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Is it Too Late to Hatch Eggs??

6/25/2015 4:00 PM

Spring time is a big rush for hatching eggs. As a company that sells egg incubators, we definitely take notice. Now that it’s summer some may ask: “Did I miss the window of opportunity? Is it too late to hatch my eggs?” The answer is… it depends.

 

The first thing to consider is the type of bird you want to hatch. Chickens will Generally lay eggs for most of the year. They'll stop laying when they start molting and will really slow down egg production in those months with less sunlight. The rooster will do his business year round.  As a very broad average hens will generally produce about 250 eggs per year. This heavily depends on the breed of the Chicken. Geese, on the other hand, will only lay eggs in the spring, as well as many breeds of Duck.  

 

The second thing to consider is your purpose in raising the birds. Some raise birds for meat, others for eggs, and some for pets. You need to plan ahead in terms of when you want your eggs or meat. The time it takes for the birds to be ready to harvest for meat varies depending on the breed. Some take 5 months and others, such as some Cornish breeds, can take as little as 8 weeks! If you wait after their prime harvesting time the meat will start to get tough. As far as raising birds for eggs, they need to grow for about 6 months before they start laying eggs. Again, this is a very broad average. Here is a good explanation for Chickens from the MyPetChicken.com forum:

 

On average, pullets, or juvenile hens, start laying eggs at about 6 months of age, depending on the breed. Larger, heavier birds like Wyandottes, Plymouth Rocks and Orpingtons will lay on the later side whereas lighter, smaller breeds like Leghorns, Stars, and Australorps will start laying sooner.

 

Taking this into consideration will allow you to know when you should hatch your eggs. This explains why incubation season is in the spring. This allows you to raise your birds in a warmer time of the year, as well as being able to start harvesting eggs and/or meat before it starts getting cold again. Now that it’s almost July, it doesn’t really mean you’ve missed the boat to hatch your eggs. It just means you need to plan ahead! 

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Steve Boyd
There a several things anybody hatching eggs should know. For simplicity sake I made a list of 5 things you should know for starting your hatch. If you would like a full guide on how to hatch eggs visit our Beginner's Guide to Hatching Eggs.
 
 
1. First and foremost, before you buy or collect your fertile hatching eggs make sure you have all your incubation equipment (i.e. Incubator, egg turner, thermometer etc.). Don’t wait until you have your eggs to buy your incubator.


2.  Place incubator in room where temperature stays fairly constant. This helps prevent large temperature swings during incubation.


3.  Stabilize air temperature in your incubator before setting eggs. This is especially important for manually adjusted thermostats.

 

4.  This one feeds off the last. Don’t panic if your temperature goes whacko after setting your eggs. This is completely normal. The reason is that the eggs bring with them a cooler temperature and it takes a few hours for the temperature to stabilize once again.


5.  Candle eggs after 3 days into incubation. If you don’t see any signs of development discard it. This prevents bad eggs from rotting and gives you a better idea of how many eggs are fertile. 

 

I hope you have a great hatch!

0 Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Steve Boyd

**Disclaimer: Not for the faint of heart or those who get queasy at the sight of blood**

We recently processed our own Turkeys. It was quite the adventure being my first time. I decided to document our process along the way to possibly help others that may be embarking on a similar journey as I had. I hope you can use my experience to avoid the mistakes that I made and maybe even apply some of my learnings for the next time you process a Turkey (or any bird for that matter). Please share any suggestions or tips you may have.

Materials Used:

- Fishing net

- Cage 

- Rubber gloves

- Box cutter blade

- Rope/twine

- Table 

- Large, Double-burner stove

- Large plastic tote

- Large freezer bags

Before wrangling up the Turkeys we started boiling two very large pots of water. This was in preparation for scalding and plucking the Turkeys later on. We used a large fishing net to capture the Turkeys and then placed them in a cage. I found this to be fairly easy since the Turkeys were so big and slow. We then carried the cage with as many Turkeys as we could fit over to our butchering station.

 

To slaughter the Turkeys we tied some strong wire/rope around the Turkey’s legs then strung them hanging upside down on the outside of a large cage. We then sliced their throats with a very sharp box cutter knife so that they would bleed out very quickly. I would suggest either using a large kill cone or hanging them in the open air. The reason I suggest this is because when we killed the Turkeys they would flap their wings for a couple minutes. Their wings kept slapping on the cage which tore some of the skin on the wings. Once they stopped we removed the head and moved them to the plucking station.

 

We scalded the turkeys by placing the boiling water in a large tote/tub. I dunked mine for a solid minute. Plucking was definitely the most tedious and time-consuming step.  When I started plucking the feathers I learned two things: first pull the feathers with the grain (I guess is the best way to say it) to avoid leaving tiny pieces of feather in the skin. The second lesson I learned was to pull the larger feathers first. Since it was a cold day the larger feathers such as the tail and wing feathers would harden back up making them harder to pluck.

I gutted the turkey by cutting a hole around the anus.  If I cut it well I could avoid the very fowl smell of the left-over… droppings. Let’s just say I learned my lesson after the first bird. I pulled out all the innards fairly easily; it was the small tissue/s left behind that were tricky to remove. It took me a while to do this. I then made a cut at the part where the neck meats the breast. Inside I found lots of recently eaten food. This was easy to remove. The skin peeled off the inside very easily and was cleaned out in a matter of seconds. 

 

After I was satisfied with cleaning out the insides I rinsed my turkey inside and out using a garden hose spigot. Since there
was fresh snow all around we were able to place the fresh turkeys in the snow while we moved on to the next ones.

 

Later that night at home I did another cleaning of the insides and I plucked the small pieces out of the skin that were left behind from plucking in the wrong direction. I did this with tweezers.  I gave it one last rinse and then wrapped the turkey as tightly as I could with plastic wrap. I then put the turkey in a new garbage bag and tried vacuum sealing the turkey using a household vacuum. It actually worked pretty well! I will be leaving it in my chest freezer until it’s ready for Christmas time.

 

5 Key Lessons Learned:

 

1. Rubber gloves come in handy, they help grip and just feel more sanitary.

 

2. Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty/stained

 

3. The bird will stay positioned how you leave it. What I mean by this is that as the rigor mortis sets in the turkey’s arms and legs will stick in the position you leave it in. Since it was such a cold day this happened during the plucking process. I would recommend banding the legs together as soon as you can and plucking the breast side first so that the wings can settle inward.

 

4. Use strong rope to tie up the turkey’s legs. They would sometimes break the cord we were using.

 

5.Pluck largest feathers first and always pull them out in the direction that they are pointing.

 

So take these learnings and maybe the next time you process your bird/s you will remember what I learned and be able to use it to your advantage. Happy Holidays!

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Steve Boyd

Bathing a Chicken

10/7/2014 10:30 AM

For a variety of reasons, your chickens’ overall cleanliness may become a concern. For this reason, people often wonder if it is okay to give a chicken a bath. The answer is yes, it is even beneficial.

Bathing your chickens should be done, when possible, at the same time you clean the coop. This will help both chickens and coop to stay clean for longer. There are a lot of positive side effects to having clean chickens and coop. This will help prevent disease and poor health. It will also help fight bad odors. However, it is important to note that bathing your chickens does not need to be done as frequently as coop-cleaning, as chickens ‘dust-bathe’— roll around in the dirt to get clean then shaking the dirt off and preening their feathers. There are situations in which bathing your chicken may be beneficial, usually when it is particularly dirty or smelly, sick, injured, or has filth (such as droppings) on it.

Hen Dustbathing

Chickens 'Dust-Bathing'

Cleaning the coop has already been discussed in a previous article, but how do you clean a chicken?

Chickens can be cleaned indoors or outdoors. You will need to containers— buckets, bathtubs, sinks or pretty much any other container you can think of will work. If you plan on bathing them outside, make sure the weather is warm and sunny. If you bathe them inside make sure you are prepared to deal with water splashed all over the place.

When you clean them, use a gentle soap or shampoo. DO NOT use harsh soaps, such as dish soap or vinegar (unless it is very diluted with water); these will strip oil from the feathers. Mix a little bit of the soap with water, and gently clean the chicken. Do not scrub or rub too hard, or try to pull grime off the feathers. You can just let them sit or you can plunge the chicken up and down in the water or use a sprayer nozzle.

When they are clean, rinse them in clean water. Follow the same procedure as used when washing them in the soapy water. When they are rinsed, make sure they are dry, especially if the weather is cold. Blow drying them works well. An extremely gentle towel dry will also work. You do not want to put the chickens back out if they are wet— even if it does not make them sick it will likely make them unhappy (as well as cause them to get dirty again more quickly).

After they are clean and dry, you may want to file or clip their nails. Do this carefully. You may also want to apply some products (such as lice powder) before you return them to their coop.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

When people decide to raise chickens, a common question is which breed will be the best to choose for laying eggs. This decision is based upon innumerable factors and this post could not possibly cover them all, but we will go over several of them.

First, of course, is overall egg production numbers. Different breeds of chicken produce eggs in varying numbers and with varying consistency. Before you select a breed, look into this and find out not only how often the hens will lay eggs but for what duration. At what age will they start and stop laying eggs? How consistently do they lay eggs year round? When looking for consistency and overall production, commonly recommended breeds include the leghorn variety or a high production 'hybrid' bird. (A hybrid chicken is a mixture of species bred to get particular results.)

Also consider chicken management and upkeep. By 'management' I refer to the amount of attention, care, time and other particulars the hens may need. Will I have to build or buy anything specific? How often will I need to clean their coop? By 'upkeep' I refer to financial costs of the chickens. How much will it cost to buy food? Will it be difficult or costly to keep them healthy? These two factors are very critical when deciding the best chicken breed for you.

Another factor that may be important is the durability and/or self-reliance of the chickens. This is especially important for people who live in climates that may not be ideal, who are less experienced caring for hens, or who are not as financially well off. How well with the hens hold up during the winter season, inclement weather or changes in temperature? How much of the chicken's diet will it be able to get on it's own? How resistant is the hen to disease? This is especially important because a chicken under the stress of poor health or conditions will not be as productive.

Hen

Owning docile-enough chickens is important

The chickens' temperament can also be very important. Especially if you have kids or are inexperienced with chickens, look into this factor. It is important that the chickens are docile enough for your particular needs and interests. Many chicken breeds are recommended for being docile and less 'flighty'.

The nutritional value of the eggs is also important to a lot of people. This is not usually as big a deal as many people believe, as there is not usually a huge difference in the healthiness of home-produced eggs. Some breeds may be slightly better or worse than others, but there are not often major differences. However, there is always a major nutritional benefit to getting your own eggs as opposed to buying them at a store!

The quality of the meat is an underrated factor. After your chickens have stopped consistently producing eggs, or at any other time, you may decide to use the birds for meat. Look up quantity and quality, and if you can, try to get a bird that will better produce meat. However, this is not a critical factor when looking for egg-laying birds. (Obviously.)

The looks of the birds and eggs. This is a surprisingly important consideration to many people. Many productive birds are very peculiar looking, which many people don't like. Many people do like usually colored eggs, however, and people with a wide variety of chicken species will often try for a 'colorful egg basket'. Many chicken species can be found that will produce bright and colorful eggs. However, most will produce eggs in shades of brown, cream or white.

Colorful Chicken Eggs

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

In an earlier post, several commonly asked questions about hens’ egg production were discussed. In this article, we will go over a few more.

How often will a hen lay eggs? Even in conditions that are ideal and constant, egg production will depend on various factors, including breed and, most notably, age of the hen. At prime age, in prime condition, you will get an egg almost every day. When a hen first begins laying eggs, it may take a bit for egg production to get to that point. Once there, the pace should maintain until the chicken begins to get old. If it suddenly stops or slows down drastically there may be something wrong with the hen’s diet or environment. This also may be caused by seasonal factors.

When a hen gets old, will it just stop laying eggs? No, but production will slow down. The age this happens will vary by chickens. Some start to slow down at about a year old, others will go steadily until three years or older. At this point, production will decrease for five or more years until, eventually, the hen lays eggs seldom, if ever. Even a somewhat old hen should lay eggs, if less frequently than a hen in it’s prime.

 

Hen

Make sure your hens are healthy and in a good environment.

What if my hens stop laying eggs suddenly? Check their conditions. Remember, egg laying is a reproductive trait, not a survival one. In nature, survival ranks above reproduction. If hens stop laying eggs, it is usually because their health or environmental conditions are not good. For more information on ideal conditions see the preceding post.

When should I collect the eggs? Make sure to collect eggs every day, as soon after they are laid as possible. An egg that sits around may be eaten by another hen or become broken, which may then result in it being eaten by the hens. When a hen has eaten an egg, it can become a habit that not only sticks with that hen but can spread quite rapidly through the flock, jeopardizing all eggs laid by the flock. Great care should be taken to avoid this, even though it is somewhat uncommon. Try to get a feel for when your particular hens will have laid all their eggs, and collect their eggs at that time. Usually it will be mid- to late morning, between about eight and eleven o' clock a.m.

Do I have to collect all their eggs at once? It is best to. Because of the private and stress free environment that is ideal for hens to lay eggs, one should try to disturb the nesting area as infrequently as possible.



 

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

Among the top reasons for owning backyard chickens is being able to harvest fresh, nutrient-rich eggs on an almost daily basis. There are several questions that often arise, however, pertaining to hens and their egg-laying capabilities, as well as how to provide. Here I hope to address a few, and clear up some facts.

 

Chicken Eggs

Eggs layed by backyard chickens will not be as white as store-bought eggs

 

When will my hen start laying eggs? This depends on several factors, particularly the breed of chicken. Each breed is different, but breeds of larger birds tend to take a little bit longer, and smaller-sized breeds tend to take slightly less time. Usually, when a poult reaches an age of between 4 and 6 months, it will begin to lay eggs. Time of year, nutrition, environmental conditions, and the birds general health are also major factors.

Should I be concerned if my hen does not lay eggs by that age? If your birds take slightly longer than mentioned above to start laying eggs, there is no reason to be concerned. If it takes significantly longer, check on their health and the condition of their environment, making sure everything is ideal. Many factors affect egg laying, including genetics and seasonal factors— it is not uncommon for hens to not lay eggs during, winter particularly during their first winter.

What conditions are ideal for a hen to lay eggs? Many things make up a good egg-laying environment. Make sure the environment is as stress-free as possible. Dogs or children chasing them around or inclement weather (even if they are protected from it) can cause stress and fear in hens and decrease egg production. Aside from offering shelter and protection, a coop will help maintain a stress-free environment (however, make sure it is well ventilated). The more securely and snugly the coop is built, the better egg production will be. It also helps prevent disease. A protected outdoor area is also important to egg production, one of the reasons being that exposure to daylight is an important component of good egg production. Many hen owners set up artificial lights during winter months to keep egg production up. If you can, also allow your hens to free-range. Make sure the coop is clean and pest-free. You will also want to provide 'nest-boxes' for the hens to lay their eggs in.

 

Nesting boxes

A Nesting Box does not necessarily have to be a 'box'

 

What are 'nest boxes'? A nest box is an area for the chicken to safely lay their eggs. If done right you will not have to search for the eggs each day. You can buy nest boxes from the store or make your own. Many people make them of wood, but this is harder to clean than metal or plastic. Each box should be built to hold one to four birds. Place the boxes around the edges of the coop a 18-24 inches above the floor, and place a thick layer of soft litter in the bottom of each box. Make sure the nest boxes stay as clean as possible, particularly if they are lined with hay, which many experienced chicken owners discourage, because it is more likely to become moldy or diseased. A nest box does not need to be fancy, and there is no specific way to build it. A nesting box doesn't necessarily need to be a 'box'.

What if my chicken won't lay eggs in the nest box? It is often necessary to teach the chicken that the nesting box is where it should lay its eggs. Most people put dummy eggs in the nesting box. The chickens see the eggs and think another bird layed them there, so it must be a good place to lay eggs. If this doesn't work, try temporarily simulating the conditions of where they currently lay their eggs, until they become used to using the nesting box. For instance, if they lay their eggs under a tree, try scattering some of the leaves in the bottom of the nest box. If the boxes are portable, you might want to try placing them above or near where the hens tend to lay their eggs. Once they get used to using the boxes, put them back where and how they belong.

How can I help the nest boxes stay clean? Most importantly, make sure the boxes are only being used for laying eggs (unless the eggs are fertilized and the hen is sitting on them). This will help keep dirt and droppings out. Nothing can guarantee that the hens won't loiter in the boxes, but there are several things you can do to help. Start by developing good habits with the hens. If they loiter in the boxes, shoo them out, and over time they will learn to stay elsewhere. Keeping the boxes in darker areas of the coop also help, as will placing a flap of burlap or canvas in front of the boxes.

What diet should my hens be on while laying eggs? First, make sure the feed your hen's diet is on is rich in protein, calories, carbs, vitamins, and minerals, particularly calcium, which will strengthen the eggshells. Make sure they do not get too much fatty food, which is a particular problem if you feed them a lot of table scraps. Some manufacturers sell specific egg-laying feed formulas. Even if they free-range, supplementing their diet with high quality feed can benefit egg production quantity and quality. Conversely, do not feed them only manufactured food-- the stuff they naturally scavenge and table scraps should make up a portion of their diet. They should have all-day access to their food. A constant supply of fresh, clean water is also vital. This affects more than just the hen's overall health, as eggs are composed primarily of water.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

Many people who raise poultry birds have difficulties obtaining proper feed. Stores selling proper feed are far away from some people, others just don’t want to have to pay for it. Many people don’t want to have to buy it just so they can be more self sufficient. Making or growing your own chicken feed is possible and may be an option you want to look into. It can also be much healthier or more specific to your own birds’ needs.

One helpful component is a large pasture. If it is healthy and consistent enough, and the coop can be moved to a new area on a regular basis, birds can often forage enough to stay healthy without you providing feed. Even if not, it will likely be a useful supplement to the feed you provide. This is a very natural and healthy diet for poultry birds.

If you don’t have access to a proper pasture, or in areas with heavy winters that will affect the pasture, you can make or grow feed that can work as well as or even better than store-bought feed.

Many feed recipes are out there, and they can vary wildly. High protein diets are essential to growth; without as much protein, the birds will be smaller. However, it is important to find a balance between various nutrients.

Finding a suitable recipe may require some experimentation. When you do find a proper one, it may require some alteration.

 

Alfalfa

Alfalfa is an essential ingredient in most DIY poultry feed recipes.


Some essential ingredients include alfalfa, wheat, and other grains. Many experienced farmers and  ‘do-it-yourself’ poultry raisers advise that you do not include soybeans — try field peas instead. Most recipes should include greens for nutrition and ‘grit’ to aid digestion. Salt and meat scraps are also common ingredients. Often, specific nutritional supliments are included. You may also want to add suppliments to help balance the diet or benefit specific qualities of the birds. Remember to provide good variety and balance. Grains should be bought as whole grain then ground coarsely or ‘cracked’.

After you begin giving your birds the new feed, watch them closely. Keep an eye out for disease or delayed growth and development. These may be signs of improper nutrition or an imbalanced diet.

Remember that creating your own poultry feed is an ongoing process. It make take some time to get it right, and, even once you find a way that works, you might be able to improve it.

This link offers more useful information.

 

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

For many people, particularly those living in suburban neighborhoods, there is the question of whether or not their neighborhood will allow them to own chickens or other poultry birds. This can not be answered with a general answer, because the rules are different in each area— you will have to find the particular rules for your area on your own. Here is what you need to do. First, use an online search engine to look up ordinance codes for your area. They may or may not be online, and even if they are online, they may be difficult to find and/or understand.

If you don’t find anything, or if you just want to be sure you are right, contact the Health and Zoning Boards in your area. Each of these groups may have rules regulating or outlawing ownership of poultry birds. Also contact a representative from your HOA, if you have one. They often have rules about owning chickens.

Try talking to a city leader or clerk. This may save some time and give you a few useful pointers. This website http://www.backyardchickens.com/atype/3/Laws contains many laws and ordinances for various areas. These will give you a good idea of local laws, but you will probably also want to check for yourself in the city code.

Also, remember to check the rules before you buy chickens or other birds.

Many cities and neighborhoods don’t allow poultry bird ownership, but there are many that just regulate it. It is likely that you will will find limits and rules even if you are allowed to have chickens. These specifications are not usually too difficult to meet.

If chickens and poultry birds are illegal or highly restricted by your local city code, you may be able to change it. Submit a request to the city, and ask for it to be a topic in city council meetings. Getting support from neighbors and friends will probably help; you might try putting together a petition or something like that. With enough luck and support, the rules may be changed.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

When your turkeys are about ten weeks old, it may be time to move them to permanent outdoor quarters. Make sure they are healthy and strong, and nearing maturity, and the weather is favorable. If not, you may need to delay for a week or two. Do not delay too much longer than this, or you will most likely harm the birds.

Build the turkeys a roost (a roost is basically their house, like a coop is to a chicken). It should be suspended a couple of feet off the ground, with a wire mesh floor so that droppings can fall through. Make sure there are no places inside the roost where droppings will pile up, as this can cause disease and general bad health. The area under the roost should be cleaned weekly. Some people recommend making portable roosts to make cleaning easier.

The walls should also be wire mesh or poultry netting. Inside, the birds should be protected from sunlight and precipitation, so make the roof, and possibly the upper portions of the walls, out of something such as plywood or fiberglass, that will protect them from the elements.

Turkey on a Range

Inside the roost, place their food and water containers. It does not need to be too big—about 20 square feet for ten birds. The roost should have 24/7 direct access to a large outside ‘range’. They will spend most of their time here. Make this area quite large, a few hundred square feet at least. It should be fenced in. Remember, turkeys can fly short distances at a low altitude, so make it 4-6 feet high. This will also help prevent predators from getting in. Constantly watch for signs of predators, and do whatever you can to keep them out.

When they are ready to be put in their outside quarters, they will be ready to begin eating adult food. Make sure they have access to a grassy pasture, as much of their diet will consist of stuff they find here. Keep their food and water fresh to prevent disease. Keep everything dry and sanitary. If they are eating turkey feed, they will also need access to a small amount of coarse sand or fine gravel—they eat this to help with digestion. Continue adding greens to their diet.

A turkey is usually ready to be slaughtered at about 24 to 28 weeks old. This age may vary based upon breed, so make sure you know all the specifics of your type of turkey. You can usually tell whether or not a turkey is ready based upon skin color. When the reddish hue fades to a more yellow color, it is ready to be killed, because it now has a slight layer of fat over it’s entire body. A turkey is killed in much the same way as a chicken, albeit a larger killing cone will be needed if that is your preferred method.

 

Clean it, then cook it as you would a store bought turkey. Your own home-raised Thanksgiving Turkey is a wonderful (and healthy) main course at any family holiday meal and well worth the work.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson
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