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rainbowgardener
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Everyone is doing well! Chickens are at least half again as big as they were 10 days ago.

It's hard to get good pictures of them, but here they are:
chickens Mar.jpg
Chickens Mar2.jpg
Chickens Mar3.jpg
The dogs are doing better. Still spend most of their outdoor time watching the chickens, but they are calmer, hardly any barking or jumping at the fence, seem more relaxed. Earlier on Shibu would be literally quivering with excitement/tension. Now he is just watching with his tail wagging. They can be distracted from the chickens more easily and will come in when we call them. So good progress is being made and I believe that eventually they will be able to be in the yard unsupervised and leave the chickens alone (chickens still being inside the fence -- I'm not thinking these are ever going to be free range chickens).

We hear lots of different estimates of when eggs might start coming, but my best guess is July-ish. That will be very exciting!

I was thinking back. When I first started hanging out here at THG in 2009, I was working 50 hrs a week, living on a little inner city lot in a snowy city, and always talking about how much I envied the people with more time, more land, longer growing season. Then I semi-retired and worked 20-30 hrs a week. Then, a few years later, I retired and a few months later moved down here to our half acre in the country (outer suburbia any way, but with a horse ranch in our back yard) in a place with no snow and a definitely longer growing season! It took until I was nearly 70 to do it, but you can make dreams come true! It's pretty cool that the people like applestar that have been around here that long have watched and advised through all these changes. Thanks, THG!
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Re: what kind of chickens?

The chickens are getting the hang of things! Every night we catch them and put them in the nesting box and close the door. Keeps them warmer, all these cold nights we've been having. There's lots of straw in there and they make themselves into a cuddled up pile of chicks. But I've been having to catch them and put them in the box. Sometimes catching them all has been quite a chore. Probably pretty funny to watch, if you aren't the one that has to do it. Tonight I only had to catch two of them. The other four just walked themselves right up the ramp when they saw what was going on! :)

If they will put themselves to bed, that will make things a lot easier. Once the weather warms, I guess we can just leave the nest box door open and let them come and go. I do think they are better off sleeping in there. Keeps them up off the damp ground.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

I am not sure where the chicks are sleeping or if you are using the right term.

Perhaps, the "nest box" is just the enclosed area of the coop.

You do not want them to develop the habit of sleeping where you are hoping for them to be laying eggs. There is quite a bit of time now, in "chicken years," to break them of bad habits but roosting in the nest box is very bad behavior.The ones that do this are not interested in laying eggs in there and the ones that continue to lay eggs in a box where others are sleeping will have their eggs in chicken poop.

The nest should be a very special place for them. If eggs show up where they sleep - eating the eggs may be the result. Not finding an appropriate place to nest may result in hormonal changes to limit egglaying. All of this is not something you will want to be dealing with later this year.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Yes, I agree with Steve. You end up with egg eaters and dirty eggs if they are put in the nesting box or do you mean Chicken coop with access to the nesting box?

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Re: what kind of chickens?

hmmm.... I never heard all this and I don't quite know what to do about it. Here's a picture of the coop:
chicken coop.jpg
So the left side is divided into two levels, top and bottom. The bottom part is contiguous with the right hand side and is all open with just hardware cloth. The right hand side is one level with just the hardware cloth. The right side has the tall door, a white roosting bar and a ramp up to the box. (Not relevant for this discussion, but just for completeness, the end of the right side has a door that is always open, that opens into a wire enclosed run the same size as the coop. That way they have a total of about 50 square ft to walk around in.)

The top level left is all enclosed wood. It has the horizontal rectangular door into it that you can see. There's a sliding wooden door at the top of the ramp, that I close once they are all in for the night. At the back is a slide up piece you can open for ventilation (exposing screen) or close for warmth. The back also has a fold down door, for easy reaching into the nesting boxes. Inside there are three nesting boxes across the back wall. The rest of the enclosed space is a flat floor. Most of it is a removable, pull out tray for easy cleaning (the horizontal white line you can see beneath the door). Just over the tray are two more roosting bars like the outside one.

So when I was saying nest box, I really meant the whole enclosed space. But once I put them in there, how do I know they aren't sleeping in the nesting boxes? The nesting boxes have the most straw and are warm and fluffy and cosy. In fact, I do know from peeking at them that some of these cold nights they have been sleeping all six of them piled into one nest box, huddling up to keep warm. I thought that was a good idea. We have had a couple nights down to 24 degrees. There is no power out there, so no heat or light. But if I decided they shouldn't sleep in the nest boxes, I have no idea how to keep them from it, given that they need to be in the enclosed space.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So, I peeked at them before I let them out this morning. It being a much warmer night (58 degrees already at 8 AM), they were all lined up along the roosting bars, which I gather is where they should be. So I just trust them to do the right thing?
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Haha you need a chicken-cam :>
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Re: what kind of chickens?

rainbowgardener wrote:... So I just trust them to do the right thing?
The appropriate term for chicken thinking is "bird-brained."

It's good that you have so much area under a roof. They will make use of that for shade and shelter from the rain. Chickens are tropical and subtropical birds. Because they have been long domesticated, breeds have developed that are suitable for temperate climates. I estimated that feed consumed increased 50% during the winter months so there is that cost to having them in the cold but temperatures around 24°f are not a problem for adult birds.

It's interesting how chickens in Southeast Asia sleep on the ground, in wood piles, nooks and crannies of buildings, etc. I don't know how we came to expect them to roost overnight, although it sure helps with clean up ... Anyway, they can very happily claim a nestbox and you must be vigilant in discouraging this.

Important to the hens is their appreciation for a nest and fussing with one comes naturally. Sounds contradictory? Sure. Sleeping in one is 180° from having a nest of eggs. Two hens may be in serious competition with one planning on laying eggs and the other having decided to sleep there. Pecking order wins. Eggs left must be thought of as just something in-the-way but broken, they are food ... uh, oh!

After I retired, I found it little trouble to close the boxes during the evening and open them again early in the morning. They may be a little off-schedule at first but hens normally lay eggs during the morning hours.

Another thing you can do is put a heavy curtain over the box so that the interior is dark. This isn't the 100% solution of closing it completely off during the night but a hen is willing to push in there to lay an egg but they seem to want some light to get themselves comfortable to spend a night. I'm not sure that a completely dark nest is what they want but it did deter bad behavior in my coop.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

I'm sorry. You are being VERY helpful digitS, but I'm still having a little trouble understanding. I'm a complete newbie at chickens!

" I found it little trouble to close the boxes during the evening and open them again early in the morning." I am doing that with the enclosure (nest boxes plus tray/roosting bars). Close them in it at night and open it up in the morning. But that enclosure has no division between the nest boxes and the tray/roosting bars area. The nest boxes are against the back wall. They have two sides that only go about half way up and are open in front to the tray area. What was the point of closing the nest boxes for the night and opening for the day, if they aren't supposed to be in there? You were closing it to keep them in or out?

"Another thing you can do is put a heavy curtain over the box so that the interior is dark. This isn't the 100% solution of closing it completely off during the night but a hen is willing to push in there to lay an egg but they seem to want some light to get themselves comfortable to spend a night. I'm not sure that a completely dark nest is what they want but it did deter bad behavior in my coop."

So you are suggesting that I should put at least a curtain between the nest boxes and the other part of the enclosure? The nest boxes should stay dark and the rest of the enclosure should have some light? Currently when I put them in the enclosure and close the door, it is dark in there. But if I open the vent slide and leave a little crack in the sliding door (which I will soon be doing for ventilation anyway) there would be a bit of light in there, not a lot. But the vent slide opens into the nest box area. If the nest boxes are curtained off and they don't sleep in them, will they find them to lay eggs?

Do you think it is important that they should be in the enclosure at all? I wanted them up off the cold damp ground and with protection and keeping some of their body heat in when it was so cold. Once it has really warmed up, does it matter? Can I just leave the sliding door at the top of the ramp open (as I do in the daytime) and let them come and go as they please? They do go up in the enclosed area on their own sometimes in the daytime to nap.

Is it a problem that there are six hens and three nesting boxes? I have seen estimates from 3 eggs a week per hen to one a day. If it were one a day, it seems like I would need six nest boxes. Do they need their own nest box or can they use which ever one is vacant?

Who knew this was so tricky? Thanks so much for all the help!!! :)
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Just to make things a little more clear:
The solid enclosed part is the coop. The bottom part with the hardware cloth is the run. (Advertising calls the whole thing the 'coop', but it's really a combined coop and run.) Inside the coop, the little compartments along the side are the nest boxes. The chickens should be sleeping on the roost bars, not in the nest boxes, which it sounds like yours are on the roosts. Digit is correct. Don't let them roost (sleep) in the nest boxes. If they establish sleeping in the nest boxes as habit, the eggs will be laid in poop, and who wants to eat poopy eggs.

If you were to need to 'close off the nest boxes' you could block them by putting gallon milk jugs partially filled with water into each nest box compartment so the chickens couldn't get into the box. Once they get close to laying age, you can remove the jugs to unblock the boxes and put fake eggs -- one or two -- in the nest boxes to show the pullets that this is where she's supposed to put the butt nuggets that start popping out of her backside. Don't be concerned if you get the first 'surprise' egg next to the waterer. Each pullet's first egg is a surprise; she's walking along wondering what this pressure is in her backside and then ::plop!:: Oh! That's what it was. :) Then she knows when she feels that pressure to go to the boxes where she saw the egg because if a flockmate put an egg there, that must be where she's supposed to put hers, too. Once one of the pullets starts laying in the nest boxes, you can take the fake eggs out and do a home decor thing with them. :)

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Yes RainbowGardener, find a way to keep them OUT of the nestboxes at night.

A heavy curtain that they could push aside worked as a deterrent for my hens. They used the boxes only for laying. Every flock did not have a bad actor who would suddenly decide that a nestbox was where she wanted to sleep. Nests can be open and airy, easy for you to access. Then, a switch goes off in the little pea brain of the bad actor. Having one start sleeping in the nest should have an immediate fix. Make her stop.

Chickens have these ideas about rating nest sites. The #1 hen will choose the best one. Nobody will want the nest rated, somehow, least valuable real estate. They may wait their turn, as best they can. They may drive a hen lower in the pecking order out of the nest. I found it best to have boxes large enough for two at a time. It doesn't have to be spacious, they will still have a preferred corner but the nestbox should be as stress free as possible.

My most recent coop is fully insulated, top bottom and sides. I replace one-half of the north-facing door with a screen door during the summer. If this neighborhood had raccoons, I bet I could have gotten into trouble with doing that.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Thanks so much for all the help, it is getting clearer. For the time being I will just keep an eye out. Since the weather warmed up, every time I have peeked at them while they are in the coop/enclosure, they have been on the roosting bars. The tray is under the roosting bars and that is where all the poop is. If I spot them getting into the nest boxes I will do something about it.

Until you both mentioned it, I had no idea they weren't supposed to sleep in the nest boxes! Thanks!
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Re: what kind of chickens?

The feral chickens here will fly up to the trees to sleep at night. They keep their eggs on the ground usually under the bushes.
When my uncle kept Rhode Island Reds the house was large but he said the birds would fight over the nesting boxes so there were a lot of them elevated off the floor. Hens do like to choose their nesting sites and they do get territorial. He did have a device on the back of the coop that let the egg roll out of the nest box outside to the back of the coop for collection, but the mongoose and rats did most of the collecting so that did not work out well. But the birds actually like a schedule. If they are fed and the eggs collected at the same time every day they get used to it. The birds like to lay their eggs in the same place, we had one pet chicken that always laid her egg on the sidewalk. The jungle fowl was much more protectective, she laid 15 eggs in a cardboard box and when someone tried to move her eggs out of the rain she kept pecking at his boots.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Ideas for fake eggs can be golf balls. I keep them in my nests all the time. It helps with egg eaters (they peck at something hard and discourages them because it doesn't open,) and gets them use to have to sit on something such as another egg. Do not be surprised if as they get closer to laying about 20 weeks or so that they spend time in the nesting box during the day but do nothing.

I always make mine go in the coop and get locked up at night. I have to many predators that come out at night.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Well, these are protected all the time. They don't free range. If they aren't in the upper level enclosed box, they are either in the run that is part of the chicken coop or they are in the additional wire run that we added. Then the whole area is surrounded by a 10' by 15' outer perimeter fence, to keep our dogs away from the coop and run. So the only question is are they going to be on the ground in one of the runs or are they going to be off the ground in the wood enclosed coop box (that has the nesting boxes and the roosting bars).

The ground is covered with a plastic lattice to keep down weeds and mud and then has straw on top.

So is it okay if they just sleep in the lower level on the lattice and straw covered ground? Or do I need to make sure they go upstairs to go to bed?
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So here's a little bit more about my chicken set up. Some of this was discussed in someone else's chicken thread, but I thought it belonged here.

This is looking at it from the east side

Image

Dog where he spends a lot of his time. But you can just see the chickens going about their business behind the fences (picket fence, wire rabbit fence, the wire enclosure of their run). The pavers are because the OTHER dog kept trying to tunnel under! But since the pickets and pavers were added everyone seems much calmer. Dogs lie there and watch, but aren't barking, etc. And for awhile today some of the chickens were napping in their run right in front of the dogs. If you could see the expression on the dog's face, it is very sad, hopeless, resigned...

This is the south side

Image

Haven't gotten those pickets painted yet, but I will. The red is the enclosed coop and run. The white edged rectangle is a door going into the nesting box/ roosting bar area, that is wood enclosed, with pull out tray under the roosting bars. Where the blue tarp is that is a wire run about the same size as the coop/run, at right angles to it, with an open door between them.

You can sort of see in this picture that there is now a leafed out tree canopy over the whole area. So there is shade from hot summer sun, but in winter when the trees have lost their leaves, there is lots of sun from south and east.

Everyone seems to be thriving. We are giving them regular chicken feed, granite grit, oyster shells, and twice daily servings of chickweed and other greens, with occasional table scraps. They look about like adult chickens and sound adult (buck-buck-buck instead of cheep cheep). They are now 11 and 10 weeks old. So they have something like ten to twelve more weeks to go, before they start laying. It is hard to be patient, but they are very entertaining in the meantime.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Will the chickens be able to fly up ..

. and ..

. over the fence?

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Re: what kind of chickens?

digitS' wrote:Will the chickens be able to fly up ..

. and ..

. over the fence?

Steve

I would think so. Mine most certainly could. I have a six foot fence and they occasionally will. Especially leghorns but the Rhode Island Reds aren't as much of a pain. How high is your fence? 4ft?

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Re: what kind of chickens?

The fence is only to keep the dogs away from the coop and run. The chickens are never out in that area. They are in the coop/run or the added wire run.

At some point when the dogs are in the house, we will try letting them out, into the area outside the coop and run, but inside the fence, while we supervise. At the horse ranch behind us, they let their chickens wander around the front yard and don't seem to have a problem with them wandering off/flying away. If the chickens show too much tendency to fly, we could clip their wings a bit. (This is just clipping the feather ends. I am told it doesn't hurt them any more than clipping our fingernails does, but it does keep them from being able to fly much. )
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So as noted in the chicken roaming thread, we have been letting them out into the area inside the picket fence sometimes, when the dogs are in the house and when we are keeping an eye on them. They don't fly very much and have never gone over the fence (yet?), but they do fly up to sit on top of the wire run, at which point they are close to the fence and pretty clearly could get over it.

(I'm using this thread as basically my chicken blog)

When we started this and they were little, we were basically just giving them chicken feed, the kind made for young chickens. We have gradually been adding more stuff. We started giving them chickweed which they loved. Gradually we have added more and more greens: carrot tops, parsley, leaves of wild violet, plantain, dandelion. They like all of that. Pretty cool, I can just walk around pulling lawn weeds and feed them to the chickens! :) The greens are now a significant part of their diet. They get double handfuls at least twice a day. It took us a few weeks but we finally started giving them grit (granite chips). The first time we put it down, they went crazy for it. It was like they knew they needed this stuff, though it clearly couldn't have been particularly tasty. We have started giving them very tiny amounts of oyster shell. When they are closer to egg laying, they can have a little more.

Lately we have also been giving them some kitchen scraps, like potato and carrot peelings. They pretty much eat anything like that as long it is thin enough and tender.

I feel like a real homesteader here on my 1/2 acre! There are peaches on the peach tree, apples on the apple tree, and some time this summer we will start having fresh eggs! Life is good.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

I love it. :D

I was reminded of reading how you can increase the nutrient value of the compostable greens like that.

Greens --> directly to compost pile
Vs.
Greens --> "livestock" (chickens in this case) --> "output" :P goes to compost pile

Yay! :()
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Re: what kind of chickens?

And what I have read is that the greens are very important in getting very rich nutritious deep colored eggs.

Image

farm fresh vs store bought eggs. We have seen this because we used to have an egg lady we bought from.

Image

Also I was just reading that as the weather gets hotter, they should be getting less scratch grains (chicken feed) and more fruits, veggies, and greens.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Chicken-keeping, it's fun and can be economical and add to a better diet.

Chickens seem to know the value of grit to help them digest their food. They must crave calcium as egg production commences and those eggshells are required. Modern breeds are egg-laying champions! A 300/year egg producing hen didn't happen until about 100 years ago. Wild chickens in South and Southeast Asia produce nowhere close to that number of eggs annually - maybe, 10% of that.

Those eggs are mostly protein, beyond the ever necessary water and inside that calcium shell. The hen is no "machine." She requires a healthy diet, herself.

We recently were talking about people who don't eat vegetables, or eat very few of them. A hen can have a vegetarian diet but a good deal of attention should be given to protein because, she needs it.

One idea behind satisfying hunger with meat and not vegetables is that things like lettuce have so few calories. If a hen is no machine, she also isn't a ruminant. She has nowhere near the digestive capacity of a cow. She will like lettuce but, just like us, she would starve on a 100% lettuce diet. Some veggies are high in calories. Cooking them would make them more digestible. We might still fall short on what our super egg-producer needs in the way of protein.

I think that a hen requires just about the same diet as a human. I'm sure that it's not quite correct but, at least, she isn't a carnivore and have the requirements of a cat, for example. She will still, happily, catch all sorts of bugs, worms, frogs, lizards, etc. etc! I fed "meat builder" feed to my backyard hens. Then, they had all the green food they wanted. Table scraps were welcome in the coop but I had to be careful not to load them up on things like potatoes and pasta. Eggs! I wanted eggs! Not unproductive, fat hens ...

Steve
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Didn't somebody mention letting the chickens pick through the compost pile before? Bugs! Hakuna Matata! :()
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Grubs are good for chickens. They like worms too. Chickens are one of the few things I know of that eat slugs and snails.
I know the white part of the egg and the yellow part changes color as the egg ages. The membrane separates from the shell and the air pocket grows as the water in the egg evaporates. That is why it is easier to peel a boiled egg when it is older.

The albumin in the egg whites changes in desity too. I forget which way it goes. I think it goes from runny to more viscous and cloudier as it ages. The egg whites are almost all protein and account for about 17 calories of the whole egg.

The yellow part of the egg does vary with chicken breeds. The Rhode Island Red hens have more orange egg yolks and a speck on the yolk that the white leghorns do not. The yolk contains the bulk of the calories since it has most of the fat and cholesterol.

Egg Whites
Egg whites are a low-calorie, fat-free food. They contain the bulk of the egg’s protein. The egg white contains about 4 grams of protein, 55 mg of sodium and only 17 calories. A single egg white also offers 1.3 micrograms of folate, 6.6 mcg of selenium, 2.3 mg of calcium, 3.6 mg of magnesium, and 4.9 mg of phosphorus and 53.8 mg of potassium.
Egg Yolks
It is true, egg yolks carry the cholesterol, the fat and saturated fat of the egg. However, what is often overlooked are the many nutrients that come with that, such as the fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and other nutrients. One egg yolk has around 55 calories, 4.5 grams of total fat and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, 210 mg of cholesterol, 8 mg of sodium, and 2.7 grams of protein.

https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2011 ... o-you-use/

I knew eggs were a complete food, but did not realize how many vitamins they contained.

I know that laying hens are fed calcium to help make their shells stronger. It is also why chicken manure is alkaline.
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Allyn
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Re: what kind of chickens?

The 'extras' should comprise no more than 10 percent of thier daily diet or they won't be eating enough of the balanced chick feed and won't get enough nutrition. That 10% doesn't include greens like lettuce or cabbage. Greens are mostly water and have very little in the way of calories and so they can have as much greens as they'll eat.

Oyster shell shouldn't be given until they're laying age. The extra calcium is hard on their kidneys when their bodies aren't making egg shells to dispose of it. A good commercial chicken feed has enough calcium for non-laying birds -- usually less than 2% -- so they don't need more until they start laying. And once they start laying, you don't have to switch to 'layer feed' which usually has less protein in it -- usually only 15% or 16%. The higher protein in the chick feed is good for them through adulthood, and if you supplement them with oyster shell, they'll be happier.

Hard boiled eggs are a wonderful treat for chickens. Hard boil the eggs, peel them and then chunk them up into little bits and feed them to the chickens. They'll go nuts for it.
rainbowgardener wrote:..Also I was just reading that as the weather gets hotter, they should be getting less scratch grains (chicken feed) and more fruits, veggies, and greens.
Scratch is different than chicken feed. Don't confuse the two, because scratch is not a nutritionally balanced feed; it's just a treat. Scratch is basically junk food and should be part of the "less than 10% of extras" that they are allowed to have. It is usually made up of a lot of corn that they don't need (nor do you want them to have) in hot months. They should have a good quaility chicken feed available free-choice all the time, but if you're feeding them scratch (which isn't necessary, but the chickens like it) in addition to their feed, reduce or eliminate the scratch in the hot part of the year. Replacing scratch with other treats -- like fruits and vegetables -- saves them from following you around waiting for you to give them 'the good stuff'. On a hot day, they'll love a slice of chilled watermelon, for example.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Thanks for clarification. I just didn't know the terminology of chicken feed and scratch. What we have been feeding them is a balanced chicken feed that is designed for their age group.

Yes, I have been reading about heat stress in chickens (since we are having some days in the 90's already!). Their whole area is under tree canopy and shady except early morning, so they should be pretty OK. But we were at the grocery today and I bought some watermelon for them (neither of us is particularly fond of it, so this is just watermelon for the chickens). :)

Maybe I need to think more about protein. I have given them the occasional earthworm I bump into, which they love! Otherwise the only protein is what is in the chicken feed. Maybe I should supplement with some mealworms?
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Lots of folks really like giving them mealworms. I don't. I'm not opposed to it, it's just that we have so many eggs, it's easy for me to hard boil a flat of eggs each week for them as an occasional treat.

Don't get too wrapped up in what seems like a rigid feeding regime. According to the feed schedules, the chickens should get chick starter from hatch to 8 weeks, then a grower feed from 8 weeks to 12 weeks unless you feed a combined chick starter/grower then you can feed them that from hatch to 12 weeks. Then from 12 weeks to point of lay (usually about 24 weeks), feed them blahblahblahblah.....

It all seems so complicated, but it's not really that difficult. Find a good quality feed that is at least 20 percent protein and feed them that (along with free choice oyster shell when they get close to laying). It's pretty easy to find 20+ percent feed: meatbird feeds, chick starter feeds, and gamebird feeds all have higher protein.

Quoted from the Heritage chicken feed guidelines published by the Livestock Conservancy, "Heritage breeds of chicken (especially heavy or dual purpose breeds) require a more nutritionally complete feed ration than their commercial counterparts, in order to fully achieve their potential size and productivity. Many of the common rations found in feed stores are formulated for commercial hybrid birds which are selected to grow well with less protein in their diets. Often producers can find appropriate levels of protein for Heritage chicks in game bird or turkey starter and grower diets."

So don't be afraid to look at gamebird or showbird feeds for the extra protein. Not only will the birds be healthier for it, but you can avoid behavior problems such as feather eating and egg eating, which can be a symptom of not enough protein in the diet. It's better to find a higher-protein feed and save the mealworms for an occasional treat than to feed a deficient feed and try to bolster it with extras.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Thanks for all the help, Allyn. I will definitely pay more attention to the protein content of our chicken feed.

Feeding eggs to your chickens seems so cannibalistic. Everyone keeps telling me don't give them eggshells for their calcium, it will train them to eat eggs....
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So that's why you peel them first, I suppose -- seems like a lot of work to me but hey LOL -- I was pondering about that exact idea -- cannibalistic... but the egg is only one half of a potential chicken and unfertilized no chance of being a living organism at all ...I wonder if the ovum even passes a DNA test? The rest is basically waste product so kind of like eating snot or biting nails, though THAT would actually pass the DNA match. :lol:

...recycling human waste is EXACTLY what they say will be needed when we go out into space... Image
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Re: what kind of chickens?

rainbowgardener wrote:Thanks for all the help, Allyn. I will definitely pay more attention to the protein content of our chicken feed.

Feeding eggs to your chickens seems so cannibalistic. Everyone keeps telling me don't give them eggshells for their calcium, it will train them to eat eggs....
One fact people want to ignore is that chickens are cannibalistic. They will eat their own kind as an opportunistic source of meat and protein, which is why it's so important to separate an injured bird from the rest of the flock. Knowing that a chicken will consume meat from another chicken (and that other chicken doesn't have to be dead yet), all of a sudden eating eggs doesn't seem so bad. Eggs are a very nutritional treat for them. I know of folks that take hardboiled eggs, shell and all, and whopper-chopper them up in the food processor to feed the chickens. As long as the bits of shell are small enough, they've lost the appearance of being an 'egg' so no association is made between the eggs in the nest and the bits of shell in the 'treat.' However, the eggshells don't have enough calcium in them to replenish the calcium the chicken needs to make more eggshells, so you can feed them eggshells, but you still have to provide supplemental oyster shell.

Chickens will eat eggs if one breaks in the nest -- usually by being stepped on -- so the question might arise as to whether the chicken is an actual egg-eater or if she was simply cleaning up the nest after an accidental breakage. It's been my experience that egg-eating is usually caused by a diet lacking sufficient protein and for me, it's been more of a problem in larger flocks where dominant hens run hens off the feeders that are lower in the pecking order. Without intervention and corrective action, those hens lower in the hierarchy don't get enough to eat and can start eating eggs as a way to address their nutritional deficiencies. You have a small flock and you're attentive so you'll notice if a hen isn't being allowed to eat. Go ahead and feed them shells if you want, just crunch them up into bits first.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

It seems an odd turn.

Keep egg-layers for fresh eggs.

Feed eggs to layers to supplement diet.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

I thought so too. I guess the eggs you feed them as just a little piece of their diet, would hopefully be a lot less than the eggs they produce.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

digitS' wrote:It seems an odd turn.

Keep egg-layers for fresh eggs.

Feed eggs to layers to supplement diet.

Steve
It's not odd at all. I get a minimum of 3 flats of eggs a week. (1 flat = 2.5 dozen eggs) I boil a flat of eggs each week for the chickens. That leaves me at least two flats of eggs (5 dozen) each week. We can eat only so many eggs, so giving some to the chickens doesn't deplete our supply.

Just to clarify, I don't keep egg layers for fresh eggs. I raise and breed heritage dual-purpose chickens for fresh eggs and meat.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

I'm vegetarian. My chickens will be for eggs only. When they get too old to keep laying eggs, then we will be running a retirement home for old lady hens.... :)
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Allyn wrote:I get a minimum of 3 flats of eggs a week. (1 flat = 2.5 dozen eggs) I boil a flat of eggs each week for the chickens. That leaves me at least two flats of eggs (5 dozen) each week.
[...]

Just to clarify, I don't keep egg layers for fresh eggs. I raise and breed heritage dual-purpose chickens for fresh eggs and meat.
WOW so are you saying they tend not to lay as many eggs as the egg layers? I'm supposing they might be BIG chickens -- are their eggs bigger? How many chickens do you have? :-()

When you are breeding them, do you sell the fertilized eggs, chicks, or older chickens? How do you know which eggs to keep for raising?
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Re: what kind of chickens?

rainbowgardener wrote:I'm vegetarian. My chickens will be for eggs only. When they get too old to keep laying eggs, then we will be running a retirement home for old lady hens.... :)

I know you are a vegetarian. I'm not and I raise chickens for meat as well as eggs, so we have a lot of eggs because we have a lot of chickens. I was just responding to the notion that keeping chickens for eggs and then feeding eggs to the chickens seems odd. It isn't, and even with just a few chickens, you'll find times where you have more eggs than you want to eat, so giving them to the chickens is a perfectly good use for the extra eggs.

On a completely different note, have you considered growing forage grasses for the chickens? I don't have a prefered seed blend, but there are plenty out there if you Google "forage seed for chickens" or similar keywords. Take wheat grass flats and grow forage grasses. The chickens really like them.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

applestar wrote:WOW so are you saying they tend not to lay as many eggs as the egg layers? I'm supposing they might be BIG chickens -- are their eggs bigger? How many chickens do you have? :-() When you are breeding them, do you sell the fertilized eggs, chicks, or older chickens? How do you know which eggs to keep for raising?
At present, I have 21 hens laying. Dual purpose chickens bred to be dual purpose chickens (not just layers) don't lay as prolifically as chickens bred to be layers. All hens will, over the course of their lives, lay about the same number of eggs. If a breeder skews the breeding program towards layers, those hens will lay more eggs per week, for example, than a chicken that has been bred for meat, but she'll shoot her load faster, perhaps laying only for two or three years; whereas a bird bred for meat lays less frequently, but will lay longer, maybe for five or six years. Meat birds are bigger; they have a bigger frame to carry more meat. That's part of the breeding process, to put chickens in the breeding pool that have big frames. Layers are smaller; they're more petite and instead of putting energy into making meat, they put their energy into producing eggs. The size of the bird is not an indicator of the size of the egg. Most people want layers for their backyard flocks, so the breeders of most of what were dual-purpose chickens now produce chickens that lay like layers, having bred the size out of the strain.

There is a book published by the American Poultry Association, The Standard of Perfection, that describes in minute detail every characteristic a chicken of the particular breed should have: eye color, the shape and color of the comb, weight, feather color and color pattern on each part of the body, leg color, stance, temperament, body shape, and more. It's the chicken breeder's bible. This is very over-simplified, but in a nutshell, you take your hens that are the closest to 'the Standard' and put them with the rooster that is closest to 'the Standard'. You collect the resulting eggs and hatch them, then see what you've got. Genetic winners go into the breeding circle; duds and extra cockerels get eaten. Hens that are no longer productive are eaten. I don't sell fertilized eggs or chicks yet because I am still developing my breeding strain. I have a breeding flock of Delaware chickens. It is a Heritage breed that was almost extinct a few years ago.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

"have you considered growing forage grasses for the chickens?" No, that idea had never occurred to me! My chickens aren't free range, but taking your suggestion, I did find this:

SOWING IN FLATS: For chickens that stay in runs, plant some Forage Blend in a 17" square flat. Add soil, sow thickly, follow the growing instructions above, then place the flat in the chicken run and let them eat it all up.
https://www.groworganic.com/omega-3-chi ... gated.html

That seems worth trying! :)

We are all still on a learning curve, the people, the dogs and the chickens. I've never been around chickens before. We have only recently begun trusting the chickens to walk around the 150 sq ft enclosure inside the picket fence, when the dogs are in the house. I had no idea what would happen when we first let them out-- would all our chickens just fly away? would we ever be able to get them back IN their house? But that was all fine, they don't fly very much and they are happy to go home after awhile.

We've been gradually trying them on more and more foods. They pretty much eat anything we give them that they can manage (not too big and tough), but they definitely like some things more and will chase each other for them. Potato peels and watermelon are in that category. And they are eating lots of greens these days. Eventually my lawn may be all weeded, because I walk around a couple times a day, pulling wild violets and plantain and clover and chickweed for them. What a nice win-win, weed my lawn and feed my chickens all at once. :)

I think they may be getting teenage hormones! * We had never seen any of the "pecking order" behaviors before. They all just co-existed peacefully and were frequently all cuddled up together or all gathered together eating out of the same dish. Just lately and especially when they are out in the bigger area, they are starting to do little play fights. Each incident only lasts a few seconds and they don't do each other any harm, but it seems like the beginning of all that dominance stuff.

*They were 3 and 4 weeks old when we got them (two different kinds), meaning that now they are right about 14 and 15 weeks old.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

In general, Orpingtons can easily be bullied by other breeds, so just watch and make sure your Orpingtons are getting a chance to eat now that the pecking order challenges have begun. Hen squabbles usually aren't nearly as aggressive or potentially bloody as rooster squabbles, but if things get heated, being able to break line of sight helps so putting an additional feeder in a spot that is not directly in line of sight from other feeders (and the same for waterers) lets those lower on the pecking order a chance to eat and drink. Once the pecking order is established, as long as the dominant hen isn't a bully, everyone will know their place and should be respectful enough to wait their turn at the feeders.

You being a gardener, I thought you might be interested in the forage grasses. Mine lovelovelove clover. I had big patches of white clover in the yard and had wanted to seed the entire yard with it, but they decimated the patches in short order. I have to section off areas with garden fencing to plant it and once it is established, I take down the fence and they have at it until it is pretty much bare. I'm thinking about permanently sectioning off an area for the clover because I don't have nearly as many bees this year and I think that is largely because there isn't hardly any clover anymore.

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