A secure nesting area is essential for protecting your hens from predators.
- During the day, hawks and birds of prey may target foraging chickens. Chickens will instinctively run for cover when they see a threat. An encounter with a predatory bird will teach them not to trust shadows or screeches overhead.
- Shut the coop door daily around sunset. Foxes and coyotes are infamous chicken killers, but raccoons, skunks, opossums, and other critters raid coops too.
- Watch out for stray dogs. Cats usually aren’t a problem. They’ll act interested in attacking, but chicken out. (Zing!)
- Get your pets used to the chicks as soon as possible. If you’re lucky, protective dogs may scare away predators.
- Make sure that your chicken run is secure. If predators are a problem, invest in taller fencing or install one or two lines of electric wire.
Procuring Your Flock
There are numerous options for finding hatching eggs, chicks, and pullets. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
- M Kay Supply does not hold Chick Days currently but using our Chick Order Form, you can purchase day-old chicks, ducks, geese, turkeys, and guinea hens from us to pick up in our stores. There are two pickup event days, one in May, and another in June.
- With so many breeds available, it’s difficult to pick just one. Some adult hens do not readily accept different sized breeds. Smaller birds will be at the bottom of the pecking order, so it’s better to choose one reliable variety, such as New Hampshire Reds, Buff Orpingtons, or red hybrids. If you are introducing new chicks to an established flock, you may want to keep them separated for a period of time. Keep the new birds visible, but separated from your current flock for a week or so.
- Some hens are in the 5-pound range while others weigh 8 to 10 pounds. Base your decision on heat and cold tolerance, noise level, size, and laying habits.
Feeding, Watering, And Caring For Your Flock
Chicks and hens require extra care when they first arrive. Feeders and water founts should be filled daily and cleaned often. Chicks require special starter feed for the first eight weeks. Depending on your location, baby chicks may need to be kept under a brooder lamp for several weeks.
Adults can forage for insects, but they also love weeds and kitchen scraps. M Kay Supply carries a variety of high quality, nutritionally balanced feeds from Blue Seal, Purina, and Nutrena for all life stages, from day-old chicks to adult egg-laying hens, to feed for ducks, geese, and turkeys.
Chickens use grit to break down their food. They also need crushed oyster shells or calcium supplements to increase the strength of their eggshells. A calcium deficiency can weaken the bones and result in injury as well as soft eggshells. Granite grit and powdered oyster shells can be added to feed or spread in separate trays.
Seasonal Tasks and Preparation
- In the late summer and early fall, chickens lose feathers. The molting process may go slowing or quickly depending on the chicken and the breed.
- Complete your fall coop maintenance and repairs before it gets too cold.
- Add fresh layers of straw and litter to the coop floor.
- Open the coop daily in the winter even if the chickens don’t want to go outdoors.
- Even with diminished production, collect eggs frequently to avoid freezing.
- Invest in a heated waterer.
- Do not over-insulate the coop or seal it too tightly.
- Clean out composted litter in the spring.
- Shade part of the run in the summer to protect your flock from the heat.
Union, P. F. (1970, January 01). How To Raise Chickens For Eggs – Tips To Get You Started. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from http://blog.parisfarmersunion.com/2015/06/