Posts Tagged: chickens
As Californians began sheltering in place at home, they started growing their own food. In addition to gardening, people have begun adopting chickens for fresh eggs. For people who have little to no experience raising poultry, University of California Cooperative Extension has care and feeding tips to keep the birds healthy.
UCCE dairy advisor Randi Black and Karen Giovannini, UCCE agriculture ombudsman for Sonoma County, collaborated with UCCE poultry specialist Maurice Pitesky in the School of Veterinary Medicine to create Poultry 101. Their tips for new poultry owners are free at http://ucanr.edu/poultry101.
“Raising chicks and hens can be incredibly rewarding, particularly with delicious farm fresh eggs made right in your backyard,” said Black, who is also proud backyard poultry parent. “However, like other animals, they take a lot of care and management to ensure they stay healthy and productive. With new poultry parents on the rise, providing informative and accessible resources is critical to keeping our backyard flocks thriving.”
The guide covers the needs of chickens over their lifespan, from the time they hatch through retirement.
For warmth, baby chicks huddle under their mother hen. Without a hen, new owners must provide the appropriate ambient temperature based on the age of the chick. Poultry 101's “Chick temperature chart” recommends temperatures for chicks from hatch to 6 weeks old.
At around 18 weeks of age, one can eggs-pect pullets to lay their first egg.
"Backyard poultry can be educational and fun. Using UCCE tools like 'Poultry 101' are meant to provide science-based practical resources to raise healthy poultry,” Pitesky said.
Like flour, yeast, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, all over the country there's been a run on chicks, wrote Diana Williams in a article published by the Sacramento Bee. The author and her family adopted four chicks, and as they grew, so did her thirst for information on raising chickens at home.
"Imagine my delight in stumbling across a backyard chicken census online," Williams wrote.
Pitesky said there are about 100,000 backyard flocks in California. Sacramento probably has about 11 percent of them, making it the third-highest backyard chicken region in the state, behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Raising backyard chickens seems to be another somewhat senseless hoarding practice taking place during the COVID-19 crisis. Williams admitted that, "this isn't exactly logical if you consider it's about half a year until chicks lay eggs." She speculated that a search for meaning, purpose and connectedness during COVID-19 uncertainty is another driver of chicken adoption, along with suddenly having more time at home.
"So the prospect of being able to have new life inside our house – life that's warm, fuzzy and unfolding in a new way every day – that seemed more than inviting. It felt essential," Williams wrote.
Industry producers are concerned about the trend.
“We don't like all these people getting into backyard birds,” said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation. “People start out trying to grow their own eggs and find out it's not so much fun. Instead of trying to get rid of them properly, people turn them loose and they develop a disease. That's what scares the commercial industry.”
Commercial and backyard poultry owners are asked to be attentive to their animals' health to help prevent the spread of the lethal and contagious virulent Newcastle disease now raging in Southern California, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.
Symptoms of the disease include sneezing, coughing, green watery diarrhea, neck twisting, paralysis, decreased egg production and swelling around the eyes and neck, according to Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist.
He said the popularity of backyard chickens is one of the challenges to controlling the disease. He estimates there are about 100,000 homes with poultry, with each home averaging five chickens.
"That is a lot more than in 2002, when we had the last outbreak (of virulent Newcastle disease)," Pitesky said. In 2002, the disease started in a backyard flock and eventually spread to 22 commercial poultry farms, killing 3.2 million birds.
"While people have the best of intentions, unfortunately a lack of biosecurity practices in people's backyards is one of the contributing factors of the disease spreading," Pitesky said.
Birds can become infected by coming into contact with other birds that are carrying the disease or by humans that carry the disease in their clothes or shoes. Pitesky said the disease also spreads when people purchase birds from a private party who may not be able to verify the bird is disease free.
He recommends buying from a hatchery or feed store that is affiliated with the National Poultry Improvement Plan, an organization that focuses on disease control.
“The goal is to be preventative,” Pitesky said.
If backyard chickens appear ill, owners should call the California Department of Food and Agriculture's State Bird Hotline at (866) 922-2473.
For more information on the disease, see the Virulent Newcastle Disease Outbreak Information and Resources page Pitesky has posted to his website, UC Cooperative Extension Poultry.
Californians who raise poultry outdoors are invited to get their eggs tested for contaminants.
To find out if harmful substances on the ground that are eaten by birds get passed along in the eggs they lay, Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is providing free egg testing.
“We're trying to understand the connection between the environment that backyard poultry are raised in and the eggs they are producing,” Pitesky said.
Eggs from counties recently affected by wildfires will be tested for chemicals, building materials and heavy metals that may have been carried in the smoke and ash. Pitesky and Puschner are also looking for lead and PCBs in eggs from certain regions of the state.
The UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist will share individual egg results with each poultry owner. At the end of the study, all of the results will be summarized and made available to the general public.
Pitesky describes the project in a video produced by CropMobster for UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. Watch the video at https://youtu.be/3ZlytlUIS3I.
For more information about the study and how to package and ship eggs, visit http://ucanr.edu/eggtest.
Residents in Sonoma County may drop off eggs at the UC Cooperative Extension office at 133 Aviation Blvd Suite 109 in Santa Rosa. The UCCE office in Sonoma County is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a surge in human Salmonella infections linked to contact with live backyard poultry, reported Macy Jenkins on CBS Sacramento News.
The story included interviews with several chicken owners. One small girl said she loves to cuddle her chickens because "They're so cute." The owner of three specialty chickens said he allows the animals to "sleep inside with me in my bed." Both of those practices run counter to guidelines set by the CDC.
Jenkins spoke to UC Cooperative Extension specialist Maurice Pitesky, who said poultry owners should never let the birds inside of the house. His reason: "Always assume that any bird is a Salmonella carrier."
To prevent Salmonella infection, the CDC recommends:
- Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry and anything in the area where the live and roam.
- Never allow poultry in the house, especially not in bathrooms and kitchen.
- Do not snuggle or kiss the birds.
- Stay outdoors when cleaning poultry equipment, such as cages, feed or water containers.
The most common symptoms of Salmonella infection are diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. The illness usually last 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
As of May 25, 2017, the CDC reports 21 people in California have been infected by Salmonella via backyard chickens.