Thursday, March 12, 2009

My big mistake

I was reading over at plain old chickens about how one of her chickens ate straw and it blocked up her crop, resulting in chicken surgery. I never had this problem and used straw exclusively with my flock as a teen because I did not have access to shavings. I do notice that the hens I have now tend to eat straw so that is why I cut up soft hay and give them greens, especially Gracie, she is always eating straw even though I give her everything else in case she is lacking something. As the days get warmer I was thinking to switch back over to the shavings completely as it seems to keep the floor dryer. I was mixing in straw to get them to scratch around more, it helps get them moving and is suppose to help get better egg numbers. The funny thing is I have always been worried about the girls eating the shavings as it has small particles that could look like seeds. With spring coming they will soon be able to go out and get all the scratching they want.

I did make a huge mistake as a teen once and want to warn you about it. During winter many of the old timers used to tell me to take ashes from the fireplace after they were cold and put it into the coop or run, they said the hens love to dust themselves in it since they have no access to sand and it will help keep them free of bugs. Being younger and respecting my elders I tried it and it was true, the hens all jumped in and had a great dust-bath. However here is the danger, in the hen's little mind she is dusting in sand, hens as we know need grit and so they will eat some of the ashes looking for grit. In the old days people used to make a strong cleaning solution using ashes and water, so what do you think happens when a hen who ate a large amount of ashed drinks water after. None of the hens that ate ashes died but being a kid way out in the country and not having access to a vet, they suffered for a long time and some did not lay until late that summer.

I wanted to bring this up because the other day an older man said this same thing to a friend with chickens, the friend told me thinking he had learned a new chicken tidbit and wanted to share. Lucky for me he had not given his hens ashes and I warned him not to, so if someone tells you to use ashes don't, if you are already doing this I strongly suggest you to stop, it is just not worth loosing a couple of good hens or causing them to suffer.


Tracey said...

I don't understand something, When I was a kid we had dozens of chickens running all round the farm, if we found the eggs....great, if not we had chicks.....even better! Now we never fussed with them like Amy does or any of the chicken people do, so how come they were all healthy?
Tracey x x x

Amy said...

I agree...when we are driving along i look in peoples garden and see hundreds of chickens running about all over the place and yes, they are looked after but not fussed over like i do mine... i think that because mine are in a safe pen i treat them like i would a dog or something....I am soft!

I wouldn't give them ashes though...never heard of that lol!

Amy x

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Tracey: If we did not trade tips and stories, then there would be no chicken blogs! Honestly Tracey you are correct, chickens are hardy birds, I think easier to raise than most other types of poultry, you can just let them go and they will do well. However when you have no land to let them run or you only have three or four hens, you are inclined to want to know how to get the most eggs or how to pen them up and keep them healthy. I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger with chickens and lucky enough nothing died, but we can share our mistakes and learn from it. Like some people I know who got chickens and did not know they had to protect them from raccoons (I know you don't have them) if only they asked around they would not have lost 30 one night. Plus if they are pets, nobody wants to find a couple dead from a mistake.

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Amy: I think we can fuss over them as pets just like any pet bird in a cage. The difference I think is this, a guy near me just lets his hens run free, even in winter. He does not worry about what food he feeds, he does not do anything with lighting and he probably only cleans them out once or twice a year from the look of it. I don't see any dead chickens around the yard but some don't look that good, I know with my hens I don't want to see sore eyes, feet or illness from something I did wrong. The guy asked me last fall if any of my hens were laying as none of his were laying, he looked at me funny and I don't think he believed me when I said all my hens were laying. Still to this day none of his hens are laying and they probably will not start until next month or so. I think the fussing is worth it but mostly it is a hobby to me, I like to fuss over them.