Archive for ‘Livestock’

January 26, 2015

Winterize your Chickens to Keep Them Healthy and Laying

As we are now well into winter, those who keep chickens may see a drop in egg production from your flock. Hormones produced by a chicken dictate the amount of eggs produced and as we get shorter days and overcast skies the chicken will produce less hormones, and thus less eggs. The colder temperatures can also stress a bird slowing egg production and even affecting overall health. If you are worried about your chickens being left out in the winter cold don’t stress, there are ways to protect your birds and keep the eggs coming.

 

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When raising chickens, the basic needs are adequate food, fresh water, and shelter. This is true all year, but it can be a challenge when there is six inches of snow on the ground and the temperature does not get much above 0. If you free range your chickens, as I do, then obviously food can be a concern. There are less bugs, blades of grass or weeds for them to eat so food has to be supplemented.

Chickens nibbling on some scrap carrots

Chickens nibbling on some scrap carrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good layer feed with 16% to 18% protein will help keep chickens healthy and laying. An addition of cracked corn will give them energy to face the cold. Table scraps can also be used to supplement as chickens eat almost anything and things like carrot peelings, egg shells, and old bread will provide much needed vitamins and minerals.

 

Heater watering bucket Photo: www.valleyvet.com

Heater watering bucket Photo: http://www.valleyvet.com

 

Submersible tank heater Photo: www.valleyvet.com

Submersible tank heater Photo: http://www.valleyvet.com

 

Submersible tank heater

Submersible tank heater

Water is a problem in the winter as it will freeze and thus be of no use to the chickens. Freezing can also damage a plastic or metal watering can from the expanding ice. One thing anybody raising chickens in the winter should invest in is a heated water bucket or a submersible tank heater. Having to break the ice out of a watering bowl is not much fun and using a heated bucket will give your chickens a continuous supply of water. As many heated buckets are made for larger livestock, be careful that the bucket is not too deep or if it is deep, a platform for the chickens is provided. Smaller or bantam chickens will tend to roost on the rim of a taller bucket and stand a chance of falling in and drowning.

Chickens enjoying themselves under a heat lamp as snow and sleet fall outside.

Chickens enjoying themselves under a heat lamp as snow and sleet fall outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelter for your chickens should provide protection from the wind and cold but should still provide good ventilation. A heat lamp can provide extra warmth for chickens but be careful that it is high enough that it will not start a fire and the chickens, in a frenzy, will not knock it down. Straw or other bedding should be provided. A good rule is to provide much deeper bedding in the winter for both warmth and to absorb the increase in waste products produced by the chickens. Chickens will not go outside as much when there is snow on the ground and there should be a way in place to account for longer hours inside.

 

As I said above, chickens slow their egg production due to shorter days. Chickens evolved to produce eggs when the chance of a chick surviving is the greatest. When days are longer the weather is warmer and chicks have a greater survival rate. Chickens should have approximately 14 hours of light to produce eggs. You can trick your chickens into thinking that the day is longer than it is by providing light that mimics the daylight. I use a florescent light with a full spectrum bulb. You can get by with just an incandescent bulb as well. You just need to have the light on in the evening when the chickens are starting to roost.IMG_0479

 

Raising chickens can be fun and rewarding for anybody with the space to do it. And with a little extra care, your chickens will give you eggs all year long!

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Further information:

 

http://www.agriculture.com/livestock/poultry/feed/feeding-freerge-chickens-in-winter_292-ar28128

 

http://www.localharvest.org/blog/50346/entry/winter_egg_production

 

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April 25, 2013

A farmer’s perspective 4/25/2013

Dahinda, IL: It has been cold and rainy all spring. It seems that winter does not want to give up! I have not plated much yet. A couple of rows of potatoes and a few tomatoes in the hoop house. The hoop house took a battering over the winter. The windows that I put up on each end last year, to replace parts blown down during the previous winter, were all blown out by the wind. Even the plexiglas windows in the storm door on the west end!

On April 23rd we brought 4 hogs that were raised over the winter to the Elmwood locker in Elmwood, Illinois. These will be processed for several people who wanted farm fresh pork. My neighbor helped out and provided the stock trailer, and his truck, to transport them. Since my truck gets stuck in wet grass we decided not to use it! It was, of course, rainy and cold and we were knee-deep in mud trying to get the hogs into the stock trailer. They ran in all directions except in the direction of the ramp we set up so they could get into the trailer. Chasing them around was not made any easier by the fact that my feet sank down two feet into very thick mud every where I stepped. I almost lost a boot several times. Eventually they figured out where to go and away they went!