5 Fun Facts About Keeping Chickens Not Found In Books
This wonderful article is brought to you by our guest blogger, Chris, owner of Chickens And More
If you’ve been keeping chickens for a while, you know that it takes a lot of tender loving care to do the job well. Even if you think you’ve figured it all out, there’s always something new that can throw you off guard. We’ve collected 5 facts about keeping chickens that can help you be prepared for all circumstances and help your chickens thrive.
Raising Baby Chicks
When you are deciding whether or not to raise day-old chicks, you should consider the time of year first. Believe it or not, chicks born in the cold months of October and November are more productive during their first year compared to chicks born in March or April, and this is especially true in areas with mild winters. Since a hen’s first year laying will be its most productive one, you should aim to maximize production during the first year by any means possible. So, if you are planning to select your flock in March or April, you may want to raise pullets or full-grown hens instead of baby chicks.
Stir the bedding in your coop daily to lower the moisture level of manure. Manure naturally has a 60-80% moisture content, which is fertile ground for bacteria, viruses, parasites, protozoa, and fly breeding. Ideally, you should reduce the moisture content of the manure to 30% or lower to prevent flies and infectious diseases.
The reason that stirring the bedding in your coop lowers the moisture level of the manure is that it spreads the manure more evenly. If the manure is spread evenly, that means its moisture will be absorbed more easily into the bedding.
Removing bedding and manure altogether will also lower the moisture level, but this should only be done when the bedding is no longer absorbing moisture or has developed a foul odor. Replacing bedding every day to limit moisture is expensive and impractical, so stirring it will maximize its use and save you money.
Feeding Your Flock
When you’re feeding your flock, make sure each bird has three linear inches of space at the feeder. As a general rule, less space means more stress for your chickens. Stressed chickens are more prone to health issues, egg binding, and pecking at each other, so stress should be avoided at all costs during feeding time.
Providing extra space at the feeder will also ensure that none of your birds restrict access to food and water for other birds. Sometimes younger birds will restrict older birds from feeding areas, or social pecking orders will form in your flock and the subordinate hens will be restricted. Health problems can and will arise if a chicken isn’t getting proper nutrition, so reducing that risk with a little extra space will be worth the time and energy spent.
Predators and Pests
When protecting your flock from predators and pests, secure wire fencing to the outside of the support posts on your coop. Even if you use a thick wire fence, bury it six inches underground, and secure it with landscape staples, do not underestimate the strength and persistence of potential predators like coyotes, foxes, and feral cats. If a predator wants to enter the coop badly enough, they can push the wire inward and uproot it if it is attached to the inside of the posts. A predator can kill your entire flock if it gets in, so it’s best to take every precaution and secure fencing to the outside of the posts.
Different breeds of chickens will lay different types of eggs at a different rate per week. Even if you have been raising the same breed for years with huge success, it’s good to be aware of the different breeds that are out there in case your needs change or you just want to mix things up. Here are a few popular breeds of chickens, and eggs you can expect them to lay:
- Plymouth Rocks: 4-5 brown eggs/week
- Rhode Island Reds: 5-6 brown eggs/week
- Leghorns: 5-6 white eggs/week
- Australorps: 4-5 light brown eggs/week
- Barnevelders: 3-4 dark brown eggs/week
- Delewares: 4 large brown eggs/week
- Faverolles: 3-4 eggs/week
- Hamburgs: 3 white eggs/week
- Jaerhons: 4 white eggs/week
- New Hamphires: 3 large brown eggs/week
- Sussex: 4-5 large brown eggs/week
You can also raise Hybrid hens that are exclusively bred for laying eggs. The amount of eggs they produce depends on the specific strain, however most hybrid chickens will lay 5-6 eggs/week.
By taking all of these facts into account, you will be prepared for any obstacles and will greatly improve your chances of successfully raising a healthy, fruitful flock of chickens.
Chris has been raising backyard chickens for over 20 years and is Chickens And More poultry expert. She has a flock of 11 chickens (including 3 Silkies) and is currently teaching people all around the world how to care for healthy chickens.