emergency situation, it’s really important to have options. To see The President of Chickenlandia’s mostly natural first aid kit, click here.

First Aid Kit from

Step 1: Wash Your Hands

Recently, we’ve learned a lot about how germs spread. To prevent new or further infection to your chicken or you, make sure you wash your hands before and after treatment.

Step 2: Stop Bleeding

When you have discovered a wounded chicken, it’s important to assess the damage and clean the area. But you must stop any active bleeding first. Some wounds, like combs, waddles, and toenails, will bleed far more than others. I use Kwik Stop to stop the bleeding but any styptic powder will work. If you don’t have any styptic powder in your chicken first aid kit, don’t worry! Cornstarch or baking flour works as a good alternative. Sprinkle the powder over the area and press it into the point of bleeding. Allow time for it to clot and dry before cleaning the wound.

Step 3: Clean the Wound

Cleaning the wound and surrounding area is important for both preventing and healing infections. If you do nothing else, don’t skip this important step. It’s the best thing you can do to help a chicken with a surface injury. 

It’s not a completely natural product, but a good old soap and warm water rinse with classic Dawn Dish Soap is my first step in wound cleaning. It is safe and gentle, and for small surface wounds you can simply use it with a washcloth. For larger scraps, I rinse the area right in the sink, while being careful not to get the chicken completely drenched. You don’t want to give them a full bath and stress them out. Just get them wet enough to clean the dirt and germs away from the wound. 

Step 4: Apply a Topical Treatment

There are lots of good topical wound treatments that are safe for use on chickens. Here are my top recommendations for this step: 

VeterycinVeterycin is my number one go-to product for wound care and cleaning. It kills 99.9% of germs. Veterycin is incredibly safe and has amazing disinfecting and healing properties. It can be used for virtually anything, anywhere on the body. Veterycin is readily available for purchase at most pet or feed stores, as well as online. And don’t worry about which formula to buy; while they make many species specific labels, all Vetericyn Plus products are safe to use. Generously spray on and around the wound. Repeat daily throughout healing.  

Raw Honey – We like to lean natural in Chickenlandia whenever possible. Raw Honey has great antibacterial properties. It also helps things heal up faster. Any Raw honey will do. Drop on a glob and gently spread it across the wound. Make sure your chicken is separated from their flock when using honey topically.

Hydrogen Peroxide – Many people have this readily available in their home first aid kit. It is a mild antiseptic used on the skin to prevent infection. You can use this on chickens for minor cuts, scrapes, & burns. However, peroxide should not be used on puncture wounds or bites. I apply it to the wound area with a cotton ball. 

Neosporin – Just about everyone has a tube of Neosporin around the house. As long as it doesn’t have any painkiller in it, it’s perfectly safe to use on a chicken wound. Since it’s a triple antibiotic, it can help to prevent or treat infection during a critical time. Simply slather it on minor wounds and rub it in gently.

Blue KoteBlue Kote is another one of my go-to products. It is an antiseptic, germ-killing, fungicidal wound dressing and healing aid. It works to protect animals against common infections and pus-producing bacterias. Blue Kote is for surface wounds and abrasions, but is also effective for fungal infections and ringworm. Blue Kote contains Gentian Violet, which is an antiseptic dye that dyes the area a dark blue color. This dye is very helpful for “covering up” a wound and preventing picking from their flock mates. Anytime I notice a bird with a wound that is being picked, I apply a spray of Blue Kote to the area (be careful, it WILL dye your hands blue for a few days and it does stain clothes).

Step 5: Repeat

Depending on the severity of the wound, you will likely want to repeat the cleaning and topical treatment process for as many days as necessary. For larger wounds I treat 2x a day for the first 3 days and then once a day until they are on the mend. 

Little Stinker after surviving a Hawk Attack

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my chicken need stitches?

Most surface wounds do not need stitches, but some may be large or deep enough to require closure. I usually don’t worry about stitching wounds that are smaller than a US Quarter. If you feel your chicken may need stitches and the wound is still fresh, seek a veterinarian for sutures. The open edges of wounded skin will dry up in the first few days of healing, thus leaving the skin unable to be remedied by stitches. If this is the case, continue to clean and treat. Chicken skin has amazing healing powers and it may still heal up on its own.  

Should I use a bandage?

This really depends on the severity of the wound, but I generally do not bandage wounds. It often bothers the birds more than it helps, causing them to pick at it or scratch it off entirely. It’s also nearly impossible to effectively bandage some wound locations. I do use bandage wraps when dealing with Bumble Foot or Splay Leg. If you do feel the need to bandage a wound I recommend Vet Wrap self adhesive bandages

Should I separate my chicken?

Many wounds will require separation from the flock for a healing period. For small surface wounds I may just apply a layer of Blue Kote to dye the area and prevent flock members from picking at it, but for larger, more exposed wounds, I recommend temporarily separating. A smaller, quiet space will help the chicken destress and heal.  

Stress Management 

Most wounds will be caused by an event that was likely stressful for the chicken. Managing stress is an important part of wound care as well. I recommend following the R.E.S.T Method for situations where a chicken has been through trauma. You can also give your chicken some Rescue Remedy and/or the homeopathic remedy Aconite in a 30c potency to help calm them down. Click here for more on using homeopathic for chickens. For more information on the R.E.S.T. Method, click the play button below! 

A warm & quiet place to rest with some electrolytes and a tasty meal can do wonders for the body’s ability to heal. Once your chicken has successfully recovered they can be reintroduced to the flock and go on living a happy life. You may need to slowly integrate them, as illustrated in the video below.

Disclaimer Notice

The content of the Welcome to Chickenlandia website, blog, vlog, and all social media are for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Dependence on any information appearing on the Welcome to Chickenlandia website, blog, vlog, and social media sites is entirely at your own risk. Please do your own research and make your own informed decisions regarding the health of your chickens.

© 2017-2023 Welcome to Chickenlandia