Q & A: Raising Backyard Chickens
We hope you enjoy raising your new birds. Please find below answers to some frequently and not so frequently asked questions. We’re here to give you the low down on what to expect when raising backyard chickens.
What type or breed of chicken should I buy?
The type of chick you buy depends on if you want them for eggs, meat or both. Some breeds are known to be hardier than others, so if you’re a beginner, you may want to go with one of the hardier breeds. Talk to your hatchery or Masterfeeds dealer in order to pick the breed that is right for you.
What do I need to start raising chickens in my backyard?
Please review our Beginner’s Guide: Raising Broiler and Layer Chicks
What should I feed my chickens?
Begin with a chick starter, like Masterfeeds 18% AV Chick Starter/Grower (Ontario) from zero to eight weeks for broilers, and zero to four weeks for pullets/layers. Use RWA 20% Poultry Starter/Grower (Western Canada) from zero to three weeks for broilers, and zero to six weeks for pullets/layers.
After eight weeks, start broilers on a grower/finisher, like Masterfeeds 17% AV Broiler Grower/Finisher (Ontario) or RWA 16% Poultry Grower/Finisher (Western Canada). From five to 17 weeks, feed layers/pullets a pullet grower formula, like Masterfeeds 16% Pullet Grower (Ontario) or RWA 16% Poultry Grower/Finisher (Western Canada).
When your hens start to lay, begin feeding a layer ration like Masterfeeds 18% AV Layer (Ontario) or 17% AV Layer Ration (Western Canada).
What is Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is a common intestinal disease caused by a parasitic organism that attaches itself to a chicken’s intestinal lining. It can be deadly, especially in young chicks, so it’s best to treat it quickly. Some common symptoms are diarrhea, blood in the droppings, lethargy, decreased intake of food or water and decreased growth rate.
The most common treatment for Coccidiosis is Amprolium, which can be added to your chickens’ water. Consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment information.
To prevent Coccidiosis, a feed containing Amprolium is recommended. You can purchase Masterfeeds Chick Starter feed with or without Amprol®.
It’s best to take steps to prevent Coccidiosis by keeping your coop well ventilated and clean as well as making sure your chickens have enough room. We recommend keeping a portion of soiled litter in your coop so birds can build an immunity to Cocci. Provide fresh, clean water daily.
When can my chickens go outside?
Depending on the temperature outside, they should be able to go out between five and eight weeks of age. Make sure they are fully feathered before bringing them outdoors.
How tall do the fences in my chicken run (yard) need to be?
Fences should be roughly 2 m (6 to 7 ft) high. Keep in mind if your run is open at the top, your chickens are vulnerable to overhead predators like hawks and other birds of prey. Installing deer netting over your chicken
run is recommended.
How much room do my chickens need?
You should allow 4 ft2 per bird minimum in your coop and 8 to 10 ft2 per bird in your chicken run.
How many nesting boxes do I need?
A good rule of thumb is one box per three to four hens. It’s common for hens to share a nesting box. Nesting boxes should be 46 to 61 cm (18 to 24″)
from the ground.
How much roosting space do I need?
Each chicken needs a minimum of 20 cm (8″) of perch space. Perches should be raised off the ground a minimum of 46 to 61 cm (18 to 24″). They should be made of wood and be 5 cm (2″) in diameter for a regular sized chicken. Smaller bantams would need a 2.5 cm (1″) diameter perch.
Are raccoons and other predators a threat to my chickens?
Definitely! Raccoons are one of the most common threats to chickens. When building a coop, make sure it is raccoon proof. Raccoons are smart and will figure out how to get into your chicken coop. Other predators to watch out for are hawks, eagles, owls, dogs, coyotes, foxes, cats, and/or rats.
When will my hens start to lay eggs?
Hens usually start to lay eggs at around four to six months of age, depending on the time of year and the amount of daylight they are getting.
How many eggs will my hens lay?
On average, hens lay about five to six eggs per week. In early spring they may lay as many as one egg per day.
For how long will hens lay eggs?
That will depend on the breed. Some breeds will lay up to eight years, but their peak production will end after about two to three years.
What is a “broody hen”?
A “broody hen” is one who stops laying and wants to sit on her nest to hatch the eggs she’s already laid. She will sit on the nest day and night only taking breaks for food and water. If the eggs are not fertilized or you do not want the hen to hatch chicks, it’s best to “break” her broodiness. There are several ways to achieve this: promptly gather any eggs she lays from her nest; block her nest or take nesting materials out; or put her in a separate raised wire cage. Cooling off her vent and abdomen area will break her broodiness.
Why aren’t my chickens laying?
Several factors influence egg-laying such as stress, the age of the birds and light and nutrition. Ensure your hens are getting the nutrition they need from a good quality layer feed like Masterfeeds 18% AV Layer (Ontario) or 17% AV Layer Ration (Western Canada). For more information, see Masterfeeds Poultry Feed Guide Ontario or Masterfeeds Poultry Feed Guide Western Canada
Is it normal for chickens to stop laying in winter?
Yes. Shorter days trigger a slowdown in egg production, rather than the temperature. In order to keep hens laying all winter, artificial light can be used to equal 14 hours of light per day.
What is “the molt”?
“The molt” is an annual process in which chickens lose and regrow their feathers. Usually, chickens molt in the late summer or early fall. They may stop laying eggs while they are molting.
Can I mix chickens of different ages?
It is not recommended since it may lead to problems with pecking-order and the spread of disease from older birds to younger birds. Birds of different ages also need different feed and temperatures.
Can I raise chickens with other birds?
This is not recommended as different birds require different feed and care.