Chickens and Wildfire Smoke: What I Learned This Year

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2020, amiright?? What a year. And it’s not over. As if a reflection of the smoldering turmoil beneath the surface of our country’s soul, for the last couple of weeks areas of the Western United States have been engulfed in flames and/or covered in a blanket of suffocating smoke. It’s been scary, depressing, and just…too much. Enough already. Can we get a break?

As I write this, I’m painfully aware that my family is fortunate. Really, really fortunate. My heart hurts for all those that have been severely affected by these fires. Many have experienced unimaginable loss, and I just want to acknowledge that before I go on. I’m not comparing my suffering to yours and I see you.

I’m sure many of you can relate to feeling pretty helpless when it comes to protecting chickens from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke. During the worst of it, I was receiving desperate messages and getting tagged in panicked posts on social media, all while trying to help my own chickens and honestly not really knowing what to do. The one reliable way to help them was not accessible to me. With asthma and allergies in the family and chicken-eating dogs in the house, I couldn’t bring my whole flock inside. But that was the advice I read over and over: bring them inside, bring them inside. The guilt was palpable. If I can’t protect them, should I even have chickens?

Kiki and I

The Action Plan

With yesterday’s clear day, I was finally able to come to terms with the fact that yes, of course, I should still have chickens. I was also able to sit down and put together a simple plan that includes some things my husband and I came up with as well as tidbits from my Holistic Vet Tech and our family’s licensed Homeopath. I know it’s too late for this year, but I’m hoping it can possibly help some of you in the future. So here goes:

Nutrition and Hydration

I’m always talking about how nutrition is important in avoiding a range of issues with your flock. The best course of action is to maintain good practices all year, which should include layer feed, healthy kitchen scraps (optional), a calcium supplement (oyster shell or crushed eggshells), and grit. You may also want to supplement some immune-boosting herbs, either from your own garden or a prepackaged brand.

Trying to entice Kiki to eat some herbs!

Clean, cool water is super important year-round, but its priority is highest during heat waves and smoky conditions. Most of the time, I would suggest adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to the water to boost immunity and ward off pathogens. During heat waves and smoky days, however, I will instead add an electrolyte blend to their water. This will ensure good hydration for them during such a stressful time. Electrolyte, Vitamin, and Probiotic blends are available at your local farm store or online, or you can even make your own.

Feed in the fermentation process

Fermenting or at least mixing in some water to their feed is a great idea during smokey days. Don’t add so much liquid that it becomes soupy (they don’t like that), but go for an oatmeal consistency. This is another way to keep them hydrated, and if you’re fermenting, it’s a good boost of nutrition.

Speaking of stress, I may also add a drop or two of Rescue Remedy to their water. Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic flower remedy that can help to take the edge off when needed. I always keep a bottle in my Chicken First Aid Kit. I also keep a bottle for myself!

Practical Actions

It’s a good idea to rinse your run down a few times a day during the peak of the smoky season. This will help to not only temporarily clear the air of smoke particles, but also dampen down the excess dust that can be harmful to your chickens’ lungs. My husband also suggested that I leave the hose on the “mist” setting in the run. I understand that this is expensive and not accessible to a lot of people, but I thought I would mention it. The mist helps to remove smoke particles from the air. It’s not a miracle but it did seem to improve the air in my run.

Natural Remedies

As most of you know, I’m a fan of natural remedies. This doesn’t mean I’m against standard medicine when needed, but when weighing the risks and benefits, I usually reach for holistic modalities first. I do have a few essential oils in my Chicken First Aid kit, and I did use them during the worst of the smoky nights and now while they are recovering. Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lavender, and Thyme were my go-to oils. I don’t put essential oils on my chickens, but I will put several drops on a paper towel and hang it in the coop. I believe that it helped to freshen the air overnight and afterward when a few flock members were showing signs of mild respiratory problems.

Euphrasia 30c by Boiron

Now that the smoke has cleared, I’ve noticed that a few of my chickens sound a little raspy and congested. This is to be expected because it was a good seven days of very low-quality air. After a call to my homeopath, she suggested that some watery, cooked oatmeal mixed with yogurt would be a good temporary supplement for my flock. Oatmeal is not something that I recommend very often, as it can be hard on their digestive tract due to its binding properties. But in this acute situation, her reasoning was that both cooked oatmeal and yogurt are mucous-producing foods that can help moisten irritated mucous membranes. She also suggested the homeopathic Euphrasia, 30c potency. Euphrasia is a remedy often given to allergy sufferers with irritated eyes and sinus passages, so it makes sense in this case. It’s best to give it two to three times a day, just two pellets in their refreshed water. Give it for two days. If they aren’t showing any signs of sinus irritation, don’t give them the homeopathic.

Caring for Philippe during his respiratory illness.

If you have a chicken or chickens that are really just not doing well, please follow my support care protocol, the R.E.S.T. method (press the play button below for more information on that). You may also get some valuable information from this video about chicken respiratory illness. Of course, with any chicken ailment, the best course of action would be to seek the care of a licensed veterinarian.

I hope this smoke clears for you, both literally and figuratively. We can get through this, with our flocks, and with each other.

Disclaimer Notice: The content of the Welcome to Chickenlandia YouTube Channel, website, blog, vlog, podcast, and all social media is 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 YouTube Channel, website, blog, vlog, podcast, 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.

How to Sprout Grains and Seeds for Chickens!

I live in a subdivision a few blocks outside the city limits. When the neighborhood was built the plan was for it to be under the control of a Homeowner’s Association. Luckily for me, the HOA never developed. If it had, I likely would not be able to keep chickens on my small lot and Chickenlandia would only exist in a parallel universe. How sad would that be?

Monster Scully GIF by The X-Files - Find & Share on GIPHY

Being grateful.

I’m pretty grateful for what I have, but there are times when I get a twinge of envy toward those who’s chickens get to graze on large pieces of land. Are my chickens missing out nutritionally because they aren’t pasture-raised? Is my family missing out on the extra nutrition we know is present in pasture-raised eggs? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Studies have shown that pasture raised hens produce eggs with more nutrition than those laid in confined areas. Of course, I’m not running a factory farm here (eww) and my chickens do get lots of nutrition in their diet in comparison, but what if I could give them some of what they’re missing because they don’t have access to pasture? Enter sprouted grains and seeds.

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It’s so easy.

Let’s talk about how cluckin’ easy it is to grow sprouts. If you have a fairly small flock like mine, here’s all you need:

  1. A Jar
  2. A Lid with Mesh Insert or another lid with small holes
  3. Seeds or Grains
  4. Water

And that’s it!

The process is super easy, I promise. Another BIG PLUS is that it can save you some money on your feed bill. Check out these easy instructions:

nom nom nom

Do you think this is something you would like to do for your flock? Let me know in the comments!

Three Totally EXTRA Ideas for Your Chicken Yard

There’s a saying in the chicken-keeping world: A chicken coop is never done. It truly does seem that no matter how long you’ve had chickens, you’re never really done adding things, fixing things, and making things better. You can definitely see this process in Chickenlandia by checking out some of my older videos compared to my newer ones.

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#sorrynotsorry

Is this even real?

Every time I think I’ve reached epic fabulousness with a new hack or project, I’m delighted to discover additional ways to take it to the next level. For instance, I recently watched this video from my friends over at Old Redding Farm about a SKY BRIDGE they built for their chickens. That’s right, folks. A SKY BRIDGE. How cluckin’ extra is that? You have to watch to believe:

I cannot even with this chicken skybridge!

I’m jealous of these skillz.

Maybe someday I will build something similar for my chickens, but for now, I’ll just stew in jealousy LOL. The same can be said for another totally extra project I recently discovered my friend Kira embarking on. Over at her channel Homestead Dreaming, she created “chunnels” for her chickens. If you’re not familiar with what those are, they’re basically predator-proof tunnels your chickens can roam into new territory through. Check out her video here:

The chicken skillz are real!

No shame in my chicken game!

Of course, this blog post wouldn’t be correct without a shoutout to my own chicken-fabulousness. Last year, my awesome friends Julie and Kris create some chicken salad bars for me. And no, I’m not talking about eating chicken salad, I’m talking about your chickens having their own fresh salad right in their chicken yard! That’s right, you can actually grow things in your chicken yard without them completely demolishing it in seconds. I call it pasture raising without pasture and it IS possible. Check out what I mean here:

What about you? What TOTALLY EXTRA things have you created for your chickens? Let me know in the comments!

Splayed Leg and Curled Toes: The Best Treatment I’ve Seen

I don’t hatch many new baby chicks in Chickenlandia. Since I focus primarily on rescuing adult chickens, fuzzy new babies just aren’t a yearly occurrence here. Yet, as a backyard chicken educator, I’m all too familiar with some of the issues that can occur with new hatchlings. Two very common and concerning problems are splayed leg (aka spraddle leg) and curled toes.

Splayed Leg. Photo Credit: Kelcie Faber Paulis

Splayed legs and/or curled toes can occur both when a mother hen hatches out babies or when eggs are hatched in an incubator. Sometimes, these conditions are caused by vitamin deficiencies present in the mother and/or father. Other times, something has gone wrong during incubation (which can also lead to developmental issues and/or vitamin deficiency). There are also instances where a chick may come out with no apparent issue but does not have enough traction in their environment to develop correctly. Regardless of the reason, it’s just so sad to see a baby chick suffer.

Curled Toes. Photo Credit: Kelcie Faber Paulis

Starting out Right

First off, I want you to be sure to offer your new chicks bedding with good traction. If you’ve watched my video Raising Baby Chicks the Chickenlandia Way, or taken any of my in-person classes, then you know that my recommendation for their first few days is good old fashioned paper towels. Not only do paper towels provide great traction for developing legs and feet, but it’s also easier for chicks to find their feed and grit when sprinkled about the brooder. For more, watch this video:

If you have a baby chick that arrives with splayed legs or curled toes, it’s safe to say that there was an issue long before they got to you. Your best course of action will be to focus on both physical therapy and a solid nutritional plan. Along with a good quality non-medicated feed (medicated feed can affect a chick’s absorption of Thiamin, which you don’t want), I recommend vitamin therapy with a product called Nutri-Drench. It’s not quite as natural as other products I use, but you just can’t beat its effectiveness. I recommend administering it undiluted at least three times a day. The other chicks can drink it diluted in their water (follow the directions on the bottle).

Your Action Plan

The most common physical therapy used for splayed legs and/or curled toes is to create a makeshift splint using a bandage or tape. The idea is, after a certain time of forcing the legs or toes into the correct position, the problem will correct itself.

Correcting Splayed Leg with a Splint. Photo Credit: Kelcie Faber Paulis

I know this method has worked for a lot of people and I’m certainly not against it, but when I’ve done it this way I’ve found the method cumbersome to the chick. That’s why I was so delighted when my friend Stacie from the YouTube Channel Chicken Hues posted this video about a “glass method”. With a small glass for physical therapy and Nutri-Drench for vitamin therapy, she got amazing results (and so did the chicks!).

Sometimes, no amount of treatment will correct a difficult case of splayed leg and/or curled toes. As chicken keepers, we learn quickly that from time to time our best efforts can’t defy nature. Chickens are so resilient, though, and It’s not unheard of for them to live a fine life with these abnormalities. For those times when their little life is not meant to be, it’s good to know they were loved while they were with us.

Have you ever dealt with splayed leg or curled toes in a baby chick? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!

How to Raise Baby Chicks, A Full Guide!

As I’m writing this, we are coming toward the end of the strangest baby chick season I’ve ever experienced as a Backyard Chicken Educator. If you’re reading this from the future, it’s May 30th, 2020. This is the year the pandemic hit. And though I was unable to teach any classes or do any seminars in person, it’s been my busiest time ever.

Cat GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
busy busy busy!

I’ve seen a lot of criticism regarding the people who “panic bought” baby chicks this year. But in a time when it’s really hard to see a silver lining, I’m seeing one in the surge of new chicken keepers. If you’re someone who is just starting out, congratulations! I welcome you to Chickenlandia, and I hope I can help you have the best backyard chicken experience ever. <3

Is it Now or Never?

Since I couldn’t teach my classes in person this year, I’m pretty grateful for the opportunity to create content on my YouTube Channel. If you watch it, you can find basically everything you need to get started. To cut down on search time, I decided to put all the baby chick things in order for you right here. Let’s begin with whether or not NOW is the best time for you to get chickens:

Be Prepared

If you’ve decided when you are getting baby chicks, let’s talk about what you need BEFORE you bring them home:

The Basics

This is almost exactly what I teach in my in-person classes about caring for baby chicks. It’s an older video (and kinda cringy in my opinion LOL), but still full of good information.

Growing Up

Baby chicks are adorable and fun, but once they start getting big, it becomes more of a challenge keeping them indoors. If you’re wondering when your little velociraptors can go outside and be actual chickens, watch this video:

So there’s your comprehensive guide to baby chicks! Is this your first year raising them or are you a seasoned baby chick pro? Let me know in the comments!

Everything Your Chicken Coop Needs is RIGHT HERE

Friends, I have a confession. Maybe you already know my dark secret.

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Yep, it’s true. I cannot operate a staple gun or build ANYTHING myself. It’s only embarrassing because as a Backyard Chicken Educator, I feel that many people expect me to not only be a chicken-care-expert but also a master builder. Aren’t I supposed to be able to build a coop from an old fridge, two pallets, and a milk crate? It’s in my DNA!

I hate to break it to you, but it turns out that while I’m 100% that chicken lady, I have zero percent coop-builder in my ancestry chart. Perhaps it really is true that aliens built the pyramids (my family is Guatemalan).

Alien GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Wait, what?

But wait, I can STILL HELP

One thing you CAN count on me for is telling you what to look for in a coop. I know the attributes a coop needs to make your life easier. So whether your buying or building, you should check out this video to make sure your coop has all the right things:

Also, I know all the Cool People

I’m also excited to share that even though I don’t build, I have friends that do. I recently discovered a new YouTube channel Sonnie’s Place that has some easy DIY coop-building content I think you will love. Check out these two easy to follow videos for your coop-making research:

She’s got the SERIOUS SKILLZ
Even more skillz!

What about you? Are you a builder, a buyer, or a little bit of both? Let me know in the comments!

Homeopathics for Chickens

On this week’s Bawk Tawk live YouTube show and Podcast, I received a question regarding the top items I would suggest for new chicken keepers. Aside from the obvious (food, water, shelter), I also spoke about the importance of having a chicken first aid kit handy. Soon, I’ll be posting a video about my own Chicken First Aid Kit. But for now, I suggest doing a simple google search and checking out the top blogs for items to add to your kit (they are almost all the same).

Watch my simple Sick Chicken Action Plan here ^^

I did talk about something in my first aid kit that not many folks suggest. I’m a long time user of homeopathy for myself and my family, which includes my beloved chickens. While I am not a licensed homeopath (or a veterinarian, for that matter), I have been practicing homeopathy for twenty-five years, and I’ve seen it work too many times to deny it’s credibility.

Boy George in our bathroom stall, recovering from illness.

I have five homeopathic remedies that I would suggest for any beginner chicken keeper who is interested in this modality. I listed them in my live show and podcast, but in my nervousness (yep, it happens when I’m live LOL) I failed to mention what some of them are indicated for! Here they are WITH their indications listed:

Aconite Napellus, 30c: Use for sudden fear or shock, sudden chill, trauma, or when illness comes on suddenly.

Antimodium Crudum, 30c: Use for a chicken with obvious respiratory issues, specifically if there is rattling in the nasal passages or chest.

Arnica Montana, 30c: Use for shock, injury, bruising, swelling, pain.

Arsenicum Album, 30c: Use for ease in dying, especially if the chicken is in distress.

Carbo Vegetabilis, 30c: Use this as a last resort if your chicken appears to be extremely ill, toes curled, and near death. Can also be used for some respiratory issues.

Gelsemium, 30c: Use for a chicken who seems to have “given up”, is lethargic, won’t eat, and depressed.

I also want to mention something I didn’t include in my live show and podcast. It’s called PRID, and it’s a homeopathic drawing salve that I’ve heard from some reliable sources works great for bumblefoot. It’s a human-grade product that you can find on amazon and possibly your local Walmart.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You’ll notice that on the homeopathic vials, there will be other indications listed that may not match the ones I listed above. The companies that make homeopathics put a short list of indications on them, but any remedy has a number of uses, and it’s impossible to list them all on the vials.

Caring for Philippe during his respiratory illness.

As for dosing, I suggest placing one pellet into a small glass of water, then putting some of the water into a needle-less syringe. Give the chicken one dose by placing a few drops on the side of their beak and letting it drip into their mouth. Even if they are not actively drinking, if a drop gets into their mouth, that is a proper dose. Watch your chicken closely for improvement. You can dose again in a few hours and observe. If you see any change for the better, stop dosing and don’t dose again unless the chicken backslides. If the chicken gets worse or shows no improvement after a couple of doses, it’s probably not the right remedy. Stop dosing in that instance. <3

I know homeopathy isn’t for everyone, but I wanted to share what works for me. Is there something in your chicken first aid kit that you would like to share? Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer Notice: The content of the Welcome to Chickenlandia YouTube Channel, website, blog, vlog, and all social media is 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 YouTube Channel, 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.

Two Important Things to Know BEFORE You Get Chickens

How Many Chickens Should YOU Get?

There are two questions my students ask me when they are beginning their initial chicken research. The first is, “How many chickens should I get?” I always chuckle a little at this one, because I’m all too aware of the dangers of Chicken Math and how quickly it can take hold. That’s why I put together a video that breaks it down easily. Hopefully, you won’t make the same mistakes I did! I want your backyard chicken journey to be fun and not stressful. Especially when you’re just starting out. Click the play button below for more:

Now that you have an idea of how many chickens you should start out with, let me gently suggest that you create your chicken environment with MORE chickens in mind. Trust me on this one. You will very likely get more chickens than you originally thought. Chicken Math immunity is rare!

What Breeds are Best for Me?

You’ve probably spent the last six months drooling over all the beautiful breeds of chickens and wondering which ones would fit your needs. I have a very diverse flock, mainly since I do rescue. But if you’re just starting out, I have a few tried and true breeds to suggest for you. Click the play button for more:

So, there you go. Now you have some knowledge on where to start with backyard chicken keeping. One thing I know for sure is that you are about to embark on something surprisingly delightful! I couldn’t be happier for you. Let me know how it goes in the comments and definitely keep me update!

Can Chickens Change your Life?

My short answer is yes, but allow me to explain.

Many years ago, when my husband and I owned a farm store in Lynden, Washington, our business partner and I had to give a presentation to possible investors. My business partner started out by introducing himself as a life-long, hard-working farmer. He spoke admirably about his days spent with chores as a central theme, and how he has always focused on work ethic and responsibility. The room was impressed.

It soon became my turn to speak. I went into the meeting not really knowing what I was going to say, and I was even more unsure upon the realization that I would have to follow my business partner’s squeaky-clean intro. At the final moment, I did what I do best. I was brutally honest. To a fault, some may say.

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Me in highschool ^^

“I have been lazy all my life. In high school, I got bad grades and wasn’t motivated. I have really always liked to sleep in.” The room giggled. I was encouraged and went on.

“Then I got chickens and everything changed. Chickens make me get up early. They make me have to shovel poop. They force me to have a schedule and to be a more responsible person. And now, I want to work even harder by making our farm store the best it can be.” It was wide smiles and softened eyes all around. We didn’t get the investment money (probably a good thing in the long run), and we eventually had to let go of the store. But hey, at least I know I’m relatable. And I really did mean everything I said. Chickens made me grow up, and I will forever be grateful to them. For more, click here:

Chickens Made me a Better Person

Non-chicken-people often look puzzled when I tell them how chickens have changed my life for the better. But chicken-people always give me a knowing look, a nod, and sometimes even a teary-eyed affirmation. They know the surprising power chickens have to release burdens old and new. How have chickens made your life better? I’d love you to let me know in the comments.

Handling Respiratory Illness in Chickens

Oh boy. You just heard it. The dreaded “chicken sneeze”. Then you hear another and another. This isn’t just a one-time thing. Your chicken is sick. Sad face.

Sneeze Sneezing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
A-CHOO!!!

Like any good chicken parent, you immediately go onto Facebook and create a panicked post about your chicken being sick. What you receive back is NOT HELPING.

“They are all infected now. It’s probably Marek’s.”

“Have you read that article about bird flu?” *posts article*

“You need to treat your whole flock with antibiotics, then bleach your yard.”

“When that happened to me, I culled my whole flock and started over!”

Just so we’re clear, I’m not a veterinarian, and nothing I’m about to say is meant to take the place of solid medical advice from a licensed professional. In fact, that’s always the best route to take if you can afford it. But there’s also something to be said for good old fashioned common sense. If you or someone you love comes down with a cold, do you immediately take drastic measures? Probably not at first.

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Remain Calm

The first thing I do when my chickens come down with something respiratory in nature is follow my Sick Chicken Action Plan, which is a quick and memorable guide to follow when you have a chicken that is under the weather. Check it out here:

For respiratory illness, I’ve added a few immune-boosting strategies to add to your course of action. These are for both your actively sick chickens and the rest of your flock. For a super easy tutorial, press the play button below:

You might be wondering why I don’t talk about antibiotics in the above videos. Well, I actually DO think there’s a time and place for antibiotics, and I do have a bottle in my chicken medicine cabinet. But it’s not the first thing I reach for. Many chicken illnesses present with similar symptoms, and some of them cannot be treated with antibiotics. In my opinion, it’s wise not to use them unless you know for sure what you are dealing with. And unless I had been advised to do so by a veterinary professional, I would be very hesitant to treat my whole flock.

Prevention is Best

Dealing with illness in our flock is never easy, but it helps when it’s not made harder by unnecessary panic. Even better, let’s prevent illness by boosting wellness! To learn more about how you can boost your chickens’ immune systems naturally, click below!

What about you? Have you dealt with sneezing chickens before? Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer Notice: The content of the Welcome to Chickenlandia YouTube Channel, website, blog, vlog, and all social media is 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 YouTube Channel, 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.

© 2020 Welcome to Chickenlandia