August 17, 2016

Guest Blog by Andrea Mitchell: "Got Chickens? 7 Top Chicken Keeping Answers"


Got Chickens? 7 Top Chicken Keeping Answers 

Seabuck 7 loves to hear from all of their friends! We want to chat with all of the chicken raisers so we can help you be even better at making those birds happy.  Cheerful chickens = smiling keepers. Ever wonder about the top questions regarding keeping chickens?  

Here are the top 7 “most asked” questions about chickens.

1. Are chickens dirty?
Not at all! These feathered beauties are even tidier than cats. Chickens smell like linen hung out to dry (they really do) – they do not sweat or produce scents like mammals do. A chicken’s feathers are very clean.  Like all birds, chickens are fastidious, they must keep their feathers clean as a primary survival point (and they don’t do this by licking them – they indulge in dust bathing). As prey animals they have no scent detectable by humans and you won’t be left with hair all over your clothes - ever. Most people are not allergic to fowl, so think about adding birds to your family.

However, as with any animal, keeping their living quarters clean is important. Never crowd birds, house them in unsanitary conditions, or neglect basic daily cleaning. Expect to remove manure twice a day. Never allow any droppings to accumulate on roosts or other coop furnishings. Livestock manure is a valuable fertilizer, and gardening friends will be lining up to bring home your wonderful supply. Installing a droppings board under the roost area in your coop can greatly reduce time spent cleaning.

2. The rooster and the egg
Do you need a rooster? Every flock must have a rooster for everyone to feel protected and safe.  If it is allowed in your community, you will need to add these stunning males to your coop. Please fight to change anti-rooster laws, roosters are part of the natural social structure of any flock and chickens just happen to hatch out as male and female. Always try to purchase from hatcheries that sell straight run, or as hatched, to stop the destruction of male chicks. Male chickens, properly called cocks (under one year-old males are cockerels) are beautiful, clever and very loving. Most roosters live together without an issue, as they quickly establish a social order. Males raised together are even more likely to get along. A mixed flock of different ages and sexes provides a natural living arrangement that tends to prevent behavior or training issues. Older males and females train and guide the younger birds — a job that will fall on the human handler in same age flocks!

Roosters protect hens, they police the flock and they insure everything runs without too many hitches.  They help with foraging, nesting and the roosters all keep an eye out for danger. You will experience far fewer predator losses when running roosters with hens. Male birds are hard-wired for vigilance, and they keep hens safe while the females rustle up food. Don’t be surprised if egg production increases, because the roosters’ presence reduces stress in the flock. 

Crowing is nothing to “crow about.” A crow is quieter than a barking dog, less shrill than a parrot, less incessant than the drone of traffic, far lower in volume than lawn mowers or lawn machinery, and roosters do not crow incessantly. Roosters will not crow at all hours and they only crow for a reason. If your birds are caroling at night, you probably have a predator problem disturbing their beauty sleep! Crowing frequency reduces as the bird matures.

Tip: Purchase a “No –Crow” collar (or make your own with Velcro) if you do not like crowing.

3. How big should the coop be?
Your coop needs to be as big as you can afford! Coops should be shed or barn sized. Do not purchase rabbit hutch styled coops, they are far too small and not suited to housing birds. The minimum sized coop for standard breeds is roughly 6×6. 
A well-built chicken house has many purposes and it is worth any money you spend, but don’t skimp on quality materials. Expect a good coop to last 50 years or more. Nicely constructed chicken houses enhance your property and have resale value, as they can easily be re-purposed into tool sheds, gardening sheds, etc. 

Chicken coops need to be roomy enough for you to walk around, for the chickens to feel comfortable, and to house all of the coop furnishings from roosts to nest boxes.

Coop Must-haves:
• You should be able to walk into the coop and move around comfortably.
• The coop must have roosts, nesting boxes, and areas for supplies (grain bins, shelving, trash bin, cleaning tools).
• The coop needs good ventilation. It will need to remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  Larger coops provide better air circulation. 

4. What do chickens eat?
Chickens are omnivores and that means they eat a variety of foods. Birds have big appetites contrary to the folk saying. Foraging is essential for chickens’ health and happiness. Allow your flock to benefit from natural behaviors. Letting birds enjoy scratching and grazing prevents chronic stress and behavior issues. Purchase an organic laying feed if that is available. Never skimp on feed quality.

Provide fresh, washed vegetables and fruits. In cold weather offer “heat” foods like nuts, sunflower seeds and corn. Never feed raw meat or spoiled food. Mycotoxins in spoiled grains are deadly.
Healthy antioxidants and other superfoods are important in our diets – they are for chickens too. You will want to supplement your birds’ diet with protein and “goodies” that supply nutrients, probiotics and phytonutrients. Consider adding sea buckthorn and other foods like kelp.  Turmeric and oregano oil are also good to try, and these nutritional additives are used by large farms as disease preventatives and health enhancers.
Note: Grain that promises “yellow” yolks through coloring agents like marigold petals are safe, but you want the birds to get their nutrition through more varied food, including grasses, fruits and vegetables. You want yellow yolks to be a secondary bonus from REAL nutrition sources. High polyunsaturated fats in eggs come from a good diet, and that means healthier eggs for you too.

 5. Can I train my chickens?
Absolutely! Chickens are visual/verbal thinkers and observational learners. Their brains are geared for socializing. They are precocious, meaning they hit the ground ready to learn. Chickens’ cognitive function rival those of parrots, crows and primates With the ability to practice empathy, forethought, abstract thought (including trickery, comprehending mechanical workings and even mathematics), your birds are built to learn.  Chickens acquire information through observation, they can also understand human language so be sure to teach them a few words. These little brainiacs are so easy to train. In fact, your flock  will be training you before you train them! Never underestimate a chicken’s intellectual skills. 

These birds are far easier to train than dogs. Expect a chicken to understand a lesson after one session – without any repetition. 

6. Meet and greet  - introducing new flock members
Since every bird is an individual, this can be a difficult question to answer. Always take introductions as a case-by-case situation. Social interaction is complex and it is changeable. Birds that got along great, may not at a later date. Generally, separate new birds for a few days to see how they adapt. You will want to be present during the first few introductions. Things almost always go smoothly. Special care should be taken when adding new roosters.

Give the roosters a few days to meet each other, but not get close. Place the new rooster far enough away from the established male to prevent fighting through the fences. Many roosters will be fine with several males in the flock. However, if aggression is intense and ingrained, the birds will need to be separated. Fighting can lead to serious injury and death.  Be especially careful and vigilant when introducing new adult males. Some territorial aggression can be mitigated by introducing two or three new roosters instead of one bird, as the attention of the established rooster is going to be spread across several new additions.

When adding young chicks to an established flock, wait until they are a few months old. Older birds will attack strange youngsters. If you are hatching under a broody – no worries! Mom takes care of the introductions. She will begin to drive the young birds away as they mature. By this time, the birds will have merged with the flock.

7. Understanding chickens
The key to success with chickens rests with understanding their intelligence, inquisitive nature, social structure and boundless energy. These birds are always watching and thinking about things. Animals with this kind of brain power often present some real challenges. They are one step ahead and “too smart for their own good.” Armed with understanding, you can be ready to troubleshoot before issues arise. Chickens are determined and strong willed. Be prepared to make concessions! If the birds want a nest box to be an old shavings bag, let them have it. When you listen to what the chickens tell you—things go smoothly! 

Extra Tip: Be sure to have the contact information of an avian/exotic vet before you get birds. Local universities are good places to start your search. They will also be able to guide you in finding an avian vet in your area. With the demand for exotic vets increasing, many doctors are now able to help chickens. Don’t forget to ask. Farm vets are usually ready to help with a flock. Remember to always have a vet available before you need to contact one. An obviously ill chicken is almost always an emergency!

Well, we hope you are ready to enjoy the summer with your favorite fowl. Share your tips and know-how with all the readers! What are your 7 top chicken raising answers? Get on your crowing fence and send us a shout.

June 29, 2016

Why Aren't My Chickens Laying? - guest post by Andrea Martin

Why Aren’t the Chickens Laying?

As scarce as hen’s eggs! That is what some chicken keepers may want to say about eggs.  This is the number one question asked by bird folks. The first step towards understanding eggs, and the laying process, involves rethinking what those round “baking ingredients” really are. Eggs are nothing more than the chicken’s way of making more chickens!  It really is a chicken and egg question.
Chickens, like mammals, ovulate. Unlike mammals, they incubate their babies outside their bodies. It takes 21 days of setting for an egg’s fluffy occupant to mature and enter the big outside world. Egg production is based on three things: the day length, the chicken’s genetics and two outside influences – lifestyle and nutrition.
This is great news! We can guide and enhance two of those three factors… we can provide an enriched living arrangement and we can supply varied and beneficial foodstuffs. We can even alter the daylight - but this needs to be done with caution. More on that in a bit.

What we can’t change

Each chicken is the product of a rich and varied genetic heritage. Her ancestors supplied her size, feather color and structure, and the number of eggs she will lay. So, egg laying can be influenced through the generations by selective breeding – and this was just what humans did over the centuries. You can’t change the number of eggs that any individual bird has – they, just like mammals, are born with all of the eggs they will ever have! You won’t get 300 eggs out of a Silkie or Brahma, but you will from a Brown Leghorn and Australorp.
Raising heritage and endangered breeds of chickens is the first step to being successful as a chicken keeper and conservationist.  These breeds have been developed for vigor, slow maturation, reasonable production intended to maintain health and longevity, and the ability to utilize native range /climate to an advantage.  Research has proved that selecting these individuals is extremely important in order to salvage diversity, to enjoy disease resistance, and to support animal welfare. 
Choosing native fowl is particularly important for warmer zones. As this article from Scientifica (2016) states,  “Indigenous breeds are well known for their tropical adaptability and disease resistance, while their plumage colour helps in protecting themselves against predators.”

Happy hens

Stress, dirty and un-enriched living conditions limit reproduction in any animal. These negative factors also increase illness, create behavioral issues and lead to welfare issues in the animals. Happy healthy birds lay more and better eggs. Chickens of all breeds are designed to forage for most of the day. They need stuff to do, places to see and leafy areas to dig.  Busy birds are happy birds. 

Chickens are biologically bound to seek out flock living.  Always be sure to provide at least 4 birds to any group. You can get away with three, and this is a common breeding group known as a trio. A trio is comprised of two hens and their rooster. Roosters are a very important member of any flock. Well-bred roosters stabilize the social structure. They reduce stress in the hens, assist with activities such as foraging and nesting, alert the flock to danger and cultivate a beneficial sense of safety.
Note: Unusually aggressive or birds with genetic faults should never be bred. Responsible breeding prevents cruelty and unwanted birds.  
Choose wary and range-bred chickens, such as Spangled Hamburgs, Penedesenca, Brown Leghorns, Ancona, Welsummer and Fayoumi for natural keeping practices. Refrain from purchasing and raising breeds that are not suited to your environment. “It is important to maximize the use of existing genetic diversity…in indigenous fowl [47, 60]. …In the recent past there is a growing concern to conserve biodiversity and to evaluate potential value of indigenous chicken not only for current but also for future unforeseen uses.”
Note: Laying is determined by day length. Chickens need to rest from laying during the winter months, even in warm climates. This rest period is critical, so adding light must be done with care. Hens will stop laying during the molt as well, this is when they save their energy to make new feathers! Laying will resume after the molt. Using Seabuck 7 during the molting process is important. The birds need added nutrition and vitamins during this time.

Dinner bells

Chickens love to eat! These feathered friends can really tuck in.  Anyone who “eats like a bird” has an impressive appetite.  A chicken’s eating practices vary by several factors. Young birds have higher protein needs as they build muscle, bone, feathers and everything else! Hens in lay will eat a substantial amount more than their rooster friends and any hen that is older or not laying at the time. Birds eat less in hot weather and more in cold.
Always provide top quality grain for the flock and be sure to supplement this with fresh greens and fruits. Chickens crave protein and they will find this on range. Prevent behavioral issues and feather picking by supplying protein to your birds if range or wild sources are limited.  The protein sources and lack of variety in chicken grain diets creates many issues for the birds. Chickens naturally desire a wide variety of foodstuffs, and being omnivores, innately crave certain textures and tastes.
Note: Behavior issues can often be linked to a mundane diet (only offering processed feed with no greens or range) as well as a sterile environment. Chickens need coop and feed diversity! Stressed and bored chickens will not produce eggs, have that special show-ring bloom, or enjoy a quality life. 


Chickens need that little extra boost to keep their bodies fighting ready! A few additions to their perfect world are the gilding that you need to put on your feathered lilies.  Provide oyster shell for calcium and shell quality, kelp or seaweed for micronutrients lacking in modern soils, grit for their digestion and natural food boosts for their immune systems and body condition.
There are many options to choose from and knowing your flock’s needs is key. Consult with your agricultural extension and with a vet skilled in natural medicine.  Be careful of what you purchase for supplementation. There are many poultry products are on the market – but they are not regulated and quality/results may not be supported.  Many supplements are not bioavailable, or they may need an additional complementary herb to boost their absorption.  Turmeric and oregano will not be utilized by the birds, or you, without the addition of “bioperine” or pepper extract (yes, it is made from black pepper). If you purchase a supplement for the birds containing flakes of dried oregano – you will only be flavoring their food. 

Best Picks:
  • Turmeric with bioperine
  • Oregano oil
  • And…Seabuck 7!

We mention the sea buckthorn because we know that this fruit has evidence-derived, scientifically proven properties.  Read our other posts on what to expect from Seabuck 7. 
Happy laying! Share your egg-citing stories – tell us how do you keep your feathered flocks feisty?