Why Keep the Rooster with Your Flock?

Why would you keep the rooster? The general feeling from most chicken keepers seems to be just the opposite. Rightly so in the case of neighborhood rules, or possibly having small children around. But in many cases, if you keep the rooster, your flock will benefit from a good leader.

When you picked up your chicks this year, the little fluffy balls of fun were so cute! No doubt one was your favorite. Now that the chicks are reaching 10 to 12 weeks of age, you have begun to notice something a little different about your favorite chick. It may be slightly bigger, stand a little taller, have bigger feet and it may be growing a slightly more noticeable comb or wattles. You may have a rooster! But will you keep the rooster?

Sexing Chicks is Rarely 100% Correct

Before you get upset and jump to possibilities and options, lets explore some reasons why you might want to keep the rooster. If you can legally keep the rooster in your neighborhood or town, there are some good reasons to have one around. You may have heard that a rooster is mean, ornery, and dangerous. These reasons can be true but they are not always the case. (Read more about Cranky Roosters in this post.)  I am not advocating keeping an overly aggressive rooster.

I find the roosters are a great addition to our flock. We currently have fourteen roosters. Before you make a move to have my sanity checked, let me tell you that we generally do keep quite a few roosters. They work hard every day, keeping the hens safe. Let me explain a few reasons that I am glad we keep the rooster.

The Rooster as a Peacekeeper

Peacekeeper – The rooster in a flock is in charge. He will assume this role and do what he has to do to maintain his position. Other roosters may be able to be part of the flock, too, as long as they don’t challenge him. In addition, the rooster will keep the hens from squabbling among themselves. In the absence of a rooster, a hen will often take the role of flock leader.

keep the rooster

Keep the Rooster for Flock Protection

Protection – Roosters are on alert most of the day, watching for predators, alerting the hens, and making sure they take cover. While the hens are dust bathing or eating, the rooster will stand guard and stay alert to possible danger. When a hawk or some other predator is spotted, the rooster will sound the alarm. He is calling the hens back to safety. If they free range, this might be a bush to hide under, or the nearby coop. In our case, with multiple roosters, the alarm is picked up and the other roosters begin to gather their hens too. It’s quite amazing to witness.

The Rooster will Provide

Providing – The rooster will search out tasty food bits and call the hens over to enjoy the snack. He makes sure that his hens get started eating first in the morning and then he begins to eat too. In addition, roosters provide the necessary actions for having fertile eggs, in case you want to hatch out eggs in an incubator or let a broody hen set on a clutch of eggs.

Keep the Rooster

The Crowing?

Crowing–  Now I am sure you are wondering how I can put a positive light on this noisy ear splitting wake up call. First, roosters don’t necessarily start crowing before  dawn. Ours will often stay quiet until they hear me in the feed shed, dishing up breakfast. Roosters crow to warn other roosters to stay away. They also crow to celebrate, such as when breakfast arrives, after mating, or to show pecking order. In addition, they will crow to let the hens know the location of the flock, when it’s time to head back to the coop at night and various other reasons. But the best reason, for flock security, would be the crowing to warn of an approaching visitor.

keep the rooster

While you may decide to re -home your cockerel and just keep the pullets, I am very glad I kept one particular oops rooster. Even though I ordered all pullets, we received a rooster in the bunch. He is a white rock cockerel who we named King. For years, King was the star of our poultry area. He may have jumped at me once or twice in his younger, impulsive days. I quickly put a stop to that and he grew into a wonderful protector.

I see benefits and uses when you keep the rooster. Let me know how your surprise roosters turn out.




When is the Best Time to Start Chicks?

best time to start chicks
chicks in a basket
Summer chicks can be the perfect time to grow your flock

Waiting until spring for the best time to start chicks, can be too much to handle. Nothing starts a severe  case of chicken fever like a brooder full of baby fluff butts. Chicks are extremely susceptible to the cold weather and unless you live in an area that has warm weather year round, It can be much easier to wait until close to Spring. Here are my reasons for waiting for the best time to start chicks.

Baby chicks are mailed from hatcheries soon after hatching. They are mailed out via priority overnight mail and usually picked up at the post office by the customer. The minimum chick order in the winter months can be as many as 15 chicks. The hatcheries do this to help maintain warmth for the chicks during shipping. If your chicks are delayed or the weather turns extremely cold during shipping, the chicks may become chilled and be less likely to survive.

chicks in a brooder set up
Adding chicks during the summer requires less time with added heat, in most cases.

The first few days at home 

After you retrieve your chicks from the post office, or hatchery, you must keep the chicks warm in a brooder for the next several weeks. The temperature in the brooder at first should be 100 degrees F. As the chicks grow, the temperature can be lowered 5 degrees a week until they can tolerate room temperature.

As we know, chicks outgrow the brooder long before they are ready for the great outdoors and the fluctuating temperatures. If you start the chicks during January or February, your chicks will be very large before spring arrives. What will you do in this interim period? Most people don’t have heated  chicken coops. Transferring the young birds to an unheated coop in early March can lead to chilling and death.

best time to start chicks

Starting chicks in the winter requires more equipment and longer time in a heated area

So, as the saying goes, timing is everything. Jumping into a chick purchase in the winter can lead to heartbreak IF you are not prepared to give special consideration to the chicks needs as they grow and transition to an outside coop during the chilly early spring. Often, winter chicks require more time inside the house or heated garage and a large grow out pen in the heated area. How much space do you have to care for the chicks as they grow?

Starting Chicks in Summer and Early Fall

The last few years I have delayed my chick order. I found that starting chicks in the late summer and early fall is much easier with our weather and seasonal considerations.

Here are a few points I have discovered while brooding chicks later in the season.

  1. Much less electric heat is required. The weather is usually so warm by late July that the chicks spend most of their time moving around the brooder, eating, socializing and getting exercise. Compare this to February or March chicks that huddle together under the warmers, dash out for a bite of food and run back to the warmth.
  2. Less “poopy butt”. Now that is a good reason right there! I have not cleaned a summer chick’s poopy butt in two years. Other factors may come into play here, such as breeds, hatchery choice, and feed used. But I am going with the fact that it is warmer, the chicks eat more and drink more from the day they arrive.
  3. Faster growth. I am amazed at how fast chicks grow anyway you look at it. But the chicks from my late summer starts have surpassed other chicks in growth rate. Results may vary. But this is the result I am seeing.
  4. Perhaps the best result from starting chicks in the late summer or early fall is egg laying. My summer chicks begin laying before the holidays arrive. Most of us chicken keepers know this as the time of year when we get few to no eggs due to seasonal lighting and recovery from yearly molting. Last year my summer chicks began laying eggs in early November and didn’t take a break all winter. They continued into the spring and summer without a break! Happy egg customers!
best time to start chicks

My method of timing the chicks arrival 

 We purchase chicks from a local farm supply store or order by mail for specialty breeds. Here’s some ideas of breeds to order.  Obtain your chicks during early spring. I usually choose late March.

Make sure you have the appropriate brooder set up at home with a heat lamp or electric brooder. You will need:

  • an enclosed plastic storage tote
  • pine shavings
  • water fount with warm water
  • feeder 
  • chick starter feed and chick sized grit

Keep the chicks warm  and dry while slowly decreasing the temperature in the brooder during the next 8 weeks. Enlarge the brooder area as necessary while the chicks grow, keeping the recommended temperature range. Once the chicks are large enough to be taken to an outside coop set up, they will be transferring during middle to late May. Usually our nighttime temps are warm enough during this time, that the chicks will transition easily and without too much stress.

best time to start chicks

Use a Super Simple Formula to Determine the Best Time to Start Chicks 

 It’s disappointing when new chicken keepers don’t realize how fast the chicks will grow. They will order a dozen new chicks and enjoy them for a couple of weeks. Then the chicks begin to grow, fly out of the brooder on test wings and become crowded in the small box that was roomy just a couple of weeks ago. The uninformed chicken keeper might assume that because they are getting big, the chicks should go outside. This often leads to chilling and death for the young chicks who are still regulating body temperature. Until the chicks are fully feathered and have lost the downy covering, they are susceptible to chills if left in an unheated area. Spring weather is unpredictable and often the night time temperatures dip quite low.

 Please note that this method does not apply to people who live in year round warm climates. We are located in the mid-Atlantic region and I feel that this method is the best plan for our area and other seasonal states. In colder areas, you may want to wait even longer into the spring. Timing is everything and once the cute little peeps begin to grow into teenage chickens, you will want to put them outside.

Use a super simple formula for finding the best time to start chicks.Give your chicks a good start with proper care and timing.

Are you ready for the Super Simple Formula for Timing the best time to start chicks?

The Formula for Choosing The Best Time to Start Chicks

Think ahead to when your outside temps at night,  will be consistently warm enough and count back from there 8 to 10 weeks. This will be the ideal time for you to start your baby chicks.

Did you get that? It’s so simple! Here’s an example. If you want the chicks outside after they are fully feathered by June 1 then count back on the calendar. Ten weeks would be mid March. When you call the hatchery, ask for your order to be shipped on a day in mid March.

The important part isn’t the 8 to 10 weeks. The important factor is knowing your climate, normal weather and factors affecting your chicks warmth. If you have no way to keep the chicks warm in an outside coop, then you will need to keep them in the house until they can regulate their body heat. (Here’s more info on chicken keeping and winter.) The best time to start chicks will vary for everyone. I personally believe that when the temperature cannot be kept above 65 degrees, in the coop or in the brooder, even with new feathers, the chicks will get chilled. 

Best time to start chicks

As far as your Chicken Fever? Pick up a copy of your favorite chicken magazine and dream on!

DSC_3214

   10 weeks. Moved to the grow out pen in the coop.

12 week chicks

12 weeks. Quickly outgrowing the grow out pen. Almost time to brave the great outdoors.

14 week pullets

14 weeks. Venturing outside on a warm sunny day.

psst! I wrote a book all about chickens and DIY projects you can do with little cost. Check it out here or here on Amazon.




Can Chickens Eat Mashed Potatoes?

can chickens eatCan chickens eat mashed potatoes? Believe it or not, too much of any food can upset the delicate balance in the chicken’s digestive tract. Being Omnivores means that technically, chickens can eat anything they want to eat. Their diet in the wild would consist of varied plants, bugs, dead animals, and live rodents. However, they have some of the choice taken away from them when we keep them in coops and runs.

Faced with a delicious plate of mashed potatoes, next to the regular dish of layer feed, the chicken is going to binge eat those potatoes! In the wild, they wouldn’t have this handed to them in such a great quantity. And there’s the key to the question, can chickens eat mashed potatoes. They can, but everything should be offered in moderation. Offering too much of any food besides layer feed, free range grasses and bugs, can lead to stomach upset. 

Can Chickens Eat Vegetables Fresh From the Garden?

What about other foods commonly left over from our family meals. Cooked vegetables are almost always ok to serve to your chickens. Can chickens eat all vegetables raw, right from the garden? The answer to that would no. Some raw vegetables contain chemicals that are toxic to chickens. Vegetables from the nightshade family includes, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. The solonine in these plants is the toxic substance that can build up in the chicken and cause toxicity and death. The fruit of the tomato and the pepper is fine in moderation, when it its fully ripe. Never allow your chickens to feast on the tomato plants, pepper plants or any of the green leaves from the nightshade family.

can chickens eat

Note* Sweet Potatoes are not from the nightshade family. They are from the morning glory family and the sweet potato and the leaves are both safe to eat.

 

Greens – Most greens are good for chickens. The exception would be spinach which contains a heavy amount of oxalic acid. This compound, in large quantities can interfere with the absorption of calcium. Small amounts of spinach aren’t a problem but large or frequent feedings of spinach, beet greens or Chard might lead to soft egg shells.

The leafy lettuces, kale and other greens are great treats for the flock. 

Can Chickens Eat Dairy Foods Like Cheese, Milk, Yogurt?

During a recent episode of viral information on social media, a discussion was going on about whether or not chickens can have dairy foods without consequences. There was a huge response with people again arguing that they do so all the time, and have no stomach upset in the flock. Others mentioned that chickens lack the enzyme necessary to digest milk protein (lactose). Yogurt can provide a boost of calcium, protein, energy, and probiotics and yes yogurt is a healthy food for humans. Chickens can benefit from small amounts of unsweetened plain yogurt. It does provide some probiotic benefits. 

However, it is a dairy product. Large amounts of dairy are not good because it can lead to loose stools and upset stomachs. So again, we come back to that age old rule of moderation and small amounts. Feeding a large bowl of yogurt might not kill your chickens or lead to toxicity but it probably will cause some digestive upset.

can chickens eat

Most Chickens Don’t Like Citrus Fruit

There are differing opinions on feeding citrus. There isn’t any definite evidence that it is harmful. Too much citrus and vitamin C, can lead to weaker egg shells because it interferes with Calcium absorption . I am not too worried about this because mine reject citrus fruit anyway. I have heard this from many other chicken owners. 

can chickens eat

Meat Scraps

Being omnivores, chickens can handle eating meat protein. Have you seen the excitement when they catch a field mouse? Even a snake is a delicious form of meat. So feeding them the carcass from a roasted chicken, if you aren’t making bone stock, is fine. Fried or fatty meat should be avoided and anything cooked in a heavy sauce could lead to diarrhea.

can chickens eat

Legumes and Beans 

Fully cooked beans can be fed to the chickens. Raw beans of all kinds contain hemaglutin which is a natural insecticide and toxic. The cooking or sprouting of beans or dried beans destroys the chemical and then the beans are safe to feed to the chickens. So your leftover green beans and other legumes from dinner are perfectly fine to give as a treat.

A Few Other Foods to Mention 

Onions and Garlic are from the same family but contain different chemical make up. The allium family, particularly onions, contain large amounts of thiosulphate, a toxin. It is interesting though, that garlic contains very little thiosulphate. Garlic is completely safe and extremely healthy to add to the chickens diet.

Chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol are three of my favorite treats. But the chickens should have none of these substances.

Avocados– These actually do contain a fatal toxin in some parts of the avocado. I do not give any part of this to my flock.

Apples– Some people may mention that fruits with seeds and pits can be toxic, too. They can but it’s a much lower toxicity and mostly the chickens will just eat the fruit. To be safe, cut up the apple and don’t feed the cores. Remove the peach pits. This is not a problem with watermelon which is a favorite treat!

Rhubarb – This is toxic in so many parts that I wouldn’t take the chance of feeding it to my flock. The leaves are toxic to people too so be sure to avoid them in your foraging.

can chickens eat

Toxin Build Up in Chickens

I know many will read this and argue that they or their grandparents always fed the chickens green tomatoes, or onions, or any number of things, and no chickens died. And they would be correct. Very few toxins will kill people or animals immediately. However, toxins eaten on a regular basis or in such an amount that buildup occurs over time, will die or become sick. You may not tie it back to the potato peels you fed to the chickens three times a week. Or the free ranging in the garden where they had access to pepper plant leaves and potato vines.

It’s the same with people. Toxins in our food build up in our bodies over time. We are just beginning to realize that plastic packaging, chemical dyes, and other contaminants can cause problems with kidneys, nervous system, and the heart. The liver is a prime candidate for toxin build up leading to disease too. Our poultry and livestock are no different. They can eat many different foods that we share with them. It doesn’t mean it is without risk or without an effect further down the road.

What to do 

My final point to answer the question “can chickens eat…?” is this. As our grandmothers said, everything in moderation. In the past, few farmers kept a large flock of chickens over the winter. The best layers might have been kept but most were processed for food so they didn’t have to be fed through the winter when free ranging food was scarce. Not keeping hens past a year or two probably didn’t show the toxicity symptoms that might show up in older hens. This is your flock. You get to make the decisions. Remember that not every bad decision will have an immediate consequence. Also, not everything you do is not going to endanger the life of your chicken.

Feeding a good quality layer feed, supplemented with safe foraging and free ranging, and delicious safe treats from your kitchen will help you keep a healthy flock. Meal worms and dehydrated grubs are tasty treats that normally don’t lead to problems. Remember that the answer to “can chickens eat” this food is, only in moderation. 

 

can chickens eat

can chickens eatCan chickens eat mashed potatoes? Believe it or not, too much of any food can upset the delicate balance in the chicken’s digestive tract. Being Omnivores means that technically, chickens can eat anything they want to eat. Their diet in the wild would consist of varied plants, bugs, dead animals, and live rodents. However, they have some of the choice taken away from them when we keep them in coops and runs.

Faced with a delicious plate of mashed potatoes, next to the regular dish of layer feed, the chicken is going to binge eat those potatoes! In the wild, they wouldn’t have this handed to them in such a great quantity. And there’s the key to the question, can chickens eat mashed potatoes. They can, but everything should be offered in moderation. Offering too much of any food besides layer feed, free range grasses and bugs, can lead to stomach upset. 

Can Chickens Eat Vegetables Fresh From the Garden?

What about other foods commonly left over from our family meals. Cooked vegetables are almost always ok to serve to your chickens. Can chickens eat all vegetables raw, right from the garden? The answer to that would no. Some raw vegetables contain chemicals that are toxic to chickens. Vegetables from the nightshade family includes, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. The solonine in these plants is the toxic substance that can build up in the chicken and cause toxicity and death. The fruit of the tomato and the pepper is fine in moderation, when it its fully ripe. Never allow your chickens to feast on the tomato plants, pepper plants or any of the green leaves from the nightshade family.

can chickens eat

Note* Sweet Potatoes are not from the nightshade family. They are from the morning glory family and the sweet potato and the leaves are both safe to eat.

Greens – Most greens are good for chickens. The exception would be spinach which contains a heavy amount of oxalic acid. This compound, in large quantities can interfere with the absorption of calcium. Small amounts of spinach aren’t a problem but large or frequent feedings of spinach, beet greens or Chard might lead to soft egg shells.

The leafy lettuces, kale and other greens are great treats for the flock. 

Can Chickens Eat Dairy Foods Like Cheese, Milk, Yogurt?

During a recent episode of viral information on social media, a discussion was going on about whether or not chickens can have dairy foods without consequences. There was a huge response with people again arguing that they do so all the time, and have no stomach upset in the flock. Others mentioned that chickens lack the enzyme necessary to digest milk protein (lactose). Yogurt can provide a boost of calcium, protein, energy, and probiotics and yes yogurt is a healthy food for humans. Chickens can benefit from small amounts of unsweetened plain yogurt. It does provide some probiotic benefits. 

However, it is a dairy product. Large amounts of dairy are not good because it can lead to loose stools and upset stomachs. So again, we come back to that age old rule of moderation and small amounts. Feeding a large bowl of yogurt might not kill your chickens or lead to toxicity but it probably will cause some digestive upset.

can chickens eat

Most Chickens Don’t Like Citrus Fruit

There are differing opinions on feeding citrus. There isn’t any definite evidence that it is harmful. Too much citrus and vitamin C, can lead to weaker egg shells because it interferes with Calcium absorption . I am not too worried about this because mine reject citrus fruit anyway. I have heard this from many other chicken owners. 

can chickens eat

Meat Scraps

Being omnivores, chickens can handle eating meat protein. Have you seen the excitement when they catch a field mouse? Even a snake is a delicious form of meat. So feeding them the carcass from a roasted chicken, if you aren’t making bone stock, is fine. Fried or fatty meat should be avoided and anything cooked in a heavy sauce could lead to diarrhea.

can chickens eat

Legumes and Beans 

Fully cooked beans can be fed to the chickens. Raw beans of all kinds contain hemaglutin which is a natural insecticide and toxic. The cooking or sprouting of beans or dried beans destroys the chemical and then the beans are safe to feed to the chickens. So your leftover green beans and other legumes from dinner are perfectly fine to give as a treat.

A Few Other Foods to Mention 

Onions and Garlic are from the same family but contain different chemical make up. The allium family, particularly onions, contain large amounts of thiosulphate, a toxin. It is interesting though, that garlic contains very little thiosulphate. Garlic is completely safe and extremely healthy to add to the chickens diet.

Chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol are three of my favorite treats. But the chickens should have none of these substances.

Avocados– These actually do contain a fatal toxin in some parts of the avocado. I do not give any part of this to my flock.

Apples– Some people may mention that fruits with seeds and pits can be toxic, too. They can but it’s a much lower toxicity and mostly the chickens will just eat the fruit. To be safe, cut up the apple and don’t feed the cores. Remove the peach pits. This is not a problem with watermelon which is a favorite treat!

Rhubarb – This is toxic in so many parts that I wouldn’t take the chance of feeding it to my flock. The leaves are toxic to people too so be sure to avoid them in your foraging.

can chickens eat

Toxin Build Up in Chickens

I know many will read this and argue that they or their grandparents always fed the chickens green tomatoes, or onions, or any number of things, and no chickens died. And they would be correct. Very few toxins will kill people or animals immediately. However, toxins eaten on a regular basis or in such an amount that buildup occurs over time, will die or become sick. You may not tie it back to the potato peels you fed to the chickens three times a week. Or the free ranging in the garden where they had access to pepper plant leaves and potato vines.

It’s the same with people. Toxins in our food build up in our bodies over time. We are just beginning to realize that plastic packaging, chemical dyes, and other contaminants can cause problems with kidneys, nervous system, and the heart. The liver is a prime candidate for toxin build up leading to disease too. Our poultry and livestock are no different. They can eat many different foods that we share with them. It doesn’t mean it is without risk or without an effect further down the road.

What to do 

My final point to answer the question “can chickens eat…?” is this. As our grandmothers said, everything in moderation. In the past, few farmers kept a large flock of chickens over the winter. The best layers might have been kept but most were processed for food so they didn’t have to be fed through the winter when free ranging food was scarce. Not keeping hens past a year or two probably didn’t show the toxicity symptoms that might show up in older hens. This is your flock. You get to make the decisions. Remember that not every bad decision will have an immediate consequence. Also, not everything you do is not going to endanger the life of your chicken.

Feeding a good quality layer feed, supplemented with safe foraging and free ranging, and delicious safe treats from your kitchen will help you keep a healthy flock. Meal worms and dehydrated grubs are tasty treats that normally don’t lead to problems. Remember that the answer to “can chickens eat” this food is, only in moderation. 

can chickens eat



Chicken Wire and Hardware Cloth for Coops

chicken wire and hardware cloth

Deciding between chicken wire and hardware cloth is only one of the initial decisions to be made by a new chicken keeper, when building a chicken coop and enclosure. There are certain topics that veteran chicken owners are all too familiar with. But, what about those who are new to raising poultry? I often will cover a topic that may seem mundane and too basic but  I believe there are a substantial number of people who are looking for the very basic information to help them get started raising chickens. Knowing when to use chicken wire and hardware cloth is one of these areas. 

chicken coop decisions
chicken wire or hardware cloth

If it’s called chicken wire, it must be for chickens, right?

Chicken wire is widely recognized as the hexagon shaped welded fencing wire, commonly used on farms for various fencing. Experienced poultry owners know that the use of chicken wire for poultry is limited. Choose wisely between chicken wire and hardware cloth, because while one will keep your chickens in the chosen area, it will not keep predators out.

In the blog, Bytes Daily, Otto  wrote a little explanation of chicken wire.

“chicken wire was invented in 1844 by British ironmonger Charles Barnard. He developed it for his father, a farmer, the manufacturing process being based on cloth-weaving machines. Apparently the town of Norwich, where Barnard Junior had his business, had a plentiful supply of cloth weaving machines.”

There are some instances where chicken coop wire is the perfect choice of wire, but when talking about securing your feathered friends in their run or coop, I do not recommend chicken wire. While it may keep a small flock of chickens in a set area, it is not very strong. Predators can easily move it out of their way, rip it or tear it open to gain access to your chickens, or other small vulnerable livestock. It is similar to cloth in that it is woven together. Don’t learn this difference between chicken wire and hardware cloth the hard way.

building a safe chicken coop enclosure

Here are a few instances where chicken wire may be used successfully.

Chicken wire can be used to keep pullets separated from the older chickens inside the chicken run. 

Good choice when used to keep chickens out of the garden

Chicken wire is also useful when temporarily plugging holes at the fence base line to keep chickens in the run. Fold or crumple up a piece of chicken wire and stuff it into the hole. Cover with dirt and pack down. Make a more permanent fence repair as soon as possible.

Chicken wire and hardware cloth are both good for burying underground around the perimeter of the chicken coop and run to deter predators from digging into the coop. Most predators will only try to dig in for a short time. When they reach a wire barrier they will often quit digging and move to another spot.

Great for craft projects! Chicken wire is used for accents and building armatures for sculptures.

chicken theme memo board

And Chicken Wire makes a pretty interesting texture in a photograph.

chicken wire

When Deciding Between Chicken Wire and Hardware Cloth

The preferred wire fencing to use for coop security is called hardware cloth. I am not sure how it got the name because it is much stronger than cloth! It does not bend as easily and is welded making it a stronger product. 

chicken coop door

In our chicken coop we have six windows. (Here’s the story behind our coop ) All of the windows are covered with hardware cloth with 1 inch square Hardware cloth comes in various size mesh. The 1/4 inch size has a very tiny mesh and the 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 mesh would be too large of a mesh, allowing small predators to slip through. I personally recommend either the 1/2 inch or 1 inch mesh. Hardware cloth is most often a galvanized, welded metal product that is extremely durable.

hardware cloth

Make sure you attach it to the window or vent openings using screws, and a sturdy board to hold it in place.

Safety Issues of  Chickens and Chicken Wire

Another reason to shy away from chicken wire is the possibility of it causing injury to your birds.

Since chicken wire is flimsy, it can break and fall apart leaving hazards for your chicken’s feet. Chicken wire should never be used as a flooring for a coop as it can contribute to foot injuries, including bumblefoot. Chicken toes can get caught in the wire and lead to broken toes. Broken, worn wire sticking out can cause scratches, eye injuries and cuts.

Paying attention to coop safety will help your chickens lead a long and happy life!

chicken wire and hardware cloth

This Post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Magazine.com




Pullet or Cockerel? How to Know

 

pullet or cockerel

Are some of your chickens looking different than the others? Do you know how to determine, early on, if you are raising a pullet or a cockerel? Lets say you wanted to raise chickens for eggs and purchased some hatching eggs. Or, perhaps, you couldn’t resist the fluffy little munchkins at the feed store this spring. In any event you now have chickens growing up in your backyard. You are feeding them and caring for their every need. But wait! Some of the chicks are starting to look different than the others. One or two in particular seem, odd. Could they be roosters? There are ways to identify the pullet or cockerel as they develop.

Pullet or Cockerel – How to Know the Difference

pullet or cockerel

There are a few ways to sex chicks and maturing chickens. At hatching the method that has been used for generations is called vent sexing. Sometimes it is referred to as the Japanese method. Using this method, look inside the tiny vent opening and notice the difference in the cloaca. I have not seen this done but hatcheries use this method with 85 to 90 % accuracy.

pullet or cockerel

Wing Feather Sexing

Another method is wing feather sexing. Look at the wing feathers of a chick on the first or second day after hatching. Cockerel chickens wing feathers would be all the same length. Pullets wing feathers would be in two layers of different length. A note of caution on this method. It does not work on all breeds of chickens. Certain breeds such as leghorns have the genetic trait that allows this method to be used. Not all breeds have this trait.

pullet or cockerel

Sex Linked Breeds

Sex Linked Traits – For certain genetic pairings, a predictable and identifiable appearance gives a fool proof method of determining sex of the chick. For this method you need to understand that the hen contributes genetic material to the cockerels and the rooster contributes genetic material to the pullets. Any sex linked characteristics will be passed on in this way. Color is one of the sex linked traits.

Knowing this, if you mate a hen that carries a sex linked color trait with a rooster that does not carry the trait, the cockerels will have the trait. This makes it easy to separate the pullets at hatching. There are some popular hybrid breeds that utilize this method. Black Stars or Black Sex links are the result of a Barred Rock Hen crossed with a Rhode Island Red Rooster. The cockerels have a white spot on their heads. Red Stars and Golden Comets are two other breeds that are bred for this reason and for increased egg production.

pullet or cockerel
Black Star or Black Sex Link Hen

If you absolutely cannot have a rooster or don’t want to deal with one, buying sex linked breed pullets is your most fool proof method of obtaining pullets. Using this genetic makeup to choose your flock helps you avoid the hassle and heartbreak of having to re-home or cull a backyard pet. If you are living a self sufficient lifestyle, and utilizing the protein provided from your flock, you might consider roosters as an additional meat. I realize this is a sensitive subject for many backyard chicken keepers and culling rooster for the stew pot is not something all chicken keepers can handle. Keep reading for more on re-homing roosters.

Developing chicks 

pullet or cockerel

As your chicks develop, you may begin to notice some differences in the growth and characteristics showing up. The two chickens shown in the photo are showing classic developmental differences between a pullet and a cockerel. The young cockerel grew up to be the best rooster we ever had on the farm. I am glad that the hatchery made that error and sent us King! 

Cockerels will often hold themselves differently, in a more upright stance. Their neck feathers will be longer and pointy as compared to the more rounded feather ends of the pullets. The combs and legs will also begin to look different. Combs on a developing cockerel will be darker colored, and larger than the pullets of the same breed. By ten weeks of age, you can be fairly certain if you have a developing rooster in the flock.

The Crowing and the Egg

keep the rooster

Of course, the final answer to the question comes when you find the egg. Or the morning noon and night crowing that is hard to dispute. Although, hens of some breeds, in the absence of a rooster may take up crowing.

One last anecdotal test. I have found that my roosters are often the chicks that were the most easily handled and didn’t mind being cuddled. It doesn’t last though! Somewhere around 8 months to a year, the hormones fully kick in and the rooster is no longer so cuddly. Before that point be sure you have made it clear that you are in charge. Roosters will look for weakness and begin to strike out when you enter the area where the hens are housed. You can read more about keeping roosters and tips for success in this post. 

pullet or cockerel

Re-Homing Roosters

If you are totally against using your roosters as food for your family, re-homing is another option that may work out. There are people with larger flocks that keep roosters for protection of the hens. I would check with a local feed store or agriculture supply store about a community bulletin board. Posting your available rooster there might bring some leads. When the rooster is a particular breed, posting on a local community forum might lead you to someone who is looking for a new breeding rooster. It’s not easy to re-home a rooster. Occasionally the right person comes along and all ends well.

pullet or cockerel

This post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Magazine.com   

Last updated and edited June 2019