At VJP Poutry we are never idle. We are always trying to improve how we do things for the good of our flock. Some of you have seen our Rooster Camp if you have ever returned a rooster. Now we have a second rooster containment area we call the Rooster Hilton.
It is important to have a separate quarantine area for new birds. Failure to quarantine new flock members can result in death to an entire flock.
To Quarantine means to completely isolate newly acquired birds from an existing flock for a significant period of time. During this time they are watched for signs of diseases and parasites.
A chicken may look healthy while hiding illness. Quarantine lets you watch without exposing the rest of the flock to health dangers. Moving chickens from one home to another is a major stressor , which can cause latent diseases to become active. This leads to a health threat for the rest of your flock. The bare minimum quarantine time is two weeks but 30 – 60 days is preferred by professionals
Once the quarantine period is over and they still appear healthy, they can be integrated gradually into an existing flock. Use Quarantine whenever you need to have a separate space for someone.
Our Rooster Camp almost looks like a campground for chickens. There is green grass to walk in and tarps to keep the rain off the birds. There is a large, homemade, wooden dog house into which the roosters go at night. The dog house is very secure and can keep predators at bay. Its a nice, clean place for roosters to stay and relax.
The new project is the Rooster Hilton. We needed a second place that was better at muffling the sounds of crowing. It is located back behind the rooster fence, next to the coops. The fencing was purchased at Menards . We placed pea rock on the ground and built a wooden base on which to place the Menards dog house. We had to create and install our own secure door as the dog house only came with plastic flaps.
Rooster Camp and Rooster Hilton will be used to house returned rooster and possibly an extra area if we need to separate chickens from the rest of the flock. I always feel like I never have enough room to do all the projects I’d like to do. This won’t be the last addition we make a VJP Poultry.
There will come a time when you may need to give your little silkie a bath. Maybe she has been playing in the mud or maybe you have plans for showing her. Either way, giving a silkie a bath is a very easy thing to do.
First of all, gather all of the supplies you will need ahead of time so you won’t be searching for them while your bird is in the water. You will need some kind of shampoo and some white vinegar to use as part of a rinse. You will need towels and a bucket for the final rinse. A blow dryer should be handy too.
You have a couple of choices as to where to give the bath. A sink works well especially if you have a water sprayer attached. A bath tub can work too. I have used several buckets in a bath tub and then just moved the bird from bucket to bucket.
Start by soaking the bird in warm water. The water should not be too cool or too warm. Keep the water shallow enough so that her head won’t go under the water line. Water should never go into the chicken’s nostrils. Always keep one hand on your bird.
When the bird is soaked with water, you can start shampooing. Any shampoo will work. I like a dog flea and tick shampoo to start with. You might use a little blue Dawn dish soap on heavily soiled areas if your silkie is white. A bluing shampoo works well with white birds. Make sure that the bird is thoroughly wet before shampooing or the feathers will end up purple from the bluing.
Next you will want to rinse all of the shampoo off with the sprayer or by rinsing in a separate bucket. Lastly, dip her in clean water that has had some vinegar splashed into it. The vinegar cuts the soap film on the feathers.
You will want to quickly wrap your dripping bird up into a towel. Try to absorb as much water as possible with the towel. It is easy for the bird to become chilled at this point so keep her wrapped up and warm.
The blow dryer should be plugged in and ready to go. Make sure that you use it on the “low” setting. Too high of heat will burn your silkie. I start blow drying the crest while she is still wrapped up in the towel. Slowly unwrap the towel and continue blow drying the whole body.
Blow drying takes a long time. You can take short breaks and comb out the feathers with a slicker brush. It is important that she is dry when you return her to her group. If the weather is cool, she can become chilled. Never bath a silkie right before they go to sleep. They will still be damp under their wings which can lead to them being chilled.
They may not like it the first time you bath them, but the more you wash them, the more they get used to it. After a few times they will begin to behave and enjoy it. Do silkies need to be bathed? No, they do a nice job of grooming themselves. You will, however , be amazed at how fluffy and soft they become after their bath. Good luck with bathing your silkies!
Attending a Poultry Show is an educational experience. Whether you are showing yourself or are there just to see what everyone else brought, you will come away with a better understanding of what silkies and other breeds are all about.
I’d like to get people thinking about the two Minnesota Poultry shows that happen in the fall. These are the shows where most people showing silkies will be at in this area. The first is the Minnesota State Poultry Association Show, otherwise known as the Hutchinson Show. Coop-In is Friday, October 27, judging is Saturday, October 28th and coop-out is Sunday, Oct. 29. The show is located on the McLeod County Fairgrounds. Here is a link to their site http://www.mnstatepoultry.com/
The second fall show is the Brown County Pigeon and Poultry Association’s New Ulm Fall Classic. Dates for that show are November 18th and 19th. Here is a link to their site http://www.bcppa.net/
Entry forms can be found on both sites. Silkies are classified as Bantams. If you bought them from VJP Poultry, they are bearded. The breed is silkie but the variety is the standard color – white, black, blue, buff, splash, grey , partridge and self blue (lavendar). These are all things you will need to know when filling out your entry form.
All birds entered must originate from a hatchery or breeding flock that is classified U.S. Pollorum – Typhoid clean under the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) or be negative to a Pollorum – Typhoid test within 90 days prior to the opening date of exhibition. You will need a form showing your test results when you send in your entry form for the show.
If you bought chicks from VJP Poultry you can get a Statement Of Origin form. This form shows that we are NPIP and we are Pollorum – Typhoid clean. You will not need to have your chicks tested unless they are older than 12 months of age as long as you have this Statement Of Origin form. After they have turned one year old, they will need to have the testing done again in order to be shown.
The first step you would take if you are considering showing is to separate out your best birds into a conditioning area. Males and Females should be separated as well. During the months leading up to the show you will want to be be conditioning your birds to have them be at their best. The silkies in the pictures on this page are birds I am considering for this fall’s shows.
It is important to know what the Standard of Perfection for a silkie is. Here is a link http://www.americansilkiebantamclub.org/standard.asp Understanding what the silkie standard says will help you in choosing which birds you want to put in this conditioning pen.
Silkies you are considering should be kept indoors. The sun can discolor feathers and grass will leave green marks on them. The birds should also be on a bedding that will protect the foot feathers, such as pine shavings. Rocks or hard bedding will break those feathers. Feed them a good diet, high in protein such as a game bird conditioner feed. Calf Manna pellets can be fed as a supplement as well as additional vitamins.
You don’t need to jump into showing immediately. Attend some shows this fall to get an idea of what you need to work with next year. Some much can be learned by talking with others who are showing your same breed of bird. Observing winners and taking pictures helps you to remember what makes a Show Quality Silkie.
We know that silkies are extra fluffy, but that extra fluffiness can be the perfect spot to harbor mites. Poultry mites are very tiny insects that will from time to time try and set up camp on your silkie. It is a very common and natural occurrence that can happen no matter how clean you keep your coop. If your bird is outside at all, it is being exposed to mites. Many people believe that mites are carried by wild birds. Bird feeders should not be placed near your coop.
When a chicken appears bedraggled and hunched over or when it looks like they have a chronic poopy behind, you should first check to see if it has mites before anything else. It is best to check your silkie on a regular basis in order to head off an infestation before it occurs. Prevention can go a long way in making sure that those mites leave your bird alone.
The first thing we do at VJP Poultry in a check up is to set up our work area. We use an ironing board. Mite checking is easier if two people do it together. One is holding the bird and the other is spreading the feathers. Tools you might need are: scissors that cut feathers, magnifying glass, Adams flea and tick spray, poultry dust and Frontline for dogs or cats.
Capt’N Billy was our model for our pictures. He is a young partridge rooster. The first area we check over is the crest. Use your fingers to spread open the feathers so that you can see the base of the feathers against the chicken’s skin. With silkies it is easiest to look at the feathers. Since the skin is black the dark mites do not show up easily. You are looking for clumps of mites that are moving. Movement is key. The bugs are so tiny that it is easy to confuse it with dirt. If it is moving, its mites. Check in several different places in the crest as they could be anywhere in there.
Next work your way down its neck, checking the beard as well. Look at the base of the feathers. If you find something suspicious, pull the feather out and look at it under the magnifying glass.
We also look at the base of the tail and under the wings. Turn the bird around and check out the vent. You may see little bite marks around the vent. Those bite marks are letting you know that mites have been there. Dust or spray carefully around the vent area. You don’t want any chemicals to enter through the vent.
The powder is a good preventative. Dust the bird lightly with it and work the powder down to the skin. I will also dust the bedding in the coop especially the area where they typically sleep at night.
The spray is used more often if you see some mites. Just spray directly on the area that you find them in. If it is a bad infestation, you may want to give them a bath first using a flea and tick shampoo for dogs or cats.. Always blow dry your silkie afterwards so that they don’t become chilled.
We use Frontline Plus on our silkies. We use one drop on the neck directly onto the skin. It is very effective and will kill both the mites and their eggs that will hatch later. Frontline protection can last for over a year. Frontline is not made for poultry and the company does not encourage its use on other animals besides dogs. You are taking a risk of overdosing your bird if you use too much. Less is better.
Keeping vigilant and do periodic checks. Most birds will experience it at one time or another. Silkies seem more prone to it with their large crests. Having a plan is your best defense against these little critters.
Most of you have heard by now about the more than 30,000 mink that were released in Stearns County, Minnesota this week. Most, sadly, will die of heat and starvation, but I can’t help but wonder if some won’t learn to adapt and survive. Mink are predators to chickens. I have heard many stories already this year about whole flocks being decimated by mink. Because they can get through such tiny spaces, they are difficult to deter. At VJP Poultry we are always on the look out for any predator that could hurt our flock.
Mink are a member of the weasel family. They are native to North America. They have a long slender body and short webbed feet. They are excellent swimmers. They have a long tail which takes up one third of its body length. They have thick, glossy fur, usually brown to black with a patch of white under its chin and throat. Their fur is waterproof.
Mink are found throughout the United States and Canada. They have little fear of humans and have been found in sheds and outbuildings used by man. It spends a lot of its time inside water, hunting for prey. They are solitary animals that mark its territory. They usually live alone. Mink mating season is February to April.
Mink are carnivorous and hunt prey larger than themselves. When mink are threatened, they usually snarl and hiss and release a scent that advertises its territory. They will purr like a cat when happy.
They are usually found in wetland environments near streams, rivers or lakes. They live in burrows of muskrats or in cavities made by streams or trees. They are nocturnal and hunt mostly at night, however, they can also be active during the day. Mink can both swim and climb trees. Since they are good swimmers, they dive and catch fish and feed on muskrats, rabbits, frogs chipmunks and snakes. They kill their prey by biting them in the throat.
Mink are vicious predators of chickens. They will kill every chicken in a run or a coop. They do not eat the chickens they kill. They drink the blood of their prey. This is their motivation, to kill every bird they can find.
Their long bodies allow them to squeeze in any pen. They will continue to return to a pen to strike again and again.
If you think you have a mink problem, try setting a live trap. Bait could be fish or fresh meat. Bloody meat works well. You may be able to rent traps from your local feed store.
Keep your coop secure with no gaps that they could squeeze through. Mink can crawl through holes as small as one inch diameter. They are also excellent diggers and chewers and can come into your coop from underneath. Concrete floors in the coop are good or use paving slabs to slow them down. You may want to bury some hardware cloth along the bottom of the fence.
Be vigil as always around your chicken coop. The very best advice is to always lock up your birds in their coop every evening. Do not leave them in the run overnight or you are asking for trouble. Good Luck and keep them safe!