The Good, the Bad, the Fluffy
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Frequently Asked Questions
+ Other Tidbits
What is a "pullet"?
A pullet is a young female chicken, and can be any age from hatching as a chick up to a year old. A female chicken a year old or older is referred to as a 'Hen'. Mullenax Ranch refers to 'pullets' to indicate gender as female. Most chicks here are sold at less than a week old, unless otherwise noted on their listing description.
What age are the chicks I'm picking up?
Most chicks this year are sold at 1-2 weeks of age, unless otherwise noted on their listing description. If there's no age listed other than 'chick' they are most likely 1-2 weeks old to give them a great start.
Do I get to hand select my chicks at pick-up?
Unfortunately we are not set-up yet to have the public on our farm and to prevent biosecurity risks entering or leaving our farm. Chicks are randomly selected and brought to the farm gate for pick-up.
What do I need to bring for pick-up?
Bring your email confirmation with you which contains our address and DIRECTIONS on how to find us. GPS is wrong, PLEASE make sure to follow ONLY the directions in the e-mail or you'll be trespassing through some of the neighbors or end up at the wrong gate..or a different mountain. We provide a bag to take them home in, along with substrate (sphagnum moss) in the bag to go home.
What kind of bedding does Mullenax Ranch use for chicks? Is it dirt?
We made the switch to using Sphagnum Moss over pine shavings to aid in chick development. Newly hatched chicks are still figuring our what's edible and peck everything. Sphagnum Moss tastes terrible and this helps them figure out food much sooner, plus it doesn't get kicked into feed and water as quickly. When older, we switch to pine shavings. NEVER use cedar or any wood shavings other than pine as this can prove toxic for them.
What is "Biosecurity"?
Biosecurity referes to the processes and procedures a poultry owner or establishment has in place to prevent the spread of infectious pathogens or other contamination. Contaminants can be found on footwear, clothing, vehicles and even on your hair. Any used poultry equipment, carriers or coops should be sterilized prior to use. For more on Biosecurity, view our resources further down this page.
Do I need to separate my new birds from my existing birds?
Yes! You should always keep new birds separate from your existing birds as part of your established Quarantine procedures. With any new birds we suggest at least 30 days quarantine from your existing flock as a standard precaution.
Can I give Marek's vaccine to an adult bird?
Yes, however it will not be as effective as when administered as a chick.
How does Marek's vaccine work?
Like many vaccines both animal or human, Marek's vaccine does not cover ALL strains, but the 'most common' strains. A bird who received Marek's vaccine as a chick may be susceptible to picking up a strain of Marek's from another bird that was not covered by the vaccine they received. There are also many other natural causes and viruses than can mimic Marek's. If you have a bird pass and don't believe it to be natural causes; i.e., lack of food, water, environmental or predation, you can always necropsy it with a lab or your local veterinarian to determine cause of death to aid in treatment or prevention for your remaining flock. Often, a necropsy is significantly cheaper on any animal than many of the tests available while alive. Many avian issues do not have clear testing and can display false negatives or positives, including Marek's. Extra caution should be taken when obtaining poultry from animal shelters or auctions.
If Mullenax Ranch were to have a bird die here on the farm from unknown cause, what is the farm's procedure?
Our policy and procedure for any avian death resulting from unknown cause, i.e., obviously not water, feed, environmental or predation/attack, is to send in for necropsy with the state lab. As part of being a responsible small farm for licensed egg and chick sales, safety for animals and consumers is a high priority. Our birds' health is of the upmost importance to us, and happy healthy animals are producing animals. We take a proactive approach with our flock management instead of reactive. Early detection and early action is important with any backyard flock, and particularly important on a working, producing farm.
What does it take to sell chicks?
Legally, in the state of California whether you're a farm, business, feed store, hobbyist, pet owner or show breeder it requires a license with the state to sell your chicks. Mullenax Ranch is Licensed for chick sales.
What does it take to sell eggs?
The state of California requires anyone, child or adult, business or pet owner, etc., even GIVING AWAY/donating eggs to carry an Egg Handlers Permit. This license is required, along with labeling per regulation. Mullenax Ranch is Licensed for egg sales.
Why are prices different between a commercial scale hatchery and a local farm?
A commercial hatchery is on a whole different platform than your average local farmer. They are typically multigenerational endeavors in rural America and are set-up for BIG scale production. Their sales comes from low profit margin on mass numbers of chicks, whereas your average farmer will have small scale production and have to charge at actual cost which will be higher per chick.
To check out one of our favorite YouTube videos, a tour of Meyer Hatchery in Ohio, check out this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb5KMny0QEQ
The videographer does a great job of explaining many of the aspects of how this large operation works. Pay attention at the beginning when they mention the chicken houses and how many birds per building. This kind of scale is what's required to produce lots of chicks, at lower cost per chick.
Why are prices different between your farm and 'my friend down the street'?
In order to still have a farm a month or six months from now we have to charge our actual cost of production. We can never hope to compete with someone operating illegally who doesn't incur the same expenses we do, and who may defer funds from their non-farm employment to fund their chicken hobby. Farming IS our vocation, and we have to be very responsible about every penny spent in production of a good or service and being able to pay ourselves a minimum to keep farming for the future.
We offered heavy discounts at the onset of Covid in 2020 to help our community, however this was at a high cost to our business which was already deeply impacted by Covid, and did not balance for the long run. We love what we do and are grateful for your business which allows us to farm.
What kind of feed do I give new chicks?
A chick starter mash or crumble has everything they need. You can go with Organic for a higher price, or non-organic. We do NOT recommend medicated feed unless you have a specific need for medicating them. Also, if the chicks you purchased included a coccidiosis vaccine, medicated feed will render the vaccine null. We do not recommend medicated feed for broiler/meat chicks which are to be consumed.
Chicks hatched here this year are kept a minimum of one week from successful hatch and drying, to ensure they're eating, drinking and healthy prior to leaving. Chicks shipped in to our farm from larger hatcheries are kept here a minimum of 5-10 days to stabilize and make sure they're robust and healthy after their journey prior to going to their new home. We keep back any chick that is at less than 100% for their safety and well being. Probiotics can be helpful for most animal species, as this helps create healthy bacteria in the gut. Most chicks will be at least 1-2 weeks of age this year prior to going to new homes to give them a strong start here at the farm.
Chicks need access to clean drinking water. Elevating their water container slightly off the bottom will help keep the substrate out, or putting a piece of cardboard or short tray underneath the water so chick feet don't track in the substrate. For chicks that are very tiny and newly hatched, we add pebbles/small rocks to the water area the chicks have access to. This helps to prevent drowning or going into shock from submerging too much of their body in water and getting chilled.
We caution against any additional medicated water, including Apple Cider Vinegar, Nutri-Drench, etc., unless you are doing it for a specific reason and also know what you're doing and how to do it. It's important to remember that water must be changed regularly, certain water additives should not be offered for more than a designated amount of time, and to always have regular clean (additive free) drinking water available in addition to any other water containers with additives.
How to prevent illness in chicks?
Number 1: keep a clean area. Change their water frequently, keep them from standing on or in it and pooping into the water. Keeping water and feed sources clean and changing the bedding is highly preventative of coccidiosis, for example.
Number 2: keep them warm. Don't fry them! Make sure the heat source is adjusted for their needs and that there is a cool area to get out of the heat as well. We use 'heat plates' here on the farm instead of heat bulbs, which have proved for us to be safer for the chicks, very easy to use, less fire risk and significantly lower energy use.
How does a heat plate work versus a heat lamp?
With a heat plate, or brooder plate, the chicks go underneath it as they would 'Momma' hen. Simply adjust the heat plate to the height of where the chicks will touch it, and adjust taller as they grow. We use 'heat plates' here on the farm instead of heat bulbs, which have proved to be safer for the chicks, very easy to use, less fire risk and significantly lower energy use.
What to do if you're unhappy with an order?
Please contact us and give us the opportunity to make things right or find a solution which works for you and us both. The quality of our goods and services is very important to us and we work exceptionally hard to make everything the best it can be, but that doesn't mean we're perfect. Please reach out if there's a question, concern or issue. Our customers are the lifeblood of our business and we want you to be happy. We appreciate your business and hope to earn your continued support for years to come.
How do we schedule a farm tour or see the mobile pastured poultry operation?
When the county says we can, we will make an announcement via our e-mail list and social media.
When will your farm store be open for the public?
We wish we knew! We unfortunately have to get *another* permit for tours and access with the public to stop in past the gate. If you haven't already, join our e-mail list to get a notice when we reach this next phase. You can find many of our products at the Tehachapi Natural Market. Seasonal items are also adding on our Shop page here, our Etsy store and with Tehachapi CSA.
Do you offer any workshops on processing poultry, or keeping and caring for poultry and other animals?
If it's something our customers would like, we can certainly put this on the calendar. We have done speaking engagements and workshops statewide for other non-poultry related topics for many years. (Remember, Alex was a bird nerd before moving here! The difficult part will be reminding her to break for refreshments!)
How do I learn more about how to care for my poultry? (Especially first-time owners!)
Buy a book. There is literally nothing shameful or disgraceful about seeking knowledge from established authors and it's really the best way to give yourself a solid foundation to start from. Knowledge and education acts as preparation and prevention. Wouldn't you rather know what to avoid before you have a tragedy? Prevention is ALWAYS the key with birds, particularly when most species of the avian world don't let you know they feel bad until they're right about to die. We ALL start somewhere, and no one becomes the world's top notch chicken keeper without some book work along the way. Tractor Supply and Amazon are both fast and easy sources for a magnitude of great books to choose from.
The internet can also be a great source, but keep in mind the source or author, same as if your college professors want 'credible sources'. We recommend seeking out articles from states' Cooperative Extension offices, established hatcheries and farms who may follow some of the same values you do. There are also MANY videos on YouTube. There will be a lot of 'fluff' but the 'meat' is out there and with a little time to find those articles or videos you can help supplement your book learning.
A word of caution: Social media is a GREAT tool, but not always the greatest resource for education or answering questions. For example, "what's wrong with my chicken" will warrant dozens of different opinions, but not an actual diagnosis founded on factual findings. Again, BOOKS are great education resources. Social media is a great place for opinions.
Mentors - lastly, find a mentor. A mentor is usually that person you call who's kept chickens for years and has been through the growing pains and can now help you on your chicken keeping journey.
Setting up for Success
The success of bringing home new chicks is largely environmental. Making sure to be fully prepared is important prior to bringing these fragile babies home. A few basics to keep in mind with new chicks:
-Heat source with both an area in the heat source and outside the heat source to cool off
-Substrate/bedding such as pine shavings or sphagnum peat moss
-NON-medicated feed (especially for fast growing meat birds)
-Chick feeder container
-Chick waterer container
What to Do & How to Do It
Good Biosecurity can be the difference between life and death for your birds if you or your flock ever come in contact with a contagious pathogen potentially infecting your flock.
A little background on WHY it's important, and HOW it can help you:
About a decade ago when Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) swept across California, backyard flocks and pets (including parrots, finches & more) were completely depopulated (killed) in an effort to stop the harmful spread of disease.
Out of this experience, two of the national avian groups (American Federation of Aviculuture and Aviculutural Society of America) both helped to enact legislature to protect bird owners against future depopulations if another outbreak of similar nature should happen.
Sure enough, Virulent Newcastle Diseased (VND) reared its ugly head and put a dampener on many businesses, hobbyists and owners, BUT this time there wasn't the same mass depopulations at private homes like there had been before. Why?
Two reasons; the first was the state had new ways and legislature in effect for how to deal with testing and actions. The second is people who practiced EXCELLENT biosecurity stood a far greater chance of protecting their birds.
Now, granted, not everyone has to prepare their biosecurity set-up with Newcastle in mind, but some everyday practices can be easily implemented into your everyday routine and poultry keeping practices.
We've started a Checklist & Suggestion Section to help you get started. For a Printable Checklist >> CLICK HERE ((Under Construction - Check back soon!))
POULTRY FIRST AID
*Only a Licensed Veterinarian should be consulted past basic first aid measures*
It's good to have a Basic first aid kit on hand for your poultry. Some examples include:
-Blood coagulet, like Blood Stop Powder, Wonder Dust or Kwik-Stop (flour or cornmeal will work in a pinch)
-Vetericyn spray or hydrogel spray
A few suggestions to cover 'basics' while you assess the situation, and then figure out a course of action or consult your avian veterinarian.
Questions to ask yourself include:
-Is the bird drinking?
-Is the bird eating?
-Is the bird pooping?
-Does the poop (or last poops) look normal?
-Are there disrupted feathers or wet spots on the bird possibly indicating a bite or attack?
-Did anything change? This can be the weather, new birds, lawn or garden application, something next door at a neighbors, etc.
-Has the bird been laying eggs? If so, was her laying today same as usual?
-What has the bird eaten recently?
A lot of what we do as poultry owners is process of elimination. Thinking about the questions above can help rule out different issues and get you better prepared to answer questions and give facts to your vet's office as well.
Some things you can do in the meantime:
Heat - Keep the bird in a warm, draft free environment.'Put the bird on heat' is a common term, for saying essentially get the bird warm.
Water - If the bird is drinking, electrolyte solutions for poultry are available at Tractor Supply and many feed stores. Some also contain probiotics. If offering electrolytes, make sure to offer clean drinking water free of additives in addition to the electroylte-added water in a seperate container.
We do NOT recommend syringing or pouring water down a bird's throat! Like you would with a newly hatched chick, you can dip their beak in the water and they have the choice to swallow. If they're not swallowing, do not try this again, but definitely do NOT forcibly put water into a bird as this can lead to mortality for them.
Bleeding - Two parts: 1) stop the bleeding 2) if it came from a dog, cat or other animal you MUST kill the bacteria ASAP.
If you have a profusely bleeding bird, staunch the bloodflow as much as possible and call your avian veterinarian.
Birds as a rule, don't have a lot of blood in them, particularly the smaller they are. Though a chicken will have more than a parakeet for example, STOP THE BLEEDING RIGHT AWAY. Products like Blood Stop Powder, Wonder Dust and Kwik-Stop Powder are all specifically made for stopping the flow of blood and are good to already have on hand in your critter first aid kit. If you don't have one of these coagulets, flour or cornmeal will work in a pinch.
If you have a bird of ANY species and the wounds have been inflicted by another animal it's crucial to kill the bacteria at the wound site(s).
The bacteria found in the saliva of a dog or cat, or under the nails of a cat can be deadly within 24-hours for a bird. If you think your bird has been wounded with the skin broken, it's important to kill the bacteria at these sites right away.
Here at our farm we use Vetericyn spray, either the gel or non-gel spray. The gel seems to stay in place longer, is one observation we've made.
If it's a bite, there is likely more than one skin puncture/entry on the top and side or underneath the bird where the jaw wrapped around by a dog. Wetness or 'disrupted' looking feathers may help serve as an indicator of possible puncture areas.
You may need to go through by hand, looking for disruptions under the feather layer to find ALL entries. This should be done GENTLY and keep the bird and yourself calm.
Vitamins - Whatever ails your bird, a healthy nutrient rich diet is a basic overall boost. Products like Nutridrench for poultry can be added to a second water source, while also keeping a clean additive free drinking water source for them. Also natural raw produce is proven highly effective for the highest nutrient conversion. Well-washed dark leafy greens, and fruit like Papaya (without the seeds) can be great sources for most bird species.
Testing - Be prepared before you ever go into the Vet's office on what to expect with testing so you're not surprised. Generally speaking, there are a LOT of different things poultry can pick-up and many things resemble other things. A lot of these tests are costly ($100+) and may render false positives or negatives. With some viruses there are currently no tests made available for use on live specimens. This can be very frustrating for poultry owners, which is why good biosecurity, quarantining any new birds, and keeping clean healthy spaces is important.
Necropsy - The unfortunate has happened and your bird has passed. What's generally a fraction of the cost of multiple tests on a live bird is available for most avian carcasses from experienced pathologists. A chicken carcass should NOT be frozen as this alters some of the internal workings (for lack of better words) for the pathologists to gather data from. Refrigerate the carcass, and overnight ship with frozen ice packs (NO dry ice) to a lab of your choice. Or consult your avian veterinarian about their necropsy pricing and options.