Dec 1, 2013

Chickens & Obesity, The Silent Killer: How to Avoid Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome & Heat Stroke

The backyard chickens of today are much different from grandma’s chickens. They are being spoiled, getting fat and dying from obesity related complications. In order to spare our feathered pets the deadly consequences of obesity, we must familiarize ourselves with its causes, acknowledge our role in contributing to it and take affirmative steps to quash it.
The backyard chickens of today are much different from grandma’s chickens. They are being spoiled, getting fat and dying from obesity related complications. In order to spare our feathered pets the deadly consequences of obesity, we must familiarize ourselves with its causes, acknowledge our role in contributing to it and take affirmative steps to quash it.
How do our chickens differ from Grandma's chickens?

PURPOSE & LIFE EXPECTANCY
Grandma’s chickens were kept as livestock and their days, numbered. Their primary purpose was to feed the family both eggs and meat. They were not named or doted upon. They may have lived a year or two at most. After their prime egg-laying days had passed, they filled the freezer for the coming year’s meals. If they were sick or injured, they were Sunday dinner that week.
Grandma’s chickens were kept as livestock and their days, numbered. Their primary purpose was to feed the family both eggs and meat. They were not named or doted upon. They may have lived a year or two at most. After their prime egg-laying days had passed, they filled the freezer for the coming year’s meals. If they were sick or injured, they were Sunday dinner that week.
Today’s backyard chickens are kept primarily as a hobby/pets, secondarily for eggs, infrequently for meat. Today backyard chickens are family pets with the potential to qualify for discounts on their morning coffee at McDonald’s (that’d be Old McDonald’s, of course). A 2004 United States Department of Agriculture study bears witness to that fact, revealing that 69 percent of backyard chicken-keepers surveyed kept chickens for fun/as a hobby. They are treated as companion animals and given names. They are free to live out their natural lives as beloved family members without regard to their declining productivity. When they are sick or injured, we tend to them and try diligently to find them qualified medical care providers. It is not uncommon for a backyard pet chicken to live ten to fifteen years or longer. Alarmingly, it is also not uncommon for pet chickens to die from obesity prematurely.
Today’s backyard chickens are kept primarily as a hobby/pets, secondarily for eggs, infrequently for meat.
EXERCISE
Grandma’s chickens spent the entire day walking around the pasture, hunting, scratching and pecking for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When startled by another farm animal or threatened by a predator, they had the space available to fly short distances to safety.  

A considerable number of today’s backyard flocks are primarily confined to an enclosed chicken run for a variety of reasons, mainly due to the threat of predation. If they wore tiny pedometers, their daily totals would pale in comparison to Grandma’s chickens’. Grandma’s chickens got a great deal more exercise every day than today’s chickens do.

DIET
For the most part, Grandma’s chickens fended for themselves. They free-ranged on pasture all day, returning to the coop at dusk, greeted perhaps with a few handfuls of cracked corn tossed in the yard. They enjoyed the freshest variety of vegetation, insects and small critters nature had to offer. They managed their own nutritional intake with few, if any, extras from the farmhouse kitchen.

Today’s backyard laying hens are fed prepared rations. Most have access to layer rations at all waking hours and most are “spoiled” with extras such as table scraps, fruits, vegetables, sprouts, dried mealworms, scratch, watermelon in the summer, warm oatmeal in the winter and pumpkin treats in the fall. We hang pecking treats for them to quell our fears that they may be bored and bake molt muffins for them in autumn. It is not uncommon for today’s pet chickens to be treated to extras several times a day.

Grandma’s chickens were more fit than today’s pet chickens; they ate a more natural diet, exercised more and consumed fewer treats. As much as we dote on our chickens, seek to keep them healthy and care for their medical needs, we are contributing to the premature demise of many of our pet chickens by making them fat. Obesity has deadly ramifications for chickens. Fortunately, with a little education and a few common sense modifications to their lifestyle, obesity can be prevented and controlled.
Grandma’s chickens were more fit than today’s pet chickens; they ate a more natural diet, exercised more and consumed fewer treats.
Since most backyard flocks consist almost exclusively of laying hens, I will be focusing on laying hens for the remainder of this discussion.

CAUSE OF OBESITY
It’s simple: if she eats too much and does not exercise enough, she is going to gain fat weight. A fully grown hen should not continue to gain weight. If she does, she will first retain it in the form of excess fat in her abdomen and liver. As she continues to gain weight, fat will eventually be felt and seen between the tip of her keel bone and her vent. Unfortunately, by the time this abdominal fat pad is felt or seen underneath the skin, serious liver damage has already occurred.
This is an obscene amount of fat on the abdomen and breast of a hen I thought was a healthy weight. She did not die from obesity-related complications, but it was just a matter of time before she did.
This is an obscene amount of fat on the abdomen and breast of a hen I thought was a healthy weight. She did not die from obesity-related complications, but it was just a matter of time before she did.

THE DEADLY HAZARDS OF OBESITY: 
HEAT STROKE & FATTY LIVER HEMORRHAGIC SYNDROME (FLHS)
Obesity can cause decreased fertility, frequent multiple-yolked eggs, oversized eggs, egg-binding and prolapsed vent. The two most common obesity-related causes of death in laying hens are heat stroke and Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome, abbreviated FLHS.  According to Dr. Mike Petrik, DVM, MSc, a laying hen veterinarian in Ontario Canada, “Obesity causes sudden death from ‘Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome,’ where the liver fills with fat, becomes fragile, splits and causes the bird to bleed to death.”  A minor impact to the chest or the abdominal pressure generated during egg-laying is sufficient to cause an obese hen’s fragile, fat-filled liver to shatter, resulting in death from internal bleeding.
With excess fat in her abdomen, hot weather becomes life-threatening to a hen. Without sweat glands, she relies upon respiration to regulate her internal temperature. If abdominal fat is in the way, she cannot breathe properly, she cannot regulate her body temperature and she can die of heat stroke within a matter of minutes. 

The following three minute video vividly illustrates the complex avian respiratory system and provides an amazing visual demonstration of why abdominal fat is life-threatening to a hen in hot weather. 
The keys to fighting obesity in backyard chickens is found in a familiar formula: a healthy diet plus plenty of exercise.

4 STEPS TO PREVENT OBESITY IN LAYING HENS:
1.  MONITOR THEIR WEIGHT
This may sound completely ridiculous and/or too arduous a task to those with more than a few backyard chickens, but if you know that you are the type of person inclined to lavish treats/snacks/leftovers on your chickens, weighing them is the only way to to know whether those treats are negatively impacting their health. Any bathroom scale will do.
Monitor their weight This may sound completely ridiculous and/or too arduous a task to those with more than a few backyard chickens, but if you know that you are the type of person inclined to lavish treats/snacks/leftovers on your chickens, weighing them is the only way to to know whether those treats are negatively impacting their health. Any bathroom scale will do.
Fully grown hens should maintain a consistent weight. Changes in weight in a mature hen are a sign of a problem. Weigh hens regularly. If they are losing weight, there is a problem that must be ferreted out (illness, worms, etc) and if they are gaining weight, they are being over-fed.
Weigh hens regularly. If they are losing weight, there is a problem that must be ferreted out and if they are gaining weight, they are being over-fed.
There are two excellent charts that list the standard weights for mature chickens by breed here and here.
Fully grown hens should maintain a consistent weight. Changes in weight in a mature hen are a sign of a problem. Weigh hens regularly. If they are losing weight, there is a problem that must be ferreted out and if they are gaining weight, they are being over-fed.
2. FEED A BALANCED DIET. Dr. Petrik states that “feeding a well-balanced ration with plenty of B vitamins and choline help the hens metabolize fat more efficiently.” Feed a commercially prepared feed, which has been very carefully formulated by poultry nutritionists who meticulously monitor the composition of ingredients to ensure that a hen’s daily nutritional requirements are met.

I strongly recommend against dabbling in assembling homemade feeds. Imprecise calculations, the wrong ingredients, missing ingredients and ingredients that are improperly prepared or stored can all result in behavioral and health problems, not the least of which is obesity. Nutritionally complete rations are not found in recipes downloaded from the Internet- poultry nutrition is complicated and there is much more to it than simply getting the ingredients right.
A free-feed dining option is the most common in backyard flocks, one in which chickens eat in small increments at their leisure throughout the day. Chickens have a unique digestive system that can accommodate only a small amount of food at a time in their crops before digesting it and making room for more food (which is why they poop so often). Free-fed chickens do not all eat at the same time, so they do not require a feeder or feeders that can accommodate each bird in the flock simultaneously. 
With a restricted feeding schedule, chickens are fed at specific intervals during the day, which requires space at the feeder to all birds simultaneously. Failure to provide enough feeder space can result in birds lower in the pecking order being deprived of food. Restricted feeding generally requires the use of several feeders even in a small flock and should not be employed without a good reason for doing so and a clear understanding of the proper implementation of a restricted feeding schedule.
Feed a balanced diet. Dr. Petrik states that “feeding a well-balanced ration with plenty of B vitamins and choline help the hens metabolize fat more efficiently.
3. LIMIT TREATS
Treats, snacks and table scraps replace a portion of the daily essential dietary requirements found in quality layer rations. Excessive treats, even healthy treats, can cause obesity and other health complications. No more than 5% of a hen's daily diet should consist of treats. It’s no secret that we enjoy spoiling our pet chickens with treats. Moderation and common sense should be the guide in treat selection and quantity in order to keep their weight under control. 
Limit Treats  Treats, snacks and table scraps replace a portion of the daily essential dietary requirements found in quality layer rations. Excessive treats, even healthy treats, can cause obesity and other health complications.
WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY
If you read my article about surviving winter with chickens, I cautioned against the mindset of “fattening up chickens for winter.” Pet chickens are not sparrows- they are well-fed and spoiled in many instances. Based upon my research, which was aided by Dr. Petrik, I do not recommend feeding them suet blocks or grease based treats. Research demonstrates unequivocally that backyard chickens are dying from obesity. They are already fat enough going into fall and winter and will draw upon their existing fat reserves on cold nights to keep themselves and each other warm inside the coop. Plying them with high fat or high energy treats such as suet blocks and cracked corn does them no favors. Save the suet blocks for the wild birds and save the pet chicken. 
If you read my blog articles about surviving winter with chickens, I cautioned against the mindset of “fattening up chickens for winter.” Pet chickens are not sparrows- they are well-fed and spoiled in many instances. Based upon my research, which was aided by Dr. Petrik, I do not recommend feeding them suet blocks or grease based treats.
A NOTE ABOUT CHICKEN SCRATCH.
Scratch typically consists of cracked corn and a mixture of various grains. It is a high-energy treat that lacks an appreciable amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. A little bit of scratch just prior to bedtime on the coldest nights is fine, more than that is unnecessary and can be hazardous to their health.  Scratch is not chicken feed and should not be mixed into the flock’s feed.
Scratch typically consists of cracked corn and a mixture of various grains. It is a high-energy treat that lacks an appreciable amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. A little bit of scratch just prior to bedtime on the coldest nights is fine, more than that is unnecessary and can be hazardous to their health.  Scratch is not chicken feed and should not be mixed into the flock’s feed.
4. EXERCISE
Free-range chickens are less likely to be obese than confined birds. Exercise burns calories. But not all backyard chicken-keepers are able to or wish to free-range their flocks. Hens that do not free range should be given as large a yard as possible to maximize their ability to exercise. The bare minimum yard/run size is ten square feet per bird, but more space is always better.
 Exercise Free-range chickens are less likely to be obese than confined birds. Exercise burns calories. But not all backyard chicken-keepers are able to or wish to free-range their flocks. Hens that do not free range should be given as large a yard as possible to maximize their ability to exercise. The bare minimum yard/run size is ten square feet per bird, but more space is always better.
If a flock is found to be gaining weight, the solution is simple: reduce the daily dietary intake by 5-10% and afford them greater opportunities to exercise until goal weight is reached. When placing chickens on Poultry Weight-Watchers, the first things to be eliminated should be treats, kitchen scraps and snacks. That measure by itself is usually adequate to get weight problems under control.
If a flock is found to be gaining weight, the solution is simple: reduce the daily dietary intake by 5-10 % and afford them greater opportunities to exercise until goal weight is reached.
 The Chicken Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick
Citations & further reading:
Causes of Mortality in Backyard Chickens in Northern California: 2007-2011: Giannitti, Barr, Woods, Anderson, Mete (CAHFS) Davis, CA.
Non-commercial poultry industries: Surveys of backyard and gamefowl breeder flocks in the United States. Garber, Hill, Rodriguez, Gregory, Voelker (USDA APHIS) 2007.
Effect of dietary energy source on deposition and fatty acid synthesis in the liver of the laying hen. Zhang, Chen, Yu and Wang. (British Poultry Science) December 2011.

691 comments :

  1. Cheryl Lindsay12/1/13, 5:32 AM

    Makes perfect sense, just never thought about it before quite like this!!
    Thanks,
    Cheryl

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  2. Thanks for the great tips. I have 10-30 week old hens. One EE is tiny, the barred rocks are huge. They all free range and they have access to layer feed at all times, minimal treats. Any tips to beef up one without having the others get even bigger.

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  3. Hunter4Liberty12/1/13, 7:20 AM

    I would love a Chicken Fountain! And I love reading your FB posts, blog and Frank's FB messages and well...just about everything else related to chickens! Have a great day!

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  4. Suzanne Smith12/1/13, 7:37 AM

    I'm sorry but I have fed my chickens scratch all my life with no ill affects but they do free range from dawn to dusk.

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  5. I have been giving the girls suet from our butchered deer...I am going to stop that practice!

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  6. Cheryl Lindsay12/1/13, 8:35 AM

    Makes sense!

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  7. Cheryl Lindsay12/1/13, 8:51 AM

    I'm sure this is the 4th time I have left a comment for the same post! Something must be up because I do not recall ever seeing zero replies to one of your blogs!!

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  8. Cheryl Lindsay12/1/13, 9:01 AM

    Great information! Did not think about too much of a good thing could be bad...even for chickens! Our Great Pyrenees X feels it is her duty to follow the flock around the yard anytime they get free range time. She is actually herding them like a collie! Hmmm, maybe that is what she is crossed with, and sees herself as their personal trainer! 😉

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  9. Gwen Thomas12/1/13, 9:24 AM

    I'm glad you brought up the topic of obesity! I work at an animal hospital and we see complications from obesity all the time in cats and dogs. I'm good at not giving my dogs and cats excessive treats and food, but its hard to not over indulge my girls! Especially now that it's so cold outside. It has gotten down to 17 degrees overnight! I have started giving them a scoop of scratch everyday, but after reading this I think I will lessen the amount in my scoop and only give it on very cold days. Thank you for the information!

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  10. I so need one of these! My granddaughter gives my girls quite a biot of exercise!

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  11. I love when they chicks will run/fly across the yard to see me! They run constantly!!!!! They even chase my German Shepherds and cats!!! the brats! lol I wish I felt more comfortable letting them out to forage the woods more.. they LOVE it! But I only let them out when I can stay out there with them to keep count they are all there... My goal is to fence in the rest of my property where the dogs could be out in the woods with them to protect them.. altho as mean as the birds are to them they may just let a predator get them out of spite! lol Would love to win one of these! Maybe then my dogs could have their water dish back and get some water without getting pecked! lol Feisty little birds!!!

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  12. Tessica Reynolds12/1/13, 9:37 AM

    Thanks as always for your informative posts! I've cut the girls' oatmeal down to once a week and will be sure to limit scratch to just a handful before roosting.

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  13. CeeCee Olejnik12/1/13, 9:51 AM

    We always make sure there is plenty of water on hot says and lots of shade. I would love to win!

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  14. How much food "purina layer" should one chicken be feed a day? We tend to overfeed all of our animals. We could be guilty of this.

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  15. Barbara Remley12/1/13, 10:33 AM

    Thank you Kathy, the advise of over feeding is good. I find I"m giving my backyard girls too much scratch. Will cut way back.

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  16. Denise Camicia Pruitt12/1/13, 10:33 AM

    This was very interesting....thanks! I have one hen that is quite the little piggy....we will have to watch her. I would love to win a chicken fountain....

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  17. linda prater12/1/13, 10:42 AM

    NOW is the time for me to win the Chicken Fountain has been on my wish list for a long time. read your blog every day having it come to my inbox work out great read it with my coffee,good way to start my day. all my fingers and toes are crossed hoping for this win.

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  18. I worry about the right amount of layer crumbles to feed my girls. They free range every day, all day, but I live in the desert, and there is nothing to forage for in the sand and dead tumbleweeds. I toss out the layer crumbles with a bit of freeze dried mealworms every morning outside the run (which is always open during the day). I don't feed anything else, except for a handful of scratch or cracked corn in the winter and worry about how much feed I am wasting to the wild birds. How much layer crumble would an average adult full sized chicken eat per day?

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  19. Graywood Community12/1/13, 11:26 AM

    My girls may have been given excessive treats. It was a hard habit to break. :)

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  20. Thank you for this information. Our 12 chickens and 3 ducks have approx. 1/2 acre to run in and we have made several dust baths for them and don't have a problem with them being to fat, so fun to watch them and the ducks really like their child's swimming pool and we have never had a chicken drown in it. Thank you for the opportunity to win the waterer!

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  21. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 11:52 AM

    I think most of us have over-shared with our feathered pets. When we know better, we do better. ;)

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  22. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 11:54 AM

    It sounds like you are under-feeding them, Susan. You should have a feeder that is kept full and the chickens have access to all day long. They can only eat a little bit at a time due to their unique digestive system. If you're worried about wild birds, get a treadle feeder such as Grandpa's Feeders that wild birds cannot open.

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  23. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 11:55 AM

    Good luck, Linda!

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  24. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 11:57 AM

    Keep a feeder filled all day long. They need to be able to eat when they are hungry and they can only fit so much in their crops at a time. They digest that amount and then eat again in a little while. That's why they poop so often. You're not going to over-feed them layer ration, it's the treats that are the culprit.

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  25. Oh wow! Thank you! Eye opening.... So for 6 chickens I need to shoot for at least 60 square feet. What would the dimensions of a run that size be?

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  26. Esther widgren12/1/13, 12:09 PM

    Thank you for another wonderful article! Now I just need to rein in hubby's tendency to overindulge the girls! (He does the same with the cats!).

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  27. Melinda Vaikasiene12/1/13, 12:11 PM

    thanks. great article. I tell my girls very afternoon , they need to go the run before a hand full of scratch is tossed to 29 of them. They play hide and seek finding it in the leaves.

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  28. Patty Kennedy12/1/13, 12:15 PM

    Winning this would be great as I am just putting the finishing touches on a new coop the the girls.

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  29. Nicole Weiss12/1/13, 12:23 PM

    Good to understand the effects of our food love on to our chickens. Thanks again, you always provide excellent information.

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  30. Love all of your great information!

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  31. Molly Plunkett12/1/13, 12:29 PM

    I could really use a chicken fountain, I have two coops and the birds are constantly shoving one another aside at their water dishes. A set up like this might help every chicken get a fair share of the water.
    And of course, very helpful reading!

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  32. Great way to water the chickens and keep the water clean

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  33. teri snowden12/1/13, 12:31 PM

    LOVE the chicken fountain. i sure could use this big time

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  34. ~Love love love your blog and the newsletters!!! I am a first time chicken owner (I have 5 girls!!) and your info is indispensable!

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  35. Melvin Howard12/1/13, 12:33 PM

    Thank you for all the wonderful information.

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  36. As always, great info!

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  37. Christopher Warner12/1/13, 12:35 PM

    nice setup how dose it hold up to sub freezing temps?

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  38. Oh my would I love this fountain! Thanks for all your great info.

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  39. Jenie Benson12/1/13, 12:36 PM

    I always worry that my little bantam ladies are too skinny. I pick them up and can feel their little bird bones. But I know they are supposed to be small. I try to keep their feeder full for all day "snacking" so they won't overeat. I find that if the feeder gets empty, they get crazy and stuff themselves full of feed when I refill it. If I fill once daily, that usually reduces the panic at feeding time and keeps the pecking order in check.

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  40. Kristi Michelle Powell Kilgore12/1/13, 12:37 PM

    I'm new at Chicken farming and I think this sounds very clean and healthy for my birds...its getting cold here in VA and I'm leaning all about the water situations...lol freezing and getting dirty. Winter is defiantly different from summer with chickens..

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  41. Karen Neal-Naylor12/1/13, 12:37 PM

    Love your blog! I'm learning so many do's and don'ts before I get my flock this Spring! Thank you so much! :)

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  42. Sandy Miller Scofield12/1/13, 12:38 PM

    Thank you for the chance to win a chicken fountain. Note-the chicks liked the fresh parsley but not the cilantro. They used the cilantro as a bath.

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  43. Shel Reitmajer12/1/13, 12:38 PM

    My turds- I mean BIRDS- are very healthy. Four are Cochins, so you can't tell if they're fat until you hold them. I'm glad they're doing so well. Makes me proud!

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  44. Meredith Sprayberry12/1/13, 12:38 PM

    Oh!oh!oh! Santa please! I want one of these so bad for Christmas! :-) Thanks again for the great info on diet for my ladies.

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  45. Jeana Byrd Atkins12/1/13, 12:40 PM

    Love your blog. I would love to win the chicken fountain..

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  46. Brandy Workman12/1/13, 12:41 PM

    Yep, on my wish list!! Would be greater to get earlier though. My girls could really use it!! Liked, shared, and commented! Love your site...so much useful information. I have recommended it to any one that owns any poultry!!!! I have turkeys, chickens, and ducks!!

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  47. Gotta find out how much they should weigh...

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  48. Mystik'l Bullmastiffs12/1/13, 12:48 PM

    I enjoy reading the information you share. I hope to keep my chicks healthy and happy with your information Thanks

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  49. Emily Conley12/1/13, 12:50 PM

    Great post. Obesity is not one of those issues you automatically think of when considering poultry concerns, but it is real. Great information.

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  50. Sandy Scofield12/1/13, 12:51 PM

    (third attempt at setting up Disqus for commenting!) Thank you for chance to win a chicken fountain.

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  51. I love your blog posts and the latest "Chickens & Obesity" one is full of valuable information as usual. Thank you for all the hard work you do to keep us all informed, you are a blessing.

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  52. Carol Morgan Doan12/1/13, 12:53 PM

    Please let me win the Chicken Fountain so I don't have to ask my husband to build one for me...but he does love my chickens as much as I do, so he might just buy me one if I don't win :)

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  53. Laurie Matson12/1/13, 12:55 PM

    My flock is so messy! The Fountain would be a great help!

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  54. would love this chicken fountain .. would really be nifty in south texas since most of the year is so hot .. in shorts and a tshirt as i type so you can only imagine the summers

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  55. I am having a lot of fun with my chickens and your blog has so much good information! 15 years? I never knew. I thought they lived maybe 3 or 4 years!

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  56. Linsey Morris12/1/13, 12:55 PM

    You have such an wonderfully informative blog! I hope I win the waterer, thanks for the chance.

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  57. Kathy Richards12/1/13, 12:59 PM

    you can never have to may products for your chickens

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  58. Jami Becht Ogle12/1/13, 12:59 PM

    Thank you for this info! We give our hens scratch and I didn't realize it was bad for them!

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  59. my girls are very active and I give just the occassional treat.

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  60. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:01 PM

    Thanks Linsey. Good luck!

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  61. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:02 PM

    You did it, Sandy! Good luck. :)

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  62. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:02 PM

    Thank you Emily!

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  63. Shelly Honn12/1/13, 1:03 PM

    Very rarely maybe once a week do the girls get treats. I've told the husband we need a retirement coop...he's not buying into that. Good luck to everyone! Thanks as always!!!

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  64. I just love this! What a great Christmas present it would make - for me and the girls!

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  65. Michelle Chun12/1/13, 1:05 PM

    Such great information about chickens and obesity. I didn't even consider that chickens could become obese and the consequences.

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  66. Love reading your blog and facebook page every day!! We love our chickens and love your approach to taking care of them!! Thank you for the chance to win with great chicken fountain!!! Have a great day!!!

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  67. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:08 PM

    Dottie: this chart should help you: http://www.albc-usa.org/documents/chickenbreedcomparison.pdf

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  68. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:08 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Brandy!

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  69. mary carmen12/1/13, 1:08 PM

    thanks for a chance to win the waterer. I don]t over indulge with treats, they free range a few hours a day so they find all kinds of healthy bugs. Thanks again!

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  70. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:09 PM

    Great after winterizing it.

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  71. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:09 PM

    Thanks Barbara!

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  72. Heather Olson12/1/13, 1:10 PM

    Great giveaway and great information on obesity in chickens. I

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  73. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:10 PM

    Thanks Nicole.

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  74. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 1:11 PM

    Thanks Heather!

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  75. LaDonna Fair12/1/13, 1:12 PM

    great read and would love the fountain

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  76. Hope to win this great product! Have a great week!

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  77. I'm definitely trying to watch the girls' diet and they get plenty of exercise! Treats on occasion but limited! :)

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  78. Kevin R Phillips12/1/13, 1:17 PM

    love all the great information that you give out... thanks ..

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  79. Theresa Borne12/1/13, 1:18 PM

    The Chicken fountain has been on my wishlist for awhile now, fingers crossed!

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  80. I am learning so much from your blog! Thank you for all the wonderful information!

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  81. Alishia Bigelow12/1/13, 1:20 PM

    The fountain is awesome, I hope to win.

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  82. Leah Dudley12/1/13, 1:23 PM

    Thanks for the great info...would love to win the Chicken Fountain!

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  83. Kasi Flores12/1/13, 1:24 PM

    I love this article. Our girls get scratch at night with the colder nights and a little during the hot months.

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  84. Thank you for this! I am new to this chicken thing, and I swear my father thinks I'm crazy (But you should see him when our silkie is around him. he "digs up" worms in the garden and baby talks when we visit him. HA!), but I have done so much research and feel like there is so much for me to learn. I would have never thought about overindulgence in chickens. I only want what's best for our little silkie. Thank you for teaching me so many things about our newest family member!

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  85. Lisa Goebbel Ward12/1/13, 1:25 PM

    Great info once again! Thanks

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  86. I too had been giving my hens scratch for food. Headed up to tractor supply now to get them some real food, Thanks so much for the info and chance to win the water fountain. Question? Do you have to train your hens to do this or do they figure it out?

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  87. Sharron Johnson12/1/13, 1:30 PM

    Thanks Kathy. I don't think I feed my girls too many treats, but I don't think I realized they could get "fat"! I certainly didn't know how quickly it could become deadly for them! Split their liver! Yikes! What a terrible way to go, especially since it's so preventable. Thanks for the chance to win one of Frank's products!

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  88. Thanks Kathy, great information as usual! I have a few chubby girls, I think some are prone to being that way, my Buff Orpinton being the biggest piggy I have, don't know how to stop her. she is the most easy to please, will try anything. Buff Brahma can get quite chubby but mine is low on the totem pole and she is picky, even with snacks so she is a bit thin I think. my dominiques are voracious eaters and will eat any and all that they can get but they are tiny and underweight, no worms, just run and scratch constantly...
    I am trying to curb my treat giving, even if it is collards or a some sunflower seeds. I had read a lot about overfeeding in the winter by an oldtimer on BYC last year. she said that the spring is one time they need more calories not the winter when you might expect, but did think the protein should be upped because of molting/feather regrowth. If she culled her birds for health or meat or another reason she always did a post mortem on them. very interesting, fat deposits were a problem for even skinny birds, one thing was egg production and egg laying, sometimes having so much fat around the vent that they were egg bound or ended up with a prolapse...... another great giveaway!

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  89. I would love this fountain! I am new to the ways of chickens and love all your information. Thank you.

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  90. Kim N Scott Andeweg12/1/13, 1:31 PM

    Love all your hints and advice

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  91. Thank you for all the information you provide. I would love to win the chicken fountain. Please enter me in the promotion. :) My babies are getting so big so fast :)

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  92. Brandi Moore12/1/13, 1:33 PM

    thanks for getting me the page for the fountains I want one so bad I hope I win it

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  93. Sharon Miller12/1/13, 1:35 PM

    I would Love To Win The Waterer! It would be so useful in my coop!

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  94. Brittany Font12/1/13, 1:36 PM

    Love your blog!

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  95. Thank you for the great information!!

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  96. Would love to win for my girls since they can't enter on their own... love your blog. So much good info.. keep it up..

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  97. Andrea Manfredo12/1/13, 1:41 PM

    Thanks for the great article. I always learn something new on your bloc Kathi!

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  98. Awesome! Thanks so much!

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  99. Pamela Knox12/1/13, 1:45 PM

    Learning so much here and especially about the scratch! Thank you!

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  100. Denise Allison Magil12/1/13, 1:45 PM

    another great bit of information and giveaway
    working on my gift bags

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  101. I try to follow the directions on the scratch bag and only give my girls 1-2 tablespoons a day. In the evening now that it is colder. I do try to give them some greens each afternoon. Hope this is not too much! Boy they do love treats!

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  102. I hope I win that chicken fountain! I am using a heated pet bowl and I am changing the water every day.

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  103. would love this as i am not good at making things like this good article

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  104. thanks for a chance to win the waterer.

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  105. Wow great biology and chicken raising advice. Never knew chickens could get obese but then we have always raised free range.

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  106. Katie Brown Stafford12/1/13, 2:01 PM

    I love you blog. Thanks so much for the information and the prizes!

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  107. Good info on feeding chickens. Ours are named (so we could never eat them, of course), but they do spend most of their day running around the yard. I can't figure out how to subscribe to your blog, so if you could do it for me, I'd appreciate it. monica.cook@yahoo.com, there ya are, email harvesters.

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  108. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 2:15 PM

    All set, Monica!

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  109. I'm also glad to know about the dangers of scratch. Didn't know weight could be a problem for more than me & my dog!

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  110. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 2:19 PM

    It sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

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  111. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 2:21 PM

    Most figure it out, SueAnn, but some need a little guidance.

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  112. Great tips and amazing give-away prize!

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  113. Sarah Eller12/1/13, 2:24 PM

    I'm so very happy to see that you put this together! Thank you for sharing!
    We recently had a hen come down with cold symptoms and was going down fast despite treatment. We had a necropsy done and it was found that she had a fatty liver. She was one of our oldest hens. We homestead so this does involve eating our birds. We treat them with honor and respects such as any pet deserves and in return they feed us. Their care is top notch. They do free range during the day so I "assumed" that fresh baked chicken cakes and oats was safe enough for winter. (Our pinned birds have a whole different routine!) We also gave small amounts of daily kitchen scraps. This is no-longer the case! Now it's strictly fresh greens from the garden for their treats. We also feed more fodder than we did before as well as more as fermenting more of their feed. They have always received the best pellets we could afford which are organic and most important to us, soy free. We would prefer corn free as well as GM free, but it's not an option for us. They don't need much feed with all the land they have access to.
    I just wanted to share this info. You really do have to keep an eye on their diet. Even a small amount of kitchen scraps every night can do harm. Thank you again for sharing this!!

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  114. chicken nipples are just a life saver

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  115. hannahking0012/1/13, 2:34 PM

    This really helps! My ladies need to workout!

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  116. Julie Rimkus Lewis12/1/13, 2:41 PM

    Love your page & blog! I get so many ideas and info here!

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  117. When I was growing up, all we fed our chickens was whole corn of the cob.

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  118. good info, thank you.

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  119. Dawn Price Welliever12/1/13, 2:49 PM

    Love all your articles, thank you!

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  120. comment, liked , subscribed, would love a fountain

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  121. Liked you already, and followed you already but I went and liked the Chicken Fountain and hope I win!

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  122. Michelle Robinson Houle12/1/13, 3:04 PM

    This is the best place for information I know of about my chickens. They are my pets and I love watching them show their own personalities! Thank you for all you share!

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  123. HenneyPenney12/1/13, 3:05 PM

    water fountain=one of the best Christmas presents ever!

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  124. Wow, I had no idea! Thanks for the info!

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  125. Debbie Niemeyer12/1/13, 3:22 PM

    Thank you for all your information, as always, they are very informative and give me new insights into chicken health! Would love to win the waterer for our little flock!

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  126. Elaine Schaefer Hudson12/1/13, 3:22 PM

    Hi Chickies, thanks for the info on fat hens. Will have to back off on their sunflower seed treats...

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  127. Cyn Van Antwerp12/1/13, 3:23 PM

    Love the chicken fountain!

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  128. Kelly Kanedy Schwindt12/1/13, 3:34 PM

    I look forward to reading your blog everyday! Oh, and of course, the daily pic of Rachel! =) This Chicken Fountain would just be awesome to win! Thank you!!

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  129. Under the treat section you should include apple pancakes. LOL I happened to toss part of one into the back yard area and Ruby Marie loved it. I didn't know they would like some of the things we ate. Grandma only fed them scraps and potato peels. The article was wonderful and a great source for my friends to read. Thank you!

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  130. suzanne Brown12/1/13, 3:44 PM

    Thank you for the great info. I always learn so much from your blog!

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  131. Thanks for the info, I think I have to cut back on the treats! Hope to win, could sure use it!

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  132. littleredhen5312/1/13, 3:59 PM

    Love your site. Thank you for all your helpful information. My ladies would love to win The Chicken Fountain!

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  133. Tena Faye Tallman12/1/13, 4:02 PM

    good information.....

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  134. Karrie Sedlmeyer12/1/13, 4:04 PM

    your stuff is always so very helpful. many thanks!!

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  135. Melissa Grover12/1/13, 4:08 PM

    Ha, this subject always reminds me of the book "all creatures great and small" and the chickens that ended up in the neighbors yard ^^
    Excellent strategies for controlling the backyard chickens health Kathy! :-)

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  136. I'd love to win the chicken fountain! Thanks for doing these fun giveaways!

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  137. Vicki Haggerty12/1/13, 4:24 PM

    good info. Really would love to win this waterer.

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  138. This is great information I never realized that chickens could be obese something to watch out for thank you

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  139. What is a good protein percentage for winter feeding? I fed a 22% in the summer but don't know if that's too much for the winter...

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  140. Love your blog! and the giveaways too! <3

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  141. Thanks for another try for this product, I would love to try this waterer, please enter me in this give a way and thanks for all the info, learn something new every time I read your blog's.

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  142. Wendy Cunningham12/1/13, 5:20 PM

    I need this!! <3

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  143. Raven Locks12/1/13, 5:23 PM

    This is so awesome! I hope I win :) I am already following you, liked your FB page, liked the Chicken Fountain on FB and left them a comment. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this giveaway :)


    xo Azu


    www.raven-locks.blogspot.com

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  144. desertmtnalpacas12/1/13, 5:24 PM

    Excellent article. I always thought suet blocks were good for them on cold days but after reading your article I will gladly stop giving it to them.

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  145. Good info! I certainly tend to spoil the girls.

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  146. I would love to win the chicken fountain! Our six year old helps us take care of our birds and refilling the water is the hardest part. Thanks so much!

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  147. Patrick Rockford12/1/13, 5:30 PM

    Thank you for the great information. =)

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  148. Good article and fantastic draw!

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  149. I already knew about limiting treats for my peepers, but hubby is the problem in that area! He just loves to see them come running when he shakes the meal worm container. What do you think about maize as treats? He considers it "feed" & I'm not sure he's right.

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  150. This would be a great Santa present for my girls. Imagine what my grandma would say if she heard that!

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  151. Elizabeth Ann Triadou12/1/13, 6:04 PM

    Loving all the great info' thanks. :)

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  152. Conservative Liberterian12/1/13, 6:13 PM

    Thanks for the information. I didn't know you couldn't feed chickens a steady diet of scratch. I've tried feeding scratch to my chickens in the past but they didn't want to eat the little red seeds at all.

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  153. Deborah Paterson12/1/13, 6:33 PM

    As always you have a wealth of information to share, thanks for the tips. My chickens favorite treat is just about anything from oatmeal and kale (mostly) to mealworms. They actually start to dance when they see me outside of their door poking a hole in a cabbage. They play cabbage ball like sharks, they can almost make one vanish by the end of a day.

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  154. Rita Schwartz12/1/13, 6:34 PM

    Great info, never thought about chickens getting too fat, they sure look forward to those treats.

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  155. Pamela Seitz12/1/13, 6:37 PM

    Thank you for the informative article and the giveaway. Love your pictures, they are so cute!

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  156. already tired of breaking ice out of the water!!!!! Would love to have the water fountain. Feed my flock laying mash, greens and millet (just a small sprinkle daily) I have one girl laying now. Love my small eggs. Thanks for all the good info!

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  157. I ordered a Chicken Fountain after first seeing it on your blog. I'm still working on my coop so I don't have any chickens yet but the fountain was the second thing I bought (the coop was first) once we decided to get chickens. A second Chicken Fountain would allow my girls to have one inside, and one outside their run. Thanks for all the advice! <3

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  158. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 6:51 PM

    Smart, Lisa. Very smart!

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  159. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 6:51 PM

    Thanks Pamela!

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  160. Donika Engstrom12/1/13, 6:57 PM

    I would love to win the giveaway!

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  161. Thank you for this info!

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  162. Hello Chicken Chick...we just purchased a mini-farm and are starting our flock of meat chickens, egg layers and Turkeys. What a great open house farm gift this would be for our new farm. Would love to try one out so I can purchase more in the future for my other birds.

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  163. Candy Halford12/1/13, 7:33 PM

    My chickens have always had a bit of cracked corn in the mornings and then run free on the farm all day. They are considered some of the farm animals more than pets, but I am sure they would enjoy a fountain. I have some layers, some pullets, and some meat birds all on the farm at the same time. Water is always needed in one place or another so if I could get up to three different fountains and a large enough reserve it would cut down on the chores a bit. Winning one would be the answer to a prayer.

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  164. ashley hogan12/1/13, 7:33 PM

    i love all the information on this site! very helpful to newbies :)

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  165. susan ladner12/1/13, 7:33 PM

    Love your site and always learn so much. Would love to win the chicken fountain too!!! Susan Ladner, ladner309@bellsouth.net

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  166. Jaime Booker12/1/13, 7:44 PM

    this would be great. already tired of thawing a4 times a day

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  167. Jenn Werner-Williams12/1/13, 7:48 PM

    I never knew chickens could be overweight. Never crossed my mind!

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  168. TheChickenChick12/1/13, 8:28 PM

    Thanks Julie!

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  169. I would love to win a Chicken Fountain. It is on my wish list for Christmas! Thanks.

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  170. Bethany McKinnon12/1/13, 8:46 PM

    Have loved this idea for awhile, just trying to figure out the best way to make it work with my tractor!

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  171. Toodles' Mom12/1/13, 8:50 PM

    Thaks for the info on chicken obesity. I have been seeing comments on BYC about the amount of fat on culled hens.

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  172. Julie Denise Dunk Liberti12/1/13, 8:53 PM

    Always appreciate the information you share!

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  173. Rhonda S. Phillips-Tenderholt12/1/13, 8:54 PM

    I love your chickens! They are so beautiful. did the requirements.

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  174. Kim Warfield Weber12/1/13, 9:03 PM

    Interesting reading. I have learned so much about chickens this year .Mostly from the Chicken Chick blog. Whenever Im asked a question about chickens & their upkeep , I find myself saying.. Go to The Chicken Chick .com

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  175. Hassan Hamza12/1/13, 9:12 PM

    Great, now I have to check to see if my chickens are getting chubby.

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  176. Dean Tenderholt12/1/13, 9:13 PM

    Thanks for the giveaway, we'd love to have this for our chicken coup. We are new to raising chickens.

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  177. This is on my Christmas list for sure. We need a better watering system for our growing flock.

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  178. Jubilee Orpington guy12/1/13, 10:23 PM

    I have to say mine are spoiled. I grind up cracked corn, oats, flax seed, dried cranberries, raisins, cinnamon, Cheyenne pepper, ginger, cloves, black walnuts and pecans. I mix it all together and feed it to them during the winter. It seems to work well, but after reading this I think I should make some adjustments. Thank you.

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  179. Natalie Bullock12/1/13, 10:25 PM

    Mine free range in the afternoon as long as we're home so they do get some exercise, but this is a good reminder to be careful about doling out their treats. I bought my first bag of scratch just a couple weeks ago; I think we've been perhaps a bit too generous with it, and I'm glad to know now so that we don't create a long-term problem.

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  180. Robin Eschenbach Foley12/1/13, 10:39 PM

    I am learning so much from you as a newbie backyard chicken owner. I have 4 beautiful hens who give me joy every day! Thank you, Cathy! Love your contests and hope to win one someday! :-)

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  181. Chicken Hill Poultry12/1/13, 10:45 PM

    Lots of good info thanks.

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  182. Thanks for all your efforts to deliver great info to the public!

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  183. Kara Hale Acre12/1/13, 10:58 PM

    Great article again, Kathy!! Would love to have a watering system!! Keeping 150 chickens in clean water is a full time job! Lol

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  184. I would love to try one of these to see if it would work with our extremely hard water. Thanks for the info.

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  185. Kristy Robertson12/1/13, 10:59 PM

    I would love to have this fountain for my girls :)

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  186. Erin Gay Hulderson12/1/13, 11:01 PM

    I was giving meal worms daily when going through molt. I had no idea this could lead to obesity. They do free range.

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  187. jane stanford boozer12/1/13, 11:33 PM

    I have learned so much from you, which helps a lots since I am new to this.....but I have named all 6 of my chickens....hahahaha

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  188. I really enjoyed this article. I tend to give treats of veggies to combat boredom when my girls are going to be locked up all day. I hope all of the free ranging they do offset the boredom treats.

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  189. Marie Sassin12/1/13, 11:48 PM

    Always enjoy reading your blogs :)

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  190. Great info! Thank you so much!

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  191. Valerie Jensen12/1/13, 11:54 PM

    I spent last evening reading all about eggs and the way they are formed. Such an interesting article, Kathy. I shared that info with my 85 year old mom today as we looked through today's eggs. She was impressed with it all and she was a farm girl way back when! Thank you!

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  192. Hedda, Cape Town12/2/13, 1:19 AM

    What an excellent article! Thank you so much. My sweet Rose died a few months ago from what I now believe was obesity-related disease and FLHS. It is so difficult to see obesity in chickens, unlike a dog where its obvious when it starts getting round.The weighing tip is a great idea! I now only have one bantam orpington chicken that is my house pet, and she is 6 weeks. Any ideas on what the growth and weight is supposed to be? When should I change her food over to pellets from growing food, which I am sure is high in calories?
    Any tips or resources would be appreciated!

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  193. TheChickenChick12/2/13, 2:05 AM

    Thank you Tisha!

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  194. TheChickenChick12/2/13, 2:13 AM

    That's so nice to hear, Valerie. Thank you. Say hello to your mom for me. :)

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  195. TheChickenChick12/2/13, 2:14 AM

    Hi Hedda. I included two different links in the article where you can look up the weights by breed.

    And this article will give you a lot more information about feed schedules: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/11/feeding-chickens-at-different-ages.html

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  196. Barbara Diamond Johnson12/2/13, 2:26 AM

    Love your info! Liked both pages on FB (actually had previously like both) left a note that you sent me. Thanks for the opportunity!

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  197. I'm planning to build a coop & winning the watering system would be great! I've never had before!

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