April 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm #254925
Apologies in advance for the long-winded post! I hope you can bear with my rambling…
We are in the process of trying to set up a permaculture backyard, and part of that has been to introduce some chickens. Last weekend, we purchased two week-old 3/4 Australorp Xs (we really wanted purebreeds, but none available at the moment, unfortunately), which have settled in nicely to their little pen. We are currently feeding them the starter crumble their breeder was giving them – it’s not organic, and it does contain coccidostat. I have also been giving them a few greens – broccoli and cauliflower shoots from the vegie patch, and some worms and crickets from the garden.
Yesterday, we picked up two more adult chickens from my OH’s work colleague who didn’t want them any more. Both are rescue layers – either Isa Browns or Hyline…again, not the breeds we wanted, but it was more for mutual convenience, and the chickens are really docile and already safe with dogs and kids (both of which we have).
Anyway, they were being fed on generic layers crumble, and bread. I have already started adding greens to their breakfast, and some porridge oats. They are in a separate pen to the babies, and we will work on introducing them to each other when the babies are old enough. The large run planned for all of them is incomplete, so they are currently locked in their coop, which I feel bad about, but they do have a little scratching room, and we are offering lots of greens for them to peck at. They have already given us two lovely warm eggs, so they seem to have settled in peacefully, despite the dogs peering in at them.
We have ordered some organic feed for both age groups of chickens.
I guess my questions would now be:
– Do I make sure their respective food bowls always contain food? (Whoever coined the expression “eat like a pig” obviously never saw how much chickens eat…) The adults guts down their large bowl very quickly, then sort of stand around looking bemused.
– Should I dose the adults with one medicated dose of wormer, then continue them on an organic, monthly chilli and garlic-based worming mash? They have never been wormed. Or should I start off how I mean to proceed?
– Do I need to worm the babies at all?
– Can you overfeed chickens?
– With the babies, I have been handling them (picking them up for a few seconds and talking to them) probably twice a day. Is this okay? We really want them to be docile and safe around our 21 month old daughter.
Thanks so much for any help or advice. 🙂April 30, 2011 at 8:45 pm #495331
Welcome to the wonderful world of chicken ownership. You’ll never look back!
– Most of us do keep a full feeder. However at night this can encourage rats so if you want to be extra careful you can put the food away at night. Realistically most don’t (I usually do). If you like you can feed a smaller amount twice a day instead (people who feed mash only feed enough for each bird to fill its crop in the morning, and then again at night, i.e. two cropsful). Hope that all makes sense. By the way the ‘crop’ is a sort of bag just inside the chest toward the bird’s right… This fills up about the size of a tennis ball in an adult hen.
– Your worming plan sounds great.
– You shouldn’t need to worm the babies, and in fact it would probably be a little harsh on their digestive systems, so best to wait until they’re around 4 months of age. Even then you might prefer to look for signs of worms before reaching for the wormer…
– You can’t really overfeed chickens in general, but you can overfeed them something they love which might not be very good in large quantities. For instance some chickens will pig out on sunflower seeds and get fat… Too much fatty food is also bad, as is too much salt. Scraps can be poor quality feed and some say don’t feed more than about 5% of the diet in scraps, but I have to say our household scraps are pretty nutritious, so I ignore that rule… However if your main scraps are potato peels and carrot ends they may not be adding much.
One more thing, it’s quite a good idea when you get time to look up what foods may be toxic to chickens. Things like brassicas (broccoli and cauliflower) are okay in small doses but actually not the best chicken feed if fed raw (high levels of mild plant toxins) while avocado is also a no-no. But heck, my birds have been at the rhubarb plant many times so some of the ‘toxic plants’ rules are a little bendy…
Hope this wasn’t too much info in one bolus, enjoy your chookens!!
Forgot to answer your chick handling question — go for it! The only nasty birds I’ve ever seen have been genetically nasty, not as a result of being tamed… Though sometimes very small kids can be a bit unnerved when over-friendly hens try to peck their toes (toes look just like grubs!).May 1, 2011 at 12:12 am #495332
I agree with chooken – you’ll never look back. I can’t imagine life without chooks any more, and I’ve had chooks now for 16 years.
Your worming thing sounds good, and I wouldn’t worm the chicks either. Leaving food down all the time really depends on how much space they have to roam around in. Mine have a big area so I don’t leave food down at all except for an hour or two before dark, otherwise I get mice or rats. I feed mine grain in the morning and scraps, plus greens from the vegie patch. The rest of the day they’re free ranging and grubbing for insects. In the evening I give them a bran and pollard mash, and in winter I either add mixed spice or curry powder to the mash, and this seems to keep them warm overnight, and they keep laying almost all year. In summer I give them mash earlier and put ice cubes in to keep them cool.
Scraps can be really good feed, but it depends what you give them. Like chooken mine got into the rhubarb and ate the supposedly toxic leaves with no ill effects at all. I give mine just about anything, but apart from spinach/silver beet/parsley/sweet corn/some lettuce (not too much – gives them diarrhoea), and such, I cook most of the vegetables, but I do toss in a few brassica leaves and there seems to be no harm done. They won’t eat anything in the onion family.
As for your dog and children, the chooks are in more danger than the others. Keep the dog on a leash at first and let the children hold the chicks so they all get used to each other. I would hold them for more than a few seconds, and make it a game if the chooks peck at the kids’ feet. I have kids in with my chooks regularly, and they just love it! It’s also good for them to learn where food comes from.
Have fun with your chooks!May 1, 2011 at 12:23 am #495333
I agree wih all that chooken has said 🙂 Excellent advice.
The only thing I would add is to include monthly doses of garlic and apple cider vinegar to their water, alternatively.
Approx 1 clove per chook and a dash of ACV in the water will add additional minerals and supplementsto their diet, and help to keep worms at bay.
Take away all access to plain water at this time, to ensure that they drink it all.
Enjoy your chooky journey, they are a lot of fun 🙂
.. and welcome to ALS 🙂May 1, 2011 at 2:59 am #495334
I put crushed garlic into their bran mash, and they love this so eat it all up.
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