*Poultry FAQs by request*
Compiled By: AFarmer
22 October 2005

From a series of posts on the Basics Board:

Posted by Tbird157
Subject Getting poultry questions
I plan on buying a lot of birds. I want some chickens for eggs and game birds for color and food. I would like some recommendations. Also thinking of some goats and pigs.

Posted by AFarmer
In reply to Tbird157
keep these folks in your list of favorites -
http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/

For a meat and egg combo, order this:
http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/product/meat_n_egg_combo.html

For "a lot" of meat birds for the lowest price, you can't beat this:
http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/product/frying_pan_special.html

For variety of color:
http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/product/super_duper.html

I've dealt with these folks extensively and all their chicks arrive alive, are healthy and grow beyond even breed specific standards.

All manner of ducks, pheasants, quail, turkeys and guineas, too. Did you know guineas are entirely dark meat?

Posted by Tbird157
In reply to AFarmer
I like that site, a neighbor and friend gets theirs from there. I am thinking in the neighbor hood of a dozen or two.

Posted by Hayseed
In reply to AFarmer
but they let you mix. May I suggest you get a guard goose? They are excellent guardians and they mix well with all poultry AND they are fun to watch.

Posted by AFarmer
In reply to Hayseed
Aside from guard geese - there are weeder geese. These are huge birds you can let roam in your crops or garden and they will literally eat the weeds and leave your veggies alone. Usually, they are a mixed breed and McMurray offers them.

Posted by Hayseed
In reply to AFarmer
Subject I believe they eat slugs too, don't they? ntx

Posted by AFarmer
In reply to Hayseed
Subject chickens do that 4 sure nt

Posted by thepiedpiper
In reply to Hayseed
I've only had chickens in their own fenced area, as against walking around a barn full of cats. If I let chickens out by day and penned them at night, would the cats kill them? Or might the cats do that while the pullets are young but by the time they reach a certain age or size, no longer pose a threat? I don't have a barn--I have a garage where the cats live; and I'm thinking of putting in a chicken coop with a fenced area. But some chickens do better in confinement than others--though even with a pen, I'd plan to make any pen at least 10 x 10 or bigger. Do I need more space than that (on grass) for, say, a dozen pullets and a rooster? If so, how much more space? Could I let them out during the day, or would the cats kill them?

Posted by Hayseed
In reply to thepiedpiper
Subject Re: I never paid attention to this --cats & chick I wouldn't trust the cats with the chickens . . . unless you had a really mean rooster! I don't think you NEED more room than the 10 x 10, but bigger is always better.

Now you might be able to trust the cats with the full grown chickens if you know your cats are pretty docile and well fed. Seems like a well fed cat will hardly kill an arthritic mouse! But only you know your cats well enough. My friend has some chickens and her cat got accidentally shut in the coop one evening. She went out the next morning and not only were all the chickens fine, but that cat was sure glad to be out of there!

Posted by AFarmer
In reply to thepiedpiper
Rare is the cat that will take on a grown chicken. A chick, yes but not adults.

Generally, unlike dogs which will kill simply for the thrill of the kill, cats don't like to kill something they can't eat by themselves. No matter how hungry a cat is, it will not usually bother a hen and certainly not a rooster. But if you have an aggressive or broody hen, your cats could be in danger if they are too curious and too close to a nest.

* Allow 1/2 square feet of floor space per chick from day olds up to 4 weeks of age.

* At 4 weeks of age, increase floor area to 3/4 square feet per bird.

* Increase feeders to provide 2-1/2" to 3" of space per bird.

* Increase waterers to one 5-gallon fount per 100 birds.

* Make sure grit hopper is filled with proper sized grit. Check with your feed man.

* Install roosts at back of brooder area. Allow four inches per bird with roost poles six inches apart.

* Open windows in day-time. Leave only partly open at night.

* Prevent water puddles around founts. Place founts on low wire platforms.

* Birds can range outside on warm, sunny days, but only if clean range is available.

Posted by AFarmer
Actually, McMurray does have a barnyard special where you get a few layers, some fryers, trio of ducks, pair of turkeys and pair of geese for a total count of 25 chicks or thereabouts. No choice on breeds - but I know all their stock is good and I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who was not happy with their service and attention to the customer.

Posted by Tbird157
Subject Breeds
We were looking at Araucanas/Americanas, Rhode Island Reds, and possibly Jumbo Cornish X Rocks. Also we would like a couple of Red Golden Pheasants.

Posted by Tbird157
The colored eggs is just to help keep the kids interested in learning about them and collecting the eggs to see what color they get. Also I have heard that although they taste the same when hard boiled the colored eggs yoke doesn't crumble as much when cut like a regular white egg.

Posted by AFarmer
I can't help you there. I never hard-boiled an Americana egg. But if your intent is to keep the children interested/amused, they are an excellent choice. Another breed to keep children (and some adults) interested are the feather-footed banties. They will also lay eggs, although considerably smaller. These can be taught to children as laying eggs for small recipes. For example, any recipe calling for one egg can be cut in half - and use a whole banty egg - opposed to trying to split a whole regular egg in half. Just a thought.

Posted by AFarmer
Subject Re Breeds
So many breeds - so little space.
Matter of personal preference. One thing to remember - you DO NOT need a rooster if eggs are the goal. Hens do that anyway. Only reason you would want a rooster is to have fertile eggs. Some folks say they can tell the difference between fertile and infertile. But roosters are great for meat. Breed is completely up to you. Araucanas/Americanas kind of cute novelty to fill the fridge with blue, green and pink eggs. All taste the same.

Posted by thepiedpiper
Subject But then you need a laying mash, don't you ? Or have things changed since the 70s (when I last had chickens)? If you still need a laying mash, I think it's short sighted from a preparedness point of view to depend on that. First, you may not be able to get the mash PSHTF. Second, you can't breed your chickens then. So you'd have to go barter for/buy a rooster then, when they might be harder to get. Thoughts?

Posted by AFarmer
In reply to thepiedpiper
Roosters are not hard to come by - and are usually butchered or given away. One rooster is all you need to breed several (or dozen) hens. That would be plenty of brooding hens for the following years - and the rooster would then go in the freezer. In a PSHTF situation, I wouldn't want a rooster as it would give away my position - and likely, at the most inopportune time. They don't just crow in the morning. Some crow all day long and heaven only knows when during clear nights during a full moon.

Yes, hens will lay eggs without a rooster and without laying mash. In fact, your hens should start laying prior to being given laying mash or crumbles - usually at 4-6 months old. If you stick with the "Old Faithfuls" of egg production breeds such as the Rhode Island Reds, Production Reds and Leghorns, you will be well supplied with eggs without a rooster and without laying mash/crumbles.

The trick is nutrition - bugs, grass, grit, kitchen leftovers which might otherwise find their way down a garbage disposal - including fried chicken bones and innards. Variety is the key. If you would have fed hogs with something from the garden or kitchen but don't have pigs - treat your hens as pigs and feed them similarly. The only precaution here is to ensure meat and meat derivatives (byproducts) are thoroughly cooked (and cooled) prior to offering it to poultry. The production of eggs may not mirror the frequency of laying as those fed mash or crumbles, but they won't be far behind. Six - 12 hens will feed a family of five very well, and most likely for 1-3 years longer than those fed mash as they will not have to work as hard as commercial layers.

There is nothing wrong with "cheating" during hard times, either. Since most of us will have vitamins on hand, you might consider pulverizing one of your vitamins, mixing it into cooled grease or lard before smearing sparingly on greens & other foods for the hens. It certainly won't hurt them.

Posted by thepiedpiper:
Some excellent point. Thanks very much. This really helps the whole picture. May I humbly suggest that the combination of posts you've placed here could be pretty much a good article on its own. So please do that!

Posted by Hayseed:
Subject Yes! An article please AFarmer.
We always appreciate expert advice from someone who knows poultry and YOU know poultry!
Compiled By AFarmer



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