Cage Training For The Silkie Show

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Fall poultry shows are coming up and hopefully, if you are planning on showing, you have selected your birds that you are bringing and are in the process of conditioning them.

Conditioning means that you have separated your selections from the rest of your flock and have made sure that the boys and the girls are not in the same pen.  Separate areas are important as rowdy boys can break or tear feathering on the females.

You should also be feeding them a diet that is high in protein to keep those feathers in tip top shape.  Showbird food or Feather Fixer are good choices.  I also add vitamins to the water or Roster Booster to improve the over all health and beauty of the bird.

About a month before the show you will want to start training your birds to be comfortable in a small wire cagesmall wire cage.  These are the type of cages you will find at a poultry show.  They are about 24 X 24 in size.  Place the cage on saw horses so that they are about table high.

This enclosed cage will be very different from what your silkie is used to out in the coop.  I would start with short time spans and then gradually increase how much time the bird spends in there.

You will need to teach your bird how to eat and drink inside of the cage.  A good waterer for silkies is the pop bottle waterer.  You buy the bottom where the birds drink from and then place a plastic pop bottle with water in it on top. They provide a spring to secure it on the side of the cage but I use small bungee cords and place something underneath the bottom to support it. I use an empty cat food can.  I like these because they are small and don’t take up much space in the cage and because the silkie is less likely to dunk their heads and get wet and messy.  You will want the judges to see a clean, dry bird.  It is a good idea to remove the waterer before judging starts to keep your bird looking perfect.

The food container hangs on the side.  I like to put food they really like in there while you are training them.  Treats such as mealworms, sunflower seeds and berries, or cracked corn will teach your bird how to eat from the little container.  They will begin to associate treats with time spent in the cage.

Learning to eat and drink from these different containers is very important.  Silkies who have not had their feathers trimmed around their eyes will have a hard time finding the food and water in the cage.  Use pink hair tape or blue painters tape to pin up the feathers in the crest which will allow the birds to see.

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Place the feeders and waterers in the front of the cage.  This will get them used to being on that side of the cage where the judge will be.  A judge does not want to see a bird cowering in the back.  They should be up front where they are easy to see and judge.

The judge will have a little baton that he uses to get the bird to pose properly.  You should practice with a dowel or stick so that your silkie is used to seeing it in the cage and feeling it against its body.

Shows are very noisy places.  You may want to place a radio by your cage so that the bird gets used to loud noises while they are in the cage.  I have the radio tuned to the Oldies station that has lots of commercials.

Practice taking your bird in and out of the cage.  The judge will be taking the bird out head first and placing it in the cage head first. You should practice the same way.  Hold the bird with one hand under the keel one hand on top of the wings.  Birds will struggle if they are not used to being handled.  Judges would rather not work with struggling birds.  Spread the wings out and check all over the bird the same way a judge would.

Give the bird a treat while handling them so that they associate people holding them with treats. Treats include Chicken Crack, Happy Hen Treats, Grublies, and Mana Pro Garden Delights.  Roosters will especially need practice in handling.  Sit with them on your lap when you are watching tv and cuddle up with them.  You will enjoy it and so will they.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

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Silkies For Sale – 10/2/17

Vitamins, Silkies, and Wry Neck

20161122_152047    Silkies are sometimes described as a more high maintenance breed of chicken.  Owners are known to give them baths and pedicures and to trim around their eyes when they are so fluffy that they can no longer see.  Many live a pampered existence.

Silkies are often thought to need a higher protein chicken food than most other breeds.  We feed all of our adult silkies a Gamebird Conditioner feed which is 20% protein.  But, does the feed contain all of the vitamins needed for outstanding birds?

Most commercial feed companies will make sure that there is the proper amount of vitamins and minerals for the type and age of the bird. For example, layer feed will have the higher amount of calcium that the hen needs to create egg shells.

However, with any product, the age of the feed is critical to its nutritional content. Vitamins are sensitive to changes due to light, heat and moisture and can lose potency over time.

Some people try to create their own feed mixtures and this can leave the birds with incorrect amounts of certain vitamins and minerals.  Corn and scratch are enjoyed by chickens but are empty calories.

Silkies need extra vitamins during times of stress, very cold weather, when they are breeding , when they are chicks and growers and when they are ill.

There are two kinds of vitamins.  Fat soluble and water soluble.  Water soluble vitamins are not affected by the fats in the chickens diet. These would be the B and C vitamins.  If too much is ingested, it is excreted through the urine.  Fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K.  More care needs to be taken not to over supplement these particular vitamins.

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Cluck N Sea Kelp is a nice mixture of Kelp meal that can be added to the regular feed with many benefits. Merricks Blue Ribbon Poultry Electrolytes can be added to their water and is a good source of probiotics.  Life Lytes Mega tabs is another product that can be added to the water. It is a good souce for vitamins A, B12, D and E. Durvet Vitamins and Electrolytes   is what I use to add to both my chick’s and adult’s water.   Rooster Booster is a product I would use with adults for show conditioning or if I was having problems with roosters not performing.  Nutri Drench can be used if you have a sick chick and need something fast acting.

Now a word about Wry Neck…. Wry Neck is evident when you see a bird tucking her head between her legs.  It usually hits young chicks but can happen in older birds.  This can be caused by a vitamin E deficiency .  Vitamin E and vitamin B complex are both known to be good for neurological disorders.

Wry Neck is different from a peck on the head, which silkies are very susceptible to. Their vaulted look when chicks is caused by an opening in their skull like a baby’s soft spot. Pecks can lead to head injuries that look very similar to what you see with Wry Neck.  Vitamin E and Selenium (helps animals absorb vitamin E) can be helpful with these injuries.

If you think that your silkie has wry neck or a head injury, the first thing to do is separate  it from the rest of the flock.  Stress will make it worse, so it needs a quiet environment.  Take a vitamin E capsule and squirt it onto its feed or into its mouth.  Take  25 micrograms of a selenium tablet (or break a 50 mcg tablet in half ) and crush that up and add it to the feed.  Give this to the chick two or three times a day.  You may have to hand feed it if it is not eating by itself.  It may take as long as a month before the condition disappears.  Keep giving it the vitamins for two additional weeks beyond where they appear to be recovered. Wry neck affects 8% of chicks across all breeds.  It is not contagious.

Since silkies are more prone to head injuries, you may want to take care  not to place them in a pen along with more aggressive chickens.  Keep them away from bully birds and do not place them in crowded situations.

As a preventative and just for general good health, I place 1/16 tsp of vitamins and electrolytes per 2 quarts of water.  This is at the feed supplementation level.  More could be used if the bird was showing illness.  I also add 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar to the 2 quarts of water.  The chicks are given vitamins every day but the adults are given it every other day.  With the adults  I alternate with Red Cell ( one half capful per gallon of water ) and regular vitamins as well as days where they just get plain water.  Use less vitamins on hot days as they will drink more water than usual.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

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Silkies For Sale – 9/24/17

How To Winterize a Chicken Coop Built From a Kit

20170919_130948.jpg     It is never too early to start thinking about winterizing your coop.  Most coops fall into two groups. One type of coop is made from existing buildings such as part of a barn or an ice house.  DIY coops could be put in this category too as they were all probably insulated when they were built.

The other group of coops are the kind that are built from a coop kit.  You can order these kits online or purchase them at DYI big box stores.  They turn out to be cute, little coops that hold less than 10 chickens.

The problem is that these coops do not come insulated.  You may have bought them in the spring when it was warm and now we are headed towards winter.  What can be done to them to help them remain a cozy home for all your birds?

The first thing that comes to mind is insulation.  I would suggest using reflective insulation.  You can easily measure, cut and attach the insulation using a staple gunstaple gun or with spray contact adhesive.  Just cover the sides and the ceiling of your coop with the reflective insulation and tape the seams with aluminum foil tape.

I have found that the chickens do not pay a whole lot of attention to the shininess of the insulation.  They will, however, peck at the pink insulation or the styrofoam  insulation and eat it as well.  That is why I do not recommend using that kind. The birds have never pecked at the silver insulation and it has worked well for us.

Make sure that there is adequate ventilation across the top part of the coop.  You do not want drafts at the bottom where the silkies sleep, but you do want there to be air exchange inside of the coop.  Moisture build up is not good for the birds and causes respiratory issues.  If you see a frost build up inside the coop on the walls and doors, then you need to have the windows opened wider.

I would also suggest wrapping the run in clear plastic.  The plastic cuts down the sharp, cold wind inside the run and keeps the snow out.  Silkies do not like walking on the snow.  You want your birds to have fresh air, so I don’t wrap all of the run.  Make sure you do the north and the west side as that is where the winds are the strongest. I do not wrap the door.  When spring comes, take down the plastic and save it for next fall.

You will need some way to keep the water dish from freezing.   Some people use heated dog bowls.  We use heated bases with galvanized metal waterers on top.  You will need to run a heavy duty electrical cord out to the coop to run either of these water options.

Chickens generate a lot of body heat when they are together.  Silkies tend to huddle up together to keep each other warm.  Heat is also generated from the heated water bases.  If your coop is small, this should be enough to keep things warm.20170919_131219

I do not think it is healthy for a chicken to go from hot to cold temperatures every time they go out in the run.  Both places should be about the same temperature. If you use the insulation and the heater bases, these small coops should be warm even with a small number of chickens.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

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