Answers To Every Question You Ever Had About Baby Chicks

Answers To Every Question You Ever Had About Baby Chicks

If you just got chicks for the first time, you probably have a million questions. Last year, I did a free YouTube series that answered the most common questions I get about raising baby chicks. Below, I’ve compiled all those videos into a single easy-to-use resource!

This page is easy to use. Just use the table of contents to scroll to the best spot, and watch the video that answers your specific question!

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered yet, please reach out to us at [email protected] and I’ll make a video especially for you!

Feeding Baby Chicks

Can My Chicks Eat…..

Giving Water To Chicks

Nutritional Supplements For Chicks

Brooders & Keeping Chicks Warm

Common Health Questions

When Can Chicks Go Outside With Adult Hens?

Are My Chicks Male Or Female?

How To Raise People-Friendly Chickens

Protecting Chickens From Predators

When Do Chicks Start Laying Eggs?

Where To Buy Baby Chicks

FAQ


Raising Backyard Hens For Eggs Is Easy!

Raising Backyard Hens For Eggs Is Easy!

If you’re thinking about raising chickens for the first time, you might feel a little bit intimidated by the process. You may even be asking yourself, “how do I get started raising chickens?”

Luckily, chickens are some of the easiest animals you can raise – but it’s important to learn how to do it correctly. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the most important information you need to know in order to get started. 

Why Raise Backyard Chickens?

In these uncertain times, a lot of people are concerned about food security. Raising chickens means always having a supply of fresh, organic eggs (even as the prices in the stores skyrocket). 

Chickens are easier to care for than dogs or cats. They only need:

  • A home
  • Food
  • Water
  • Protection from predators
  • Veterinary care as needed

Unlike dogs, you never need to walk them. You can also leave them alone for a couple days (with food, water, and protection from predators) if you need to leave town for a few days. Hens are quiet, and like parrots, these birds can provide companionship. They’re also a great pet for kids!

How Do I Get Started Raising Chickens?

Buy the Chickens!

Your first step in raising chickens? You’ve got to buy the chickens, of course! Don’t rush out to the feed store to purchase your chicks right away. Make sure you have a brooder set up and ready to go so that you have somewhere to put the little fluffy butts. This should include a heat lamp and plenty of food and water. 

If you plan on raising adult chickens, you can skip this step. Otherwise, keep reading – we’ll give you more information on where to buy your chickens below.

Feed

You are also going to need an ample supply of feed to give your chickens. We’ll talk more about this later in the article, but make sure you have your feeders ready to go. 

Waterers

The same rule applies to waterers. You are going to need a water for your chickens so they can stay hydrated at all times. Invest in good water because they can last for quite some time when cared for properly.

A Coop

Last but not least, you’re going to need a coop in which to house your chickens. It doesn’t have to be huge, but there are some considerations you will need to make.

Where Can I Buy Chickens?

The first thing you need to do is purchase your chickens. Decide on your breed first. If you want your chickens to be pets as well as egg producers, some friendly breeds that give lots of eggs are Australorps, Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex, Brahmas, and Cochins.

Next, start the search for your birds. Hatcheries are often chosen by beginning chicken keepers because they raise and ship chicks in a safe, humane fashion. Yes, that’s right – you can get mail-order chicks!

When you order from a hatchery, the chicks are sent at one day old and sent directly to the post office. You’ll pick them up there. You will be able to choose from a wide selection of breeds. If you;re not allowed to have roosters in your neighborhood, you have the option to purchase only hens (female chickens). 

There are hundreds of hatcheries out there, but it’s important to find one that is reputable. We use Cackle Hatchery, but other good options including Murray McMurray and Meyer Hatchery. Do your research and make sure your hatchery of choice has plenty of positive customer reviews! 

You may also want to check out local farm stores. Most people are familiar with shops like Tractor Supply, Rural King, and Orschelns. The only downside to purchasing chicks from a farm store is that you are often limited to what they have in store. That said, some stores allow you to place an order ahead of time in which you can specify how many and what breed you are interested in buying. 

A final option is to consider local breeders or even your neighbors. The internet is a glorious invention that makes it possible for us to find chicks for sale just about anywhere! Just remember to inspect your chicks carefully before you bring them home to make sure they are healthy. 

Want to learn more about where you can buy baby chicks? Here’s a helpful resource to get you started.

How Much Should I Pay for a Chicken?

In most cases, a baby chick will cost less than $4 apiece. Often, that price is quoted by hatcheries with all expenses – including shipping fees – rolled in. After all, buying chicks should not break the bank! 

Hatcheries will sometimes offer discounts if you buy in bulk – with discounts usually given for purchases of 25, 50, or 100 birds – or if you purchase unsexed chicks. 

You can also purchase adult chickens that are ready to lay. While the price of these can vary widely depending on the breed and age of the bird, try not to pay more than $10 to $20. It’s very easy for you to find yourself scammed or overcharged!

If you want to buy adult chickens, keep an eye out for free birds on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and via other Facebook groups. Again just be aware of scams and don’t be afraid to ask for health records for the birds!

What Do Chickens Eat?

Chickens are easy creatures to feed, but you will need to pay attention to what you are feeding them – especially in the early days.

Young chicks (those under the age of 16 weeks) need to be fed a chick starter ration. This contains 18% protein and all the nutrients your chicks need to be healthy. You can purchase chick starter from your local farm store. If you want it shipped directly to your home, you can purchase chick starter from our website here. 

Once your chickens get a bit older, you’ll need to provide them with alternative feed. Laying feed is fine for laying hens – it contains extra calcium – while broiler feed is best for meat birds. If you want layer feed shipped directly to your door, visit our store here

Now, chickens are some of the best backyard pets you can raise because they are incredibly versatile creatures that can be fed a wide variety of scraps and leftovers. If you want to read a full list of what chickens can and cannot eat, be sure to check out this post

frugal feeds chicken water feeder hacks

What Type of Waterers Are Best?

Having plenty of fresh, clean water at all times is just as important as having plenty of fresh feed. Although you can use basic waterers from Amazon (here’s some options), or even just a dog bowl with water for your adult chickens, you’ll need to be more careful about how you give water to young chicks. 

Chicks can easily drown in open bowls of water, and while some people simply put rocks or pebbles in the bottom of their adult chicken waterer to prevent this, accidents can still happen. Therefore, you will want to use a mason jar-style waterer, which tends to be much safer to use. Here’s a video that will walk you through everything you need to know about chicken waterers. 

What Type of Coop is Best?

You can purchase your own chicken coop on Amazon or you can build your own chicken coop. Here are some free plans to help you get started. There are all kinds of styles you can choose from, including coops that are portable and meant to be moved every day, those that are designed for small flocks, and those that are best for oversized breeds. 

Either way, remember that you will need at least six to ten feet of space per bird in your coop. You’ll need even more than that out in the run, so make sure you leave plenty of outdoor space for your birds, too. 

Also in the coop, you will need to leave room for nesting boxes and roost bars. The roost bars should be no more than a few feet off the ground and positioned away from the nesting boxes. 

You can purchase a coop for as little as $200 on Amazon. But remember that any structure can serve as shelter, as long as it’s dry, draft-free, and provides protection from predators. So, if you have a garden shed or even an old play house that’s no longer used by your kids, you have the start of a great coop!

How Much Room Do Chickens Need?

Experts recommend 10 square feet of space per chicken. So, if you have 3 hens, then your coop should be 30 square feet. Your flock will also need a fenced-in run so they can get sunshine and exercise! If you can’t build a run, don’t worry. While it’s not ideal (due to predators), you can allow your chickens to run around your yard part of the day to stretch their wings.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I keep my chickens safe from predators?

There are all kinds of creatures that like munching on chickens! From raccoons to coyotes, weasels to foxes, your chickens need to be protected from these threats. The easiest way to do this is to build a strong, secure chicken coop that can withstand any threat. Make sure it has no openings or gaps through which a predator can sneak and lock your chickens in each and every night.

You can find more tips on how to make your chicken coop predator-safe here

What temperature is best for baby chicks?

As with all baby animals, young chicks are extremely susceptible to temperature fluctuations when they are first born. Baby chicks need to be kept in a warm place until they have all their feathers. 

The brooder should be at least 95-100 degrees for the first two weeks of their lives, and then reduced five degrees each week until the chicks reach four weeks old.

Not sure if your chicks are too warm or too cold? Here’s a video that will tell you quick ways you can figure it out. 

What kind of nesting boxes do I need?

You can build your own nesting boxes or you can purchase some prebuilt ones from the farm store or Amazon. Whichever you choose, make sure you have at least one nesting box for every four chickens. You’ll Want to fill it with fresh, clean bedding and check it at least once a day to keep it from becoming overrun with eggs.

Here are some more tips on what to look for and consider when researching nesting boxes. 

When do chickens start laying eggs?

Wondering when all of your hard work is going to pay off – and your chickens are going to start laying eggs? If you’ve purchased layers, they should begin laying eggs right away. 

You can learn more about when chickens start laying eggs by watching this video, but as a general rule of thumb, baby chicks start laying when they’re six months old. Some breeds, like White Leghorns, Sex Links, and Australorps start laying as early as sixteen weeks old, but others can take up to eight months to start laying.

How often do chickens lay eggs? 

Most hens lay four to five eggs each week, but some breeds (like Production Reds) lay more and some less (such as Mille Fleurs). You can encourage better laying patterns by feeding a high-quality feed. Check out this article for more information!

Final Thoughts

Getting started with backyard chickens is very easy – and chickens are simple to care for! As long as they have shelter, food, water, protection from predators, and appropriate veterinary care, they’ll do great! If you do decide to dive right in, we have all the resources you need on this website! If you’re not sure, and have a million questions, then reach out to us at [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer them!

Preserving Bananas Is Easy With These 9 Genius Ideas

Is there anything better than a nice, ripe banana? I don’t think so!

But if you live where I live – in one of the colder areas of the world to say the least, and one where bananas definitely do not grow in the wild – you need to get creative when it comes to storing those tasty fruits past their normal period of ripeness. 

Even if you’re lucky enough to grow bananas on your own property, you may feel overwhelmed with an inundation of the fruits come harvest time. 

Interested in preserving your own bananas at home? Here are several ways to do it so that you can continue to enjoy these tasty, nutritious fruits long past their harvest. 

How to Store Fresh Bananas Properly

There are several studies out there arguing whether bananas ripen quicker together or separately – and although the difference is subtle, the truth of the matter is that bananas left attached in an original bunch tend to ripen more slowly. 

Therefore, you should avoid separating your fresh bananas whenever possible. This will help them last a bit longer without requiring you to do anything else! You should, however, always store your bananas at room temperature – there’s no need to refrigerate them.

Hanging the fruit is another good rule of thumb.t his will allow air to circulate around the fruit and will prevent bruises from developing as the fruits essentially crush each other. 

If you can’t hang your bananas once you bring them inside, at least wrap the ends of the stems in plastic. This will release the escape of ethylene gas – something that you must do because as the fruits release more gas, they will ripen more quickly.

You can store your fresh bananas with other fruits if you don’t plan on preserving them, but remember that storing bananas with ripened fruit will hasten their ripening while storing them will unripened fruit will slow it down.

Store in the Refrigerator 

You should try to avoid storing unripened bananas in the refrigerator. Not only will it slow down the ripening process, but it can impact their final flavor and texture. 

However, if your fruits have ripened and you aren’t quite ready to eat them – yet don’t have time to try one of these other methods of preserving bananas – then you should put them in a plastic bag that can be sealed and stored in the refrigerator. This will give you at least one more week before the bananas need to be eaten up. 

Wrap in Plastic 

We already mentioned the benefits of wrapping the stems of your bananas in plastic, but did you know plastic wrap is another great method of preserving bananas all on its own?

If you have a leftover piece of a banana or even a whole banana whose stem and peel is no longer intact, consider covering the open pieces with plastic wrap. You may want to store it in the refrigerator, as it will get mushy and attract fruit flies otherwise. You can use the peel in your garden.

Store Slices

Have some banana slices to store? Don’t worry! You can either flash freeze them (which we’ll detail below) or you can cover the slices in a bit of lemon juice, vinegar, or pineapple. When stored in the refrigerator this way, the lemon juice or other additives will help prevent browning and keep them fresher for longer.

If you store your bananas in some kind of acid, remember that you don’t necessarily need to saturate the banana. This will make your banana taste sour. Instead, provide the fruits with a light coating-  usually, a gentle brushing is all you need. 

If you find that the acid flavor is still overwhelming strong, keep in mind that you can use sweeter – yet still highly acidic – alternatives such as apple juice or pineapple juice. You can also simply soak the bananas in a water solution that is made with crushed vitamin C tablets.

Make Banana Leather

Who doesn’t love those roll-up fruit leathers that we feed to little kids all the time? You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the taste of fruity banana goodness! All you need is a dehydrator. 

To make your own banana leather, you will need to process your bananas into a puree. You can elect to combine them with other ingredients, like Nutella, strawberries, or cinnamon if you so choose. Once you’ve pureed the mixture, you will roll out the blend on the trays for your food dehydrator (layered in parchment paper to reduce mess and cleanup, if you’d like). 

Once in the dehydrator, it will take about three or four hours until your leathers are complete. They will then last for several months without any refrigeration or special storage.

Flash Freezing 

Freezing is a great method of preserving bananas. Not only will it free up space on your kitchen counter, but there’s nothing more delicious than a frozen banana in the dog days of summer. 

Always freeze bananas with the peels removed. It is very difficult – if not impossible! – to peel bananas when they are frozen, and doing so after they have thawed can be even more challenging. 

You can throw them whole into a freezer-safe container, or you can flash freeze them first. To flash freeze, peel the bananas and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer for twelve hours, then remove the bananas and place them in a bag. This way, they won’t stick together. 

Once placed into a freezer-safe bag, your frozen bananas will stay good for up to one to three months. They can be eaten frozen or consumed in dishes like smoothies, banana bread, and other recipes. 

Use a Solar Oven 

If you’re lucky enough to have a solar oven, here’s a great way to preserve your bananas (you can build your own with this article). It can take some time to dehydrate bananas using the solar oven, but really all you have to do is slice the bananas into slices before putting them inside. Then, you’ll have an unlimited number of banana slices to last you long into the future months!

Dehydrate Them

Don’t have a solar oven? No problem. If you read our article about preserving apples, you might know that dehydrating fruit is a great option. You can easily dehydrate bananas using a regular oven or a home dehydrator, too. 

Dehydrating bananas is a great way of preserving them because they can be stored for up to a year and don’t take up any freezer space. Plus, dehydrated bananas taste great as a snack while hiking, mixed into trail mix, or even just eaten by themselves while you’re relaxing on the couch at home! 

Whether you dehydrate your bananas in a kitchen dehydrator or do this in the oven, make sure you slice your bananas evenly. This will help you make sure they can all be done at the same time. It’s not a bad idea to put a bit of lemon juice on the banana slices first, too, as this can prevent browning. 

If you use a dehydrator, you will need to process them for about six hours. They will be crisp and crunchy by the time they are done. 

If you choose to do this in your oven, you should preheat your oven to 225 and lay your banana slices on a baking sheet layered in parchment paper. Try not to let them touch. You will bake the slices for three years, turning them every thirty minutes so that they cook evenly. 

When they are done being dehydrated, there will be no moisture left. You can store them in an airtight container.

Bake Your Bananas

When all else fails, don’t worry – there are still plenty of methods of preserving bananas in recipes, too! From banana bread to banana muffins, there are all kinds of options out there for you to use up these tasty (albeit expiring) treats.

Canned Bananas

Canning bananas is not recommended for safety reasons (bananas produce a puree-like consistency that is generally regarded as unsafe for home canning). However, that’s not to say that you can’t include bananas in your favorite canner-approved banana recipes! Some of the best include banana jam and banana chutney. You can learn more about canning fruit in this article.

Try a Variety of Methods of Preserving Bananas at Home

Depending on your taste, space, and time preferences and availability, you may find that you don’t love all of these methods of preserving bananas equally. A banana that has been frozen will taste quite different from one that has been dehydrated!

As a result, you should experiment with the many methods to find the ones that you like best. Bananas are not only inexpensive to buy or grow, but they’re also good for you. You shouldn’t have to worry about how you are going to store them if you find yourself lucky enough to have a ton at home – these methods are all great options for you to try!

9 Ideas To Feed A Flock So Every Chicken Gets Food

9 Ideas To Feed A Flock So Every Chicken Gets Food

A chicken’s gotta eat, right? Especially if they’re layers. They must have the calcium required to put the shells on their eggs. The trick is making sure that every bird in your coop is getting exactly what they need. How can that be done? 

In this article, you’ll discover some ways you can make sure each and every one of your chickens eats enough so they’re healthy. Here’s our best tips to help ensure that each chicken is filling their belly!

How Much Food Do Chickens Need?

For reference, one adult hen or rooster eats roughly 1/4 pound of feed per day. This amounts to about 1.5 pounds per week. For hens, you’ll want to provide a high-quality layer feed (this is the feed we use). It should be a complete feed, meaning it has the right amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals so your chickens stay strong. For pullets (female chickens that aren’t laying eggs yet), you should feed a 16% grower feed or you can continue feeding their 18% protein chick starter feed (this is the chick starter we feed because it has herbs).

For layers, it’s also very important to provide a calcium supplement. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “laying birds require 3.5%–6% calcium because of the nutritional demand for laying eggs (a typical egg requires ~2 g of calcium).” You can easily provide extra calcium with oyster shells, or even eggshells. 

Keep track of how much your chickens are eating. If you go to check on them, and there’s significantly less feed being eaten by the flock, it could indicate a problem. You can learn more about feed here.

Signs Your Hens Aren’t Eating Enough

Some obvious signs your chickens aren’t eating enough include:

  • Low weight/Easy to feel bones
  • Pronounced keel bone
  • Reduced egg production
  • Abnormal eggs
  • Disheveled feathers
  • Depressed personality
  • Keeping eyes closed

Low weight/Easy to feel bones

If you’ve noticed your hens have lost weight – maybe you pick them up, and they feel lighter, or you suddenly notice you can feel their thigh bones through their skin – it’s possible they aren’t eating enough. 

You might wonder how much your chicken should weigh. Truthfully, it depends on the breed. For example, Mille Fleurs weigh about 2-3 pounds, while Jersey Giants can weigh 10 pounds. In this article, you’ll discover the average weight for most chicken breeds. You can print it out and keep it handy. It’s always a good idea to keep records of how much your chickens weigh (to make it easy, we’ve created these downloadable sheets). Assuming they’re in good health, weighing your chickens monthly should be enough (if they’ve been sick, and you’re trying to get weight back on them, then you might opt to weigh them weekly.)

Pronounced keel bone

I personally use the keel bone (also called the breast bone) to keep an eye on my flock. If I pick up a hen and notice her keel bone is pronounced, she goes on a high fat/high protein diet (for example, black soldier fly larvae) until her weight is ideal. 

The keel bone is a good indicator of whether your poultry are underweight. Image is an illustration of a turkey skeleton.

How should the keel bone feel? Like there’s some padding on each side of it. You should still feel the bone itself, but it shouldn’t feel like there’s a dramatic dip on either side. If my hen “just feels bony” in that area, I get concerned. It’s a quick and easy test to check if your flock is getting enough calories. 

This is also an easy test regardless of breed. Every chicken, whether they’re a tiny Serama bantam or a huge Brahma, should have some substantial muscle on each side of their keel bone. 

Reduced egg production

Sure, this is something that comes with age. And for some chicken breeds, this happens as days get shorter. But if you can’t identify any other reason why your hens might have stopped laying (you can learn about all the reasons here), then she might not be getting enough calories. 

Imagine going to collect eggs from your hens on a beautiful summer day, only to find that one of them hasn’t produced anything. If it is a one-time occurrence, that’s not a huge problem. It’s something to watch, certainly. But not the end of the world. If she doesn’t lay over several days, on the other hand…you might want to bump up their feed. This is especially true if most or all of your hens stop laying.

A quick and simple fix is to offer layer feed around the clock. If you want, you can also add high protein & high fat treats.

Abnormal eggs

If your hens are laying, but the eggs are abnormally shaped, such as wrinkled or soft shelled, or if your established laying hen lays “fairy eggs,” this could be a sign that your chickens aren’t getting the necessary nutrients. (Fairy eggs are common for brand new layers to produce, but your adult layer shouldn’t be popping them out consistently). 

It takes a lot of energy to produce an egg. If your hen doesn’t get calories from her feed or from free ranging, she runs a higher risk of laying eggs with shells that aren’t smooth. It’s time to increase her feed. You can learn more about what different weird-looking eggs mean in this in depth article.

Feather damage 

Feathers are durable and tough, but damage to them is often the first indication of something that might be wrong (as long as it’s not molting season). Picking at feathers, or even out-of-season molting, could be a sign that your birds’ diets are not ideal. Additionally, if your hen has a disheveled appearance, for example if her feathers are broken or ruffled, she might be lacking important nutrients. 

Don’t confuse this with molting (although you should definitely provide a feather supplement during a molt). Chickens who lose their feathers and then regrow them can definitely look disheveled. However, this is expected, and occurs in the fall/winter. If your hen has an unkempt appearance at other times of the year, her diet might be the reason.

Depressed personality/Keeping eyes closed

Sometimes our hens seem “off.” They’re usually bright and cheerful. But if you enter their coop, and they just seem depressed and low energy, you might have a problem on your hands. Similarly, unless she’s trying to take a nap, your chicken should be interested in her environment. But if your chicken keeps her eyes closed – even after you rouse her – she might be sick. You’ll have to rule out illness first. If the vet clears her, then try increasing how much feed you offer, especially if you feel her keel bone (using the test above). It’s possible she doesn’t feel well because she’s hungry!

How Can I Help Every Chicken In My Flock Get Food?

Observation

This is kind of a bizarre tip. But it is nonetheless important. In fact, it’s pretty critical! Before you can figure out how to help chickens who aren’t eating enough, you need to know why they’re not eating enough! So, watch your chickens for a few hours. Figure out their social structures, and diagnose the problem that’s preventing some hens from eating. If you notice there’s some flock members who aren’t able to get to their dinner, you can troubleshoot ways to ensure that everyone is fed. 

For example, if you notice a very bossy hen keeps your little bantams from the feeder, you can add more feeders (more on this below).

Or, maybe you think you’re providing enough feed, but really aren’t. Maybe they run out after 10 minutes, and there’s nothing left for the weaker flock members.  But you won’t know unless you observe.

You’ll also get a better understanding of the eating habits of your birds. Pay attention to the amounts of feed that you’re putting into their feeders, or distributing on the ground, and you’ll get a sense of the amounts being eaten – or worse – not being eaten. 

I’ve found that observation is very important in my own coop. For example, my bantam Cochin hens love staying up in the loft in their coop. They don’t really like coming down. We used to have a lot of roosters in the coop. Staying above the crowd was safer! 

Now that there;s fewer roosters, they still prefer to stay above the fray at mealtimes. They just don’t like being overwhelmed. However, they don’t always eat as much as their flock mates. So, I take extra care to put a bowl of feed where THEY can access it. 

Similarly, my frizzle bantams are lower on the pecking order. They can’t really fly, and will crowd into a corner at mealtime. Having multiple feeders – and strategically placing them – keeps them full all the time. But if I hadn’t watched how each individual chicken acts at mealtimes, I would never know!

Only Keep As Many Chickens As You Can Reasonably Care For

This seems like an obvious thing, but chicken math is a real issue. If you suddenly end up with 100 chickens, you’ll probably have a hard time keeping an eye on all of them. Little problems can creep in and become big problems. For example, if you have a large flock, you probably have a pretty well-established pecking order. Your alpha chickens eat first, and the more passive hens eat last. It’s also possible your bossy brood won’t allow the weaker flock members to eat at all. Yes, it happens!

Only raise as many chickens as you can reasonably keep an eye on. This goes double if you’re a busy person who doesn’t spend a ton of time at home! You must monitor their health, and do a physical check regularly.

Money is another concern. The more chickens you have, the more money it costs to feed them. If you’re on a budget, just get a few hens. You’ll have an easier time making sure everyone gets enough to eat. Nothing is worse than stressing about how to pay for a ton of chicken feed every week! In our area, if we had to purchase a ton (literally 2,000 pounds) of feed, it would cost $200-$300 each week. And that’s from a grain mill (which typically charge a lot less), not a farm store like Tractor Supply. 

Hand Feeding

Hand feeding is a fantastic way to make sure that your birds are eating, especially if you have a friendly flock. By being in control of the dispensation of grains, pellets, and goodies, you can manage exactly which chickens get what. It’s also a great way to bond with your flock! Some treat options are layer feed, black soldier fly larvae, or other treats

Hand feeding chickens is an easy way to give them extra calories. It’s also an easy chore for kids, and a great way to teach your children about raising chickens.

The biggest drawback to this method of feeding is time. Hand feeding is incredibly time-consuming, especially when we’re talking about large flocks of hundreds of chickens. This idea is probably best with small flocks of 3-5 chickens. 

Multiple Feeders

Having multiple feeders is critical if you have a larger flock OR if you have bullies in your coop. I personally install 2 feeders for every 6 chickens. You can hang the feeders or simply use a bowl (we use a LOT of bowls because they’re easy to clean). For wall feeders, I personally like Duncan’s feeders because they’re durable and hold a lot of feed. I also use large dog bowls, rubber livestock bowls, and feeders that hang from the ceiling. If you’re interested, you can check out our complete list of recommended feeders. 

Look out for chickens who feel overly possessive and decide that the feed trough is theirs. These chickens will peck away any other birds (ducks included). In this case, a long trough or multiple dishes can certainly make it a challenge for the possessive chicken to peck everyone away.

I just distribute their layer feed among each bowl (this is the layer feed we use).

It’s also important to include some feeders that can be accessed from all sides. For example, if you use feeders that hang on the wall, your hens will only be able to eat on one side. But if you also have feeders that hang from the ceiling, your layers have multiple opportunities to eat their grain. It’s also harder for bossy chickens to chase away flock mates, because they’ll probably be too busy eating their own meal.

Trough style feeders make it easy to feed multiple chickens. Flock members can access the feed from both sides.

Hanging feeders off the ground also makes it difficult for chickens to kick dirt or mud into their food (feed that drops from the container, on the other hand, are fair game for dirtying).

If that doesn’t work for your flock, you can opt for long troughs. They’re easily accessible from front and back, which ensure that each hen has enough time with the feed.  You will probably have to clean them more often, but you’ll sleep better at night.

Even one-at-a-time feeders can promote even distribution of feed to all in the flock. Many are automatic or contain a pressure trigger that opens when a chicken steps on it. Over the course of a whole day, this ensures that feed is available to all. Whichever strategy you choose, it’s important to ensure an even dispersal of feed to all. The best feeders are those that can satisfy the needs of many birds at the same time. 

Not sure how to add multiple feeders to a smaller coop? One way to manage limited space is by going up, rather than out. If you create a triple (or quadruple) floored loft for your birds, you could set up feeding stations on each level. The chickens might develop a favorite feeding place, and refilling their feeders might required some creativity, but overall, this would be a very creative use of space. 

Scatter Their Feed On The Ground

Owners who want their chickens to have the full free-ranging experience can opt to distribute their birds’ feed right into the earth of the pen. This encourages the hens to root, peck, and scratch, all of which are very good for them. By spreading the distribution of feed all throughout the penned area, no single chicken can get all the goodies. Setting the flock loose in an exhausted garden can also accomplish this goal. Your chickens will tear up weeds, till the ground, and feast on any remaining produce. Chickens make for amazing gardeners – it couldn’t hurt to use them for a task they were built for!

One of the biggest drawbacks to this method is that can be quite messy, and your chickens might eat something gross. Chickens poop a lot, and if all of their food is on the ground, some of it is bound to get pooped on. Then, in addition to healthy bits, your layers will also get some unhealthy bits as well. Another drawback is bad weather. Not every backyard can be in lovely sunny 60 to 70 degree climates every day. Most yards will experience rain, possibly some snow, and both extreme heat and cold. All of this can create challenges. 

Separate Chickens Depending On Age & Need

Chickens need different feeds depending on their ages and purposes (for example, chicks vs. 12-weekers vs. 2-year-olds, broilers vs. layers). If you feed your chicks along with your layers, it’s likely your birds will get the wrong food. It’s simplest to keep adults and chicks separated. 

It will keep them eating the right food. Just ask any physical trainer, and they’ll tell you that what you eat is just as important as how you exercise. It is exactly the same for your chickens. It also reduces the numbers in your flock at mealtime. Smaller numbers mean more food for each individual. It ensures every bird has greater access to the feed that you’re giving them. 

Similarly, if you have some bossy hens who are overweight, and some very passive hens that are more scrawny, you might want to keep them separated at meal time. You can be sure each chicken gets exactly what they require to be healthy.

Not everyone has the space to separate their chickens depending on age. Luckily, we’ve provided an article on what to do in such a situation. The secret is balance. Ask “what’s the best feed for all the chickens in my flock?” You’ll probably decide on a 16% grower feed, as this is a decent balance between chick needs and adult needs. The hens will need a calcium supplement (which can be supplied separately), but at least everyone gets enough food. 

Variety

Just giving all of your birds chicken feed from a store can keep them eating, but it might grow old for them. Yes, this is really a thing! Imagine eating corn every day, in and out. You’d probably get bored too! 

By providing small amounts of treats, you’ll distribute all sorts of goodies and entertainment. You can try hand feeding their treats, and the variety will keep them engaged and happy. It also shows your love to them, and can satisfy certain needs that otherwise might be ignored in store-bought feed. Plus, it is just plain fun interacting with your birds this way!

Final Thoughts

While this article is designed to be preventative, rather than reactionary, a wise chicken keeper knows that their flock will need constant supervision. Chickens are incredibly social animals. Each one has their own personality, and sometimes their personalities get in the way of what is best for the flock, even in spite of your best efforts to keep them all healthy and hearty. Hopefully, it will never get to a point where your birds are visibly suffering, but in case it does get to that point, at least you’ve got these tips to help redistribute your feed to all.

Choose The Right Nesting Herbs For Your Flock With This Simple Guide

Choose The Right Nesting Herbs For Your Flock With This Simple Guide

Do you want to add nesting herbs to your flock’s daily routine? Not sure which ones are best for your hens? Not sure what your flock really needs? In this article, you’ll discover the simplest way to figure out which nesting herb blend is best for your hens!

We’ll also cover how different herbs can provide different kinds of support, and why it’s so important to choose the right nesting herb blend.

What’s The Point Of Nesting Herbs?

You’re looking at all these herbs for chickens on Amazon, and they’re all starting to look the same. You’re not even sure what you need! Herbs can provide a lot of all-natural support and help you establish a healthy flock. They can also create a home for your hens that’s inviting and promotes egg laying, without using any synthetic or chemical scents. 

There’s a few different ways to use herbs:

  • As a feed additive
  • In your flock’s water
  • Mix with bedding
  • Add to nesting boxes

For example, you can mix herbs with your flock’s feed to improve digestion, improve the flavor of their feed, support immune systems, and/or add environmental interest. If you mix herbs into your flock’s nesting box or bedding, you can provide respiratory support, make the coop less attractive to flying insects, repel mites, and/or improve air quality. You can even use herbs topically by mixing into dust baths or by sprinkling them directly on your flock.

Why Most Flock Owners Use Nesting Herbs

If you’re new to chickens, or just looking to up your game, you might wonder why other flock owners use herbs in their coops, nesting boxes, and feed. There’s got to be some advantage if everyone’s doing it, right? After asking my readers, everyone I talk to has one or more of these 5 common reasons:

  • #1 A great smelling & inviting coop
  • #2 Healthier & better smelling nesting boxes
  • #3 Support egg production
  • #4 Pest control
  • #5 Respiratory support

Interestingly enough, these are also some of the biggest concerns that plague owners. Who doesn’t want a clean, great smelling home for their pets? Who doesn’t want great eggs with strong, unbroken shells? Who doesn’t want their hens to lay in nesting boxes? 

There’s a lot of different ways to arrive at this goal. My personal goal is to raise a healthy flock using as many natural solutions as possible. In my experience, herbs are some of the least expensive and most effective ways out there to raise a naturally healthy coop (especially compared to replacing flock members or visits to the vet). 

In our own coop, we started adding herbs to nesting boxes a few years ago. The hens seem happier and enjoy the herbs as treats. I like that the hens lay their eggs right in the nesting boxes (as opposed to the ground, where they can easily get broken and eaten). During days when they can’t go outside, the herbs keep them entertained for part of the day.

For example, this year, we’ve had a LOT of rain. Since chickens hate wet weather, they stay inside. This can quickly turn happy hens into bored hens who pick on each other and/or eat their eggs out of boredom. So, we regularly add herbs to relax the hens and provide environmental interest. It keeps them entertained and engaged, rather than indulging in unhealthy and negative behaviors.

With herbs, you can sweeten the smell of nesting boxes, repel flying insects during the summer, provide a healthy breathing environment, and more. (Just remember that herbs aren’t a magical panacea – you must keep your coop clean, and refresh your bedding weekly, and perform other good animal husbandry practices). 

We’ll dive into each of these reasons below. We’ll also cover which herbs or herb blends work for each specific reason.

First, Beware Of Nesting Herb Blends That Won’t Work

What’s not commonly understood is that herbs have specific traditional uses. Humans have sorted it out over centuries, and now there’s even studies to show how useful herbs are. Because people now know so much about herbs, we also are aware that an herbal combination can work against you.

For the best results with nesting herbs, it’s crucial to buy your flock’s nesting herbs from a safe source and to verify the herbs in the bottle are the real deal. 

Skip the grocery store because their herbs can sit around warehouses for YEARS. You can’t really know where they came from OR if they’re 100% pure. The herbs could easily be treated with chemicals (supposedly) safe for humans, but not meant for chickens to eat. 

Many times, companies will combine lesser quality herbs, or even a different species of plants. One example is cinnamon. Most cinnamon sold isn’t actually cinnamon. It’s cassia bark or a completely different herb called Chinese Cinnamon. Similar, but definitely NOT cinnamon. Cassia bark and Chinese Cinnamon don’t have the same benefits for repelling pests. 

So, make sure your herbs are USA sourced, all natural, and never synthetic or treated with any chemicals. We use these nesting herbs in our coop because we want to use all USA sourced botanicals. We want to make sure experts are consulted before a company develops a product.

Now, let’s talk about how to choose the right nesting herbs for your flock. The information below will make it very simple for you to decide on the perfect nesting herbs for your hens, and avoid blends that work against you.

What Kind Of Environment Do You Want To Create For Your Hens?

Some nesting box herbs you see on Amazon or Facebook aren’t created for a specific purpose. Usually, the herbs in these products are chosen because they’re popular and sound good. These products aren’t created by  backyard chicken experts working with herbalists or veterinarians. They’re created by anonymous companies who want to capitalize on the backyard chicken craze. 

These blends don’t have much use. You can tell because the manufacturers make many claims for a single product, such as “controls worms AND helps relax AND improves your flock’s immune system, AND controls mites” etc. 

These claims sound good. If you read between the lines, however, you’ll discover the true meaning: “We don’t know what we’re talking about, so we’ll just say what you want to hear.”

On the other hand, some nesting herb blends are created for a specific use. You can buy a blend for:

  • Pest control (such as mites)
  • Intestinal worm control
  • Supporting egg laying
  • Creating a relaxing environment
  • Adding environmental interest and joy to your coop, or
  • Immune support 

To make your decision easy, ask yourself: What do you want your new nesting herb blend to do? 

  • Do you want to support egg laying? 
  • What about controlling mites and lice? 
  • Offer respiratory support?

Figuring this out will help you decide on the perfect blend for your flock. It’ll also help you determine whether those herbs will work for you OR against you. You’ll end up with more bang for your buck, and a much less frustrating experience.

To make this point more clear, let’s look at some common situations we all need to troubleshoot in our own coops.

You Want To Support Egg Production

Supporting egg production is really, really important. It’s a very easy way to make sure your hens are as healthy as possible. If your:

  • Pullets just started laying
  • Hens return to laying after winter or a molt
  • Flock stopped laying for some unknown reason
  • Flock is super healthy already, and you just want a little extra support
  • Want to treat them to a fancy, sweet smelling nesting box 

then it’s especially important to provide something extra to help your chickens. When they just start laying, pullets (and even grown layers) don’t always make enough calcium to produce a strong eggshell. Why is this?

Creating eggs takes a lot of nutrients and energy out of your hens. She must draw the calcium from somewhere to craft her eggshells. It also takes a lot of nutrients! Luckily, providing support is easy. You can:

  • Provide oyster shells for extra calcium
  • Increase the protein in your flock’s diet
  • Add herbs to their nesting boxes for extra nutrients & to create a nice-smelling nesting area

Let’s look at the options above.

Oyster Shells

When your chicken eats oyster shells, it provides extra minerals to help her create healthy eggs. Readers frequently email me to ask why their hen laid a wrinkled, lopsided, or soft shell egg. It’s probably because the hen wasn’t getting enough essential minerals! Oyster shells are mainly made of calcium, and when your hen eats them, she can use the calcium to produce strong shells. 

Soft-shelled eggs like this can happen because your hen doesn’t eat enough calcium.

You can offer oyster shells free choice, in an herbal blend (like our blend Best Eggs Ever!), or mix with your flock’s daily feed.

Herbs To Support Egg Production

If you’re reading this article, however, you probably know about all oyster shells. And you’re probably also interested in using herbs in your coop. Luckily, you can also support your layer with herbs! Dried flowers such as:

  • calendula
  • rose
  • lavender, and
  • chamomile

can create an attractive nesting box. This is especially important if your hens aren’t using their boxes, and laying their eggs in the coop, or worse, in the dirt. (We talk more about why hens stop using nesting boxes in this article). 

It’s best to mix herbs together before adding them to the nesting box. Although a single herb will have some benefit, such as a great smell, when blended together, they’ll provide even more support.

For example:

  • Beta carotenes in calendula support nice, golden yolks. 
  • Calendula, lavender, and rose petals are soothing
  • Garlic, basil, and rosemary support healthy oviduct functions. 

While you can use any of these herbs individually, you’ll get better results if they’re blended together to provide a symphony of support (we’ve blended them together in our product, Best Eggs Ever! to make it easy.). The herbs mentioned above smell great, and have been used for centuries for these specific purposes.

You Want Your Hens To Relax And Use Their Nesting Boxes

Healthy eggs start with happy hens. If a layer is scared, stressed, or unhappy, she’ll likely stop laying eggs. For example, if a predator got into your coop, your flock might be scared. They might stop laying altogether, or simply refuse to use their boxes. They don’t feel safe!

Similarly, if your boxes are smelly, you might notice your hens prefer to lay on the ground, or worse, in a random place on your lawn. (Hello Easter egg hunt!)

 They don’t feel safe in their boxes.

How We Help Hens Who Refuse To Use Nesting Boxes

Whenever one of our chickens stops laying or refuses to use her nesting box, we first thoroughly clean the nesting area, then add herbs to their boxes. The sweet smells and bright colors get their attention, and attract our hens to their nesting boxes. 

Whenever this happens, you might consider adding herbs to attract your hens to their nesting boxes. Herbs that help your hen relax are a perfect choice.  You’ll want an herbal blend that smells great, and is irresistible to our feathered friends. 

Not every herb will do! You’ll want herbs traditionally used to create a relaxing environment. Fragrant flowers like:

  • Calendula
  • Chamomile (traditionally used to relax) 
  • Lavender (also traditionally used to relax)
  • Rose petals (great scent) 

are all great options.

Flowers or Petals?

You can use the whole flower or just the petals. Either is fine! For lavender and chamomile, I use the whole flower since they’re so small. I also use the entire calendula flower because the petals are very light, and blow away easily. The chickens can still pluck the petals off the flower.

Rose petals are a bit heavier and bulkier, so using the petals is easiest (in my option). While the whole flower is very pretty, it’s harder for chickens to pick at. The petals also look like spots of red among the other herbs, which is visually attractive to chickens. In my experience, hens are more likely to interact with rose petals versus the whole flower.

Other herbs traditionally used for relaxing include basil, rosemary (also great for purifying surfaces and the air), and clove. 

It goes without saying that it can be difficult to grow all these herbs and flowers year round. Some aren’t friendly for every gardening zone, while others take a long time to establish so you’ll have enough. You might need acres of available land to make enough of each herb. This is where nesting herb blends come in.

We use Best Eggs Ever! whenever our hens need some extra support or seem stressed. It’s easy to just add it to the bedding in our nesting boxes. It has all the herbs mentioned above.

You Need Pest Control

Will herbs stop mites from biting your chickens?

Let’s say mites are a problem in your coop. This is bad! Mites can make your chickens uncomfortable and unhealthy.

How do you know if your chickens have mites?

  • Sometimes you see them crawling on your chickens
  • There’s usually feather loss (around the vent, especially)
  • You see mite poop on your chickens. It looks like grey dirt caked onto the base of feathers (where feathers grow out of their skin)
  • Your chicken’s skin look red, dry, and irritated
  • The scales on legs are flaking off or look very bumpy (not smooth)

If you see one or more of these symptoms, you might have mites! You should take your pet to the veterinarian:

  • If you’re not sure IF they have mires OR
  • If you’re not sure what to do about it.

If you want to handle it yourself, you have some options to try:

  • A pharmaceutical solution (it’s best to speak to your vet for specific recommendations)
  • Vaseline on the legs (will be harder to implement on the rest of the body, but is good for scaly leg mites)
  • Apply diatomaceous earth or put it into their dust bathing area (good for legs and rest of body)
  • Use herbs (mix with feed, put in nesting areas, use topically, and/or sprinkle  in dust bathing areas)

Personally, I use a mixture of diatomaceous earth and herbs. Both are easy to get, and easy to apply. I use them topically, in the nesting boxes, and in the dust bath area (our blend, MitesBGone makes it really easy).

Let’s talk more about the herbs you can use.

Which herbs are good for pest control?

You want to make your hen house a healthy, fun place for your flock to hang out. You want to give nesting herbs a try. Well, you’ll need a blend that includes herbs specifically chosen to help you transform your coop.

Not all herbs are created equal, and different herbs have different uses. In this situation, calendula isn’t going to cut it. Neither will roses. Borage won’t either. 

This is why it’s SO important to not spend your hard earned dollars on a blend that’s for a variety of complaints. For example, some blends on Amazon claim they “control worms AND help relax AND improve your flock’s immune system, AND control mites” etc. I personally stay away from these nesting herbs. Like I said, herbs aren’t a panacea. It’s best to choose a blend for your specific need.

Mitesbgone nesting herbs
Adding MitesBGone to nesting boxes or dust bathing areas makes it easy to raise a healthy flock

Getting back to pest control. If you want clean, healthy nesting boxes for your layers, then you should use a nesting box blend with herbs traditionally used for to control pests on the body, and to repel them in the environment. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has endorsed several herbs as safe for pest control:

  • Garlic (great for flies & mites)
  • Rosemary (great for mites)
  • Cinnamon (great for mites, ants, & flying insects)
  • Spearmint (great for mites)
  • Citronella (great for mites & flying insects)

This shouldn’t be any new information. These herbs have been traditionally used for centuries to promote a clean body and environment! The EPA is just catching up to old time, traditional knowledge. We’ve used these herbs in our coop for a long time, and they’re fantastic. 

In fact, it’s how we developed one of our products, MitesBGone! Mites don’t like these herbs! 

But before you rush to add herbs to your boxes, it’s important to remember that when the herbs in a blend are randomly chosen because they’re popular, you might not get the same results. In addition, if you look at the list above, no one herb works for every bothersome insect. 

But blended together, you can provide a clean environment for your hens. If you want to check out MitesBGone, click here for more information.

You Want Respiratory Support

We’ve all been there. The weather is questionable, your flock wants to stay inside, and YOU want to keep your flock in the best shape possible. We all know how important air quality is – ESPECIALLY during days when the weather isn’t super supportive. 

You need a blend that includes botanicals traditionally used to support a healthy breathing. 

Again, not all herbs are made equal. Some herbs can actually reduce healthy respiratory functions, or contain very small particles that can lead to lots of sneezing. 

Experts have written volumes about the best herbs to support breathing AND which herbs prevent healthy breathing. So, you choose a nesting blend that includes ONLY these herbs.

For example, I wanted to create a nesting herb blend that would support our own flock, especially during very rainy weather, winter weather, and very HOT weather (when ammonia can creep up in the coop).

I wanted to ensure my layers had only the best herbs. I consulted the experts! We wanted to make sure 100% that there’s nothing in our coop that can lead to poor respiratory support. 

We dove deep into exploring and discovering the herbs that have been used for centuries. 

We ended up choosing specific herbs for my flock that would help cleanse the air and support healthy breathing. Eventually, this mixture became our coop blend, BreatheRight, because they’re the herbs the experts recommend. 

For example, we discovered that we can support our flock with:

  • Spearmint
  • Mullein
  • Turmeric
  • Eucalyptus

These herbs have been used for centuries, across many different cultures, to support a well-ventilated and clean environment. If you inhale any mix with these herbs, you’ll know why! All these herbs work together – not against each other OR our goal of a healthy living space.

We incorporate BreatheRight Coop Herbs into our flock’s nesting box during times when we want our chickens to have extra support. You can also mix them directly into your coop bedding. Just sprinkle ½ cup in each corner, and mix to combine. 

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it! Hopefully, this article makes it easier for you to figure out which nesting herbs are best for your flock. Think about what you want nesting herbs to do for your flock, and make sure those herbs (and only those herbs) are included in the blend. It’s easy to find “any old nesting box herbs,” but it’s very important to discover a product for the specific problem you want to solve. If you;d like to learn more about any of the herb blends we mentioned in this article, just click here.