How to Care for Baby Chicks

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How to Care for Baby Chicks

I was at the feed store yesterday when I noticed several bins full of adorable baby chicks. If you have been thinking about getting chickens, I highly recommend it.  I love my little ladies–they make great pets, plus they provide uh-mazingly tasty eggs.

baby chick

I won’t be getting any new chicks this spring because we have 12 hens right now!?! but I’m telling you, it makes my day when I see them running toward me to say hello and nose around in whatever I am doing–plus their run is still so funny to me, I don’t know if that will ever wear off, but I hope not.

chick feeder

The first step in backyard chickening {that’s a verb, right?} is to decide what type of chicken you would like and order them online {I recommend mypetchicken.com or purchase them from your local feed store. .  Next, prepare their home.  While they are chicks {the first 4-5 weeks anyway}, they will need a super warm place to grow.

how to care for baby chicks

Here is what you will need:

  • A brooder {a place to keep the chicks}.  This can be a simple as a cardboard box, a Rubbermaid container, a stock tank {that’s my favorite thing to use}, or an old children’s swimming pool.  Just make sure whatever it is, it doesn’t allow too much of a draft and the sides are nice and high.
  • A warming light and thermometer
  • Absorbent bedding {chicks are pooping machines, so you will want to change this frequently}
  • A feeder
  • Waterer
  • Feed
  • Grit
  • Netting or chicken wire for the top to prevent escapees

4-5 weeks flies by, so have their outdoor home ready too.  It will make your life easier in the long run.

baby chicks under heat lamp

To prepare your brooder, line whatever container you decided on with newspaper.  Then place bedding material over the top {typically pine shavings or pellets}.  Turn on warming light, new chicks will need a temperature of 95 degrees to start, and you can drop it by 5 degrees for each week of age, until you get to 70 degrees, then you can keep it constant.  Sprinkle some feed {a chick-starter feed is best for the first several weeks} on the ground to encourage scratching.

how to care for baby chicks

When your baby chicks first arrive, they may be worn out–depending on how long they had to travel to get to you.  Make a sugar-water mixture and dip their little beaks into it.  This is like baby chick Gatorade–it will give them a little much-needed energy while they adjust to their new digs.  Then, put the remaining mixture into their waterer.

Make sure to put the water on the opposite side of the brooder as the warming light.  From here on out, food and fresh water is CRUCIAL to baby chicks.  They will self-regulate their hunger and thirst, so make sure they have access 24/7 to both food and water. Also, be prepared for them to eat a ton–seriously, they will put a teenage boy to shame.

After 4 weeks, begin transitioning your chicks to the outdoors.  Start by opening windows, or placing their brooder in a doorway where they may get a breeze or at least be subject to fluctuating weather.

broody-chicken

Depending on your climate, you can begin allowing the birds to be outside in the day around 5 weeks, by 8 weeks {again, as long as the weather is warm enough} they should be big and strong enough to live in their outside coop full-time.

Hens typically start to lay around eggs  around 20 weeks. :)

If you are thinking about getting a flock of your own, check out the book Homemade Living: Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock. Amazon currently has the book in stock and ready to ship.

Will YOU be getting baby chicks this spring?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



Chickens – What is Molting?

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Chickens - What is Molting

My hens typically go through a soft molt every spring, which means lots of little feathers floating through the breeze, Forrest Gump style.  The first time it happened, back when I was new to the chicken game, I thought something was wrong, like my whole flock had gotten sick.  Luckily, I’ve gotten a little wiser {though, admittedly, only a little}.

Molting is, simply put, when chickens renew their feathers.  They usually stop laying eggs, and concentrate all of their efforts on losing and then regrowing their new feathers.  Most of the time, they do it in the fall to make sure they are equipped with full down jackets for winter weather, BUT, they also do it when they are done with a laying cycle {their bodies way of saying let’s take a break from all of this egg-laying business} or depending on when they hatched, they may always molt in just the spring. Some birds will molt in the fall and then, have a soft molt again in the spring.

fresh chicken eggs

Chickens should act completely normal when molting, except for the no egg laying part.  If they stop eating, drinking, etc.  something else is probably wrong.

During molting, they will need extra nutrients, so upping their protein intake will really reduce their stress.  Molting is actually extremely stressful for chickens.  Kind of like a man going bald, I imagine it is not very pleasing to the chicken to lose their feathers.  It’s best not to handle them during molting. They are extremely sensitive and would honestly prefer to be left alone.

Don’t worry if you see large bald spots on your hens during molting–it’s actually a good sign.  It shows that they are good producers–good layers molt and recover very quickly.  Poor layers take their time, molting very slowly and resuming egg laying after MONTHS.  Most molting should take only about 12 weeks.

Even though it’s kind of a bummer to lose egg production, there is a plus side:  a fully molted chicken is actually hardier and has an easier time resisting disease and sickness.

When do YOUR chickens molt?

~Mavis

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Composting Chicken Manure

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Composting Chicken Manure

If you have chickens, turning their poo into “black gold” by composting it is a killer way to enrich your soil.  Since I have decided that I need to be a dirt gardener rather than a vegetable gardener {meaning, I need to create healthy soil and the veggies will basically grow themselves}, I throw chicken manure, bedding, etc. into the compost pile whenever I clean out their coops.

Composting Chicken Manure

Making chicken manure compost is super simple, but there are a couple of safety guidelines to keep in mind.  One, always wear gloves when you clean up the manure and move it to the compost pile.  All manure can contain pathogens that aren’t stellar for humans, so a little precaution goes a long way.

Composting Chicken Manure

The pathogens do not seep into the vegetable as they grow, but they can get on leaves and contaminate root crops, which is why it’s important not to spread uncomposted chicken manure straight onto the garden {I know some people do, but if you want err on the side of caution, compost it first}.

Second, if you do compost chicken manure, make sure to wash homegrown veggies and fruits before you bite into them–again, to err on the side of caution.

Composting Chicken Manure

Another thing to keep in mind is that chicken manure compost is “hot”, meaning it is so rich in nutrients {mostly nitrogen}, it can burn plants.  To avoid overly “hot” soil, let your compost “cure” for at least 45 days before you shovel it into your garden beds.  Curing is basically letting finished compost sit.  If your compost is done in the fall and you are done growing for the season, you can cure it in your garden beds.  Just spread it out and let it sit, without anything growing in it over the winter.

barred rock chicken

It’s best to compost chicken manure with kitchen scraps, yard debris, chicken bedding etc. to create a more balanced compost.  Basically, it can all go into one big compost pile.  If you are set up to do it, letting your chickens “turn over” your pile also makes for awesome compost.  They will sit there and eat out some of the food scraps, turning and scratching the pile as they go, they’ll poop a bit, adding to the pile, and voila, pretty soon, you’ll have hot steaming compost.

Ain’t nature grand?

~Mavis

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

About Those Roosters…

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omlet egg cube

For those of you who might have missed it, while The Girl and I were out of town last week the HH got rid of our roosters. Yep. My husband gave our two roos to the Hunter up the street, who then gave them to the couple down the road who keeps chickens.

feed bag

Yesterday while I was out running errands, I actually spotted our roos outside roaming around the {very large} chicken run at the house down the road. How cool is that?

lucy the puggle dog

Part of me wants to do a commando mission and get my birds back under the darkness of night. But then I think about my hens, and how happy them seem now that those pesky boys are gone.

backyard chickens

Their feathers haven’t looked this vibrant for weeks. brown batnam chicken

I’m guessing their stress levels have gone way down and get this, the hens seems to be laying MORE EGGS now that the roos are gone. So, in hindsight, maybe the HH did a good thing.grey chicken

But I’m not going to tell him that obviously, because HELLO, I would never hear the end of it.

chicken coop clean up

Do you have roosters? Do you think your hens like them, or would rather live without them?

Mavis wants to know!

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Chicken Coop Photos from Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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vicky and her chickenVicky and Buttercup

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent in their photographs and stories. I hope by sharing other peoples home and garden pictures and stories here on One Hundred Dollars a Month we can all have a rockin’ backyard this summer. Keep them coming!

Check out these cool chicken coop photos and the stories behind them Vicky from Winston-Salem, North Carolina sent in:

chicken coop picturesHi there, Mavis!

In February of last year, after months of online research, I purchased four 6-week-old Buff Orpington pullets.  Until October, they lived in a Tractor Supply chicken coop and run.  I let them out a couple of times a day, but they were getting a little “cooped up” (nyuk nyuk) in there.  So we bought a Wichita-style chicken coop and everyone is happy.
wooden chicken coop
I live in the city and am allowed a maximum of 5 hens (no roosters) with very strict rules about their living situation (3 square feet/chicken for the coop; 10 square feet/chicken for the run, which must be enclosed).
buff orpington chickens
My girls are Buttercup (I’m holding her in the photo), Marigold, Sunflower, and Daisy.  They are all Buff Orpingtons.  Our winters are generally mild, but even after our recent frigid temperatures (it dropped to 5 degrees!), they have continued to lay regularly.  Such good girls!

chicken coop interior

Check out all the fine art! Who wouldn’t feel inspired to lay a few eggs in here? ;) ~ Vicky
old licence plate frames

Wow Vicky, I would have never thought to hang photographs of eggs in my coop to inspire my hens. I think you might be on to something.  With all this cold weather we’ve been having, I’m willing to try anything to get my girls to lay a few more eggs.

Thanks for sending in your story,

~Mavis

If you would like to have your garden, chicken coop or something you’ve made featured on One Hundred Dollars a Month, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Your Garden Pictures and Tips – I’d especially like to see your garden set ups, growing areas, and know if you are starting seeds indoors this year. If so,  show me some picture of how you are going about it.
  • Your Chicken and Chicken Related Stories – Coops, Chicks, Hen’s, Roosters, Eggs, you name it. If it clucks, send us some pictures to share with the world.
  • Cool Arts & Crafts - Made from your very own hands with detailed {and well photographed} pictures and instructions.
  • Your pictures and stories about your pets. The more pictures and details the better.
  • Garage Sale, Thrift Store and Dumpster Diving pictures and the stories behind the treasures you found including how much you paid for them.

If I feature your pictures and the stories behind them on One Hundred Dollars a Month, I will send you a $20.00 gift card to the greatest store in the world: Amazon.com.

Go  HERE for the official rules.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Chicken Coop Pictures from Sandpoint, Idaho

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chicken coop and chickensA big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent in their photographs and stories. I hope by sharing other peoples pictures and stories here on One Hundred Dollars a Month we can all have a rock star garden this summer. Keep them coming!

Check out these chicken coop photos an story Holly from Sandpoint, Idaho sent in:

insulated chicken coopHi Mavis!

I’ve been enjoying all the photos of chicken coops that are being sent to you. Wow and amazing. What fun to see how everyone takes care of their girls!

chicken coop in winterI’ve been a reader of your blog for a year and live near Sandpoint, Idaho………yeah, snow country…….and when we decided to get chickens last Spring we thought we knew everything…..haha….but soon found out we didn’t. We have two Rhode Island Reds, two Barred Rocks, two Golden Sex Links and one Araucana {yay for blue-green eggs!}

We ordered a pre-made coop and run on the internet. Found out later it was made in China and totally uninsulated. Yep. Pretty darn cute……but all looks and no substance. It was fine until the weather turned cold in the Fall and our seven girls got bigger.

rhode island red chickenThe temps in the coop got pretty darn cold at night……and the girls were cramped. Don’t ever take as gospel what the coop manufacturers say as far as how many chickens a coop will handle.

My HH decided around October that this cutesy coop would not work through our winters here. We quickly came up with a simple shed roof coop plan of our own with windows (hey, happy hens gotta look out!) so it would look cute on the edge of my garden. He built it in record time before the first snowfall. We have a friend who now calls it the Ritz. Funny.

The new insulated coop is just 6 x 8. But it’s warm and keeps them happy. We have plans to build an enclosed run when the snow and ice melt. For now the girls seem to be content…..except I’m not when they hop their fence into my garden! Even with the snow they love to peck at my growing garlic. We need to put up a wire on the fence so they can’t jump over……it seems like there are always more to-dos with chickens!!!!!

backyard garden with snowThis long-term Arizona girl {me} is having an interesting time with snow and cold and chickens……….but it’s all so do-able. Not always fun but do-able. They’re happy…..and if they’re happy then I’m happy.

chickens in gardenI started a blog last year …..www.dirtanddenim.com ……..to chronicle our garden and chicken adventures here in snow country.

I totally enjoy your blog and humor and pics and Lucy. Keep up the good work!

Holly

roosting chickensIf you would like to have your garden, chicken coop or something you’ve made featured on One Hundred Dollars a Month, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Your Garden Pictures and Tips – I’d especially like to see your garden set ups, growing areas, and know if you are starting seeds indoors this year. If so,  show me some picture of how you are going about it.
  • Your Chicken and Chicken Related Stories – Coops, Chicks, Hen’s, Roosters, Eggs, you name it. If it clucks, send us some pictures to share with the world.
  • Cool Arts & Crafts - Made from your very own hands with detailed {and well photographed} pictures and instructions.
  • Your pictures and stories about your pets. The more pictures and details the better.
  • Garage Sale, Thrift Store and Dumpster Diving pictures and the stories behind the treasures you found including how much you paid for them.

If I feature your pictures and the stories behind them on One Hundred Dollars a Month, I will send you a $20.00 gift card to the greatest store in the world: Amazon.com.

Go  HERE for the official rules.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Chicken Coop Photos from Tacoma, Washington

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chicken coop photosCheck out this email Sydney from Tacoma sent in about her chicken coop. My favorite is the hand washing station they included. I’m totally going to have to steal that idea. Here’s what she had to say:

Hi Mavis! I stumbled across your blog right before Christmas (shamelessly did a Google search for what to give your chickens for Christmas). We are still weathering our first year as chicken newbies (other adjectives would be obsessed, hoarders, chick mama, etc.) and I was looking to see what others did, and admittedly to see if I was crazy. I giggled when I saw that you were also from the Puget Sound area, and did have treat ideas!

white chicken

I had only wanted 3 [chickens], and my husband told me he wanted nothing to do with them, but loved me so he helped me out anyway. Our 3 girls quickly grew from just Brahmas and an Orpington, to Silkies, an EE and a Bantam something or other, and we reached our allowed limit. Needless to say, we love them. They are crazy and silly and give me the stink eye when I haven’t talked to them at least a dozen times during the day!

chicken coop pictures

We built our coop this year using cedar siding.  We made the mistake, however, of not having real plans and just winging it, so there may have been an easier way to do things. But the girls are happy and safe now, and that’s all that matters.

cool chicken coop ideas
Without a huge sprawling yard, we wanted something that would be appealing right off the patio, and also attractive for our beloved neighbors to see from their yard well.  Still learning and changing things up to address the good ol muddy clay we get over here in winter.
outdoor garden sink
And yes, we made an outdoor hand washing station to drain into a bucket, and that white thing on the coop run door is a hand sanitizer station like they use in hospitals. Can you tell I used to work in a hospital?
Cheers,
Sydney
chicken

If you would like to have your garden, chicken coop or something you’ve made featured on One Hundred Dollars a Month, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Your Garden Pictures and Tips – I’d especially like to see your garden set ups, growing areas, and know if you are starting seeds indoors this year. If so,  show me some picture of how you are going about it.
  • Your Chicken and Chicken Related Stories – Coops, Chicks, Hen’s, Roosters, Eggs, you name it. If it clucks, send us some pictures to share with the world.
  • Cool Arts & Crafts - Made from your very own hands with detailed {and well photographed} pictures and instructions.
  • Your pictures and stories about your pets. The more pictures and details the better.

If I feature your pictures and the stories behind them on One Hundred Dollars a Month, I will send you a $20.00 gift card to the greatest store in the world: Amazon.com.

Go  HERE for the official rules.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

DIY Homemade Flock Blocks For Chickens

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My friend Heather from Massachusetts recently whipped up a batch of homemade flock blocks for her chickens. Today she is sharing her recipe. Thanks Heather!!

homemade flock blocks for chickensThis is so easy you won’t even believe it!

Baby it is ccccold outside!  Last night we got our first storm here in New England. So yesterday I cleaned the coop, filled up their food, cleaned their water out, and made a batch of homemade flock blocks!

The great thing about flock blocks is they are made of good stuff for the birds, easier than making cookies, they make your house smell great, and I get a sense of job-well-done because I made it myself.

The only bags of seed mixes my local feed store had were big enough to last me three winters worth of flock blocks, but that’s ok because each bag was $5-7 which is almost half the price of one flock block from the store. The other ingredients you probably have laying around.
homemade flock blockIngredients:
4 cups scratch grains {usually cracked corn, oats, barley, etc – or whatever mix they have at your feed store}
2 cups layer feed
2 cups oats {regular oatmeal oats}
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup whole wheat flour {whatever you have in your cupboard is fine}
1/2 cup wheat germ {I had wheat bran so I used that instead}
1/2 cup crushed egg shells or oyster grit
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne pepper {good for their immune system}
6 eggs {weird I know, but think of it like a gelling unit}
1 cup molasses
1 cup solid-at-room-temperature oil {shortening or coconut}

DIY Homemade Flock Blocks For Chickens
Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another bowl. The next step is kinda messy so lay out whatever pans you will be using. The pan size doesn’t really matter but it will affect your cook time so take that into account. I chose a small size so I can give them treats more often and… I have a whopping flock of four! Ha!

Now take off your rings and mix together with your hands – trust me, this is the only easy way to do this. :) When you’re done mixing you should be able to squeeze the mixture and it stays in a form.

homemade flock blocks for chickensNext, load up your pans. And press the mixture down tight and flatten so it’s smooth on top to make your type-A self happy. :) If you want to hang your flock blocks {you can also just lay it on a plate} poke a hole in it with a chopstick so you can thread it with twine later.

Bake at 325 degrees for 30 mins. It will turn a dark brown and the hole will look like it’s disappeared – it hasn’t, just poke it again. This part is really important – let it cool for HOURS. If you try to remove them from the pans while it’s hot, the flock blocks will fall apart and you may cry a little {ask me how I know}.

Run a knife around the edges because the molasses makes a little crust. Once it’s cooled – I let mine cool overnight {overnight is probably not necessary but I was traumatized from the previous attempt}, thread some garden twin through the hole and you’re done.

homemade flock blocks for chickens

Roadrunner was a big fan of the flock block – Agnus and Mr. {really a misses} Bubblesworth where too busy checking out the camera {Goldfinger is camera shy}.

Tip: don’t leave your flock block in the rain – it will dissolve.

cinder block garden cute chicken coop design

If you would like to have your garden, chicken coop or something you’ve made featured on One Hundred Dollars a Month, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Your Garden Pictures and Tips – I’d especially like to see your garden set ups, growing areas, and know if you are starting seeds indoors this year. If so,  show me some picture of how you are going about it.
  • Your Chicken and Chicken Related Stories – Coops, Chicks, Hen’s, Roosters, Eggs, you name it. If it clucks, send us some pictures to share with the world.
  • Cool Arts & Crafts - Made from your very own hands with detailed {and well photographed} pictures and instructions.
  • Your pictures and stories about your pets. The more pictures and details the better.
  • Garage Sale, Thrift Store and Dumpster Diving pictures and the stories behind the treasures you found including how much you paid for them.

If I feature your pictures and the stories behind them on One Hundred Dollars a Month, I will send you a $20.00 gift card to the greatest store in the world: Amazon.com.

Go  HERE for the official rules.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Backyard Chickens – Thinning the Flock

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amazon prime box

Yesterday, The Girl and I finally got around to packing up a few of our chickens. We were suppose to bring the hens over to Girly Girl’s House a few weeks ago, but it was so cold outside I didn’t want to traumatize the chickens so we waited until yesterday to move them.

chickens in a box

Luckily Girly Girl only lives a few houses away so we were able to put all 6 of the chickens in a box and drive them over to her house. buff orpington pullet

Buffy, the sweetest Buff Orpington ever, didn’t want to go. In fact she clung to The Girl until Girly Girl’s daughter came over and pried her away.

buff orpington pullets

I think she’ll be okay.

backyard chickensAnd the other chickens? Well, I don’t think they cared one way or another.

Blue Laced Red Wyandottes

When we brought our baby chicks home in early September we were planning on only giving 4 of them to Girly Girl once they were old enough. But she wanted more and we gave in. But to tell you the truth, after having 20 {YES 20!} chickens in my backyard for the past few months, it was kind of nice to be able to finally get the flock thinned out a little. Now all we need to do is find a home for the 2 roosters we ended up with before they start crowing. Eeek!

Do you have chickens? Are they laying right now?

Mavis wants to know.

And if you are looking for a great chicken book, check out Homemade Living: Keeping Chickens with Ashley English I think it’s pretty awesome.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Cool Chicken Coop Designs and Chicken Stories of 2013

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I’ve not only had a lot of fun in 2013 raising my crazy chickens, but I’ve loved seeing all your Mavis Mail chicken coop submissions. I have some of the most creative readers on the planet! Check out a recap of the very best chicken related posts of 2013:

My Chickens:

black australorp chickenHow to Maintain a Chicken Coop:

A reader asked so I answered. I talk all about how I maintain a large chicken coop. I give some tips and tricks and then answer even more coop questions in the comments of the post.

sick chickenRIP Matilda:

Sadly my daughter’s sweet chicken Matilda died in March because we discovered too late that she was egg bound. It was a tough loss because she was such a great pet chicken.  At least she got to die at home with us near her side.

blue cochin chick chicken 2 weeksRaising Backyard Chickens – Mean Girls Club:

Fluffy little Blueberry was the runt of our Blue Cochin babies and was almost bullied to death by the other new chicks. But she’s tougher than she looks and she survived!

puggle puppy blue cochin chickensUnlikely Friendships – Lucy and the Blue Cochin Chickens:

Blueberry, Bluebell and Blue Cheese came to live with us in March. Lucy immediately fell in love with them and treated them like her own babies!

Your Chickens:

DIY Chicken coop designs recycled wood pallets
Heather’s Chicken Coop Made from Recycled Wood Pallets

how to build a chicken tractorLaurie’s Chicken Coop Tractor and Garden Beds

DIY Chicken Coop PlansDIY Chicken Coop Made From an Old Play Set

chicken coop ideasLisa’s Chicken Coop Made From an Old Dog House

Looking for more info on chickens and pictures of coops? Check out my Chickens Board on Pinterest!

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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