Chicken questions : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Hi everyone, I'm new to raising chickens and each day it seems a new question comes up. We bought 25 assorted chicks on a special from Murray Mcmurray 2 months ago (got 28!!). All healthy and doing great until last month a dog attact left us with 7. We will never know what many of them were and still not sure of the 7 that remain. I don't even know which of the 7 are hens. Is there a way to determine at 2 months there sex?

About the same time we got the chicks we were given a Araucanas 2 year old hen. She has become the BOSS, but they have accepted each other. She is laying a egg a day. Her eggs were light green until she and the chicks discovered the cats food. Now her eggs are brown. Could this be caused by cat chow? Is it harmful for them to be eating it? We try to keep it out of reach, but these guys are determined. They are free range except at night. Thanks for all advice and suggestions. Even though I don't post much, I have learned a great deal here. Thanks again. L.A.

-- L.A. (, August 25, 2000


if you cant tell the sex by the comb, males have large ones try looking on their legs and see if you can tell if a spur is starting to grow. go about 2 or 3 in. up from the foot and look on the leg and see if you see a bump starting. i use this and it works{most of the time}.

-- renee oneill (, August 25, 2000.

Even the very young male chicks, when fully feathered out, will have tails that stand at attention. Larger and taller tails than the females. Not foolproof, but a good indicator.

-- Peg (NW WI) (, August 25, 2000.

Hi, L.A. We also got a couple of the mixtures from M.MC this year, and even though they are 6 months old and laying like crazy, I can't identify some of the breeds! They don't look like anything in the poultry books or M.Mc's catalog. Different breeds have different combs, so the huge comb theory doesn't always prove true. The roosters start "crowing" or trying too, pretty early, about 3 or 4 months old, and same with the start of spurs. As far as the egg changing color, that is a new one on me. I did read in one of the poultry "how-to" books that each hen lays a specific color of egg, which doesn't change. My hens didn't read that book, however, as the original four that I had before this batch, laid brown eggs, but sometimes their shade of brown was lighter than other times. Go figure. Can you put the cat food into something only the cats can get into? Jan

-- Jan in Colorado (, August 26, 2000.

I've gotten chicks from Murray McMurray for years. They are an excellent source for purebred stock. Last spring my shipment came with the note "extra chicks added for warmth". There were about 20 Rhode Island Red cockerels thrown in, and the temperature the day we got them was over 80* ! We can always figure out the breeds on the questionable ones when they mature by checking the catalog or the Poultry Standard of Perfection (at your library or extension office). Hang onto your catalog! My kids exhibit poultry and eggs at our fair. Eggs from one particular hen will always look the same, and be the same shade of color. Differences will occur gradually in the shell when the diet is altered. Likewise, the color and consistency of the egg itself will change with an altered diet. Eggs laid by free range hens will have a rich, deep orange color. Pale yolks will be noted on confined hens on commercial diets. An Araucana laying a green tinted egg will always lay a green tinted egg. The green color in the shell is adominant trait, by the way. An Araucana cross will also lay a green tinted egg. Cockerels will start to develop their 'saddle feathers' about 8 wks of age or so, depending on their standard of living. These are the long, glossy feathers that drape the 'saddle' area of their back. They will also start to develop the long, glossy tail feathers. And do check for that spur. The cock-a-doodle-do is clincher. Patience! We've had two dog attacks this summer. My flock is now confined. I've raised chickens here for 30 years, and this is the first time I've ever felt the need to keep them locked up during the day. Have competed with weasels, civet cats, skunks, fox, and coyotes for years, but they are for the most part night varmits. The dogs won.

-- Lynn (, August 27, 2000.

L.A. It sounds like one of your other hens is laying the brown egg. My araucanas are notoriously unreliable; they may lay every day for 10 days and then skip a day here and there, and then get back on track. Or maybe they're hiding them in a new spot. Mine have always cleaned up after the cats' breakfast, so the cat chow is probably not the problem.

-- glynnis in KY (, August 27, 2000.

Lynn, what an excellent post. I can't think of a thing to add, and I'm loquacious! But this is a mystery, since L.A. is saying that there is only ONE laying hen present. ???

My dogs were also winning. I gave the lab to the grain farmer down the road (both are blissfully happy with the arrangement) and the little dog met his maker on the road. No more dogs for this farm! Expensive, in feed and birds, and the guineas sqwack to let us know there's company as well as the dogs did.

-- Rachel (, August 27, 2000.

25 chicks is the required number for shipment of large breed chickens to keep them warm. That hatchery will sometimes through in a few extra as a bonus if they have an excess of chicks at the time.

I can't help you on the sex of the birds, but this forum ,is solely about poultry & can answer any questions that don't get answered here.

As for the cat food, it won't hurt them. You might even consider giving them some with their feed, as it just gives them a little extra proteen. (Don't substitute it for the feed, just give as extra to the feed.) Since they free range, they get their extra proteen from the bugs they can catch (sometimes even a small mouse, mole, lizard, frog, or snake but not often). There is a person on the mentioned forum that feeds cat food, and another them made a hopper catcher for his mower (would catch & hold grasshoppers, crickets, & other bugs that got in the way of the mower) & fed them to his chickens.

I don't know what would (if at all) affect the egg shell color.

Good luck


-- animalfarms (In) (, August 28, 2000.

Hi L. A. I love to talk about chickens, If you got the speacial priced chicks they could all be males. I have gotten the speacial priced chicks before but I had to get 100 so maybe you did not get that same speacial that I did. I love to look at the cataloge I have the descriptions memerized. I had the same problem with my dog and cat food. So I wait untill the hens go to bed and then I feed the cats. This works well were I am it is over 100 every day and they dont want to eat in the heat anyway. I absolutly would not let my hens eat cat food read the label. I have an organic homestead. Cat food is not organic. cat food has lots of food coloring in it That is why your eggs changed colors. I hope this helps. I had a very horible exsperinc sat. My foster children killed 25 broilers in 10 minuts, I was horrified. Lots of work down the drain. I cant understand why. I did not deal with it very well at first I cryed for an hour. But know several days later I am doing ok. The children are way more important than the chicks. I will be more careful in the future.

Good luck Lisa

-- Lisa hopple (, August 30, 2000.

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