I think I've done something wrong

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by PoultryPat, Oct 27, 2016.

  1. PoultryPat

    PoultryPat New Egg

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    Oct 27, 2016
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    Hello all, new to BYC and semi new to raising chickens. I used to take care of 30-40 chickens growing up on the farm in Michigan, never really learned the ins and outs of chicken raising, just feed water them, watch out for bullying Roos and collect eggs.

    With that said I am 32 now, I live in SC and I have recently (as of this year) starting raising chickens. I bought 5 chicks first week of April, 3 Australorps, 1 rir, 1 golden comet. They grew, graduating from a small tote, to a larger tote and eventually to a 3’x3’x8’ run with a tarp over approx. half of the run. Almost 4 months to the day I started getting eggs. Everything was good and I was working on finishing the coop out of post-consumer pallets and other leftover material. The coop I built was 3ft wide, by 4.5 feet tall, by 6.5 feet long with 4 laying boxes mounted to the outside of that. The laying boxes are 12”wide x 14”tall x 16”deep. Their new run I made was 8’x8’x5.5’ tall.

    Anyway, maybe three weeks before I had the coop done I went out and purchased an Ameracauna pullet and a laying cream legbar. I have one hen, nicknamed “Jack” because of her hairstyle as a chick looked like jack nicholson’s DUI hair with the feathers on her head went all crazy like that. Jack had always been the bully in the pecking order and kept it mild but as soon as I introduced the new hens to the flock jack would pin them down and peck head and neck and back to draw blood. So I segregated the newbies in a conjoining cage so they could see each other every day, well about 2 weeks later I tried to reintroduce and same business with Jack the golden comet, but then the RIR started in on them too, so I then separated JACK and the RIR and put them in the conjoining cage until I finished the coop Leaving the new guys and the 3 docile Autras in the run. They were all producing eggs still except the Americauna and legbar.

    So I finished the coop, made the new run I described above and put the RiR back in with the flock and kept JACK segregated still. ALL chickens stopped making eggs at this point. After a couple weeks I reintroduced JACK with very minimal pecking order conflicts, definitely no over aggressive behavior like before. They all live this way for a month seeming to get along even though there was technically 2 “clicks” in the flock. The five OGs and the 2 new ones, not a single egg was made that entire month, I went and got 2 new chickens, I think they are either delawares or rhode island whites 1.5yo hens, one laying, one mottling. The laying one layed 2 eggs in consecutive days of being introduced into the flock and then stopped. So now ALL hens have stopped laying. I also have 2 separate clicks, the 5 OGs and the 4 newbies. They always have plenty of food and water. They get feed nutreena layer feed.

    So my 2 problems are 0 egg production in over a month and a half except for the new white hen (only 2 eggs) and having 2 clicks. Can anyone offer a little insight to what is going on? The 5 OGs hang outside most of the day and the other 4 stay in the coop and come out only to get water. They all roost at night in the coop peacefully without conflict. Food is in the coop in tube feeders. I do occasionally give them yellow cucs from the garden or soft watermelons.
     
  2. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Welcome to BYC! I hope I can point you in a few directions to look without ruffling your feathers, but since you have some legitimate concerns and questions I think you deserve straight answers.

    I think the first thing I'd do is quit introducing new chickens. It seems like that is the one recurring issue. They are confused and constantly having to separate this one, put these in, then put the other back in just to turn around and add more doesn't help settle things down. And the space you have might have been fine for your initial number of birds, but it's quickly becoming too overcrowded. Decide on what your goals are...are you wanting to raise them for enough eggs for your family or do you plan to sell eggs as well? If you just want enough for your family, then just a few birds that are content with their environment will fill the bill nicely. If you want eggs to sell as well and need more eggs, then you'll simply need to expand your entire operation, not just the number of birds you have. Happy, healthy hens will always lay more consistently and steadily if they are calm, well fed, and well housed, so more chickens isn't always the answer.

    That said, are you feeding a good quality layer food? Do they have unlimited access to oyster shell? Is there a possibility that unseen nighttime predators are making them nervous? Have you had them checked for parasites, or checked them yourself? Perhaps the new introductions have brought in mites or something, especially since it doesn't sound like you quarantined them and made sure of their health before you put them in with the rest.

    They may be going into a simple partial molt, and they will often stop laying when that happens. Nights are getting longer and days shorter, and egg laying is tied in with the length of day more than temperatures. Usually pullets lay well through their first winter, but not always. These are all things to think about. Chickens are living, breathing creatures with individual quirks and strengths. It took me forever to figure that out, and sometimes I just needed to hear it straight and unvarnished from folks with more experience than I had. [​IMG]
     
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  3. PoultryPat

    PoultryPat New Egg

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    Oct 27, 2016
    Thank you for the response. Its quite alright how you said everything, its exactly what I was asking for. If I was afraid to find out that I was doing something wrong I would of never asked for advice. So I appreciate it straight. They are eating Nutrena Country Feeds[​IMG] Layer 16% Feed. But I don't give them oyster shells. I will stop by the feed place on the way home tonight and pick some up if they have it. Do I just put a separate dish or mix it with their food?

    No predators around that I have seen or seen signs of, their run is inside a cattle fenced back yard so a couple layers of protection. We do have dogs but the chickens don't seem to pay em much mind anymore.

    I have read online somewhere that the chickens need 2sqft per that's why I built the coop the way I did, 3x6.5 is about 19.5sqft so I assumed that was fine. What do you suggest for sizing? I was going to add one more chicken for an even 10 but I can wait for that I guess, no real rush. I really enjoy taking care of my chickens and I'm wanting to do it right, thanks for the input.
     
  4. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Hi, welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    I agree, too many additions and changes. Chickens are creatures of habit. So they are probably stressed.

    And that 2 foot rule is for commercial operations. At home it's suggested you have a MINIMUM 4 square feet in the coop and 10 square feet in the run for each bird. Less space equals more problems including parasite load, picking feathers, and messiness, making you have to clean way too often.

    In fact for me I would get a flock raiser that has 20% protein and lower calcium (1% instead of 4%) than layer since none are really laying. The extra protein will help the feathers grow back in. And since you will offer OS on the side, that is good enough for the layers. You don't say what kind of treats you give out. 16% protein is the minimal amount it takes to sustain a layer, not necessarily the optimum. So if you give out treats it may be further diminished.

    So stop making changes and give your flock a chance to wrap their mind around your new routine. When you do bring in new birds you need to quarantine for 30 day in a completely separate space to protect you flock from anything that may not have yet presented in the new birds. Also next time you combine them, it usually takes a few weeks of the look but don't touch method, followed by free ranging together. And then sneak them into the coop after dark so everyone wakes up together.

    I see you do have ventilation at he top, but are there any windows in your coops for light?

    Some of my April born girls have already quit laying for the season. 1 after I made her mad by blocking of her hidden nesting spot.

    The 1.5 year ones you got will probably both molt even though the one hasn't started yet. How old are the "Ameraucana" and "laying" cream legbar?

    Patience my friend! [​IMG]
     
  5. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    I am so glad that you took what I said in the way it was intended! Thank you for that! Seems a small thing but sometimes people ask for advice and then get irritated if it doesn't fit their plans. [​IMG]

    I don't add oyster shell to their food. Most of the time they bill it out just to get to the stuff they want anyway. I offer oyster shell in a separate container for that reason, and also because it's easier for me to monitor how much they are actually consuming. I should have asked, but are you keeping "treats" to a minimum? They don't need much of it - I guess the accepted percentage is 5% or less of their diet but I've never been any good at math so I ain't much help there! Shoot, I have to count the dots on the dice to play Monopoly. <sigh> So I just toss what I have handy in and use a little scratch once in awhile, calling it good. They don't seem to mind not having daily goodies - they've never learned to demand them anyway. And when my flock expanded and became a flock that included a rooster (or sometimes two, doggone it!) and chicks of various ages I switched to All-Flock or Grower. Both are safe for the layers, the boys and Littles, and offer a higher protein content than layer, so I like it for all of the chickens. And it sure is easier to buy one kind of food for all. Besides, you can't keep them from eating the food intended for separate needs anyway, so why stress about it?

    Ah, the pesky "space" issue. My comment about that was aimed more for the continual adding of more bird rather than implying that you are lacking in space now. Without having a measuring tape out there with you and counting chicken heads, I don't know how well your existing space is handling the birds in there now and I shouldn't have made such a blanket statement without explaining that further. I was basing that on the photos and the fact that you have 9 chickens already. Other space factors figure in as well - roost placement, whether food and water is inside the coop or out in the run (they take up a lot of floor space) and the peaceful nature of the individual birds. I had one Rhode Island red that wouldn't have been content with the entire yard to herself, and an Easter Egger roo that would have been content in a closet. Go figger....There is a recommended ratio of square footage to number of chickens, but being mathematically challenged I don't try to sort that out even for myself. I just make it bigger if I need to, or stop adding birds when I need to do that. I know, I know...big help! But someone will come along with a far better answer than mine, I'm sure.

    One other thing I didn't mention that I should have is for you not to be surprised that your new 1.5 year old layers haven't kicked in. New surroundings and strange coopmates will have that effect for a while. Okay...now get out there and conquer! [​IMG]

    EDITED TO ADD: I have got to start watching that New Post thingy that pops up on the bottom of the screen! I cross posted with @EggSighted4Life ! <sigh>
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
  6. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    @Blooie I do that sometimes to. But even when I see it, sometimes I don't wanna have to erase my hard thought out words. [​IMG]
     
  7. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Um, guilty of that here too. [​IMG]
     
  8. PoultryPat

    PoultryPat New Egg

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    Thanks for the suggestions! I will look to change over their food and offer OS. As far as changes I am done for a while but I feel a need now to increase the coop size to give em a little more space. Maybe next spring. Not sure what I will do with other coop though :}

    I do not have any windows and I noticed this after the fact that it was a serious design flaw because when I shut the door it got fairly dark in there. I will take that into account when I build the new coop.

    The "Ameraucana" was born in Juneish and I'm not expecting eggs from her, the cream legbar is an early spring chicken, not exactly sure when. She was a "layer" when I bought her but have yet to see an egg. Thanks again for all the help and suggestions.
     
  9. PoultryPat

    PoultryPat New Egg

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    Thanks for the info. Only treats the chickens get really is soft watermelons and yellow cucumbers from the garden. You guys have been great and I feel like I can get on track now. I will post back here with any developments in fixing the egg laying. Any suggestions to there being two cliques?
     
  10. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    The only suggestion I can offer is time. In all likelihood they'll sort it out eventually, and if they don't it's usually no big deal. My older girls, those from my very first flock, still hang together a lot, and I have mini-cliques in the rest of the flock. As long as they aren't ganging up on and brutally attacking the others, I don't worry about it. Put in an additional food station to reduce squabbles there (notice I said "reduce", not "eliminate") and that can help too.

    I am kicking myself for not noticing the ventilation as @EggSighted4Life pointed out.. I know you said you'd address that in the new coop, but these chickens have months of dark winter to get through and with them spending more time in the coop stale, humid, ammonia laden air will build up. So don't wait. I know it's a pain in the hiney, but you have got to get some ventilation in there, not just for the daylight but for sanitation and health purposes. Even in relatively balmy South Carolina, they will put out humidity from their breath, their water, and their droppings. Then the first freezing night you have (and I suspect there will be one or two) you'll be dealing with frostbite in addition to the respiratory distress they'll suffer from no air exchange in the coop.

    So I urge you to see to that before anything else - it's absolutely critical. Get some vents cut into the walls where the walls meet the roof, and in your humid area a vent of maybe just 4 inches or so low in the coop would bring in cooler, dryer air, drawing it up and out and pulling the not-so-air out with it. When I was faced with that problem, I dreaded it. Well, as usual, the dreading was worse than the doing. A couple of openings cut on opposite walls, slipped in household heating vents that we could open or close, and it wasn't nearly as a bad as I dreaded. That, in addition to all the other ventilation we had in place, made all the difference for our chickens.
     

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