Six Steps For Starting a Flock

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  1. JenniO11

    JenniO11 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This post is brought to us by Purina. Got questions? Check out our Nutrition Forum by Purina!


    Families across the country are joining the backyard flock revolution. With a coop, some chicks and a long-term plan of action, a backyard flock brings families fresh, wholesome eggs and the enjoyment of watching a baby chick grow into an egg-laying hen. The first step in establishing a backyard flock is creating a plan.

    “We can gain a lot from a backyard flock,” says Gordon Ballam, Ph.D., director of lifestyle innovation & technical service for Purina Animal Nutrition. “Chickens can produce truly fresh eggs and flavorful, healthy meat. And we’re able to enjoy watching birds from our back porch and teaching our children responsibilities and how animals grow.”

    Before buying new chicks this spring, Ballam encourages six tips in flock planning.

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    1. Select the breed that’s right for you.
    Poultry breeds come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Families looking to produce eggs or meat are encouraged to start with common breeds of chickens.

    “Determine what you’d like to gain from your flock,” Ballam recommends. “If you want fresh eggs, consider: White Leghorn hybrids (white eggs), Plymouth Barred Rocks (brown eggs), Rhode Island Reds (brown eggs), Blue Andalusians (white eggs) or Ameraucanas/Easter Eggers (blue eggs). Cornish Cross chickens grow quickly and are best suited for meat production. If you’re hoping to produce both eggs and meat, consider dual-purposed breeds like Plymouth Barred Rock, Sussex or Buff Orpingtons. Exotic breeds are best for show or pets.”

    2. Determine the number of birds you’d like.
    The number and gender of birds in your flock may be determined by local ordinances and your flock goals.

    “Remember that young chicks grow into full-grown birds,” Ballam says. “Create a budget for: the time you are able to spend with your flock; the housing the birds will require; a plan for how you’ll collect and use eggs; and what you’ll do with the birds after they retire from laying eggs. Then start small with a flock of 4 to 6 chicks.”

    3. Research a reputable chick supplier.
    Purchase chicks from a credible U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid Clean hatchery. To prevent potential disease problems, ensure the hatchery vaccinated chicks for Marek’s Disease and coccidiosis.

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    4. Prepare your brooder.
    Keep baby chicks in a warm, draft-free shelter, called a brooder. The brooder should: be completely enclosed with a bottom surface that can be covered with bedding; and have a heating lamp. Avoid square corners in the brooding area to prevent chicks from being trapped in the corner should the birds huddle in one area.

    “Each chick needs at least 2 to 3 square feet of floor space for the first six weeks,” Ballam says. “Set the brooder temperature to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week and then gradually reduce heat by 5 degrees Fahrenheit each week until reaching a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to have a spacious, clean coop ready for the chicks once the supplemental heat source is no longer required. Through all stages, always provide plenty of fresh clean water that is changed daily.”

    5. Focus on sanitation.
    Before new chicks arrive – and throughout the growing process – be sure to keep their environment clean. Young chicks are susceptible to early health risks, so disinfect all materials prior to use and then weekly.

    “The correct household disinfectants can work well,” Ballam says. “Make sure to read the directions to ensure your disinfectant is safe to use and doesn’t leave a residual film. A mixture of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water can work well, if the cleaner is rinsed thoroughly following cleaning.”

    6. Create a long-term nutrition plan.
    A healthy full-grown bird begins on day one. Provide a balanced starter diet to new chicks, based on their breed traits.

    “For chicks who will later lay eggs, select a feed that has 18 percent protein, like Purina[​IMG] Start & Grow[​IMG] Crumbles,” Ballam recommends. “For meat birds and mixed flocks, choose a complete feed with 20 percent protein, like Purina[​IMG] Flock Raiser[​IMG] Crumbles. Transition layer chicks onto a higher-calcium complete feed, like Purina[​IMG] Layena[​IMG] Crumbles or Pellets, when they begin laying eggs at age 18 to 20 weeks.”

    To learn more about backyard flock nutrition, visit www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed or like Purina Poultry on Facebook.
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    Because of factors outside of Purina Animal Nutrition LLC’s control, individual results to be obtained, including but not limited to: financial performance, animal condition, health or performance cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Purina Animal Nutrition LLC.
     
  2. poult

    poult Chillin' With My Peeps

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    :clap Nice information!
     
  3. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Great stuff - may I add one? If you live in a place with extreme cold, put your overeagerness to get started right back into your pocket. I was way too eager and impatient to wait, so I ordered my chicks in February. Yeah, not so smart. For two weeks before they arrived we never got above zero. The week they got here, we averaged -17. The day before they arrived, it was -17, and they were delayed a day at the post office in Casper. When we picked them up it was -19 below and that's about where it stayed for another week. Pretty unfair thing to do to living, breathing little creatures who need warmth to survive. We lost some, and I know it was because of my impatience to get started.
     
    2 people like this.
  4. FlockOfHens

    FlockOfHens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This is wonderful. I just started my first flock, after losing about 10 chicks to dogs, wrong food, no lamp, but this guide would have ended that matter, we found a similar guide on a website, thank goodness, and we now have a healthy small flock :D
     
  5. emmingertut

    emmingertut New Egg

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    I have had chickens and ducks since I was 9 and one thing I really encourage you do is watch for racoons they have wiped out my flocks so many times that I can't even count til I finally got tired and bought some traps and relocated the problem
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2015
  6. chickwhispers

    chickwhispers A French Hen

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    Definitely plan the timing. Keep chicks in the cold is very difficult to keep the temperature stable should they get through the shipping.
     
  7. N F C

    N F C got coffee? Premium Member Project Manager

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    Good info presented in a concise and easy to understand format. The only addition I would make would be to point out that BYC is the best online forum for poultry enthusiasts!
     
  8. Bogtown Chick

    Bogtown Chick Overrun With Chickens

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    I would also add to Blooie's comment go to a Tractor or Fleet supply or better yet find a local breeder to buy chicks and try to avoid mail order chicks altogether. It may put a few extra miles on the car but you'll soon find out it was worth it and humanely treating the chicks.

    Also in Extreme cold states: Please get small combed variety chickens. The more popular have single combs mostly and Frostbite is a recurring theme for threads for the last two winters on BYC. It's not just a ventilation issue...it is breed selection.
     
  9. matt44644

    matt44644 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Tractor supply has their chicks shipped in,so it would be the same as if you ordered them from a hatchery.
     
  10. Bogtown Chick

    Bogtown Chick Overrun With Chickens

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    Good Point Matt.

    Find a Breeder if you can then.
     

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