What poultry do we keep?
Premier’s birds tend to change over time, as some “depart” and new ones replace them. Here’s what we have (or had this past year):
- Chickens: Wyandottes, Delaware, Sussex, Giants, Brahmas, Minorcas, Leghorns, Buff Orpingtons.
- Ducks: Blue Swedish, Khaki Campbell, Buff Runners, Rouens.
- Geese: Toulouse and Buff.
- Q. How many chickens should I have?
- A. For a novice we recommend 2 to 4 hens. They will provide you with experience and a steady supply of eggs spring through fall. Hens lay fewer eggs during the chilly, short-daylight winter months.
- Q. Do I need a rooster for my hens to lay eggs?
- A. Hens will cheerfully lay eggs for their entire lifetime without a rooster. Their happy clucks are infrequent and seldom loud. Few are as high strung as roosters. Obviously, a rooster is essential for fertilized eggs. If this is your choice, be prepared to hear crowing from predawn to dark. However, a rooster is often not a good thing—as his libido can cause disruption among the hens. Though one rooster may not be a problem, our experience is that 2 or more roosters are continually feuding, causing stress among the hens. A word of caution: Roosters can become territorial and aggressive, especially to visitors and children.
- Q. How many eggs will a hen lay?
- A. A young hen can lay 5 eggs/week during peak laying season, depending on her breed. As hens age they lay fewer eggs per week/month/year.
- Q. Do chickens fly?
- A. That depends on how you define flying. If motivated, lighter breeds and bantams can quite easily fly over a fence or up to a tree branch or rafter, but they lack the ability of true flight that wild birds have. Most heavy breeds are content to stay on the ground—which makes them the better choice for a backyard flock.
- Q. How much area will birds need?
- A. The number below are minimum recommendations (per bird) for outdoor poultry pens. Within limited, more space is always better.
- Bantams: 4 sq ft
- Standard breeds: 8 sq ft.
- Ducks: 15 sq ft
- Geese & turkeys: 18 sq ft
These same principles apply to all types of poultry…
- Start with eggs from a proven breeder. (Some hatcheries specialize in heritage breeds if you’re interested in preserving biodiversity and historical breeds.) Run the incubator one day prior to setting eggs. This sets the temperature and allows time for adjustments. Set the eggs and record the date.
- We’ve tested both heat plates and heat lamps for brooding. Both are easy to adjust to maintain proper warmth as birds grow. Place a thermometer in the brooder to monitor the temperature. To adjust the plates, set leg height so the base touches the birds’ backs. To adjust heat lamps, raise or lower the lamp in the brooder (via a chain).
- When starting chicks, use drown-proof waterers. Hatchlings are very small, at risk of drowning in standard waterers. To introduce a new water source, take each chick gently in your hand and dip its beak into the water. If raising birds outdoors, use covered feeders to keep feed dry and prevent roosting birds from soiling their feed.
Fence Solutions for backyards and pastures…
- Backyard Chickens
- Often called the gateway livestock, chickens take up little room, provide meat and eggs, and put marginal land and lawns to good use. Small flocks are easy to keep in the backyard. They’re happy with a little room to roam and protection from predators. But be careful, small poultry enterprises can escalate in size before you know it!
- Garden Helpers
- Chickens are omnivores, which means they eat plants, vegetables, insects and anything else that crosses their path. When managed well, they are an indispensable garden tool—turning pesky insects and weeds into rich compost. Be sure to fence the birds away from the sections of the garden you want to save for yourselves. They enjoy fresh produce too!
- Predator Protection
- Chickens and other poultry rely on you for their safety and defense. It’s your job to protect them from predators. Foxes, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, opossums and skunks are stopped by properly installed, energized electric netting. Netting must be properly energized in order to stop predators in their tracks!
- Pastured Poultry
- Is just what it says it is—raising poultry directly on fresh grass or pasture. Birds receive grain and are able to forage. Depending on the type of production, housing involves low to the ground broiler pens and chicken tractors or egg-mobiles.
- Rotational Grazing
- Can be simply explained as moving poultry between grazing paddocks (pastures or yards) every set number of days or as needed. After an area is foraged, it is left alone to rest until the next rotation. Poultry usually follow the grazing pattern of another type of livestock (sheep, cattle, goats, pigs). The birds clean up any spilled grain (if used) and scratch and distribute manure patties of the larger animals. The flock is protected from ground based predators by electrified netting and fence energizers. The predators receive a memorable shock and learn to stay away from the flock.