A Trip To The Feed Store With VJP Poultry – 12/30/16

20161031_094232     I visit my local feed store at least once a week without fail. I don’t have a lot of room or space to stock pile supplies, so it is a necessity  that I make request trips. I don’t want to run out of anything important. It would be a crisis if I ran out of feed or didn’t have bedding available, so as soon as I start to run low, I head out to my favorite feed store.

Chicken feed is probably my biggest expenditure. I buy Game bird Conditioner for my adult silkies and Chick Starter for the babies.  Game Bird means that it is made for turkeys or pheasants  and has a higher protein content than most regular chicken feed. The ADM brand has 20% protein and it includes animal protein. I think that animal protein is important for chickens. They are, after all, carnivores.  In the wild , they would be eating worms and insects. I also like this brand because it is in pellet form. With pellets there is less waste and mess.

The Chick Starter is also high in protein. It is in crumble form. Pellets are hard for a chick to break apart and digest. I sometimes grind it up even smaller for newborns in my coffee grinder. I use regular chick starter made by Houle Inc. for most of the year and then switch to Medicated Chick Starter in the summer months when it is more humid out.  Medicated feed is used for controlling the disease Cocci which is more frequent in the summer.

I also purchase bedding for the silkies at the feed store. I buy two different kinds – pine shavings and flax bedding.  I use the “small, fine” pine shavings because I compost all of my chicken bedding and put it in my garden. It makes wonderful fertilizer. The flax bedding is a little more slippery so I use it on top a a dressing over the pine shavings. Flax bedding is really nice for absorbing chicken poo or spills. It also leaves their feathers more shiny when they rub against it.

I also regularly purchase oyster shell for the hens. It is a good source of calcium which they need for creating egg shells.

The feed store will also carry things you may need in an emergency such as Corrid, Selmet,  wormers, antibiotics (Tylan) or vitamins. They also carry plenty of treats such as meal worms, cracked corn and Boss sunflower seeds.

My feed store sells poultry supplies like feeders, waterers, and incubators.. They also carry chicken diapers. Last week I even saw chicken harnesses and chicken leashes.

What I like most about my local feed store is the friendly atmosphere. You get to really know the people who work there. These folks are very knowledgeable and are happy to spend the time answering your questions. I find prices to be very competitive with the name brand larger stores.

It is truly a pleasurable experience to enter a feed store and have a feeling of going back in time when life was a little slower. My favorite feed store is Houle’s in Forest Lake. Look for the grain elevators in any small town and you will find your local feed store.

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


Silkies For Sale – 12/27/2016

Heat Lamp Use at VJP Poultry – 12/20/16

20161123_120428    Now that the weather is getting colder, I have a lot of VJP Poultry customers asking me about using heat lamps in their coops. People are concerned that their silkies will not be able to stand the cold of a Minnesota winter.

My use of heat lamps has changed dramatically since I started raising silkies seven years ago.  I used to worry that my silkies would die from exposure. I had 250 Watt heat lamp bulbs hanging in every color pen the entire winter. Some even had two hanging in them.  My electric bill was crazy. I kept the windows open only a crack and tried to raise the temps as high as I could inside.

After seven years of experience , I now rarely turn on the heat lamps in my outside coops. The silkies are fine. They actually are very winter hardy. They have a small comb so you don’t need to deal with frostbite issues. They aren’t fond of snow but they do love to go out into their runs no matter what the temperature. What is cold for a human is not cold for them. Think about all of the woodland birds. They do just fine in the cold Minnesota winter.

I have one 250 Watt heat lamp above each waterer just in case it gets really cold. I did have them all on during the spell of -40 windchill. They shouldn’t be thought of as a way to heat an entire room. They only heat what is directly below them. If it gets to be around -10 I will flip the heat lamps on. My waterers are heated a different way (from below) so I don’t need the heat lamps unless it is super cold and the water is staying frozen.

I do use heat lamps in my baby chick room. I like to use the lower 125 watt bulbs. They are not as hot and not as expensive to run. I will use a heat lamp over the newborns and the one week olds  I don’t always use it over the two week old, but I could if I needed to. The chicks are in a small room off of my garage. The room is not heated with central air, so I also use a standing space heater to keep the entire room warm during January.

I am very aware that heat lamps must be hung securely. I use chains and wire so I can adjust the distance down to the brooder. I do not rely on the clamps that come with them. Heat lamps that are not secure and fall can easily start a fire. Make sure that the hoods are wiped clean of dust and that you also blow out the outlets with an air hose.

Heat lamp bulbs gradually become less strong the longer you have used them.  You are still paying for the same amount of electricity from the 250 Watt  bulb, but you are not receiving the same amount of heat the longer you continue to use it. When I feel that its not as strong anymore, I generally switch it out for a new bulb.  I don’t want the surprise of it burning out when I really need it over newborn chicks. The 125 Watt bulbs are harder to find so we order ours online.

Remember, it is not the lack of heat that can cause issues with silkies in the winter. It is the moisture present in the coop. If you are seeing frost on your doors or walls, it is a sign that there is too much moisture and not enough ventilation.  Open the windows, but keep the drafts off of the sleeping birds. I use pillow cases stuffed with old T-shirts and place them in front of the pop holes to block the drafts on the floor.

Electricity from heat lamps can be costly. One 250 Watt heat lamp costs about 90 cents a day to run. Add a space heater and that would be an additional $1.80 a day to run.

At VJP Poultry, we use heat lamps as sparingly as possible. They are necessary for young chicks in the first few weeks of life. Make sure they are hanging securely and change out the bulbs when they start losing their heat. They can be a useful part of your breeding program.

An alternative to heat lamps brooder heat plates. There is less of a chance of fire with these.  You can also use the sweeter heaters that are hung from a chain above the chicks. This would be a more secure way of doing it.

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

VJP Poultry newborns 4

Changes to Silkies as the Days Grow Shorter – 12/11/16

Lack of daylight can effect your silkies in two major ways. The first is a drop in egg production. Silkies were never known as big egg producers, but they do generally lay an egg a day the same as other chickens. This can change as we head into fall. The other major effect of decreasing daylight is the fall molt. As they days get shorter, you will begin to notice a great deal of feathers in your run. The birds begin to look very scruffy and you realize that the molt has begun.20161019_111736

Lets start with egg production. Hens need a certain amount of daylight in order to maintain peak egg laying. Even a hour or two less of daylight changes egg laying patterns.  Once less than twelve hours of daylight is available, egg production slows down considerably if not stopping completely.

You might think that it is the arrival ofcolder weather that causes it but that is not always the case. Even in warm climates, chickens produce fewer eggs once the daylight hours decline. The hen’s pineal gland, part of the its endocrine system, sits above the mid brain, right behind the eyes. This gland produces melatonin,  which helps regulate sleep. As the days lengthen the pineal gland responds by sending a hormone to the ovary to start producing eggs. As the days shorten, the pineal gland stops sending this hormone. Since the gland is sensitive to light, you can fool it by increasing the amount of light available to the hen during the fall and winter.

A 40 watt bulb for each 100 square feet should satisfy to keep hens laying year round. Use incandescent bulbs rather than florescent lights. The wave length of incandescent bulbs are closer to those of natural sunlight.  Put the bulb on a timer so it goes on in the dark hours of the morning rather than at night time. 40 watt Led bulbs work nicely.  It can be hard if the light goes off and they are not in their sleeping spots at the time. The light does not have to be very bright. It does not need to be 40 watts. A night light bulb is fine.

The hen’s body needs to rest and recover for the next year, so at VJP Poultry we do not put extra lights on in the winter. I only turn on the light if I need to see to do chores.

For hens, it is natural to lay many eggs in the spring and summer and decrease out put once autumn arrives. Some hens, especially young ones, produce eggs throughout the winter. Each hen can produce only so many eggs in her lifetime. Then she becomes a “spent hen.”  The amount of eggs varies by breed and individual chicken.

I believe that extremely cold temps can likewise cause laying to decline. The hens end up using a lot of their energy to stay warm and can’t put it into egg production. Below zero temps can cause them to stop all together. Eggs will freeze and crack unless a broody is sitting on them at this point.

Fall is also a time when hens will generally molt. Losing feathers and regrowing them is called molting. They usually stop laying altogether during the molt, although some will continue to lay during the beginning part of the molt. This can last for weeks or even months. Make sure you are feeding a high protein diet at this time.

Chickens will lose feather in a sequence starting with the head and neck and then down the back, across the breast and thighs and finally their tail feathers. The new feathers that emerge are called pinfeathers. They will grow in in the same order as they were lost.

The most common trigger for molting is decrease of daylight hours and the end of an egg laying cycle. This typically coincides with the late summer or early fall. Other triggers are physical stress, lack of water, malnutrition , extreme heat or unusual conditions in the coop.

The short days of winter are a time for hens to rest and prepare their bodies for egg production next spring. They are getting ready to be mothers and to grow into bigger and more beautiful silkies.

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



VJP Poultry