Today on the Homestead: Natural Wormer and Wayward Chickens

Today on the homestead I finally threw up my hands over the wayward chicken flock. I am DONE trying to get them to go back and live in the coop. Apparently the taste of freedom free-ranging from dawn until dusk gave them prompted the revolt that caused the flock to take up residence in the barn.

horse in snow by the barn
horse in snow by the barn

I still have absolutely no clue why the chickens and roosters suddenly decided they no longer wanted to sleep in the spacious Fort Knox of chicken coops. The hens continue to fly into the coop to lay eggs, but the ducks are now its sole inhabitants.

Oh, the ducks did not want to leave the barn at night either, but being domesticated ducks, they can’t really fly and are far easier to herd than a flock of chickens. I only had to herd them out of the barn the first night of the revolt, they have been compliant with my wishes since then.

We got a huge, and I mean huge, snow the day they refused to go back the coop I had just finished cleaning and toting fresh straw into. We had an very mild winter last year, but all but Stew and Soup’s chicks had seen and walked in snow before.

It may be difficult to tell in this photo, especially due to all of the horse prints in the snow, but we had six inches of that nasty cold white stuff dumped upon us in just a couple of hours. At first, I was grateful for a cold winter, the weather last year was so mild it didn’t kill the bugs and caused gardening headaches in the Spring.

But enough is enough, already. Now we are getting unseasonably warm temperatures and as much rain as we got snow – and have been flooded in several times. We continue to live in the middle of a mud bog and are considering building an ark this weekend.

Since the day I first allowed the flock to leave their also spacious run, I had never had a single moment of problem getting them to follow me back to the coop at night…until I did.

They knew they got snack before bedtime (yes, they are exactly that spoiled) and I imagine that is why I had a parade of poultry behind me upon finishing up evening barn chores every night.

Whatever prompted them to fly the coop – literally, must have been more powerful than the thought of having their highly anticipated snack. Until last night, I refused to give them a single morsel of snack, thinking eventually they would get tired of the ducks getting their share and move back into the coop.

chickens inside stall
chickens inside stall

When not out roaming the homestead, the flock hangs out on the stall dividers and lower rafters during the daytime and then spread out on the upper rafters, alongside the guineas, at night. The brown Banty in the forefront of the photo is Stew, she is one good little momma.

My Bobby said that because I always wind up with critters whose personalities mirror my own, once they made their mind up, there was no changing it, no matter what kind of special snack I tried to entice them with. Apparently my beloved was right.

So last night, they all got snack once again. Our youngest grandson, Colt Remington (how cool of a first and middle name is that, folks?!) helped me with barn chores – he isn’t old enough yet to grasp that he is doing a whole lot of work for only a quarter, delivered the first post-revolt snack.

Flock Leader, my chief rooster who always gets such a bad rap from the members of our tribe who live and/or hang out on our survival homestead, loves kids. He and Colt are big buddies. Flock Leader’s second favorite spot, the barn rafters to sleep now obviously being his first, is on my shoulder while I scoop feed out of the tub each morning.

While still pondering why the chickens flew the coop, I only came across one significant change in their environment. The monster snow was the first time Stew and Soup’s chicks had seen snow of any real accumulation.

I am thinking the now young chickens refused to leave the barn, therefore their good mommas refused to budge either, which in turn coerced the roosters to stay put as well. They don’t like to stray very far from their harem. That is the only semi-logical conclusion I have been able to come too.

On the bright side, I have not lost a single member of the flock – yes, I did just knock on some wood. Watching the second generation of free ranging animals born on the homestead is quite interesting. There is a distinct difference between the many animals we rescued or purchase that were used to living in a small pasture, pens, or coops until they moved here and began free-ranging, and their offspring.

The natural instincts in all of the livestock babies are far more fine-tuned and honed at a far earlier age. They do not have any bad habits to “unlearn” from being penned or having all of the feed simply handed to them. They are far more willing and adept foragers, grazers, and browsers. Their awareness of approaching threats is almost far more pronounced, yet they are more brave than their parents, overall.

Living in my cool old 1800s barn is far less secure structurally than the Fort Know of chicken coops, but they have the constant protection of the larger livestock and the guineas as well. The mini donkeys loathe coyotes – and will use their last ounce of energy to kick the stuffing out them or to run them down.

The horses are large and tend to scare away unwanted visitors. The guineas, well, are LOUD and are always on the ready to attack a mink, snake, skunk, or anything else, even though they could very easily lose the battle.

Thankfully, we have not had a problem with the wild boar that pose significant livestock threats on farms and homesteads just a little further out in the western end of our county. I have, and I say this tentatively, taught hawks and coons farm avoidance. No owls have attempted to take up residence in our barn either. So, at least for now, the flock is safe and sound sleeping inside the barn.

As soon as the weather turns decent, the good Lord only knows what that is finally going to be, I am going to turn the birthing stall into a coop so the ducks can be safely with everyone else like they want to be and put nesting boxes in it for the hens.

My husband and his buddy who made the Fort Knox of chicken coops, were less than thrilled by my sudden announcement, but I told them they could use the coop as a potting shed since it is next to the compost pile, barn water spigot, and where the permanent greenhouse is going, it seemed to make sense.

My only other homesteading projects so far this week have been finishing up Auddie’s birthday gifts, starting Easter basket homemade gifts for the five youngest grandkiddos, and making natural wormer.

I found some great free sewing patterns to download online and decided to make Auddie and her doll matching dresses as part of her birthday present. I also found free patterns for a sweet old-fashioned bonnet to make for Ariyah, and a bucket hat pattern, also free, that I am going to make for Auddie, Colt, and Crosley.

The natural wormer we use is as simple, cheap, and healthy as they come… diatomaceous earth. The food grade or livestock grade version is sold at agricultural stores and is a great natural detoxing agents for both humans and critters. It is also great to sprinkle around the foundation of your home (inside and out) to kill things that crawl, sting, and bite.

We use diatomaceous earth that also contains Red Lake Bentonite clay. This type of diatomaceous earth has a brownish cast to it because of the Bentonite clay:

diatomaceous earth with bentonite clay
diatomaceous earth with bentonite clay

Read the bag carefully before purchasing to make absolutely certain you are getting the type of diatomaceous earth designed for livestock, gardening, and human consumption and not the industrial type – it IS extremely harmful when inhaled or ingested.

We also use it around out garden. You may kill some beneficial bugs, but will definitely kill the bad ones too. If the bugs ingest the diatomaceous earth, it will kill them. If the bugs merely crawl across it or sit/stand on it, it will kill them dead, as well. Diatomaceous earth looks like a very fine powder and feels like one when you sift it through your fingers, but the minuscule particles in it are sharp and cut into the bodies of the insects both internally and externally.

The composition of the silica in the diatomaceous earth attaches to the skin of even hard-bodied insects and dries up all of their natural body oils and fluids – killing them more slowly, but killing them all the same. It will not harm the deer or rabbits that I like – as long as they do NOT find a way through the garden fence.

If you choose to naturally deworm livestock with diatomaceous earth, is is vital to give the animals the recommended dosage in their food for the entire three day regimen without fail. If the animal has worms and you neglect to give them the natural dewormer three straight days, the worms in their bodies could die before they are expelled and cause a bacterial infection or some type of other potentially serious health issue.

Recommended Diatomaceous Earth Worming Dosages

• Puppies and kittens up to 10 pounds – One-half to 1 teaspoon
• Puppies 10 to 20 pounds – 2 teaspoons
• Dogs 20 to 50 pounds – 1 to one-half tablespoons
• Dogs 50 to 100 pounds – 2 tablespoons
• Dogs 100 pounds and over – up to 4 tablespoons
• Cattle and Hogs – up to 2 percent of their daily dry feed ration amount
• Chickens – up to 5 percent of their daily fed ration amount
• Sheep and Goat – up to 3 tablespoons per every 100 pounds of body weight
• Horses – up to 2 cups

Diatomaceous earth may also be left out for a free choice supplement for cattle, hogs, poultry flocks, goats, and sheep.

If taking diatomaceous earth as a natural detoxing agent yourself, it is not recommended to take more than 1 tablespoon twice each day.

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