Friday, October 10, 2008

How Do I Know If My Chicks Are Hens or Roosters?

Young Hens

Young Rooster

It's quite difficult to determine which chicks are roosters and which are hens until about eight weeks of age. And even then, it still may be hard to determine the sex of the chick until full maturation at about 5-6 months. There are some characteristics and behaviors you can look for, beginning at about three to five weeks. I was sure that one of my Rhode Island Reds was a rooster because of the larger comb, the feathers, the loud clucking that sounded like an attempt to crow, and the aggressive, independent behavior, but alas, he turned out to be a she!

Here are some ways to help you identify which of your baby chicks are hens (pullets) and which are roosters (cockerels):

1. Combs and Wattles
At about five weeks of age, your chicks will begin to develop red wattles and combs. The roosters will develop larger wattles and combs that are colored more brightly red.

2. Back and Tail Feathers
By eight weeks of age, your chicks will begin to develop more pronounced feathers. The roosters will have feathers that are more pointed looking on their backs and sides as well as longer tail feathers that include long sickles. The hens will have rounder looking feathers and their tails will be considerably shorter and rounder.

3. Crowing
By eight weeks of age, the roosters will begin to crow. At first their crows will sound pathetic and screechy, but as they practice, you will begin to recognize the familiar crowing sound, cock-a-doodle-do. If you have more than one rooster you will also soon realize that each rooster has a very distinctive crow.

4. Aggression and Sexual Behavior
Between five and eight weeks of age, you will notice that roosters will be acting more aggressively than hens. They will establish themselves at the top of the pecking order through their bullying, aggressive behavior. They will also strut around the yard with their bodies much more upright than those of the hens. The roosters will also begin to show sexual interest in the hens and will try to mate.

Good Luck!
And don't be too surprised if Butch lays an egg and Daisy begins to crow!
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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chicken Coop on Wheels (Portable Chicken Tractor)

Originally Uploaded by Artisan Designs

Here's a great innovative, portable coop on wheels. A coop like this is also known as a Chicken Tractor as it can be moved around the yard to allow chickens to graze. This is the perfect size for a small flock of backyard or urban chickens. The design looks sturdy and weather proof and I am sure there are some great, little nesting boxes inside.

Links to other Chicken Breeds on this blog:
Ameraucana / Easter Egger
Australorp / Black Australorp
Bantam (What exactly is a Bantam or Banty?)
Barred Rock / Plymouth Rock
Belgian D'Uccle / Belgian Bantam / Mille Fleur (True Bantam)
Light Brahma
Dark Brahma / Buff Brahma
Campine / Silver and Golden
Cochin / Cochin Bantam
Frizzle (What is a Frizzle?)
Jersey Giant / Black Jersey Giant
Leghorn / White Leghorn
Maran / Cuckoo Maran / Chocolate Egger
New Hampshire Red
Orpington / Buff Orpington
Polish Crested
Rhode Island Red
Sebright: Silver and Golden (True Bantam)
Sussex / Speckled Sussex
Wyandotte / Silver Laced Wyandotte, Golden Laced Wyandotte

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Belgian D'Uccle / Belgian Bantam / Mille Fleur (True Bantam)

Belgian Bantam (Mille Fleur) Chicks

Belgian Bantam (Mille Fleur) Hen

Belgian Bantam (Mille Fleur) Rooster

Belgian D'Uccles (also known as Belgian Bantams, Belgian Bearded D'Uccles, Belgian Bearded Bantams, and Mille Fleurs) originated in the town of Uccle, just outside Brussels, Belgium. Belgian Bantams are considered True Bantams (chickens that are one fourth to one third the size of regular chickens) because they do not have a large counterpart. To learn more about Bantams, click here. The Begian D'Uccle breed has several varities, with the speckled Mille Fleurs (pictured above) being the most common. The other varieties include: Porcelain, Black, Buff, White, Blue, and Golden Neck. These Bantams are characterized by their beard and their beautiful feathered feet and legs. The Belgian D'Uccle hen makes a wonderful brooder and mother and lays very small white eggs (it takes two to three Bantam eggs to equal one regular chicken egg). Belgian D'Uccles have a very mild temperament and are quite friendly (the roosters are rarely aggressive) and make an excellent chicken for children to raise. This breed is generally hardy, but does not always do well in wet, muddy conditions because of the feathered feet.

Links to other Chicken Breeds on this blog:
Ameraucana / Easter Egger
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Friday, October 3, 2008

What To Do If Your Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

Have your hens suddenly stopped laying eggs for no apparent reason? This happens occasionally and there are several things you can do to encourage your chickens to begin laying eggs again:

1. Be sure your hens have adequate water and feed. Your chickens need fresh, clean water at all times. Feed your chickens layer pellet or layer crumble (available at feed stores) as this specially formulated feed will give your hens the nutritional support they need in order to produce eggs. If you are giving your hens layer pellet or layer crumble, but are also giving them a lot of scratch (cracked corn) or kitchen scraps, cut back on the scratch and scraps for awhile and feed them the layer pellet or layer crumble exclusively.

2. Put a light in your chicken coop and set it with a timer so that your hens have at least fourteen hours of light a day. A heat lamp in the chicken coop works great in the winter and a simple light bulb works well in warmer weather. If your hens are not getting enough daylight, they will not lay eggs.

3. Leave a decoy egg in your hens' nesting box. Use a wooden egg or leave one or more hen eggs in the nesting box and the hens will be more likely to want to lay and/or brood if there are already eggs in a particular box. Choose the nesting box that is in the darkest part of the coop, as this is usually the favorite box.

4. Make sure that your flock is not overly stressed in any way. If your chickens are crowded or are constantly fighting, you might consider creating two flocks to reduce the fighting and stress. Also make sure that your chickens do not have any diseases that might effect egg production.

5. If your chickens are molting or the weather has changed drastically, then egg production will taper off or your hens may quit laying eggs completely. This is normal and your chickens should begin laying eggs again after several weeks.

6. If you have rats, ground squirrels or weasels, there is a possibility that these animals are stealing your hens' eggs. Your chicken coop should be animal/rodent proof.

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