Tips to Predator-Proof Your Coop

Whether you live in town or live in the suburbs, keeping your birds safe is a challenging task as they attract all kinds of predators. Nothing is worse than finding an injured, dead or missing flock member, so we decided to compile ten tips that will help you predator-proof your birds and ensure their safety and minimize loss and/or injury:

  1. Train your flock to return to the coop every night. If they are raised in a coop, they will naturally return at night to lay eggs and roost after being out all day. Make sure you lock and secure the coop every night.
  2. Ensure your coop is free of any holes in the walls, doors and floors. Cover any openings, including windows, with a tight, heavy-gauge wire or hardware cloth. Softer chicken wire or plastic mesh screens can easily be chewed, pried or torn open by outside predators.
  3. Raise your coop at least a foot off the ground to keep predators such as snakes, rats, skunks from living underneath and stealing eggs, chickens or younger chicks. Also, if you have cats, this allows them to crawl under the coop floor and eliminate any rodent or other small annoying visitors.
  4. To deter predators that are diggers, create a 12” trench all the way around the perimeter of the coop and bury hardware cloth.
  5. For maximize security, cover the run to protect against climbing or flying predators using welded-wire fencing, chicken wire or game-bird netting. You can also install a random array of crisscrossing wires overhead to discourage flying predators from grabbing your flock from above.
  6. Use a 2-step locks on door latches, such as spring locks and barrel-style locks, as raccoons and other fairly dexterous animals are able to easily unlatch simple locks and turn basic door handles.
  7. Use a motion-sensor-activated night light to flood the run with light after dark will keep most nocturnal predators away from the coop.
  8. Plant bushes inside the chicken run as your birds will like the shade and to nibble on the leaves but be sure to leave the perimeter as open as you can. Predators such as raccoons are less likely to try to work to get into a closure when they have to sit in the open to do it.
  9. Having chicken-friendly dogs around help serve as deterrents for predators hesitant to approach. A dog’s urine and feces smell serves as a natural deterrent as well. With this said, be sure your dog is trained not to go after your flock.
  10. Don’t leave uneaten food in the run or uncollected eggs in the coop as they both will attract rodents and predators. Although rodents will not go after your chickens they can spread disease. Be sure to store feed and water away from the coop or secure them tightly.
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Tips to Help Your Chickens Stay Cool This Summer

Tips to Help Your Chickens Stay Cool This SummerThe summer heat doesn’t just take its toll on humans, it affects our feathered friends as well. It is difficult for chickens to stay cool during the summer months, so the more you can do to assist them, the better off you will all be. Chickens don’t sweat, so they rely on panting to keep cool and they also hold their wings away from their bodies to allow the air to flow under their wings. Their combs and wattles also assist with keeping their body temperatures down by allowing the heat to escape their bodies.

To assist you with keeping your flock cool this summer, we have compiled some tips for you to follow. In fact, some of these were submitted to us by our Facebook followers.

COLD WATER — Clean accessible drinking water for your birds is very important. During the summer heat, switch to more shallow pans to make it easy to clean and keep full. Also, consider adding a block of ice to the water to keep it colder longer. If you use nipple waterers, make sure you add pans of water around your run for easy additional access.

Adding a product that adds vitamins and electrolytes in the drinking water, such as Quik Chik will help reduce the effects of heat stress in your poultry, as well.

Providing non-drinking water for your chickens to enjoy will help keep them comfortable as it will provide them an opportunity to get their feet wet and to dunk their heads. Dunking their heads in water and cooling their wattles and combs immediately lowers their body temperature.

SHADE — If you don’t have natural shade, create some by using a small covered structure or use a tarp or umbrellas. The shaded areas will allow your chickens to gather in a cooler place out of the direct sunlight.

FEED — Chickens consume a lot less feed in the summer. Stay away from feeding scratch grains because digesting the scratch can actually warm up a chicken’s body temperature. In the extreme heat, lighting the coop and feeding the chickens at night will encourage them to eat because it is cooler.

ADDITIONAL TIPS — Frozen watermelon is treat that many of our readers shared with us that they use to hydrate and cool their chickens. Freeze ice blocks and include strawberries, blueberries, cucumber slices, and vegetables, such as, peas and corn kernels. This allows the chickens to get the additional hydration needed from the ice and nutrients from the hidden treats. One Facebook follower shared she adds mint to her ice blocks to help reduce the chickens body temperature.

Several Facebook followers shared that they hang frozen ice jugs in front of an oscillating fans to create a “mister” effect. Be careful when using this method as it could generate too much moisture which can cause respiratory issues. Also make sure the ice jugs are secure. You can also freeze milk jugs of water and set them around the run so the chickens can lean against them to cool off as one follower shared.

If you do notice that you have a chicken that is suffering from the effects of the heat, get it to a cool area, provide hydration and soak their feet in cool water to assist with bringing their body temperature down.

By paying attention to your flock and implementing some of the tips we shared above, your chickens will remain healthy and producing throughout the summer heat.

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Poultry Show Season is Right Around the Corner

Poultry Show Season is Right Around the CornerShowing poultry can be a fun hobby enjoyed by the entire family. With the show season knocking at the door, we wanted to share some simple tips to help you maximize your experience and hopefully bring home a ribbon.

BATHING — It is important to thoroughly bath your chicken. Use a pan of warm water and a good shampoo to assist with cleaning the feathers. Washing them several times with shampoo and rinsing will ensure that the dirt nestled deep in the feathers is washed away.

TOWEL DRYING — Remove the bathed bird from the pan and wrap in a towel while drying it off. This will absorb the excess water built up on the feathers.

APPLYING LOTION TO THE COMB — The next step is massage lotion into your bird’s comb and wattle to help make them look their best at judging.

BLOW DRYING — Using a blow dryer to finish drying your clean bird will help create nice, fluffy feathers. Some birds enjoy this while others do not. You will have to determine if this is a step your bird will tolerate.

GROOMING — Grooming your prized possession is important so they score high when being judged. First, clean up the face by carefully plucking unwanted feathers. Then take a damp Q-tip and remove any dirt above the eyes, on the comb and feet that still remains after bathing.

CLEAN THE HOCKS AND TOES — Using a football hold will allow you to work on each leg easier. While holding the bird, clip their nails. If they have sharp nails, use a nail file to create a smooth edge. Be careful not to clip too close as they will bleed. Applying pressure will help stop the bleeding.

AIR DRYING — While you are waiting to be judged, place your bird in a clean cage with fresh bedding and let them air dry. Be sure if it is hot outside that you provide them with water and shade to stay cool.

Murray McMurray Hatchery has collaborated with award-winning chicken owners and designed the Murray’s Best Show Kit that contains an array of products that will make it easy to get your poultry show ready! Everything you need from shampoo to comb reddening are included in this handy kit.

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The Winners of the McMurray Spring Chicken Photo Contest

A lot of really great photos were entered into our Spring 2016 Photo Contest.

The contest is now over, and here are the winning photos:

First Place

First place goes to Nora Lantagne. As a prize, she will receive a $100 gift certificate.

First Place Photo Contest Winner

Photo by Nora Lantagne

Second Place

Second place goes to Danny Norris. He will receive a $50 gift certificate.

Photo by Danny E. Norris

Photo by Danny E. Norris

Third Place

Third place goes to Stephanie Metzger. She’ll receive a $25 Murray McMurray Hatchery gift card.

Photo by Stephanie Metzger

Photo by Stephanie Metzger

Fourth through Sixth Place

Fourth, fifth and sixth place winners will each receive a $15 gift certificate from us.

Fourth place goes to Samantha Osborne.

Photo by Samantha Osborne

Photo by Samantha Osborne

Fifth place goes to Vanessa R. Plakias.

Photo by Vanessa R. Plakias

Photo by Vanessa R. Plakias

Sixth place goes to Jamie S. Wilson.

Photo by Jamie S. Wilson

Photo by Jamie S. Wilson

Thank you to everyone who entered photos and rated the photos.

Posted in Contests | 8 Comments

Spring 2016 Chicken Photo Contest Now Open

cameraNow that you’ve rated the photos to select the 10 finalists, it’s time to rate the finalist photos in order to choose the winner.

Click the link below to see and rate the finalist photos:

>>> Rate Finalist Photos



Contest Schedule

  • You can enter the contest up to March 12 (ENDED).
  • March 13 to March 19 — view and rate photos to select the finalists (ENDED)
  • March 20 to March 26 — view and rate finalist photos to select winners
  • March 31 — winners will be announced.

Description of Photos

For this contest, we are looking for photos of people working with their chickens — feeding and watering them, gathering eggs, moving portable coops on pasture, or similar things. Please include a good caption or description with your photo..

For this particular contest, we don’t want “cute” photos of chickens sitting on the back of the living room couch or playing with the cat or dog. The theme of this photo contest is normal, traditional interaction with your chickens and chores related to tending your chickens. To qualify, each photo should have one or more person(s) in it and one or more chickens or chicken eggs. You are welcome to submit multiple photos.

Please note that we reserve the right to disqualify any photos that do not fit the description above.


The first place winner will receive a $100 gift certificate, second place will receive a $50 gift certificate, third place will receive a $25 gift certificate and the fourth through sixth places will each receive a $15 gift certificate.

Contest Rules

To read the full contest rules, click the link below:

>>> Contest Rules

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2016 Photo Contest #1

cameraWe’re excited to announce our first photo contest of 2016!

For this contest, we are looking for photos of people working with their chickens — feeding and watering them, gathering eggs, moving portable coops on pasture, or similar things. Please include a good caption or description with your photo..

For this particular contest, we don’t want “cute” photos of chickens sitting on the back of the living room couch or playing with the cat or dog. The theme of this photo contest is normal, traditional interaction with your chickens and chores related to tending your chickens. To qualify, each photo should have one or more person(s) in it and one or more chickens or chicken eggs. You are welcome to submit multiple photos.

Please note that we reserve the right to disqualify any photos that do not fit the description above.

The contest will open on February 27, 2016, and we will give further instructions then as to how to upload your photos.. You will have two weeks to upload your photos, followed by a one-week rating period to select the finalists, followed by another rating period to select the winners.

Prizes will be announced when the contest opens. Look for updates and further details about the contest here on our blog.

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“Noah’s Ark Project” — An Update

Large Hoop Coops Noah's Ark

Housing for part of the Noah’s Ark Project

Background: As we’ve mentioned previously, in May of 2015, Murray McMurray Hatchery brought a truckload of 3,700 newly-hatched chicks to Joe Claborn’s farm in Texas for safekeeping as Avian Influenza was spreading in the U.S. and in Iowa. The project has informally come to be known as the “Noah’s Ark Project.” This interview with Joe Claborn, gives more information on the current state of this project.

Q: Can you give us an update on the Noah’s Ark Project?

We’re seven months into caring for these chickens now, and all of the breeds are laying. From fourteen of the breeds we’re collecting eggs daily, which we then ship to McMurray for hatching. We keep these fourteen breeds in our barn on deep bedding. The rest of the birds we keep in our two hoop houses.

Q: Have you’ve learned anything unexpected from this project?

Well, probably the most unexpected thing I’ve learned is just the experience of raising so many different breeds and learning their different characteristics. I’ve never raised so many breeds before, and being able to care for them side-by-side, you really get to see the differences.

White Cochin Hen

White Cochin

For example, White Cochins. They will go broody with no eggs under them. They are so broody — it’s amazing! Every day I go in to look for eggs, and there’ll be three to five broody hens, sitting there with no eggs under them. I’ll move them to look for eggs, and it turns out that they’re just “brooding” the dirt, like they think it’s going to hatch.

I’m thinking of taking eggs from some of my other breeds and putting them under the White Cochins just as an experiment to see what will happen because I think they’ll probably hatch them. And people say that a hen raised by a broody hen is more likely, herself, to go broody.

Speckled Sussex

Speckled Sussex

Another breed that really interests me is the Speckled Sussex. I’ve really grown to like these. Their natural speckling makes a good camoflauge, which I think is going to help make this a great homesteading bird, and they’re prolific egg layers. The downside is that they eat voraciously — they eat probably twice as much as any similarly-sized bird. (They get four scoops of feed a day instead of two — all my other pens get two.)

And then some of the breeds that I would have just thought of as “eye-candy,” like the Golden Polish …. It turns out that the Golden Polish are very good white egg layers. They’re still kind of unusual to raise because when you walk toward them, a lot of times they can’t see you coming — the feathers block their vision, particularly of things above and behind them. And when they realize that you’re standing right beside them, they get a little startled. So that makes them kind of interesting.

Golden Polish

Golden Polish

Another breed that surprised me is Buff Cochins. They lay like crazy. I’m probably getting more eggs out of their pen than any of the others. And the Buff Cochin hens … there are several that want to go broody. But they’re not like the White Cochins — when I move the Buff Cochins off their nest, then they stop being broody, so I don’t know that these would actually stick it out long enough to hatch out eggs.

Q: You mentioned earlier about using deep bedding. Can you explain that more?

About two months ago, we switched from cleaning the pens about once a week to using a deep litter (or deep bedding) system, and this has really helped. It cuts down on the work, and it also provides a very clean, healthy environment for the birds.

Down at the bottom of the bedding, we’ve now got several inches of pretty well-composted material, and the bedding on top is less composted. In the mornings, when I feed the birds, I go through and sprinkle some feed across the top of the bedding. This accomplishes two things. First, the roosters think that it’s their job to show the hens where the food is, and so they get all excited and start clucking and scratching. And all that scratching is mixing the litter up — aerating it for me. We still go in about once a week and aereate it by hand, too — we just take a pitch fork and fluff the bedding up a bit. This gives us a chance to make sure there are no undetected water leaks, and it adds more air to the bedding, which helps it compost. Basically, the deep litter is just a big compost pile, so it needs some aeration to stay active.

Q: What are the plans for this project?

For the next couple of months, we’re going to just keep maintaining the status quo. We’re here to supply eggs to McMurray hatchery, and we’re here to supply breeders if they run into any problems up there.

Longer term, I think we’ll be doing this for another year. Earlier, it looked like we might not have a bird flu season this year, but with that recent break in Indiana, we see that it just takes one break and 500,000 birds are gone. It doesn’t take but one break close by you, and you could be in danger. So, I think we’re going to continue for one more year down here, then we’ll re-evaluate about this time next year and decide what to do from there.

Posted in McMurray Hatchery | 15 Comments

How to Wash Chicken Eggs

Chicken eggs

Photo by Sharon Kristoff

What’s the best way to clean dirty eggs? Should they be washed when you first gather them, or is it better to wait and wash them just before use? Before we answer these questions, let’s go over some basics.

Bloom Protects the Contents

A nearly invisible waxy substance called “bloom,” or “cuticle,” covers the surface of each freshly laid egg. Egg shells are porous, each shell having thousands of tiny pores. Bloom seals up those pores, allowing the egg to breathe, which is important for eggs that are going to be hatched. Bloom also seals out contaminants and bacteria.

Washing an egg in water removes the bloom, which is the egg’s best defense against contamination. If you plan to use the eggs right away, washing them first is a good idea. But if you plan to store eggs for a few days and if they’re not excessively dirty, then it would be best to delay washing with water until just before you plan to use them.

Prevention Is Best Cure

The best way to have clean chicken eggs is to prevent them from getting dirty in the first place. That’s not always possible, but in another article, we give some tips on how to keep eggs clean.

“Dry Clean” the Eggs if Possible

For eggs that have only a little dirt or manure on the surface and that aren’t deeply soiled, you may be able to clean them without water by using a little sandpaper. 320 grit will work well. (Higher numbered grits, being smoother, tend to be harder to get the egg clean with, and lower numbered grits, being coarser, tend to be too aggressive and can easily scratch away the bloom.)

By gently sanding any dirty spots on the egg, you can remove dirt while leaving the bloom mostly intact.

Washing Your Eggs

Some eggs, however, are too dirty to “dry clean” with sandpaper. For those, you’ll need water and/or detergent. When washing eggs, it’s best to use water that is 10-20 degrees (F) warmer than the egg. The reason for this is that each egg contains a small air cell. When air is cooled, it shrinks, so if you were to wash the egg in water that’s colder than the egg, the air cell would start to shrink. As it shrank, it would create a bit of a vacuum inside the egg shell, and this vacuum could actually pull contaminants through the pores and into the egg.

Warm water reverses this, causing the air cell to expand, thus creating slight pressure inside the egg that helps to keep contaminants out.

For washing eggs, we offer several different products:

  • Egg Wipes — These are soft, biodegradable wet wipes made for cleaning eggs. Just pull an egg wipe out of the container and thoroughly wipe down the eggs. Each wipe is good for cleaning about a dozen eggs, depending on how dirty they are.
  • Egg Soap Concentrate — This is a concentrated powder that makes a chlorinated egg washing solution.
  • All Natural Egg Cleanser — This all natural, chlorine-free, concentrated cleanser removes dirt, manure and unwanted bacteria from the eggs. One bottle of concentrate makes more than 60 gallons of wash water.
  • Egg Washing Kit — If you’ve got a lot of eggs to wash, this egg washing kit will save you lots of time. It works together with an air compressor and can wash about 8 dozen eggs in 15 minutes or less.

Eggs Not to Eat

If you find an egg with a broken eggshell, it’s best to avoid using it for human consumption, since the crack can let in contaminants. If you have a dog or cat, you can cook up the egg and feed it to them instead. I would also recommend that you not eat eggs that have become so deeply soiled that the shell remains discolored even after the eggs have been washed thoroughly.

Other Tips on Cleaning Eggs

Do you have other tips on how to clean eggs? Or favorite approaches? Post a reply in the comments below this article.

Posted in Chicken Eggs | 13 Comments

Reduce Stress for a Healthier, More Productive Flock

Photo by Pamela Steppe

Photo by Pamela Steppe

Reducing or limiting stress is one of the best things you can do to keep your flock healthy and productive. Similar to how stress affects us as humans, in poultry it can lead to many problems. Reduced egg production, poor rate of growth and development, greater susceptibility to disease — all of these can result from stress.

According to Gail Damerow, author of The Chicken Health Handbook, chickens are always undergoing some level of stress. Our task is not to totally eliminate stress, which would be impossible, but instead to limit and reduce stress.

What Causes Chickens to Be Stressed?

Lots of things can cause stress to your flock, most of which are easy to correct or prevent. Some of the obvious causes of stress are inadequate nutrition, lack of water, poor hygiene and extreme conditions, but there are others, too. Let’s look in more detail at things that can cause chickens stress.

  1. Water problems. If your chickens ever run out of water, that will cause unnecessary stress. Poor quality water — water that’s not clean, or water that’s not very palatable (perhaps due to dissolved minerals or additives) — can cause stress. To reduce stress, give them a continual supply of clean, fresh water, and clean their watering equipment regularly. For more information, see our article on the importance of water for chickens.
  2. Inadequate nutrition. Chicken feeds are designed for specific applications and ages. Feeding the wrong type of feed can lead to inadequate nutrition, as can not supplying enough feed or letting feed get spoiled. For example, newly hatched chicks should receive a chick starter that supplies adequate levels of protein, not a lower protein ration intended for mature birds, such as layer ration.
  3. Excessive or Rough Handling. Handling chickens stresses them to some degree, particular rough handling. Sometimes children can unintentionally cause chickens a lot of stress simply because they haven’t been taught how to properly handle the birds. On the other hand, proper handling of your birds can actually reduce stress overall. If you rarely handle your chickens, they will not be used to human contact, and then when you do need to handle them, for example, to check for mites, it will stress them more than necessary. The solution is to handle them gently and frequently enough that they get used to it, but in moderation. Just spending some time in the coop or pen with them for a few minutes on a daily basis helps. (That’s why I prefer a coop or pen that is high enough to get into easily). Picking up a hen or rooster, holding it for a little while and then setting it down gently helps the chicken learn that you aren’t going to harm it, and with regular handling, they will get tamer (some breeds more than others). Tamer chickens will experience less stress when you do need to handle them.
  4. Fear of dogs or predators. If your chickens are being threatened by predators, of if dogs are able to run around the coop, they may frighten the chickens, which will obviously stress them. If things like this are a problem in your area, you may want to consider some kind of perimeter fencing that can keep animals like these well away from the coop. Electrified wire can help keep dogs and predators away.
  5. Overcrowding. Having too many chickens in too small of a space increases stress, exacerbates tendencies toward pecking one another, makes good hygiene more difficult and can increase the risk of diseases and parasites. Make sure your chickens have plenty of space.
  6. Parasites and disease. Diseases, internal parasites such as worms and external parasites such as mites place stress on chickens. Also, stress weakens chickens’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to disease.
  7. Extremes of Temperature. Heat stress is one of the most commonly discussed types of stress for chickens. In another article we discuss things you can do to help your chickens stay cool. Excessive cold can also be a problem. One thing to keep in mind is that chickens are typically much better insulated than we are, so what feels cold to us is not necessarily that cold for them. See also our recent article on caring for chickens in cold weather.


One of the best ways to recognize sources of stress and other problems is to spend time with your chickens and observe their behavior and their living conditions. (This is also a great way to notice not just problems, but things that are working well.) It’s easy to see when the living conditions aren’t clean enough. It’s not difficult to smell the harmful ammonia build-up that can result from inadequate ventilation. Beyond that, chickens’ behavior will change — not unlike how our own behavior changes — when they experience higher levels of stress. If you spend time with them and watch them enough to recognize what their normal behavior is like, then you’ll be able to more easily notice when their behavior has begun to change as a result of stress. Then once you’ve determined the cause, you’ll be able to make changes to fix the problem and reduce their stress levels. That will lead to a happier, healthier and more productive flock.

More could be said about stress, and perhaps we’ll cover that in future articles. For now, I’d like to hear back from you. Have you noticed signs of stress in your flock? What was the cause? And what worked best to reduce the stress?

Posted in Chickens | 9 Comments

What type of poultry feed should I use?

The nutritional requirements of chickens differ somewhat at different stages of growth. Also, broilers have different nutritional requirements than layers. When selecting a feed, it’s important to understand how the manufacturer intended the feed to be used, and make sure that its intended use matches your use.

Some broad categories of feed are:

  • Chick Starter is a feed that you would start to use when your chicks first hatch. Generally you would use it for some number of weeks (specified by the manufacturer) then switch to either a layer feed for pullets that you are raising to become layers or a broiler feed for meat birds. Chick starter feeds are available in medicated and non-medicated varieties.  The medicated variety is intended to help the chickens develop an immunity to Coccidiosis.  If, instead, you have chosen to have your chicks vaccinated for Coccidiosis, then you should use a non-medicated feed.
  • Chick Grower. Some manufacturers make a Grower feed and others do not.  Grower feed is used once the chicks are a few weeks old until they are ready to transition to a layer feed. The manufacturer will have specifications as to what age range the Grower feed is intended for. If you are raising layers and you use a brand of feed that is not supplied in a grower ration, then you would switch directly from starter feed to layer ration at the age specified by the feed manufacturer. Similarly, if you are raising broilers and a grower ration is not available, you would switch directly from chick starter to broiler ration or broiler finisher at the appropriate age.
  • Broiler Finisher is for feeding to your broilers until they are ready to  be processed. We sell an organic broiler finisher that is designed for use beginning at about 5 weeks of age.
  • Layer feed is formulated for hens as they approach laying age. Some layer feeds are designed to be used starting at 16-18 weeks, while others are designed for use beginning at 10 weeks. Some layer feeds are complete feeds, meaning that you do not need to supplement them. Other layer feeds are lower in calcium and need to be supplemented by giving your hens access to oyster shells in a separate feeder, free choice.

Feeds come in different forms, including:

  • Mash, which is a ground up feed,
  • Pellets, which consist of mash that has been processed to shape the feed into pellets, and
  • Crumbles, a feed which contains pellets that have been broken up into smaller pieces, making them easier to eat.

Pellets can help to reduce feed waste, but are not as easily digested as mash or crumbles.

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