Find the chickens …..

marans, possibly a hen and a cockerel?

marans, possibly a hen and a cockerel?

The chicks are coming up to 12 weeks old now – and are out in the garden most of the time – and like all naughty kids, they will go into the fenced off area, where I have been trying to grow some flowers – I thought you might like to see how the marans have grown – but you’ll have to find them first! (there are two of them in this picture)

find the chickens

find the chickens

and – remember I told you the rose had fallen into the bed – well I took this picture when the chickens had been chased out – its just around where the chickens were hiding.

The stem on the left hand side is a vine – I got some lovely grapes last year – mmm ….

rose & vine

rose & vine

My Easter Chicks are Seven Weeks Old ….

day old chick - click to see the full list of posts on chickens!

day old chick – click to see the full list of posts on chickens!

There have been a few changes since I last took some photos of these chicks.  They’ve grown!

The Marans and Buff Sussex are mostly full feathered now, altho’ the Barnevelders are still looking a bit scraggy.  They are no longer confined to the cage, and as it was a nice day today, I let them roam around the  nearest part of the garden.  They had great fun scratching in the old pond – no water there any more – and eating the scraps I threw in for them, and took some rest time in the sun.

These are some of the pictures I took today … on them to see them as a slide show in a large format …..



let’s create a gallery of your work – please contribute ……

The A-Z challenge is over, and I will no longer be referring posts between my two blogs – this one “the spare” and my crafts blog –

I will keep posting information about poultry rearing, and pictures of my chicks on this site, as well as anything I feel like – as its my “place to play” – smile.

a scarf I made!

a scarf I made!

If you are interested in crafts, of all kinds, please check julzcrafts for new posts.

Today, I put an invitation to all my customers, readers and followers to contribute a picture of their work for a Gallery of Your Work.

I AM using this post to direct you there, for information on how to contribute.

Look forward to seeing you there!


U is for Update on my chicks

USo, I got it slightly wrong last time I posted about the chicks, they were not quite four weeks old, and they are just over four weeks old now – Oh, I really should just slide my finger down a calendar!  But, because its the U day in this challenge, its the best fit for another post to show you how they have grown – smile.

It was a big day yesterday – I finally moved them into the pen it took me ages to prepare for them – Outside – in the garden!


This had involved, a major pruning of my bay tree – see Hiatus – working out if I had enuf space to put the new £12.99 mini plastic greenhouse and the cage in the space by the fence – I did!  It then took me three goes to fit all the pieces of this little wonder together – sorry I’ve actually cropped it out of all these pictures – then dragging the large cage out of storage – cleaning it – finding a way to prop it up – a few bricks, slates & whatever else was available – stabilising it with some heavy plant pots that a friend had carried outside for me – the house plants needed some sun – and finally yesterday, getting someone to cut up some old boards for me to fit into a top shelf, so the chicks wouldn’t get lost in the back of the ‘cage’ – oh you really don’t need to know the details!


So – when I realised I hadn’t got a way to add the “extension” – well a sort of extra bit of ‘cage’ that I have fixed onto the front opening so that they have room to jump about – I thought about it for a bit – the thing is, that I’d have to move some ‘kerb stones’ so that there would be no gaps and no escape holes – and it would take yet more time to sort it out – and its supposed to rain today – I decided to let them see the outside world in the sun for the first time, in a cage that was a bit too small for all 10 of them.  And of course, I had actually planned to write this blog and needed some pictures for it!

the inspection!

the inspection!

The chicks were only there for a few hours – they were rather scared of being taken out of their larger comfortable home in the cellar, and it took me a while to catch the last few!  Then I didn’t have room for a feed tray, just the water container – but it didn’t matter – they had been wondering what was outside – I purposely kept the cellar door open so they could get a taste of it – and now they were overjoyed to see something new – and a bit fearful of the dog barking next door, but they did have space to move around and inspect their new quarters, and watch the insects and the birds – whilst of course my other hens, had another good look at them!

That’s “darker” the first of the pair of Maran’s I bought about 6 weeks as POL (point of lay), who has only just started laying some nice brown eggs. (The sign that hens are ready to lay is that their combs turn from pink to a brighter red.)  Her sister ‘lighter’ (names apply to the amount of black feathers they have on their necks – smile) has yet to come into lay.  And ‘fiver’ who will feature in tomorrow’s post, the silkie cross on the right.

The chicks are at the scraggy looking stage – well feathered – their legs growing, able to jump and even fly, but in that awkward ‘pre-teen stage’ – you must recognise it if you have any kids around you – well – if they can get into mischief, they will – I will have to fix the extension cage up for them the next time I put them outside!

So here are a few more pics – its nice to have a record of them on the blog, so I’ll be able to refer back to it when they are fully grown …… if you click on the pictures, it will turn into a slide show ….hover over them and you see the titles ….


S is for Silkies

SI’m following on from yesterday’s post which was entitled Rare Breeds, but I never got round to them – smile.  In fact due to the increasing popularity of “backyard chickens” these aren’t really rare breeds any more, but pure breeds. There are very many different pure breeds to choose from.  I thought I’d start with Silkies.

my pair of white SILKIE bantams - cockerel is in front of shot

my pair of white SILKIE bantams – cockerel is in front of shot

They are as far from factory farmed chickens as you can get!  They wouldn’t survive in those sheds, they’re not good to eat, they have very little meat on them, and they aren’t prolific layers.

But apart from being really attractive, they are docile, can be handled easily – altho the full size cockerels can be fierce in protecting the hens – but best of all, silkies go broody, and will sit on any fertile eggs you have, and mother the chicks perfectly!

silkie cross cockerel

silkie cross cockerel

Silkie crosses, the hens, will usually go broody too. This was a silkie X cockerel I once had, to show you the variations you can get.  I can’t remember what he was crossed with but he was a handsome fellow!

blue silkie chick - from, another good reference for breeds

blue silkie chick – from, another good reference for breeds

Pure Silkies are usually white, black or a ‘golden’ brown colour.  A particularly prized colour is ‘blue’ which is a pretty blueish grey, and they go for very high prices!

Silkie feathers are different from other breeds, they are ‘fluffy’ not flat and streamlined,  and unusually the feathers also extend down to their 5 toes! Other features are bright blue ear lobes and black skin.

Origin: China, found there by Marco Polo in 1298. (ref here!)

If you are keeping chickens, you are usually keeping them for the eggs, and hens are quite happy without ever seeing a cockerel.  Many, but not all of the breeds of hens, will go broody from time to time, and stop laying to sit on a clutch of eggs that are not fertile.

You have two choices in this circumstance – you can buy in some fertile eggs as fast as possible – and put them under her – removing her own eggs, and she will normally but quite happy to continue sitting on them for the 21 days they take to hatch.

If you don’t want to do that, the only thing to do is to keep removing the eggs and taking her out of the box she lays in.  You may even have to move the box, or block it, so she doesn’t return immediately your back is turned!  She may go off lay for a while anyway, until the hormones triggered by broodiness have disappeared from her system.

If you do breed from your chickens, please remember that you should not allow related chickens – ie those hatched from eggs of one pair – to breed with each other.  You may have to swap cockerels, or sell them and buy an unrelated one.

On the other hand, recent genetic research seems to show that chickens actually have more genes than humans, and thus more variations are possible.  You might like to look at this lesson in the genetics of chickens.

Chickens were originally wild birds that lived in forests, before they were domesticated.  They still like scratching around under trees, which give shade in summer, and are omnivorous ie: they will eat almost anything, including insects and raw meat off carcasses!  Of course grass and grain are the usual feeds we give them, together with leftover food scraps.  Exceptions are covered in my recent blog.  If you want to give them a real treat, try grapes and watch them fight to get at them!

R is for Rare Breeds of Chickens

RRare Breeds, of chickens, or any other animal, are those variations that are no longer popular with the agricultural industry, which by definition are not as ‘productive’ as the specially bred varieties that populate most ‘factory farms’.  I don’t even know what breeds of chicken are used for ‘our chicken dinners’ or the caged egg birds.  I suppose I could look them up?

illustration from an old book "Poultry of the World"

illustration from an old book “Poultry of the World”

Well I just spend quite a lot of time trying to find out, and the best I can come up with is this!

A commercial chicken house in Florida, with open sides raising broiler pullets for meat

A commercial chicken house in Florida, with open sides raising broiler pullets for meat

Since their domestication, a large number of breeds of chickens have been established, but with the exception of the white Leghorn, most commercial birds are of hybrid origin.[10] In about 1800, chickens began to be kept on a larger scale, and modern high-output poultry farms were present in the United Kingdom from around 1920 and became established in the United States soon after the Second World War. By the mid-20th century, the poultry meat-producing industry was of greater importance than the egg-laying industry.

Battery hens in Brazil

Battery hens in Brazil

Poultry breeding has produced breeds and strains to fulfil different needs; light-framed, egg-laying birds that can produce 300 eggs a year; fast-growing, fleshy birds destined for consumption at a young age, and utility birds which produce both an acceptable number of eggs and a well-fleshed carcase. 

Both of the illustrations show well kept facilities, and yet, how can you compare the welfare of those chickens with these?

chicken in grass pasture

an idyllic photo I found on the web!

Well I intended to give you some information on Rare Breeds today, but I seem to have got distracted!  I will continue on this subject tomorrow – in the meantime, if you want to see a list of Rare Breeds, with photos, you can’t go far wrong if you look at this page on the website of the Poultry Club of Great Britain.


N is for Never feed your chickens these ….

NThis is a list of foods NEVER to feed your chickens, that I found on ready nutrition.

I would have reblogged it, but I can’t find a way to do it as its not a WordPress site, so I am just copying it.

I agree with everything in this list, I once tried feeding my chickens on potatoes that had started growing, rather than throw them away – and couldn’t understand why they didn’t touch them!

about 10 years ago, I also had a pet rabbit, that was great friends with my chickens - they were all free range - so free range that this picture was taken by a neighbour in HER garden!

About 10 years ago, I also had a pet rabbit, who was great friends with my chickens – they were all free range – so free range that this picture was taken by a neighbour in HER garden! Not all neighbours are so accommodating!


Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition wrote:

I often describe chickens as miniature trash compactors – they will eat almost anything you put in front of them. An emphasis should be placed on “almost anything”.

For the most part, we feed our chickens food items they would normally find around the ranch – veggies, fruits, seeds and grains. As a treat or to supplement their diet, we give them meal worms. They are all-natural and give the girls extra nutrients. We may also put a little diatomaceous earth (DE) in their food, as well. This aids in digestion and is a natural de-wormer. Chickens also need some calcium and a little grit in their diets as well. The calcium helps them form a strong outer eggshell and the grit aids in digestion. I usually purchase this supplement kit with oyster shells, DE and grit, and add a little each day to their feed.

That said, as open as these birds are to eating a varied diet, there are a few food types to steer clear of.

10 Foods Your Chickens Should Avoid

  1. Plants from the nightshade family – Nightshade plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants have a toxic substance in their unripened fruit and leaves called solanine that could be harmful to your flock. Even the peels of potatoes are potentially harmful and should be avoided. If you have a large amount of leftover nightshade vegetables (potatoes or peels), cook them first and your chickens will enjoy the treat even more.
  2. Salty foods –  Foods containing large amounts of salt can lead to a condition known as salt poisoning, salt toxicity, hypernatremia, or water deprivation-sodium ion intoxication. The small bodies of chickens are not meant to ingest large amounts of salt. Chickens can tolerate up to 0.25% salt in drinking water but are susceptible to salt poisoning when water intake is restricted.
  3. Citrus  Some varieties of chickens can be very sensitive to citrus. Many believe it is a build up of citric acid and vitamin C that can cause excessive feather plucking. That said, I have fed citrus to my chickens and they don’t care for it.
  4. Onions – Onions contain a toxin substance called thiosulphate that destroys red blood cells. When excessive amounts are fed to chickens, it can cause jaundice or anemia in your hens or even death.
  5. Dried or undercooked beans  – Raw, or dry beans, contain a poison called hemaglutin which is toxic to birds. Cooking or sprouting the beans before serving them to chickens will kill this toxin.
  6. Dry rice – If we feed them rice, we cook it beforehand. Chickens that are fed dry rice are put in danger of the rice blowing up when it is introduced to moisture and will cause a gut problem in chickens.
  7. Avocado skin and pit – Chickens do not care much for avocados. They probably sense or smell the low levels of toxicity in the skin and pit.
  8. Raw eggs – Introducing raw eggs to your chickens could result in your flock turning cannibal. If they are doing this, it could be a result of a deficiency in their diet or because they are stressed. Adding crushed oyster shells to their diet usually helps as well as adjusting their environment (more nesting boxes, lessen the light in the coop, etc.)
  9. Candy, chocolate, sugar – Chickens do not have much of  sweet tooth. In fact, they only have around 25-30 taste buds, so more than likely, they wouldn’t realize they are eating anything sweet. Further, it’s bad on their digestive tract and chocolate especially contains a toxin called methylxanthines theobromine and is poisonous to chickens. Therefore, adding sugar to their diet wouldn’t be advisable.
  10. Apple seeds – Apple seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide that could kill your chicken. As much as chickens love apples, do them a favor and remove the seeds.

One of the most important aspects of caring for your flock is ensuring their diets are the healthiest possible. Your flock of chickens will be much happier and healthier if you can find a way to avoid these foods from becoming the chicken’s food source.

I hope you found this list useful!