Life on a little urban homestead in the making, with ideas for self-sufficiency, Permaculture, DIYing, organic gardening, food preservation, Chicken keeping, cookery, crafts, thrifting and more...

Mar 30, 2013

Happy Easter!


                       This Must Be Heaven

Mar 29, 2013

Lake Trip, Why I Love Craigslist

Ponderosa Lake, McCall, Idaho

Lake Trip-
We were going to do an overnight trip to McCall, but with my bronchitis bug, we decided for a day trip instead. Since it's fairly high in the mountains, there was still a lot of snow on the ground. We went to the gorgeous Ponderosa Lake State Park in McCall, and took some photos, lunched and shopped. I found some fun thrifting finds as usual!

the state park roads

a little something green...

view from the park cabins 

Park cabins, really nice! We peeked inside, pretty good set up with million dollar views. 
Might try these next winter/spring

                                                        metal sculpture by the marina

the snow-bound marina

needs a bit of TLC! 

more green!

                                                                      Thrifting finds-
$6.00, little handmade tote, needs a little cleaning

moose side view

Blurry side view

I love this cobalt blue medium sized mixing bowl, $4.00

.80 cents and cute!

Why I Love Craigslist-
After our coop re-do we had lots of leftover, misc. building materials. To the dump? NO way! Off to the free section of Craigslist. Within 2 hours of posting the ad it was all gone, off to a new life- an artist for making arts & crafts and a coop builder-

12 sheets of good, used fiberglass roofing we didn't need

Used plastic roofing

Lotsa lumber

Happy spring!

Mar 27, 2013

Chicken Coop Re-Do, and Then Some!

Chicken Coop Re-Do and Then Some!-
I mentioned a few weeks back that we were going to re-do our coop. The small size is nice and compact, but too hard to clean and maintain. Hubby and my backs don't do well in that small space. So.... wait for it....... we decided to re-build and expand it. When you're a DIY-er the first thing you do is make a plan! We wanted the same footprint, just taller, and with more roosting room. We also wanted to add the hinge to the nesting box on the bottom to eliminate leakage. Dave added a wood floor for 1/2 the coop, to have a clean area the girls wouldn't dig thru. After Dave designed the re-do (with input from me of course!) he started looking for materials. We got a lot of used materials free, and thru the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. We also went to SHIP, a local used materials store benefiting a clean and sober facility. I actually found the $10.00 cedar/lattice custom made door, marked down from $110.00!

Dave figures we used about 80% - 90% used or hugely reduced, like the shingles- about 20% of new. We had to buy 2 sheets of plywood, a couple of 2x4's and normal hardware- screws, nails, caulking. I bought a gallon of the same color paint as we were low. We figure the total cost NEW would have been between $800.00- $1,000 or so. We spent about 1/4 of that, a good investment for us. I will say- we both thought it took a lot longer than we thought it would. It was a 3 day job instead of the one building the walls, then getting everything else done. When you're a DIY-er and working with used materials, it can take longer to cobble it all together.

So here the pics, and it's not painted yet, or prettified, so more soon! I'm hoping to paint in the next week. I've got the croupy crud, hacky-hacky.

                                                                    Materials piles

                                                     Backyard work station, old coop in back

              Dave pre-built the two main walls, then I helped him get them up and secured

Demo-ing the old coop

Lifting those walls was so much fun! HEAVY!!!

Temporary nesting box in the garden

Framing done

Roof going up

Roof on, nesting box on front. I helped install the upper windows and was on clean up patrol. 
Having the flu limited what I wound up doing. Oh well...

Nesting box on the front has a drop entrance, no more leaks...

 Dave finishing the inside up. New roosting area up in front of the upper window ($10.00)

Ellie test drove the new nesting box first... 

                                                             I LOVE my $10.00 door!!!

When it's all done I'll post photos, all painted the same sage green, with more fun stuff on the front. I'll also be caulking, doing a lot of tightening up for bad weather. It was a good time to do it, dry and mild, no veggies in the garden yet. We have lots of leftover lumber going to the freebies at Craigslist...


Mar 26, 2013

Blackberry Jam- Adapting 4 Natural Ingredients For Thicker Jam With No Sugar Or Pectin

This recipe will make 4 pints of all natural blackberry jam.
                                                    Photo from Old World Gardenfarms

Blackberry Jam: Adapting 4 Natural Ingredients For Thicker Jam With No Sugar Or Pectin-
I'm hoping for a good crop of fruits this year, since last years was pretty poor. I read this today Blackberry Jam Thicker With No Sugar/Pectin  Great idea! I could see using this for other kinds of fruit jams as well.
I love Old World Gardenfarms since they have lots of great ideas and are really in the process of building their place up. Check it out!

Mar 25, 2013

Why I Won't Tweet/Facebook My Blog, Almost Instant Bread Pudding-

Why I Won't Tweet/FaceBook My Blog-
I know some people live and breathe, and advertise stuff, using "social media". While it can be a good thing, it's a double-edged sword. I don't Tweet because if anyone finds me THAT interesting they need to go get some professional help!!! I don't WANT people following my every move, because I like my privacy. Once you lose that, you never really get it back. There might be the ILLUSION of that, but not in reality.

I have a FaceBook account for pals across the states I don't see much, and we stay in touch that way. These are the ONLY people I want seeing my posts. Recently Facebook changed their security features again, leaving users very vulnerable to security issues from people they don't want to share with. Since it's a free service there's nothing you can do. You have no say in how your account is set up. That sucks.

If you are self-employed, or stay home full time, what will you do when you go job hunting in the future? If your potential employer brings up your posts, then what? What if they don't like your politics, religion (or lack of), your smoking, or, or, or??? There's no getting it OFF the net. Think before you post.

 I recently had this posted to me-

Facebook has changed their privacy settings once more!! Due to the new "graph app" anyone on FaceBook (including other countries ) can see your pictures, likes & comments. I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post things for my friends that I don't want strangers to have access to! This happens when friends click "like" or "comment"....automatically, their friends would see our posts, too. Unfortunately, we cannot change this setting by ourselves because Facebook configured it that way. PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on "FRIENDS" (also without clicking), then down to "settings", click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on "LIFE EVENTS and "COMMENTS & LIKES". By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public. Now, copy & paste this on your wall. Once i see this posted on your page, I will do the same. Thank You!

 Double sucks. I did that procedure with my pals, but what's already out there? If you live in a world of "it'll be alright, I don't offend anyone", trust me- you do. There's lots of nutty folks out there. Buyer beware, poster beware. And if you have teenagers, get them to do the above procedure and protect themselves. Or close their account.

Almost Instant Bread Pudding-
After buying some wonderful brioche bread made locally, I decided to do the last Dark Days dessert. My own eggs and local bread! I was in the mood for bread pudding but didn't want to make a big batch. So I experimented and came up with this. The 1st batch used cream and milk, but it was a little too heavy. I used my Orka silicone microwave cookware. I love them, nothing sticks and everything heats very evenly.

Ingredients ready

Recipe- Makes 2 generous servings
Brioche or other light bread, torn about 1 cup
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate chopped
2 TBL. sugar
splash vanilla
pinch salt

Whisk milk, eggs, vanilla, salt and sugar. Pour over torn bread. Sprinkle with chopped chocolate, and a little in the middle. Microwave on high, covered, about 6-8 minutes depending on size and microwave. Make sure eggs are set, enjoy!

Orkas ready for nuking

Anya found the catnip in the junk drawer-

Mar 20, 2013

What Love Means To a 4-8 Year Old


What Love Means To a 4-8 Year Old-
I re-read this today, it still inspires me! Read the whole thing.

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, 
"What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone 
could have imagined. See what you think:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."  Rebecca- age 8

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."  Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."  Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."  Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."  Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."  Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"  Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen." Bobby - age 7 (WOW!!!)

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate," Nikka - age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet)

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday." Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."  Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.  He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore."  Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night." Clare - age 6
"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."  Elaine-age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."  Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day." Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones." Lauren - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out you." (what an image) Karen - age 7

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross."
Mark - age 6
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"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." Jessica - age 8

And the final one -- Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. 

The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry".

Mar 19, 2013

Independence Days Challenge

Anya's Ready For Spring

Independence Days Challenge-
I realized it's been a while since I did one of these so here's a review of the last month or so...

1. Plant Something- Will start seeds soon. We'll be setting up our new/used/free shelf system Dave got free at work last year. Get some lights and we'll be all set! I'll be able to start all kinds of seeds indoors now, and NOT under my kitchen under-cabinet lights! Took up way too much counter space last year.

2. Harvest Something- Eggs, still working on the compost.

3. Preserve/Store Something- Still getting good deals and stashing in the chest freezer. Such a good investment!

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- Ditto, keeping the pantry well-stocked of basics.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe- Tried some local Momo's, yummy. Like dumplings, but from Nepal. Eating lots from the freezer. I made a strawberry/rhubarb cobbler Sunday with some of the free rhubarb I got from my neighbor last summer. Held up great in the freezer! Still working on my jams, jellies, and pickles from last summer.

6. Build Community Food Systems- Had to worm the flock, so no eggs sales this last week, but will start in a couple of days. Will work on buying/bartering more fruits/veggies from friends and neighbors this spring/summer, for canning and drying.

7. Recycle/Re-Use- Got some nice used stuff off eBay- purse, blouse. Found a new Ikea comforter cover only $20.00 for a queen size! Still composting, got the new compost bucket out (we don't compost scraps in the winter) and starting up again. Scraps to the girls.

8. Skill Up- I learned all about leather care after buying a used Fossil purse. Saddle soap worked great, and good neutral leather conditioner did a nice job rehydrating the leather. Now knowing how to gauge what a sick chicken may have going on, I was able to save one of my girls from a really nasty worm infestation. Learning that skill a while back made for a smooth and easy treatment. I don't think she would have lasted more than a few more days maybe. She had really started to waste away, poor girl. It really pays to have an emergency chicken kit on hand, ready to go. She's just like new now!

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- We're going to raise the roof on the coop in the next week, to make it a little bigger and much easier to clean. Small ones are great and low profile, but hard to get into. Dave has found a huge amount of free and used lumber, etc. at the local Habitat store. I'll post photos of the re-build. The girls should love it- more roosting space and airier. 

Mar 16, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Plowing With Pigs Book

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
A little wearing of the green at our house-

Corned beef, cabbage, carrots, & potatoes are on the menu for tomorrow. And some rhubarb cobbler!

Plowing With Pigs Book-
I read about his book Plowing With Pigs. It's called Plowing with Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions by Oscar H. Will and Karen K. Will. I love it when people share their information and interesting solutions to things. I call that a "skill set". You can never have too many! I'll be ordering this... for when I live in a space to do this kind of thing.

Anya has good taste in bags, it's green!

Mar 13, 2013

Factors For Backyard Egg Production

Factors For Backyard Egg Production
Since some of my hens have had their ups and downs egg-laying wise (and Rosie is in retirement) I looked up some info. I found this, very informative!

Factors Affecting Egg Production in Backyard Chicken Flocks

J.P. Jacob, H.R. Wilson, R.D. Miles, G. D. Butcher, and F.B. Mather2
The laying cycle of a chicken flock usually covers a span of about 12 months. Egg production begins when the birds reach about 18-22 weeks of age, depending on the breed and season. Flock production rises sharply and reaches a peak of about 90%, 6-8 weeks later. Production then gradually declines to about 65% after 12 months of lay. A typical production curve for a laying flock, showing changes in the level of egg production and in egg weight, over time, is given inFigure 1.
Figure 1. 
There are many factors that can adversely affect egg production. Unraveling the cause of a sudden drop in egg production requires a thorough investigation into the history of the flock. Egg production can be affected by such factors as feed consumption (quality and quantity),water intake, intensity and duration of light received, parasite infestation, disease, and numerous management and environmental factors.

Noninfectious Causes

Aging Hens

Chickens can live for many years and continue to lay eggs for many of these years. However,after two or three years many hens significantly decline in productivity (seeFigure 2). This varies greatly from bird to bird. Good layers will lay for about 50 to 60 weeks and then have a rest period called a molt. Poorer layers and older hens will molt more often and lay less consistently. SeeTable 1.
Figure 2. 

Improper Nutrition

Laying chickens require a completely balanced diet to sustain maximum egg production over time.Inadequate nutrition can cause hens to stop laying. Inadequate levels of energy, protein or calcium can cause a drop in egg production. This is why it is so important to supply laying hens with a constant supply of nutritionally balanced layer food. Feeding whole grains, scratch feeds and table scraps will cause the birds diet to become imbalanced and inadequate.
Many times these imbalances can cause other problems like oviductal prolapse. Prolapse may occur when the bird is too fat and/or an egg is too large and the bird's reproductive tractis expelled with the egg. Prolapse usually causes permanent damage to the hen and is fatal in many cases.

Omission Of Feed Ingredients


Animals have an innate desire to consume salt. Feeding a salt-deficient diet will lead to increased feather pecking and a decline in egg production. Most animal feeds will contain added salt, usually in the form of sodium chloride. Iodineis rarely added as a separate ingredient. Instead, iodized salt is routinely used. Cobaltiodized salt is often used in diets for swine and ruminants, and this can also be used without any problems for poultry. This type of salt is usually blue.
Sodium is an essential nutrient, playing a major role in maintaining body fluid volume, blood pH, and proper osmotic relationships. A continuously low intake of salt can cause a loss of appetite. Sodium deficiencies adversely affect utilization of dietary protein and energy,and interfere with reproductive performance. Chlorine is also an essential nutrient. Hydrogen chloride (HCl) released from the true stomach(proventriculus) is important in digestion. Chlorine also plays a role in maintaining osmoticbalance in body fluids. Birds deficient in chlorine are more nervous, showing increased sensitivity to sudden noise.


The egg shell is composed primarily of calcium carbonate. The pullet's requirement for calcium is relatively low during the growing period, but when the first eggs are produced, the need is increased at least four times, with practically all of the increase being used for the production of eggshells. Inadequate calcium consumption will result in decreased egg production and lower egg shell quality. Hens store calcium in medullary bone, a specialized bone capable of rapid calcium turnover. As calcium stores are depleted, bones become brittle. In severe cases, hens are unable to stand. The condition is known as caged-layer fatigue. Birds on the ground or on litter floors recycle calcium and phosphorus through consumption of feces, and do not have caged-layer fatigue.

Calcium can be supplied in the diet as either ground limestone or oyster shell. Particle size affects calcium availability. Usually the larger the particle size, the longer the particle will be retained in the upper digestive tract. This means that the larger particles of the calcium source are released more slowly, and this may be important for the continuity of shell formation, especially in the dark period when birds do not ordinarily eat. Periodically, dolomitic limestone is offered to the feed industry. However, dolomitic limestone(which is used in the steel industry) should never be used in poultry diets. Dolomitic limestone contains at least 10% magnesium, and this complexes with calcium or competes with calcium for absorption sites in the intestines. The consequence of feeding dolomitic limestone is induced calcium deficiency.
Young birds should not be fed a high calcium layer diet because the calcium/phosphorus ratio will be unbalanced, resulting in increased morbidity or mortality.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is required for normal calcium absorption and utilization. If inadequate levels of vitamin D are fed, induced calcium deficiency quickly results and egg production decreases. Feed grade vitamin D comes in two forms, D2 and D3. In most animals, both are equally potent. In birds, however, D3 is substantially more active than D2. In poultry diets, therefore, vitamin D must be supplied in the form of D3.


Dietary requirements for protein are actually requirements for the amino acids that constitute the protein. There are 22 amino acids in body proteins, and all are physiologically essential. Poultry cannot synthesize some of these, or cannot synthesize them rapidly enough to meet the metabolic requirement. Therefore, these amino acids must be supplied in the diet. Amino acid requirements vary considerably according to the productive state (i.e., growing, laying eggs, etc.), age, type, breed, and strain. Methionine is the amino acid most often deficient in laying rations. When pullets begin laying, there is an increase in protein, vitamin and mineral requirements per day due to deposition in the egg. If dietary protein is too low or the amino acid requirements are not met, poor egg production and hatchability will occur.


Dietary fat is a source of energy and of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid. A deficiency of linoleic acid will adversely affect egg production. Dietary fats also serve as "carriers"of fat-soluble vitamins, and some fat is necessary for absorption of vitamins. In fact, impairment of the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) is the most serious consequence of a dietary deficiency of fat.



Although the salt requirement of birds is relatively low, adequate levels are essential, and excessive amounts are highly toxic and reduce egg production. Birds require a sensitive balance between necessary and toxic levels of salt. SeeTable 1.
Excess dietary salt intake readily causes wet droppings and wet litter. Several feed ingredients,such as fish meal, corn gluten meal, meat meal, whey and sunflower meal contain high levels of sodium. When such ingredients are used, the level of supplemental salt (NaCl) in the diet must be reduced.


The nutritional role of phosphorus is closely related to that of calcium. Both are constituents of bone. The ratio of dietary calcium to phosphorus affects the absorption of both these elements;an excess of either one impedes absorption and can reduce egg production, shell quality and/or hatchability. In addition to its function in bone, phosphorus plays a primary role in carbohydrate metabolism,is active in fat metabolism, and helps to regulate the acid-base balance of the body.

Vitamin D

Excess vitamin D3 leads to increased calcium absorption resulting in hypercalcemia which may reduce egg production.Most animal species appear to be able to tolerate 10 times their vitamin D3 requirement for long periods of time. For short-periods of time, poultry can tolerate up to 100 times their requirement. An excess of vitamin D3 in the diet, therefore, is unlikely.


Molds can produce mycotoxins which adversely affect egg production and general health. They can interfere with the absorption or metabolism of certain nutrients, depending on the particularmycotoxin. Apparent calcium and/or vitamin D3 deficiencies can occur when mycotoxin contaminated feeds are given to laying hens. In addition,some have hormonal effects which can cause a decline in egg production. The major mycotoxin of concern with corn is aflatoxin, produced by the moldAspergillus flavus. The mold infects corn both in the field and in storage. Aflatoxin fluoresces under ultraviolet light, so its presence can be detected by examining grain under "black light". Othermycotoxins sometimes associated with corn and other grains are zearalenone (F-2 toxin), ochratoxin,T-2 toxin, vomitoxin, and citrinin. More than 300 mycotoxins have been identified.


Botulism is an acute intoxication caused by consumption of a neurotoxin produced by the bacteriumClostridium botulinum. It commonly occurs when birds consume decomposing carcasses, spoiled feed or other decaying organic materials. Ponds and other stagnant water sources are often areas of decaying materials that may contain this toxin.

Other toxins

Numerous plants are toxic to varying degrees if plant parts or seeds are consumed by the bird. Production, hatchability, growth, and livability may be reduced. Examples of these plants include crotalaria, nightshade, coffeeweed, cotton seeds, chick peas, vetches, and many ornamentals.Other potential causes of problems include pesticides, herbicides, disinfectants, fertilizers,drugs, antibiotics, and other chemicals, including oils and antifreeze.


Anticoccidials (to prevent coccidiosis) are commonly used in diets for replacement pullets,meat birds and young breeding stock that are reared on litter floors. Anticoccidials are not given to commercial laying hens.


Nicarbazin is an anticoccidial drug that reduces reproductive performance when it's inadvertently added to layer or breeder diets at normal anticoccidial levels. The yolk membranes are weakened,resulting in mottling of the yolk. Nicarbazin fed to brown-egg layers turns their egg shells white within 48 hours, although this is completely reversible when the product is withdrawn from the feed. Even low levels of nicarbazin can cause some loss in shell color, mottling of egg yolks (see Fact Sheet PS-24, "Egg Quality"), and a decline in hatchability.


Monensin has been the most successful of the anticoccidials. Monensin, and other ionophoreanticoccidials, have an adverse effect on egg production when used in conjunction with low protein diets.

Management Mistakes

Out of feed

If hens are out of feed for several hours, a decline in egg production will probably occur. The amount of decline will be related to the time without feed. Be sure that all the birds have access to an adequate supply of a complete feed which meets all their nutritional requirements. Feed stored on the farm longer than two weeks may become moldy. If feed becomes wet it should be discarded. In addition, vitamin potency decreases with prolonged storage.

Out of water

Water is often taken for granted, and yet it is probably the most essential nutrient. Water is by far the single constituent of the body, and, in general, represents about 70% of total body weight. Access to water is very important, and a lack of water for several hours will probably cause a decline in egg production. Hens are more sensitive to a lack of water than alack of feed.

The amount of water needed depends on environmental temperature and relative humidity, diet composition, and rate of egg production. It has been generally assumed that birds drink approximately twice as much water as the amount of feed consumed on a weight basis, but water intake varies greatly, especially in hot weather.

Inadequate day length

Hens need about 14 hours of day length to maintain egg production. The intensity of light should be sufficient to allow a person to read newsprint at bird level. The decreasing day length during the Fall and shorter day lengths in the Winter would be expected to cause a severe decline,or even cessation, in egg production unless supplemental light is provided. When production ceases, the birds may also undergo a feather molt. Hens exposed to only natural light would be expected to resume egg production in the Spring.

High house temperatures

High environmental temperatures pose severe problems for all types of poultry. Feed consumption,egg production, egg size, and hatchability are all adversely affected under conditions of severe heat stress. Shade, ventilation, and a plentiful supply of cool water help reduce the adverse effects of heat stress.


An ectoparasite is a parasitic organism that feeds on the exterior of the body of the host.

Northern fowl mite

The northern fowl mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) is the most common of the poultry mites. Refer to the publication PS-10, ("Common Continuous External Parasites of Poultry"), for information on identification and control of Northern fowl mites.
Northern fowl mites are blood suckers and are irritating to poultry. Anemia occurs in heavily parasitized birds, reducing feed efficiency, egg production, and ability to withstand and overcome diseases.


Several species of chewing lice may be found on chickens, especially those in small flocks or on range. Refer to publication PS-10, ("Common Continuous External Parasites of Poultry"),for information on identification and control of lice.
Chicken lice feed on dry scales, feathers, or scabs on the skin. As lice crawl over the bird,their mouth parts and sharp claws scratch the skin. The constant irritation causes the bird to become nervous and behave abnormally, causing a general unthriftiness and unkempt appearance in the bird. Egg production in infested flocks may drop as much as 10%, although some heavy infestations have caused egg production to fall as much as 20%.


Stick-tight fleas are sometimes a severe problem in home flocks and may be difficult to prevent or eradicate. The adult female flea attaches to the skin around the face and head, causing severe irritation and, in some cases, blindness. Refer to publication PS-10, ("Common Continuous External Parasites of Poultry"), for information on identification and control of stick-tight fleas.


An endoparasite is a parasite that lives and feeds inside the host animal. Heavy infestations of endoparasites can cause unthriftiness, poor feed efficiency, poor growth,reduced egg production, and mortality in severe infestations. Infected birds may also be more susceptible to various diseases and stresses.


Nematodes, or roundworms, are elongated, cylindrical, unsegmented endoparasites. There are many species of roundworms, each tending to infect a specific area of the gastrointestinal tract. Refer to publication PS-18, ("Nematode Parasites of Poultry"), for identification and control of nematodes.


Tapeworms (cestodes) are white or yellowish ribbon-like segmented flat worms. They vary in size from 0.17 to 12 inches in length. Although tapeworms do not produce extensive lesions or damage to the intestines, they are nutritional competitors. A cestode does not digest it's own food. Instead, it anchors itself to the inner wall of the bird's intestines, letting its segmented body dangle in the flow of digested material, absorbing nutrients before they can be utilized by the host. A variety of commercially available anthelmintics will effectively and safely eliminate both nematodes and cestodes from poultry.


Fowl Pox

Fowl pox is a viral disease of chickens characterized by scab-like lesions on the skin of the unfeathered body parts and/or on diphtheritic (wet) membranes lining the mouth or air passages. Infection with the fowl pox virus will cause the chickens to have poor growth, poor feed conversion and a precipitous fall in egg production. Fowl pox may affect any age bird. It is transmitted by direct contact with an infected chicken or by mosquitos.Table 2.
For more information on fowl pox, refer to publication VM66, "Prevention and Control of Fowl Pox in Backyard Chicken Flocks".


Coccidiosis is a protozoan disease characterized by enteritis and diarrhea in poultry. Unlike the organisms which cause many other poultry diseases, coccidia are almost universally found wherever chickens are raised. Coccidiosis outbreaks vary from very mild to severe infections.SeeTable 2. Individual strains of cocci attack birds differently, resulting in diverse symptoms. The overall symptoms may be one or more of the following: bloody droppings, high mortality, general droopiness,emaciation, a marked drop in feed consumption, diarrhea and a drop in egg production in layers.
It is common to add a coccidiostate in the feed of broilers. In addition, live vaccines are currently available.

Infectious bronchitis

Infectious bronchitis is a highly contagious respiratory disease. The disease is caused by a virus which is moderately resistant, but can be destroyed by many common disinfectants. Infectious bronchitis occurs only in chickens (Infectious bronchitis is different from Quailbronchitis which affects Bobwhite Quail). All ages of chickens are susceptible to infectious bronchitis. In laying hens it is characterized by respiratory signs (gasping, sneezing, coughing)and a marked decrease in egg production. Egg quality is also adversely affected. Low egg quality and shell irregularities (soft-shelled or mis-shapened) may persist long after an outbreak.Chickens that have had infectious bronchitis, especially during the first week of life, may never be good layers.

There is no effective treatment for infectious bronchitis, although broad spectrum antibioticsfor 3 to 5 days may aid in controlling secondary bacterial infections. Vaccines can be used for prevention, but they are only effective if they contain the right serotypes of virus fora given area. Infectious bronchitis vaccine is often combined with Newcastle vaccine in the same vial.

Newcastle disease

Newcastle disease is caused by a virus. The viruses vary in pathogenicity and are classified as lentogenic (mildly virulent), mesogenic (moderately virulent), and velogenic (markedly virulent). Newcastle disease is characterized by a sudden onset and rapid spread through the flock. In adult laying hens clinical signs can include depression, loss of appetite, decreased water consumption, and a dramatic decline in egg production. Production may drop to zero. Newcastle disease runs its course in 10 to 14 days, but the hens do not come back into full production for 5 to 6 weeks.
There is no treatment for Newcastle disease. Antibiotics can be given for 3 to 5 days to prevents secondary bacterial infections. Chickens and turkeys can be immunized against Newcastle disease by vaccination.

Avian influenza

Avian influenza is a viral disease affecting the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous systems of many species of birds. Avian influenza viruses are classified based on severity of disease,ranging from apathogenic to highly pathogenic. The mildly pathogenic form produces listlessness,respiratory signs (sneezing, coughing), and diarrhea. The level of mortality is usually low. The highly pathogenic form of avian influenza produces facial swelling, cyanosis, and dehydration with respiratory distress. Dark red/white spots (cyanosis/ischemia) develop on the legs and combs of chicks. Mortality can range from low to near 100%. The decrease in egg production is related to the severity of the disease and can be severe.
There is no specific treatment for avian influenza. Recovery is rather spontaneous. Birds slaughtered 7 days after infection often have no significant increase in condemnations.
Infected flocks will be quarantined by the State. Quarantine is continued until the flock is depopulated. The course of the disease is 10 to 14 days, but recovered birds continue to shed the avian influenza virus in feces for 3 or 4 weeks. Eggs from layers are safe to eat,but the shell should be wash and sanitized. The poultry litter or manure should be composted before application to cultivated lands.
For more information on avian influenza refer to publication PS-38, "Avian Influenza in Poultry".

Avian encephalomyelitis

Avian encephalomyelitis (epidemic tremors) is a viral disease usually affecting young poultry. It is characterized by incoordination and tremors, especially of the head and neck in chicks,and elevated mortality levels. Chicks that recover may later develop cataracts after sexual maturity. In affected hens, decreases in egg production and hatchability are noted.
Laying hens seldom show clinical signs when infection is going through the flock. However,good production records often reveal a slight drop in egg production (5 to 20%) lasting no more than two weeks. In breeding flocks, a corresponding decrease in hatchability is also noted. There is no effective treatment. All replacement breeder and layer pullets should be immunized.

Mycoplasma gallisepticum infection

Mycoplasma gallisepticum infection (chronic respiratory disease, PPLO infection, airsacculitis, MG) is characterized by respiratory distress (coughing, sneezing, snicks, rales, discharge from eyes and nose).Feed consumption and egg production decline in laying hens. Mortality is usually low but there may be many unthrifty birds.
The organism may be present in a flock and cause no disease until triggered by stress, e.g.,changes in housing, management, nutrition, or weather.
Many broad spectrum antibiotics have been used for treatment and will suppress losses. However,relapses often occur when treatment is discontinued. Most antibiotics are given in feed or water, preferably in water. Tylosine and tetracyclines have been used extensively for treatment. Injectable antibiotics may be more effective if the disease is advanced and if the flock is small enough to be treated individually. FDA withdrawal periods for respective medications used must be strictly observed to avoid residual chemicals in the eggs and meat. Live and inactivated vaccines also are commonly used to reduce the adverse effects of the disease.

Fowl cholera

Fowl cholera is an infectious bacterial disease of poultry. With an acute outbreak, sudden unexpected deaths occur in the flock. Laying hens may be found dead on the nest. Sick birds show anorexia, depression, cyanosis, rales, discharge from eyes and nose, white watery or green mucoid diarrhea, and egg production is decreased.
As fowl cholera becomes chronic, chickens develop abscessed wattles and swelling of joints and foot pads. Cheesy pus may accumulate in the sinuses under the eyes. Flocks can be treated with a sulfa drug. Sulfa drugs are not FDA approved for use in pullets older than 14 weeks or for commercial laying hens. Sulfa drugs cause residues in meat and eggs. Prolonged use of sulfa drugs is toxic and causes a decrease in production in laying hens. Antibiotics can be used, but require higher levels and longer medication to stop the outbreak. Where fowl cholera is endemic, live and/or inactivated vaccines are recommended. Do not start vaccinating for fowl cholera until it becomes a problem on the farm and a diagnosis is confirmed.

Infectious coryza

Coryza is a respiratory disease of chickens. Common clinical signs include swelling and puffiness around the face and wattles, a thick sticky discharge with a characteristic offensive odor from the nostrils, labored breathing, and rales. There is a drop in feed and water consumption as well as egg production. Sulfadimethoxine (Albon) is the preferred treatment for infectious coryza. If Albon failsor is not available, sulfamethazine, sulfamerazine, or erythromycin (Gallimycin) can be used as alternative treatments. The sulfa drugs are not FDA approved for pullets older than 14weeks or for commercial laying hens.
A vaccine for infectious coryza is available. It is given subcutaneously (under the skin)on the back of the neck. Chicks are usually vaccinated four times, starting at 5 weeks of age (i.e., at 5, 9, 15, and 19 weeks with at least 4 weeks between injections). Vaccinate again at 10 months of age and twice yearly thereafter.

Other Problems To Consider

There are a variety of other problems which can cause an apparent drop in egg production.They include:
  1. Predators and snakes consuming the eggs.
  2. Egg-eating by hens in the flock.
  3. Excessive egg breakage.
  4. Hens which are able to run free hiding the eggs instead of laying in nests.


There are numerous factors which may adversely affect egg production in backyard chicken flocks. If a drop in egg production occurs, investigate the cause by answering questions that follow also refer toTable 1 andTable 2, sick and recently dead birds to a state diagnostic lab, and/or consult with your County Extension Agent or a veterinarian.
  1. How old are the birds?
  2. How much feed are the birds consuming daily?
  3. Has the level of feed consumption changed lately?
  4. Has there been a change in the type of feed used?
  5. Is the feed moldy?
  6. How much light do the birds receive daily? Has it changed?
  7. What is the light source?
  8. What is the condition of the poultry houses?
  9. Are the birds getting enough clean water?
  10. What is the condition of the birds?
  11. How active are the birds?
  12. What is shell quality like?
  13. What is interior egg quality like?
  14. Are there any signs of disease?
  15. Are the birds crowded?
  16. Are there any signs of parasites?
  17. Do the birds have access to different plants?
  18. Have any pesticides or herbicides been used in the area?
State Diagnostic Laboratories:
1) Live Oak Diagnostic Lab
PO Box Drawer O
912 Nobels Ferry Rd
Live Oak, FL 32060
tel: 904/362-1216
2) Kissimmee Diagnostic Lab
PO Box 460
Kissimmee, FL 32641
tel: 407/846-5200


Table 1. 
Table 1. Non-infectious causes of reduced egg production.
SaltNervous flock, increased pecking, feathers in digestive tract
CalciumBirds down in cages, increased incidence of shell-less eggs
Vitamin D3Increased mortality from calcium depletion, increased shell-less eggs
ProteinIncreased nervousness, increased mortality (peckouts), poor albumen quality, feather eating
FatLow body weight gains, drop in egg size
SaltIncreased mortality due to urolithiasis, lowered feed intake
PhosphorusLower feed intake, soft bones, thin shells, increased shell-less eggs
Vitamin D3Increased shell-less eggs, soft bones
MycotoxinsNervousness, mouth lesions, fatty livers, biliary hyperplasia in liver tissue, reduced feed intake, thin shell
BotulismWeakness, limp neck, neck feathers easy to pull out, prostration
NicarbazinShell-less eggs, loss of pigment of brown eggs, lowered hatch, of fertile eggs
MonensinReduced feed consumption, birds lack coordination
Out of feedNervous flock, decreased feed consumption
Out of waterBlue combs, birds gathered around waterers
Inadequate daylengthUnusual pattern of egg production
High ambient temperatureReduced egg size, reduced feed consumption, increased water consumption, panting
Northern fowl miteNervousness, finding mites on birds (usually around the cloaca)
LiceNervousness, weight loss, reduced feed intake
Stick-tight fleasFleas embedded in the fleshy parts of the chickens's head around the eyes, ulceration and irritation of skin around the eyes
Nematodes (roundworms)Unthriftiness, poor feed efficiency, increased mortality (in severe infestations)
Cestodes (tapeworms)General unthriftiness, dry and unkempt feathers, hearty appetite but weight loss
Table 2. 
Table 2. Typical diagnostic signs associated with common diseases and conditions which can cause a drop in egg production.
Fowl pox- scab-like lesions on the unfeathered body parts (especially face and comb)
Coccidiosis- characteristic gross lesions in the intestinal tract - higher mortality in some cases - bloody droppings
Infectious bronchitis- coughing, sneezing, and rales - egg production drops markedly (by as much as 50%). - soft-shelled or misshapen eggs - watery egg white - poor pigmentation of brown-shelled eggs
Newcastle diseaseMild form:Acute form: - reduction in feed and water consumption- respiratory distress - dramatic drop in egg production- twisted neck - decreased shell quality - increased mortality
Avian influenzaMildly pathogenic form:Highly pathogenic form: - listlessness- facial swelling - sneezing, coughing- dark red/white spots on legs and combs - diarrhea- respiratory distress
Avian encephalomyelitis- seldom show clinical signs - slight, transient drop in egg production
Mycoplasma gallisepticum- coughing, sneezing, snicks, rales, nasal and ocular discharge - decrease in feed consumption and egg production
Fowl cholera- sudden unexpected deaths - reduction in feed consumption - swollen wattles - nasal and ocular discharge - cyanosis of head - white water or green mucoid diarrhea
Infectious coryza- swelling and puffiness around the face and wattles - thick, foul-smelling nasal discharge - labored breathing - decrease in feed and water consumption


This document is FACT SHEET PS-35, one of a series of the Animal Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date April 1998. Reviewed March 2011. Visit the EDIS website at
Jacqueline P. Jacob, poultry extension coordinator, Henry R. Wilson, professor, Richard D. Miles, professor, Dairy and Poultry Sciences Department, and Gary Butcher, extension poultry veterinarian, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and F. Ben Mather, poultry extension specialist, Dairy and Poultry Sciences Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. It is not a guarantee or warranty of the products named, and does not signify that they are approved to the exclusion of others of suitable composition.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension service.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, Dean.

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