Chicken Themed Gift Wrap

When it comes to wrapping paper, we want something that reflects our own personal obsessions or those to whom the gift is for.  People who like chickens often like to find special or unique gift wrap featuring pictures of chickens.  Maybe someone you know is crazy about poultry and you would like to find a wrapping paper to show that you are thinking about what makes them excited.

Starting with a humorous one, we have Hands Off My Chicken Nuggets.

71608VEk-GL._SL1001_Roosters on a brilliant white background will be eye catching wrapped with raffia ribbon.

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Chickens in Profile is a beautiful teal green and grey premium gift wrap.  Vibrant, eye-catching and certain to build anticipation for the intended recipient.

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Rooster Cock a doodle do Kraft paper and matching gift boxes are a perfect wrap for the chicken enthusiast in your life.

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Keeping it Rural with this Rise and Shine Rooster Back 40 paper. Us some glitter chicken wire ribbon with it.7149fgS1u2L._SL1001_

Dress up a one-of-a-kind gift with this Keep Calm and Love Chickens paper.71H78MXd+nL._SY355_

Tassotti  and Cavallini have two beautiful sets of wrapping paper. Almost too nice to use, you may want to frame it. The first is Chickens and Roosters 51CqyJWqLZL

and the second is Common Breeds of  Chickens71CYe+eMjvL._SL1200_

Beautiful Italian wrapping paper featuring Baby Chicks. 61Bg0vJ9G8L._SL1000_

Alex Clark has a few designs printed in England. Checkerboard Chickens 512LzaXE3nL._SX355_

and Three French Hens61cPkfROwhL._SY550_

As long as we are thinking of Christmas, we have Peck The Halls, which is a whopping 100 square feet of paper.91hQulit-hL._SY606_

Everyone will be Oohing and Ahhing over your choice of Chicken and Peeps Kraft wrapping paper. This also has the optional matching gift boxes.71a5YSo5EmL._SL1000_

Sophie Allport has understated chicken gift wrap imported from England. It is a thick matte paper and very proper for your humble gift.91CFWVHpHYL._SX355_

Caskata studio has a stunning Egg print paper that is truly beautiful.81Xy65sWrkL._SL1200_

To store all of this gorgeous paper you may need one of these gift wrap storage containers.61z7dssQVeL._SL1000_

Who knew that there were so many chicken themed wrapping papers available. One last one is the I suspect Fowl Play gift wrap.

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This would look great paired with a rusty chicken wire ribbon615zyGmn9bL._SL1250_

For more 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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How to Practice Biosecurity in Your Own Backyard Silkie Flock

7a31a8c5e329aa4f6b0d5ac6083b2c62Everyone wants their chickens to be healthy, but are you truly giving them the best protection possible?  There are some very lethal poultry diseases out there and you may, without even knowing it, be bringing those pathogens into your backyard. It is important to think about setting up some kind of defense between disease and your birds.

When we use the term “Biosecurity” we are talking about a system of methods that, used correctly, will help to protect your birds from the unseen viruses and bacteria that are looking for a new home. We don’t want that new home to be your chicken coop.

There are many contagious diseases out there that can effect your flock.  There has been an outbreak of Virulent Newcastle Disease is southern California this summer.  This particular outbreak is effecting small backyard flocks and not the large commercial poultry houses like we saw with the Avian Flu a few years back. The Newcastle outbreak highlights the need for year round poultry biosecurity.  If biosecurity is not practiced it would be very easy for Newcastle disease to make its way across the United States infecting birds as it hitches a ride on the tires of a truck or on the bottom of someone’s shoe.

The first thing that you can do is to keep things clean in your own backyard.  Something as simple as washing your hands or using hand sanitizer  before entering or exiting your bird area can be effective. Change food and water daily in your pen.  Clean and disinfect cages, tools or other equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings. There are several good disinfecting products.  I use Oxivir on everything. Other good products include Oxine and Virkon S.  Cleaning and disinfecting are important steps to keep your bird’s environment healthy.  Disinfectants only work effectively when you first clean all dirt,  manure, and bird droppings from your tools, cages, boots and equipment. Clean these things outside of your house to keep germs outside.

Have a separate set of clothes and shoes that you wear only in your poultry area. I have a pair of slogger boots that I only wear when I am doing chicken chores. They slip on and off easily and can be cleaned daily with a garden hose.  I do not go down to the chicken coop unless I am wearing those boots. I have a set of snowmobile boots that I use in the winter for chicken chores. When I go into the house I change into my house shoes.  Those shoes I will wear in the brooder room and the incubation area.  I wear an apron in the brooder room that is washable.  Outside in the adult chicken area I have a coat that I only wear when doing chicken chores. It is washable as well. I also wear gloves that are easily washed as well.   It is important to me to keep the adult chicken germs away from the baby chick area and the rest of the house.  Wash and disinfect shoes and clothes often.

It is important to keep other people and other birds away from your flock as much as possible. That includes birds you just bought and wild birds. Both could carry disease to your chickens.  Restrict access to your property and your birds.  Avoid visiting farms or other households with poultry.  At your own place, do not let visitors near your birds at all if they have their own birds. It is sad to have to say this, but you need to protect your flock.  If you can’t avoid contact with others then make sure that you disinfect your shoes and clothes before being with your birds again.  This is why you need separate boots and coats that you only use with your chickens.  Don’t use other people poultry equipment without disinfecting it first.

If you like to exhibit birds at poultry shows, make sure that you quarantine birds for at least two weeks after the event. Wear different shoes and clothing when at the show or fair and disinfect when you return home. Disinfect cages that were used for transport.

Be sure to buy birds from a reputable source. Check and see what kind of biosecurity they practice.   Someone who is an NPIP breeder has their flock pullorum tested every year and can only buy from others who are NPIP.  A state inspected hatchery has a state vet come out and inspect the premises every year and discusses biosecurity standards with them.  Whoever you do buy from make sure that you keep new birds quarantined for at least 30 days.

Don’t let wild birds have contact with your flock.  If your birds are outside, consider keeping them in a screened area. Do not let wild birds eat food in your chicken run. This will also help keep insects and rodents away.  Hang fly strips or fly traps in the coop. Flies can transmit disease on the bottom of their feet. Put out mouse traps and clean up spilled feed to keep your area rodent free.

Change is always hard especially if you are used to doing things in a certain way. Just pick one suggestion and start with that. Once it becomes a habit, choose another biosecurity measure to implement.  You will feel better knowing that you are keeping your flock safe and healthy.

 

 

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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Strengthen Your Chicken’s Egg Shells With the Shell of an Oyster

20180515_123422-1Hens work hard to provide us with their daily eggs.  Making egg shells takes a lot of calcium.  The more eggs they lay, the more calcium they need.  If a hen doesn’t get enough in her diet, her body will steal calcium from her bones to make the egg shell.  This leaves her bones very brittle. You may think of Osteoporosis which women sometimes get as they age.  Hens often have that same problem.

The egg shell that a hen lays is 95% calcium by weight.  In one year the amount of calcium put into her shells can equal 20 times the amount of calcium that is contained in her bones. In order to stay healthy  and create strong egg shells, she needs to consume a large amount of calcium in steady intervals.

The most recognizable sign of calcium deficiency is thin shelled eggs or even eggs laid without a shell .  Lack of calcium in the diet can also lead to soft  shell eggs which look rubbery.  This can also lead to egg binding which can be fatal in hens.  Rough spots and wrinkles on the shells are another sign of low calcium.  The egg shells should look hard and smooth.

Ground oyster shell is the most common supplement to increase the amount of calcium in a hen’s diet. Oyster shell is inexpensive and lasts a long time. It does not spoil or go bad. Oyster shell is eaten by hens and the shell dissolves in the gut.  It is not the same thing as grit.  Grit aids digestion by grinding up food in the crop.  Oyster shell has nothing to do with digestion.  It also does not stimulate egg laying. It simply provides the mineral calcium to the hen.

To lay well, a hen needs 16% crude protein .  Most grains range 7-12% protein and are low in certain essential amino acids.  High amounts of protein can contribute to more frequent ovulation in a hen. Make sure that you are giving your hens a balanced feed with the correct nutrients and protein. Most of their food should come from a nutritionally balanced food. If you give them treats or let them free range you can be upsetting this balance.

Most hens start to lay at about 20 weeks.  Wait until the hen has actually laid an egg to begin giving them oyster shell supplement.  Giving it too early can damage the young pullet’s kidneys. Oyster shell should be given free choice in a separate bowl so they can eat as much as their body needs.  Laying hens who aren’t getting enough calcium can produce weak or irregularly shaped eggs.  This issue can also cause slow laying or even problems like egg eating because they are so desperate for the calcium they need.

How much calcium a hen needs is an individual issue and all hens are different. Some breeds lay eggs every single day. Other breeds take more time off, such as silkies.  The hen’s bodies will prompt them to eat the oyster shell as they need it. If you don’t see them eating it, they may not need it

Do not mix the oyster shell into the food.  This can force them to eat too much calcium which can damage their kidneys.  Feed it to them in a separate bowl or even scatter it on the ground.  Some commercial feeds contain calcium, but it is often not enough for typical layers, especially if they have access to table scrapes and treats.

In order for the hen to be able to absorb the calcium, two  nutrients seem to affect it the most. These nutrients are Phosphorus and vitamin D3.  Phosphorus is easily found in grains. D3 come from sunshine so you want to make sure that your hens have exposure to sunlight.  Powdered vitamins added to the water will help with this.

I have found oyster shell to come in many different sizes.  Some pieces are so large they can barely swallow it,  down to basically nothing but powder. The ideal particles size of supplemental calcium ranges between 2 mm and 5 mm.  Larger pieces of calcium carbonate take longer to digest than smaller particles and are more desirable.  Hens seek out large particles of oyster shell late in the day before the period of shell formation occurs.  Shell formation usually occurs during the night.  Too much calcium will give the eggs an extra coating of powdery calcium around the entire egg or you will see calcium deposits around the shell.

Hens do best when fed a balanced crumble or pelleted diet, especially an all-flock diet with oyster shell in a separate bowl on the side.  Meat birds should be given a separate feed.  Birds that eat other things besides their layer food such as free range foragers or birds that get extra treats need the extra calcium from oyster shell.

Oyster shell is not for pullets that haven’t started laying eggs yet. Wait until they actually start laying eggs to give them the extra calcium.  Chickens who are not laying will get enough calcium in their daily feed for normal calcium use.  When they are laying they need four times as much calcium as a non laying hen.  Giving additional calcium to chickens who are not layers is detrimental to their health. This would include roosters, cockerels,  and older hens no longer laying.

Oyster shell should never be mixed with the food.  Just leave it out in a separate bowl.  They will instinctively know to take it when they need it.  Do make it available all year round.  If they aren’t laying as much in the winter, they will just lower their intake of it.

There are other forms of calcium you can use. Limestone is a rock that contains calcium. If you live in an area with limestone gravel they may naturally pick some up.  Some people save egg shells and offer these back to the hens.  Remember that a hen’s own shells will not provide enough calcium if she doesn’t have other supplements.  Bake the shells first in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes to kill any bacteria that may be present.  Crush them finely so that they do not look like egg shell, otherwise you are teaching the hens to eat their own eggs.

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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Pecking Order and Who Rules the Roost

20180429_133813-1If someone says that they “rule the roost” at their house you may wonder where that term came from.  The top chicken gets the best place on the roosting bar at night as part of a complex hierarchy commonly called “the pecking order.”  The pecking order has an influence on feeding, drinking egg laying, roosting, crowing, mating and even dust bathing.

Chickens are a social animal and enjoy the company of their flock mates. Chickens will become lonely for others of their own kind if they are deprived of them. However, the pecking order is anything but gentle and chickens are very aware of their own place in that order.

Everyone knows their place in the pecking order so when a new chicken is introduced, problems arise until the pecking order is reestablished  again.  Pecking order rank determines the order in which chickens are allowed access to food, water and sleeping spot.

The top chicken is usually the strongest and healthiest.  It is their responsibility to protect and take care of the flock, keeping it safe from predators and mitigating disputes between lower members.

The pecking order is a sort of cooperation between members of the flock. It ensures the survival of the flock by giving the best chances to the fittest birds. Unless a member of the flock is removed or added, the pecking order will remain the same for a long time.  However, it is a fluid thing and is never permanent. The younger will always challenge the older.

A flock of chickens who were hatched and raised together establishes a pecking order early on.  Pullets and cockerels that grow up together will play games of running and bumping chest together.  The strongest one is usually chasing a weaker one around the food dish.  Serious games of pecking order start at around six weeks.

The most dominant bird will be the rooster if you have one in your flock.  The lowest bird will be the meekest and the gentlest. Older birds will be dominant over younger ones until the younger ones start challenging them.

Gender has a lot to do with what the pecking order looks like.  If you do not have a rooster in your flock, then the strongest hen will take this spot. It will usually go roosters, hens, cockerels and pullets at the bottom. The order is established by pecking, chasing, blocking from food and water and sometimes violent fighting.  If there are several aggressive birds fighting for that top position there can be blood shed.

Pecking order positions are fixed when one flock member confronts another.  The weaker will back down and become lower in position than the stronger one.  Do not try and interfere unless bleeding is occurring.  They need to work it out themselves.

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Flaring hackle feathers with a lowered head is one form of intimidation.  Loud wing flapping with the head held high and the chest puffed out is another form of letting everyone know who is the boss. They may also use the wing dance to challenge one another.  The dominant bird will come up sideways to the other bird. Then he will lower his outer wing and dance in a half circle around the other chicken.  If the other chicken walks away, the dancer is now higher than the other bird in the pecking order.

Roosters who copulate with hens throughout the day are asserting their dominance over the other roosters who are not allowed to. Roosters who are lower in the flock crow less and rarely mate.  They only get a chance to when the other rooster is not around.

Alpha roosters will crow to signal their dominance to the other chickens.  Roosters who are the flock leaders will look out for the hens by watching for predators, finding them treats, mating and chasing other roosters away from their group of hens.

Hens who are at the top tend to be fearless and boisterous.  Hens high in the pecking order will chase other hens out of the nesting boxes.  Chickens high in the order get to eat more and have a better spot in choosing where they will roost.  Weaker hens have to wait to drink or eat and will often be pushed away by others. If one of the low ranked chickens tries to feed before their leaders, they may get a nasty jab or peck to teach them a lesson. If a bird tries to go out of turn, she will earn glares, pecks and feather pulling from higher ranked hens.

Establishing a pecking order can take anywhere from two days or up to two weeks.  Once everyone knows their position, the stress will go down and disputes will be settled very quickly.

The less space chickens have, the more violent they are in establishing and maintaining the pecking order. They need around four square feet of space per bird inside the coop and eight square feet outside in the chicken run.

Use hanging feeders and waterers in the middle of an open area rather than in a corner if you are having problems.  There should be three inches of feeder and waterer space per chicken.  If you have more than six birds, use multiple feeders and waterers.  One inside the coop and one outside the coop if smaller birds are being pushed away.

There should be one nesting box for four hens and eight inches of roosting bar per bird.

Problems can occur when a new chicken is introduced to an existing flock. This upsets the pecking order and an new one must be reestablished.  If the new chickens are younger and outnumbered this can create additional problems.  Chickens have a habit of ganging up on any chicken that is bleeding and pecking at the red wound.  They are very attracted to the color red.  Remove and bleeding chickens and apply an antiseptic wound spray.    Silkies can be very territorial.

When introducing new flock member, fence off an area inside the chicken run for the new chickens.  After a couple of days remove the fencing and let them mingle. For more ideas on how to introduce new flock members,  check out “How to Integrate New Members Into Your Flock.

Humans are also part of the pecking order.  Roosters see you as part of their flock and will seek to overthrow your top position. Aggressive roosters can be dangerous especially if you have small children.  Never leave them unattended with a rooster who has shown past aggression towards humans.

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Doing the chicken wing dance around you and charging towards you are some clear signs that a rooster is challenging you for top spot.  Pecking and jumping at you to claw or spur you should not be allowed.  Never run from a rooster.  Stand your ground or run and chase after him.  Grab him and hold him down to the ground.  Put your hand over his head and back.  Hold him until he calms down and then let up on him.

Segregate any bully birds that you might have. Place them in a crate for a few days.  The pecking order will change while she is in isolation and when she is reintroduced, she will be the “new bird.”

In order to avoid problems in your coop make sure that there is always enough space for your birds and enough hiding places for members of the lower ranks.  The “hen pecked” chicken is always your most submissive and is often a silkie in a mixed flock. Try to keep to one rooster per pen.  A happy, stress free flock will give you more eggs.

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 – 3/21/18