Oct 05

Introducing New Chickens to Your Existing Flock

Little yellow chicksAdding new chickens your flock of birds can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Every flock will have a period of adjustment, but with thoughtful planning, fighting can be kept to a minimum (in most cases). The goal is to have a happy, well-adjusted flock in the end, (with no blood shed or lost life). It is possible! First of all, it’s important to understand ‘chicken psychology’. If you understand how your birds tick, it will help you work with their natural inclinations instead of against them.

Pecking Order

The term ‘pecking order’ isn’t just a cliche’. It doesn’t take watching chickens for too long to see that there is a very distinct ‘animal hierarchy’ that is established in the flock. If you have new chicks this establishment will happen as a normal course of their growth and development.

The pecking order determines who is the top chicken, who is at the bottom and where all the other chickens fit in between. Once this order is determined, it rarely changes as the lower chickens are generally too scared to challenge a chicken higher than them. This pecking order keeps the peace in the flock. It establishes who gets to eat first, who gets to sleep where, whose hens are whose (in the case of a rooster), etc.

Territory

The 2nd issue to understand about chickens is the idea that this is ‘their turf’. They’ve established a (fairly) peaceable kingdom and each member of the flock knows their place. Letting new chickens invade their space feels just like that–an invasion.

New Girl in the Flock

The best thing, of course, it to get all your chicks at one time and raise them together. But, there are times when adding new chickens to your flock is impossible to avoid. There are untimely deaths, old age, or a number of other factors that might make you consider buying a few new chickens. If you decide to take the leap and add more chickens, keeping in mind the pecking order and the ownership issues your chickens have over their home will help you in understanding their behavior.

Work in Pairs

When introducing new chickens to the flock, it’s much easier on all concerned if you are adding at LEAST 2 new chickens to the mix. And even better if the new chickens already know each other and are ‘friends’. This does two things: first, it keeps the new chicken from being completely isolated (she’ll have a friend), and second, there will be more than one chicken that is the brunt of the ‘bullying’ so it kind of spreads out the picking.

Pick on Someone Your Own Size!

Chickens LOVE to pick on the smaller, the weaker. They don’t play fair. So, if you’re planning on bringing new chickens into the flock, try to get them similar in either age or size, to help minimize the uneven fight. For example, if you have 5 full grown hens and decide you want to get 2 new baby chicks–stop now! Don’t throw those babies in with the other hens if you want to keep them alive.

A better way to do it would be to get MORE new chicks than old hens and OVERWHELM the new flock with the younger birds–but don’t add the younger ones until they’re big enough to stand a chance at a fight.

(An exception to this is when a mother hen raises babies herself. SHE is their defense. And just like ANY good mother, she’ll instinctively fight to the end for her children.)

Ease Them In

One of the best ways to introduce new chickens to your flock is to do it slowly. If at all possible, place your new chickens NEAR your old chickens, but not WITH them. For example, when I introduced 2 new chicks to my flock, I placed them in an upside down crate inside the hen house. My chickens could see and interact with the new girls, but they were blocked from being aggressive because they couldn’t quite get to them.

All the chickens could observe each other from a close, but guarded, distance. And it seemed, also, that the crate in the middle of the chicken coop caused more curiosity not the feeling that their turf was being invadedProper Introduction

In the meantime, stage some introduction ‘play date’ times for your flock. If you have a run, or yard, bring your old chickens out to meet the new ones, but stay nearby to break up any particularly brutal fighting (you don’t want to break it all up, as there is the re-establishing of the pecking order that will naturally occur, but you also don’t want a bloodied pulp or dead chicken on your hands.)

Plan these meet and greet sessions a couple times a day, after the first day (where they’ve already had time to get to know each other with a barrier of some sort between them), and every day that you have them separated from each other.

Other Odds and Ends

People report many tricks to help ease the transition of adding new chickens. Here are some of the ideas they report:

1. Add the new chickens at night (in the dark) after your flock has gone to sleep. When they wake up in the morning they’ll be less aware of new chickens on the premises.

2. Place both the old and the new in an entirely different location. This throws the old chickens off balance (they’re not defending their own stomping grounds) and they are less defensive.

3. Take some old chickens out as you add new ones–this disrupts the pecking order. This is how I added some new chickens–I found out I had a rooster (even with sexed chicks you have a slight chance of getting a rooster instead of a hen), so I found a farmer who would take “Lizzy” and I swapped him with 2 new hens. This threw the pecking order off a bit and helped ease the new girls into the flock.

4. Treats and distractions. I’ve heard of someone who would hang a treat (like a head lettuce) in the chicken coop–just above the reach of the chickens–and that distraction helped introduce the new chickens easier. Others who have said that feeding the chickens treats at the same time as the introductions also helps some.

Prepare for Jockeying for Position

Even in the best handled situations, there will be some fighting. That’s just how it works. New chickens means a new pecking order needs to be established. And in the process, the top chickens will need to show themselves strong.

Pay attention to the process enough to make sure the chickens are not being hurt too badly. If a chicken is picked on enough that blood is drawn, remove the chicken from the flock before it gets pecked to death. After a week or so the whole transition and positioning should work itself out and you will (hopefully) be back to a fairly peaceful, happy flock.

Kerrie Hubbard lives in Portland, Oregon with 10 chickens, 1 cat and several small raised bed gardens. Her website, City Girl Chickens ( http://www.citygirlchickens.com ) is an urban guide to raising chickens in your backyard or other small spaces.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com

Oct 05

Ten Benefits of Raising Chickens in the City

Chicken in gardenCity dwelling chickens are all the rage! As more and more cities are adopting chicken-friendly zoning laws, more and more city folks are opting to raise chickens of their own. There are plenty of reasons to consider raising chickens in urban locations. Here are some of them:

  1. Chickens are low-maintenance pets. You don’t have to take them out for daily walks and buy them toys and teach them tricks. They’re content with food, water, and adequate shelter (approximately 4 square feet per chicken) to avoid cramped conditions.
  2. Chickens are cheap pets (no pun intended). The only real major expense in having chickens is building (or buying) a chicken coop. Otherwise, their food (which is less than $15 for 50 lbs) and basic care is minimal. Even chicks are inexpensive-you can buy them for between $2-5 each.
  3. You’ll get lots of fresh eggs. You can generally expect an egg a day from most chickens (although this number varies depending on the breed, health and other conditions of your chicken). These eggs are healthier for you and look and taste better too. What other pet will pay for their room and board like this?
  4. Chickens give you free fertilizer. If you own chickens of your own, there will never be a reason to buy chicken manure again! You’ll have a fresh supply. Add the manure to your compost bin or use a deep litter method in your hen house and let the chickens compost it for you.
  5. You’ll be raising natural bug killers. They love bugs and worms and other crawly things and are more than happy to eat them out of the yard for you.
  6. Chickens are more entertaining than going to the comedy club. Chicken watching is a wonderful, free pastime. I’m convinced that hanging out with chickens reduces stress. (At least it’s worked with my family-even calming the most hyperactive children!) Since laughter is good medicine and being happy helps you live longer, you could even argue that having chickens will help you grow old…but not before you’re time!
  7. Chickens are generally gentle, sweet animals-especially if they get plenty of handling when they’re small. Our chickens come when called and will sit quietly with children for over an hour at a time. A friend told me of their son who would bike around the neighborhood with his pet chicken riding on the handlebars.
  8. Chickens don’t get too big. They don’t take up a huge amount of space and they don’t consume a huge amount of food. They’re a perfect fit for most urban backyards (and way more economical than many other pets).
  9. You don’t have to be an expert to have chickens. With a little basic information, you can learn as you go. It’s easy to get started and easy to keep going.
  10. Content chickens don’t make a ton of noise. Yes, they like to talk to each other. And yes, they like to squawk to congratulate each other when they lay an egg. But generally they shouldn’t make so much noise that they annoy you or the neighbors (unless you happen to have a rooster in the bunch-then beware!)

Before you invest in a chicken raising adventure in the city, check your local ordinances (and HOA’s) to make sure they’re legal where you live. Most cities have rules as to the number of chickens you can have (and most won’t allow roosters). There also might be rules as to where the chicken coop needs to be located (the number of feet away from the neighbors or from the front property line, etc.) Finding out the details before you get started will save time in the long run.

If you find out that you live in an area where chickens are allowed, why not get a few and try out urban chicken farming? The benefits of raising chickens far outweigh the cost and hassle of having them. And who knows? They might even help you live longer!

Kerrie Hubbard lives in Portland, Oregon with 10 chickens, 1 cat and several small raised bed gardens. Her website, City Girl Chickens ( http://www.citygirlchickens.com ) is an urban guide to raising chickens in your backyard or other small spaces.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com

Oct 04

How to Keep Your Chicken Waterer From Freezing

Chickens in WinterChickens, as a rule, are pretty winter hardy animals. They can withstand some pretty cold temperatures (they’re covered with feathers, after all) if they have a sheltered, draft-free place to live. One of the biggest concerns for your backyard flock is keeping their water fresh and unfrozen in the cold winter months.

To keep your chicken waterer from freezing, it helps to have an insulated, draft-free chicken coop in which to put the waterer. Many people also use a light bulb or timed heat lamp to add warmth to the inside of the coop. However, in really cold weather, those measures aren’t enough to keep the water from freezing.

One simple solution to frozen water is to use a heated dog bowl. This is an especially useful solution for the small backyard chicken farmer. It’s also a very affordable option, as many heated pet bowls are around $20 or so.

Another solution is to use a light bulb fountain heater. Essentially, this is a base with a lightbulb inside, and a platform that fits over the top. Your chicken waterer sits on top of the platform and the heat from the lightbulb keeps the water from freezing. In order to use this option, you need a metal waterer. This solution would run you around $50-70, but would allow you to water more chickens at one time, if you have a larger flock.

A third solution is to install a heater and thermostat in your chicken coop. Set it at 35 degrees. If the weather dips below 35, the heat will turn on, keeping your coop (and therefore your chicken waterer) above freezing.

If none of these ideas appeal to you, you can always do it the old-fashioned way and haul warm water out to your chicken coop several times a day, thaw out the chicken waterer and re-fill it with warm water. If that sounds like a crazy solution, just remember that you have it easier than your ancestors who would first have to build a fire and heat the water before hauling it out to the coop!

Regardless of the system you choose, remember that it’s important to keep your chickens hydrated, even in the cold weather. Making sure they have fresh water will help your chickens stay healthy and, possibly, even laying eggs in the winter.

 

Kerrie Hubbard lives in Portland, Oregon with 10 chickens, 1 cat and several small raised bed gardens. Her website, City Girl Farming ( http://www.citygirlfarming.com ) is an urban guide to raising and growing your own food in small spaces.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com

Oct 04

How to Determine How Much Space Your Chickens Need in Their Coop

Urban Chicken Coop

To determine how much space you’ll need for your chickens is a matter of very simple mathematics. The more chickens you have, the more space you’ll need. A simple rule of thumb, when figuring your space requirements is to use this basic formula:

1 chicken + 4 square feet of chicken coop space + 4 square feet of chicken run space = 1 happy chicken.

Just change the number of chickens in the formula to come up with the total square footage you’ll need for your specific flock. For example, if you’re going to get three chickens, you’ll need 12 square feet of coop space and 12 square feet in the fenced in run. In other words, building a chicken coop that’s 4 foot by 3 foot, and a run the same size, would be adequate for your small flock of three.

Keep in mind that these numbers are minimums. The bigger space you can give your flock, the better.

In addition to space requirements, your chickens will also need nest boxes. The number of boxes you’ll need, again, varies with the size of your flock. For a flock of three, as in our example, one nest box is adequate. They don’t mind sharing. (As a matter of fact, my 10 hens all seem to have one favorite box. Almost half my flock lays their eggs in that one box while many of the other next boxes consistently stay unused.) A good rule of thumb with nest boxes is that 3 to 5 chickens can share one box, but again, more boxes doesn’t hurt.

Finally, your chickens will need roost space. This is a horizontal pole at least a couple feet off the ground where your chickens can sleep at night. Make sure you have enough roost space for all your chickens to be up on a roost. Sleeping off the ground makes your chickens feel safe. Elbowing each other for space on the roost will only cause fighting.

Chickens are pretty easy animals to keep. It really doesn’t take a whole lot to keep your backyard flock happy. Giving chickens the space they need will keep them is a great start to keeping a healthy, happy, peaceful flock of chickens.

Kerrie Hubbard lives in Portland, Oregon with 10 chickens, 1 cat and several small raised bed gardens. Her website, City Girl Chickens ( http://www.citygirlchickens.com ) is an urban guide to raising chickens in your backyard or other small spaces.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com