chick1wLivestock & Pets : Poultry

The articles below cover a number of topics about poultry health, breeding and farming. There are more articles in The Basics section too. If you're looking for something in particular then use the search box above. If not, then browse the article titles and see what there is to help you.  If you can't find an answer here then why not ask in our discussion forums? One of the very friendly and helpful members is sure to be able to help you.

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chicksChicks dehydrate quickly at the high temperatures of rearing, so they must find water quickly after hatching and learn to drink.  Drinking often starts with the chick pecking at a bubble, and some water movement helps to start them drinking.  A good idea is to lay paper on the floor and place the feed and water on that.  The chicks will discover both by pecking.  Remove the paper after a week as it will be soiled and by then they should all have learned.  Be guided by the smallest chicks as they'll be slowest to learn.

social behavoiur in poultryBeing a social bird from the open forest, the hen has developed a wide range of sounds for communication.  Studies have classified 12 chick calls and 22 calls by adults.  These range from clucks, cackles, chirps and cries to keep in contact with mates.  Calls heard most often and recognised by humans are food calls, predator alarms, pre- and post-laying calls and roosters crowing.  Others are more specific which humans find hard to identify.

reproductin - the henThe start of sexual behaviour is greatly affected by the environment, especially feeding, lighting regime and genetic strain.  In the wild and in free-range systems, young females (pullets) show mating behaviour as early as 18 weeks of age, but this varies greatly.  Most hens, regardless of breed, start to show mating behaviour 4-8 days before the start of the new laying season - whether there is a male present of not.

chooks eatingGenerally, free-range poultry that are well cared for in a suitable yard have a very good quality life.  So much so that some hens in well-managed backyard flocks have been known to reach 10 years of age.

ducklingswDucks are endearing creatures and they make friendly and lovable pets, even if they can be a bit messy!  What's so good about them?  Ducks are hardy birds that may live for up to 7 years; they lay eggs that you can eat; just like chicken eggs; they provide meat; they are easy to contain; they aren’t as prone to infectious diseases as chickens; they eat slugs, worms and any other wee beasties they can catch, and of course it’s nice to have them waddling around making happy quacks!

the hen and her chicksStudies of wild fowl and free-range domestic hens show the importance of the very strong maternal behaviour that develops between the hen and her chicks.  Chicks are very precocious and are active very soon after hatching.  In the wild survival success depends on rapid bonding between mother and offspring.  It's very important that chicks imprint on their mother after hatching.  They'll follow any moving object, which contrasts with the background about one hour after hatching.  Proper imprinting and bonding can take from 9-20 hours after hatching.

chickencoopwOne of the basic requirements for all backyards flocks is good housing.  If you want plenty of eggs and meat from your poultry, you must make sure they are safe and comfortable. 

chookchickwThe best way for anyone with a backyard flock to hatch chickens is using a broody hen, and most bantam and heavy breeds, particularly the Australorps, go broody very easily, usually in late spring or summer.  You can tell when a hen is broody because she sits continually in the nest-box. She will ruffle her feathers when you come close and will squawk loudly, warning you away.

outside mother chickenIf you have farmyard chickens then sure as eggs is eggs you will have to deal with sick birds sooner or later.  There are many minor problems that you can deal with yourself, so it’s important to know what signs to look for.

Make sure the hen is “sitting tight’ on eggs before introducing the hatching eggs to her.Select a good nest box which will provide a dark interior for the hen.  A small entrance hole will help reduce the light inside the box

chooksilkieroosterwWhat breed of chicken you choose will of course depend largely on what’s available, and that will vary hugely from one country to another.

chick behaviourChicks are very active and when running, they extend their wings and flap them for use as breaks.  They will jump on to feeders but do not perch till 4-6 weeks old.  They stretch in a very precise way with a wing and leg on one side stretched out pointing to the rear with the wing primary feathers displayed.  Chicks spend a lot of time chasing and if they turn, face up and stare at each other, this can lead to regular fights by 2 weeks of age.  These fights are only between two birds at a time (usually males) where they grab at neck feathers and pull the adversary to the ground.

eggswOne of the best reasons for having backyard hens is that they provide your family with a regular supply of tasty fresh eggs. But when do hens start laying, how many eggs can you expect, and how should you deal with problems?

meat chickenThe broiler chicken industry shows what can be achieved by applied science.  Geneticists and nutritionists have cooperated to produce a bird that takes 40 days to mature instead of 80 days.  It converts 1.95 - 2.20kg of feed into 1kg of body weight from which 0.7kg of carcass is produced.   These values are constantly being improved.  A good broiler has to increase its birth weight 40 -50 times before slaughter at 42 days

non infectious disease in poultryMany of the diseases that can cause problems in farmyard poultry are the results of infections by parasites, bacteria or viruses, but there are many other types of problem too.  These are generally related to diet or management, and most can be readily prevented.

Here are some of the most common non-infectious health problems that could occur in your flock.

Make sure the hen is “sitting tight’ on eggs before introducing the hatching eggs to her.Select a good nest box which will provide a dark interior for the hen.  A small entrance hole will help reduce the light inside the box

chookseatingwFree range poultry - what should you feed them? Commercial feed, or grain, or table scraps? And do you need to provide shell grit?

single chickenThere are hundreds of different diseases that can affect poultry, and free-range chickens may be more or less at risk. 

three eggsThis is the first in a 12-part series on the “Care of Farmyard Poultry”. The aim of the articles is to help you, the lifestyle farmer, obtain and manage a healthy backyard flock for eggs and meat.

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