Keeping Hens and Horses

A recent post on our Nutrena Chicken and Poultry Feed Facebook page asked an outstanding question – is it okay to let my chickens out in the pasture to range with my horse? Not only is it okay, it is actually a good idea! Keeping chickens along with horses is a time honored tradition that certainly can be manageable, and even beneficial – here’s why:

  • Chickens are opportunists. When a pellet or kernel falls, they’ll be there to pick it up. This saves your horse from mouthing around on the ground to find bits of feed (a practice that can lead to ingestion of dirt and sand) and it reduces the amount of feed that is wasted.
  • Chickens are good horse trainers. A horse that has had exposure to poultry won’t “have his feathers ruffled” by sudden movements, loud noises, or the occasional appearance of an egg…
  • Chickens help prepare your horse for the trail. If you plan to take trail rides where wild turkeys, partridge, chuckar, etc. populate it can be beneficial to have your horse used to the patterns and noises of fowl by keeping a few chickens around. A little exposure to flapping, squawking and scurrying can go a long way to desensitizing your horse to those types of events out on the trail.
  • Chickens are nature’s fly traps. You and your horse hate bugs – but chickens love them. Chickens eat flies, worms, grubs, bees; if they can catch it they’ll nibble on it, which means it won’t be nibbling on you or your horse.
  • Chickens are low maintenance. Provide them with a cozy place to sleep, fresh clean water, free choice oyster shell for strong eggshells, grit for digestion and some layer feed and they will be happy and healthy.
  • Chickens help with the chores! One of a chicken’s favorite things to do is scratch the ground for hidden treasures. Give them a pile of horse droppings and they think they’re in heaven! They’ll have the manure broken down, spread around and out of sight before you can even think of grabbing a pitchfork and wheelbarrow!
  • Chickens are pets with benefits. Besides being a colorful and entertaining addition to your stable yard, chickens provide one thing your horse can’t – breakfast! Now if they could only cook it and serve it to you in bed…

A few words of caution about keeping chickens with your horses – make sure that your chickens are fed seperately from your horse and that your horse can’t get into their feed. This will eliminate the risk of your horse consuming layer feed that is not designed for his digestive system. Also, provide roosts for your chickens that are away from your horse’s feeder if they are not put into a coop at night to eliminate waste of feed and hay due to chicken droppings. Make sure both your horse and chickens have fresh, clean water that is easily accessible to them at all times.

 

Winter Lighting in the Chicken Coop

Do you wonder why your chickens stop laying eggs in winter?  And is there anything you can do about it?  Good news, friends!  Watch this video from Nutrena Poultry Specialist Twain Lockhart for everything you need to know about lighting your chicken coop to keep the girls laying eggs!

Leave comments below, or questions if you’ve got some!

Eggs – To Wash or Not To Wash?

Everything is better when it’s clean, right? Your hands, your house, your kid’s face…but what about your eggs?

When you buy eggs from the store, you’ll notice they are pristine and clean. If you collect your own eggs, you know they don’t naturally come that way!

It is interesting to note that as a chicken lays an egg, it gets a nearly imperceptible coating that is called “bloom”. Bloom acts as a natural barrier and prevents germs and bacteria from getting to the egg through the shell. By leaving your eggs unwashed, the natural barrier remains intact. Commercial egg producers are regulated and required to wash all eggs before shipment, which is why the eggs you buy in the supermarket are so tidy.

If you are producing your own eggs for your household, you have more control over how your eggs are handled. Wiping eggs off with a dry cloth will knock off the feathers and dirt. And if you get the occasional “messy” egg? Go ahead and wash it – then store it in the refrigerator and try to use it before you use your other, unwashed eggs.

Eggs are most often stored in the refrigerator to slow decomposition and refrigerating your eggs is a common practice in the U.S. In many other countries, however, eggs are stored at room temperature and never refrigerated. Whatever your preference for storage, you may want to consider foregoing absolute cleanliness – at least when it comes to your eggs!

Why Feed Grit to Chickens?

Ever wondered why you should feed grit to chickens and other types of poultry?  Check out this short clip from Nutrena Poultry Specialist Twain Lockhart for answers!

Leave a comment if you have one, or feel free to ask questions below!

How Much Feed Does a Chicken Eat?

A common question among poultry owners, especially those new to raising birds, is “How much do my birds eat, so I know how much feed to buy?”.  

Below are some general guidelines to go by, keeping in mind that a variety of factors, from weather to other available food sources, can influence the exact amount of prepared feed your birds will consume.

Feeding amounts for newly hatched birds:

Type of Bird Feeding period Total amount of feed
Layer chicks First 10 weeks 9-10 lbs per bird
Broiler chicks (based on Cornish Game Birds) First 6 weeks 8-9 lbs per bird
Turkeys First 12 weeks 72 lbs per bird
Geese First 8 weeks 53 lbs per bird
Ducks First 8 weeks 22 lbs per bird
Gamebirds First 8 weeks 9 lbs per bird

Feeding amounts for laying birds:

Type of Bird Total amount of feed
Chickens 1.5 lbs per bird per week
Turkeys 4 – 5 lbs per bird per week
Geese 3 lbs per bird per week
Gamebirds 1 – 1.5 lbs per bird per week

Disease Prevention in Poultry

Nutritious feed, access to fresh, clean water, and adequate housing are important to the health of your flock. Good management and sanitation practices are essential as well. Proper ventilation in the brooder and coop will reduce moisture and disease organisms. Caked or wet litter should be removed as soon as it forms to keep the house clean and dry.

For most backyard poultry enthusiasts, diseases are rare as long as the flock doesn’t come into contact with other flocks. The most common disease for young, unmedicated flocks is coccidiosis, which is characterized by diarrhea, unthriftiness and some mortality. A medicated chick feed can help prevent coccidiosis.

A rigid sanitation program can help prevent parasites. If internal parasites become a problem, products to treat them are available from your feed dealer.

Check your flock daily to spot diseases or parasites so you can start treatment right away. For more information about identifying, preventing and treating poultry diseases and parasites, contact your local veterinarian. Your local feed dealer can help you choose the right feed to support the nutritional needs of your flock.

Types of Poultry

Once you decide to start raising fowl, it is important to select the right type of birds to suit your needs, environment, and desires. Below is a quick overview of the main types of birds available to most people.

Chickens

Many different breeds of chickens have been developed for different purposes. For simplicity, you can place them into three general categories: Laying, meat-producing and dual-purpose breeds.

  • Laying Breeds:
    • These breeds are known for their egg-laying capacity.
    • Popular laying breeds include the White Leghorn, Red Sex Link and Black Sex Link breeds.
    • A healthy hen will lay eggs for several years. Hens begin to lay at approximately 16–20 weeks of age and will lay between 20–23 dozen eggs the first year.
    • At 14 months, laying hens usually begin to molt, the process by which they drop their old feathers and grow new ones. No eggs are laid during this period.
    • After molting, hens will lay larger but fewer eggs per year (about 16–18 dozen).
  • Meat Breeds:
    • Meat-producing breeds are very efficient at converting feed to meat, producing approximately one pound of bodyweight for every two pounds of feed they eat.
    • A popular meat-producing breed is the Cornish breed. The Cornish game hen is a cross between the Cornish and the New Hampshire or Plymouth Rock breeds.
    • Meat-producing chickens are broad breasted and larger than the laying breeds.
    • They grow and feather rapidly and will weigh five pounds or more at eight weeks.
    • Broilers and fryers are butchered at 31/2 to 5 pounds, while a roaster is butchered at 6 to 8 pounds.
  • Dual-Purpose Breeds:
    • The dual-purpose breed is the classic backyard chicken. These breeds are hardy, self-reliant and fairly large bodied. Most lay large brown-shelled eggs.
    • Examples include Rhode Island Red and New Hampshire breeds.
    • Some laying and dual-purpose hens tend to get broody, which means they will want to sit on and hatch eggs. Because broody hens don’t lay eggs, egg production will be affected.

Turkeys, Game Birds and Other Poultry

Turkeys, geese, ducks and pheasants are often raised as pets or for their egg and meat-producing qualities. They also can make terrific projects for children to learn responsibility and animal husbandry skills. Your local feed dealer and extension agent are excellent resources for information on breeds and species that are appropriate for your goals and geographic region.