Poultry shows make a slight comeback this fall

Poultry shows at the county fairs this year took a huge hit due to avian influenza(AI). Very few 4-Hers were allowed to bring their chickens or ducks to the fair for fear of another outbreak of AI. 2012-08-25 11.56.00

That was the first big hit.

Then the poultry exhibitors at open shows found that most of their states had cancelled ANY kind of poultry get-together, including shows, swaps or exhibitions of any kinds.  I have to say, I was a bit taken aback by all of this as the news kept dribbling in throughout the summer.  It was way to late to worry about all the chicks I had hatched in hopes of selling some of my better ones at the larger shows.

Will they, won’t they?

On the poultry exhibitor forums, the rumors were flying all summer. I was happy to find out in late summer that Indiana (my home state) would allow poultry shows after September 17. The first one of the season took places a few weeks ago, and another one in Lebanon, IN, is expected to draw more than double the usual number.

Why?  Well, not every state has reinstated poultry shows. I’m not aware of any one source that lists all the state decisions, but suffice to say each state made its own decision and none of them seemed to be the same.  Kentucky, to the south, has allowed shows but only for residents of Kentucky.  And no birds at swaps or auctions.  To the north, Michigan has pretty much cancelled everything having to do with live birds, shows, swaps, petting zoos, you name it.

If you have any questions about the state where you live, I suggest contacting your own state board of animal health and find out what the regulations are.

I do know that one of biggest shows of the year in the eastern half of the midwest is the buttercups4Ohio National, in Columbus, OH.  You can expect to see around 5,000 chickens ducks turkeys, geese and guineas at this huge show. Its also a chance to see breeds of chickens that I might not see anywhere else.  And, because I raise a relatively rare breed–the Sicilian Buttercup–its a chance for others to get to see how beautiful they are.

So for most of us in the world of poultry exhibition, that’s a big blow.

This weekend could be the biggest show of the year…and it could be the last 

So, I’m planning on heading up to Lebanon this weekend to show off  my birds for possibly the last time this year. If AI reappears anywhere this fall, I think we can all count on the fact that exhibitors will not be allowed to bring birds together in one building.

I was just out in the pens this morning, deciding which birds I would take with me.  Normally I would bathe them before the show but it has been so dry that all of my birds look pristine. A few swipes with baby wipes on the legs and comb, a bit of oil to shine up the feathers and legs and they will be show-worthy.

So I’ll let you know how poultry shows are going later this fall.  I may go to some new shows that I have never attended in states that still allow poultry get-togethers.  I’ll have to travel a bit farther, but I guess its all an adventure.



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The big move to the great outdoors

Chicks in a brooderPutting your chicks outside for the first time is both exciting and nerve-wracking, especially if you have never done this before.  Usually by six to eight weeks their body will be covered with feathers. If the weather is nice during the day and above freezing at night, if they have feathers covering their body, if they are in an enclosed place that is safe from roaming hawks, foxes or other predators–they will be fine!

One of the first questions I often hear is:  How can I be sure my chicks will go inside their new coop at night? Or: I can’t get my chicks to go inside the coop at all!!

One of my favorite sayings about chickens is “they are creatures of habit until they aren’t.”  Chickens do go into their coop at night, but it is not an automatic reaction.  They have to have a little training. They have been inside in a box or other contained area that has been their home their entire life.  Think of it from their perspective: Suddenly their entire world has changed, the habits they had developed of eating and drinking in one space are now completely useless in a new place. They don’t know where they are supposed to sleep!

But its not really complicated to change those habits.  You just have to give the young birds a little help and they will adapt very quickly.

The Big Move

For the first two to three days, I usually start new chicks out by keeping them inside the coop (with food and water inside, of course). This gives them a chance to bond with their coop and help them understand that this is home base no matter how far they wander during the day.  Resist the temptation to let them out, but do check on them and make sure they have food and water at all times.

After three days, let them out late in the afternoon when there are only a few hours of sunlight left and keep the food and water inside the coop for right now.  They will be a little nervous at this new development, but will most likely welcome the chance to get outside.  You may want to come back as the sun goes down to check on them and make sure they are going back into the coop.  Most of the time, they will.

I’ve had some years in which my chicks just can’t figure it out, and here’s what I do in that case:  I’ll take a camping lantern or a flashlight lying on its side, turn it on and leave it inside the coop as it gets dark outside.  The birds usually flock to the light.  Once everyone is in the coop, I take the light out and shut the coop door.

I usually don’t have to do this more than one or two nights and by then everyone has figured out what to do.  In some cases, if the entire group of chicks can’t figure out where home base is, I simply lock them back in the coop for another two or three days and that always does the trick.  Remember, they will get this figured out eventually!

One thing I have not found to be very successful is chasing down each of the young birds and putting them back in the coop one by one.  If you do that, most of the time they have not learned to go into the coop by themselves and you might be spending a lot of time chasing down young birds who think the correct thing to do is wait for someone to  put them away every night!

Some breeds are more prone to want to roost outside at night.  I once had two Ameraucana hens who spent every night one summer perching on the handles of my chicken tractor every night.  I am sure they would loved to spend the night outside, but I knew they most likely would get eaten by a predator. So every night I picked each one up and put them back inside the coop before locking up.  But their behavior changed as fall came around and we had a few nights of really cold rain.  That seemed to break that habit and they began to get in the coop with the rest of the birds. But each breed has different personality characteristics, and you’ll find this comes true in many things, such as how easily (or not) you can train them to go into the coop each night.


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A fall surprise: one chick

I was surprised this week to go into my shed and find this little guy hanging out with my missing hen…


I didn’t even know this hen was missing, so it was even more of a surprise to find them.  Buttercups are not known for being broody, yet the last three years I have had more and more of my Buttercups sitting on eggs.

My new breed that I have started working with is single comb Anconas.  They, too, are from the Mediterranean class and are not known for their ability to sit on eggs.  Yet, right now inside my coop, an Ancona hen is a couple of days away from hatching three Buttercup chicks.  At least, I hope that’s what they are. If not, they will be an interesting experiment.  I don’t usually let things “surprise” me in that way, but its been a busy fall.

Worse things have happened.  I’ll post pics of the other new babies after they make it out.


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Those first teenage crows

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.27.57 AMI heard a sound this morning that startled me.  At first I thought a chick was caught or injured.  Then the sound came again and I wondered if one of the birds was sick.

As I walked around the corner of my shed, I found this little guy–a young Ancona cockerel–standing on top of his coop trying out his newly found skill of crowing.  Like a pre-teen boy whose voice cracks as the hormones kick in, this little guy has some growing to do before he gets a full-fledged crow.

The quality of the video isn’t great, but I had to get it quickly before he saw me and jumped down.  Here’s the whole 36 seconds! Listen closely, as there are some adult rooster crows interspersed.  But when you hear the squeaky crow, you’ll know it.

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My, how fast they grow…

I love Runner ducks.  They are so funny and industrious and great foragers.  I was sad when I lost my two females last fall.  So this spring, I ordered six new female ducklings.  Three are fawn and white (seen below) and three are black.

April 30, 2015: Two days old.

Runners at two days

June 3 , 2015: Two months old. (And their soon to be buddy, the single male Runner in the foreground)

Runners at two months


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Do you let your dogs and chickens co-exist?: A poll

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Choose your poultry well: Egg Layers

You know spring is here when you see the heat lamps turn on over the large metal tubs at the hardware and feed stores.  Before the snow even melts, its time to get some chicks started under a heat lamp in your own home.  IMG_0939

Or, if you are a DIYer, then its time to hatch your own.

But not matter the source, its important to choose your breed wisely by understanding why you want chickens and what you want them for.

If you are like many backyard poultry owners–especially those just getting started or those in the city–it’s eggs you want.  Right?

Well, maybe.

Like dogs, chickens have been bred to offer specific traits.

Some  of the newer “breeds” that have become popular over the past several years include the Red Star and Black Star, which are sex-link hybrids that were bred specifically to lay lots and lots of large brown eggs.  The chicks are different colors depending on whether they are male or female, so you’ll have less chance of getting the wrong sex when you make a trip to the farm store.

If you are interested in maintaining a heritage breed, the Rhode Island Red or Black Australorp are good choices for lots of eggs and easy keepers.

The Livestock Conservancy offers a chart that gives you some comparison between breeds to help you make that all-important choice.

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