This week we will be discussing a few tips, tricks, and ideas for general upkeep of your chickens. First of all, some people wondered about a feeding schedule for feathered friends. From personal experience, I have found leaving food and water out 24/7 is the way to go. Chickens will only eat what they need and tend to graze all day. Making sure there is adequate food, water, and warmth will help your chicks develop into healthy egg laying chickens.
Another question was about using a smaller pen or coop for chicks until they are ready for the big coop. Some people use brooder houses for baby chicks because they are easier to keep warm with less vents and wire and are a more solid construction designed to hold heat better. I have used them, as well as various assortments of card board boxes, crates lined with cardboard, and playpens made of metal and wood. Anything that protects against a cutting wind and has a way to keep a heat lamp attached safely within reach is great. The perks of a brooder house include easy warmth and shelter, protection from wind (as opposed to chicken wire, which doesn’t block wind), and it is safer and healthier for the baby chicks. As they grow the best way to know they are ready for the big box is to monitor their response to heat. The more they try to avoid the heat and you keep moving it farther away to decrease heat, the closer they are ready for the big box. It can take anywhere from 3-7 weeks depending on the breed of chicken as well as the individual chicken itself. Once you have upgraded your birds to the big coop, I would recommend leaving the heat lamp on one side of the coop because the birds will not be used to the draft and will benefit from its warmth.
Next, when will your chickens begin laying eggs? This varies by breed and time of year, but the average ranges from about 4 to 6 months. Bigger chickens such as the Plymouth will tend to be a little longer at 6-7 months; smaller birds, such as the Star, may be a little less, towards the 4-5 month range. Cold and long dark days can affect a chicken’s laying and they will tend to lay more during the warm and summer months. If you get an early Summer chick, it may not begin to lay until the following Spring, as it will mature during late Fall or Winter. A few side notes about the first eggs of a layer, the first few eggs tend to be small in size and may not have a complete shell, they may be soft to the touch and that is completely normal for the first few eggs.
Finally, what do I do if one of my chicks is a rooster? Do you need a rooster in your flock? The answer is no if you don’t want any baby chickens to hatch. Hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs, they only need roosters to fertilize the egg. Many chicken owners choose not to get a rooster because they can tend to be a bit aggressive. If you do wind up with a rooster do not fear, just be wary of any sitting chickens that are on eggs you haven’t collected. You can come out sometimes to find a baby chicken occasionally that you missed when it was still an egg. Our chickens were known to hide eggs on occasion and have baby chicks a few times a year. If you don’t mind the chicks, then you can allow the rooster to stay with the hens if he isn’t being aggressive or bullying other hens or roosters. If he is disturbing other chickens, then a separate coop is the best option, so that you can allow him in the main coop if you decide you want him to fertilize a few eggs for you.
But What do I do if I have a rooster?
If you wind up with a rooster that you don’t want, there is a way out! You could find someone who needs a rooster for their flock, or find someone to help you clean it and prepare it for eating. Part of knowing where our food comes from means knowing that sometimes animals die so that people can eat. It is an important life lesson and something we must all come to terms with, either as an adult or child. If you choose to eat your rooster, or to eat any of your chickens, you will know that you have done your best to give them a happy life.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions feel free to drop a comment and I’ll do my best to answer you!