We’ve recently learned quite a few things about raising chickens that we thought you’d like to know. Some of this was learned by experience while some of it was learned through research on various sites of the Internet. Regardless of why you’re raising your chickens, please read the following notes carefully. We hope you find some things you needed to know.
Light- Chickens, being daytime or “diurnal” creatures, enjoy their sunshine. For laying hens, most people recommend between 14 and 18 hours of light a day for maximum productivity. In times where light is scarce, we recommend a soft interior lighting, preferably on a timer. Ours is set to come on at 5 am, turn off at 9 am then, come back on at 6 pm for an hour or two.
Water- Of course, chickens need water to drink. Too many people, however, don’t realize the importance of CLEAN water. Chickens are messy birds and yet, they’re also pretty picky about what they’re drinking. If you don’t make sure to keep their water supply free of algae, dirt and crap, your production may start to diminish.
Heat- A chicken’s core temperature has a lot to do with their production of viable eggs. If they’re too cold, their energy is used to keep them warm. This, in turn, allows for less energy to create eggs. Also, if they’re not comfortable in their nesting boxes, they won’t be in their nesting boxes.
Security- Chickens like to feel cozy and secure when they do their business. If a nesting box is too drafty, too open or too cramped, they find it unsuitable for egg laying. We’ve found, with most chickens, that they prefer just enough room to fluff themselves out inside the nest. They also seem to prefer a smaller opening then you might think (roughly six or seven inches high by a foot wide).
Scratch- Bored chickens are unhappy chickens. In the wild, they spend most of their time scratching in the dirt to find edible grubs, insects, seeds, etc. Spreading grain around their common areas is a good way to keep your chickens entertained and healthy. We like to vary between oats, sunflower seeds, corn, etc. Note: Watch giving them too much corn in the summer, as this raises their body temperature quickly.
Grit- A chicken has a non-acid digestive system. Their food is stored in their craw and then slowly works its way into the gizzard (their equivalent of a stomach). The gizzard, however, needs something to break down what they eat. In the wild, they eat small pebbles, which are referred to as “grit”. In captivity, you must supply your chickens with these “pebbles”. The size of the grits is equivalent to the size of your chickens.
Calcium- If you have laying hens, this additive is essential for solid eggs. We prefer to use crumbled oyster shell for our birds. We provide it in “free choice” dishes so that they can have it when they feel they need it. Putting it in their food does not insure that they receive the appropriate amount.
Space- We prefer to let our chickens roam around of their own free will. We provide them with nesting boxes, roosts and ample space in which to be themselves. We believe that happy chickens are more productive and we give them all we can to ensure that they’re satisfied with their surroundings.