Are you a new chick owner? Then this guide is for you!
Chicks thrive in ideal conditions, so consider these tips for getting started:
- Heat: Suspend a warm bulb about a foot above the brooder floor for warmth – and have a second bulb on hand in case one burns out. Keep temps in the brooder about 90-95 degrees F for the first week, decreasing about 5 degrees per week. Raise the light as chicks grow.
- Environment: Be sure your brooder is big enough so your chicks can move about comfortably. Keep it out of drafts. Stock tanks, plastic tubs and homemade brooders are a few good options. Do not allow the brooder to become wet or damp.
- Bedding: Pine wood shavings are ideal. Avoid straw and newspaper as these become slippery for chicks. Clean bedding daily.
- Water: Be sure clean, fresh water is always available. Dip chick beaks into water and let them drink 4-5 hours before introducing feed. Elevating the waterer a couple inches off the floor will help it stay clean and prevent bedding from contaminating it.
- Feed: Scatter feed on the brooder floor so chicks can find it at first. Then place in a feeder. Have chick starter feed available 24/7. Your chicks will eat just what they need. One chick will eat about 10 pounds of chick starter in its first weeks of life. There are some great options available when considering chick starter feeds.
As a poultry owner, you know how important it is to keep your birds healthy. By practicing biosecurity, you can help reduce the chances of your birds being exposed to animal diseases such as avian influenza (AI) or exotic Newcastle disease (END).
“Biosecurity” may not be a common household word. But, for poultry and bird owners it can spell the difference between health and disease. Practicing biosecurity can help keep disease away from your farm, and keep your birds healthy.
Recommendations provided by the USDA, for more information on this and other topics, visit www.ahls.usda.gov/.
It’s no surprise that the winter months can be as long and arduous for chickens, as they are for us. Gone are their days of roaming free in the sunshine, while scratching up treats and exploring new places. The warmth of the coop becomes the new norm during these cold months, and the diet might start to feel as repetitious as their daily winter schedule.
Although commercial feed is an important mainstay for winter chickens, ambitious owners sprout grain to give their flock a winter treat of greenery. Table scraps also add diet variety but be careful as wet soggy foods can dampen the coop litter and create odor.
Among the best table scraps for indoor feeding are small amounts of salad greens, pumpkin and squash seeds, and bits of vegetables, popcorn, and almost any other food that’s relatively dry. Only put in as much as the birds can clean up in a few minutes.
Chickens love a snack of scratch grain or cracked corn, but only a few handfuls daily are all a small flock should have. Too much grain causes chicken obesity! A NatureWise Scratch Block of compressed grain sold at feed stores and left in the coop helps to provide exercise and diversion as the birds gradually peck the blocks apart.
Perhaps the most important help a flock owner can give birds is space. Cramming hens together in winter guarantees squabbling, pecking, and other social problems. Four square feet of floor space per birds is an absolute minimum. The more room the better, and a coop that has an array of perches and roosts at different heights and angles gives the hens a place to exercise, while adding three dimensions to a coop.
So go ahead, add some variety to their winter lives and just keep reminding your feathered friends, Spring will be back…someday!
It’s not unusual for one or two hens in a small flock to eat their share of feed, relax, and rarely lay an egg. Although most flock owners don’t attempt to make money selling eggs, spotting and eliminating freeloaders saves feed dollars and keeps the eggs coming.
The trick is figuring out which hens aren’t laying. There are several ways to spot the lazy hen, and backyard flock owners have an advantage. Unlike large laying operations backyarders normally only keep a few hens and visit the coop regularly. Even better, small flocks are usually composed of several different breeds with varied colored and patterned feathers. That makes it easy to identify specific hens and helps track down a nonlayer.
How Many Eggs Should a Hen Lay?
The number of eggs a hen lays in each week varies greatly depending on the breed or strain, nutrition, weather, age of hen, and season or day length.
Hybrids developed for maximum egg production are laying dynamos as are many white egg breeds. If well-nourished and healthy, each bird will lay five or six eggs a week and sometimes more. In contrast fancy and exhibition breeds are often poor layers and may go for weeks without producing a single egg. Even when they are in full production two or three eggs a week per fancy bird is normal. Hens of any breed lay the most eggs during their first lay cycle and produce fewer eggs as they age.
Most backyard flock owners keep time tested standard brown egg breeds such as Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, New Hampshire Reds, and Wyandottes among others. They are good layers that may not be quite as productive as hybrids but each should lay four or five eggs a week.
Even the most productive breeds and hybrids sometimes include slackers. Here’s how to find her.
Anyone with only five or six hens of varied breeds can usually pinpoint the non-layer through observation. Hens usually sit in the nest for several minutes before laying. Take note of which hens never seem to be in a nest and the culprit may be found. If the entire flock is of one breed they all look the same, making it harder to find a non-layer by observation. In contrast if a six hen flock is composed of six different breeds or strains with different colored feathers no bird has a look alike. That helps identify the individual that never seems to be in a nest.
An even easier way to spot a nonlayer is to configure a flock with birds that lay distinctively colored eggs. For example, Americaunas lay blue/green eggs, Rocks or Orpingtons produce light brown eggs, while the eggs of Marans and Welsummers are dark brown. Leghorns and Minorca produce snow white eggs. A flock of hens that each lays eggs of a different hue makes it easy to tell which one isn’t working.
Experienced flock owners use several techniques to spot a nonlayer, even if all birds are of the same color. Here’s how they do it.
The Eyeball Test
Hens that are run down, lethargic, and sickly looking usually aren’t laying. In contrast, birds that look great with complete healthy feathers, good size, and bright yellow legs and beaks may be prima donnas putting all their nutrition into looks rather than eggs. Hard working laying hens gradually get a little rough looking. As the months go by their feathers get worn. Breeds with yellow legs and beaks gradually see this color diminish as egg laying drains pigments from the body. It takes much work and nutrients to produce plentiful eggs and working girls show the strain. Good layers usually have healthy combs, while the combs of non-layers are often shrunken.
A Close Examination
Hens are easiest to handle when they are sleepy. So, the best physical way to locate a non-layer is to enter the coop at night with a battery lantern, flashlight, or headlamp so you can use both hands. Gently pick up each bird. Position her between your elbow and ribs with her head facing backwards. It may take gentle pressure from the arm to keep her wings from flapping, and by holding her feet between your fingers she’s not mobile and will likely sit quietly. Gently place the palm of the other hand on her pelvis. Bones that are easy to feel span the cloaca, where both droppings and eggs emerge. If a hen is not laying, the bones will be close together. If she’s laying they will be three or four fingers apart, providing plenty of room for the egg to pass out of her body. A laying hens vent or cloaca is usually moist and pale in color. A non-layer’s may appear yellowish.
What to Do With the Non-Layer
For many flock owners a non-layer is quickly destined for the stew pot. Usually nonlaying hens are plump and delicious but are old enough to have tough flesh. They are best stewed. Some flock owners would never dream of butchering a bird. It’s OK to let a non-layer stay in the flock, even though she’ll continue to eat expensive food without returning eggs!
There is a cool breeze in the air and the leaves are starting to turn rich hues in many parts of the country. Yes, fall is upon us. It’s that wonderful time of year that brings us many bountiful tidings, including pumpkin spice-everything, hay rides and trick or treater’s. But what does the fall season mean for your chickens? The answer, is likely already a part of your seasonal tradition!
If you are getting ready to carve those annual jack-o-lanterns, you can cringe a little less when scooping the slimy goo of seeds out, because it can serve a purpose this year! The guts of your pumpkins are in-fact a delicious treat to your chickens. Aside from your guys and gals loving the flavor of pumpkin contents, they are loaded with some great nutrients. Pumpkins contain vitamins A, B and C, as well as zinc. Vitamin E can also be found in the seeds. In addition, you can feed all parts of the pumpkin to chickens, just make sure the rinds are cut up some so they can easily eat.
After all the little ghosts and goblins have stopped by, you can even feed the jack-o-lanterns to your chickens! Just make sure there is no molding on the inside or outside. So get to carving, your ladies and gentlemen are awaiting a treat!
Are your guys and gals looking a little bare right now? It’s likely the result of molt, a naturally occurring process in chickens from August through December. In the molt process, chickens can lose their feathers starting at the head and neck and working its way down the body. It can take 4-16 weeks for the molt process to be complete. But all of this is not in vain, the process actually serves a vital purpose in the health of your chickens, protecting them from skin infections, the cold and precipitation of winter.
But fear not, there are options to help speed the process along. Products like, Nutrena’s NatureWise Feather Fixer can help your birds get through molt quicker! Visit NutrenaWorld.com to learn how Feather Fixer can help you get through molt, naked but not afraid!
It’s that time of year again, we’re just under two months away from the Ohio National Poultry Show. It’s an exciting time in the competitive poultry world, not only are we coming up on fall show season, but much buzz has been made around the upcoming release of the documentary film, ‘Chicken People’. This film chronicles the road to Columbus, and what it takes to have that prize-winning entry. The film will be released on September 23rd, but in the meantime if you haven’t seen the trailer, check it out:
We’d love to hear your poultry showing stories, so feel free to leave comments about your experiences and what you love best about exhibiting poultry!