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Mixed Chicken Flocks: Planning Ahead Goes A Long Way!

Mixed Chicken Flocks: Planning Ahead Goes A Long Way!

Combining pullets and chicks with full-grown chickens is a challenge. Because pecking order is a serious matter, it can be dangerous and risky no matter the circumstances. Having a mixed chicken flock keeps things lively though! There is no question that we were entertained throughout the process, and perhaps even some of the adult chickens were too.

Sadly, we did lose a chick to what we believe was wry neck. One day she just wasn’t herself and passed away quickly. Even if you want it to be, chicken keeping isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.

Existing dynamics are a consideration in mixed chicken flocks

Our chicken flock already has a well-established mama hen and two pullets, so that was another dynamic to be considered before adding eight new pullets into the mix. These pullets we’re incorporating were raised separately by my neighbor.

Before beginning, we made some coop adjustments (more hardware cloth please!) and a transition plan that we closely followed. From a few hiccups, most days are going smoothly overall.

Fresh Eggs Daily has an entire post and recommendation for a transition playpen or fenced off area in the coop (or next to it) when mixing chicken flocks, which was super helpful. We did that for a week before making an actual introduction.

Here’s my top ten list for your toolkit before you try a mixed chicken flock in your coop!

1. Space … and Perhaps Even a Little More Space: You do need a considerable amount of space and places for them to roost and rest (and escape other birds) throughout the day. We have tons of ladders, two sawhorses, and a smaller roosting ladder so they can chill without being bothered all the time for those lower in the pecking order.

2. Lots of Feeding Stations: Have More Than One – We Have Four!

3. Someone To Do Multiple Drive-by’s Throughout The Day: Outside of the bird we lost to wry neck, I also noticed one of the birds that happen to be tiny has a wound that scabbed over on her chest. She gets around fine, but I do check her out each day to make sure it’s healing. More eyes on the flock mean more folks to run interference if the chickens get pushy with each other.

4. Clean Water…A Must: All the chickens seem to be scratching near the water stations, so it feels like their water dishes get dirty quickly. Always make sure they have fresh water.

5. Mixed Flock = Lots More Chicken Manure. Clean up the poop under the roosting bars.

6. When to Transition From Starter to Grower? Feed based on the youngest member of the flock, and supplement as needed for the older birds (such as additional calcium sources for laying hens). A feed formulated for laying hens isn’t good for little chicks who don’t need that extra calcium yet. When I say we have a mixed flock, even our pullets are different ages within their little “gang.”  RULE: At eight weeks it’s ok to transition to Grower feed. Scratch and Peck has a great post about this, and that is what we’ve been feeding since day one.

Scratch and Peck has a feed guide for laying hens, as well as a wealth of other information for chicken keepers. Here’s the link: https://www.scratchandpeck.com/learning-center/helpful-guides/

Our youngest hen is now eight weeks old, so we are ready for Grower feed.

RULE: When feeding a mixed chicken flock, feed according to the youngest members of the flock and supplement as needed for the older birds. That’s the foundation of feeding mixed flocks.

7. Supplements Are Key: Grower Grit is Key During This Transition

8.  Transition Playpens Do Make a Difference: I mentioned this above briefly, but the concept of using a playpen to transition our pullets into the coop was brilliant. We kept them in this exact playpen for a week with food and water of course – all the big girls got to know them with the safety of netting between the pullets and the sharp beaks of the ladies!

9. Combat Boredom with Ways to Enrich Hens

To decrease any “Mean Girl” behavior in the coop (fall and winter often mean less time outside, after all) it’s nice to bring in some distractions. I recently gave two huge sliced up spaghetti squashes to the flock for them to peck at throughout the day.

10. Spread Some Love and Stick to a Routine

Chickens, like many animals, like a routine. It eases stress in their day to day life and helps them understand that their human caretakers are going to feed them and provide essentials every day. When we leave, we keep the chickens in the mobile coop for the day. They’re not able to free range, and I notice a lot of chatting coming from my fave RIR hen! The sounds and noises are very specific!

Chicken keepers need to consider a lot including the suggestions above. Having a plan makes this transition less stressful for the birds and humans. I wrote a post about chickens being complicated earlier this fall, and they are! When adding pullets to your existing flock, make sure you review this list and please comment below if you have any questions!

 

Chicken DIY Projects: Fermenting Chicken Feed

Chicken DIY Projects: Fermenting Chicken Feed

Why Do People Ferment Chicken Feed?

My hens and rooster love their feed. When the chicks were introduced to the grown-up chickens about six weeks ago, we changed from layer feed to Scratch and Peck’s organic starter feed since the chicks needed to stay on that until about eight weeks. That’s when we’ll put them on grower feed. As I’ve mentioned previously, we always have out a bowl of oyster shell and grit as supplements. But recently I also learned about fermenting chicken feed and now we’re doing this for the ladies! Many farmers do this as part of their daily routine so there is no reason a chicken keeper with a small flock cannot do this!

And at Fang! Pet and Garden Supply we sell all the Scratch and Peck Organic Livestock Feeds. We also talk about fermenting feed with our customers frequently. All Scratch and Peck feed can be fermented – with that in mind, all chicken feeds (except pellet feeds) can be fermented. This post shows their layer feed fermented in the pics below.

This is SO EASY. We decided to use a fermenting kit provided by Scratch and Kit. As a newbie fermenter, it has all the elements needed which made me less nervous. Note for everyone: sprouting is not fermenting. You can sprout whole grains but this post is about fermenting feed. I didn’t know the difference and I actually started “fermenting” grains and then had to start over again. Oops!

Note that these are grains! And you want to ferment feed. Oops!

THIS is the kit showing feed that can and should be fermented.

Day 4: Ready for the ladies

Why Ferment?

Fermenting chicken feed make nutrients more readily available in, feed requirements lessen, and there is also less waste since the chickens love it.

The nutritional benefits of fermenting chicken feed are great:

  • It increases beneficial bacteria in their guts
  • It also decreases pathogens in your hens’ digestive systems
  • Makes protein more available
  • Requires less feed per serving (one of my fave reasons)
  • Decreases coop odor (yes!)
  • Increases water intake as water is consumed with the feed
  • Improves digestibility of feed and nutrient absorption

Ok, How Do you Ferment Chicken Feed?

(I’ve included the daily steps below)

First, you submerge the feed under water for 24-48 hours. This can be done in a bucket. Expert Maat Van Uitert wrote a great book, “Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock” which is my go-to guide for chicken advice.

There is a section on fermenting chicken feed that talks a little about the process. “It’s very, very important to make sure the feed remains under water, which creates the environment that allows the good bacteria to grow,” explains Maat. She likes to leave an inch or two of water above the feed as it ferments.

Note: If it looks moldy at all toss it. But it should smell like sourdough bread! By day two my mason jar absolutely smelled this way and I knew we were getting close (see below).

These easy steps are from Scratch and Peck and please don’t hesitate to ask any of our staff at Fang! if you have questions about how this works:

Day One Steps:

Place feed in a clean container (see my mason jar in the pics) with a loose-fitting lid. The size of the container will depend on the size of your flock. For a flock of just a few birds, a 32 oz mason jar will suffice. A 5-gallon bucket works for larger flocks. Start small, though, and work your way up if needed.. Leave room in the container for the fermented chicken feed to expand. Pour non-chlorinated water over the feed and mix. (we have a well so our water doesn’t have chlorine in it but if your water does follow these tips).

I tried two parts water to one part feed. And just like Maat says in her book – make sure the water is covering the feed completely. Let sit at room temperature at least a day. And stir it once a day. Bubbles will start to form when the ferment is ready and there will be a slightly sour smell. Pea soup is the consistency you’re looking for.

Day Two Steps: 

You can see that it’s starting to bubble on day two. Keep watching as this process can take up to 4 days depending on the temperature.

Day Three Steps:

How does it smell? Make sure to mix it once more on day three. Do you have mash that’s ready to feed your hens?

Day Four:

We’re eating! *note that the mash should be slightly wet and not soupy, so I drained some of the liquid when mixing a new batch! Remember – pea soup!

Fermenting chicken feed was an entirely new concept to me. But the yellow chicken approves. If you have questions, come visit us at Fang! And we can help you!

Raising Chickens in Portland: Meet the Experts at Fang! Pet & Garden Supply

Raising Chickens in Portland: Meet the Experts at Fang! Pet & Garden Supply

Chickens have been used to eat bugs for farmers for centuries.

And there is nothing more entertaining than watching your chickens scratch and peck! Many say chickens are the gateway bird to other livestock but perhaps you’re just considering a few hens. Whether it’s three hens or ten, look no further!

Chicken expert advice from Fang! Pet & Garden Supply

When it comes to raising chickens, the experts at Fang! Pet & Garden Supply can help with advice ranging from feed to feeders. There are a lot of different breeds and varieties to choose from for your flock and the staff can answer questions about which are best for laying or meat. Chickens are also like potato chips! You’re going to want more as time goes on.

For example, Orpington’s (above) are sturdy birds and productive layers.

Products you must have on your radar when raising chickens

The store carries a variety of feed options from Scratch & Peck. They offer certified organic chicken feed for whichever variety of bird you have – from layers to baby chicks.

There are also different veggies and fruit you can give your birds from your own kitchen! Like watermelon and broccoli.

You can also give your birds herbs! Here’s a list of the herbs they will love. They can be scattered all over the coop and added to nesting boxes.

You’ll need metal tins for feed storage (you don’t want rats eating your feed), oyster shell as a calcium supplement and grit. Chickens don’t have teeth, apparently, they are very rare, so to grind down their food, they use a strong muscular organ called a gizzard. Chickens pick up grit while foraging, which is kept for a while in the gizzard to perform this grinding process.

What about fermenting feed? Here are tips from Scratch and Peck:

There are many benefits and it’s easier than you think. Why Ferment?

  • Make the feed easier for the chickens to digest and it improves the overall bioavailable nutrients.
  • Fermented feed has increased levels of Vitamins B, C, and K
  • It also has increased protein which can help with egg production

Our staff can advise you further on these steps.

Treats! Worms & Bugs

They love bugs! You can help attract bugs into the coop by adding fresh grass clippings and sticks from the yard. Or ask our staff as we sell bugs too (they’re dead).

Chicken Behavior is Fascinating: 

What should you do about the “rooster”?

The rooster’s role is invaluable. They can be mean but they’re simply protecting the ladies. It takes time to build a relationship with your flock but one of the most important things you can do in the beginning is simply watching them and listen to their various noises. You’ll be amazed at how they communicate with each other and over time you will appreciate how the rooster tells them if he found a yummy bug or to run into the coop – “there is potential danger outside!” – a hawk perhaps! Of course, roosters are not allowed in all counties so check the rules first! You don’t need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs!

At the end of the day, raising chickens is work but they’re smart and the eggs are delicious. They can even be clicker trained if that sounds like fun and you’re a behavior junkie like all of us.

At the store, please ask our staff about raising chickens if you have any questions about what you should feed or perhaps you’re just doing some research. And then head over to the garden center so you can choose some herbs that your chickens will love! Grow some calendula or lavender in your garden and feed it to the hens!

Gardening Expert Advice: 8 Weeds With Benefits

Gardening Expert Advice: 8 Weeds With Benefits

Weeds are great when they’re planted in the right place. When we typically talk about weeds we talk about “invasive plants” and we thought we should flip the coin and look at the many benefits instead!

Everything you read talks about how to prevent weeds from spreading by mowing or trampling before the seeds form. But did you know they actually help the soil?

This post is a Q&A with one of our experts and nursery department head. if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to stop in and ask our staff about the weeds you can eat!

A Q&A with Granville Goff, Nursery Department Head, Fang! Pet & Garden Supply.

Q 1. How do weeds repair the soil – generally speaking? What do weeds do that’s good?

A 1.  “Weeds” add biomass to the soil and as they die they help create topsoil and available nutrients for other plants not to mention feeding the microorganisms present in the soil. Additionally, they help with moisture retention which keeps the soil alive and provides habitat for beneficial and nonbeneficial insects which encourages birds. Plant-like Comfrey drive down deep taproots that mine minerals and other nutrients thus reinvigorating the nutrient cycle.

Q2. Which of these have culinary potential and can be used in everyday meals? Like Dandelions?

A 2.  Dandelion (root, leaves, flowers), Burdock (roots, stems), Lemon Balm (all aerial growth), Miners Lettuce (shoots, flowers), Chickweed (all aerial growth) can all be used in daily cuisine.

Q 3. Do they really fix nutritional balances in the lawn?

A 3.  Refer to answer for number one! Additionally, Poly-culture, as opposed to monoculture (i.e. lawn), has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be more ecologically sound and beneficial for soil health and pest management than any other “method” of cultivation. Let nature lead the way.

Q 4. When removing these weeds – is there a “best practice” or method that should be used?

A 4.  If you are removing non-native, invasive imports from your landscape, garden, or natural area a couple of things to keep in mind: “Weeds” as we term them are very advantageous plants that are more than adept at adapting to changes and capitalizing on beneficial conditions including your removal of them. If a weed has gone to seed, be sure, it will be back- bend stalks into a paper bag before lopping off, to minimize spread, you can burn them later. When digging up a weed, remember that many have deep taproots and if you don’t get the whole thing it will grow back, also bear in mind that when you disturb the soil, other seeds that have been dormant will gain a foothold in the “limelight” and you may see new visitors that were previously unknown to you. BEST PRACTICE: suppression= sod flip, sheet mulch with cardboard or other biodegradable light blockers, cover with bark mulch and straw, in this way you rob the unwanted plants of light and begin building a healthy topsoil layer for yourself.

Q 5. Why do dogs seek out Cleavers? And what’s the benefit of the sticky/velcro leaves?

A 5. Cleavers are one of my all-time favorites. They are very advantageous, have medicinal uses, and are actually very easy to remove once you get unstuck from them, of course. They are a close relative of our native Sweet Woodruff also. The hairs on Cleavers allow them to climb to light they require to spread, also since their structure is very fragile it allows them to hitch a ride on passersby and take root some distance away thus spreading its territory. Dogs are likely eating it for the same reasons humans tincture it. It is noted as a blood builder/cleanser, lymph mover, diuretic, coagulant, and anti-inflammatory, basically a great spring tonic to help clean you out and detox your system. Spring is its prime season and this is a good time to flush the system and our canine friends are innately aware of this.

8 Weeds with Benefits

CLEAVERS:

The info above in number 5. Can be found in tincture and tea blends.

The Cleavers

PLANTAIN:

Found growing just about everywhere. Broad and Spear leaf varieties abound in lawns, city parks, forest roads, etc. This is not the banana cousin that goes by the same name. Plantain is an antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, nutritive, making it one of the best wound healing herbs out there. Effective when used on insect stings, bites, cuts, scrapes, and even eczema. Fresh leaf is best.

DANDELION:

Leaves, flowers, root used. One of the more popular weeds that people will eat and uses as an herbal remedy. Great for detoxing and supporting the liver, however, has some contraindications when used in conjunction with blood-thinners due to its anticoagulant properties. Also useful in helping treat kidney and urinary ailments including infections, due to the magnesium and zinc content it is good for promoting clear skin, can help maintain proper blood sugar. Roasted root is a great coffee substitute.

COMFREY:

Leaves and Root used. Demulcent, expectorant, mucilaginous: lung support, wound healing, intestinal support

Comfrey

LEMON BALM: 

Attracts bees in the garden. Leaves, flowers, and stems used. Carminative, diaphoretic and febrifuge, antibacterial (internal and external), antiviral. Good for heart and liver, mood improvement.

lemon balm

CHICKWEED:

Postpartum depurative, emmenagogue, galactagogue and circulatory tonic. Helps regulate blood flow generally and specifically in relation to menstruation, increases breast milk production, also help with itchy skin.

MINER’S LETTUCE:

Use as a salad green. Miner’s lettuce is pleasingly crunchy, mild-tasting has large leaves, remains tender even when in flower, and is so loaded with vitamins it will cure scurvy. According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 grams of miner’s lettuce — about the size of a decent salad — contains a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, 22 percent of the Vitamin A, and 10 percent of the iron.

BURDOCK:

Roots and stalks, young growth is tender and easier to eat and prepare. Keep moist if cooking. Aids in digestion, detoxifying the liver and balancing hormones. It is also good for improving skin quality, reducing inflammation, and lowering blood pressure. Similar to Dandelion Root. Can be found fresh in some health food grocery stores, as a tincture, and dried herb.

Burdock

I bet you didn’t know this about weeds! Perhaps you’re a chef or you simply didn’t know what to do with your dandelions – but consider serving them up in a meal instead of weeding and throwing them into the compost pile this weekend.

Tick Season is Upon Us in the Pacific Northwest: How To Get Rid of Ticks

Tick Season is Upon Us in the Pacific Northwest: How To Get Rid of Ticks

Illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites are on the rise in the United States, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And Lyme disease is the most frequent tick-borne infection in America. Over 300,000 cases of Lyme Disease are estimated to occur in the United States each year. The ticks that transmit Lyme Disease are very small (as small as poppy seeds). So how to get rid of ticks and what diseases do they carry? What are some prevention techniques?

What about in Oregon – how do we protect our dogs?

According to the Oregon Vet Medical Association, “The Companion Animal Parasite Council’s interactive map shows Lyme disease activity in each Oregon county. Woods that host the Western black-legged tick are where the majority of cases occur. In 2016, 103 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Oregon dogs. Most cases occur in the summer months.”

So Lyme Disease for those unfamiliar with this infection is something that should be on your radar this summer if you plan to hike with your dogs in Oregon or Washington. And is your dog on a flea and tick medication?

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease affecting both dogs and humans. Named after Lyme, Connecticut, where the disease was reported in epidemic proportions in the mid-1970s, the disease was first discovered in the United States in humans in 1975 and in dogs in 1984.

An infected tick must be attached to the host for more than 24 hours to spread Lyme disease.

Symptoms:

A small, dark bump in a pet’s coat or skin may be a tick. If a tick latches on, your dog may experience the following:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced energy
  • Lameness (can be shifting, intermittent, and recurring)
  • Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain
  • Swelling of joints

So how can you prevent Lyme Disease?

And how should you protect your pets?

  1. Create a tick-free habitat in your yard and eliminate rodents like mice. Forty to ninety percent of white-footed mice carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
  2. Enjoy the outdoors safely – stay away from tall grass and brush as that’s where the ticks are! They cannot fly but they crawl to the top of tall blades of grass and wait.
  3. Make sure your pets are protected – there are a variety of products -tick repellents are very important.

How to get rid of ticks? Tick prevention products we carry:

Mad About Organics:

Check out their Organic Flea and Tick Wipe-on Defense Formulated for Dogs

Wondercide: 
They have a natural tick and flea control for pets as well – you can find this at the store!
Earth Animal:
This brand has an all natural flea and tick collar that we sell.

  1. Perform tick checks after coming in from the outdoors. Do tick inspections. Look in your dog’s armpits and ears as they like to latch on in fleshy areas.
  2. Know how to remove ticks. According to the OVMA:
  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure to ease out the entire tick including the tick’s mouthparts. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.
  • Be sure to wash the bite area and your hands.
  • Please seek the advice of your veterinarian if you were unsuccessful in removing the entire tick.

Remove a tick in the first 24 hours and save the tick so your veterinarian can identify it as this will help with the diagnosis.

Prevention is best done with tick preparations available at one of our three stores. Speak to one of our staff to find the best, most appropriate product for your dog. We are happy to help!

The information provided in this article on how to get rid of ticks is not a substitute for professional veterinary help. 

Resources: 

 

Plants to Help You Sleep even with Your Pet

Plants to Help You Sleep even with Your Pet

Did you know?

Half of American households own pets and half of those pets sleep either right in the bed or somewhere in the bedroom. Some studies say sleeping with pets is beneficial because people feel more secure. Other studies say people found sleeping with pets very disruptive. With that in mind, if half of the pets are sleeping with their owners then what can you do to decrease the tossing and turning! Whether you feel secure or “exhausted” is there anything proactive you can do to help?

Six Plants to help you sleep

plants


Three of the six plants you can purchase at Fang :
#1 – Spider Plant, #2 – Aloe Vera, #3 – ZZ plant

Did you ever consider plants to help you sleep even with your pet in the room? Flowers too! Yes, ordering a bed for your pet to sleep in is a smart idea but just in case you fall into the category of people that like their dogs in their beds at night, consider these six plants:

  1. Jasmine: It’s proven to reduce anxiety levels
  2. Lavender: Has many benefits but research shows it helps with stress
  3. Aloe-Vera: Emits oxygen at night, making for a more restful slumber. These are also super low-maintenance plants. (Above: #2 in the image) 
  4. Bamboo Palm: This plant is known for being a great air purifier and it provides a tropical feeling in your bedroom.
  5. The Spider Plant: The NASA tests showed it to remove around 90% of the potentially cancer-causing chemical formaldehyde from the air.  (Above: #1 in the image) 
  6. The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia): The ZZ plant is capable of  “cleaning” the indoor air and making it healthier for humans to breathe. (Above: #3 in the image) 

And if you don’t believe us – NASA did a study! If these ideas work for astronauts you should at least try adding one of the above.

The staff at Fang can answer any questions you have about plants to help you sleep and show you around the garden center. Come check it out today!

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