These are some basic facts about caring for chickens, pets or not that you should know.
Many people that buy chickens are just getting started and are shocked when learning facts about chickens.
Quite a few folks new to raising chickens love to think about the image of "a happy sunny day" with
their chicken flocks running and feasting on grass and bugs in their backyards, dogs barking, kids running and playing.
You take your egg basket to the chicken coop, open the door and gather an abundance of fresh eggs!
aaahhh!!!! such a nice image. Some of it CAN be true. BUT:
Now some FACTS from a chicken farmer and what I have learned from actual experience of raising
and caring for poultry.
- Its FUN to raise chickens but its a serious responsibility too. A chickens life for producing eggs usually
for most breeds is about 18-36 months. Seriously. After that age hens will slow down egg production to a few eggs a week,
then stop all together. They will be pets or you need to find another home for them.
- You do NOT need a rooster for the hens to lay eggs. Chickens will lay eggs anyway, the eggs just
won't be fertile and can't hatch into chickens.
- The more plain or simple the breed, (Leghorn, Rhode Island, Barred Rock etc...) the
stronger the immune system and better egg layer, the fancier the breed, (Polish, Cochin, Orloff, etc...) the immune
system seems to be not as strong and are not the best egg layers.These breeds are harder to raise.
- Your dog LOVES chickens He will enjoy every bite. Unless you raise your dog and train it to not touch
chickens. ONE day when you least suspect it, Fido will think your pet chicken is his dinner with feathers
that likes to play with him before being eaten.
- Your kids will enjoy chickens too. But very young children can be hurt from an aggressive rooster protecting a hen,
or a hen searching for food can "peck" a shiny eye on your pretty child or fingers that look like worms to them. Do not leave
children under 5 years old alone with chickens.
- Chickens may NOT lay eggs in cold wet or too cloudy weather, or if the seasons change for example:
if your chickens are in cold wet areas they may slow down egg production. If your chicken has less sunlight for 8 hours or
LESS they may stop producing eggs.You CAN hang lights in your coop to stimulate egg
production during short daylight hours. Also, very hot weather may slow down egg production. Remember talking to your
chickens and feeding them treats will not convince them to lay more eggs! (chickens are seasonal and lay best in warm/cool
spring or crisp fall weather but under right conditions, they can lay year around.)
- Very very rarely will a "hen" crow. your chicken just might be a rooster!
- Chickens do NOT lay eggs in hot dry weather, they NEED shade and a small pan of water
or MUD to stand in and keep cool or they will DIE
- Chickens are LIVESTOCK and have been a part of farm life for thousands of years. They were bred for MEAT
and EGGS. Its best not to name them, put clothes on them and teach them tricks
Mary Ann Fordyce - Free Advice For Raising Chickens
- Chicken wire or poultry wire is best to use INSIDE and between chicken pens. Chicken wire will
NOT (thats N-O-T) going to protect your chickens from predators. You should use 2x4 welded wire or better
grade on the outside of your chicken coop walls and doors for strength. Almost ALL predators can break into chicken wire
and KILL your chickens.
Floor/ground its best to have DEEP litter, hay, shavings or other in your outer pens if you do not free range.
- During a heavy rain the water drops bounce hard on very hard flat surfaces, (cement, hard dirt, bricks) and the result:
a mist of water drops surround your chickens about at the level of their nose. They drown where they are standing
in a hard rain. With "soft" bedding 4-6 inches deep, the rain will drop deep into the bedding and not
return bounce. Fewer chickens get ill or drown. Its known that not all chickens will go to a covered area during a rain. and
YOU do not know how hard of a rain to expect.
- MUST USE to keep the proper bacteria in your coop. Use "Probiotics" mist and in the water, plus the
cleaner for the healthiest coop any where. Eliminates all ODORS in your coop!
- Over the years I have found that 1/2 amount of dosage in water every 2 - 3 weeks for no more than 3-7 days of
Sulmet, Tylan, and vitamin A is a great preventive for disease. Sometimes moving your chickens, to a new pen, or sudden weather changes can be very stressful and cause MG. Be sure to remember to "de-worm" chickens each season with Wazine liquid wormer and use apple cider vinegar
- MUST TRY! If you want to "go natural" and not use any antibiotics Add per gallon of water EACH
WEEK use three cloves of fresh garlic crushed or minced (with or without skins) Jar style
or granulated garlic will do as well, to keep your chickens healthy and full of vigor, plus add quarter cup apple cider
vinegar too per gallon THIS REALLY WORKS! TO BOOST IMMUNE SYSTEM FROM DISEASES
earth or Sevin Dust for mites in a dust bath.
When starting your coop/run for the 1st time BE SURE
to add old organic matter/compost to your coop
area from a farm NOT
the garden center (chicken, horse, cow or other manure dried with old compost) Blue
Star has this available. This will be the "starter" for your bacteria supply. Add water to dampen it. Then and fresh
green grass or weeds to start bacteria growth.The chickens will "scratch it in" (eating the greens) and mix it up to
activate your bacteria supply. Read "Healthy Coop Page"
BEST EVER HEALTH MIXTURE REALLY WORKS! Each week add to water (or by eye dropper full to ill chickens)
Fresh crushed garlic, apple cider vinegar and real honey (not store bought fake honey country honey is best) These
remedys have been used to prevent illness since the Egyptians about 4000 years. (good for people too) This prevents most common
illnesses in chickens. Free Ranging- Its best to only let your chickens in an enclosed
pen or out for only a few hours near dusk, supervised by an adult if possible. Chickens will not wander too far from coop
if its three hours from sundown. The longer they are out in the open the greater the chance of them being eaten by a predator.
But predators are so fast anyway, the only reason they might not strike your chickens is your smell or sight. But supervision
is no guarantee that free ranging from time to time may not cost you a chicken or two. However,some folks have free ranged
for years and lost only a few.. Its just pure luck!
Chicken Disease This page has links to websites for chicken illnesses Be prepared. chickens are generally healthy if fed and treated
correctly. BUT illness can occur.
NO chickens are immune from all diseases. Natural selection "rules the roost" Your chicken is not meant to have a
life of 15 years like your dog or cat, but a shorter life of about 3 years. (although many chickens can live much longer
than this, most non egg layers end up in the soup pot) Nature will do what is best. In any flock there are
weaklings, runts and the not favorite hen in the flock (thus the saying "pecking order") if anyone has 100% healthy chickens
and no illness or losses, they are very lucky (or its their ego talking?)
FACT If you want a flock of 10 to12 healthy laying hens in your coop, a GENERAL
rule of thumb is to raise 25 day old chicks or 16 pullets.
FACT Raising chickens, no matter how much care you give your
flock, there is a percentage of them over time that may be lost to free ranging, killed from predators, or that will die from
illness or accident. Its natural selection. Good old Mother Nature. YOU can't change this so be prepared and understand
that you may have to replace your chickens for one reason or the other.
MUST READ about MG Poultry - Mycoplasma gallisepticum: FAQ
Marek's Disease All of our day old chicks are immunized at the hatcheries before shipment to Blue Star Ranch for
Marek's disease. That is the ONLY time this vaccine is effective. "Range Paralysis" or Marek's Disease
is mutating (always changing disease) so immunizations are effective only 95% of the time.
WITH immunizations for Marek's your chickens will still have a 5% chance
of getting Marek's anyway.
WITHOUT immunization, your chickens have a 35% chance of dying from
Incorrect cleaning of your coop your chickens will have a 50% chance of
dying from Marek's
FACT Most chicken sellers/breeders will NOT tell you this. Cleaning your coop incorrectly can spread Marek's!!!!!!!
Marek's is also spread through the air from other sources, (wild birds, plants, dust) other
sources than just from cleaning your coop. There is no safe place from chicken diseases.
Overcleaning your coop is the WORST thing you can do. Please look at "healthy coop" page. Chickens NEED the right bacteria just like your pet fish in your aquarium.You do not put
your goldfish in distilled sanitary water why? Too much or too little of proper and balanced bacteria will actually
seriously harm or kill your fish!!!!
Overcleaning your chicken coop is like stirring the bottom of your pretty fish tank to clean the bottom. WHAT HAPPENS
when you stir your fish tank while cleaning? All of the muck starts floating around and unless you clean properly your fish
will DIE. Bacteria and disease are spread.Chickens are very prone to airborne diseases. Chickens (and fish) need a proper
balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria.To learn how to clean your chicken coop and reduce spreading of diseases read this page.
When you do clean dirty areas.. add water to make area damp to prevent dust particles.. then scrape away waste.. add barn
lime to reduce smell then add final layer of straw or pine shavings.. A full coop cleaning is best done no more than every
6 months.. even then. ONLY CLEAN HALF OF COOP AREA.. leave
the other half for bacteria.... clean the other half next 6 months.. IN BETWEEN CLEANINGS... clean under the roosts and corners or where they "poop" be sure to always add water to make area
lightly damp, add barn lime then fresh layer of bedding... DO NOT OVER CLEAN.. or your chickens can become ill.
Years ago, when chickens got sick, ill or lost to predators, farmers just hatched more chickens then killed
or "culled" the weak. They did NOT take ill chickens to veterinarians. But now veterinarians are available
and they are there wanting your CREDIT CARD. Newsflash: There are very very few veterinarians
that know ANYTHING about chickens (avian care) because a chicken is considered "disposable" to farmers, there
is no money in this for veterinarians, unless its your "pet" chicken... Then the veterinarian will be HAPPY
to take your money. Facts are: if a chicken has one of several common diseases to poultry its usually fatal, but the
veterinarian will be HAPPY to help you anyway...(I know of several clients that have spent HUNDREDS
of $$$ on their pet chicken) its up to you. (or, you can call a commercial chicken operation, they will tell you: if
a chicken is very ill CULL IT, because disease can spread to your entire flocks)