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Backyard Chicken Care

A red chicken stands on some stumps after taking a dust bath in diatomaceous earth.

If you want your backyard chickens to lead healthy, happy lives – Diatomaceous Earth is a must-have for anyone who owns a coop and has a flock of feathered friends.

What is DE (Diamotacious Earth), and how can it help my chickens?

Food-Grade diatomaceous earth contains finely ground and processed fossilized algae commonly called diatoms.

DE has a whole array of benefits for poultry’s health, from absorbing odor-causing moisture, to increasing the strength of their egg’s shells. Diatoms are essentially very fine, abrasive particles with sharp edges that have natural absorption capabilities. When chickens excrete, the resulting manure is rich in nitrogen, especially the chicken’s equivalent of urine – uric acid. When the manure then becomes wet, the nitrogen decomposes and produces a gas called ammonia, which gives off a pungent smell. Adding DE to your backyard chicken care routine will make for happy, healthy chickens.

How do I use DE with my chickens?

Absorbent Products has produced several Diamotacious Earth products specially formulated for use with your backyard chicken coop.

To Help Control Odor

Activated Barn Fresh, Fresh Coop Odor Control available in both a resealable bag or jug with shaker lid. It is a safe and easy way to manage the ammonia odor and moisture levels present in your chicken coop.

Sprinkling your Diamotacious Earth over the freshly cleaned floor of your coop before laying down new litter is a safe and effective way to capture the moisture that naturally collects there.

To Aid In Preening Maintenance

Absorbent Product’s Fresh Coop Dust Bath encourages your flock’s natural daily preening maintenance. Keep their feathers in tip-top condition by promoting and enhancing their natural dust bathing behavior. 

Sprinkle a layer of DE over your chicken’s dirt and sand tub, and let the chickens work it in. As the chickens play and roll around in the dust bath, they will cover themselves with the DE infused sand. Fresh Coop Dust Bath is composed of Food Chemical Codex Grade (Food Grade) Diatomaceous Earth and Calcium Montmorillonite. This unique natural blend of Diatomaceous Earth helps to keep feathers clean by absorbing excess oils.

To Lay Strong, Beautiful Eggs

Fresh Coop Egg-Layer Grit is our soluble chicken grit that is essential for healthy, beautiful eggs. Soft, thin, or missing eggshells are a sign that your layers are calcium deficient. A proper egg-laying diet will ensure they’re getting the calcium they need while allowing you total control over their feed. Fresh Coop Egg-Layer Grit offers an excellent, natural source rich in calcium for chickens.

For chickens that are over 18 weeks old, Fresh Coop Egg-Layer Grit can be mixed with coarse grain or free-choice. Grit is designed to help the chickens’ digestive system function well and break down the food as it should. The grit also helps grind down the food in the gizzard, keeping their digestive system happy!

Are there disadvantages to using diatomaceous Earth?

There are a few things that will affect the overall usefulness of Diatomaceous Earth that you need to keep in mind.

  • Unfortunately, Diatomaceous Earth can become less effective when wet. Limiting use to inside the coop means that you will mitigate problems in areas with higher natural moisture levels. Proper storage is vital.
  • When using a deep litter system, be aware that DE is unable to distinguish between good parasites and harmful parasites. Using DE with a deep litter system means it will disable your deep litter system’s processes.

Diatomaceous earth is a remarkable and versatile poultry product for any backyard chicken coop enthusiast. Regardless of the size of your flock, you will be able to reap the benefits of Diatomaceous Earth each day for your chicken! 

For customers in the USA – To purchase any of our Absorbent Product’s Fresh Coop products, please visit our US distribution page to find the retailer nearest to you. 

For customers in Canada – Fresh Coop products can be purchased on amazon.ca or please give us a call at 1-800-667-0336 or email us at info@absorbentproductsltd.com. We would be happy to help!

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Diatomaceous Earth and Chickens: Common Uses and Application Methods

Mother hen with baby chicks

With so much information available on the web it can be hard to get a concise answer as to how diatomaceous earth products are commonly used with chickens. This article encompasses the most common uses of diatomaceous earth for chickens, providing a guide to help you discover new possible ways to use DE.

In Chicken Feed

The Benefits: Red Lake Earth Diatomaceous Earth is meant to be mixed in livestock feed as an anti-caking agent and flow aid. What this means is that the product prevents grain and feed from clumping together, as well as helping to lubricate feed materials being compressed into pellets.

Application: Red Lake Earth Diatomaceous Earth can be mixed into feed (on a daily basis) at a rate of 2% of the animals’ total diet.

As a Dust Bath

The Benefits: Many people find that food grade diatomaceous earth dust bath materials, such as Fresh Coop Dust Bath, create the perfect dust bath for their backyard birds. The DE absorbs excess oils in the feathers and helps to keep a flock happy and healthy.

Application: Most commonly, individuals spread the Fresh Coop Dust Bath powder in areas where their chickens naturally dust themselves. However, the product may also be dumped into a tub or other container and set out for the birds to use as a dust bath.

In the Coop

The Benefits: Diatomaceous Earth, specifically Fresh Coop Odor Control, is often sprinkled around chicken coops to help reduce moisture and odors, as well as dangerous ammonia levels that build up.

Application: Spread the Fresh Coop Odor Control powder around the perimeter of your coop using your hands, a small scoop or other application device. As well, apply the product in any cracks or crevices throughout the coop.

If you have any suggested uses or application methods we would love to hear from you! Share your ideas with us on facebook or contact us directly

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Poultry Mites

One of the most common problems that is faced when raising poultry is that of mites. There are several different types of mites that can infest flocks and poultry housing. These mites can result in production and economic losses as well as eventual death if the problem goes unresolved.

These mites can come from many different sources. Wild birds and rodents entering the coop may bring them in or they may be picked up at sales, auctions or shows where many birds are in close contact.

Chicken mites are the most common type that may infest your flock. Chicken mites are nocturnal and feed on the bird’s blood while they sleep at night. They are tiny and yellow or gray in color however they get darker as they feed. Chicken mites live on the skin of birds as well as in nest boxes and bedding. While they prefer chickens as their host, chicken mites may also infest turkeys, pigeons, canaries as well as wild birds. Chicken mites are also known as red mites, gray mites and roost mites. They are a particular problem in warmer climates and in poultry houses that contain wooden roosts. An infestation may cause your birds to become anemic and lethargic with pale comb and wattles.

Chicken mites are considered to be members of the spider family. They are very quick runners and live in the cracks and crevices of poultry houses, on the roosts, walls, ceiling, and floors. The spring, summer and fall months are when these mites are most active.

The most effective way to get rid of these mites is to treat the coop rather than the birds themselves. In fact, you may never see these mites on your birds unless they are examined at night.

Northern fowl mites are another common type of mite. These parasites infect many types of birds including chickens, turkeys and game birds and are thought to be carried by English sparrows. They live directly on the birds and will feed at all times. They are red/brown in color and will cause discoloration of a birds’ feathers. This discoloration is due to the eggs and waste that is left by the mite. If a flock is highly infested the birds may experience anemia leading to decreased egg production, decreased immune functioning, weight loss and many other negative side effects. Infestations may be found to be more severe during the winter months.

Treatment of the birds themselves is most effective for getting rid of these types of mites.

Scaly leg mites may also pose a threat to your poultry. These mites live on the scales of a chickens legs and feet. The scales will begin to lift and separate from the skin. The chickens legs and feet may become swollen and tender and discharge may form under the scales.

Another problem that is faced by poultry farmers is lice. Unlike mites, lice do not feed on blood but rather on dry skin scales and feathers. They have chewing mouth parts rather than the sucking mouth parts possessed by mites. Lice can be found on the skin of a bird, especially on the head, under the wings and around the vent. The chewing action of the lice as well as their movement on the skin will irritate the bird and can result in loss of appetite, weakness, lowered egg production, and susceptibility to illness.

In the case of both lice and mites, untreated birds may exhibit symptoms such as weakening, loss of appetite, emaciation, lowered egg production, lethargy, and even eventually death. It is therefore important to constantly monitor your flock and to immediately treat your birds as soon as signs of an infestation occur.

A minimum of 10 randomly selected birds should be examined for mites weekly. You can estimate the infestation level by blowing on the bird’s feathers and counting the mites you see.

If there are:

  • 5 mites counted = bird may be carrying from 100 to 300 mites
  • 6 mites counted = bird may be carrying from 300 to 1,000 mites (light infestation)
  • 7 mites counted = bird may be carrying from 1,000 to 3,000 mites – small clumps of mites seen on skin and feathers (moderate infestation)
  • 8 mites counted = bird may be carrying from 3,000 to 10,000 mites – accumulation of mites on skin and feathers (moderate to heavy infestation)
  • 9 mites counted = bird may be carrying 10,000 to 32,000 or more mites – numerous large clumps of mites seen on skin and feathers; skin pocketed with scabs (heavy infestation)

When treating for mites it is important to apply treatment to both the coop and the birds themselves. This is due to the fact that, unlike lice, some mites are able to live both on and off of their host.

A variety of treatments and preventative measures are currently available. Pesticides are a common method of treatment however mites and lice can become immune to these pesticides and therefore the technique will no longer be effective. Diatomaceous earth (such as DE-cide) may be a solution that will not become ineffective over time.

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Backyard Chickens: Winter Tips

Chicken outside in the snow

Caring for backyard chickens during the winter months will require some additional work on your part, as cold weather can produce many challenges.

Here are some tips to consider to help keep your chickens happy and healthy during the winter season:

  • Ensure that your coop has sufficient ventilation in order to prevent moisture from building up. A damp coop during cold weather can lead to frost bite on your chickens’ feet, combs and wattles. Some people will also cover their birds’ combs and wattles with petroleum jelly to help prevent frost bite during very cold weather.
  • Don’t use a heater! This could cause a fire! Rather, provide your chickens with a thick layer of bedding to help keep them warm. Roosts are also helpful in keeping your chickens warm during the winter by keeping them off of the ground. Be sure that there is enough space for all of your birds to roost.
  • Provide your birds with an additional light source, especially during short, dark days. Providing a light source for a few extra hours per day will help to keep your hens laying throughout the winter.
  • Feed your chickens cracked corn. The addition of cracked corn will help your chickens to produce body heat. (As their body’s digest the corn, body heat is generated.)
  • Watch for freezing water! Many individuals will use electric water heaters in very cold climates. If you are not using a water heater, be sure to check and change water buckets regularly to prevent freezing. Providing warm water will also help.
  • The same is true for eggs! Be sure to collect eggs from the coop several times a day to ensure that they do not freeze.

Please note: While it is important to help your chickens stay warm during the winter, it is not necessary to entirely seal up the coop. Chickens will follow their natural instincts and will know whether they want to be inside or out. Providing your birds with an access door so that they can move in and out of the coop freely may be a good idea.

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Consumer Reports: Diatomaceous Earth and Chickens

Chicken coop

RaChelle from Jacksonville, Florida uses Diatomaceous Earth with her chickens. Below are her suggested uses and the results she has experienced.

I like your product, I use Red Lake Earth DE in my chicken feed every few months.

Fresh Coop Odor Control:

I put it diatomaceous earth in a coffee can with holes in the top to dust the area around the coop and inside the run before I put hay down. I use it inside the coop under bedding to absorb moisture, control odor, and make a nice base so that cleaning the inside is easier.

When I’m cleaning the inside of the coop I sprinkle some everywhere, then take a wire brush with a metal scraper on the edge (used for cleaning barbecue grills) and scrape waste easily [away] and the surface is free of poop and debris and ready to be cleaned and/or hosed down without scrubbing or any effort.

Fresh Coop Dust Bath:

Finally, I mix a bath for my birds using ashes (I burn hay), dirt, and DE.

Needless to say the 50 lbs bag is my best friend.

Image by Kristine Paulus

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Chicken Facts

chicken walking in grass

Check out these interesting facts about chickens.

Did you know…

  • Chickens are the closest living relatives of the t-rex.
  • The sounds that chickens make have actual meaning. Chickens even have different alarm calls for different predators!
  • A mature male chicken is called a rooster, cock or roo and a mature female chicken is
    called a hen. A baby chicken is known as a chick. An immature male chicken is called a
    cockerel and an immature female chicken a pullet.
  • There are over 150 types of domestic chickens.
  • Chickens were domesticated approximately 8000 years ago.
  • A chickens’ heart beats 280-315 times a minute.
  • A rooster takes 18-20 breathes a minute and a hen 30-35.
  • The longest recorded flight of a chicken is 13 seconds.
  • A hen can live up to 20 years.
  • A hen will lay eggs her entire life. The number of eggs she lays will decrease every year.
  • Chickens lay all different colored eggs, from white, to brown, to green, to pink, to blue.
  • The color of a hen’s first egg is the color she will lay for life.
  • It takes a hen 24-26 hours to lay an egg.
  • Chickens prefer to have private nests. A hen will build her nest by first scratching a hole in the ground. She will then pick up twigs and leaves and drop them on her back. She will then transport the supplies back to her hole where she will let the material slide off her back around the rim.
  • It takes a chick 21 days to develop in the egg.
  • A hen begins to bond with her chicks before they are born. She will turn her eggs as often as five times an hour and cluck to her unborn chicks, who will chirp back to her and to one another.
  • If a rooster is not present in a flock of hens, a hen will often take the role. She will stop laying eggs and will begin to crow.
  • A chicken has 4 or 5 toes on each foot.
  • Chickens have no teeth and swallow their food whole.
  • Chickens are social animals. They will fight to protect their family and even mourn when loved one is lost.
  • It takes 4 lbs. or more of feed to produce 1 dozen eggs.
  • The average hen lays 265 eggs per year.
  • The world record for the most eggs laid is held by a White Leghorn who, in 1979, laid 371 eggs in a year!
  • A fear of chickens is known as Alektorophobia.
  • Chickens are less nervous if their caretaker walks backwards.

Image by Martin de Witte

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Do Chickens Like Music?

Laying hen overlooking her egg

Could it be that chickens enjoy soothing and relaxing music just as much as we do? Results from a study at the University of Bristol in the UK suggests that they do!

For eight weeks, music was played at various times throughout the day in hens’ nesting boxes. Classical, pop and rock music was used. As well, in some boxes no music was played. This allowed researchers to compare the chickens’ behavior directly as a result of the music.

It was found that all types of music intrigued the hens. In fact, they entered the nesting boxes 159% more when music was playing! However, the study revealed that it was classical music that the hens preferred. While the hens did not lay more eggs overall in response to this music, it was found that they did visit nesting boxes that played classical music more often and laid 6% more eggs in these nesting boxes.

In response to these results, in order to help boost hen happiness, relaxation and productivity, Happy Egg Co. produced a CD, Top of the Flocks, just for their feathered friends! The CD, composed by British composer Jack Ketch has three tracks and is available on SoundCloud at the following link: Top of the Flocks – Relaxing tracks to set feathers a flutter

Share it with your flock and let us know what they think!

Image by Karen Jackson

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How Smart Are Chickens?

Just how smart are chickens? Pretty smart, it turns out! In fact, studies have shown that chickens have many cognitive attributes similar to that of mammals, even primates! Check out these amazing facts about chickens that you might not have known:

  1. Chickens have the capacity to demonstrate self-control and even to consider the future. For example, studies have shown that chickens can consciously choose to delay gratification, understanding that if they refused food initially they would receive a larger amount of food later.
  2. Chickens have great memories! They are able to remember and recognize more than 100 different individuals, including humans.
  3. Chickens understand object permanence. That is, they can understand that an object that is taken away and hidden from sight still continues to exist. They even have the capacity to recognize a whole object when it is partially hidden. Very few animals demonstrate this ability, including young human children!
  4. Like primates, chickens are socially complex creatures, forming organized communities and learning from one another. In fact, they even seem to adjust their behavior according to those around them! Chickens have strong personalities, form friendships and have a range of interests.
  5. Chickens have the capacity to empathize. For instance, some chickens are protective not only of their own chicks but also of chicks that are not related to them.

Image by Chris Bartow

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Baby Chicks: The Must-Have Checklist to Prepare for Their Arrival

baby chick

Will you be getting new baby chicks this year? Whether it’s your first time welcoming chicks into your family or you’ve done it before, it’s important to be prepared! Check out this must-have checklist and make sure you’re ready with everything you’ll need to start these little bundles of joy off right in their new home.

Chick Checklist:

Do you have the following items ready and in working condition for when you bring your chicks home?

Brooder

All you really need to make the perfect brooder is a plastic bin, tub or other type of container. Fancy brooders can be bought but often it is easier, and more cost effective, to use something you have around the house.

It is important that your brooder does not allow any air to flow through it. The chicks should not be able to feel any type of draft in their brooder.

In the bottom of the brooder you should have some sort of bedding. Good options for non-slip bedding include: pine shavings, peat moss, finely shredded paper, crushed corn cobs, chopped straw, puppy pads, paper towels or even sand. The bedding should be applied about 1-2 inches thick. Bedding should be checked daily and changed if necessary. Wet spots should always be removed, as allowing wet litter to sit can result in the growth of mold.

If any other animals are in the vicinity of the brooder you may want to consider covering the top of it with chicken wire, mesh or another appropriate cover that will not impact ventilation. This is very important – you do not want to block ventilation in the brooder!

Don’t forget – a small brooder might be all you need in the beginning but your chicks will grow quickly! Don’t be caught off-guard, make sure you have a bigger space available for them when they outgrow the brooder.

Eventually you will need a chicken coop. Your coop should:

  • Have at least one nesting box for every three hens
  • Offer, at minimum, 2 square feet of coop floor per chicken
  • Be large enough for you to stand in to clean and gather eggs

With a chicken coop – the bigger, the better. The more space you can provide your chickens, the happier and healthier they will be.

Once old enough, your birds will also need a place to roam. A chicken run or a backyard where they can walk about and take a dust bath is ideal. This area should be protected and able to keep your chickens in while also keeping predators out.

Heat Source

This is a very important item when bringing home new baby chicks!

For the first week, the temperature in the chicks’ brooder should be approximately 95 -100 degrees Fahrenheit (35 – 38 degrees Celsius). After this the temperature can be decreased gradually. Around week 7 – 12 the chicks should have had their second moult and should have their feathers gown in and be able to maintain their own body temperature, at which point you can remove the heat lamp, unless of course it is particularly cold.

If you are using a heat lamp as your source of heat it is very important that it is secure and in proper working condition, so as not to cause a fire! Heat lamps are the easiest and simplest option however, if you are not careful they can be a very dangerous fire hazard. Heating plates are a more expensive option but are much safer, if you have the choice.

Observe your chicks to see if the heat is ok for them – if they are scattered to the edges of the brooder then it is likely too hot for them and if they are clustered together under the lamp then they are too cold. If they are scattered all over the place then the temperature is just right!

Feed and Water

Feeders and waterers made specifically for chicks should be used. These can be purchased at your local feed store. Special chick waterers are particularly important, as an open bowl of water is a drowning hazard for your baby chicks.

It is important to consider how many chicks you will be getting when preparing your feeders and waterers. For just a few birds, a round plastic or metal feeder is good but for more chicks a trough-style feeder will work better.

Chick starter feed is also a must, as chicks require a high protein diet while growing.

More tips…

  • A few hours before your chicks arrive home turn on the heat lamp and make sure the temperature in their brooder is a steady 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius).
  • Gently dip the beak of each chick in the water as you remove them from their travel box. This will let them know where their water is.
  • Make sure their waterer is close enough to the heat lamp but not too close! Cold water will not be received well and water that is too warm can harbor unwanted pests.
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Chicken Checklist

Mother hen with baby chicks

Will you be getting new baby chicks this year?

Whether it’s your first time welcoming chicks into your family or you’ve done it before, it’s important to be prepared! Check out this must-have chicken checklist and make sure you’re ready with everything you’ll need to start these little bundles of joy off right in their new home.

Chick Checklist

Do you have the following items ready and in working condition for when you bring your chicks home?

Brooder

All you really need to make the perfect brooder is a plastic bin, tub or other type of container. Fancy brooders can be bought but often it is easier, and more cost effective, to use something you have around the house.

It is important that your brooder does not allow any air to flow through it. The chicks should not be able to feel any type of draft in their brooder.

In the bottom of the brooder you should have some sort of bedding. Good options for non-slip bedding include: pine shavings, peat moss, finely shredded paper, crushed corn cobs, chopped straw, puppy pads, paper towels or even sand. The bedding should be applied about 1-2 inches thick. Bedding should be checked daily and changed if necessary. Wet spots should always be removed, as allowing wet litter to sit can result in the growth of mold.

If any other animals are in the vicinity of the brooder you may want to consider covering the top of it with chicken wire, mesh or another appropriate cover that will not impact ventilation. This is very important – you do not want to block ventilation in the brooder!

Don’t forget – a small brooder might be all you need in the beginning but your chicks will grow quickly! Don’t be caught off-guard, make sure you have a bigger space available for them when they outgrow the brooder.

Eventually you will need a chicken coop. Your coop should:

  • Have at least one nesting box for every three hens
  • Offer, at minimum, 2 square feet of coop floor per chicken
  • Be large enough for you to stand in to clean and gather eggs

With a chicken coop – the bigger, the better. The more space you can provide your chickens, the happier and healthier they will be.

Once old enough, your birds will also need a place to roam. A chicken run or a backyard where they can walk about and take a dust bath is ideal. This area should be protected and able to keep your chickens in while also keeping predators out.

Heat Source

This is a very important item when bringing home new baby chicks!

For the first week, the temperature in the chicks’ brooder should be approximately 95 -100 degrees Fahrenheit (35 – 38 degrees Celsius). After this the temperature can be decreased gradually. Around week 7 – 12 the chicks should have had their second moult and should have their feathers gown in and be able to maintain their own body temperature, at which point you can remove the heat lamp, unless of course it is particularly cold.

If you are using a heat lamp as your source of heat it is very important that it is secure and in proper working condition, so as not to cause a fire! Heat lamps are the easiest and simplest option however, if you are not careful they can be a very dangerous fire hazard. Heating plates are a more expensive option but are much safer, if you have the choice.

Observe your chicks to see if the heat is ok for them – if they are scattered to the edges of the brooder then it is likely too hot for them and if they are clustered together under the lamp then they are too cold. If they are scattered all over the place then the temperature is just right!

Feed and Water

Feeders and waterers made specifically for chicks should be used. These can be purchased at your local feed store. Special chick waterers are particularly important, as an open bowl of water is a drowning hazard for your baby chicks.

It is important to consider how many chicks you will be getting when preparing your feeders and waterers. For just a few birds, a round plastic or metal feeder is good but for more chicks a trough-style feeder will work better.

Chick starter feed is also a must, as chicks require a high protein diet while growing.

More tips…

  • A few hours before your chicks arrive home turn on the heat lamp and make sure the temperature in their brooder is a steady 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius).
  • Gently dip the beak of each chick in the water as you remove them from their travel box.  This will let them know where their water is.
  • Make sure their water is close enough to the heat lamp but not too close! Cold water will not be received well and water that is too warm can harbor unwanted pests.