Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chicks to Chickens: How To Choose Their Feed

Type of Chicken Feed Explained

A chicken's dietary needs changes over time and is also dependent on whether the chicken is a meat breed or egg an egg layer.

Starter Feed
Baby chicks (age 0-6 weeks) need a lots of protein in their diet. So called "starter" feeds are formulated to give rapidly growing chicks the protein they need to develop muscles and feathers. Typically, starter feeds are 20% protein and those starter feeds formulated specifically for meat birds will have protein levels as high as 24%.

Baby chicks need feeds high in protein to grow.

To make it easy for baby chicks to eat, the feed is ground and then formed into small bits called crumbles. Some manufacturers add various medications to the crumbles to prevent the chicks from getting a disease called coccidiosis. Buying a feed with such medications is really a matter of personal preference. We feel medications may be more necessary for commercial operations with thousands of chicks than for small backyard flocks. However, if you decide to buy feed with medication you should stop supplying medicated feed about 2 weeks prior to slaughter or to the star of laying.

Grower Feed
After about week 6, the amount of protein in a chicken's diet is reduced and the feed formulations are called either "grower" or "finisher" feeds depending on whether the chick is destined to be a meat bird (finisher) or an egg layer/dual purpose bird (grower).  

When you go to your local store, you may also see feeds that are called "starter/grower" feeds. These feeds are meant to straddle between starter and grower feed formations and are a good choice if you don't want to switch between types of feeds.

Meat birds are fed finisher formula until slaughter at around 7 weeks old. Egg layers are generally fed grower feed until they reach egg laying age  at 20 weeks. At that point an egg layer's feed formula is adjusted again to give these birds the higher level of calcium that they'll need to produce good eggs. 

Some chicken owners will also briefly switch their flocks feed formulation to something called "developer" or "pullet developer" for a few weeks prior to switching to a layer formula. This type of feed keeps birds lean in the weeks prior to when they begin laying. 

Layer Feed
At 20 weeks, chickens are fully grown and begin to lay eggs. At this point, their need for protein is lower than during their growth period and so feed formulas generally are about 16% protein. However, laying birds need lots of calcium to form strong egg shells. As a result, layer feeds are always formulated with high calcium levels.

Some backyard chicken owners feed their egg laying flocks layer feed that is in the form of crumbles. However, it is more common at this point to switch to pelleted feed. Chickens are less able to scratch the pellets out of their feed containers and so they tend to be more efficient.
The BriteTap Chick feeder's unique shield blocks chicks from
standing on the feed tray and pooping into their food

Update on Bird Flu In California

UC Davis poultry expert calls for backyard flock owners to isolate birds: Video

For more information on what to do to protect your flock, check out our post from earlier this week. Posting

Chickens In The Snow

A very cute video of chickens walking single file through deep snow.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Five Tips For Protecting Your Chickens From Bird Flu

Bird flu is a viral disease found in bird populations that can be spread to domestic poultry. Some strains of the virus can be passed to humans and there have been human fatalities reported in China and other countries. 

In the U.S., the strains of bird flu that have been detected so far are not a threat to human health. However, the disease is a threat to chickens and other domestic poultry species.

The H5N1 Bird Flu is dangerous to humans and
has killed several hundred people in Asia

Waterfowl are known to carry bird flu and migrating populations can pass the disease to backyard and commercial flocks.  The recent discovery of bird flu in backyard flocks in Oregon and Washington states has been tied to this form of transmission. 

As a result, Experts at the University of California at Davis have issued a strong recommendation encouraging backyard chicken owners to take increased care in protecting their flocks. We agree and suggest the following to protect your flock.

Recent bird flu outbreaks have been traced to migrating waterfowl

Protecting Your Flock From Bird Flu

1. Create A Run For Your Girls - Domestic poultry can pick up bird flu by coming into contact with dropping from infected wild birds. The best defense is to isolate wild birds from your flock. Adding a chicken run to your coop that's completely enclosed by chicken wire (including a ceiling) keeps wild birds out and your chickens safe.

It's important that the run have a covered roof

2. Keep the Water Clean - Since bird flu is passed by transmission of the virus in feces, it makes sense to keep the water sources for you flock free of chicken and wild bird droppings. This is particularly important if your property includes a pond that can attract known carriers of the disease including wild ducks, geese and other waterfowl. A valve based chicken waterer that uses poultry valves is a good way to keep the drinking water free of potential contamination. 

The BriteTap chicken waterer helps keep water safe and free of droppings

3. Buy A Spare Pair of Shoes or Boots - If you attend poultry shows, visit friends who own chickens, visit areas frequented by waterfowl, or come into contact with chickens other than your own you risk picking up bird flu and accidentally carrying back to your flock on your shoes. Buy a pair of shoes that you only wear when entering your chicken coop or run. Don't forget to wash your hands if you handle other birds as this is also a way the disease can be transmitted.

4. Friends Don't Let Friends Spread Bird Flu - We think the risks are still too low to ask all visitors to your home to wear disposable plastic shoe coverings. However, if your friends own their own chickens or if they are visiting as part of a chicken coop tour, you should insist that they either wear plastic booties or spray their shoes with disinfectant.

Not very stylish but they may save your flock

5. Buy Safe Birds - Make sure you buy your chicks from a reputable source that practices bio-security. If your not sure, ask them about this before you bring new chicks to your home.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Guess Who Eats the Most Eggs

OK, so who eats the most eggs? Americans,? Swedes?  French?

Well according to data from the Poultry site, Japanese and Chinese eat more eggs per year than anyone else. Americans are still high on the list.... #13.

The below chart shows annual consumption of eggs per in pounds per person per year.  Japanese eat 42 pounds per year. We American come in #11 at 31 pounds per year.

Japan 42
China 41
Ukraine 40
Mexico 39
Belarus 36
Netherlands 35
Denmark 34
Russia 33
Latvia 31
Spain 31
USA 31
Malaysia 30
Belgium 30
Austria 30
Hungary 29
Lithuania 29
Romania 29
Czech Republic 29
Germany 28
France 28
Sweden 27
Argentina 27
Slovakia 27
Canada 26
European Union 26
Colombia 26
Thailand 26
Italy 26
Malta 26
Estonia 26
Armenia 25
Norway 24
South Korea 24
Moldova 24
Israel 23
United Kingdom 23
Switzerland 23
Chile 21
Luxembourg 21
New Zealand 21
Slovenia 21
Croatia 21
Poland 21
Iceland 20
Portugal 20
Ireland 20
Finland 20
Greece 20
World 20
Brazil 19
Kazakhstan 19
Turkmenistan 18
Bulgaria 18
Macedonia 18
Montenegro 18
Azerbaijan 16
South Africa 16
Australia 16
Serbia 15
Peru 15
Venezuela 15
Turkey 15
Morocco 15
Algeria 14
Albania 13
Georgia 13
Iran 12
Uzbekistan 11
Kyrgyzstan 10
Philippines 9
Indonesia 9
Bosnia and Herzegovina 8
Nigeria 8
Vietnam 8
Egypt 6
Pakistan 6
India 5
Kenya 4
Mongolia 4
Tajikistan 4
Ghana 3