If you’ve ever ordered chicks, you might have noticed a statistic for the “survival rate” or “mortality rate” or something like that included with the description of the breed. This rate is to give us an idea of how many chicks will actually survive long enough to process. Typically people assume a 20% loss in the chickens they raise for meat, and thus make sure to order more chicks to overcome the inevitable deaths of birds that don’t reach market weight. I saw one hatchery proudly stating their chicks had a 70% survival rate. That’s 3 out of every 10 chickens dying! We need to do as much as we can to improve these odds. Continue reading “Essential tips to improve broiler chicken survival rates”
Chickens need space to move around and forage in order to provide the healthiest eggs and meat, but as we’ve learned there is a trade-off in giving these plump, docile birds unrestricted freedom: predators. For the chickens we raise for meat we have always been more careful and use fencing (for heritage breeds) and chicken tractors (for cornish x) to keep predators out. Our meat birds do not have a traditional, solid wood “coop” and thus their living space needs to be secure through the dark summer nights when those sharp toothed sly beasts lurk with large appetites. We’ve learned a few tricks along the way and since we’re about to put up a lot more fencing to keep the free range hens safe I think this is a great opportunity to review the tricks and best practices for chicken security measures. Continue reading “Fencing Tips to Keep Your Chickens Safe from Predators”
For the past year, our hens have truly ranged freely on our land. In the morning we open the door to the coop and leave the gate of the run wide open. Without much hesitation, the hens hop out of the coop and exit the run, beginning a day of adventurous scavenging and exploration. But recently, while the hens were ranging around in the woods about 50 feet from our house in the middle of the day (while we were outside!) we heard a… commotion. All but one of our hens came sprinting and panting to the house. My heart froze when I noticed a buff orpington was missing her tail feathers. I walked around in the woods for a few minutes and then I found the feathers of one of our plymouth barred rocks scattered in a few circles. Predators. Continue reading “Reflections on “Free Range””
With spring, the migratory birds return. Robins litter the garden beds and lawn, running here and there at speeds that should be impossible on such tiny legs. Their quizzical song can’t pick a melody and stick to it, yet it is still so nice. The return of these feathered friends is another indication of the onset of warm, growing weather, and we are glad to have it. Continue reading “Birds Return”
At the sounds of the eldest stirring, I roll out of bed. The chickens are already making a racket. I head to the wood stove and crush the newspaper and build the fire. I’m trying to beat my wife’s feet to the floor, but today I am going to be too slow. Continue reading “Eggs and Coffee”
It is nearly time for us to order the chicks for fryers and broilers, and I couldn’t be more excited. The meat supply in the chest freezer is dwindling and I will rest easy knowing it is on its way to being replenished. That’s right, we raise our own chickens (and if you’re local to Madison, NH, you can buy some from us, click here). I know a lot of people out there think we’re nuts, but we’re here to set you straight.
It is very important to keep your chickens entertained, because, well, bored chickens can become all out blood-thirsty maniacs. I mean it.
For chickens, the best entertainment is pecking any and everything around them, including each other. Chicken on chicken violence really isn’t pretty and needs to be managed to reduce risk of injury. And injuries can lead to death! Emotional attachments aside, if one of our hens died prematurely we’d be losing a fairly significant investment. We had to feed them for about 4-6 months before they started actually laying eggs, and 4-6 months of chicken feed isn’t cheap.
And even if a chicken doesn’t get ruthlessly murdered by its companions, all that pecking can be stressful, and a stressed out chicken isn’t a healthy chicken, and an unhealthy chicken doesn’t lay as well as a healthy chicken. Thus happy chickens = plentiful fried egg breakfasts.
So the solution is obvious, they just need something more interesting to peck than each other. Read on for some of our best ideas.