Backyard Chickens, Fresh Eggs, Pecking Order, Uncategorized

4 Important Things to Consider when Ordering your First Chickens

In addition to looking forward to scrumptious and beautiful eggs, as backyard chicken keepers, we also hope that our feathered, breakfast-making ladies will be our pets too. As you prepare to get chickens for your coop and backyard, there are a few important things to consider in order to foster a flock that is healthy, happy with each other, and happy with us. (Note: this will certainly make for the-most-delicious-tasting eggs.)

  1. Choose wisely when deciding on the number of chickens you’ll get. First, check with your city ordinances to find out if there is a limit to the number of chickens you can keep. Next, determine the maximum number of chickens you can keep based on the size of your chicken coop. Chickens, like most living beings, need personal space and some freedom to move about. If you pack too many hens into a small area, you’re asking for heavy cleaning and loads of bickering (or worse), somewhat like taking kids for a long car ride! You can generally assume that about 10 square feet per chicken should be sufficient, less if you plan to free range them outside the coop. Lastly, determine how many eggs your household will reasonably use, sell, barter, or give away. On average, a good laying hen will give you 5 eggs per week.
  2. Keep pullets around the same age or size. We recommend keeping adolescent pullets within a couple months of age of each. If you’re starting with baby chicks, keep them all within a few weeks of each other – they will need much different heat requirements if they’re too far apart in age. If you’re starting with mature hens – they’ll all be the same size and the age does not matter. It may seem like a great idea to get some chickens that are ready to lay to appease our excitement to harvest fresh eggs, and some chickens that are small and fluffy that we can bond with. Unfortunately, putting together a group of chickens of wildly different ages can be really tough on the little ones, and its never okay to put baby chicks together with adolescents or adults who are not currently broody and ready to be mothers. Younger chickens in a flock of older birds will often get ostracized from the group, kept away from the food and water, and subjected to a much tougher and lengthy pecking order. Baby chicks will not survive the cold or the pecking order, and getting just one baby chick for your brooder will make it lonely, stressed, and cause other health problems.
  3. Avoid including just one chicken who looks different from the rest. Surely you’ve heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together,” and it’s true: chickens seem to know when they look like each other. They’ll pair up or stay in groups that look alike and the one chicken that doesn’t look like anyone else will get left out. Our favorite recommendation is to get all different breeds. Chickens become like pets and will probably all get names, and this makes it easy to tell them apart. You could also get all the same breeds, get pairs or multiples of different breeds, or make sure there are at least 2 chickens that look different from the rest.
  4. Integrate chickens as few times as possible. It may seem like a good idea at the time to start with a couple, and get more as you go but the pecking order can be a nasty score to settle for some chickens. This is not to say it isn’t possible or it’s too hard, but it’s not pleasant and it can be quite a bit of work.  Unless you’re absolutely not prepare to bring your ideal number of chickens in all at once, or your heart is set on breeds who will hatch in different times of the year we recommend getting everyone at once.

For more helpful information on getting started with chickens, purchase tickets to our Backyard Chickens Classes or browse our free Care Guide!

by: Megan Raff

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Backyard Chickens, Farming

Top 5 Vegetables for your Chickens – Each Season of the Year

Chickens will love what your growing in your garden, just as much as you do!

You may be wondering what is good (and maybe not so good) to be feeding your chickens from the garden and kitchen compost.

Do I feed my chickens pumpkins all year round?

Should I avoid onions and avocados?

Are there some greens that are better than others?

The answers are actually very easy to find. NATURE PROVIDES! Each season, there are a variety of different vegetables that are able to be grown and they differ based on temperature, climate, sunlight, and precipitation. In the Summer, the garden is full of fruiting vegetables and juicy berries. In the Fall, summer squash, corn and beans begin to grow. During Winter, there are pumpkins and root vegetables. And in the Spring, greens, celeriac, and avocados! During these seasons, it is a fantastic idea to plant a little more for your chickens, feed them all scraps, and make sure they are getting an abundant amount of leftovers from your garden. Whether it be just the weeds and vines, or the seeds of your squash, or the tops of your root vegetables. If you’r not using them, your chickens will love the treat!

Spring Vegetables

-Lettuce and Leafy Greens – All are excellent to feed to your chickens and are full of nutrients and water, creating a great treat for the dark orange egg yolk!

-Flowers – Nasturtium and rose are excellent for Vitamin C, Chrysanthemum helps boost immunity, and Marigolds have the ability to heal skin.

-Asparagus – This dainty vegetable has a cleansing effect to maintain good health and immunity as well as properties to raise serotonin and dopamine which can improve mood and overall well being!

-Herbs – Oregano can be used as a natural antibiotic; Bee Balm can aid in respiratory and digestive health; Mint can help repel mice and bugs in the coop; Thyme acts as a natural bug repellent; and Parsley is high in nutrients and can boost blood vessel health.

-Avocados – These delicious tree fruits will be enjoyed by chickens! It is best to avoid feeding chickens too many though, because the flesh is high in fat and can then pose health problems. Skins and pits are fine in moderation; they will be avoided if not enjoyed.

Summer Vegetables

-Beans – Best if feeding only as a kitchen scrap after being thoroughly cooked and a good source of protein for eggs and healthy feathering.

-Tomatoes – With so many varieties available, it is safe to feed chickens the fruit of a tomato plant. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, especially picked right from the garden.

– Bell Peppers – Peppers contain a high amount of Vitamin C and some Vitamin B that is great for chicken skin and system functions. Hot Peppers can alter the flavor of your chickens eggs and should be fed in moderation.

-Strawberries – It may be hard to share these with your girls, but they are a good source of Vitamin C and sugar, boosting energy and happiness!

-Melons – High in antioxidants and great for a hot summer treat during the long days in the sun, melons are a treat and also a great source of sugars for happiness and energy. Cucumbers are similarly beneficial for chickens!

Fall Vegetables

-Carrots and Beets – Along with many root vegetables, both contain anti carcinogen properties and are so loaded with Vitamin C! They will turn your egg yolks that dark orange, indicating a nutrient rich egg.

-Zucchini – Zucchini flesh and seeds act as a natural dewormer, a great way to assist in preparing for the winter deworming treatment. Worms can tend to be more of a problem in the Fall and Winter.  Feeding zucchini, onions, garlic, and pumpkin insides is a great way to naturally treat any load of worms.

-Sunflower Seeds – When the sunflowers start falling over and drying up, feeding chickens the seeds and shells is good for egg production and healthy feathers, preparing for a winter molt.

– Green Beans & Peas – Great to feed cooked or raw. Can be fatty and should not be fed in too much excess or as the only treat from the garden.

-Onions and Garlic – Although they may alter the taste of your eggs, both onions and garlic will work as a natural dewormer. If they are changing the egg flavor too much to your liking, just lighten the amount your giving them.

Winter Vegetables

-Cabbage – A great “toy” to hang from the roof  with a string, chickens will peck at it until it’s gone. Cabbage also provides a good source of nutrients when the summer veggies are out for the season.

-Broccoli – One of the favorites, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, which acts as a natural disinfectant for chickens and can aid in fighting off winter illnesses.

-Pumpkins – Also full of delicious seeds and flesh, you can bet that the only thing left will be the outer shell. The seeds are a great dewormer for your chicken during the winter and a good source of protein for hardy eggs and feather production when coming out of a molt.

-Kale – Like most dark leafy greens, Kale is an excellent source of nutrients needed in the winter months. Just like its dark dense color, kale is dense in nutrients making great eggs.

-Celery – This vegetable is fine to feed your chickens, as long as it is not the only thing they will be eating. It is super fibrous and should not be fed without chicken feed or other garden treats.

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This is just a touch of items that you can grow in your garden to supplement your flock. It is very important to feed your chickens the correct feed, first and foremost. If they are getting the runs from eating too much of the supplemental garden goodies, you can give them milk or some dairy, which will help harden up their poops and keep things from getting too messy.

You can plant a portion of your garden just for your chickens and they may just come some excellent garden helpers!

 

Written by: Kelsie Crane