Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Giving Your Chickens Calcium

An eggshell is 94 percent calcium carbonate. A calcium deficiency can show up in many different forms. Maybe its a shell-less egg, or an egg with merely a thin shell.

However, even healthy hens need calcium supplements. A hen's calcium requirements rise as she gets older, or as the weather heats up.

So how do you give your layer chickens calcium?

You can use limestone or ground oyster shell (offered free choice in a separate feed hopper), and Vitamin A, D, and E powder added to your chickens' water every other day of the week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Breeding Chickens

To breed out unwanted traits and improve your strain of chicken, you need to have a working breeding plan that includes the following steps:

1) Establish a long-term goal. Find out exactly what you are trying to attain.
2) Begin with the best birds that you can get. It's easier to start with quality chickens than to work hard to breed unwanted traits out of an unsatisfactory batch of birds.
3) Keep accurate, detailed breeding records. This is a must! Mark chicks (common ways to do this is through wing clipping or leg bands) to track their lineage, and be sure to carefully control matings to faster achieve your goals.
4) Cull cull cull, and again cull. Remove birds with negative characteristics as soon as you see them! Don't keep chickens with unwanted traits. This will waste precious time and resources, especially if you're doing this as a commercial project.
Obviously, you must first know what you want before establishing a long-term goal. Your goal depends on the quality of birds you are starting with, and what you want in the end. In selecting the breeding pairs, avoid birds with poor lineage and look for good ancestry and individual superiority.

Experienced breeders concentrate on one particular breed and only one or two varieties within that breed. This allows you to focus your time, energy, and monetary resources on improving your quality line. Each year, raise the standard for your line a little higher. It will take a while, but with determination you will achieve your goal! As the famous quote goes, "Never ever ever give up!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Broody Hens

Broody hens can either be a Godsend (many exotic-chicken breeders agree with this line of thought) or something worse than the plague (such as large corporations who want eggs and only eggs). It all depends on the individual farmer and his or her purpose for raising chickens.

The term "broody hen" basically means a hen who sits on her eggs for the purpose of hatching them. It doesn't matter if the eggs are fertile or not, she'll sit on them and get that "back-off-or-I'll-kill-you" look in her eyes if anyone tries to stop her.

Do you want your hens to remain broody or is it better to "break" them? Well...if you want the highest ratio of egg per hen per pound of feed, it would be best to break the hen or she'll lower the flock's overall percentage of lay. On the other hand, if you want to hatch your own batch of cute little chicks (for fun or to replace culled hens), you might want to let the hen go through the 21-day cycle.

So, you don't want your hen to be broody and want to break her? The process of disrupting a hen's broodiness is relatively easy. But first, you should take a precaution before your hens become broody to save you the time and trouble. To lower the chance of one of your hens becoming broody, you should not allow eggs to collect in a nest. Once she is broody, moving her from her nest, moving or covering the nest so she can't get in, moving the hen to a separate cage or coop, or putting the hen in a broody coop should be sufficient to break her out of broodiness.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Did You Know? EGGS!

Easter is coming up, so let's talk about eggs!

Did You Know?

** According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the whole egg is rated as one of the best sources of high-quality protein, surprisingly rating higher than cow milk, fish, beef, and legumes.
** Eggs are rated by their quality as AA, A, B, and Inedible. Hopefully none of your chicken eggs will be "Inedible".

** The egg is also known to have nearly every single nutrient needed for life, except vitamin C.

** You should collect eggs as often as possible. I collect eggs twice a day, sometimes more - Once in the mid-morning, and once in the afternoon. Collecting eggs often reduces the chance of spoilage and breakage.

** Egg whites are said to heal wounds, and raw eggs are used in facials, shampoos, and hair conditioners. Yum!

Now you know! Looking forward to a greeeeat Easter!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Chicken Breed Review: Barred Plymouth Rock

The Barred Plymouth Rock, or Barred Rock for short, is not only a historic breed but also an essential part of the backyard chicken farmer's flock. These dual-purpose birds (which means they can be used both for eggs and/or meat) are one of the perfect breeds of chicken available!

In Part 2 of this article series I wrote that I would discuss meat birds next. Well, after the loads of emails that I've gotten about this site and our free e-zine (where the first two "Breeds 101" articles were published), I've decided to look at the dual-purpose breeds in detail.

The standard weights for Barred Rocks are 9.5 pounds for the roosters and 7.5 pounds for the hens. Cockerels (young male chickens under one year) and pullets (young female chickens under one year) weigh slightly less. Also, different strains of Barred Rocks also vary in size and weight, so the above measurements are just a generalization.

The main reasons that people raise Barred Rocks are for eggs and for meat. Barred Rocks lay large, brown eggs, making them a great candidate for someone looking to sell their surplus eggs (since large, brown, fresh eggs usually demand a higher price). Barred Rocks have the "perfect" skin color-yellow-which is the skin color preference for those raising chickens for meat because yellow-skinned chickens look more appetizing than white or black (yuck) skinned breeds.

The origin of the Barred Rock has not exactly been determined. According to one source, Barred Rocks were developed in America in the middle of the 19th century. It was first labeled a "breed" in 1869. Several individuals claimed its invention using crosses of breeds such as Dominique, Java, Dorking, Malay and Cochin. This breed became very popular (quite rapidly) until WWII. Until this war no other breed was kept or bred as extensively. Why? The fact that it was hardy, self-sufficient, docile, sometimes became broody, and had an excellent rate of egg and meat production made the Barred Rock's popularity explode!

Barred Rocks make excellent farm chickens. They are docile and become tame easily (especially if you've raised them from chicks), and excellent layers, make good mothers (when they become broody), make excellent meat birds, and are generally not aggressive. Taking everything into account, Barred Plymouth Rocks are wonderful chickens to raise, no matter if you are raising them for meat, eggs, showing, or just as a pet!

Monday, April 02, 2007

How many chickens can live in a chicken coop?

How many chickens can live in an 8 ft X 10 ft chicken coop and run? Generally, you will want to factor in about 3 - 4 square feet per bird in the coop.

Too little space and you can run into overcrowding problems. This can provoke problems such as cannibalism. It is much easier to make sure your chickens have enough space to begin with rather than trying to fix a problem later.

We have an interesting discussion on our forums about how much space a chicken needs.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chickens in Florida

The University of Florida Extension offers some great poultry resources and documents that you'll find superb. In fact, their Backyard Flocks page offers some great articles about things such as egg-eating by chickens, as well as small-flock nutrition.

Florida offers a great environment for raising poultry due to their sunshine and temperate weather. How many of you readers are located in the "Sunshine State"?