Help on Getting Chickens Out of Their "Chick Stage" Behavior & Egg Laying Issues

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by BackyardDove, Jan 9, 2015.

  1. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Getting Chickens Out of Their "Chick Stage" Behavior Question:
    I have 8 bantam chickens who just don't want to get out of their chick behavior. 7 of them are Silkies and the other one is a Booted Bantam, if that matters. Ever since I let them outside at about 2 months old, they would huddle up together in front of the gate to the pen. They are now 8 months old and still huddle up. I wouldn't mind this, it is a good strategy to get through the cold nights, but they absolutely refuse to huddle up anywhere else except for in front of the gate where they are nicely exposed to the weather. They will stand in puddles, in the rain, when it is below freezing until I move them and prevent them from going back to the gate. Since they are older and sexually maturing, I separated the roosters and hens. The hens remain in the original pen and the roosters were put into a much larger pen that shares part of a fence with the hen's pen. Despite there being fencing between them, the roosters will still try to huddle up to the hens on the other side of the fence. For about 3-4 nights now, I've picked them up put them into the coops they need to be in. Although, each night they still huddle up at the gate. I even made it to where the roosters couldn't see the hens on the other side, and yet they still try to huddle up to where the hens are. I've never really encountered this problem before, but yet again I've never raised 9 chicks at the same time and never separated them for 8 months.

    How am I suppose to break this habit of them refusing to sleep anywhere except for in front of the gate? Am I just suppose to keep putting them in their coops and hope they learn?

    Egg Laying Issues:
    I know it's winter and the hens aren't suppose to be laying any eggs, but my laying hens haven't laid any eggs since August. It didn't even start getting cold until a couple weeks ago. And before they stopped laying altogether, their laying was spotty and unreliable. My hens aren't old, they were all under 2 years old when they stopped laying and even the under 1 year old's weren't laying. I have a nest box with hay always in it and I make sure to feed them laying hen crumbles regularly. In fact, none of my birds are laying, not even my quails. What am I doing wrong?

    Thank you!
     
  2. pdirt

    pdirt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As for no eggs, assuming they are getting a good poultry ration with enough protein, likely it is simply the darker days. The days are getting longer now, but not by much yet. Our 20 hens mostly stopped laying in September and the supplemental light didn't take effect for about a month. I boosted their protein and right after the winter solstice, they started laying more. A bunch of birds went into molt (18-24 month olds) and the ones hatched spring of 2014 didn't start laying until about 3 weeks ago (about 34 weeks of age before the first eggs) and not all of them are laying yet. Some of your birds may also be experiencing a molt...some molts are obvious with lots of missing feathers and some molts are very mild and hard to notice. Another possibility is parasites or worms, but it would be rather unlikely that ALL of your birds are infected to the degree that they all stop laying.

    Also, since they're not currently laying, I'd recommend switching to a grower or starter or "all flock" feed. The extra calcium to birds not presently laying eggs can be very hard on their kidneys. In fact, many folks choose to never feed layer feed (because rarely are ALL the hens laying and some folks have roosters) and instead feed starter/grower/all-flock/flock-raiser with supplemental crushed oyster shell on the side. Hens currently laying will eat oyster shell for their calcium needs and any birds not currently laying will more or less leave the oyster shell alone.
     
  3. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    When life hands you a basket of lemons.... make lemonade. When your hens stop laying in the Fall, that is the best time to treat all of your hens prophylactically for all external as well as for all internal parasites.

    I mentioned this because if you intend on discarding eggs for a period of time after treating your hens for worms and mites you'll never miss the eggs that your hens never laid anyway. This is especially true if you are not providing supplemental light in the hen house. But it will help your hens produce more eggs sooner in the spring as well as help them put more "vitality" or hatchability into each and every egg. Hatchability is important if you intend on raising chicks in the Spring. Just like with human infants strong and healthy children come from strong and healthy parents. Also remember that new chicks need to be strong enough to self birth themselves.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2015
  4. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you both for your suggestions! I'll be checking my feed store to see if they have any chicken dewormers. I would think they are molting, but they molted around October. Lighting shouldn't really be an issue, they don't have indoor coops. I don't have nearly enough hens to make building an indoor hen house necessary. Do feed stores sell crushed oysters or do I have to go someplace special for that? I didn't even think about the extra calcium being an issue. The roosters share the bigger pen with the laying hens since they've learned to keep the roosters in place, so the roosters eat whatever the laying hens eat.
     
  5. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I got my laying hens and roosters regular chicken scratch and crushed oyster shells. How much of a 50 pound bag of crushed oyster shells should go into a 50 pound bag of chicken scratch? I still really need help with my bantams. I don't know how to break this habit of theirs and it's not healthly for them to be standing out in the wet and cold and standing on their poop all night. It's nearly impossible to keep that area clean.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Don't mix the oyster shell with the feed, offer it in a separate container always available to them.

    I like to feed an 'all flock' 20% protein crumble to all ages and genders, as non-layers(chicks, males and all molting birds) do not need the extra calcium that is in layer feed and chicks and molters can use the extra protein. Makes life much simpler to store and distribute one type of chow that everyone can eat.
    Calcium should be available at all times for the layers, oyster shell mixed with rinsed, dried, crushed chicken egg shells in a separate container.
    The higher protein crumble offsets the 8% protein scratch grains and other kitchen/garden scraps I like to offer.



    Where are you located that you don't need a coop? Any number of birds should have a well sheltered area, safe from predators with nice roosts to sleep on.
     
  7. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'll do that then. I need to take back the scratch I got though.

    They have coops, but not the well-built coops that are like buildings. I use large, old ferret cages as coops. I take them apart and reconstruct the sides so the doors are appropriately situated, then mount them onto the fence and stabilize then with boards. I have wood on top of the cage to protect them from rain as well as a couple other roofed shelters. I make ramps for them to reach the door of the cage too. I live in central Texas, where summer temperature easily reach the 100's and only in the middle of winter does the temperature drop below 60, so having a coop that isn't closed in is a must. Otherwise the chickens can easily overheat. As for protection, I live in the middle of a small rural town, so there isn't much of a predator threat. That, and we have a 7 foot privacy fence enclosing the property.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015

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