Beginning Again

I see the last blog post I did was in May of 2013. That strikes me hard. That is the month my husband became seriously ill. He died in July of 2013, and for the past six years I have spent doing most of what originally took two people to do: maintaining a house and four acres, mowing, cleaning, repairing, as well as helping raise my grandson and being care-giver to my elderly mother, while doing my best to not lose myself. Chickens? I was too tired.

A few hens died and a few I gave away. I threatened to be done with chickens, yet, somehow I could not. Grandchildren loved them, and so did adult son. This summer two hens remained in the neglected chicken house and continued to give me smiles: our dear Buff Orpington Maisie from the very first flock and sprightly Lacy, a Black Lace Wyandotte, from the last.

Lacy gives an egg five days a week, and amazingly Maisie, who is seven years old now, was also laying an egg several times a week–until she went broody again back in July. She happens to be the hen I last blogged about, who went broody early on. With my son and grandchildren’s help and a kind woman, who provided fertilized eggs, the chicken house once again comes alive with five new biddies of various breeds. And I find myself once again interested and delighted.

I have had a number of messages over the years from women who want to raise their chickens gluten free because of their children having Celiac disease. A number have written of their frustration because of getting sick when trying to raise chickens and having to feed gluten containing commercial feed. My stats give evidence of people visiting this blog everyday.

If you are wondering: Can I raise chickens gluten-free? the answer is Yes! And it isn’t that hard.

Our dear Maisie proves this out. In these past years, I have also learned that feeding chickens does have to be difficult, expensive, or perfect. I want to again start sharing what I have learned about keeping chickens in a gluten-free zone so that others, especially children with gluten allergy, can enjoy doing so.

I spent about an hour sitting and watching the three-day old babies and the hens, and I videoed something interesting. There is commercial gluten-containing feed in the feeder, because the large house, acreage, and chicken house now belong to my son. What I observed is that when I brought in a simple bowl of enriched corn grits, cooked rice, and oatmeal, both the hens and the babies prefer it! They also prefer the bird seed mixture, especially millet seed. It was a surprise to see they chose the natural food over the commercial feed. Lesson learned.

Once again I am interested in raising and feeding chickens, but this time I am far more relaxed about it. I have learned that the feed doesn’t have to be perfect, and the chickens will still live and provide great pleasure.








What We Did With Our Broody Hen

No, we did not killer her.

After a month of removing her twice daily from the nest to eat, and sometimes taking her yards away into the orchard, my dear Maisie was still broody. I never did see her come out of the nest on her own. I decided to leave her in the nest and see if letting nature take it’s course would be the answer. After four days, I got pretty worried about her dying in there. I could just picture it, flies, stink, eww. Seasoned chicken raisers told me she would come out when she got hungry, but they were also the ones that said a hen gets over being broody in 19 – 21 days.

I did a lot of reading of people who said their hens stayed broody for 6 weeks, 2 months, and one person said her hen never came out of being broody. Boy, that thought put my hair on end. Another person said plainly that she planned to put her broody hen in the dog pen. Let me just say, I get it. (I do hope she planned to cook it.)

A broody hen has gone into the hormone mode for hatching eggs, never mind that she has no eggs to hatch. While in this ‘broody’ mode, she will not lay eggs. See the difference in Maisie’s comb and wattle. Her’s have shrunk and gone pale.

Maisie Broody

Contrast that to her sister, Goldie Girl, her comb and wattle bright red, the sure sign of the good laying hen that she is.


Obviously, since my other 7 hens have not gone into this sitting behavior (thank goodness!), there was something within Maisie’s physical make-up that caused her to swing into the hatching egg mode. Only I do not have a rooster, and did not have eggs to hatch, nor did I want either.

In Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, author and chicken raising expert Gail Damerow mentions a number of times the need to cull the flock of those chickens that are sickly or not performing to their purpose, which for me is laying eggs. Thankfully I’ve not yet had to learn the skill of killing a chicken. I do have one girl who is lame, our dear Elvira, who walks around stiff-legged, but the dear girl is true to her purpose and lays an egg most every day.

A myriad of ‘cures’ are put forth to break a broody hen and get them back on track. You can read on this thread at, or run a search. I think everyone and his cousin has what they put forth as a sure-fire method to break a broody hen.

In the end, I decided to get three fertile eggs from a friend who raises her own chicks and slip them under Maisie. So far she’s still broody, closing in on 5 weeks now, sitting on those eggs in a fit of hormone stupor. I have twice removed her from the nest to eat, which she does for about ten minutes, then makes her way back to the nesting box. Only, get this, she gets into a different nesting box, without the fertile eggs! Obviously the hormones only direct her to sit in the nest, not care about the eggs.

Oh, how purposeless hormones can make a being!

Big Happy Face to Farmers Helper Ultra Kibble

Ultra KibbleThis post is especially for all my celiac and gluten-intolerant peeps. I’m so excited! We bought happy face stickers to put on our grandson’s homework pages for when he does a good job, and I’m giving a Good Job Happy Face to the makers of Farmers Helper Ultra Kibble. According to the detailed ingredients list on both the package and the website, and I confirmed it by telephone– Farmers Helper Ultra Kibble contains no wheat, barley, or rye grains, nor any soy!

This fact is a wonder in the world of commercial poultry feed products. In addition to what it does not have, Ultra Kibble gets the happy face for things it does have, such as fish and salmon meal, probiotics, lots of veggie mashes.

The Ultra Kibble is formulated to be a supplement to your normal chicken feed of choice, not a main feed. The company says on their website: “Our products optimize avian health and minimize feed wastage.”

I already mentioned the Ultra Kibble for Chicks in an earlier post about our sickly chicks. I believe the supplement helpful in getting our puny biddies going, and now that I’ve discovered regular Ultra Kibble, I plan to put it in with the hens’ feed. I found the Ultra Kibble for Chicks at our local Tractor Supply, and I plan to see if my feed store can carry it.

Smiley_face_2Thank you, Farmers Helper for being such a help to our hens and our family. Good job!

Our First Broody Hen Experience

Our Buff Orpington, Maisie, was acting strangely Saturday evening, when we let the girls out for free-ranging. She puttered around a bit and then went back into the hen-house, and into a nest. Maisie

When I took a late breakfast to the girls on Sunday morning after church, she was in the nest and didn’t come out. Obviously something was going on, and I went to the internet for research. I came back out, took her out of the nest, and observed the symptoms: camping in the nest, even without an egg, puffed up like a blow fish, making a low, sort of guttural, “pluck, pluck, pluck.”

Poor darling. The old margarine commercial pops to mind: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” We do not have a rooster, do not want a rooster, do not want to raise our own little chicks. But with this choice, we are messing around with Mother Nature, who designed the hen to have eggs and sit on them and hatch chickens. Hmmm…I don’t suppose a wind up chick would do the trick.


Taken out of the nest, she first sat on the grass. Then she began to ‘pluck’ around, and eat grass. She then went to this bag of sand and began to scratch and try to make a nest of it.

Advice ranges the gamut, and I’m attempting a middle of the road. I remove Maisie from the nest several times a day to give her a chance at food and water. She is sweet and gives no trouble. Even Sweetie-Pie, our 6 year-old-grandson, can easily put his hand underneath her. “She growls, but there’s no egg,” he says a bit mystified.

When presented with food, she will eat readily, do her bit of plucking and puffing up, and then make her way around to the hen-house door. She takes water on her way past the water bucket, and then back into the nest.

Supposedly this will go on for 19 to 21 days. In thinking back, we’re hopeful to already have 5 days down, maybe more. Oh, Dear Lord, do not let all the hens go ‘maternal’ at once!


This look says it all: “Leave Me Alone!”

The Little Chicks are Thriving!

So excited to report that the little chicks, who were such a sad sight only 10 days ago are now vigorous and thriving!

The turning point seemed to be when they began to eat the chickweed. Now whenever I come to the brooder cage and speak to them, they run to the clothes pin, where I clip the weed. They pull and tug. Still scruffy looking but getting rounder every day.

The turning point seemed to be when they began to eat the chickweed. Now whenever I come to the brooder cage and speak to them, they run to the clothes pin, where I clip the weed. They pull and tug. Still scruffy looking but getting rounder every day.

I have learned to pay close attention to their behavior when I bring them home, and to make certain they are drinking first before introducing food. I also plan to purchase my chicks a month later, if possible, and not to get any until I have room to take on 4 or more. Chicks seems to do better in higher numbers. They are flock creatures, after all. I will do as one woman said: “Always watch to choose the most active chicks.”

And once again I have learned that it is good not to give up, and that we can start over any time.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” ~Anonymous

The Medicinal Effects of Chickweed

The little chicks are going to be all right. Yesterday they were eagerly eating chickweed that I tossed into them. They even began to fight over it. Next my husband dropped them a tiny worm he had found when planting a fruit tree. The chick’s reaction turned quickly from curiosity to something of a frenzy, and at one point they each had hold of the worm.

Chickweed Flower

Chickweed Flower (Photo credit: The Equinest)

Chickweed is so named because chickens and birds love it. It is a low-growing, ground-cover type plant found all over the world in the spring; it is flourishing now in south Alabama. Chickweed (Latin name Stellaria media) is a highly nutritional plant, used as a medicinal herb by many. I pull it by great handfuls and toss to the big girls, too. No doubt they find it when they are allowed to free range in the pecan orchard and along the fence rows, however, where I find the most chickweed is growing in the gardens surrounding the house, which is off limits for the girls for obvious reasons.

You can find out more about the benefits of chickweed here and here.

Run a search on Google for images of chickweed. Once you know what it looks like, you’ll have a ready and nutritional treat for your chicks. But it only lasts through the cooler temps of the spring!