Monday, January 19, 2009

Do's and Don'ts of Chickens

  • Don't get the small feeders. Not worth the hassle.  *COMMENT: When raising chicks the small feeders that have little holes for the chicks heads are a bad idea, including the mason jar ones.  They will fill up at the bottom with grit and look to you like the chicks have food.  But the chicks will still be starving because they don't want the remaining grit.  Get one where they can scratch out the feed, this will allow them to get to the fresh feed and not just concentrate the grit.
  • Do get the extra large feeder it is worth the money, for the time and hassle it saves you.

  • Don't get the small non heated water bottles, you will just replace it anyways in the winter.
  • Do get the water jug that plugs in so the water does not freeze in the winter. *COMMENT: Now I prefer the larger waters that fill from the top, so much less hassle, and they are built more durable, they are less prone to break.  The bottom fill ones can dry in the sun and the break when turned upside-down to refill.  Instead you can buy a water heater to put under the waterers.

  • Don't buy heat lamps the always-on-light messes up the chicken daily cycle.
  • Do buy an Iguana tank warmer (at the pet store), no bothersome light, no hassle with bulb changes, only slightly warm, will not start a fire, heat rises, better use of energy. (I used mine all winter with hay beds on top, the birds loved it, and nothing even close to a fire started).

  • A Dog house does not work for a chicken house over the winter.
  • Do get Tekfoil to insulate your chicken tractor or winter home, it works great.
  • A Dog run works great for a chicken area.

  • Do buy your chickens presexed at IFA or a local feed store. Roosters crowing and butchering is no fun, and allot more work. (Your neighbors will hate the crowing!)  *COMMENT: If you find a local classified listing for poultry it is fun to watch it and see the unique birds listed there. I have gotten to where I like docile breeds of  roosters and want the more unique birds.  Here we look at classifieds.  Maybe Craigslist in your area would also work.
  • Do free range your chickens*. This works great, I highly recommend it, They will happily run around your yard eating weeds, bugs and fertalising everything. With the added bonus of less mess to clean up in chicken house. Most likely your chickens will pick their favorite place to lay eggs, and lay most of them in the same spot. The rest of the eggs are fun for your kids to hunt. *COMMENT: This works great for a few chickens.  The more chickens I get the more I want to tractor them so the eggs are easier to find.
  • Do block chickens from concrete slab or other places you don't want their poo. It is not fun to clean up afterwards.
  • Do buy lay mash* anything else produces less eggs (16% when warm, 20% when cold).  *CORRECTION: I have found I prefer lay pellets.  The Lay mash has grit mixed in it. My chickens have access to the out doors so they do not need grit mixed in with their food.  And I don't want to pay for grit because I have it all over my yard.
  • Do plan on feeding a large number of wild birds, the chickens will get board of defending their food. Wild birds are smarter then chickens, any food the chickens can find so can the wild birds.
  • Do buy wild bird seed if it is cheaper and put it a distance from your lay mash, in hopes it deters the wild birds from eating the lay mash.
  • *ADDITION:  Consider investing in a wild bird proof feeder, or netting your chickens in so the birds can not get into the food.  The cost of chicken food can add up when you are feeding it to wild birds.  Once th birds know you are a source of food you will end up feeding the whole county's wild bird population. 
  • Don't wash any chicken dishes etc. inside* for salmanilla concerns.  *CORRECTION: If you need to wash them inside in the winter do it in the bathtub and wash out the tub well.
  • Do feed your chickens your plant and grain table scraps, they will come running for them in anticipation.
  • Do Compost. Pick an area of the yard to compost in. Throw all your table scraps out there for the chickens to peck through. Add to your compost leaves and grass clippings, spread grass out thin to dry in the sun so it does not stink and clump.
  • Do involve your kids, farm animals are so much fun
  • Do learn how to butcher, you will need to know this even if you don't plan to do it much.
  • Don't get ducks unless you have a pond*. They require allot more water for cleaning, eating and drinking. *CORRECTION: I tried to make a duck pond.  I spent over $500 and it failed miserably! The ducks ate all of the pond plants and mucked up the water with their poop.  Duck ponds only work if you have a HUGE pond and enough money to pay to have them professionally installed.  Instead use a wading pool, but dump the pool every 3 days, then leave it out in the sun to dry out for a day, in order to not breed mosquitoes.
  • Don't get a turkey to raise for thanksgiving if you are soft hearted, it will become a pet. My turkey lays more eggs then my chickens*. She lies down in the grass and quivers her feathers to let us know she wants to be pet. Everyone loves petting our pet turkey. *CORRECTION:  As soon as she became broody she stopped laying eggs unless she could hide them and try to brood them.
  • *ADDITION: Don't get a Broad Breasted Turkey if you want to breed.  The toms are too big to breed, and the females have a hard time brooding correctly.  Get a heritage breed turkey.
  • Do get a female turkey if you have kids, they are more docile and friendly. A male turkey* will take over your yard and run your kids out of it. My rooster is bad enough for that, the kids need sticks to go back there, a male turkey would be allot worse.  *CORRECTION:  If you get a docile breed of turkey and a docile breed of Rooster and treat them well, you will have no problems.  I love my Buff Orpington Rooster, and my Black Spanish Tom Turkey.
* This was written in the winter of my first year owning chickens.  The CORRECTIONS, ADDITIONS and COMMENTS were add om after three years of owning poultry.  

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