Newbie with questions

rachelk99

Hatching
5 Years
Jun 18, 2014
7
0
7
Hi, I am a first time chicken owner. We recently moved to "the country" and have 11 acres. I have been learning about chickens from my neighbor who has about 30 chickens and sells eggs. I was going to get 6 Buff orphingtons but she advised against them because they are too broody. I wound up going to the local farm and they had a big variety of chicks to choose from so I let my daughters pick and wound up with a Rhode Island Red, a Buff Orphington, 3 Wyandottes-I forget which kind but 2 are black now and one is brown and black (very pretty I might add), and an Easter egger. I was just reading some breed threads and now worried that the RIR will be mean to the others. Do you think they will get along? I am hoping to let them free range after they learn where their coop is but also plan to enclose an area because I am worried about predators.

My other question is what is the natural lifespan of a chicken? My neighbor keeps a light on hers and when they stop laying (around 2 years of so) they get picked up by a local guy who I guess makes dinner out of them. I don't plan to put a light on them so they will lay for longer period of time and think of mine more as pets and don't plan to send them off (unless they turn mean or something) and wondering how long they will live. Since I have the space to get more chickens down the road, I would like to keep them but haven't figured out what their lifespan is yet.

Also, when I saw how much they were eating I got a 50 lb bag of starter food but was just reading to transition them at 6 weeks to grower food. They are almost 6 weeks and I haven't opened the bag. Do I have to bring it back and get the grower food or can I keep giving this starter food?

Thanks for your answers.
 

ChickenCanoe

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Nov 23, 2010
33,027
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St. Louis, MO
RIRs may tend to be the bully of a mixed flock but not always. Sometimes they're the ones bullied.
Growing up together, they'll work out the pecking order and all will be well.

I'm sure you've read about chicken math so you may want more pretty quickly. If you think you may fall victim to that phenomenon, get more now so they can all grow up together because bringing in new birds is much harder.
I recommend getting as many as you can house.

They can live for 10 years or more if not victim to predators or disease. I think the oldest was around 16 years. One of my friends has a hen over 10 that is still laying. I have an Ameraucana that's 6 and has been laying almost every day since December when her molt break ended. So my point is, they don't stop laying at 2. Commercial egg farms fill their cages with 5 month old hens, keep them on 15 hours of light and after 20 months they replace the whole flock. Not because they won't lay for years but because they don't want to feed them during molt when they aren't laying.
A light won't cause them to run out of eggs. A female chick is born with thousands of ova, more than she can ever possibly lay in a lifetime. Most molt in their second autumn and every autumn thereafter. They don't lay eggs then because they can't do that and grow a new winter coat. Their reproductive tract gets a much needed makeover during that time.
 

ChickenCanoe

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Nov 23, 2010
33,027
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St. Louis, MO
You can keep feeding the starter or transition them. The only difference is the protein percentage. What % is the starter and what is the % of the grower?
They should be getting somewhere between 18 and 20. However by about 14 weeks or so, that should be cut back to about 16. It isn't set in stone so don't fret about it one way or another.
 

Ol Grey Mare

One egg shy of a full carton. .....
7 Years
Mar 9, 2014
20,622
15,044
821
Oregon
My Coop
My Coop
Hi, I am a first time chicken owner. We recently moved to "the country" and have 11 acres. I have been learning about chickens from my neighbor who has about 30 chickens and sells eggs. I was going to get 6 Buff orphingtons but she advised against them because they are too broody. I wound up going to the local farm and they had a big variety of chicks to choose from so I let my daughters pick and wound up with a Rhode Island Red, a Buff Orphington, 3 Wyandottes-I forget which kind but 2 are black now and one is brown and black (very pretty I might add), and an Easter egger. I was just reading some breed threads and now worried that the RIR will be mean to the others. Do you think they will get along? I am hoping to let them free range after they learn where their coop is but also plan to enclose an area because I am worried about predators.

My other question is what is the natural lifespan of a chicken? My neighbor keeps a light on hers and when they stop laying (around 2 years of so) they get picked up by a local guy who I guess makes dinner out of them. I don't plan to put a light on them so they will lay for longer period of time and think of mine more as pets and don't plan to send them off (unless they turn mean or something) and wondering how long they will live. Since I have the space to get more chickens down the road, I would like to keep them but haven't figured out what their lifespan is yet.

Also, when I saw how much they were eating I got a 50 lb bag of starter food but was just reading to transition them at 6 weeks to grower food. They are almost 6 weeks and I haven't opened the bag. Do I have to bring it back and get the grower food or can I keep giving this starter food?

Thanks for your answers.

Chickens can live well beyond their productive years - 7-10 years is not unusual if allowed to get to that point. They also lay beyond the point your neighbor is removing her birds - it sounds like she is cycling her flock at the first big molt (which is generally around 18 months give or take). This is a common approach for those who have flocks for production purposes only as the molt tends to interrupt production and so it is better for the bottom line not to feed those birds through an unproductive period when they can just as easily be replaced with new birds who are just beginning to lay. IF she were to hold on to them and winter them over (often they will not come back into production until the following spring, though supplemental lighting can sometimes influence them to start back up sooner) she would find that the second laying cycle is actually more productive and produces (generally) even larger eggs than the first. The hen will continue to cycle this way - lay, molt/winter off, back to lay for four or more years until her system does finally stop going back into production or, at least, only now and then producing random eggs as opposed to being reliable for "x eggs a week".
On the lighting, a bird's production is tied to the hours of daylight as that is what stimulates the key triggers in their body. During winter the daylight hours are much shorter and often insufficient to maintain good, steady production. Many folks use supplemental light (not heat lamps, actual lighting light bulbs) to simulate longer hours of daylight. This can help to keep the flock from having as much of a layoff. That being said, many breeds are such that, especially with first year pullets, you don't see quite that significant drop in production - though the subsequent laying cycles can be more severely impacted. I don't light my coop (it's not currently an option anyway due to no electric where it is at on the property), never have with any of the coops/flocks I've had - and while I do see a drop in production in the winter, have never just had NO eggs at all. I prefer to take the more natural approach to things.
They can eat the starter until it is gone - the 'feed at this age' is a guideline. If the bag is unopened, though, you may be able to exchange it with your feed store. The grower is a bit larger particle and sometimes has a slightly different protein content. To demonstrate how flexible the feed recommendations really are - I only use one feed, period. I feed a grower ration (Flock Raiser in my case) as the sole ration from hatch to end with my birds - including my adults. This simplifies trying to feed a mixed flock. To account for the calcium needs of my actively laying birds I offer oyster shell free choice. Since you are envisioning having a flock of retired hens, young replacement birds, etc this would be a good option for you as well since only those birds actively shelling eggs have a need for the high calcium content of layer feed and those not expelling the calcium via regularly shelling eggs will be at risk of internal damage form excess calcium in their systems.
 

rachelk99

Hatching
5 Years
Jun 18, 2014
7
0
7
Thank you all for your comments. I have a lot to learn for sure. When I first found this site and read some of the comments I was surprised at how passionate people are about their chickens. Now that I have had my chicks for about a month, I see how that can happen. I can see myself becoming very attached to them. I am looking forward to getting their coop finished and getting them out there. I let them spend yesterday afternoon in the rabbit pen for a couple hours and they seemed to enjoy the extra space to run around. Now they look so cramped in their tub. Even the rabbits enjoyed watching them from their hutch. ....
 

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