Chicken Problems

How is it that BIRDS that ROOST manage to kill/hurt themselves trying to roost???  I was out checking on the birds and collecting eggs late in the afternoon and I heard flapping in a bush.  I started thinking it is a bit early for a bird to be trying to roost.  I go over to where I hear the noise and find a bird hanging by a toe from a fork in a branch.  I’m not sure how long she had been hanging there, but I’m guessing at least 12 hours if not a day or more.  I got her loose and held her so she could drink.  It didn’t appear she could move this leg, I’m hoping since now she is no longer hanging from it maybe she will be able to use it again.  Obviously she has a broken toe, so we will she if she is able to recover.  About two years ago I had another bird get her neck caught in a fork in a bush and it killed her.


After letting her drink her fill I put her under a log so she would be somewhat protected.  I should build a quarantine/recovery area for when birds have problems, but that’s just one more project.

Electric Fence Door

20160709_193622.jpgWe use the portable electro-net fencing to keep our chickens in (more or less).  I think more importantly it keeps the ground based predators out.  However I don’t want to always have to cut the power to get in and out of the Critter Fence.  My dad built what is in effect, a portable door out of 2″ x 2″ boards.  Originally we also ran a wire from the electric fence over to the metal fencing that filled in the door.  However that has fallen by the wayside as it didn’t appear necessary after a couple of years.

We do have coyotes in the area and this has worked for me for about 5 years now.  I don’t believe I’ve ever lost a bird to a ground based predators.  Ariel predators on the other hand have been a source of continuing aggravation to me.

Brooding Chicks Without Supplemental Heat

As we are coming up on spring many are thinking about getting more chicks and the question comes up about how to brood them.  Many do not have a location with power to supply heat.  I will describe what I did a couple of times now that did not require any supplemental heat.  Of course I think it is important to say I waited until a little later in the spring and had more than 2 dozen chicks to keep each other warm.

IMG_060211I used something called radiant insulating foil which looks like bubble wrap that has been coated with aluminium.  This reflects the chicks body heat back at them and when you have enough to create a critical mass the chicks can keep themselves warm.  The first time I used some straw pales to build a U shape and lined it with the foil and then used a sheet of OSB for the top, again with the radiant foil on the inside.  At night or if they got cold they would all huddle under the foil and warm up.  When they were too warm they would spread out a bit.  The second time (top picture) I just lined the inside of a cardboard box with the radiant foil, but that was late spring.  I haven’t lost any chicks with this process, but if you are doing this in very cold weather or only have a few chicks this may not work for you.

I first read about this in a post by Robert Plamondon and they have had success with this no-heat method of brooding.  Since it makes my life simpler I decided to try to and have been happy.  I need to build something more durable/permanent, but to date the quick and easy has always won out.

If you want to see my son’s “chicken report” from March of 2013 that has the first time we did this, check out the video below.


Keeping Chickens

I’ve been keeping chickens for about 3 years now and today was moving day again. For the first couple of years I moved them through the grassy areas of my property, but then I lost 3/4’s of my flock aerial predators so I started keeping them under the cover of the brushy areas of my property. This is not ideal as there is not as much greenery for them to eat, but it does keep them from being killed by hawks and owls. This does make moving them a fair bit more effort as I first have to clear brush along the path I want the electro-net fencing to run and the fencing has to be pulled up and the whole section folded and moved. When I was on the grass I could just move the fencing a few feet at a time, but you cannot do that when there are trees and brush in the way. Therefore the chickens do not get moved as frequently as I would like. If you go with the portable electro-net fencing like I did by the 80′ lengths rather than the 160′, they are much easier to move and give you more options.

Some people feel they need to provide a coop that is well insulated and completely free of drafts for the winter and some even supply supplemental heat. I have not found this to be the case in S.E. Michigan. I do what is best described as a 3-sided coop and I have not lost any birds in the winter. However I do have the coop in a place that is naturally sheltered from the wind. In some magazines from the late 1800’s that talked about farming in the mid-west talked about having large windows on one side of the coop (preferably the side opposite the wind) and just having them covered in chicken wire, no glass. The claim was the biggest problems with chickens in a fully closed coop is the build up of humidity and ammonia and having good ventilation takes care of that. While I cannot comment on if it is better because I have all my experience is with these “well-ventilated” coops, I have not experienced any problems with not having a tightly sealed/heated coop. Breed may also make a difference, I’ve had White Leghorn, ISA Brown, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks & Australorps.

To date I’ve only lost two birds to something other than predators. One got her neck caught in the fork of a honeysuckle bush and basically hung herself, the other was an adult bird that died 2 days after we got her. Since this works for me I do not plan on changing. I’m not claiming what I do is what you should also do, however if it works for me you might want to consider it for your flock.

Supplemental Light for Your Laying Flock

For whatever reason the hours of daylight, more specifically the lack there of, affect the number if eggs your hens will lay. That is why you get greatly reduced numbers of eggs in the winter time. For those of us that sell eggs to pay for the feed try to reduce this effect by adding supplemental light to the coop to simulate the longer days of summer. However you do not want the light on all night so many will put it, but that means you have to adjust it as the time the sun down goes down changes. I found a timer/dusk sensor combination in which it turns on at dusk and stays on for 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours. We have less than 10 hours of daylight here in S.E. Michigan in winter so I set it for 6 hours during the darkest months. For a light I just use a simple shop type light with an aluminium reflector behind it. I don’t see the one I have anymore at Amazon, but something like this is what I have. Below are pictures of my coop. Not a very pretty setup, but it will do until I can make it better.

Sensor Timer in the center just under the roof
Sensor Timer in the center just under the roof
Close up of sensor and light
Close up of sensor and light



I’m planing on an upgrade and thinking about just mounting an exterior light inside the coop. Home Depot has a selection in the $5-$10 range. Since I have a home automation system in my house I can take advantage of this. There is a LED bulb in the $30 range that has an internal switch that can be controlled by my home system. The system I have has the feature of turning on at dusk and setting an off time, for example the security lights on the garage come on at dusk and go off at 11PM. This gives me the advantage of turning the light on a schedule from the central controller or turn it on or off from my smart phone.




Episode 1: Dennis McClung showcases his amazing backyard aquaponics operation

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I’m very excited to be posting my first podcast. Dennis McClung is our first guest. We talk all about his amazing backyard aquaponics system Please head on over to to check it out.

  • A catfish is used for a natural method of population control
  • Evaporative Swamp cooler powered by the sun
  • Self sustaining system
  • The fish eat chicken poop as part of their balanced diet
  • Permaculture system based on observations of pond habitats
  • Fish scraps are composted using black soldier flies
  • Lots more cool features and aquaponics tips