What’s Inside Counts: More Than Protein for Happy, Healthy Chicks

By Jennifer Murtoff, Home to Roost LLC

Healthy Happy Strong Chicks
These happy, healthy chicks are off to a great start in life!

Walk down the aisle at your local feed store or browse online, and you’ll notice a number of different chick starter/grower feeds at different price points. Many chicken keepers consider only the protein content of feeds and choose the lowest-priced feed with the acceptable amount of protein. But why is there a difference in cost? And is protein the most important ingredient in a chick feed?

Correct levels of protein are an important part of your chick feed, but they are only one element of a good nutritional foundation. A feed with advanced nutrition combines high-quality ingredients and additives in the precise blend to support vitality, health, and growth for a superior start. It will also provide appropriate levels of amino acids, which are critical for protein formation, enabling your birds to live their best lives from the very beginning.

Reviews from the Field

We asked our customers to review our NatureWise® Chick Starter Grower with FlockShield, and it earned rave reviews from across the United States.

    • I’ve been raising chicks for years on a different feed and decided to check out NatureWise® this season on my first group of chicks. My goodness, the difference is huge! These little chicks sprouted feathers faster than my chicks last season, are super hardy, run around like crazy rockets, and look amazing. They always feel plump and thus far have been a blast. The crumble is a nice size, is not full of powder (like other brands), and is easily accessible at my store. I will keep using it this season.
      –Tucson, AZ

       

    • Two weeks ago I started my new chicks on this feed and have noticed how happy, healthy, and perky they are. No instances of sick chicks or poopy butts. So thankful!
      Madison, WI

       

    • I started feeding Nutrena NatureWise® Chick Starter Grower three weeks ago. My baby chicks have grown tremendously beautiful and healthy. I recommend this product to anyone starting a new chicken family.
      –Havana, FL

       

    • My chicks have loved Nutrena NatureWise® chick starter. I am happy to say that I haven’t lost a single chick started on it. I’ve also noticed a big difference in a sickly chick I purchased a few days ago since getting her home and on Nutrena feed. She’s perked up and made a complete turnaround. I love that Nutrena uses nature to add a little extra boost to the feed.
      –Birmingham, AL

       

    • I’ve been raising chicks for many years and recently purchased NatureWise® Chick Starter Grower medicated feed for my new babies. I am aware that chicks grow quickly, but I cannot believe how quickly the girls are growing—especially their wings. Much faster than previous years using a different feed. The girls are healthy, active, and vibrant. I believe it’s all about the feed! I’m impressed!
      –McDonough, GA

 See more customer reviews here.

What’s in a Chick Feed?

But what makes the difference? It all comes down to Nutrena’s motto: What’s inside counts. The quantity, quality, and kind of ingredients all make a difference. Chick feeds typically have several main components.

    • Proteins and amino acids help build body tissues. They also assist with metabolic function, conduct specific biological reactions, build hormones, and coordinate functions of different cells within the body.

    • Carbohydrates power cellular activity. They are the body’s preferred source of energy. They make up the largest percentage of a chicken’s diet and come mostly from grains.

    • Vitamins and minerals perform many functions in the body: they encourage healthy growth, create strong bones, and form blood cells. They also support energy use and muscle function.

Two chicks eating feed

The quantity of the ingredients affects the health and growth of your chicks. For example, too much calcium can damage your chicks’ kidneys, and too little protein can cause them to process feed inefficiently.

Feed quality is also important: the quality of the ingredients—the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates—matters. NatureWise®’s high-quality ingredients make a difference!

Finally, the kind of ingredients is key. Some premium feeds contain extra ingredients that provide supportive nutrition for your birds, such as pre- and probiotics, yeast culture, and essential oils. These extra ingredients boost the immune system, support healthy growth, promote optimal digestion, and cut down on odor in droppings. Our NatureWise® products contain a proprietary blend of these additional ingredients called FlockShield.

But how do we know that these ingredients are useful? In addition to the reviews from satisfied customers, our scientific trials provide the proof.

Scientific Evidence

In July 2021, we set up a research trial to test the quality of our NatureWise® Chick Starter Grower feed at our Cargill Innovation Campus in Elk River, Minnesota. We selected 510 speckled Sussex chicks and divided them into six groups of 85 chicks each. Each group was fed one of six different feeds manufactured by national brands, including Nutrena’s NatureWise® Chick Starter Grower and other brands of chick starter. The birds were housed under the same conditions, with the only difference being the brand of feed, and we observed them over 18 weeks.

We examined the birds for several different variables, including body weight and breast muscle, death rate, feed conversion ratio, as well as feed consumption and instances of illness. Our NatureWise® Chick Starter Grower yielded superior results in all categories.

    • No chick deaths: We compared the 85 chicks fed NatureWise® to 85 chicks that ate a premium diet of a national competitor. Based on the study results, 3 of the chicks fed the competitor’s brand died (3.5%), which is in line with industry averages. However, none of the chicks fed NatureWise® were lost.

Chart showing 0 chick loss on NatureWise Feed and 3.55 chick loss on the leading premium brand

    • Better use of feed: The chicks in the two groups ate roughly the same amount, but the NatureWise® chicks had higher weight gain, which means their bodies used the feed better, gaining 3.7% more weight per day than the birds fed the competitor’s feed. The NatureWise® chicks also ate 2% less feed; thus the NatureWise® birds converted feed to weight more efficiently, showing a 5.9% improvement in use of feed. For owners, this means less money spent on feed.

The results of this study show that Nutrena’s blend of quality protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, as well as its FlockShield™ proprietary blend of additives, led to faster-growing, more feed-efficient, and healthier birds across all categories that we examined.

So the science proves that what’s inside counts: Nutrena NatureWise® provides superior nutrition, setting the stage for your chicks to live their best lives as healthy, happy chickens.

, ,

The Complete Guide to Livestock Guardian Dogs and Chickens

Guardian dog
A well trained, big and strong, livestock guardian dog can be a valuable asset to help ward off wolves, coyotes, and other dangerous predators.

For people that live on land with cattle, sheep, and other ranch animals, livestock guard dogs can be a huge help. People have been keeping livestock for thousands of years and, in all that time, they have been tasked with keeping these animals safe. Helping them keep these animals safe have been livestock guardians dogs.

Similar to the way that bloodhounds are bred to track, these are dogs bred with the specific purpose of protecting flocks and herds of animals from wild predators, other dogs, and even trespassers of the human variety.

Livestock guardian dog breeds are very large, with thick coats and an excess of scruff. Their coats help keep them safe if they get in fights, with their size ensuring they have a good chance of intimidation and victory. Keeping wild wolves and coyotes away from the more vulnerable animals on the property is a job that is much more suited to a 150 pound dog with strong jaws and packed with muscle than is it a 15 pound lap dog that doesn’t really like to move.

While people are usually aware that livestock guardian dogs can protect goats, cattle, and other larger animals, they may not know that some of these dog breeds will also guard chickens with the same amount of ferocity and loyalty.

MODERN DAY LGDs
Livestock guardian dogs have been around for thousands of years, with many different breeds that would come to span across the world. In regards to looks and personality, the livestock guardian dogs are almost identical to their ancestors of hundreds of years ago. The history of the livestock guardian dog is expansive and interesting.

Today, livestock guardian dogs are in decline. Livestock that requires a living protection at all times is becoming more and more rare as technology increases and free-range herds decrease. The dogs are simply not needed as much for their original purpose.

Another reason for this is that livestock guardian dogs are not typically pets. They tend to be more standoff-ish in personality, ranging from shy to outright aggressive with people. Having even a possibility of aggression in such a large dog is very offsetting to people.

Chicken livestock guardian dogs specifically are not often utilized.
This is for a number of reasons, but the main reason is trust. People feel like they can not leave a dog unsupervised with a flock of chickens, and therefore do not want to put in the work and money to purchase a livestock guardian dog for their birds.

They may also not feel that it is cost and time effective to buy and train a dog to protect a flock of birds unless they have a very large, free-range operation.

TRAINING
A really important thing to keep in mind is that every dog will need some kind of training when dealing with chickens. Livestock animals are prey, but chickens are significantly easier to chase and kill than a cow. Any dog with a prey drive, which is almost every dog out there, will naturally want to chase the chickens if the birds are flapping their wings or making distressing noises. The dog can be taught to protect the chickens instead of stalking them. There are a few things that can be done to improve your chances of your dog and chickens getting along.

  • Introducing the dog to chickens when they are young is very important. Old dogs can learn new tricks, but it is a lot harder for everybody involved. Once a prey drive against chickens is established, it will be incredibly difficult to train it out of the guardian dog.
  • Puppy and baby chick getting to know each other
    Always supervise puppies to ensure good behavior during the training stage.
    Though they should spend a lot of time with the chickens, only once the puppy is grown and behaviorally mature should it be left unsupervised with the flock. Some unassuming fencing, like chicken wire instead of wood, will go a long way in ensuring that the dog does not see the fence as a territory border, but as just another part of their property.
  • Supervised time for the puppy to interact with the chickens inside the chicken fencing is important, so that any bad behavior, like chasing or biting, can be stopped right away.

SMALL FLOCKS
A lot of people who have considered getting livestock guardian dogs have a small flock of chickens and maybe a few goats. The chickens might be fine during the day, but foxes, coyotes, and strays in the more rural residential areas can be a problem during the night. However, people worry that the dog will be bored with such a small flock. They don’t need to worry.

For one thing, this is how a lot of livestock guardian dogs work. They aren’t like herding dogs, that are constantly running around with the herd. Instead, the dogs sit and wait until they are needed to protect the animals under their charge.

A small flock of birds may seem like it is not enough to keep the dog stimulated and working, but this isn’t true. In regards to the happiness of the dog, they will be just as happy and effective with a flock of chickens as they would be with a large head of cattle.

CONCLUSION
If you have a flock of chickens in a space where you are worried they might be in danger from the local wildlife, a livestock guardian dog might be the perfect solution for you. Livestock guardian dogs add a sense of security for owners.

These are dogs that are at their happiest when they have a job to do. Chicken livestock guardian dogs can have just as fulfilling a life with their small little flock as a free-range cattle guardian dog.

 

Hatching Chicken Eggs: 10 Tips

By Jennifer Murtoff, Home to Roost LLC

Chicken egg incubator
Incubator with chicken eggs

You’ve got your incubator and fertilized eggs, and you’ve read all the instructions on hatching and caring for chicks. Here are some tips for a good hatch.

Housing plans: While this isn’t directly related to incubation, it’s an important point to remember! The majority of flock owners hatch eggs to get more hens. A hatch is naturally 50 percent female and 50 percent male, so before you set the eggs, make sure you have a plan for the roosters. 

Prepare well: Carefully follow the instructions that come with your incubator regarding humidity, temperature, egg turning, and location. Small changes in environment can have large consequences. Run the incubator for several days before setting the eggs and monitor the conditions. Make adjustments if needed. This ensures that the temperature and humidity will be consistent and that the incubator is working properly when you’re ready to set the eggs.

X (and O!) mark the spot: If you are turning eggs by hand, mark a X on one side and an O on the other so that you can tell which side of the egg is facing up. Be sure to use a pencil: eggs can absorb toxins from inks.

No peeking: Open the incubator as little as possible to prevent heat and humidity loss. A consistent temperature and humidity are important for the development of the eggs.

Check for development: Candle a few eggs at a time after day 7 and remove any that are infertile or that have stopped developing. This prevents harmful gases from circulating in the incubator. Hold the eggs over a candler or powerful flashlight. Note: It’s harder to candle eggs with dark shells.

Candled egg showing embryo
A candled egg showing embryo

Prepare the brooder: A day or two before the hatch date, set up your chicks’ new home, or brooder, in a room with a consistent temperature. Monitor the temperature in the brooder to ensure that it is consistent. Make sure you are prepared with a feeder and waterer for chicks.

Good feed, good start: Buy your chick starter or a starter/grower before the chicks hatch. A quality feed gives your birds the best start possible. You can learn more about medicated vs. nonmedicated chick feeds in this video and this article.

Let Mother Nature do it: Resist the urge to help chicks out of the shell. You can harm the chicks if you remove them too soon. This long process can take as many as 24 hours, and the healthy, strong ones will make it out. Leave viable eggs in for up to two extra days.

A healthy chick will hatch with no human assistance.

Let them dry off: The chicks will be damp and may not move a lot after they hatch. Hatching is exhausting! Leave the chicks in incubator until they are fully dry and fluffy. Then you can transfer them to the brooder box.

A newly hatched wet chick

Clean up: When the hatch is done, use a solution of 10% bleach/90% water to sanitize the incubator. Then wash it with warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Always clean between hatches to prevent disease transmission.

Now get ready to enjoy your new chicks!

 

5 Tips To Keep Snakes Away From Chicken Coops

keep snakes away from chicken coop

Making sure your chickens are safe should be one of the top priorities of any keeper.

While adult chickens are more likely to kill a snake than the other way around, chicken eggs and young chicks can be eaten by larger snakes. This danger makes it absolutely necessary to snake proof your chicken coop.

Though it is a myth that commercial snake repellants or devices truly work to keep snakes away, there are a few tips that can help you keep your coop safe without harming or killing any snakes.

After all, snakes are pretty cool animals and their death is not necessary for keeping your flock out of harm’s way.

Are you having problems with snakes getting into your chicken coop?

Keep reading to learn the 5 best tips for keeping your chickens safe, and making sure snakes are not harmed in the process.

How To Keep Snakes Away From Chicken Coops

  1. Clear debris and increase visibility

A great way to prevent snakes from coming into your yard is to make sure there are no places to hide. Snakes are generally shy creatures that need lots of hiding spots from larger predators. This hiding spot could be a log pile, old equipment, wood or sheets of metal, bushes and even tall areas of grass.  Snakes will be a lot less likely to appear if you make sure your yard and your chicken coop is free of debris, overgrown areas and patches of long grass.

  1. Seal any small holes in your coop

Only bigger snakes like rat snakes, bull snakes and large corn snakes really pose any threat to your chickens. Even these larger species pose very little danger to adult chickens and will only consume younger chicks if given the chance. That being said, these larger species can easily squeeze themselves into small holes, and making sure your coop is properly sealed is a great measure to keep snakes out. Any holes that are larger than a half an inch should be sealed. Chicken wire is not recommended around your coop as it is usually big enough that snakes can make their way through the gaps. Once they are through, they may consume a small chick and be too big to get back out again!

  1. Use hardware cloth or wildlife friendly netting

Cloth or netting can help keep snakes from getting into areas that they are unwelcome. You can use hardware cloth or a fine mesh around fences, chicken runs, and even the base of your coop to keep snakes out. Some people suggest bird netting, but this is a really dangerous option for wildlife. Not only can snakes get caught up in it and killed but birds, deer and other larger wildlife can become entangled and die. A better option is smaller mesh (with .5cm or smaller openings), or hard plastic sturdy netting that won’t get caught on snake scales. These wildlife friendly options still work to keep snakes out of your coop, but will be a much safer alternative.

  1. Keep rodents away from your coop

Since the primary diet of most snakes is rodents, having rodents around your coop can actually attract snakes. Mice, rats and chipmunks hanging out around your chickens will encourage snakes to stay in the area as they have a steady food source. To keep rodents away, you should ensure that all your chicken feed and grain is properly sealed in rodent proof containers. You can also bring in your chicken’s feeders at night or use feeders that rodents will be unable to steal from. If your rodent problem is particularly bad, you can dump out the water overnight and refill it in the morning. Taking away the food and water source for rodents will help keep them away from your yard and therefore help keep snakes away. Lastly, keep the area around your coop as clean as possible. Pick up any stray food after feeding and you will likely see less rodents running around.

  1. Make sure you maintain your coop

Making all these changes to keep snakes away won’t work if you don’t maintain them. As your coop ages, you will likely see more and more small holes that need to be filled, mesh and fences that need to be replaced, and an increase in vulnerable areas that predators can exploit. Making sure you are maintaining your coop and keeping the general area tidy and debris-free will be the best long-term strategy to keep snakes away.

FAQs

Will A Chicken Fight A Snake?

Usually chickens are not keen on fighting snakes and when given the choice, they will flee. However, some territorial chickens that have a strong desire to protect their chicks will take on the challenge. Mature chickens often have no problem killing snakes and the result of their fight almost always ends with the snake’s death.

What Can I Put Around My Chicken Coop To Keep Snakes Away?

There is no specific snake repellant that works nor is there a device that will magically keep snakes away, though many companies trying to sell products want you to believe that. Snake traps may help keep snakes away from your coop, but most of them are also inhumane and usually lead to the death of the reptile. Glue traps in particular should always be avoided as once stuck, it’s almost impossible to remove the snake and they will usually succumb to the elements or injury. The best way to keep snakes away is prevention. Making the area predator proof, clean, and free of rodents are a few steps that can help ensure snakes stay away.

Conclusion

You don’t have to kill or harm wild snakes in order to keep your chickens safe. Commercial snake repellants are ineffective and traps will often lead to the death of any who are caught by it. Thankfully, there are a variety of effective methods that will ensure the safety of your flock while posing no danger to native wildlife. Keeping your coop clean, removing debris and grass that may block visibility, sealing holes, using wildlife friendly netting, avoiding attracting rodents and making sure your coop is properly maintained will give snakes no reason or chance to infiltrate your coop.

Let us know if these tips have worked for you in the comments below.

 

 

 

What To Know Before Building Your Own Chicken Coop

backyard chicken on grass

Are you looking to build a coop for your first flock of backyard chickens? This article has everything you need to know about building a safe coop for a happy flock.

The perfect chicken coop protects your birds from heat, cold, weather, predators, and diseases, while also being comfortable for them and accessible for you.

I’ve had chickens in my backyard for decades, and in that time, we’ve gone through at least three chicken coops. Every time we build, there are new lessons to be learned, but the fundamental principles always stay the same. The perfect chicken coop is big enough to house the whole flock, sturdy enough to withstand the worst weather, and safe enough to keep out the most determined predators. Perhaps most importantly, it is easy for you, the owner, to clean, maintain, and keep in the best possible shape. This keeps your hens safe and healthy as long as possible. In this article, we’ll break down the things you need to know before building such a perfect coop.

  1. Choose a plan that meets all your needs. There is no one-size-fits-all perfect chicken coop plan or design that will work for every flock owner, but there are a number of universal concerns everyone should consider before picking a coop plan. One of the big ones is capacity: How many and what kind of chickens is the coop able to safely hold? How much space your birds will need will depend on a number of factors. Free-ranging birds or birds with a run will need significantly less space than birds that will be confined all day; roosters generally need a bit more space than hens; and bantam breeds can usually get by with less floor space but need more vertical space. Your personal accessibility needs – how well you can get into the coop to clean and collect eggs – is another major concern people often overlook.
  2. Pick a location that will keep your girls safe and cool. As with plans, there is no hard and fast rule about what makes the perfect location, only a series of concerns to balance against your own needs and preferences. Shade is a big one; placing the coop out of direct sunlight can help keep your flock from overheating. However, building your coop directly under the trees can run afoul of another concern, which is accessibility to predators. Hawks will see a flock that lives directly under a sturdy tree as easy prey, and ground-based predators will more easily access your coop if it is surrounded by good hiding places. Finally, human accessibility is key. Building a chicken coop can take anywhere from a weekend to about two weeks, and maintaining a flock in one more than five years. Consider how far you want to schlep building materials, tools, chicken feed, and eggs to and from the coop. As you may be doing this every day for half a decade, reconsider before picking the spot furthest away from the house.
  3. Add enough ventilation for all seasons. It’s hard to think of a few wall vents as a lifesaving design feature, but for a chicken coop, having proper ventilation is absolutely crucial. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can do to keep your girls safe and healthy. A well-ventilated coop will bring in lots of clean air, which will help stop potentially fatal respiratory diseases like Newcastle and bird flu from spreading in your flock. In addition, ventilation will help keep your birds cool in hot weather. Even though modern-day chickens are descended from tropical junglefowl, they are much more susceptible to overheating than freezing. However, both heat waves and cold snaps can be dangerous to chickens. The solution is to have a lot of vents at all heights throughout the coop, which will blow cooling drafts over your birds on hot days, but to have those vents be closeable. In the winter, closing all but two vents at the very top of the coop (above the roosts) will help keep your flock both warm and disease-free.   
  4. Use hardware mesh to keep out predators. When it comes to keeping predators out of the coop, hardware mesh (also called hardware cloth) really can’t be beat. Its small holes (much smaller than those in chicken wire) keep out all manner of ground-based predators, and you can’t use too much of the stuff. Use it to reinforce your walls, your floor, your outer fence, and then bury some more at least six inches into the ground around your perimeter. The one place chicken wire is a better choice is for the upper parts of the run fencing, to keep chickens in and other birds out.   
  5. Customize your nesting boxes and roosts for maximum safety and comfort. Nesting boxes (for egg-laying) and roosts (for sleeping) are the two parts of the coop your hens will use most often. They aren’t fussed about what they look like, as long as your nesting boxes are filled with something soft (like wood shavings or straw) and your roosts are the highest available sitting place in the coop. Have 10 inches of space per bird in your roosts, and one nesting box for every three hens, plus one more than you need for if a hen goes broody or picks a favorite box.

Building your own chicken coop can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are only a few crucial elements to keep in mind when building that, if planned for correctly, will result in a sturdy coop and a safe, happy, healthy, productive flock.

 

How a Hen Makes an Egg

The laying cycle is an important part of a hen’s life. An egg, or ovum, starts in the ovary, high in the bird’s body, near the spine. The ovary looks like a cluster of grapes, with some ova larger than others. As the ova mature, they are released into the reproductive tract or oviduct. If there is a rooster in your flock, the egg will be fertilized soon after entering the oviduct. The various structures are added to the egg by the oviduct: egg white, chalazae (“twisters”), and membranes. The final step is the secretion of a calcium coating in the shell gland. Then the fully formed egg passes from the body. The whole process takes about 25 hours. Most hens begin laying at between 16 and 24 weeks of age. Their peak productivity is between 1½ and 2 years of age. While they continue laying throughout their lives, their output decreases by about 10 percent per year after they turn 2 years old.

Eggscellent Layers!

Hand picking eggs

You love getting tasty eggs from your hens, so how can you keep them healthy, happy, and laying? There are a number of factors that can influence how many eggs a hen lays in her lifetime.

Breed

The breed you choose is related to the number of eggs you can expect per bird. Certain breeds or hybrid strains can produce large numbers of eggs.

  • Heritage, dual-purpose breeds, including Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, Australorps, and Wyandottes, are bred for both meat and eggs. They produce a good number of eggs over their lifetimes.
  • Hybrids offer high-powered laying ability because they are crosses between two pure breeds that are good layers. They include ISA Browns, Red Stars, Gold Stars, and Amberlinks.
  • Henderson’s Breed Chart online provides more information on chicken breeds and their laying abilities.

Diet

Did you know that egg quality is closely linked to diet? Many people assume that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs, but shell color makes no difference in the quality of the egg. Your birds’ diet influences the content of their eggs.

  • Free ranging helps your birds produce eggs with better nutritional content, including higher levels of vitamins A, D, and E; omega-3 fatty acids; and deep orange-yellow yolks from beta carotene. They also get activity while looking for bugs, worms, and other tasty goodies!

  • A good commercial diet should provide a large majority of what your birds eat. A good layer ration should support egg-laying and supply essential nutrients that are not easy to find in nature. These nutrients include carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins, as well as amino acids.

  • Extra ingredients that benefit your hens include enzymes, probiotics, essential oils, and yeast culture. These additives help keep your birds’ digestive tracts healthy, support healthy growth, and benefit the immune system. You can find these ingredients in our Nutrena Naturewise feeds.

Water

Eggs are 75 percent water, so having a clean, fresh source available to your birds at all times will help keep them happy, healthy, and laying.

  • Clean waterers to prevent disease. This is a necessity, especially in summer, to prevent the growth of toxic blue-green algae and other harmful microorganisms.
  • Prevent freezing in winter. Cold weather and shorter days provide enough of a challenge for your ladies.

Stressors

Your birds should have a stress-free environment to lay their best! Stress can cause hens to stop laying until the source is removed.

  • Know their stressors. Some common stressors include extreme temperatures, a move to a new coop, change in feed, the presence of predators, new flock members, or construction projects.
  • Stick to a routine! Any changes are stressors. Chickens like daily routines, which are dictated by the time of day. It’s best to let them out at dawn and close them in at dusk.
  • Make changes gradually, like switching to a new diet or moving your birds to a new coop.

Give your birds their best lives so they give you great eggs – and make NatureWise layer feeds part of your flock’s diet!

 

Privacy Policy | Terms