I got chickens-yeah! questions too:)

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I never thought I'd be 'into' chickens, but I looked into getting them for several reasons. One was that I go through at least 3 dozen eggs a week. Another was seeing how much my kids loved them at the Maine Countrysiders' Lobsterfest. A third reason is that my sister is newly married and they're having money problems. My new brother-in-law is a trapper and hunter who would trade doing the butchering for a share of the meat.(My sister finds this far more apealing than her present freezer full of muskrat carcasses:) Turns out, I love my chickens! I love to see the pride in the kids' faces when they catch them and the fondness they have for their chickens. Boy do the chickens take care of table scraps! They've devoured beef stew, cooked squash, egg shells, cooked eggs, cereal, fruit....even under the rabbit cages is cleaner.

I made the henhouse out of free chickenwire from the local fencing company that usually just disposes of excess fencing at the end of the season. Even the door is a panel of fencing from the same company's scraps. I had put an ad in Uncle Henry's for cheap chicken equipment, got one response, but could not afford $8 per nesting box. Instead, I stumbled upon black buckets at Penny Pincher's for 83 cents apiece. Broken broomstick and shovel handles(rough edges smoothed of course) make wonderful perches. The remnants of the cedar slabs we had gotten for free to build our roundpen for the horses were used as another kind of nesting box for variety. This is all nestled in a corner of our garage with a window for access to outside. We buy shavings by the dumptruck load for the horses, so the floor is comfy and easy to keep clean in my new henhouse. Always have hay on hand, so there's plenty of nesting material.

The chickens themselves are supposed to be freeranging egglayers, but no eggs so far(only been three days). They are fullgrown, but I'm afraid I may have been misled and they could be too old to lay eggs. They are White Rocks and supposed to lay year-round, but season may be a factor? It's not a complete loss because I figure if they don't lay, they can at least teach chicks what to forage for if I have to raise them. Does anyone know a surefire way to tell age on chickens that a greenny like me can use? How long before I give up on looking for them to lay?

Now our homestead consists of 5 horses, a pony, dog, 4 cats, 2 rabbits, and six chickens. Once we get the hang of this, I'm thinking pigs could be next. Hubby needs time to adjust-hehehe. My kids are loving it though! I am always amazed by how well kids and animals do together and am extremely grateful that I have the circumstances to give my kids the opportunity to experience life with animals. I truly appreciate the encouragement and help so generously given by Countrysiders!

Blessings, Epona

-- Epona (crystalepona2000@yahoo.com), December 05, 2001


Here are some chicken sites that you might be able to find this out. Also, go to the bottom of this page and look at the archives and read the poultry posts. Some may not pertain to your situation now but may in the future and you will remember where you saw it.

Egg production goes down as the days are shorter. In the winter (where are you) there just aren't the same number of bugs to eat so their protein intake goes down. You may want to supplement with some dog food or hog feed (fairly inexpensive from the feed store) and see if you get some eggs.

Do they have all their feathers or do they look kind of naked? Chickens have a natural moult where they don't produce any eggs--you may want to read up on that.

Also, chickens get skittish when moved and may need a little time to adjust.

The way to find out if they are laying is to check the size of their vent . I haven't done it, but someone else might tell you--like humans, their legs are farther apart when giving birth--so the greater the number of fingers (I think three or four) that you can measure between their legs will tell you who is laying.

Of course your's aren't laying so this won't tell you anything now, only when you start getting eggs and you want to know who is earning their keep.

Are they cooped up at all? Is it possible they are laying them where you aren't finding them?

http://www.poultryconnection.com/links/Housing/ http://www.feathersite.com/ http://www.webusers.warwick.net/~u1015576/page7.html http://www.farminfo.org/livestock/chickens.htm http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/livestocksystems/DI1191.html http://www.poplaracre.com/SSCaringForChicks.html http://members3.boardhost.com/shilala/?985044304 http://shilala.homestead.com/sitemap.html http://www.coops4u.com/photos.html http://www.geocities.com/brbeagles/chickentractor.html http://www.surrey.ac.uk/~cus1fb/fowl/Ailments.html

So excited for you. Yes, chickens are certainly fun! Enjoy!

-- Ann Markson (tngreenacres@hotmail.com), December 05, 2001.

A chicken will start laying at 4-6 months of age. When they start laying their combs will become soft, full and red; also you will be able to put 2 fingers across the vent and between the hip bones. This time of year in most areas you will need to add a couple of hours oflight to keep them laying: 14 hours of daylight is best. I have one pet four year old hen that still lays-though she is getting pretty erratic-so the age of the birds is probably not an issue!

-- Terri (hooperterri@prodigy.net), December 05, 2001.

Good for you! What fun! As Ann indicated do check with the experts. Post your question on The Poultry Connection, Leghorn Forum and you'll be in touch with lots of very nice people who will be happy to help you. Re the chicken wire you should know that the stuff is only good for keeping poultry IN, it will not keep anything else OUT and that means any predators that love chicken dinners! Also, I notice that most of my layers do lay their eggs before 9AM in the morning so I don't let them out of their overnight, secure pen and house until after that time. I feed them only in the evenings so they not only forage well during the day but come in to go to bed willingly. YOu will need to feed them a "layer" ration also. I don't provide extra "daylight" for them with lightbulbs so I get just seasonal eggs. Check your chickens for lice and mites, you may have to dust them. That's the reason I keep ducks and not chickens. Don't like the parasite thing or the idea of feeding medicated feeds. Have fun. LQ

-- Little Quacker (carouselxing@juno.com), December 05, 2001.

Looks as if you're getting lots of good info, but I'll add another great site: backyardchickens.com. Much helpful info on the site, as well as more "chicken people" to answer your questions. Chickens and kids are certainly a great mix. My grandaughter loves to come over and collect eggs, especially from Sally, our little cochin hen, whose eggs are just the right size to accompany her "mickey mouse pancakes". Sally is still laying regularly, which is about 5 days a week. When my grandaughter doesn't find an egg, she announces that it's Sally's day off. As I live in So. Cal. I find that my hens continue to lay during the winter (maybe slow down a bit), but the weather is probably a factor. We also have a pair of khaki campbell ducks. We got our first egg yesterday! They share living quarters (first floor of a two story chicken chalet)and get along well with the chickens. The drake has come to the cochin's rescue when she was threatened. Good luck with your chickens. Add some ducks!

-- JoAnne (gosenbj@msn.com), December 05, 2001.

Wow, Lil Quacker:

Your is just the opposite of my situation:NONE of our hens lays BEFORE 9. They like to lay in the afternoon! Go Figure!

-- Ann Markson (tngreenacres@hotmail.com), December 05, 2001.

Thanks for all the hints!

Ann,Thanks for the sites, I'll check them out. I'm in Maine, so the days are suddenly very short, but where they're kept in the garage, the light is usually on until 8pm because we spend alot of time in there with the rabbits and various toys. They do have all their feathers, though one seems to be missing a few on it's neck. They don't seem to peck at eachother, so that one may be older. They are cooped up: in their pen at night and in the garage during the day so we can establish a routine and keep an eye on them. They are not free ranging here yet. We do have plenty of dogfood on hand, so I'll keep that in mind. Little Quacker; I had gone through the archives and knew chicken wire alone would not keep preditors out, that's why their coop is in the garge where there's a cement floor(no predators can dig under) and no holes in the walls or anything to sneak through. My kids would be heartbroken if anything got at them or the rabbits. I do have a powder in case of mites or fleas because I had bought a horse two years ago that had them from the chickens where she came from, but they look clean so far.

Thanks again all!

-- Epona (crystalepona2000@yahoo.com), December 05, 2001.

Epona, after three years of age, White Rocks, like all the heavy breeds, really drop in their egg production, down to 2 or 3 per week ( or less, depending on the individual), and that's with 14 hours of daylight per day and optimum protein requirements met. But they will lay like that until they die of old age, which can be anywhere from 10 to 15 years. And the eggs get huge, beyond jumbos where they won't fit in an egg carton!

Unfortunately, they almost always learn to be voracious egg eaters too, no way to check for that before you purchase them! And it's hard to catch them in the act to determine which ones are doing it.

I learned my lesson, and now only keep birds for two years, I was wasting too much feed on low production chickens, and my egg customers were having to buy elsewhere!

-- Annie Miller in SE OH (annie@1st.net), December 05, 2001.

Epona, when I worked at the petting zoo, we would get in old layers every year to fill our poultry house. It would usually take a week or so for them to start laying after a move. It's that stress of the move thing! Right now I'm only getting an egg a day from my six because of the short daylight hours and I'm south of you. With the lights on in your garage, that should help. (I put in a couple of solar sidewalk lights this year which I recharge outside during the day. This is the first year I've had eggs this late, so they must be doing some good although they aren't very bright.) In the past, without any added light, I didn't get eggs from late November until mid January. Even if they have been laying, they may quit until the days start getting longer just due to the stress of the move and the stress of it being winter. At worst, they should start laying again by mid-January. If they have lice, you can do a do-it-yourself duster for them by putting in a dishpan of fine sand with the lice powder mixed in. They will dustbathe in it and self-medicate! I usually tell age comparatively, so that could be difficult.

When you decide to get pigs, let me know. A friend of mine in Auburn raises them and often has piglets for sale.

-- Sheryl in ME (radams@sacoriver.net), December 05, 2001.

Annie-thanks for sharing your two year 'rule' and experience in egg eating. It wouldn't do much good to have them eating the eggs!

Sheryl-thanks for your experience as well. Solar sidewalk lights sound like a good idea. I'm glad to hear they seem to be working! I had already told the kids it would be a few days, but every day they ask, so now I can tell them it could be a week or two and they will give me break, LOL. Good hint on how to get them treated for lice, hopefully I won't have to, but I'll keep that in mind for sure. When I do shop for piglets, it's nice to know I'll someone I trust to refer me to a seller, thank you!

-- Epona (crystalepona2000@yahoo.com), December 06, 2001.

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