Raising the Home Flock
Bedding & Litter
Pine shavings are generally the easiest on the chicks. Shavings should cover the area to a depth of 2-3 inches.
Housing for your poultry need not be expensive, but it’s important to provide protection from moisture, drafts and extreme weather. It also must give the birds protection from other animals. Housing must have proper ventilation so that the birds get sufficient fresh air but without drafts. Plans for coops can be found in books that we carry at Western Farm Center or on the Internet.
An adequate number of nests with clean, dry bedding are important for laying hens. Nests should be at least 1 foot by 1 foot for individual nests. There should be 1 foot of nest for every 4 birds if using community nests. Community nests can be any size. Clean, dry shavings or straw can be used for bedding. It should be changed often so eggs stay clean.
Life cycles in nature are regulated by light. Changing day lengths determine when wild birds migrate, lay eggs and molt. Domestic birds respond in much the same way. A planned lighting program can be beneficial depending on your expectations. Continuous light maximizes growth for meat birds but can be harmful to egg production. Too much light, too soon can cause birds to lay before they are ready resulting in higher than normal death rates. Growing pullets and laying hens should not have 24 hour light. Pullets can be left on natural light until they are ready to lay, In a heavy production environment they should receive 15-17 hours of light to maintain year round laying. This does have the effect of shortening the chickens overall length of productive laying though (2 years of nonstop laying under artificial timed light or 3-4 years of normal laying under natural light is about the norm)
Feeding Layer Hens
Our store carries a variety of poultry feeds to provide for your flocks varying needs. For hens during laying season we recommend you use one of our laying blends, which completely provides for your hens nutritional needs. Scratch, cracked corn, and table veggie scraps (no head lettuce) are great sources of carbohydrates that can be used as a treat and can enhance the flavor of the eggs. But adding too much can reduce the amount of protein being ingested and decrease egg production. During the winter when egg production slows or even stops, you can increase the amount of these carbs to help keep the birds warm.
Oyster shell is also available to further augment the amount of needed calcium for layers. ** Please note, an average laying hen will eat approximately 1/4 pound of feed per day.
Baby birds are susceptible to diseases carried by older birds. If possible, do not mix birds of different ages. If you bring in new birds isolate them for a few weeks before placing them with your flock. Ideally within view of the flock so they can socialize but not come in contact with each other.
Roosts are not essential but can be given to birds. Meat birds should not be given roosts as it can cause breast blisters or injure the bird as they get bigger. For laying hens 6 to 8 inches of roost space is ideal. Roosts or perches should be made of 2 by 2 stock and rounded to prevent injuries.
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