Despite the dramatic headline, this has nothing to do with dust bathing causing fires. The relationship is all in the re-use. We heat our home with wood and collect the fireplace ash to use in the barn for making dust baths for the birds. The enjoy the ash and combined with a little sand, it is a great way for them to clean themselves and keep the biting pests at bay.
Here you can see Gladys, one of our Buffs enjoying one of the pans we set out for them. There is a line waiting for the bath! It is funny to see chickens line up to take turns, and they seem to do it on a regular basis for baths and nesting boxes, though never for food. When it is dinner time, it is all hands (wings?) on deck at the same time.
In our large common indoor pen, we built an access panel to accommodate access to future nesting boxes and we finally got around to building the nesting boxes this winter.
For those of you who saw our post about the turkey nesting boxes and noted the 2×4 roost, this one is considerably smaller. That is due to the fact that chicken hens way a lot less and also have smaller feet, allowing the more size appropriate roost.
The external access is great, and would make egg collecting chores easier, except we added other nesting boxes in the main pen for breed isolation during the spring egg season. Once we mix the hens again, this will be more helpful!
Our turkeys got to laying stage and needed something besides finding piles of hay or straw to lay eggs in so we used up a variety of the scrap bits we had around to set up a 2 seater nesting box. The back is screwed into the barn structure, so there are only legs on the front.
The front of the nesting box has a 2×4 step up rail to give the girls an easy way to get in and out of the nests and has worked quite well.
Now we are ready for eggs! We did note that we should have installed the back rail to keep eggs from rolling out the back when the hens got carried away, but that was an easy fix and we are now in business.
Items to remember if you build your own:
A nice sloped roof that overhangs the nest by a few inches discourages pooping in the nest.
Make sure you have the nests high enough to reach in comfortably without too much bending.
The girls need a roost bar to get in more comfortably, but it is not required.
Hay is better than straw inside as it is softer and makes a nicer nest
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, also recognized as ALBC, has placed the Jersey Giant on a “Watch List” of Heritage Chicken Breeds. The group seeks to follow the population of particular chickens to ensure that they do not disappear from our American backyards. The Jersey Giant dates back to the mid-to-late 1800’s from breeders in New Jersey wanting to replace the turkey as the big poultry for the dinner table.
John and Thomas Black of Burlington, NJ created this large, single comb breed and the APA ( American Poultry Association) acknowledged the breed in 1922 (Hobby Farms, Guide to Chicken Breeds). Through observation we have learned that the hens are quiet, lay a medium brown-mauve- colored egg generously. They prefer to roost on top of the nest boxes or hop from there to our roosting bar. Rarely have I seen them fly.
The roosters are mildly behaved compared to the Ameraucana and Easter Eggers. I would definitely refer to our chosen JG rooster as docile. Their smaller single comb makes them both heat and cold tolerant. They are black with a green sheen to their full feathers. When going through molt, you can see that their insulating feathers are brown. If you pick the them up you will be surprised at how heavy they are compared to other egg laying breeds. The JG can naturally reproduce and so if you are looking for a dual purpose bird that will lay you beautiful eggs and fill a stew pot, I think this is the bird for you.
When buying many breeds of chickens as day-old chicks, you often do so as a straight run. This means you get what you get. However you can pay additional money to have the chicks sexed, gender determined. We bought straight runs back in February of three breeds and they were shipped during the coldest week that we had. Despite a hot pack, the casualties were high. In the end we lost half the order and received a refund for them. Not what we wanted, but it was then that we decided to find backyard breeders locally to avoid this heartache.
In the end, we had:
Buff Orpingtons-2 roosters & 2 hens
Silver Laced Wyandotte- 2 roosters & 1 hen
Welsummer- 1 hen
Those numbers simply do not work. We purchased some chicks from local breeders, but again, as a straight run. This time we got:
Welsummer-1 rooster & 1 hen
Easter Egger- 4 roosters & 1 hen
Splash Maran-3 roosters & 2 hens
What in the world was going on for our luck? Let’s not forget that when we got the Splash Marans, the breeder gave us 2 freebies which ended up being, you guessed it, roosters! Those two were of course chosen by our children as their pet prior to knowing they in fact would grow to be crowing, humping, fluff balls of energy. Hooray for us!
We planned to keep a rooster of each variety in order to be able to breed them. This meant a few went to freezer camp (stew pot) as this was just their luck of the draw. Eventually a few went to live outdoors among our goats, turkeys, pigs, alpacas and llama. The scene is straight out of Charlotte’s Web and we enjoy the roosters. Thankfully their behavior is good and we attribute this to having no hens to compete over.
Right now we have spare roosters living in our chicken tractor. Normally that space is reserved for our Cornish Cross meat chickens, but they have all been sent to freezer camp.
Before winter comes, we need to decide the fate of these colorful alarm clocks.
The above photo is Flower, the Lavender Ameraucana.