Posts Tagged ‘chicken


Trimming Chickens Spurs & Toenails

Trimming spurs on roosters is primarily done for several reasons. Most people trim them to help protect their hen’s back from getting punctured from being topped, but they also need trimmed to avoid injuries from roosters sparring, and in extreme cases, to allow them to walk easier. There are basically two methods for doing this, cutting the spur with a saw, or twisting the spur off with pliers. The method I prefer is to cut the spurs off because when you are done, you will have short, blunt spurs that will be as safe to your other chickens as possible. If you decide to twist off the spurs, you will have short spurs, but they will still be sharp, and can still do damage.

Cutting off spurs is very simple, and does not hurt your chickens at all. Spurs have an inner core, which is the live part, and an outer husk, which is the hard horn type material. When you trim the spur, you are cutting the outer husk. The trick is to not cut into the inner core, which can bleed. The first thing you will need to do is to immobilize your bird. What I have found works well for this is to take an old towel, fold it in half, lay the bird down on it, hold the wings tight to the body, and leaving only the head and legs sticking out, roll the bird in the towel nice and snug. By doing this, it will allow you to work on his spurs much easier, and even do it by yourself! After securing the bird, you will need to decide where you need to cut the spur off. As a rule of thumb, I have found that the length of the inner core is approximately three times the size of the diameter of the spur itself, which on most standard sized, mature roosters will be about 5/8 of an inch away from the leg. Next, grab the spur at the base, while supporting the leg at the same time. Doing this is very important as the saw can grab while cutting, and you don’t want to excessively torque the spur which can actually break the connection of it to the leg bone. Next, use a small, fine toothed hacksaw to cut the spur off. I find it works best to use short, light strokes with the saw. Some people prefer to use a rotary tool to do this, if you do, just make sure that you don’t inadvertently hit the leg, or your fingers for that matter, because it will cut anything it touches very quickly. If done properly, you will see no bleeding at all. If you do trim them a little short, and get into the inner core, you may get some bleeding. This is nothing to be concerned about, as it won’t bleed excessively, and will soon stop on it’s own.

Notice how the bird is immobilized in the towel with only his head and feet hanging out. This will allow you to work on your bird without assistance.

Spur before trimming.

While gripping the spur firmly, begin to make your cut. Notice how I hold both the leg, and the spur at the same time.

This is what you should end up with after being cut, and as you can see, the spur is very blunt. This is the best option to help keep your hens from getting damaged from being topped.

Twisting off the spur is a little more difficult in my opinion. You may have had people tell you to use a potato, or some other method, but you don’t need anything special to twist them off. What you are doing by twisting off the spurs, is removing the outer husk from the inner core completely. To do this, follow the method above to immobilize the bird, then hold the bird by the leg where the spur is attached. Take a pair of ordinary pliers and grip the spur approximately where the inner core ends, and rock the spur gently side to side to help break it loose. Once you feel the spur start to loosen, use the pliers in a twisting motion to pop off the outer husk. What you will end up with is the soft inner core of the spur. You will see some blood, but it is typically minimal. After a few days, the spur will harden up, and you will have a stag sized spur again.

Spurs that have grown long after being trimmed before.

Hold the leg firmly as you begin to remove the outer casing, notice the placement of the pliers, if you get them too close to the leg, you will have trouble twisting them off.

Both spurs have been removed, you can see them laying on the floor next to the legs.

Trimming toenails is another thing you can do to help protect your hen’s backsides. It also will need done to fowl that are raised on wire, because they don’t wear down the toenails naturally as they would if they were raised on the ground. It’s really easy to do with no bleeding, as long as you do it right. To start, you will need to immobilize the bird in the same fashion I already described, and a pair of dog toenail clippers. Some breeds have dark nails, and some have lighter ones. The lighter ones are much easier to do since you can see the vein in the nail. The vein is like the quick in a dog, if you hit the vein while trimming, it will cause some bleeding. On the chickens with light colored nails, it is easy to see where the vein is, so just cut enough that you don’t hit it. On the dark nails, I find it best to hold them up in the light to trim. It can be tricky with really dark ones to see, but by holding them against a light source, it will help you see where you need to cut. It is best to leave them longer if you are not sure where to cut, than to cut too close. If you do cut too far back, and get some bleeding, it will stop by applying pressure. Even if you still see some bleeding after that, don’t worry too much as it will quit on its own.

Toenails in need of trimming.

Find your placement for the cut by watching where the vein ends in the nail.

After the nails have been trimmed.

Some additional notes: Trimming both the spurs, and toenails will definitely help keep your hens from getting damage from them when being topped, but something that is just as important is your hen to rooster ratio. Too many roosters can literally kill your hens from being topped too much, even after being trimmed. Some breeds of chickens are worse than others for this, but as a rule of thumb, one rooster can top several hens without a problem. Also, you can run into problems with abnormally submissive hens. Hens like this will drop to be bred just by the sight of a rooster getting close. When this situation happens, the hen will be over bred, and can easily be damaged from this. There isn’t much you can do about this situation except to keep roosters away from them, put a chicken saddle on her, or what I do, cull her out. This is not a desirable trait, so I prefer to not breed off them. Something else you may run across, are hens that are spurred. I prefer to leave the spurs on the hens, as they won’t hurt anything to let them keep them, and having spurs will help them defend their chicks, especially if they are free ranging. Another thing to consider if you are free ranging is to not trim the spurs on your rooster for the same reasons. A good rooster will help protect your flock, and chicks as well, and having spurs will help him do this. Now saying this, if you let them get too long, they will start curling to the point it won’t help, and will actually hinder him walking properly. This is where twisting off the spur is the better choice, because by doing this, the spur will harden back up to a weapon for the rooster to use for defending with. Either way, you will have to make your own decisions when deciding whether or not to trim your birds, but hopefully this information will help you make that decision. If you want to learn more about this, or any other issues with the caring of your fowl, check out our forum for this at


China Game Fowl

1930’s circa photo (courtesy of Toni-Marie Astin)

The China (Chinese) Game Fowl are truly a magnificent breed in their own. They sport massive tail feathers in length as well as height and saddles that drag the ground. These are also of aggressive behavior, however seem to show the intelligence of tactical defense as well as breed personality. They appear to be showing great vigor and disease resistance as well, producing chicks in numbers that hatch off quite well with little to no problems. These fowl, originating from China, were brought to the states in the early 1930’s. Mr. Herman Pinion had Chinese Immigrants who worked on his farm and these were their birds. It is not unheard of that these were also crossed to Mr. Pinion’s own American Game Fowl, creating some which had pea comb and long tails and saddles. The China Games come in a variety of colors and weigh in the range of 6-8lbs depending on conditioning. The usually have a pea to cushion comb and pearl to white legs. In the last year I have been hatching off mostly goldens, silvers, red pyles, some mahogany and several recessive whites. The hens are good layers of medium sized eggs that are usually white to cream colored and males showing great fertility levels as well as the hens. My intentions are to preserve this breed back to “saddle draggers” as well as keeping the game state. Selections for such type as well as pea comb birds with light colored legs will be my focus in the future. I am still trying to obtain information on these birds through international contacts to research their origin. So far all is inconclusive, but will keep up on the quest.

My  Old Grey Broodcock(in moult)


September Photo Contest Results Announced!

The first of many photo contests at the Ultimate Fowl Forum is over, and the winners have been announced!   Congratulations to the winners!  Thanks to everyone for submitting some excellent pictures!  If you like to take pictures of your chickens, check out our next contest for the month of October HERE and enter some of your birds!

3rd Place goes to Ogichida


2nd Place goes to Japman


1st Place goes to game to the end

game to the end


Basic Preparations for the Winter Months

If you are new to chickens, and live in a Northern climate, you may be asking yourself what you need to do to prepare for the upcoming winter months.  What most people don’t realize is that most breeds of poultry are actually quite tolerant to the cold.  Chickens have much more trouble dealing with severe heat, than they do with severe cold.  As long as you take a few easy precautions, your fowl will make it through the winter months very easily.  All chickens need is a quality diet, fresh water daily, shelter to get out of the elements, and wide roosts.  What they do not need is a heated environment, and to be cooped inside all winter.

Water needs to be provided daily, and is just as important as the summer months.  If you have a coop, you can provide a heated water dish to help keep it from freezing, or if you don’t, you can purchase some of the hard rubber horse dishes, as you can easily break the ice out of them with a hammer, or by flipping them over and stomping on them, without worrying about breaking the dish.

Shelter can be anything from a coop, to a plastic barrel for them to get in.  The main thing that shelter needs to provide is a way for the birds to get out of the wind and rain if they desire.  You will find that the weather has to be quite bad for the birds to not prefer to be outside.  One thing you will have to do, no matter what you use, is to keep the sheltered area clean, as it will get dirty fast in the winter months, which can make ammonia fumes get out of hand, which can be detrimental to their respiratory health.

Roosts are a critical part of keeping all your chickens toes from freezing.  The roosts provided need to be made out of wood, or similar type of material that doesn’t conduct cold like plastic, or metal roosts.  They also need to be wide so when the birds roost on them, their feathers cover their toes completely.  This will keep you from getting frostbite on the toes, which can make them die, and fall off.  I recommend using nothing less than 1 1/2 inches wide, like a 2 x 4 turned on end.

One other thing that can be a problem is large combs and wattles.  These can be subject to frostbite as well.  You can spread some Vaseline on them regularly to help combat this, but if you want to avoid this problem completely, dubbing will take care of it.  You can see detailed instructions, with pictures HERE.

Finally, if you get a lot of snow, go out and shovel out your pens so your birds can come out and be able to walk around if they want.  You can also provide litter in your pens for them to walk on so they don’t have to walk on the frozen ground all the time.  You might be surprised how a layer of bark, wood chips, or straw will make your birds more comfortable.  If you follow these simple guidelines, your fowl will get through the cold winter months just fine.  If you need more information, you can reach me at the Ultimate Fowl Forum.  Good luck!


Nutrtion, Egg Production, and Chicks

By DocMoll

As I sat here thinking about a few things I could post to help some of the younger people that are just starting with fowl. My mind rolled back to late night when a young member asked in the shout box what to feed his fowl to help, or better there nutrition. Well there are several different answers to this, some of which you can get online from several different sites. None of which is wrong for the reasons it worked for them. But I will write on what I did for grandpa when his fowl stopped producing eggs, and the ones that were laid wasn’t fertile.

When I moved back to West Virginia grandpa hadn’t got more then 10 chicks hatched off each year for the last 4 or 5 years in a row. He had asked me if I would try to get them to lay, and get them to hatch at a better rate for him. So the first thing I did, was look at the feed they was getting on a daily basis. Well, it was far from what they needed in my mind, and I adjusted it to fit what I wanted them to get. I went and bought a good mixture of a grain feed that was around 16% protein. In this feed was a little of everything such as corn, sunflower seed, pigeon feed, Milo, dog food, wheat, oats, and so on.

I went the next day and bought several small bags of vitamins with electrolytes, a bag of all-purpose powdered milk, a bag of oyster shells, several bails of straw, a couple bails of hay, and one bag of grit from the local feed store. On the way home I stopped and bought several types of fruits and veggies from the super market. this is what they would receive for there daily feed from now on.

When I got to the house I went to the brood pens and wormed, and deloused all the brood fowl. While I had them in my hands I trimmed the feathers around the vent area on each cock and hen, down to the skin. Then I cleaned out each pen, and put fresh straw about 6″ deep. This is to keep them active digging, and scratching for food. I found enough milk jugs to place to in each pen for the grit, and oyster shells. (Just cut the front of the jug open to where there is about a 3″ to 4″ lip on the bottom.) I mounted them to the walls, so they would stay there and in a fashion to where they could be easily removed to clean when needed. I filled them up with the oyster shells and grit and left them.

Each day I would take some of the hay and place in each pen. Now you got to figure out what each bird needs when it comes to hay, as you don’t want it laying there getting wet. Hay will mold and isn’t good for them at that point. The way I had it running was about a 1/4 of a bat per trio. If it was raining, they didn’t get the hay on them days.

Now back to the feed, and how to feed it. First you need to figure out how much feed you need to feed each day. When you have the answer to that question, you will know what type of bucket you will need to feed this way. Grandpa had several brood pens so a five gallon worked well for me. Each day I would place the amount of feed I needed for the next days feeding in it. I put one cup of the all-purpose powered milk in it, and one big tablespoon of the vitamins with electrolytes. Now soak the feed mixture over night in water. You want it to be moist, not water logged. The best way I can describe the moister in the feed mix is you want it to be as moist as pizza doe. The next day before I fed I would cut up what types of fruits, or veggies I wanted in it, and place them in the mix and stirred it up. I fed this to them one time a day in cups, so they got it all. Now feed them just enough to where they eat it all. You don’t want it setting there all day. If they don’t clean it up in a half hour or so, dump it out on the yard.

Each day take a small amount of grit, and toss it in to each pen to get them to scratching looking for feed in the hay. The object is to keep the active, so they don’t get fat just setting on the roost poles. Fat fowl don’t produce as good as healthy fowl does.

I also built nests to where the hens could get into, so they could hide from the cock in the pen. Several times a cock will aggravate a hen while she is on the nest, and this will cause broken eggs, as well as causing the hen stress that causes a drop in egg production.

With the method above in place I hatched 339 chicks that year out of 350 eggs that were set in the incubator.

If you want to read more from DocMoll, you can at the Ultimate Fowl Forum!


New Poultry Photo Contest!

We are kicking off a great new contest at the Ultimate Fowl Forum. If you like to take pictures of your fowl, you will love our new photo contest area! Whether it is a crossed up mutt, or some kind of rare breed of gamefowl, your pictures are welcome. You will receive a certificate for entering your birds, and we have some great prizes too! You are allowed to enter as many times as you want, and the best thing is that it is all totally free! Come check out our September contest, and show us your best pictures of your chickens, we would love to see them!

Ultimate Fowl Photo Contest


Nutritional treats for your chickens!

Most of us have read many a book on how to feed our chickens, right? Even with all the references we are still unsure as to what we are doing sometimes. Through trial and error, we figure out what is best for our chickens most of the time. Some of the time we get lucky to have an “old timer” to mentor us with their own wisdom. I’ve found myself that chickens aren’t too complicated really. I often pull up a chair and sit and watch behaviors as I throw scraps out paying attention to what they like and what they dislike. The things they eat first and the foods they eat last. Besides the general pelleted or crumbled ration, you can supply healthy treats for your adult fowl or growing chicks. Just keep in mind to do this in moderation so that they don’t consume more of the treats than they will of the general ration.

Some treats are even beneficial in preventative medicine. For instance, pumpkin seeds, and carrots are not only nutritional, but a natural way of preventing worms. The pumpkin seeds have a natural coating on them that relax the scolex of the worm, and the carrots being high in beta carotene, will also help them pass. Yogurt is another beneficial treat. It is full of natural enzymes and live cultures, which is good for the proper digestion. Feed it to your chicks with their crumbles, and it will help them develop the natural flora they need to develop a healthy immune system. Feed fresh leafy green vegetables, or cranberries, as these are high in Vitamin C, and a plus for the immune system, especially if you are having to medicate your birds, as it will help with the absorption of the medication. Mangel beets are a good old fashion treat too. Just stick them on a large nail in the coop and it will keep the chickens busy for hours, sometimes days. Treats like Minnows, Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, or any meat scraps, are high in vitamins A and D and a great source of protein, and amino acids, which can be very beneficial when chickens are going through a hard molt. So understanding treats in a nutritional sense can be just common sense, just don’t forget the water!


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