Frequently Asked Chicken Questions
How much do chickens eat?
Chickens will self-regulate their feed intake, so you don’t have to measure out daily feedings, but on average, a chick will consume 2.5 lbs-3 lbs of feed from 0-6 weeks, 13 lbs-15 lbs of feed between 7-18 weeks, and .25 lbs daily thereafter.
What are the different kinds of chicken feed for? (Starter, developer, layer, & scratch.)
Starter is for chicks 0-6 weeks, and provides the nutritional needs for the rapid growth of a baby chick. Developer is for chicks 7-18 weeks old, and provides the nutrition needed for a growing bird, maturing into full size. Some companies will combine these 2 into a starter/grower formula. Layer ration is a formula designed for grown chickens from 18 weeks on, and provides the extra vitamins and minerals needed for an egg producing hen. While historically scratch was used as a food, since the 1940’s and the introduction of more nutritious complete meal type rations such as starter, developer, and layer, scratch has been considered more of a treat for your chickens than a food for them, and should be fed in limited doses.
What is the difference between Layer Pellets and Layer Crumbles?
Chickens will typically prefer layer crumbles, but they will also usually sift through and pick out the bits they like while making a mess with the rest. Layer pellets will provide a much less wasteful option, but you chickens won’t necessarily like it as much.
What is Oyster Shell and Grit for and how do I know if they need it?
Oyster shell and grit are 2 completely different things. Oyster shell is simply a calcium supplement. So if you notice soft or thin shelled eggs, supplement with oyster shell. It can be provided free choice in a separate container or mixed in with their food.
Grit is used as a digestive tool. Chickens don’t have teeth, and any hard grains they consume must be broken down, so chickens use pebbles and small rocks stored in their gizzards to grind their food. If a chicken is not on ground where there are small bits rock or pebbles available, and they are given foods other than layer ration, supplemental grit is advisable. Just provide it in a separate container and your chickens will get it as it is needed.
What is the difference between Conventional, Non-GMO, and Organic Feeds?
The main difference here is not necessarily what is in them, but what is not in them. Conventional feed is made from grains produced using modern agricultural methods. Typically, but not always, employing the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (Grains) and chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. Non-GMO feeds are still produced conventionally, but contain no Genetically Modified Grains. This usually means that a much lower amount of herbicides are used since Non-GMO crops can’t withstand them and survive. Organic feeds must be produced from grains grown on a certified organic field (no chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers for at least the previous 3 years), they must contain no GMO grains, and they must be milled in a certified organic feed mill.
Should I use Pine Shavings, Rice Hulls, or Hay in my coop?
No one of these is best for everyone, and each has its own benefit. Personally, I don’t care much for using hay because it has a tendency to mold and mildew when it gets wet, but for some people, it is plentiful because they have lots on hand for other animals. Pine Shavings last the longest, but they’re not very absorbent. Rice Hulls don’t last as long as pine shavings, but they are very absorbent, which helps with the smell, and they compost quickly.
When will my hen start laying?
A chicken can become mature and capable of laying eggs as early as 4 months or as late as 9 months. Average age for your first egg is usually 5-6 months.
Why did my hen stop laying?
Hens don’t lay non-stop. They will naturally go through cycles where they stop laying for periods of time. Stress can also make a chicken stop laying. Stress can be caused by weather, less daylight, changes of their environment, fright from being chased or attacked, becoming sick, molting, brooding, extreme heat or cold, and sometimes it seems like it’s just for spite. Non-laying cycles can last for days, weeks, or months. Just keep those girls happy and it will eventually start back up again.
How long do hens lay and how long do they live?
Your best laying will take place in the first 18 months, which is around when the first molt takes place. At 3 years your production will start the bell curve to low productivity. At 4-6 years, you chicken will most likely be done laying and will begin her life as a free-loader. If your chicken makes it to old age without getting caught by a predator or dying from sickness, 8-10 years would be as long as I would expect them to last. This is just a guidelines though, I have met people with 6 year old chickens who lay almost every day and 12 year old chickens that still dropped an egg every once in a while.
What is molting? –Or– My chicken is losing all its feathers! What’s wrong with it?
Every year chickens go through a process where they shed their old feathers and grow new ones, this is called molting. This usually occurs when days start getting shorter and your egg production will usually stop during this process. It can last from 3 weeks to 4 months.
Why is my chicken broody? How do I get them to stop?
Your hen decided she wants to be a momma, so she is sitting in her nest, trying to keep those eggs warm. While it may seem like she is never leaving her nest and she is surely starving, don’t worry, she will get up usually once or maybe twice a day to get her fill of food and water, even if you don’t see it happening. If you don’t try to make her stop being broody, and she isn’t setting on fertilized eggs, she may continue to sit in her nest and be grumpy all day for months. There are lots of methods for getting her to stop, but they all revolve around 3 basic processes, either blocking her from the nesting area, lowering her core body temperature, or letting her do the job she wants. Frozen water bottles in the nesting area or an ice water bath will usually do the trick, but it may take more than one try. Whatever method you choose to employ, do it daily until the behavior stops. Another way to stop this behavior is to give her what she wants. This is a good opportunity to introduce chicks into your flock. Ideally, wait until she has been broody for 3 weeks, then go out late at night after the chickens are sleeping and quietly slip in your store bought baby chicks under your broody hen. In the morning she will wake up and joyfully find “her” new babies. Please note that nature doesn’t always do what you want it to and sometimes your new momma may decide to cull chicks with no rhyme or reason. The younger the chick is, the better chance it has of working. For sure it needs to be less than a week old and preferably only a few days.
What makes the eggs white, brown, blue or green?
The color of a chicken’s egg is determined by genetics and breed. During the final stages of the egg creation process, a hen will secrete a pigment which coats the egg. This pigment is what colors the egg brown, green, or blue and is specific to each bird. Breeds that don’t secrete the pigment lay uncolored eggs (white). Interestingly enough, if you pick up a freshly laid brown egg and wipe it with a wet washcloth, you can actually wipe the brown color off because the pigment hasn’t has a chance to set yet.
How do I keep my chickens alive in the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter?
Here in Texas, you want to have good shade and good airflow during the summer. There are also lots of little things that make all the difference in the world. The best way to combat heat is with a patio misting system attached to your coup and on a garden timer so that it comes on and runs for a few hours in the middle of the day. The easiest thing would be frozen 2 liter soda bottles filled with water. Always leave a few in the freezer and a few in the floor of the coup, and every morning swap the melted ones for frozen ones. Box fans can help as well.
You also want to be able to seal your coup off in the winter time. Cold doesn’t bother grown chickens much, but a combination of either cold and wet or cold and wind will chill them down in nothing flat and that is how you lose chickens in the winter time. Removable plywood walls or simply plastic sheeting works to stop the wind. During the winter, have at least the North and one adjacent wall, preferably North, East, and West blocked.
What should I keep in my “Chicken first aid kit”?
Everyone is different in how prepared they like to be on a day to day basis. I am one who likes to have all the things on hand to solve a problem as soon as it arises so that I’m not scrambling to the store for medicine when I need it. My kit consist of:
Vetericyn – topical antiseptic, topical antifungal, treats eye infections
Vitamins & Electrolytes – given any time they are stressed or are acting abnormal
Probiotics & Electrolytes – given when they are having intestinal related issues or after antibiotics
Tylan 50 – injectable antibiotic (Not labeled for chickens but commonly used on chickens)
Wazine – Liquid Wormer
Rooster Booster Anti-Pecking Lotion – use where pecking is occurring to discourage further pecking
***Please note that new regulations from the FDA under the Veterinary Feed Directive went into effect January 1st, 2017 and prevent you from obtaining any oral antibiotics labeled for chickens without a veterinarian’s prescription. There are currently no injectable antibiotics labeled for chickens over the counter. Therefore, after January 1st, 2017 if you need antibiotics for your chickens, you will have the choice of taking your chicken to the vet, or not medicating and hoping for the best, or medicating off label with antibiotics for pet birds or fish which are still be available over the counter.***