The Secret to Raising Chickens
What is the secret to raising chickens?You should make sure your chickens are fed good quality food and they always have fresh clean water to drink. The other important issue is to make sure your chickens are well guarded from predators. If you are raising a large flock with many hens and roosters at one time, add multiple feeders and water drinkers.
Chickens tend to pick at each other more when crowded, so allowing them to eat and drink without having to fight their way to their food and water, will reduce fighting and thereby reduce the chance for disease from open sores and wounds.
Protecting your birds from predators goes hand in hand with making sure that they have good quality shelter from the elements. That means keeping the rain and wind out and providing a place where they can keep themselves warm. You don’t have to put a furnace in the shelter as long as it allows your birds to make use of their own body heat.
If you live in the North you may want to put some insulation around their coop. A heat lamp, heated drinkers and some weather seal can make a huge difference as well in cold weather.
If you let your bird’s free range then the coop must not only protect them from the elements but be predator proof as well because when they are roosting in it at night is when they are the most vulnerable to predators, so you should prevent them from getting into the coop.
I have a “run” for my birds to keep them safe which is basically a fenced in yard that is covered with poultry netting to keep hawks and the like out and my coop is smack dab in the middle.
The “Secret” Summarized:
- Good Quality Food and a Source of Fresh, Clean Water.
- Adequate Space – A good Rule of Thumb is to have no less the 5 sq. ft. per adult Chicken.
- Protection From Predators
- Protection from Themselves
- Quality Shelter from the elements
The Right Breed for Your Environment
Keeping chickens is great fun and really something the whole family can participate in. You’ll discover that chickens have their own personalities together with a lot of breeds to choose from so you should have no trouble finding the kind of bird that fits your needs.
In addition, you need to keep in mind that chickens will need adequate space to use for nesting, and roosting. There are lots of kinds of chickens that you can purchase and it’s vital that when one purchases their chickens they get the correct kind of chicken for the environment you have available for them as well as what it is you are raising them for – such as eggs, meat, both or maybe just as a pet.
You wouldn’t want to put a large breed like a Plymouth or Jersey Giant in a coop made for Bantams for instance. It just wouldn’t be healthy or very respectful to your birds.
Build a High Quality Coop
Chicken Coops come in many unique styles, sizes and complexity with customizable options so that you can construct the coop that works for your needs. As soon as your chicken coop is built, paint it for a finishing touch and preserve it for years of use.
No matter how small your chicken coop is going to be, you’ll need to have a really good very clear and thorough plan drawn up whether you construct the chicken coop or buy a prefabricated coop. So while you get started building chicken coop and start going through different plans and designs, keep these points in mind that will help you choose the best option for your specific needs.
Why Do You Want Chickens?
We’ve touched on this a little already, but it’s important to know what you are keeping chickens for to make it worth your while. Are you raising them for meat, eggs, to sell or do you have something bigger in mind?
Think about the rules of your state in regards to raising chickens, particularly if you are considering starting such a business at your residence. It’s not unusual for most people to start a business at home, even giants like amazon were started in their garage.
So if you have a hatchery you want to scale up or maybe you are thinking of selling eggs in high volume, know that there are laws that are made to help small businesses grow, but you need to know what they are and you really need to make sure you follow them.
Nobody wants to put a lot of work and money into something only to be shut down on a technicality. I know I don’t!
Something You Should Know About Keeping Chickens for Eggs
Feeding your chickens’ quality food is important and this especially true for laying hens but something I think that gets overlooked a little is supplements that your hens will need is calcium. You have to make sure that your hens receive a decent calcium supplement because chickens which do not get enough calcium can get very sick and could die. Crushed oyster shells are a great way to provide your birds with an excellent source of calcium.
You also want to feed all of your birds hens and roosters alike grit or make sure it is available to them and they will eat what they need. Grit helps your birds digest their food, especially if you are feeding them whole grains.
The chicken feed you purchase, it’s mixed to certain ratios to meet specific needs. Chicken feed, like most feeds, has to be kept dry or it is going to spoil. There are essentially 3 different forms of chicken feed you can give to your chickens that are specially intended for their distinct stages in living: chicks, adolescence and adult.
Incubating & Hatching Chicken Eggs
Hatching your own chickens is a lot of fun and quite rewarding! You can buy fertile eggs for a variety of chickens from a hatchery or collect your own from your own flock. If you plan to collect your own eggs to hatch then of course you will need a rooster so they are fertile.
If you want to keep the varieties you have pure, then you will need to keep the various breeds you may have segregated. Keeping your rooster separate from the hens except for when you want fertile eggs is not a bad idea either, otherwise the rooster will peck the hens and can cause some issues with the hens health.
If you only have a single breed, then that makes it pretty straight forward as far as keeping your breed pure.
Incubating eggs can be very simple when you understand what you do. To hatch your eggs you will most likely need an incubator, though some breeds of chicken will set and hatch their eggs under the right conditions. Modern incubators can basically do it all, turn the eggs, maintain the proper humidity and temperature and control air flow and do it all quite precisely.
If you have just a basic incubator then you will be responsible for turning the eggs, temperature etc. Turning the eggs isn’t a specific science, but it is crucial for good outcomes. Once in the incubator, eggs have to be turned three or more times per day by hand if a turner isn’t used.
If for some reason the eggs are allowed to cool for a number of hours because of power failure or another reason, hatching time could possibly be delayed. Without interruption at 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit eggs will take about 21 days to hatch under the right conditions. A one degree shift whether higher or lower for just a few hours can terminate the embryo. Humidity levels also help the eggs to hatch on time by maintaining 50 to 55 percent humidity, increasing to about 65 percent during the last 3 days of incubation.
How Many Chickens Do You Want to Hatch?
If you are raising chickens and collecting your own eggs and you want to hatch 100 chickens and you are getting 8 eggs a day, how would you get 100 eggs to hatch? Pretty easy actually because chicken eggs can be stored until you are ready to incubate them. It’s recommended that eggs are stored for incubating between 50-60F turning them a few times a day to keep the yoke from sticking to the shell.
Hatching eggs by hand is totally doable and you will have some success. If you are hatching eggs as a hobby or are doing it with your kids to teach them, then there’s no need to lay out a lot of cash for a high tech modern incubator.
If you have grander aspirations and are going to be relying on a high hatch rate as a part of a business plan, then I wouldn’t hesitate in getting a high quality incubator.
These incubators are made to hold in heat and humidity, as well as the digital ability to enable you to understand how warm and humid it’s inside the incubator at all times. A top quality incubator will have the ability to manage these exact crucial settings electronically and economically.
Some of The Other Benefits Chickens Provide
Besides for meat, eggs and unlimited entertainment they are an excellent provider of organic fertilizers as well. If you let them free range they’ll do a good job of lower the bug population and will aerate your soil in your garden and flower beds. Though you may want consider allowing your birds to aerate your gardens because they may also eat your plants, which isn’t a desired outcome at my house!
Chickens are very sociable animals and have to be held in numbers of two or greater. They are not terribly picky eaters. In fact, it is rather simple to feed chickens. Chickens aren’t vegetarians at all! Not only will they eat insects but also smaller rodents and perhaps even little snakes. They are relatively low maintenance inexpensive and easy to care for.
How to Keep Chickens Healthy
Having chickens whether it is for eggs, meat to sell or simply to keep as pets you want your birds to stay healthy, strong and be disease free, right? For chickens to be healthy and stay that way they’ll need some attention and some basic care each and every day. Below are a few basic and simple measures if taken each day will help to keep your chickens in good health and thriving!
Keep clean fresh water available at all times. This may mean a heat source to keep water from freezing in winter.
Chickens need to be provided with a quality feed that is made just for their specific needs. As an example, birds being raised for their meat will need a feed that is high in protein and hens that are kept as layers will need a feed that includes some additional calcium supplement. Feeding chickens table scraps is ok as a treat but as their staple diet it usually leads to deficiencies in their nutritional needs.
They will need a good quality shelter to keep them dry and safe from weather extremes and predators. Not only should it be dry and safe but just as importantly it should also be well ventilated to prevent respiratory problems and disease.
When you build their coop it needs to give each chicken enough space. If your poultry is crowded it will lead to stress and injuries from fighting which can cause disease to spread and even death. Chickens need a minimum of five square feet in the shelter and three square feet available to them in an outdoor run area.