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Are Urban Chickens Right For You?

These days, it should come as no surprise that we ship a lot of FLYGRUBS to our AWESOME customers living in cities. Back in the day, it wasn’t typical for an urban area to have people raising chickens, but that is changing quickly. People are becoming more self-reliant, enjoying eating fresh eggs daily and raising chickens and ducks in their backyards is worthwhile! In this week’s blog, we will go over some of the key aspects of raising urban backyard chickens.
chicken feed cost
As mentioned above fresh eggs are typically the biggest driver yet another common reason is that many families in urban areas don’t have space to raise “normal” pets, so chickens fill the void. Unlike cats and dogs, chickens don’t just consume, they also give back! It’s also great for kids to know where their food comes from. Most children think their food comes from the supermarket, so having chickens opens their eyes to how agriculture actually works, which is pretty darn cool!

Chickens also help to get rid of food waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill AND they eat up all the little insects that run around the backyard. So that helps the environment as well as one's bank account!
Cha-Ching!

Are you also into urban gardening? If you raise chickens you will get free fertilizer for your flowers and veggies (the list of benefits keeps growing :-).
Before you begin you will need to understand the environment that you'll be raising your girls in. You need to give them enough space to roam, peck at everything and stretch they legs. Encouraging their natural feeding behaviors by using treats like FLYGRUBS is also something we encourage ;-)

Once your girls are no longer chicks, a balanced diet is key to healthy chickens and delicious eggs, so providing a healthy layer feed is key!  There are many brands that sell quality products but we love Scratch and Peck, the most. 

Get the coop that is suitable for your space. You can build one or buy one. They even sell coops on Amazon.com these days!
Letting your girls roam free is ideal but please make note of all the potential predators! We strongly suggest that you also get a chicken run so your girls stay safe while enjoying your backyard.

Make sure you understand the number of chickens your city or municipality ordinances allows before you purchase your birds. It’s typical for cities to only allow 3-5 chickens and no roosters! Know the rules before you spend your hard-earned cash!

What are the downsides? - Well, depending on your space and experience there can certainly be some, but I think that’s for another blog :-)

All the best, Emily

Is Your Garden Chicken Proof?

In the 3rd part of the free-ranging blog series, we must ask ourselves an important question. Do my chickens help or hurt my garden? I believe the answer is yes, to both questions. 

If you’re growing shallow root plants like young perennials and annuals, your chickens are going to cause more harm than good. Chicken’s love to dig around in the dirt for bugs and will show disregard for 100% of your plants when they see some delicious critters. But if it’s the beginning of the growing season and your garden needs a till then your girls can be a huge asset. They will also poop all over the place and enrich the soil, naturally!! So in summation, chickens eat insects, give us some great soil and in return give us eggs. But we keep ours out of our gardens to avoid unnecessary damage to our veggies and fruits. 

food for chicken

So what are we to do? We all love to see our birds roaming free in the yard, enjoying the freedom to peck as any and everything their curiosity brings them too unless it’s our other love… THE GARDEN! There is a lot of hard work that goes into growing a resource for your family to enjoy. Those cherry tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, cauliflower, and other delightful veggies can be gobbled up by many a wild animal but it’s just not cool when the flock gets in there too. I mean, we love our girls but this is where I draw the line. So how do we chicken proof our garden? I have listed all the steps that I went through below, but I’m sure I overlooked some, so please share your thoughts with me in the FLYGRUBS facebook comments. 

We first like to identify the plants that are young vs those that are more established with deep roots and will not be affected by our flock. The ones that are sensitive to interactions with chickens will be protected with wire mesh or cloches. We want to make sure the chickens are unable to eat the leaves or scratch the base of the plants. We also protect all our fruit and veggie plants from chickens, no matter their maturity. Chickens are no stranger to plucking squash (a staple in our garden)  and tomatoes until they are destroyed and we want to avoid that from happening. 

One trick we learned over the years is to put the coop in the shaded part of that yard. Although the girls love to sunbathe, when it gets hot they seek shelter and we want to make sure that shelter is in the coop and not in the middle of our garden. 

chicken feed supplements

Spices can be a natural repellent to keep chickens away from our gardens. All types work well - cinnamon, garlic, and pepper, salt, mixed spices with prices, cayenne pepper. Limes and lemons can help and they don’t like the smell. 

Supervising your girls (easier said than done) so they don’t investigate areas of your garden that they could potentially destroy is another prevention method. This usually isn’t an issue if you are out in the yard with them, but if you’re in the house doing something else, it’s simply not possible. So using the above protection methods is highly recommended. 

In the fall - let your girls free range around the whole garden - this will help to fertilize the soil for next summer :-)


FREE-Ranging...Is your flock safe?

Welcome back to part 2 of our free-ranging series. In this blog, we want to go over some of the basic protection methods for your free-ranging flock. We will discuss the day and nighttime prevention methods that we use here at FLYGRUBS HQ. Remember to identify the predators in your backyard and design your protection methods around preventing those specific rascals from hurting your flock. 

black fly larvae

Domestic dogs are probably the biggest fan of daytime attacks, but mink, foxes and weasels aren’t scared of attempting daytime hist.  Aerial attacks often come from falcons, hawks, and owls. Raccoons, opossums, and skunks love to attempt their attacks at night. The blow tips are where you should start building your protection checklist to reduce/prevent predation.

Train your girls to come back into the coop at night. You can accomplish this by raising young chicks inside the coop to get them familiar with their safe area. As long as the coop is vermin free you should be all set. Just double-check to be 110% sure it’s closed up at night.

bugs in chicken feed

When you build your chicken run, you must take the time to make sure it’s parameters are secure. Welded wire mesh with small holes (1 x 2 inch) is what we use to keep our flock in and predators out. Taller is typically better just to make sure you can keep out predators that have up to a 4 foot vertical (coyotes and bobcats).

What about aerial predators like owls, hawks, and falcons? The best way to keep these predators out is to use poultry netting or game bird netting to discourage those animals from attacking the flock. 

What about predators that dig under the mesh? We suggest installing the wire mesh up to a foot under the ground depending on how aggressive those predators can be. If you don’t want to go through the trouble to dig underground, you can also place chicken wire around the outside of the chicken run so that when the intruders start to dig they will feel the wire and be dissuaded from continuing to dig.  

Motion sensor lights can be another great prevention method for all nocturnal predators. Once they step foot into the chicken's living area it will be flooded with light and spook any invader from continuing to hunt. For example, white birds tend to stand out more than birds of a different color. The wary, high strung, excitable, so-called flighty breeds like the Leghorn and Lakenvelder are more likely to react faster to intruders then more docile breeds.

Well, that is all for now. Please share your ideas in the comments below. 

All the best, 

Emily 


WINTER IS COMING...

It’s sad to see the summer come and go, but we do love the Autumn and all the beauty it brings. Foliage, Halloween, football season and of course Thanksgiving! Writing this blog has made me realize that I’ve not created any Fall focused blogs and I’m about to jump right into winter, so I’ll be sure to come back to Fall in some future posts! I did want to cover how to prepare for the long winter months. Especially for all of our northern BYC farmer friends and their girls. 

black soldier fly larvae for sale

During the winter months, it’s most important to know that the cold temperature isn’t the most important thing to deal with. Moisture is the biggest culprit and can cause the most issues for your flock, so please do make sure the coop is well ventilated, their hen house is up off the ground and there is great air circulation. 

We like a setup with the open side of the coop facing the sun and the sides of the coop that get hit with wind are covered up so the birds don’t have to deal with cold and wind, which is a combination nobody likes. Having the side facing the sun will allow for great circulation and prevent ammonia gas from the droppings from building up. If you're in a super cold location (-20 degrees Fahrenheit avg) we suggest covering up all the sides of the coop with plastic strips but leaving a few inches of open space around the top of the cage. You can also put down some hay bales, but please be very careful not to block circulation. If you reduce airflow and the coop gets hot, the humidity will come into play and then you will need to worry about frostbite. The idea is to block the wind, reduce all moisture and keep your birds up off the cold ground (chickens hate having cold feet). Manure contains a lot of moisture, so be sure to keep your girls up and away from that. 

You will need to make sure the water stays fresh and doesn’t freeze. There are a few ways to do this. The obvious one is to change the water daily to keep it fresh. To keep it from freezing, you could bring it in at night and bring out freshwater in the mornings. Another way would be to use an electric water heater. This will mean your coop will need electrical outlets or you will need to run extension cords from your electricity source. 

After the fall molt, your girls will likely be back to their normal laying schedule yet the daylight hours will be reduced considerably depending on where you live. Your ladies normally get about 10 hours of sunlight so if you want to encourage egg production one way to do so will be to put a light in the coop. We suggest a 40-watt incandescent bulb with a reflector for every 200 square feet of your coop. We also suggest putting it on a timer (as to not over stimulate) and setting it up 7 - 8 feet above the floor.  

You will want to encourage your girls to go out and roam around even if there is snow on the ground. To make sure your girl's feet don’t get cold you should cover the ground with a considerable about of untreated hay and place their food outside the coop and in their walk or in your yard depending on your set up. We first lay out the hay and move their chicken feed to the outside of the coop when we want to coax them out. FLYGRUBS always do the trick too, so spreading a handful on the hay will spark your girl's interest. Don’t be shy with the hay as it allows them to huddle and feel warm all the while getting some exercise. Wood chips are good options for farmers who don’t have to deal with snow yet still have some cold winters.

So there you have it. A quick read for all you that should inspire you to get ahead of the coming cold weather months! Don’t forget...YOU’RE ALL AWESOME!


The PROS and CONS of Free-Ranging

These days I see “Free Range” signs all over the place when it comes to the various types of livestock. Whether it’s legit or not is TBD most of the time. But for us BYC farmers there is usually nothing better than letting our girls out to stretch their legs for the afternoon. We all know the benefits of chickens getting exercise, naturally feeding on insects and all the other natural goodies, BUT what about all the predators that also enjoy praying on our precious girls?  Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, dogs, minks, owls, raccoons and domestic dogs are the most common predators for our girls. The solution for keeping these guys out of the coop is one thing, but keeping them away during a free-range session is something entirely different. 

black soldier fly larvae chicken feed

You might be asking yourself, why even bother with free-ranging? Well, here are some of the pros and cons. In part two of this blog, I will discuss how to keep your girls safe while enjoying your beautiful backyards! 

THE PROS

They eat less feed and grit because they are out in the yard all day feasting on what your yard has to offer. They’ll pick up sand, small rocks, and pebbles that aid the chicken in breaking down ingredients that they consume during the day. This means you save where it matters the most (for most of us), your bank account!

Free-ranging will help with insect and other pest control because it’s second nature for chickens and other fowl to actively turning over rocks or stumps in a constant effort to find food aka creepy crawlers. If you have horses, cows or goats you’ve probably noticed the chickens pecking through the manure piles, which may seem yucky, but as long as you remember they are eating fly larvae I’m sure you’ll forgive their manners.

Active birds mean healthier birds and less space needed in the coop! That’s right, if you have a decent-sized yard for your girls to roam, you won’t have to worry about building an oversized coop or raising out of shape hens. Your girls will stay slim and always be ready for the catwalk (lol). We suggest having 4 square feet of space for each bird if they live in the coop 24-7, but if you’re free-ranging you can easily reduce that to 1-2 feet of space since they will be getting plenty of space while they’re outside. The separation during the days will also allow you to spot which chickens have illnesses and treat/quarantine them as opposed to treating the whole flock for illness. Once again, you can save where it matters most.

THE CONS

Since we dove into free-ranging, it wouldn’t be fair to leave out the cons. So here goes…as stated above foxes, coyotes, mink, owls, and raccoons love to hunt chickens at night, but we also need to be wary of day time deviants like hawks, eagles and domestic dogs. We could write an entire blog about protecting your flock (and we will), so for now, just be aware of the culprits and act accordingly.

black soldier fly for sale

Egg hunting is another issue with free-ranging chickens, but this could be fun if you’re into Easter egg hunts all year round. LOL! It’s not uncommon to start finding eggs in very random spots after you start free-ranging. One way to remedy this always make up some very attractive laying spots accompanied by a wooden or plastic egg. It’s not a “fix-all” but doing this typically works to reduce the number of random eggs in the dog house. ;-)

Chicken proof your gardens if you want to free-range your girls. If you don’t do this, they will eat your herbs, flowers and anything else they are interested in (everything). The other issue with chicken consuming things in your yard is the possibility of them consuming harmful weed killers, fertilizers or pest poison. Please be mindful of all the things you have going on in your yard before letting your girls roam free.

Chicken Shit! The obvious but not often talked about part of free-ranging. No doubt it’s great for your yard but when you step in it and it ends up on your kitchen floor, IT'S NOT COOL! I have yet to discover a solution for this issue...if you do please share in the comments!

All the best, Emily