Pointers To Get us Started Please

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by thaiturkey, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. thaiturkey

    thaiturkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 22, 2010
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    We bought fourteen chickens for eggs today and I would appreciate some summary tips to help us get started, please. General advice but also anything in particular that we should do taking into account the background information that follows.

    We started breeding turkeys earlier this year so we have some knowledge based on that. We also have a small, simple coop that the turkeys don't like but is better than any chicken coop that I have seen here in Thailand. It has an earth floor since we cut out the timber floor, some roosts and a couple of shelves. We can improve that or make a new one when the rains stop and the ground dries out. There's no run for them at the moment and they didn't have one previously. I don't want them to range with the turkeys because we would be hunting for eggs every day.

    The chickens are a small brown breed used here for eggs only. I don't know the name of the breed yet. They lay well for about two or three years and are then replaced by new ones from breeders. We were told that ours are eight months old and they had laid eggs when we went to see them. Their coop stank! The government occasionally gives chickens to poorer village people to help them produce their own eggs and sell them if they want to and the owner of ours acquired them that way. Now she doesn't want them and I could see that they were not fed or cared for well. There is no sign of any health problem, though.

    We gave them turkey feed, all that we have today, so that they could fill up. We will also give them some boiled rice later and we have bananas and papaya ripening on the land. Fresh green vegetables are plentiful too. They have water. We put a plastic basket with straw on the coop floor for eggs.

    A local vet calls to give innoculations to our poults and if we have a sick or injured turkey. His typical charge is around US$2 per visit and I hope he will be willing to help with any chicken problems too.

    I shall do my own research but, as I said, any tips for starters from the experts here would be very welcome.

    Thanks. [​IMG]
     
  2. drdoolittle

    drdoolittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2010
    NE Indiana
    Well, it sounds like you are doing pretty well already! I feel that chickens should have their own run, just so they can get out in the sunshine. They'll probably be better layers if they have sun. I, myself, do not think it's good to keep chickens and turkeys in the same pen-----I believe someone told me it could be detrimental to the turkeys health-wise. It sounded like you are already keeping them separated, so I guess I don't good luck with your chickens, and I'd love to see photos of them. [​IMG]
     
  3. thaiturkey

    thaiturkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thailand
    Quote:Thank you!

    Yes, I think a small pen would be good. They are supposed to be kept somewhat confined to make them focus on feeding and laying but I believe that a happy layer is a better layer some fresh air and sunshine would be a positive thing.

    A problem with chickens and turkeys together is blackhead. I have heard of no cases here and the vet told us that we could keep them together. I won't be risking it, though. In any case, some of the toms are huge and heavy footed now and the younger turkeys may start the pecking order fights with them.

    I'll post some pics. in a day or two. Perhaps someone will then be able to suggest what breed we've got. Funny little things they are compared with the turkeys!
     
  4. drdoolittle

    drdoolittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2010
    NE Indiana
    I have some funny-looking banty hens that I bought this summer--------they're quite ugly, in fact! Their coloring reminds me of pigeons------they are good layers, though and go broody very easily!
     
  5. fl_deb

    fl_deb Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Make sure they get grit (very small rocks and pebbles) at will and calcium via egg shells crushed and fed back to them or oyster shells crumbled up and fed to them free choice.
     
  6. thaiturkey

    thaiturkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Ah, thanks for that. They will be short of grit if they don't range. I can throw some down around them. Egg shells are no problem, of course. Oysters, sadly, aren't so common here but I guess mussel and clam shells would do just as well.
     
  7. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

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    Mid-MI
    If you coop them for a while (say a couple months), and they are laying regularly, they generally seem to want to go back to the coop even if you range them. While I've been home, I've been leaving mine out all day, and all of the hens go back to the coop to the nest box to lay, then back out to the clan. Others may have different experiences, but mine are perfectly happy to get back in the coop to lay. I'm getting the same amount of eggs as before, so I don't think I have anyone laying discreetly.

    I use my chickens now like a garbage disposal - they get all of our leftovers and scraps, along with free choice feed - i try to make sure the scraps are a good mix of veg and protein sources. They LOVE meat. Whatever they don't like they don't eat, whatever they do like, they go insane and chase each other around for.

    I'd try to put your basket with straw in a corner or a quiet enclosed place to encourage laying there - egg laying takes a lot of concentration [​IMG] Mine laid in various parts of the coop once they started, but have settled on the corner nest box, and I often have two in there at a time. I collect at the end of the day - if there is an egg in there, everyone wants to sit on it to lay their own - makes it easy for me to collect.
     
  8. thaiturkey

    thaiturkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Thank you for those tips.

    I'll probably build a small, temporary run attached to the coop so that they can get some air and then try ranging them after a couple of months.

    They have eaten there way through two hanging feeder loads this afternoon and are into the third. We have tried them with greens from the land. Free growing green stuff here is roughly divided between 'vegetable' and 'not vegetable'. The former is eaten raw or in stir fries by the locals and we have seen the chicken go through a pile of that too. The poor things must have been really hungry.

    The basket is near to the door for our convenience when egg collecting but, thinking about your advice, I'll move it tomorrow to a corner under a shelf. I might raise it on bricks too because the ground isn't exactly dry at the moment.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Chickens are creatures of habit, but occasionally they pick up bad habits. If you lock them in the coop for a few days, say a week, they will get used to is as home and will go back there to roost every night if you let them out later, either in a run or to free range. I'm not sure what chicken predators you have in Thailand, but I'm sure you have some that are as dangerous to chickens as our raccoons and foxes. I'm a firm believer in locking the chickens safely in the coop at night.

    If they get in the habit of laying in the coop, they will usually keep doing that. I have had some that lay in the coop, then for whatever reason decide somewhere else is a good place to lay, like on a trailer with some paper bags on it or in a trash can in a shed. When I find that one has decided to lay somewhere else, I lock them all back in the coop for about three days to get them back in good habits. I've had to do that a couple of times.

    The rule of thumb is one nest for each 4 laying hens, so for your 14, I'd suggest 4 individual nests. I don't know how big your chickens are compared to a "full sized" chicken. Since they are bred for eggs, they are probably a little smaller. I made my nests 40 cm x 40 cm, but the minimum size I'd recommend for full sized fowl is 30 cm x 30 cm. If your chicken breed is smaller that full sized, it won't hurt for the nest to be "too big". They should use it anyway. You could also build a community nest box. These are nests that are big enough for several hens to use at one time. I don't have a specific size you would need for 14 hens, maybe something like 30 cm x 100 cm? You can perhaps use the search feature above for more details on them.

    I'm wondering about those shelves you mentioned. Are you sure those are not for the nests? If those shelves are the same height as the roosts or higher, mine would be roosting on the shelves instead of the roosts. If those shelves are wide enough for the chickens to get on, I'd expect some to try laying on them. If you try to put anything on those shelves, I'd expect the chickens to play up there and knock it off. If there is a lip maybe 10 to 15 cm around those shelves to keep things from falling out, I'll bet those are the nests. Or maybe they had boxes that could be set up there for nests.

    You are correct. If you have blackhead in your area, chickens can give it to the turkeys. Sounds like you don't. But there may be another benefit to keeping turkeys and chickens together, or at least wheere they share the same air. If your turkeys have Marek's, they will protect the chickens from the symptoms of chicken Marek's. Turkey Marek's is what is used to vaccinate chickens against chicken Marek's. It does not stop the chickens from getting Marek's, but it does stop the disease from causing the lesions that cause the damage. You might want to discuss it with your vet.

    Chickens usually lay real well for about 2 years. Then, after each adult molt after they are 2 years old, their production drops about 15%. Good layers will still lay quite a few eggs after they are 3 or 4 years old, and they are usually very nice eggs, but this reduced laying rate is not efficient enough for a commercial operation. With the reduced laying rate the feed to egg conversion is just not efficient enough. If you are buying their feed, you might want to keep this in mind. If you let them free range where they find a lot of their own food, you might want to keep them a bit longer.

    I don't know what % protein is in the feed you are feeding the turkeys. For a laying flock of chickens, the most efficeint feed is 16% protein if that feed is all they eat. That gives them about the right total volume per day of protein they need. The percent protein in the feed is not that important. The total protein intake per day is what counts. If the protein is a little low, the egg size is a little smaller. If it is quite a bit low, that can lead to health problems. If it is high the eggs will be bigger, but too high can also lead to health problems. This is not something that has to be exact. There is a fair amount of latitude in this. As long as you are in the ball park, they'll be fine. The general guideline of this volume of total protein is a target to aim at, something to be aware of, not something you have to hit exactly. They don't monitor their protein level themselves if they are out free ranging and finding their own food. They do monitor their calory intake. Since Thailand is fairly warm, they won't eat as much volume of food as ours in cooler climates do, so iof you miss that protein target, it is probably better too miss it on the high side. I'm trying to say this in a way that does not cause worry or panic, just to pass on some general information.

    Hope this helps some. Good luck!

    Editted for spelling
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010
  10. thaiturkey

    thaiturkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 22, 2010
    Thailand
    Hi Ridgerunner. Thanks for taking the trouble to post all that advice.

    I mooched around on Google Images and think that our hens might be Rhode Island Reds with very short tails. I can't tell from the images how big a RIR would be. My idea of small size might be skewed by our turkeys! I'll get the camera out tomorrow and post some pics. of them.

    We don't have too much bother from predators. Roaming dogs can be a nuisance but they can't get onto the land now. An adventurous chicken might be able to get out though. Some birds of prey fly over but the chickens are probably too big for them. Snakes pay us a visit from time to time. We'll keep them in the coops for a week or two to settle them down. They are quite happy there at the moment because they have plenty of food and, compared with their previous home, it's clean.

    The plastic basket they have is quite big. I think, from what you write, one more would be enough. We can add more if we find it's necessary. They had to share a 10"X10" bin previously.

    The shelves are a mistake and an accident. The higher one was my idea when we had our first poults. They prefer proper roost, of course. The lower one was part of the floor that we had cut out a while back. They are made from one inch diameter straight branches so nothing would roll far. If they start to lay up there I shall put a lip on the edge. Tonight they have settled on the floor, full of food.

    I haven't heard of Marek's before so I'll look into it. The vet can advise if I can find the Thai word!

    We aren't planning commercial production but there is an egg shortage here so that may change. I guess we just have to keep a note of the daily production and watch for a falling trend. Do chickens taste good after two or three years, I wonder?

    The turkey feed seems to have a slightly lower protein content than I have read about. Tomorrow we shall go to our supplier and see what they can offer. The chickens seem to have not been give a good diet recently so we might keep them on turkey feed for a week or two if it won't harm them. I'll put up a small temporary run outside the coop so that they can get some grass, bugs and grit. Our local market sells out of date vegetables cheap so we can give them some bags of that too.

    Thanks again for all your advice! Hopefully we shall have an egg or two to sample tomorrow. [​IMG]
     

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