Plants that are TOXIC to chickens

plants toxic to chickens

Spring has sprung, and the chickens are getting much more outside time.  With that in mind, while doing spring yard cleanup, it’s smart to pay extra attention to things that could potentially damage your foraging hens.  The winter snow covers so much, and invariably I find things like screws, nails, candy wrappers, Styrofoam pieces & cigarette butts that somehow find their way into my yard.  If I don’t clean those things up, the chickens WILL find them- and if they find them, they’ll try to eat them.  They’re not always the smartest of birds.

Additionally, spring is a good time to review what sort of plants you have growing in and around your yard, to make sure you’re not exposing your chickeny charges to something dangerous.  Below, I’ve pasted a list of toxic plants from chickenkeepingsecrets.com:

ARUM LILY ELEPHANT EAR (TARO) MOONSEED
AMARYLLIS ENGLISH IVY MORNING GLORY
ARALIA ERGOT MTN. LAUREL
ARROWHEAD VINE EUCALYPTUS (DRIED, DYED OR TREATED IN FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS) MUSHROOMS, AMANITA
AUTUMN CROCUS EUONYMUS (SPINDLE TREE) MYRTLE
AUSTRALIAN FLAMETREE EUPHORBIA CACTUS NARCISSUS
AUSTRALIAN UMBRELLA TREE FALSE HELLEBORE NETTLES
AVOCADO FLAME TREE NIGHTSHADES: (DEADLY, BLACK, GARDEN, WOODY, BITTERSWEET,
AZALEA FELT PLANT (MATERNITY, AIR & PANDA PLANTS) EGGPLANT, JERUSALEM CHERRY)
BANEBERRY FIG (WEEPING) OAK
BEANS: (CASTOR, HORSE, FAVA, BROAD, GLORY, SCARLET RUNNER, FIRE THORN OLEANDER
MESCAL, NAVY, PREGATORY) FLAMINGO FLOWER OXALIS
BIRD OF PARADISE FOUR O’CLOCK PARSLEY
BISHOP’S WEED FOXGLOVE PEACE LILY
BLACK LAUREL GLOTTIDIUM PERIWINKLE
BLACK LOCUST GOLDEN CHAIN PHILODENDRONS: (SPLIT LEAF, SWISS CHEESE, HEART-LEAF)
BLEEDING HEART OR DUTCHMAN’S BREECHES GRASS: (JOHNSON, SORGHUM, SUDAN & BROOM CORN) PIGWEED
BLOODROOT GROUND CHERRY POINCIANA
BLUEBONNET HEATHS: (KALMIA, LEUCOTHO, PEIRES, RHODODENDRON, MTN. LAUREL, POINSETTIA
BLUEGREEN ALGAE BLACK LAUREL, ANDROMEDA & AZALEA) POISON IVY
BOXWOOD HELIOTROPE POISON HEMLOCK
BRACKEN FERN HEMLOCK: (POISON & WATER) POISON OAK: (WESTERN & EASTERN)
BUCKTHORN HENBANE POKEWEED
BULB FLOWERS: (AMARYLLIS, DAFFODIL, NARCISSUS, HYACINTH & IRIS) HOLLY POTATO SHOOTS
BURDOCK HONEYSUCKLE POTHOS
BUTTERCUP HORSE CHESTNUT PRIVET
CACAO HORSE TAIL PYRACANTHA
CAMEL BUSH HOYA RAIN TREE
CASTOR BEAN HYACINTH RANUNCULUS, BUTTERCUP
CALADIUM HYDRANGEA RAPE
CANA LILY IRIS IVY: (ENGLISH & OTHERS) RATTLEBOX, CROTALARIA
CARDINAL FLOWER JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT RED MAPLE
CHALICE (TRUMPET VINE) JASMINE (JESSAMINE) RED SAGE (LANTANA)
CHERRY TREE JERUSALEM CHERRY RHUBARB LEAVES
CHINA BERRY TREE JIMSONWEED RHODODENDRONS
CHRISTMAS CANDLE JUNIPER ROSARY PEA SEEDS
CLEMATIS (VIRGINIA BOWER) KY. COFFEE TREE SAND BOX TREE
CLIVIA LANTANA (RED SAGE) SKUNK CABBAGE
COCKLEBUR LARKSPUR SORREL (DOCK)
COFFEE (SENNA) LILY OF THE VALLEY SNOW DROP
COFFEE BEAN (RATTLEBUSH, RATTLE BOX & COFFEEWEED) LILY, ARUM SPURGES: (PENCIL TREE, SNOW-ON-MTN, CANDELABRA, CROWN OF THORNS)
CORAL PLANT LOBELIA STAR OF BETHLEHEM
CORIANDER LOCOWEED (MILK VETCH) SWEET PEA
CORNCOCKLE LOCUSTS, BLACK / HONEY SWISS CHEESE PLANT (MONSTERA)
COYOTILLO LORDS & LADIES (CUCKOOPINT) TANSY RAGWORT
COWSLIP LUPINE TOBACCO
CUTLEAF PHILODENDRON MALANGA UMBRELLA PLANT
DAFFODIL MARIJUANA (HEMP) VETCH: HAIRY/COMMON
DAPHNE MAYAPPLE (MANDRAKE) VIRGINIA CREEPER
DATURA STRAMONIUM (ANGEL’S TRUMPET) MEXICAN BREADFRUIT WATTLE
DEATH CAMUS MEXICAN POPPY WEEPING FIG
DELPHINIUM MILKWEED, COTTON BUSH WHITE CEDAR, CHINA BERRY
DEVIL’S IVY MISTLETOE WISTERIA
DIEFFENBACHIA (DUMB CANE) MOCK ORANGE YEWS
ELDERBERRY MONKSHOOD YELLOW JASMIN

This is in no ways definitive, and there are other lists floating around out there.  For instance, this list on poultryhelp.com cites several plants that aren’t on the list above, such as lamb’s quarters, a common backyard weed in Michigan. I’ve found nothing that indicates lamb’s quarters are toxic for chickens- in fact, my chickens have eaten them since last year, and I regularly eat them in salads and spinach pie.  Likewise, that list also cites alfalfa, which many chicken keepers give directly to their hens.  Do your homework with plants you may have around, watch what your chickens go after, and be cautious.  For instance, from the above list I have quite a few toxic plants, like daffodils, burdock, wisteria, and lily of the valley.  I noticed a few days ago that my daffodils are starting to poke through the ground, and one curious hen grabbed a bit of green in her beak.  Before I could chase her off, she let go and walked away- on some of the more toxic plants, they’ll leave them alone of their own accord.  Does that mean I trust the chickens to 100% never eat anything dangerous, or that I could leave them in their chicken tractor parked over a bed of daffodils. Nope.  It’s better to be safe than sorry, and to limit their access to poisonous plants in ways that make sense.  Most of the things naturally growing in your yard will be fine for your chickens to peck and eat- keep them away from tomato plants & potato plants (nightshades), ornamental plants, and seedpods (especially wisteria).

plants toxic to chickens
My hens as juveniles late last spring. Notice the broad leaf plant near the bottom? That’s lamb’s quarters, which is “supposedly” toxic, but has been consumed repeatedly by my hens.

Feather Pickin’ Chicken, Pt2

P1050358

The Jerk is at it again.  She’s even pecking me, hard, on the leg while I’m out in the run cleaning.

I’ve put cat toys out there; cabbages; low-energy treats like greens, squash, etc; a tennis ball; as well as letting them out more often, even though the Jerk doesn’t WANT to go out, because her feet get too cold.  None of that was stopping her from picking at BB and Dumptruck.

So, the Jerk is now isolated.  On the advice of other chicken owners, I’ve removed her from the flock and placed her in a dog crate in the basement- this’ll give the other two a little time to heal, and rearrange the pecking order a bit.  Hopefully by shaking things up I’ll get her to stop long enough to get them through winter; in spring, they’ll have much more outside time and be less likely to have this issue.

The heroes of the day are Ben, for helping me set up the isolation pen and restraining the ladies with injuries so that I could properly coat them with Blu-Kote; the other hero is Blu-Kote, which is amazing in it’s ability to mask the blood to stop the picking, as well as being antiseptic.

The full gallery of injuries can be viewed here on imgur- the picture file sizes were way too big for my poor blog to handle.

Have you experienced this?  What did you do to fix the problem? I’d love to add to my list of suggestions.

List of advice I’ve been given:

-picked up the Jerk and hold her while the others run around and have a good time, to shake up the pecking order a bit

-check their protein level in the food. When they don’t get adequate protein, they’ll eat feathers (saw this during their molt). This is definitely not a nutritional deficiency, since she wasn’t even eating the feathers- she was pulling them out and spitting them onto the ground.

-give them all low-calorie veggie treats to keep them occupied but not give them extra energy

-Let them free range (not possible in the city, and their outside time is limited due to the extremely cold weather anyway

-Provide entertainment. I’ve used an automatic laser pointer cat toy, tennis balls, a treat dispenser, dangling toys, a hanging cabbage, etc.  No change in behavior.

-isolate the Jerk to rearrange the pecking order and let the others heal.

1 year down, many more to go!

2ndyearcooprenewal
First and second year coop licenses/inspection approvals

Second year coop license! Coop license renewal went well, and the hens behaved themselves in front of the city inspector.

While the inspector was out, we showed him our water heater (a cookie tin with a light bulb in it), explained why we have plastic wrapped around the run (wind break during cold, snowy spells), and explained why the hens weren’t laying (not enough daylight hours).

While he was out, he mentioned that we were the first coop to fill out renewal papers and be inspected. In case any Ferndalians read this, just a reminder:  your coop license expires Dec 31 every year, no matter when you got approved.  The renewal process is very straight forward: fill out your packet of information just as you did when you originally registered, minus the coop drawings, and take it back to the city clerks office with your check for $35.  Bingo, bammo, done deal.  You can schedule your inspection at that time as well, which is what I did- I wanted it done and over with as soon as possible.

The inspector mentioned there are a few other homes in Ferndale now with registered coops… I’m really interested in contacting the other registered coop owners to see if they’d be interested in planning a coop tour in spring.  Something informational, with handouts on chicken keeping at every coop- might be a nice way to get more people registered and on board with it.

I also started a Facebook page, just to make it easier to get the word out about Ferndale chicken issues: http://www.facebook.com/FerndaleBackyardChickens

as well as a google+ page to help us gain some more visibility:

https://plus.google.com/b/103161687709305818453/103161687709305818453/posts

Here’s hoping 2013 will be a great year!

We’re legal!

Yesterday, the city inspector walked into the backyard saying “This should only take about 2 seconds, I’ve seen the paperwork you submitted”.

who wouldn’t approve this thing?

Basically, the inspection centered around the coop being structurally sound.  He checked the roofing to make sure it was secure, and the fencing and nesting box door hinges.  He asked what we’ll do in the winter, and I told him I’m firmly against heating the coop- the chickens I have will grow to be big girls, and they’ll essentially be wearing down coats. He seemed pleased with that, since there had been an incident several years ago involved a wire shorting out on a coop in Ferndale- my worst fear.

The permit expires on December 31st every year, so I’ll need to go into the city and schedule another inspection and pay my fee in early December.  I figure I’ll just do it around the same time I renew my car registration.

The chickens aren’t very impressed with this latest turn of events, but they did run off with the building inspection sticker we received.

very exciting!
if it’s in my hands, it might be food, right?
see that beak? somebody snatched the approved sticker from my hand a second later.

After all is said and done, the chickens are happy, I’m happy, and my neighbors are happy.  Everyone seems to like the coop, and they get a kick out of the girls antics- or lack thereof, since the ladies have been lounging a lot in their beachy coop.

The 3 stooges.

The countdown begins.

Just over 24 hours until the coop gets inspected!  I’m nervous and excited.

We put some finishing touches on the coop over the weekend- lots of paint, installing the brackets for the polycarbonate roof, installing a door handle, etc.  There are still some more things I’d like to do, but I’ll wait until after we get approval from the city inspector.

The coop is ready for inspection!

The green roof is prepped with dirt, and waiting for strawberries to be planted.  Can you believe I haven’t been able to find strawberries at any of the nurseries this year?  I had to break down and order some online.

Nice mix of garden and potting soil

We also put a latch on the inside of the run door, after in incident where the chickens were spooked and bumped into the door.  The door only stayed open for a second, but that’s long enough that if there was a dog running around the coop, they might have the opportunity to race inside.  Obviously I can’t let that happen, so my failsafe is now installed, for use when I’m in the run.

latch on the inside of the run door

We put some hanging planters from Ikea in the run, just for a decorative touch.  I absolutely love it- the hint of extra greenery really adds to the overall appearance.

the chickens don’t really care about hanging planters

We painted everything to match the house and garage, so the coop seems to “belong” there.

the coop and the garage look good together
another view of the garage and coop

The lever for the chicken door is on the outside- in the future, we’re hoping to install an automated or remoted controlled door.

the rod sticking out with the black handle is the push/pull door control

Door hardware matches on the run door and the nesting box lid.  We also added a magnet to the window cover on the back of the coop, so that the window can stay open.

black handle and hinges on the door
black handle on the nesting box, magnet keeping the window cover open

All in all, it was a ton of work this weekend.  Painting the trim in the places where the 1/2 hardware cloth is attached was a pain, and took a long time to get all the nooks and cranies filled.  I also went over all the “vulnerable points” after hearing something walking around the garage one night when I went to close the girls in- we used horseshoe nails to ensure that the hardware cloth is attached in every place that a predator might seek access, mainly as reinforcement to the staples we had previously used.  The pavers seen around the coop are in their position temporaily, as I’ll be leveling them and making some paths through the garden in the future.  At the end of the day Sunday, we were exhausted and ready to just sit down and admire the finished product.

Hurley likes to think she helped.
Hurley helps by watching the chickens enjoy their pretty new coop. Good job Hurley!

To all the people who said they wouldn’t want to live next to someone with backyard hens- is this what you pictured?

Chicks dig dirt.

The chicks are enjoying a nice dust bath in the shade on this steamy spring day.

These girls are the fat orange cats of the chicken world, and as such are already getting a little spoiled.  They come running at the sight of me in the backyard, not out of affection, but because I usually have a delicious treat.  Lately it’s been dandelion greens, broccoli leaves, strawberries, and a tiny piece of ham.  I think they nearly lost their little chicken minds over that piece of ham.

 

Curious.
Snagging a bite.
Once Big Bossy gets a bite, everyone moves in for some, now that they know it’s safe.

The girls are getting bigger every day, and looking more and more like real chickens.  I think I may have even heard a cluck last night as I was closing them into their coop.

Looking proper.
Big Bossy eyes the camera.
Green eyed dinosaurs.
Chickens have inscrutable faces- the only way to tell if they’re angry is body language, since their faces have a permanent frown.

Chicks acquired, coop nearing completion!

Coop with attached pergola
Coop with attached pergola
Coop with attached pergola over the run

Lots of stuff happening in preparation for the permit and inspection!!

The chicks were acquired March 18th, and have been staying in my house in a brooder box.  I didn’t get them at the tiny fluffball stage- they had a few “big girl” feathers, and were likely about 3 weeks old.  They’re growing FAST, which means that I need to get them out of the brooder box and into the coop as soon as possible.  It’s been a madhouse trying to get everything built and installed, but the end is in sight and we should have it ready for the chicks this weekend.

Now, the difficult part: trying to figure out who I need to contact at the city for the permitting process, and what forms (if any) need to be filled out.

Per the ordinance that was passed, “Completed applications shall be submitted to the community and economic development department along with the fee which shall be determined by city council resolution. Application shall be made to the community and economic development department and shall include any drawings or other information required by the department.”.  I looked on the Ferndale city website, and couldn’t find any application.  I feel weird about filling out  a building permit application, or writing my own- but if it’s necessary, I will.  I’d also like to know what the exact requirements are for drawings/information that I need to submit- can I just list out the dimensions, or do I need to mock up a drawing of the coop?  So many questions, and no time to go down to city hall.  Hopefully they respond to my email today, so I can get started on any paperwork and drop it off this week.