Chicken Fever: Part 2

CHICKEN TIPS 2.0

  • It can take 4-12 months for hens to start laying. Depends on bird and breed. *Mine all started laying within 5 months. Some started around 4 months.
  • Happy hens lay more, so give them scratch feed, fruits, and veggies. Chickens also love fried chicken, but that is up to you whether you want to make cannables out of your flock. Scrambled eggs are a great way to add protein to their diet, however.
  • Feeding straight garlic to chickens may change the flavor of your eggs. Same with onions and avocados.
  • Pumpkin is a great natural de-wormer. Raw or roasted, either way works. Give in the spring and fall for sure, but you can give it to them throughout the year.
  • I have heard don’t feed chickens citrus (if you know why, let me know!). Don’t feed them raw chicken eggs, as they may start to eat their own, and apple seeds, which contain small amounts of cyanide.
  • Use petroleum jelly on their combs in winter to prevent frostbite. Larger combed birds are more susceptible. I have not had to do this here in Texas yet, but a sheltered roosting area helps when temps get low.
  • Hang waterer in coop so they don’t stand in it. Less cleaning!
  • Chickens are very heirarchal. The ‘pecking order’ is a real thing. Integrate new chicks slowly to a formed flock, or they could be killed. Fair warning. Start integrating around 8-20 weeks old.
  • Keep egg boxes clean. Chickens won’t lay where they poop most of the time. Cover boxes until 20 weeks old if you have to.
  • Chickens feel safe off the ground, so give them plenty of roosts to sleep on.
  • Hens may lay later if eating fermented feed, but eggs tend to be heavier, with thicker shells and better taste.
  • Orange yolks mean a well balanced diet. Eggs from hens that have access to insects and grasses as part of their diet tend to have orange colored yolks that are firmer and have a thicker shell. Light yellow yolks mean a poor diet–looking at you cheap store bought eggs!
  • You need at least 1 next box per 3 hens.
  • Yogurt is great for laying hens, who have been known to lay like crazy when fed wholesome plain yogurt. Avoid fancy ‘sugar free’ or flavored yogurts that have tons of sugar.
  • Generally, hens will lay through spring and summer into the fall, as long as they have 12-14 hours of daylight, and the weather isn’t too cold. Collect the eggs daily to encourage laying. You may need to collect multiple times p/day, depending on how many chickens you have. Some breeds will lay through the winter as well, like Russian Orloffs.
  • 1 hen can only lay 1 egg a day.
  • Provide a dust bath for chickens to prevent mites. They will make their own bath in the ground if they can.
  • Diotemacius Earth can help prevent parasites. Sprinkle around the outside of the coop. Aka DE. You can also add a little of the food grade DE to their feed.
  • Put ceramic eggs or golf balls in nest to let hens know where to lay and deter snakes. Snakes will not be able to pass them if they swallow one and die, so no more snake problem.

COOPS

Chickens need at least 2 sq. ft. of living space to be comfortable. Some breeds prefer more, or need more if they are a much larger breed like Jersey Giants. If you are going to build the coop yourself, don’t do it super small unless you don’t have the room. Go bigger if you can, because once you have a few chickens you will want more! If you build the coop big enough to begin with, you won’t have to worry about it later. You can go with a smaller coop if you are going to let the chickens out during the day to roam around, but if they have to stay in the coop, the more space the better. Remember that happy hens lay more.

THE PECKING ORDER

  • Chicken personalities can vary and it can affect the pecking order. You have to be careful when introducing new chickens into an established flock, because they can pick on, fight, or even kill newcomers.
  • Start slowly integrating at about 8 weeks old by placing in a smaller cage inside the main coop. This way they can get used to each other while not being able to get to one another. Keep an eye on your dominant hen, just in case.
  • High ranking chickens will peck lower ranks to keep them in line. Health, size, and personality are the 3 main determining factors in the ‘order’. Just know that a small chicken with little man syndrome can become higher in the hierarchy than your biggest, so just because a chicken is big does not mean that they are the dominant one. My small Sicilian rooster is the dominant rooster, but my Jersey Giant rooster is 3 times his size. And yet my largest barred rock hen seems to be the dominant hen. Seniority can have an affect until the hen can no longer hold her position.
  • You do not need roosters to get eggs. You only need a rooster if you want baby chicks. When I first integrated my roosters with my original ladies, it was interesting. The roosters tried to establish their dominance, and the two I still have ended up literally having their tails ripped off. I had to bring my Jersey inside for a few days because they took skin with the feathers. He was bleeding pretty good, but a little Bacitracin, and a few days alone in the brooder box took care of him. Two years later and they are just now starting to get that pretty rooster tail back.
  • Before I got my second set of chickens, my original ladies would actually bow to me when I came into the coop or reached down to pet them. I think they may have stopped because of the roosters, but I am not sure. It was pretty empowering to walk in a room and have the inhabitants all bow in unison. Makes you feel good after a tough day at work! If anyone else has experienced their chickens bowing to them, let me know!

WEEDS CHICKENS LOVE

Chickweed-super nutritious for baby chicks and laying hens alike. Is also a natural pain reliever. Annual harvest all year. *I am going to do a blog post in a week or two over this awesome plant.
Clover-one of the most nutritionally complete weeds.
Dandelion-leaves, roots, and flowers are all extremely nutritious. Annual/biennial.
Wild Strawberry-as well as cultivated strawberries, are beloved and nutritious. *My chickens will fight over strawberries and grapes! They love them.
Bittercress-plentiful in cooler weather in the right areas.
Sunflowers-seeds are a great source of protein.

I’m sure I missed something, so drop a comment if you have any questions, whether it be explaining something more or something I missed. I will probably do a feed fermentation post later, but I have yet to try it, and would prefer some hands on experience before I go telling you guys how to do it. A post covering chickweed will be in the works also. A new Blood 4 Honor chapter should be up Friday for you guys.

Many blessings,
Emma Lee

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