Eight great questions for chicken fanciers

thinkstockphotos-450799179This comes to you while I’m on tour, spreading the love of raising chickens all across America. My current tour has me speaking in six states, including Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Illinois.

While out on the road, it came to mind to share some of the most common questions I hear while I’m on tour from people just like you. I won’t get into too much detail with my answers (we can do that in future articles), but maybe you have had some of these same questions and will now have a better idea of how to deal with them.

1. Do I need to provide grit to my chickens?

In most cases, no. In fact, I have never provided grit to any of my flocks in over 22 years. Because chickens don’t have teeth, grit helps grind up the feed in their gizzards. If your chickens are outside for any length of time, they are most likely picking up enough grit from your backyard to do the trick.

If you are feeding a processed, commercial pelleted or crumble feed, providing grit other than what they find in your backyard isn’t necessary in most cases. However, if your birds are primarily kept inside a coop, show cage, have limited time outdoors, and are fed a whole- or cracked-grain-based feed; you may want to consider providing them a grit, free-choice in a separate container.


2. Do I need to provide crushed oyster shells to my chickens?

Again, in most cases, no. I have on occasion provided crushed oyster shells to my flocks, but only when I was getting eggs with soft or weak shells. There are many reasons why the shells may be soft or weak, and lack of calcium is just one. However, providing oyster shells is a good place to start if you start getting soft or weak egg shells because it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to do. In most cases, there is already enough calcium in commercial layer feeds (both pelleted and crumble) to meet their needs.

Also, keep in mind that after providing crushed oyster shells to your flock, some of your eggs may very well improve, but you still may receive a soft or weak shelled egg on occasion. Why? Some hens may have a condition where no matter how much calcium you give them in their diet, they just can’t utilize it.

3. Can I raise different breeds of chickens together?

Yes, absolutely! However, it’s best to raise them altogether from the time they are hatched or just a few days old. For example, if you choose many different breeds out of the brooder at the farm store, they will all be raised together and for the most part get along regardless of their breed or size. Many people have great success raising large fowl and bantams together, as well as breeds as small as Seramas along with breeds as large as Jersey Giants! Again, this is provided that they are all obtained as chicks and raised together—you may not have any luck at all adding Seramas to an existing flock of Jersey Giants. That move could end up being deadly!

4. How long can I expect my chickens to live?

Until around two years ago, the oldest living chicken was 22 years old, when the chicken had to be put down due to health issues which affected its quality of life. While I never met the man that owned the chicken, he was friends with Peter Brown, aka The Chicken Doctor, who regularly guests on my web radio show. I even have a copy of the official Guinness World Records certificate. While it would be unrealistic to think your chickens will live to be 22 years of age, you can expect your chickens to easily live to between five and eight years of age. Some of you may even have chickens as old as 10 to 12 years of age.

5. How many nesting boxes do I need in my coop?

One nesting box for every three to five hens is ample. You do not need one nesting box for every hen. A few years ago, I saw a post on Facebook where a new chicken keeper had just built 25 nesting boxes in his new coop because he had just purchased 25 hens. Not only did he waste a lot of time, money, and materials, I can tell you exactly what he is experiencing: Those 25 hens are probably only using 4 or 5 of those 25 nesting boxes. In fact, I would bet that even if there are 21 open nesting boxes and 4 occupied boxes, the remaining hens are pacing back and forth, patiently waiting for 1 of the 4 occupied nesting boxes to become available to lay her egg—hens always seem to have their favorites. These are usually more secluded or in darker spots than the others that are available.

6. Will giving store-bought yogurt to my chickens improve their gut health?

No. First, chickens do not have the necessary enzymes in their gut to properly digest dairy products. Does this mean if you give your chickens some store bought yogurt they are going to fall over dead? Of course not, but too much can and will give them diarrhea. Second, there is not enough good bacteria in store-bought yogurt to benefit your chicken’s gut health.

There are, however, bad things in store-bought yogurt your chickens don’t need like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. Finally, store-bought yogurt is about $1 per cup. If you are giving your chickens one cup of yogurt per day thinking you are improving their gut health, you’re wasting $30 per month. However, you can purchase a good probiotic designed for poultry for just $20 that you can add to their drinking water that will help their gut health.

7. Do I have to heat my coop in the winter?

No. Chickens have been domesticated for about 8000 years, yet we have only had electricity in America for the last 100. That means chickens did just fine without heaters in their coops for the past 7900 of the past 8000 years. Still, you need to have an appropriate coop that stops drafts but has still provides good ventilation and air exchange, even in the winter months.

Here’s how to differentiate between drafts and good ventilation and air exchange: Walk into your coop after your chickens have gone to roost. If you see their feathers moving, that means there is a draft and you need to eliminate it as soon as possible—a cool draft while roosting overnight isn’t healthy for your flock. Alternately, you never want to make your coop air-tight because chickens generate a lot of heat, and when your coop is air-tight, humidity and moisture will build up in the coop. This moist environment is the number one cause of frostbitten combs and wattles.

8. Are pumpkin seeds a natural dewormer for chickens?

No! No! No! I could write at least four pages of information on how pumpkin seeds are not a natural dewormer for chickens. Still, it’s been my experience that it still wouldn’t change people’s minds who, for some reason, spread this false information.

There are even more questions I commonly hear while on tour, and I hope to share more of them with you in future issues. I hope you found these beneficial and are able to use this information to maintain and improve the health of your flock.


link to source content:  http://acreagelife.com/articles/quick-qa