Old School Poultry Keeping

Welcome to the Prepper Forum / Survivalist Forum.

If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.

Old School Poultry Keeping

This is a discussion on Old School Poultry Keeping within the Livestock forums, part of the Survival Food Procurement category; My oldest recently got his first flock of chickens from a friend of his and I was amazed (dumbfounded?) at their lack of knowledge or ...

Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 27
Like Tree28Likes

Thread: Old School Poultry Keeping

  1. #1
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    290

    Old School Poultry Keeping

    My oldest recently got his first flock of chickens from a friend of his and I was amazed (dumbfounded?) at their lack of knowledge or understanding of chickens real needs vs what humans think they need. In my 10+ years of keeping chickens, I've run across many people that have birds, but don't really have the first clue about them.

    1. NO, chickens don't need to wear clothes, scarves, hats or other such adornments

    2. NO, they don't need to be in the house by the heater vent when the temps dip below 50

    3. Unless you live at the Artic Circle or Antarctica, they usually don't need supplemental heat. Depending on the size of the coop vs number of birds and may depend on the breed, but generally chickens are fairly hardy and moreso in the winter than the heat of summer......when they do need shade and plenty of fresh water. Heat can do them in faster than cold. Using the deep litter method in the coop (only change it once or twice a year), feeding corn (creates body fat/heat), more birds/less coop space (they only need about 1 to 2 square ft per bird especially for sleeping at night) makes body heat, fatten them up during the fall to withstand the winter.

    4. No, you don't need a rooster unless you want to raise replacement chicks. Hens will lay eggs with or without a rooster. His contribution is fertility. Though be forewarned that in some hen only flocks, it is possible that one or more may try to take over the rooster role.....she may still lay eggs, but will also try to crow and maybe even try to mate with the other hens. If you put a rooster into such a flock, things will probably settle down.

    5. How to tell a hen from a rooster????? Some hybrid breeds are sexed at hatch by coloring differences that indicate sex. It's not always 100% accurate, but usually better than standard breeds. If you raise chicks, it can take up to 4 or 5 months to figure it out though there are some usual indicators to look for. Size---males are usually a bit bigger than females, Combs (that reddish thing on the top of the head to the beak) and wattles (those reddish things dangling under the chin) are usually more pronounced on males and males legs may be longer than females. Although these differences aren't usually noticeable right away.....and even then, you might be surprised at who starts crowing and who is laying.
    A. Pullets (females less than a year old) don't start laying eggs until about 4-6 months old and Cockerels (males less than a year old) start crowing at this same age, though they may
    sound like sick mooing cows at first, until they get it figured out and the development of spur knobs or bumps right around the ankle area.
    B. As adults, males are larger, have larger combs/wattles, and definite spur protrusions that get longer with age.
    (I bring up sexing just because #1 had thought he had 3 hens cause that's what the friend had told him, but couldn't figure out why he wasn't getting eggs. Seemed rather obvious to me, though he says it hasn't crowed or mated with the others. Which then the rooster becomes a liability and should be in the stock pot)

    6. Roosters do a mating dance of sorts by rushing up to a hen, stomping his feet with wings splayed around her where she then should lay down and he gets on her back, does his duty and she shakes it off. It is normal for a hen to lose back feathers because of this and she's probably fine. Problems come if the rooster leaves injuries, usually from his spurs. She or he (if he's frequently rough on the hens) would need to be separated and attended to.

    7. Hens may go broody (instinct to sit a clutch of eggs to hatch chicks). This really depends on the breed of chicken, though I've heard of even hybrids going broody as well, which is almost unheard of. How to tell??? The hen spends more time in the nest box and will probably fluff herself up and peck at you if you try to move her. I have Orpingtons, who are notorious for brooding and one in particular who is now on her second clutch this year and she's not even a year old yet. Though I do caution against first timers (and sometimes even experienced), the hen may just up and decide not to sit out the full 21 days and leave a clutch of half developed eggs/chicks that will die off within a short time depending on weather temperatures. Because of this possibility, some people will only use an incubator, which is fine & dandy till you don't have power. Personally I'd rather a hen do the job for me. She's built for it, does a much better job of it, healthier chicks and more sustainable than any artificial means I'd have to provide..

    8. Chickens will put themselves to bed in the early evening/late afternoon, once they know where bed is. You might have to put them to bed the first couple of nights if you have new birds or have moved their coop.

    9. Chickens (poultry) basic needs are food, water, shelter and protection from predators. They don't need anything fancy or expensive.
    A. Food----atleast 16% protein feed as is the usual for layer feed which also contains calcium for laying hens. (eggs are made of protein, water and calcium). Roosters can eat layer feed with no real problem, but baby chicks or those under 5 months old CAN develop issues and possibly die. Young chicks should be fed a higher protein (20-24%) without calcium such as Purina Flock Raiser, DuMor (Tractor Supply) chick starter or grower, etc. Scratch Grains should only be used as feed as long as the birds are allowed outside free range access to dirt, bugs, sunshine, grass, weeds, etc but not as sole food source for caged/cooped birds.....otherwise it's considered as a treat (like a candy bar or chips and nobody can be healthy on that as a steady diet). Though you can boost the nutritional value by feeding sprouted grains. Just put some grains in a large jar or other container with hot tap water & let sit several hours or overnight. Then drain it off, run more hot water & swish or stir it around & drain again. Rinse the grains daily, making sure to stir the water & grains well each time, then drain & sit. By the 3rd or 4th day you should see a 'bud' developing. The longer you let the grains sprout,, the better.

    B. Water----birds need decent water everyday, especially during the summer. If they are too overheated they will pant, and either flap their wings or hold them up/out from their body in an attempt to cool off.

    C. Shelter-----Anything to keep them safe & out of the elements overnight and/or place of refuge from predators. If your birds only use the coop for sleeping, they only need about a foot of space each, but if you keep them cooped up they do need atleast twice that per bird. A roost of some sort atleast a few inches above the floor is a great addition for their roosting instinct, though I've had some birds that just slept on the floor

    D. Healthier/happier birds are allowed atleast some outside free range time and that can actually mean a lot of things. Whether you have acreage or a whole back yard or just a fenced off area (chicken run) where they can get outside (yes, even in the rain) to access the fresh air, sunshine, worms (free protein), bugs (also free protein and hard shelled bugs have calcium), grass, weeds (lots of nutrition in many of them), and dirt/grit.....they can get much if not all their feed requirements. More allowed space the better, but even a fenced off area that is moved once in awhile will work.

    10. Nesting boxes----supposedly the recommended number of boxes is something like 1 box per 2 or 3 hens, I think.....but in my own experience I've had a dozen hens with several boxes to choose from and they all fight over 1 box or will line up for their turn and if the egg comes faster than box availability, they'll lay anywhere else BUT the other boxes. In the floor litter, outside on the ground, wherever.


    Problems....

    1. Egg eaters and/or cannibalism.....usually from boredom, or lack of protein or calcium. So change up their routine in some way. Either let them outside more, change their outside area, change or add to the litter, hang a cabbage or a bird cake or something to entice their natural curiousity. And/or increase their protein level (throw out some meal worms or even some cooked scrambled eggs) and/or calcium supplement like ground oyster shell or even ground egg shells. It may sound counter productive or morbid, but chickens will eat just about anything including non-food items similar to Bill Grogen's goat. Cook the eggs and/or shells first (eggs scrambled or finely chopped and shells ground or broken into very small pieces)….it changes the looks and taste. Or dig them up some worms & grubs from the garden. Maybe even make a worm bin or worm farm.....not just for the garden but to feed your chickens. Get a 5-gallon bucket, or old garbage can, or some large container and add some dirt, worms and kitchen scraps or compost materials to keep the worms happy and keep it lightly moist (not too wet & not too dry) and in a protected area like the garage or somewhere that it won't freeze. Just add more scraps or unfinished compost now & then to feed the worms.

    2. Pecking or fighting.....It usually isn't too much of a problem really as when adding new birds to an existing flock and they need to establish pecking order (who's boss & who's not and by ranking). It can also happen within a stable flock as pecking order is never or rarely a forever thing. They will change it up now & then. Then of course when younger birds get in the way of older birds, or the younger ones won't wait their turn or, or, or.....it usually comes down to a solid peck that may send the offender squawking & maybe even chased away from the scene, but is usually over in a matter of minutes.
    A. The problems come when it happens frequently or even constantly and will usually be the same bird(s). There's a good chance they may never get along, which causes tensions & stress to the birds.....then you may have health problems, reduced egg production, injuries. Then you'll need to track down the problem bird and get rid of it. Though I've had a few bullies over the years, frequent fighting has usually been from too many roosters kept together. Usually the older or established rooster will have to fight younger, aggressive, up & comers for his harem of hens. Either establish a separate flock(s) with their own space/coop or cull the others.

    3. Soft shelled, no shell or small eggs---are either laid by pullets just starting to lay, or happens with older hens laying some of their last eggs. These are called 'fart' eggs and it's just their systems changing.....kinda like a woman either starting her menstral cycle as a teen or menopause when she's done. Although it can happen even during the 'good' years, it's not often and shouldn't last long if it does. May also be from lacking feed requirements as noted above.

    4. Molting/feather loss.....all birds, even the wild ones, go thru a 'molt' which is a loss of feathers to regrow new ones and it usually depends on the age of the bird to how it's effected. Older birds lose more feathers and it's more stressful on them as well. Bumping up the protein can help with this. Also during the molt, which usually happens at the end of summer/fall, hens will slow or even stop laying eggs unless you have hybrids that can lay all year round or you provide extra light and force your birds to continue laying. That's up to you if you do, I just think we all deserve a vacation. IF your birds are losing feathers at other times, you may need to check them for mites, fleas, worms or other health problems. Most of these can be done yourself and it doesn't hurt to do it anyway as a precaution against it happening. For mites or fleas, dust your birds with food grade Diatomaceous Earth (fossilized micro something creatures that irritate bugs). As for worms....I haven't done it in a few years, but this was recommended......go to the feed store and find Ivermectin in a paste/tube. It is a livestock wormer for either horses, cows, or ???, but ONLY GIVE A SMALL BIT TO EACH BIRD to be wormed. Too much can have very serious, possibly fatal side effects. I don't remember about young birds, say less than 6 months?, but over that give about the size of a pea, and is easier to squirt it on a piece of bread or something for the bird to eat. But I suggest to isolate each bird when you give it, otherwise if you're trying to just hand a piece of bread with the wormer to each of your birds as you all stand around, I'll bet somebodies going to get seconds by trying to steal it from another bird.

    5. Flying/fluttering or escaping the confines.....remember the smaller the breed, the higher they can go.....so if you want to ground your birds, either get a larger breed, or clip their wing. Most of the wing is similar to our fingernails......easily cut but don't draw blood...and they do grow back. Only cut one wing of each bird, keeps them lopsided and they can't get over a fence. Just take some scissors, holding the bird firmly and splay out the wing. Cut about 2 or 3 inches (maybe up to 4inches?) all across all the feathers. The feathers at the back or inside of the wing is smaller and the front/top of the wing is longer. When I've had to cut my birds wings, I hold them with their head tucked in the crook of my left elbow, so I can splay and hold the wing with my left hand and use my right hand to cut with and usually start with the inside smaller feathers cutting my way out. The holding, splaying & cutting can get a bit tricky, but somehow it all works out.




    So now I've been at this for a couple hours & my brain is fried with no sleep and I can't think of anymore at the moment, though I know I've barely scratched the surface, so if anyone has anything to add, please do.

    Just remember, birds have personalities/opinions/assholes just like humans...everybody has one (or more). What works for one, won't necessarily work for another, or it might. Ya never know.

  2. #2
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Beautiful Four Corners, Farmington NM
    Posts
    4,373
    GREAT stuff.
    Thank you.
    Here I was stressing about all my girls having a bald spot on their backs, from EL Rooster.
    They have these silly looking pin feathers coming in now.
    And, I was always worried about "heat" in their coop.
    Now I feel better, knowing that they always have fresh clean unfrozen ( a pain in the ass sometime ), plenty of high quality food (16% Purina from the feed store ).
    Along with every vegetable scrap, meat trimming, old beans, leftovers that I am scared of, even KFC..
    I think I will add the rooster and the duck to the crockpot..
    That will put me at 6 layers I think, (3 two years olds and 3 One year olds).
    I am happy with the egg amount i received this summer, but they have literally Stopped these last two weeks.
    JustAnotherNut likes this.
    RIP Corporal BRADLEY COY 6/18/1992-10/24/2014

  3. #3
    The Good Cop


    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    S.E. Georgia / N.E. Florida
    Posts
    12,064
    Great stuff.
    If you keep a light in the coop during the winter to trick the hens into continuing to lay, know that there egg bearing years will be lessened.

    A couple good resources are www.backyardchickens.com and www.chickenforum.com
    At the chicken forum, tell them rice paddy daddy sent you.
    JustAnotherNut and hawgrider like this.
    "There is nothing so exhilarating as to be shot at without result." Winston Churchill
    "Leave the artillerymen alone, they are an obstinate lot." Napoleon
    Member: VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Society of the 5th Infantry Division, Sons of the American Revolution.

  4. Remove Advertisements
    PrepperForums.net
    Advertisements
     

  5. #4
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Third holler on the right. Then up the road a piece
    Posts
    3,493
    Quote Originally Posted by Deebo View Post
    GREAT stuff.
    Thank you.
    Here I was stressing about all my girls having a bald spot on their backs, from EL Rooster.
    They have these silly looking pin feathers coming in now.
    And, I was always worried about "heat" in their coop.
    Now I feel better, knowing that they always have fresh clean unfrozen ( a pain in the ass sometime ), plenty of high quality food (16% Purina from the feed store ).
    Along with every vegetable scrap, meat trimming, old beans, leftovers that I am scared of, even KFC..
    I think I will add the rooster and the duck to the crockpot..
    That will put me at 6 layers I think, (3 two years olds and 3 One year olds).
    I am happy with the egg amount i received this summer, but they have literally Stopped these last two weeks.
    Length of daylight shuts most breeds egg laying production down to nill.
    You can overcome that natural phenomenon by running artificial light in the coop for a total of 14 hours of daylight.

    Run your additional hours of artificial light in the morning otherwise they will have trouble roosting if the light goes off in the evening before they are roosted.
    JustAnotherNut likes this.
    "The clever cat eats cheese and breathes down rat holes with baited breath." W. C. Fields
    You can find me at the Hidden Content

  6. #5
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Beautiful Four Corners, Farmington NM
    Posts
    4,373
    Quote Originally Posted by hawgrider View Post
    Length of daylight shuts most breeds egg laying production down to nill.
    You can overcome that natural phenomenon by running artificial light in the coop for a total of 14 hours of daylight.

    Run your additional hours of artificial light in the morning otherwise they will have trouble roosting if the light goes off in the evening before they are roosted.
    I figure I just leave them be. Last year we only baught eggs twice during the winter. We have another Daughter staying with us and she loves scrambled eggs, more than me, and is wiling to cook them at the drop of a hat..
    We have 24 eggs right now, so in two weeks we will be out.
    JustAnotherNut likes this.
    RIP Corporal BRADLEY COY 6/18/1992-10/24/2014

  7. #6
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    290
    Quote Originally Posted by Deebo View Post
    GREAT stuff.
    Thank you.
    Here I was stressing about all my girls having a bald spot on their backs, from EL Rooster.
    They have these silly looking pin feathers coming in now.
    And, I was always worried about "heat" in their coop.
    Now I feel better, knowing that they always have fresh clean unfrozen ( a pain in the ass sometime ), plenty of high quality food (16% Purina from the feed store ).
    Along with every vegetable scrap, meat trimming, old beans, leftovers that I am scared of, even KFC..
    I think I will add the rooster and the duck to the crockpot..
    That will put me at 6 layers I think, (3 two years olds and 3 One year olds).
    I am happy with the egg amount i received this summer, but they have literally Stopped these last two weeks.
    Those 2 year olds will probably slow down a bit on production, once they start laying again. Peak egg laying is from 6 months to 2 years....but again that's up to the hen and the breed. Right now they've stopped laying because it is molting season. With 8 hens, I've went from 6 or 7 per day, down to one.....then that one hen decided she wanted to sit. Sometimes the length of the molt can be different from bird to bird, breed to breed, and age has a factor as well. The older the bird, the longer the molt. You should get near full production by February or March at the latest. I've also had birds that only took 2 or 3 weeks off from laying.

    What breed of birds do you have? As a prepper and a way of having plenty of chicken (eggs or meat) to feed your family, that rooster might be worth keeping around.




    Another point to add to the list.....in my experience, it's never mattered how many hens you have, but it always seems like atleast one will be a hold out and not lay an egg and it's usually the lowest of the pecking order. Kinda like the Omega in the wolf pack. The rest have to 'carry it's weight', but is still somehow a necessary member.


    I'll also post some butchering info later for anyone that's not had experience doing it before.

  8. #7
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    290
    Quote Originally Posted by rice paddy daddy View Post
    Great stuff.
    If you keep a light in the coop during the winter to trick the hens into continuing to lay, know that there egg bearing years will be lessened.

    A couple good resources are www.backyardchickens.com and www.chickenforum.com
    At the chicken forum, tell them rice paddy daddy sent you.
    I was a member of BackYardChickens forum for awhile after getting my first birds, back in the day. There is some really great info on there.

    And that's a great point of how fragile the hens systems are, thanks
    rice paddy daddy likes this.

  9. #8
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Third holler on the right. Then up the road a piece
    Posts
    3,493
    You can also avoid the molt by running artificial light.

    For me... they aren't going get fed without laying eggs. No pet chickens allowed. Work or stew pot. I run them hard and put them away wet.
    "The clever cat eats cheese and breathes down rat holes with baited breath." W. C. Fields
    You can find me at the Hidden Content

  10. #9
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    290
    Quote Originally Posted by hawgrider View Post
    Length of daylight shuts most breeds egg laying production down to nill.
    You can overcome that natural phenomenon by running artificial light in the coop for a total of 14 hours of daylight.

    Run your additional hours of artificial light in the morning otherwise they will have trouble roosting if the light goes off in the evening before they are roosted.

    Good info, thanks...…...just remember forcing them to lay does have it's negative side effects. It can stress them out and they'll give up laying at a younger age. If I remember correctly (and I may not), hens DNA is hardwired to lay a certain number of eggs in their lifetime and if provided light in the winter to keep laying.....you're in effect 'using up all her eggs' at a younger age. Just sayin

  11. #10
    Senior Member


    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    290
    Other tips...…..

    1. Birds can get stressed over even the simplest things or even nothing and that stress can upset the whole cookie cart. Hens may slow or stop laying, eating/drinking, just hunch up and be standoffish from the rest of the flock.....whatever. If you keep an eye on them, you can usually tell when something's not right and hopefully be able to 'fix' it, though sometimes it's out of our control. One day they all seem fine, laying, clucking & carrying on like life's a party and the next day someone is dead. Understand, this is the circle of life and it does happen. Though you should check over any sudden or unexplained dead birds for a possible cause. Predator attack of some kind? (Even rats can get at a weak bird, trying to eat it alive or whatever) so look for any injuries and see if you can determine if it's a predator or rat or just getting pecked from a higher up. Check thru the feathers for any mites or infestations and the 'vent' (where poop & eggs come out, yes they only have one exit hole) for any presence of worms. Just so you can determine if the cause of death may effect the rest of the flock, or not.
    A. Possible home remedies to help boost a flocks health......add a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to their drinking water. Roughly 1 tablespoon ACV per gallon of water. This can be done on an as needed basis or as part of their regular watering.
    B. Any sick or injured birds that aren't eating or drinking as they should??? Offer some good yogurt either as is, or mix in a little feed. If they don't seem interested, &/or you want to help them along.....you may have to 'force' feed or water them. A small eye dropper is good for this. They probably won't take it willingly, so you'll have to hold their head and push the tip into the corner of their beak, then into the throat. Another caution here is they will probably shake their head in resistence and spray you with whatever you're trying to give them, so go as far into the throat as you can without causing injury.....to yourself or the bird.

    2. Egg bound and a thousand other possible health issues I won't even get into that rabbit hole. So if you want to know about anything like that, do some research and possible home remedies....or just accept the fact you may lose a bird.

    3. Dust bathing...….they will scratch & dig themselves out a hole in some dirt, roll around in it, sun bathe in it, kick & flip that dirt sometimes flapping a wing or two and completely act silly....or lay perfectly still and you think they're dead.....till you walk up there and they jump up, none to happy at being disturbed. This is their way of cleaning themselves and also helps keep them cool in the summer heat. If you have a dirt floor in the coop, they'll do it year round. It's good for them and gives them something to do. If they don't have access to dry dirt/dust, you can put a low pan with either dirt or even some wood ashes in the coop for them to play around in.

    4. Ways of keeping the coop 'fresh'. They do poop just about anywhere & everywhere....in the feed or water or nest box, on the roost, even on the walls. I have a deep litter system in an 8x10 shed turned coop, 9 birds and currently 2 bales of straw as litter on a dirt floor. I add about a bale per month during the winter months for the birds. Then clean it all out down to the dirt floor and dumped on the garden after the first of the year. And start all over again. They have plenty of room if I leave them in there for a day or three, but I also have a fenced area roughly 15ft square for their outside time. Now that the growing season is over, I also let them into the fenced garden to help fertilize and work the soil. Then once in a while I'll let them into the yard.
    A. The more time spent outside, the less time they're pooping up the coop
    B. Keep them cooped up and throw in some treats of some sort that they'll have to scratch around for. This helps keep the litter turned, creating those microbes that will break down the litter into compost. This can help create a little extra heat in the winter (hot composting, but probably not enough to worry about fire) and helps keep the smell under control.
    C. Another good application for wood ashes if you have a stove, fireplace or firepit. Helps to sweeten things up a bit.
    D. I have heard others that add lime to their animal bedding to sweeten it.

 

 
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast

Sponsored Links

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Back to Top