Sunday, August 28, 2016

Breed Spotlight: American Guinea Hog

Pic via wikipedia commons
Homesteaders and hobby farmers often seek the most self-sustaining and backyard friendly breeds of livestock that are available to them. Given pigs' reputation for being lazy, half-ton beasts that destroy literally everything on the occasion they do get up, many choose to cross them off that list completely. They're also known for being foul smelling and horribly temperamental! But what if I told you that there is a breed of hog that is smaller than your average farm pig, and is much more capable of sustaining itself off of the land? Meet the American Guinea Hog!


Guinea Hog at the Roger Williams Zoo park (pic via wikipedia commons).
The Guinea hog weighs only 150-300 pounds, and twenty-two to twenty-seven inches high, making it much smaller than your average farm pig! This breed is solid black in color, the only exceptions being white-tipped feet, and the very rare and recessive red. They also have longer, thicker hair than most pigs, allowing them to avoid sunburn and handle weather well. One of the most notable aspects of the American Guinea Hog is their ability to forage. The hogs can live off of much poorer quality forage than most breeds of pig, giving them the potential to be very valuable on a homestead. Another excellent quality of this breed is their calm temperament! They are known for being easy to handle, even adult males and females with piglets! They are known to be attentive mothers, rearing healthy, hardy young and raising them to forage themselves.
Guinea Hogs are generally processed at around six months of age, and the carcass can range from 50-100 pounds. The meat of the Guinea Hog is often considered gourmet, as the unique texture of their fat as sparked interest in making old-world cured meats. Their meat is also known to be very tender and flavorful!

Origin and History

While its exact origins are somewhat unclear, it appeared during the 19th century and evidence suggests that is was bred from the Essex, an English breed of hog that, like the Guinea Hog, is small and black in color. It is often mistaken to have been related to the Red Guinea, a hog that was imported to the US from the Canary Islands. Despite the similar name, the American Guinea Hog has no relation to the Red Guinea Hogs that were originally imported. It is likely that the "Guinea" in the name refers to the animal's small size.
This hardy breed was and commonplace on American farms during the nineteenth century, and it was expected to forage for their own food, eating roots, reptiles, and rodents. Families would often keep them near the house to clear the area of snakes - a favorite food of the hogs. As time went on, fewer and fewer Americans were living on homesteads, and the American Guinea Hog nearly disappeared. It lived on in only a few isolated farms throughout the Southeastern US, and has made a recent comeback with rise in popularity of homesteading and small-scale farming. It is listed by The Livestock Conservancy as "threatened," although more and more people are discovering the potential of this perfect pig and making the addition!

On Your Homestead

American Guinea Hog at Norfolk Zoo (pic via wikipedia commons). 
The Guinea Hog is the ultimate pig for homesteaders, preppers, and hobby farmers. Their small size and gentle demeanor allows for easily handling, which is especially important if there are children involved. The fact that this breed can thrive by foraging for food, even in places where it may not be the highest quality, makes the Guinea Hog extremely valuable to someone who is trying to be as self sufficient as possible. When forage is not available, such as in the winter months, they can live largely off of food scraps from the family. This is where their small size comes into play, as a smaller pig doesn't require as much food. Pound-for-pound, the Guinea hog is capable of producing a lot of meat with little cost to the farmer. They are the most ideal pig for a free-range setting, hands-down!
Care must be taken not to overfeed a Guinea Hog, particularly grain, because they are designed for foraging and have a tendency to become overweight when fed a rich diet. 
Some homesteaders have found a new use for the hogs - tilling and fertilizing the garden. The pigs can be placed in an area that needs tilled, such as a place where grain had been planted and harvested as a cover crop, and the pigs turn up the ground as the forage through what is left of the crop. When the hogs are finished, they leave plant-ready ground!

Where to get Guinea Hogs

Guinea Hogs are becoming easier to find! I've seen several people selling them on local sale pages on Facebook! If you wish to breed, however, it is best to invest in quality stock to contribute to bringing the breed back! The American Guinea Hog Associated has a directory of breeders in the US. There are breeders in nearly every state! If you simply wish to have them for your own homestead, scour local livestock ads and online classifieds. There is likely a farmer near you that has them!

Do you have Guinea Hogs? Or are you just thinking about adding pigs to your homestead? Leave a comment! Don't forget to check out our Facebook page and our Instagram for updates and pictures! 


"The Livestock Conservancy." The Livestock Conservancy. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <>.

"History of Guinea Hogs -." AGHA. American Guinea Hog Assn., 2006. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <>.

"American Guinea Hog Breed Description -." AGHA. American Guinea Hog Assn., 2006. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <>.

OHM, Rachel. "Farmers and Rare Guinea Hogs Help Each Other out - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram." The Portland Press Herald Maine Sunday Telegram Farmers and Rare Guinea Hogs Help Each Other out Comments. MaineToday Media, 07 Sept. 2014. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <>.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Poultry Feeds Explained

One of the most confusing things for a first-time flock owner is what to feed their birds! It seems like it would be so easy, just go to the store and buy "chicken feed," but when you get to the feed store, there are dozens of different types! What are all these different types of feed used for? Each of these feeds have a different purpose, and several of them may suit your flock.

Layer Feed

Layer feed is specifically designed for the laying hen, making sure she gets enough protein, calcium, and other minerals to keep her eggshells strong and her body and bones healthy. Layer feed is available in crumbles and pellets. There is a common misconception among holistic and organic bloggers that layer feed has hormones in it to make the hens lay more, but this is untrue. In fact, layer feed will not make hens lay more at all; it only keeps them healthy and keeps eggshells strong! 
Layer feed is best for hens who are more than 16-20 weeks old or laying, whichever comes first. Layer feed will not make them lay, so there's no rush! Do not feed it to young chicks, as their developing kidneys cannot handle the extra vitamins and minerals. Some believe that layer feed may cause kidney disease in roosters, which is a valid concern. However, many people have fed their roosters layer feed with no problems, myself included. Because of this, I believe that a rooster can handle the extra minerals as well as we can handle a multivitamin that gives us a little too much. 

Medicated Chick Starter

Medicated chick starter is for young chickens. This feed has a small amount of the drug amprolium which helps the chicks as they are exposed to coccidia without getting too sick. Coccidia is the single-celled parasite behind coccidiosis, a word which gives chicken keepers quite the headache. When using medicated feed, the chicks are exposed to the coccidia in the dirt, may contract a very mild infection which the amprolium in the feed helps them fight off before it gets too bad. They can still get a severe infection, however, if their waterers, feeders, and environment are not kept reasonably clean. Amprolium has no withdrawal time and there is no evidence that it is harmful to humans, although it cannot be used in an organic setting. 
Medicated chick starter is recommended for a minimum of 8 weeks of age, but you can feed it up to the point that you switch to layer (or other adult feed). It is mainly for chicken chicks. Game bird chicks (like guineas, turkeys, pheasant, quail) will need a higher protein feed than chickens, but you can still find a medicated version of these feeds. It is commonly said that medicated feed is poisonous to ducklings. This is both true and untrue. Previously, medicated feed was made with a different type of drug which waterfowl could easily overdose on. Now, that amprolium is mainly used, medicated feed will not hurt them, but it is not necessary. Waterfowl are extremely resistant to coccidiosis, so they don't need and help preventing it. However, if you are raising them with chicks that eat medicated starter, it will not hurt the ducklings. Just remember to at a niacin supplement for ducks!
*UPDATE* Medicated feed is now controlled by the Veterinary Feed Directive and requires a prescription by a veterinarian in order to obtain. 

Unmedicated Chick Starter

It is as it seems - a basic chick starter with no drugs to control coccidiosis. It is nutritionally complete for the growing chicken! Chicks can develop immunity without the help of drugs, but it is more difficult on the chicken keeper! When feeding unmedicated feed, you must slowly expose them to coccidia by introducing them to dirt when they are around 2 weeks old, and gradually increase their exposure. The organic/med-free keeper must also take extra care to keep waterers, feeders, and bedding very clean, as a dirty environment exposes them to more of the coccidia's oocysts, which causes infection. 
Chicks and ducklings can eat starter up until it's time to switch them to layer feed! If using for ducks, remember to at extra Niacin (B3). Using brewer's yeast (NOT bread yeast!) is a good way to supplement for Niacin.

Game Bird Starter

This feed is for baby "wild" fowl, like turkeys, pheasant, and quail, and is available in medicated and unmedicated versions. Game bird starter is very high in protein. Game birds require more protein than chickens or ducks, so it is important that they have a higher-protein diet. They are generally fed this feed until about 8 weeks of age. 

Game Bird Feed

This is mainly for adult game birds. It provides turkeys, quail, pheasant, and other wild fowl with adequate protein and nutrition in their adult years. It is also often used for chickens and ducks during molting, to help regrow feathers quicker and easier. It can be given to ducks and generally is higher the the niacin they need, but may be too high in protein and cause angel wing in younger ducks. 

Grower/Finisher Feed

Although Purina started marketing this for layers, it was originally only for broilers, like the Cornish Cross. It is designed to lower protein to prepare these broiler chickens for butchering, and is usually given to them at 6 weeks old. 

Purina Flock Raiser

Purina's Flock Raiser is meant for the mixed flock of different ages and species. At 20% protein, is is nutritionally similar to most unmedicated chick starters. A mixed flock is difficult to feed, and a general flock raiser is a good solution, although some of them may need a supplement! For ducklings, you may need to add a bit of Niacin. Leave out free choice oyster shell for the layers (don't worry! The others won't eat it unless they need it). This feed is pretty well-rounded and a good choice for those who raise a mixed flock. 

Nutrena Feather Fixer

Feather Feather Fixer is designed for the molting bird to grow in strong, shiny feathers. It can also be used for birds which are exhibiting signs of protein deficiency, such as feather-eating. According to Nutrena, Feather Fixer has extra protein, vitamins, and greens for ideal feather regrowth. Many people have found that their birds grow more healthy-looking feathers and get through molts quicker when using this feed. 

Waterfowl Feed

Waterfowl feed is ideal for ducks, geese, and swans. With most other feed, they must have niacin added or suffer a painful deficiency or risk getting angel wing, a deformity of the wing caused by a too high-calorie, high-protein feed. When using waterfowl feed for adults or young, you don't have to worry about adding supplements because it is complete for them. If you are raising waterfowl separately from other species, and this type of feed is available to you, it is highly recommended to use feed specifically for waterfowl!

We hope that we helped clear up some confusion! What feed do you use for your birds? Leave a Comment! Remember to check out our Facebook Page and our Instagram for regular updates and cute pictures!

"NatureWise Feather Fixer Poultry Feed for Molting." NatureWise Feather Fixer Poultry Feed for Molting. Cargill, Incorportated, 2016. Web. 17 July 2016. <>.

Gerhold, Richard W., Jr. "Overview of Coccidiosis in Poultry." : Coccidiosis: Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, 2009. Web. 17 July 2016. <>.

"Metzer Farms Duck and Goose Blog: Can Medicated Feed Be Used for Waterfowl?" Metzer Farms Duck and Goose Blog: Can Medicated Feed Be Used for Waterfowl? Metzer Farms, 30 Nov. 2011. Web. 17 July 2016. <>.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Breed Spotlight - Cayuga Duck

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Cayuga duck is an American breed of duck, originating from the state of New York. This breed is characterized by it's black feathers, which are iridescent  in the sun. They are among the oldest American duck breeds, and has been fairly popular since the mid 1800s. 

Traits of the Breed

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons
The Cayuga duck has black feathers, with a beetle green iridescence in the light. They are as close to solid black as it gets - their bill and legs are black, and their eyes should be very dark brown. This medium-sized breed weighs between 7 and 8 pounds, and are a dual purpose breed, once being the most popular duck for meat before the Pekin was imported to the US. One reason this breed is desired among backyard keepers is the eggs that they produce. High-quality ducks produce black eggs, although they slowly fade to light grey as the female's egg cycle progresses. Cayugas are known for being good foragers, but also being quieter than other breeds such as the Pekin, making them a good choice for the urban duck enthusiast. Male Cayugas are frequently mute!


The history of the Cayuga duck is fairly unclear. The breed originated in the state of New York and is named after Cayuga Lake, of the Finger Lakes region. One theory states that a miller in Duchess County found a pair of black ducks on his property, and bred them to get the Cayuga breed. Experts disagree, and say that there is no evidence to support this claim. A more likely theory is that the breed derives from the English black duck, which were once popular in England. These black ducks were then bred to mallard ducks, leading to the breed as we know it today. Although the origin is still unknown, it is most likely that the Cayuga originated from these domestic black ducks, rather than mutated wild populations. 

Cayuga ducks became less popular when the Pekin was imported from China, as their black feathers made their carcass less desirable on the table than the Pekin's soft white. The Cayuga is making a comeback as backyard enthusiast are often attracted to their beauty and novelty over the utility of other breeds. 

Where to get them

As Cayugas have become common among backyard farmers, they are available at most large hatcheries that sell ducks. For the best, show-quality and darkest eggs, you should buy them from a breeder with stock proven in shows, who will show you his/her birds' eggs before you buy the ducklings. 

Sources:"The Livestock Conservancy." The Livestock Conservancy. The Livestock Conservancy, n.d. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.

"Cayuga Duck." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to Save Money While Raising Chickens

We love our chickens and their eggs, but they're more expensive to keep than if we just bought eggs from the store! Many people are in the same predicament which they love eggs, but are breaking the bank trying to care for them. But there are ways to cut down on the costs of feeding and housing your birds!

Cutting down housing costs

The coop makes up the majority of your start-up costs of chicken keeping. Depending on the size and how it is done, it can end up costing you anywhere from $100 to $2000! So, how do we keep it on the lower end of the spectrum?

Our playhouse coop. All additional wood used in this
coop was upcycled from an old barn!
"Upcycle" existing buildings! To build our first coop, we obtained an old playhouse that was no longer being used, for free. The playhouse was 5 and a half feet off the ground, and had enough square footage to hold 10-12 chickens. We originally had 6 hens, so this gave us room to expand! We enclosed the bottom part of the coop with chicken wire, and put a sliding door in the floor of the coop. The chickens love roosting high up, which provides extra predator protection. We still use this little coop, and plan to upgrade it with more predator-proof welded wire. Considering original construction of this coop cost us only about $70, such upgrades can easily be afforded! This can also be done with old sheds or barns, and I have even seen it done with old campers!

Reuse old wood for your new coop. Are you tearing down an old building, or have a friend who is? Salvage all decent wood from it! Lumber will probably be the most expensive part of building your coop. As long as the wood isn't cracked, rotting, painted with lead paint, or warped, you can probably use it! Using old boards for roofs, walls, and maybe the floor can give your coop a rustic feel and is much better for the environment!

Using the deep litter method keeps you from using too much bedding. When you are replacing straw or shavings once a week, you go through a whole lot of bedding! With the deep litter method, you just keep adding litter on top, stirring it so that air can get to all of the bedding and it stays dry. As the organic matter breaks down, it produces heat that keeps the chickens warm enough without any fire-risky lamps or electric heat! Just make sure your coop is well ventilated, and replace all of the bedding twice a year, or every few months if you don't like to wait that long. You can also reuse bedding if it is only a 'little' dirty. I replace chick bedding a lot. The bedding has a little poop on it that makes it too smelly for my house, but is still pretty good, and it feels wasteful to throw it on the compost pile. To clean the bedding, fill a bin of water and put the soiled bedding in it. Use a stick to stir the bedding, which will separate the "icky stuff" and the straw. Spread the bedding out in the sun to dry, and use it for the big chicken coop! I've found that this works best with straw, because shavings break down too easily. For the main coop, I also use free bedding types, like leaves and dry grass clippings, which the chickens love to scratch in!

Cutting down on feed costs

The majority of your long-term investment is taken up by feed costs. The chickens have to eat - there's no way around it! You will be spending some money on feeding your chickens. However, you don't have to sign away your savings! There are ways to save on feeding your birds!

There are tons of protein-rich insects in this soil!
Free ranging - If you can allow your birds to run freely around your yard, that will significantly cut feed costs! During the spring, summer, and fall months when Mother Nature is providing, my chickens will go from eating fifty pounds of feed a week, to that much in three weeks! They engorge themselves on clover and dandelion, and eat invasive species like Japanese beetles and stinkbugs by the hundreds! While the layers and dual-purpose birds seem to need a little bit of feed to support their bodies, the bantams live almost solely off of the land during these seasons, and are healthy as can be! 
Also, in order to support your flock more off the land, don't mow your lawn as often! Allow the grass and flowers to get tall enough to produce seeds! The seeds have a lot more nutrients and calories than the grass itself, so it allows your chickens to get a lot more out of free ranging! If you have a large yard, you have the option of mowing just around your house regularly and letting the rest grow up for the chickens!
Be aware, however, that allowing your flock to free range can come with risks. Hawks soar high above, and dogs dig under fences. There is no way to fully protect your flock while free ranging, even if you're out there with them. Most of the time, they will be fine, but there lives are at a higher risk out in the open. Cover, such as bushes and brush, and a good rooster will help keep them safer than an open field. 

Fermenting your feed may allow you to feed them less, while providing them with more nutrition! Fill a bucket with your regular feed, and then put water in the bucket, so that the feed is covered by just a couple inches, then allow this to sit for a couple of days. This should then be fed to your chickens in a trough. Many experienced users on swear that it reduces their feed costs, and that their chickens seem healthier and fatter than before! This study found significant health benefits of using fermented feed in laying hens, such as better resistance to certain bacteria, when compared to the control group. They did note poorer plumage condition and aggressive behavior, although many people report improvements in plumage after feeding fermented feed.  

Yogurt is a healthy treat, but most other dairy should be avoided!
Feeding your chickens kitchen scraps can significantly reduce your feed costs! Many people criticize this method, but it's not a bad option. The way I see it, if I eat a healthy, balanced diet, my scraps will also be balanced. Therefore, my kitchen scraps are okay for my chickens, too! Furthermore, it's not going to hurt my chickens to have an occasional unhealthy treat anymore than it hurts me. If you would let your kids occasionally eat Doritos or mac n' cheese, why is it so horrible to let your chickens eat that when you have some left over? Your chickens probably shouldn't be living solely off of scraps, but if it's mostly healthy food, they can make up a lot of the birds' diet! Good things for the chickens are the same as what's good for you! Veggies, cooked beans, whole grains, lean meats, yogurt, and cottage cheese are all good for them! Be careful with uncultured dairy, however. Humans developed the ability to process lactose as adults when we began domesticating animals, but other animals didn't! So unless you want to be cleaning up chicken diarrhea, it's best to avoid most dairy!

Buy feed by the ton from a grain mill and store it in a dry place, to avoid the $14 a bag pricetag at the feed store! If you have a lot of chickens, this may be the best option for you! Most grain mills require at least one ton of feed be bought at a time, sometimes more, and they often deliver it to your house. People who do this usually store the feed in large plastic barrels. When storing such large amounts of feed, you may encounter problems such as rodents and mold, and measures must be taken to prevent them from ruining your feed. Traditionally, cats were kept in grain storage buildings to catch mice, a job which they were bred to do. To prevent mold, you may need to run a dehumidifier in your storage area, depending on how damp it is. 

Accept that chickens can be expensive

You can always cut corners, but sometimes, we just have to fork over the bill! They need some chicken feed for a balanced diet. They need a safe coop, and while it's easy to skimp on the welded wire for chicken wire (guilty, and correcting), it's a pain when you're replacing chickens due to predators. Chicken keeping simply costs money, but there's nothing wrong with trying to reduce that cost as long at their needs are met!

Do you have a creative chicken-keeping method that saves you money? Share! Don't forget to check out our Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!

Engberg, R. M., M. Hammershøj, N. F. Johansen, M. S. Abousekken, S. Steenfelt, and B. B. Jensen. "Fermented Feed for Laying Hens: Effects on Egg Production, Egg Quality, Plumage Condition and Composition and Activity of the Intestinal Microflora." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2009. Web. 03 May 2016. <>.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring 2016 Contest

It's that time of the year. Spring Contest time! We're proud to announce that this year's spring contest theme is Hack Your Homestead!

Original photo by pixabay

Have you ever visited, or watched TruTV's Hack My Life? You've probably seen some awesome money, time, and effort saving shortcuts from there, and maybe even tried them yourself! Homesteaders and hobby farmers are often extremely ingenuitive, because you have to be when you're raising livestock and growing plants! We find creative ways to make jobs easier and fix broken things cheaply all the time! Do you have a hack for chickens, gardening, or anything farm-y? Snap a picture, and enter our contest!


Your entry must include:
  • at least one picture of your hack, completed. The picture does not have to be professional, but it does have to be clear enough to see what is going on.
  • directions on how your hack is done
  • your email address at which you would prefer to be contacted, if different from the one you're sending from
  • your entry should be sent by email to 
  • your entry must be submitted between the dates of April 20, 2016 and May 21, 2016.
  • Contest is open to only the United States (sorry!)
  • It is preferable that your hack is completely your own - something you thought of yourself. If you learned it from someone else, please state where.
  • It MUST be something that you did yourself. Do not submit someone else's work or picture!
  • One entry per person. Submit your most useful and unique hack!
  • Must be willing to provide an email address and mailing address upon winning.
  • Be safe.
  • Must be 18 or older to enter 
We will choose the most unique and useful hacks to be tested to the best of our ability. We will choose the winner based on how well the hack worked and how much time, money, and/or effort it saves. The contest ends on May 15th, 2016, however judging could take a few weeks afterward given we have to test unique hacks. Winners will be announced on our blog as well as on our Facebook page. 


The prizes we are offering this year include a $25 Tractor Supply Co. gift card and another prize that will be announced at a later date! There will be two runner-up prizes of $10 Tractor Supply Co. gift cards as well! If a winner or runner up refuses to disclose their mailing address, another winner will be chosen. We would also like to feature the winner and their homestead, with a brief email interview! The winner may opt out of the interview if they wish, however.

So enter now!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Poultry Illness - Chronic Respiratory Disease

There are many potential diseases that effect poultry. Chicken keepers must always be aware of symptoms their chickens may be showing so they can determine what is wrong and find a solution quickly. Some illnesses can be spread between domestic poultry and wild bird populations. Today, we discuss the highly feared Chronic Respiratory Disease.

At a Glance

Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD), caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma Gallistepticum (often abbreviated MG), affects the respiratory system of birds and is highly contagious. To make matters worse, there is no cure for this condition, although there are treatments to control symptoms. It is often brought into a flock by bringing in a new bird and not following proper quarantine procedures. M. Gallistepticum can be transmitted to some wild birds, making it a potential risk to wild populations. Once infected, a bird will continue to carry the bacteria for the rest of it's life, spreading it to any other bird it is in contact with.


Turkeys are susceptible to MG, making it a big problem for commercial turkey farms
M. gallisepticum is highly transmittable. It only takes coming into contact with someone who has come into contact with an infected bird, or bird's feces. The disease affects many captive species, including chickens, ducks, geese, pheasant, pigeons, and quail. Turkeys are especially susceptible to the bacteria, and infections are often more severe to them. When a bird shares a feeder or pecks the ground where someone's contaminated shoe was, it contracts the bacteria. Once that bird is infected, it spreads it to all of its flockmates, making the whole flock a carrier. CRD is transmittable through the egg, so offspring hatched from those eggs may have the illness. Chicks with CRD often die early on. Adults will likely not even show symptoms unless they are stressed, although there will likely be low hatch rate from their eggs and, as previously stated, their chicks may die quickly after hatching. All infected birds are carriers for life, and will transmit the bacteria to any bird they are in contact with. Humans are not infected with M. gallisepticum. 

Symptoms and diagnoses 

The most common symptoms of CRD include wheezing, sneezing, coughing, decrease in egg laying, nasal discharge, and sometimes swelling of the face. There are many other diseases that cause these symptoms, so it is advisable to have your flock tested for M. gallistepticum before you make any decisions. If a bird dies, save it in the refrigerator and contact your local Department of Agriculture to see if they offer testing for common diseases. If they do not, call your nearest avian veterinarian and see if they can test the bird. A test must take place to identify MG specifically, as many other respiratory diseases follow the same symptoms. If it is positive, then you will have some tough decisions to make. 

Treatment and Options

The M. gallistepticum bacteria is resistant to penicillins, which affect the cell wall of the bacteria. They are susceptible to some broad-spectrum antibiotics, such as tetracyclines and tylosin. Treatment with antibiotics, given when there is a flair, will control the symptoms, but is not a cure for CRD. This can become costly over time. Do not sell or give away any eggs during the withdrawal period of antibiotics. Some people are allergic to certain antibiotics, and residues are left in the eggs while and after the birds are being treated. It can vary from seven to twenty-one days, and they package of your antibiotics should have it in the instructions.
Because infected bird will be a carrier for the rest of their lives, regardless of treatment, it is a wise decision to cull an entire infected flock and start over with new birds. While this sounds harsh, it is a reality. Your flock, as much as you love them, could pose a risk to native wildlife simply by being there. Not only that, but you can never sell a bird or hatching eggs, and any bird you add will also be infected with the bacteria. If your chickens are also you business, it will not be able to operate effectively when infected with this disease.

Most songbirds are resistant to MG, but it can be a big problem for Finches and other birds!
 If you choose to keep an MG positive flock and do periodic treatment, it is imperative that you have strict safety precautions, making sure that absolutely no wild birds can come in contact with your flock or their bodily fluids. If that means double-fencing or keeping your coop surrounded by a huge screen, so be it. If you go to friends house or to a feed store, make sure you're wearing shoes and clothes that have not come into contact with your chickens, and shower before going. Do not allow an MG positive flock to free range! It is your responsibility to make sure the illness doesn't leave your flock. 


CRD is prevented by basic biosecurity measures. If you visit another farm, you should shower and change your clothes and shoes before coming into contact with your flock. Any new birds should be quarantined for at least two weeks, preferably four, to see if the stress of moving brings out symptoms. Quarantined birds should be totally away from the flock, and you should change your shoes (or wear show covers) and clothes after you come into contact with the new bird, before caring for your healthy flock. If you take a bird to a show, also quarantine them before adding them back to the flock. They may have come into contact with the bacteria from other birds at the show. Obtaining chicks and chickens from NPIP certified breeders and hatcheries is also a good way to prevent your flock from becoming infected, as NPIP tests regularly for disease. 

Quick Recap

Chronic Respiratory Disease/ Mycoplasma Gallisepticum:
  • is extremely contagious.
  • is a permanent condition; all infected birds are carriers for life.
  • can be a threat to native avian populations.
  • is NOT transmittable to humans.
  • has symptoms treatable with certain antibiotics.
  • is a particularly menacing threat to turkeys and finches.
  • needs a test to confirm diagnoses.
  • is preventable through basic bio-security procedures.
  • is tested for in NPIP certified flocks.

Have you ever dealt with CRD? Do you think your flock may be infected? Leave a comment, ask a question! Remember to check out or Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!


Ley, David H., DVM, PhD. "Mycoplasma Gallisepticum Infection in Poultry."Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Mycoplasma Gallisepticum Infection, M.g., Chronic Respiratory Disease - Chickens." The Poultry Site. The PoultrySite, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. <>.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Roosters, Oh, Roosters

Roosters can be a wonderful addition to the flock! They come with their own set of pros and cons - and you must have at least one if you wish to hatch your own eggs. Sometimes they are intentionally sought out, but many of us get roosters on accident from the "pullet" bins at feed stores. So are you looking to add a rooster to your flock? Or are you starting to notice red combs and wattles on some of your Easter chicks? Either way, read on!

*Some words used in this article may have unclear meanings. To begin with, let's clear them up.

Rooster - a colloquial word meaning any male chicken, commonly used in the US.
Cock - a male chicken over the age of one year; a breeding-age male chicken.
Cockerel - a male chicken under the age of one year
Pullet - a female chicken under the age of one year
Hen - a female chicken over the age of one year; a breeding-age female chicken
Spurs - sharp, pointed spine on a rooster's leg
Cull - to remove from the flock, usually by killing but not always
Butcher - to kill for the purpose of eating

What you need to know before keeping a rooster

 Roosters are beautiful, but there are a lot of problems associated with them. Whereas hens are fairly easy to care for, roosters can complicate things pretty quickly.

The main problems chicken owners run into with roosters are temperament issues; roosters can be mean! There are reasons for this, the main reason being testosterone. The male hormone is known to cause aggression in virtually every male animal, birds included. The reason he is so aggressive it due to his drive to reproduce, caused by testosterone. Basically, he wants your backyard filled with his offspring, and he has to keep his hens alive and mated by himself in order for that to happen. He sees basically everything as a threat to his hens, an obstacle on the way to his goal of filling your backyard with his offspring. So he grows fiercely protective. Sometimes this is a good thing, as a rooster will deter small predators, such as stray cats, and even sacrifice himself to let the hens escape a larger predator. Depending on the rooster, this aggressive instinct can be completely nonexistent to so bad that you can't even step in the coop without getting spurred. If it's the latter, he's probably gotta go! Personally, I'm willing to deal with a certain amount of aggression if the rooster does his job well. If he keeps my eggs fertile and keeps his girls safe, I can handle occasional aggression as long as he is not too territorial. When people visit, I tell them not to try and pick up the hens lest they be spurred by our Fonzie.

Ruby has to wear a caped "saddle" to protect her from the roosters' spurs
 Another commonly encountered problem with raising roosters is aggressive mating and over-mating. Young cockerels, flooded with more hormones than their bodies can handle, will often chase and grab younger pullets or even hens and try to mate them. Pullets are not yet mature enough to understand what's going on and get scared, and hens generally won't respect a young cockerel trying to mate them, so the youngster can get quite forceful and aggressive. An older rooster generally will not allow this behavior and will knock off young boys who try to mate his hens. If the behavior persists, however, the young rooster will likely have to spend some time in solitary confinement until he matures a little bit or the pullets catch up and begin squatting. A rooster who continues aggressively mating into adulthood can be a big problem. Over-mating occurs when there are too many roosters for a given number of hens, or he favors a specific hen and mates her too often. An over mated hen will often have a bare back and may have lacerations caused by the males' spurs. This can be solved by reducing your number of roosters, or putting "saddles" on your hens to protect their backs and wings. 

Roosters often crow 'round the clock
 Also keep in mind that roosters crow, a lot. They don't just crow in the morning; they crow in the morning, noontime, afternoon, evening, and yes, sometimes they crow at night if something wakes them up. The crowing itself measures in at roughly the same volume as a dog's bark, but is harder for many people to tune out. If your city or HOA doesn't allow roosters due to crowing, you may be able to get around it using a no-crow collar, but it doesn't work with all roosters and care must be taken that they are used correctly. Even if you don't mind the lovely songs (which I don't - I have four crowing boys right now and I love it!), do take my advise and don't put the coop right next to anyone's bedroom window. If you do, you will regret it!

 Even if you have a rooster, you can eat the eggs! Fertile eggs are no different from infertile eggs nutritionally. The embryo will not begin to develop unless it is kept at incubating temperatures. They will not develop in your fridge. Some people have said that fertile eggs will not keep as long, but I have not had this problem. I experimented with some eggs by putting them in a carton in my fridge labeled "aged eggs" and checked them 4 months later. Still good! These were unwashed, keep in mind. Please don't sell anyone 4 month old eggs. 

Multiple roosters will fight occasionally, but it shouldn't be a bloodbath. Game-based breeds need males to be kept separately because they will literally fight to the death - it's what they were bred for! Most common breeds will have an occasional scuffle with a few drops of blood, ending with the more dominant rooster chasing the other off. This is usually over mating rights, as the lead roo, (cock of the walk, if you will) rarely allows the boys below him to mate. This is acceptable behavior, so don't try to intervene unless they are seriously injuring each other. You could end up at the end of their spurs! If you do have to stop them, use a broom rather than your hands!

Although roosters fight on occasion, excessive fighting is problematic

You want a rooster, but what breed?

Some breeds are more docile than others, and roosters of these breeds generally follow those traits. It is often debated whether a rooster's personality is due more to nature or nurture. Given the chicken's primitive and instinctual mindset, and my personal experience, I lean on the side of "nature" being the main determining factor of a rooster's temerament, with nurture being a factor. Keep in mind, these are generalizations and may not be true for each individual bird. 

Marquis, keeping the bantams warm because he was too docile for the big hens at the time
Docile breeds, like Orpingtons, Cocins, and Faverolles generally produce docile roosters. These roos tend to be low on the totem pole with other males and are the least likely to show human aggression. My Salmon Faverolles cockerel is so far the sweetest of all my boys, lets me pick him up and rarely fights. These breeds are good options for people with children.

Protective breeds may show mild aggression, but are very good at protecting the flock. Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Easter Egger roosters may serve this purpose well. Use caution if you have young children, make sure they know not to chase or grab the hens, and don't let them go out with the chickens alone. Multiple roosters may fight but do not normally cause any serious injuries to the other. 
Although Fonzie, a Rhode Island Red, is blind in one eye, he is fiercely protective of his flock and has survived several attacks.

Aggressive and fighting breeds are not recommended if you have young children or multiple roosters in the same flock. Any gamefowl, and some ornamental game-based breeds like the Sumatra or Pheonix are part of this group. If you will only have one rooster, or a way to separate all of the males, these breeds will likely be very protective. Males are likely to fight until one bird is dead, as that is what they are bred for. 

If your getting your bird as a chick, you can help prevent human aggression by handling him regularly to get him use to you. This may keep him from seeing you as a threat, however it may not prevent him from fighting other males or ferociously attacking the FedEx guy. This is why it is important to choose a more docile breed as well if you want a docile rooster. Some people say that heritage-bred chickens of the same breed are gentler than than their hatchery-bred cousins, but this is not always the case, as it is up to the individual breeder to only select friendly breeding stock.
 The temperament of a rooster can change a lot as he ages. A kind cockerel can turn very aggressive as he approaches his second year, and an aggressive youngster into a gentleman. For your first roo, it may be a good idea to skip the uncertain teenage years and get an adult whose personality is already revealed. Some 

Options when you have an accidental rooster

As the weeks following Easter pass by, many people are finding their little fuzzballs to have big red combs and wattles. Uh oh, didn't think about that, huh? Don't fret, there are options!

Keeping the rooster is the first choice. Roosters can be a joy to have around, and having one lessens your dependence on hatcheries to replenish your stock! If a dog kills 5 of my hens, all I have to do is grab some eggs and put them in the incubator, because my roosters provide me with the means to do so. I don't have to wait until feed store chick days or buy 15 chicks from a hatchery, hoping they'll make it okay in the dead of winter. They never leave my little farm - accustomed to me the whole time! However, as I stated previously, roosters can come with a whole slew of their own problems, and beginner chicken keepers may not what to deal with that. Also, many cities don't allow roosters due to noise. This may be remedied by using a no-crow collar, a device that slightly restricts airflow through the chicken's vocal cords. When used correctly, it does not hurt them at all, and they can make all sounds except the crow. For comparison, take two fingers and put pressure on your larynx - the bump in your throat. You can talk and breath fine, right? Now try to sing loudly. That's sort of how the no-crow collar works. It doesn't work with all roosters and may need some adjusting to get right. 

You may try and rehome the rooster to a pet family. Depending on your rooster's breed, this is a possibility! Fonzie is a Rhode Island Red, a favorite breed in my area, that I got from a friend who doesn't like to butcher unless it's necessary. If you have a more rare breed, some people will jump at the chanced to have one at low cost or for free! Facebook groups and online classifieds are great places to list your boys. However, after the rooster is no longer in your hands, you have no control over what happens. If he develops aggression, the new owner may kill him. They may kill him just because they found another rooster that they like better. Many people run their farms like that, and if you absolutely can't handle that, you should probably find a way to keep him. 

Many of us butcher roosters that we can't keep. Most farmers simply don't want more than one rooster for every five or more girls, so finding "pet homes" for all of these males is often unrealistic. Think about it, why don't you want to keep him? Why would anyone else be able to? This is an unpleasant reality that chicken owners must face, unless they are willing to keep equal males and females. Butchering assures that the animal gets a death that is up to your standards of painlessness, whereas a stranger may use more painful methods. It also provides you with healthier food that was humanely raised, not raised in a filthy barn packed with thousands of barely-alive meat birds. I'm not going to lie, this is hard to do, especially your first couple of times. There are two common methods of killing chickens - decapitation and bleeding out. My dad prefers the former, the old way, while I prefer the latter because there is less twitching and flapping afterwards. Both are very quick and humane ways of killing the rooster. If your blade is sharp, he will be gone before he even realizes what's going on. 

Feeding and housing roosters

A rooster will excitedly alert his hens when he finds food
Some people keep all of their males totally separate from their hens when it is not breeding season. I do not find this separation necessary unless the rooster or roosters are being aggressive or over mating the hens. The reason some people do this is because they don't want their males eating layer feed due to the extra calcium. Some suggest that the calcium can lead to kidney problems because they males do not need it for eggs. Others respond that this is purely speculation, and that layer feed does not hurt the roosters, since there's not that much extra calcium (hens still need a calcium supplement if they eat layer feed). I keep roosters and hens alike together. You may need more space per bird, especially if you have more than one male, so that all of them can easily get away from each other. As for feeding, I have used two methods in the past. I have fed the whole flock unmedicated 20% protein chick starter and provided a supplement for the hens, and I've given the whole flock layer feed. I have had no problems with either method, but if you're concerned about the extra calcium, the former method is the way to go! As chick feed is a little higher in protein than layer, this is an excellent method for free ranging flocks that eat a lot of grass and seeds. Make sure you always provide free-choice oyster shell for your hens with this method, as they need the calcium for laying. 

You and your rooster

Your rooster probably won't be your best friend, but with luck and patience, he will respect you. He will make you more self sufficient by giving you the means to produce your own chicks, and he will keep your hens safer. A rooster also makes a pretty addition to your yard and will sing for you every morning, and noon, and evening! My flock would not be complete without my lovely roosters, is yours?

Do you have roosters? Do you want one? Leave a comment and share your boys! Remember to check out our Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!

All images used in this article are either owned by me or were obtained through Creative Commons.