Posts in Chickens
New Pocket Guide to Poultry Breeds
“Photography by © Adam Mastoon, from   Poultry Breeds  , © by Carol Ekarius, used with permission from Storey Publishing.”   

“Photography by © Adam Mastoon, from Poultry Breeds, © by Carol Ekarius, used with permission from Storey Publishing.”



This is a great time to scour your seed catalogs and make your "seed wish list" for this spring and summer. If you raise chickens, like I do, this is also a great time to check out online hatcheries for specialty breed day-old baby chick selections. Poultry Breeds by Carol Ekarius is a great new pocket size book that gives you a lot of information at your finger tips. Ekarius describes 104 essential poultry breeds and their attributes, along with beautiful photos.

As I mention in my book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies (Wiley 2013)chicken breeds are as diverse as dog breeds, so do your research on what types of chicken breeds will work best for your and your family's lifestyle, location, and specific desire for raising chickens.

I have two remaining hens, Copper Penny and Amelia, from my original flock of ten chicks in 2012. Some of my flock I gave away to good homes, and some passed on with shorter life spans. Copper Penny and Amelia have ended their egg drought recently, having molted and stopped laying for about 8 weeks. With increasing day lengths and turning 5 years old this May, it is really amazing. I won't get eggs everyday at this age, but their eggs are golden. My seasoned hens will help with my new pullets (young hens) this spring, showing them the ropes around the chicken coop and garden.

I am currently looking at some of the more uncommon poultry breeds, supporting the Heritage Poultry Conservancy. Lifestyle expert, P. Allen Smith, at his Moss Mountain Farm in Arkansas, is a great advocate and enthusiast for heritage poultry conservancy. Three great online hatcheries I recommend to order a variety of day-old baby chicks are: My Pet Chicken,  McMurray Hatcheryand Cackle Hatchery. Hurry, as I see many breed selections are sold out for the time being or have limited availability already this spring.

Remember, "Love Thy Chickens, and Keep on Clucking!"


Clean as a Whistle

DSC_0821 Don't you wish sometimes you could freeze time? Like after you have just finished deep-cleaning your chicken coop. All the cobwebs are swept away, all of the old bedding has been removed, dust and dirt has been vacuumed out, and the entire chicken coop has been sprayed with Orange Guard.

New bedding has been placed back into the coop, and it is the small window of time--the moment when your chicken coop is as clean as it will ever be before the next needed deep cleaning. Soon enough, the stampede of your flock rushes back in to take over their beloved coop and territory once again. It is always a moment to pause.

DSC_0822 Don't forget about deep cleaning the nesting boxes, too. Keeping your nesting boxes clean, and with clean bedding makes for happy hens. I mention in my new book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies (For Dummies (Home & Garden)), keeping your chicken coop clean and well-maintained goes a long way in raising happy, healthy, and thriving chickens. How often you have to deep-clean your chicken coop is dependent on many variables such as how big is your flock, what kind of chicken coop set-up you have, and how you manage your routine cleaning.

Orange Guard is a great product that is safe for use around your pets, chickens, and chicken coop. You can safely use it on ant trails that can invade your home this time of year. I buy my Orange Guard at Ace Hardware, or search the store locator on Orange Guard. It successfully repels bugs such as fleas, ants, roaches, and mites that might harbor in cracks and hard to reach surfaces. It is a contact killer that suffocates insects by destroying their waxy respiratory lining. It is meant to be sprayed on surfaces until it saturates the surface. Orange Guard is not meant to be applied to animals directly, such as chickens. Do not apply it to water directly either as it can be hazardous to aquatic invertebrates.

When applying Orange Guard, I have my chickens free-ranging in my garden and away from their coop I am cleaning. After applying Orange Guard, I let my chicken coop air out for a minimum of an hour. I usually purchase the large 128 fluid ounce size. The handy spray nozzle that comes with this size doesn't always work very well, and I often have to use Orange Guard in a smaller spray bottle. Ideally, I clean my coop on a warm sunny day, when I can be in the garden and my chickens can happily free-range for at least half a day.

If you see actual bugs on your chickens, such as fleas, lice, and mites there is a safe non-toxic product called Poultry Protector by MannaPro. Poultry Protector is not meant to be sprayed into eyes. Poultry Protector can be found at most feed stores or online. Always follow the recommended instructions on the label. For chickens that have mites or fleas around their eyes, spray Poultry Protector in a clean non-porous container and dab clean Q-tips with Poultry Protector, gently around the eye area--avoiding getting anything in your chickens' eyes.

With the rising popularity of backyard flocks and raising chickens, there are more and more safe and non-toxic environmentally safe products to use around your chicken coop and on your chickens. Always follow the specific directions on product labels to ensure correct application and usage of product.

Please share how you deep-clean your chicken coop. Please comment on non-toxic environmental safe products you use around your chicken coop and on your chickens.

Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies

51DJ+VHcuBL._SY300_ Hot off the press! My new book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies (For Dummies (Home & Garden)) with coauthor, Rob Ludlow of, is now available on amazon and in bookstores. You can order the book now from my right side bar below. Please tell all of your chicken-loving friends! Gardening with chickens is a great way to create sustainability in your garden, enhance your soil, eliminate pests and weeds, produce a delicious home-grown protein source, and all the while--be amused by these little "garden warriors." We give you basic animal husbandry elements needed to provide a healthy environment for chickens, what you and your family should expect if you are new to chickens, and how your garden will be enhanced with the addition of chickens. We focus on garden basics, and how to create a beneficial garden where chickens will be happy, healthy, and thrive. We help you understand garden structure, layering, and how to create an ornamental garden as well as an edible garden for you and your chickens.

We provide all different plant lists and purposes which are helpful for chickens free-ranging in your garden. We help you understand what is good to feed your chickens, and what is potentially harmful. We also help you with deterring predators with common sense management, innovative products, and specialty fencing.

We're excited to share our new book with all of you, whether you are new to chickens, new to gardening, or already experienced in both. Stay tuned as we launch the book!

Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend

Starting PVFS Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend in Garden Flats In doing research for my upcoming new book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies (For Dummies (Home & Garden)) with coauthor Rob Ludlow of BackYard Chickens, I stumbled across Peaceful Vally Farm Supply's Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend. What a find!

This organic forage blend is a real treat for your hens. It is available in 1 pound to 1,000 pound quantities. You can grow in it on a large scale in a pasture, in your garden, in a chicken run or zone, or even in 17" garden flats like I did.  Warning, Peaceful Vally Farm Supply recommends not grazing horses on this mixture. Flax can form prussic acid when exposed to frost.

This forage blend is a warm season crop in mild climates, and can be sowed after danger of frost in cooler climates. It needs regular irrigation, and most likely needs to be replanted each year. Keep your seeds moist, and your chickens away from this blend until it is the desired height for your chickens. Surprisingly, seeds germinate immediately, and in less than two weeks time is 3" to 5" high, the perfect height for chickens to graze.

In 2 weeks time, the forage blend is ready to be given to your chickens.

Peaceful Vally Farm Supply has refined this unique forage blend from their own expertise, feedback from backyard poultry enthusiasts, and university research. This blend consists of alfalfa, buckwheat, clover, flax, millet, rye, and rye grass. Feeding your chickens this forage blend ensures their eggs will be rich in Omega-3  fatty acids, an important component of a healthy diet for those eating their eggs.

My happy hens love this forage blend, and your chickens will too

My chickens go crazy for this blend as you can see in the photo. Most chickens devour the blend before the plants can set seed. Peaceful Valley Farm Supply tells me you can try and grow this forage blend in a raised bed with a protective wire over it to keep your chickens from eating it roots, and all. With the protective wire, the grass might have time to replenish itself, if you keep your chickens away from it as regrowth begins.This blend is not only great for chickens, but ducks and turkeys,too.

If you order the Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend from Peaceful Vally Farm Supply for your chickens, be sure and tell them VintageGardenGal recommended it.

My Hens are Eggcited About....

DSC_0847 If you haven't heard already, the San Diego Master Gardener's Seminar is around the corner on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Check out their website, Master Gardener Spring Seminar . There is still time to sign up for classes.

My hens are eggcited, because I am going to be speaking at the 8:30am session, on "Companion Gardening with Backyard Chickens", something very near and dear to my hens, who love to be out with me in the garden. Learn how to have a beautiful, thriving garden, along with a healthy happy flock of chickens. This speaking engagement kicks off the celebration of my new book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies (For Dummies (Home & Garden)) with co-author Rob Ludlow from Stay tuned, as we launch our "eggciting" new book!

"Copper Penny" Lays Pullet Eggs

Pullet Eggs Are Tiny My Black Star hen, Copper Penny, started laying her first eggs around five months old. They are perfect in every way, but tiny at first. Pullet eggs are about as big in size as a wine cork. Gradually her egg size increased as her egg production continued. Black Star hens are good layers, with a pretty brown egg.

Double Yolk Egg

Pullets, hens that are less than a year old, usually start laying at 5-6 months old. As they begin laying, they have small eggs, at first which naturally increase in size. Young hens sometimes have egg irregularities such as shell-less eggs and double-yolks--two yolks in one egg. Have patience, in no time their egg-laying straightens out quickly.

A double-yolk egg is much larger in size, sometimes in width as well as length. It is not real common, but more common with young pullets starting their egg-laying production. Two yolks are ovulated at the same time, rather than one. Occasionally, it is an inherited trait, in which a hen regularly lays double-yolked eggs. Double-yolked eggs are prized eggs.

My Dark Star Hen, Copper Penny "Copper Penny" in a regal pose. The Black Star breed is a trade name for black sex-link hybrid chickens. The Black Sex Link breed is defined as the offspring of a non-barred cock with a barred hen. Usually, the cock is a Rhode Island Red or a New Hampshire breed, and the hen is a Barred Plymouth Rock. Normally, the offspring cockerels (males) are barred, and the pullets (females) are dark with some red feathers. In Penny's case, she is dark feathered with copper red neck and hackle feathers.

I've raised her since she was two weeks old. When she was a chick she was always the curious one, flying up on my back and shoulder. As she has matured, she still flies up on my back and shoulder when you she has a chance. With that said, I think I a chicken's defining personality is evident very early on in their lives.

Please share if you have young pullets starting to lay their first eggs. Please comment if you have gotten double-yolk eggs from your hens.

Pretty as a Pullet

Look closely, these pullets are just nearing two months old. Almost fully feathered, and already acting like full-fledged chickens, these are but young pullets that were born on May 2 & 9, 2012. How fast they grow up. A pullet is generally described as a young hen under a year old. These pullets are sweet, and already full of individual personalities. This is a photo of the flock in their outside pen, getting their day going with a little breakfast of feed, fresh lettuce, and chard from my garden.

My local feed store had a wonderful tempting variety of chicks on hand. I bought a few different breeds. Buff Orpingtons, always warm and friendly. Cuckoo Marans, a bit more flighty in nature, but somewhat rare to find for sale. Ameraucanas, because I want to learn more about this breed. Welsummer, a dutch-originated breed that is suppose to have a gently disposition, lay deep brown eggs, and are not broody.

Please share if you have a new flock this spring and summer. Please share if you are new to the "joy of backyard chickens."


Cluck for "The Chicken Encyclopedia"

VintageGardenGal is proud to be Day 2 of the fifteen-day Blog Book Tour celebrating Gail Damerow's "The Chicken Encyclopedia."  See below for a complete listing of the dates and chicken blogs participating. You may also visit, Storey's Blog for more information.

I'd like to share with you, Julia, one of my favorite poultry breeds, an Ameraucana hen. Ameraucana's are wonderful in so many ways. First, their feathers are a beautiful honey color, 2) they lay a blue-green egg--like a natural Easter egg, and 3) they are a large hen that is hardy and thrives in a backyard flock. Ameraucana's have a pea comb, beards and muffs, instead of wattles.

In Gail Damerow's just-released book, The Chicken Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Reference, Damerow describes the Ameraucana breed as originally from Chile, and one of only two breeds that lay this special blue-colored egg. She also writes the Ameraucanas breed has many many color varieties, and can be large or bantam in size. In Damerow's new book, she lists and describes many more poultry breeds at your finger tips.

The Chicken Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Reference is a concise A to Z reference book on chickens. This is a must have reference for those of you who have backyard chickens, and love everything about chickens.

My hen, Julia, would like to share with you all, the celebration of The Chicken Encyclopedia, and a contest that  Storey Publishing  has generously sponsored for a free book to one of VintageGardenGal's lucky readers.

Prize: One copy of the The Chicken Encyclopedia by Gaill Damerow. Entry Deadline: March 15, 2012 How to Enter: Post a comment below on this post about your favorite poultry breed, and why this breed is so special to you. Please note only U.S. residents only. Please include your e-mail address in your comment, to be able to contact you. One lucky winner will be chosen for the best response. Good luck! Quick update. Thank you everyone for participating and all of your comments. VintageGardenGal's lucky winner was Kim Rocha of San Antonio, Texas.

The celebration of Gail Deamerow's newly-released book, The Chicken Encyclopedia, kicks off with a blog tour. Please follow along as this blog tour unfolds, and you will be introduced to a clutch of interesting chicken blogs.  Here is the official schedule for you to follow:

2-Mar, For the Love of Chickens, For the Love of Chickens 3-Mar, VintageGardenGal, VintageGardenGal 4-Mar, The Garden Roof Coop, The Garden Roof Coop 5-Mar, Common Weeder, Common Weeder 6-Mar, Chickens in the Road, Chickens in the Road 7-Mar, Garden Rant, Garden Rant 8-Mar, Fresh Eggs Daily, Fresh Eggs Daily 9-Mar, My Pet Chicken Blog, My Pet Chicken 10-Mar, Coop Thoughts, Coop Thoughts 11-Mar, BoHo Farm and Home, Boho Farm and Home 12-Mar, Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs, Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs 13-Mar, A Charlotte Garden, A Charlotte Garden 14-Mar, Farm Fresh Fun, Farm Fresh Fun 15-Mar, The HenCam, HenCam 16-Mar, Life on a Southern Farm, Life on a Southern Farm 17-Mar, ADozenGirls, The Chicken Chick, ADozenGirls 18-Mar, North Coast Gardening, North Coast Gardening