Tips For Backyard Chickens
Chances are with the trend of backyard chickens increasing, you know somebody or you've considered getting some. They are gentle and can become pets as well as produce better quality eggs than we might purchase at the store.
Chickens need to forage. That is why you've seen or heard the phrase broadcasting chicken feed. In addition to supplying the needed food, if they are not allowed to hunt and peck they get a little nuts. Additionally, their diet affects the smell of their stool. Vegetarian based feed formulated to meet their needs is far less smelly.
How many eggs you get from your chickens every day depends on several factors:
- The time of year
- The breed of the chicken
- The age of the chicken
- Whether or not you have lighting in your chicken coop (Chickens need a coop to protect them when the weather is bad and from predators)
- If your chicken is molting
- If your chicken feels stressed because of predators, or mites, or a lack of appropriate food
- How "free range" they are (Not that they will lay more with more space but that they may lay eggs that you can't find)
If you've got young hens (between 6 months and 2 years), it's bright outside, and your chickens are living a relatively stress-free life, you should expect about 2 eggs per day from a coop of 3 hens.
It is normal for egg production to drop as age increases just like in people, but this can be an indication of a health problem.
Chicks will tell you they are comfortable. Young chicks are kept under a heat lamp. When it's too warm they will be on the periphery, as far from the light as they can get. When it's too cool they'll huddle under the lamp. You want to see them evenly distributed throughout the enclosure. Chickens can experience heat distress and even die in temperatures above 95. A mister is a great way to help keep them cool, but care must be taken to shield food and bedding to prevent fungal growth.
Sexing young chicks is not fool proof, but you always have a 50-50 chance you're correct. The most reliable method is vent sexing which is best left to a professional to see the sex organs. Characteristics like the roosters having more prominent comb and wattles at 3 weeks than the same aged hen is one. Saddle feathers or the feathers on their legs grow to the back on roosters. Additionally the roosters tend to have thicker legs and larger feet than the pullet. Finally, the males of most all breeds have longer tail feathers.
Salmonella is a serious concern with backyard chickens. This disease can cause severe diarrhea and even death, and precautions must be taken. Children under 5 yrs. of age along with immunocompromised people should not handle chicks or eggs.