How to Introduce New Chickens to Your Flock 

Chick days at Feeds’n Needs are in full swing, and for many of our local poultry lovers, this means adding new birds to an existing flock! Growing your flock is exciting, but introducing new hens can be challenging. Ensuring you’re well prepared is key to guaranteeing a smooth transition, so let’s discuss how to introduce new chickens to your flock safely.

Why it’s Important to Take All the Steps
Chickens instinctively establish a social structure within the flock called a “pecking order.” Each flock member knows their place within this pecking order, which allows everyone to coexist peacefully without fighting over resources.
When new chickens are introduced to an existing flock, it interferes with the pecking order established by the older birds, and bullying is bound to happen until a new pecking order that includes the new members is established.
If the new birds are not slowly integrated into the existing flock, it leaves everyone vulnerable to serious bullying, injuries, and stress, none of which are good for laying productivity and overall flock health.

When to Introduce New Chickens to the Flock
If you’ve decided it’s time to grow your flock, consider choosing breeds that will be similar in size or at least compatible with the current members.
New chickens should be fully feathered, weaned off of supplementary heat, and approximately 8-12 weeks old before being integrated into the flock. Waiting until the new birds have reached a similar size as your older chickens allows you to feed them the proper diet required for growth until they have reached mature, reproductive age, and it gives them more confidence to interact with the older flock members when introduced.
Try to introduce three or more chickens to an existing flock if possible; this way, any bullying from the older hens won’t be directed at one bird. Additionally, introducing a group of new birds that are familiar with each other and have established their own little pecking order will help them feel more secure and confident when being integrated into the rest of the flock.

The Introduction Process
The process of flock integration can be broken down into four steps and accomplished over several weeks.

  1. Isolate: Before your new birds come in contact with your older ones, they should be quarantined for at least two weeks to monitor the new birds for any signs of disease, injuries, or parasites. A good precaution to take is to treat everyone for external parasites like lice or mites with Doktor Doom lice killer for poultry and deworm with a piperazine powder for poultry. Find these products and more at your local Feeds’n Needs. Once you’re positive that all your new members are healthy, you may begin the next phase of integration.
  2. Segregate: House your new chickens in a temporary cage or fenced area near where the existing flock stays. For example, this temporary pen could be a large dog kennel or crate placed inside the coop or in the run where the two groups of birds can see, hear, and smell each other but not intermingle. This allows everyone to become familiar with each other without the risk of bullying or harassment. The temporary pen should be furnished with a feeder and waterer and large enough to comfortably house your new members during the day. Allow the new birds to get familiar with the flock through the safety of their temporary corral for 1-2 weeks or until the older flock members start to ignore the newbies.
  3. Acclimate: Now that the chickens have been introduced in a non-contact way, you may start allowing short periods of “together time,” where everyone can be together in the coop or run without any barriers. If everything is going well and the birds are getting along, you can start increasing the amount of supervised time your birds spend together over the course of a week or two. Allowing both groups to free range together is another great way to start “together time”, and it will give the new birds a chance to get familiar with the coop while the older gals are out. Offering distractions for the older birds may keep them occupied and reduce bullying during the transition period – try hanging a head of cabbage or putting down some premium chopped straw from Feeds’n Needs for the chickens to peck and scratch at to keep them busy! Return the new birds to their own coop after each of these sessions and take this time to check for any injuries that may need attention.
  4. Integrate: Once you feel that the flock has accepted the new birds, it’s time for everyone to be together full-time. As the new pecking order is being established, there is still bound to be some bullying, so keep a close eye on the situation and continue to check for injuries. If bullying continues or worsens, you may have to separate the birds again and return to supervised together time for a while longer.

So, are you ready to add to your flock? Stop by your local Feeds’n Needs or visit our website to get all the details about upcoming Chick Days. Remember to stock up on all the poultry essentials at Feeds’n Needs! Our experts are here to help, so don’t hesitate to ask questions!

Learn more about raising and caring for chickens by checking out the poultry section of our blog!
Prep Your Coop for Chicks
Hens Health Throughout the Seasons
Predator Proofing Your Chicken Coop

Spring Cleaning Your Coop
Spring Cleaning Your Coop

Spring Cleaning Your Coop

Springtime is just around the corner, which means it’s time for some spring cleaning. With the days getting longer and temperatures getting warmer, it’s the perfect time to deep clean your chicken coop and prepare your chickens for the season ahead.

Do a Health Check:
With the change of seasons, it is important to perform a quick health check on your birds. Check for overgrown beaks or toenails that need to be clipped, any abnormalities to their feet, cuts or wounds that require treatment, and ensure no mites or lice are hiding in their feathers.

Coop Cleaning: Step by Step
Wintertime typically leads to a messy chicken coop since birds aren’t out free-ranging, and cold temperatures make cleaning or repairs more challenging. This is why when spring arrives, thoroughly cleaning your coop and all supplies is essential to keeping your birds healthy and happy.

1. Remove and Clean Accessories
When you’re cleaning out your coop, you first want to remove any moveable accessories such as feeders, waterers, nesting boxes, broody cages, etc. Take any dirty bedding out of the nesting boxes and use a putty knife or scraper to remove any residue inside of them. Use a non-toxic cleaner or Dawn dish soap with a scrub brush to give those accessories a good scrub until clean. Rinse everything thoroughly and set in the sun to dry. If the winter weather was harsh on some of your feeders and waterers, be sure to stop by your local Feeds’ n Needs to find quality poultry essentials to last you for seasons to come!

2. Clear Out Dirty Bedding
Next, use a shovel to remove all the old bedding in your coop. You can use a broom to sweep the floors and the walls or ceilings to get rid of any remaining debris. Lice and mites are known to hide during the day, so it is important to pay extra attention to areas like corners and edges, under roosts and in between seams of the floor when cleaning out your coop. Mixing equal parts water and vinegar, you can make an at-home, non-toxic cleaning solution to spray down all the walls, floors and other surfaces in your coop and thoroughly scrub before putting everything back inside. This is also the perfect time to spray or dust any products to eliminate mites or lice if you have an issue with them. We carry a variety of easy-to-use products that will help you rid your coop and flock of pests in no time.

3. Inspect Your Coop
While your coop is empty and clean, thoroughly inspect it. The best defense against predators is having a safe coop to protect your birds. Check your coop for any loose boards, nails, or hardware, large or small holes that predators could fit through, leaks in the roof, and holes or weak points in your fencing. Be sure to make necessary repairs as soon as possible to prevent unwanted visitors from harming your flock.

4. Put Everything Back Together
Once your coop is clean and dry and repairs have been made if needed, refill your coop and nesting boxes with clean bedding of your choice. Our bales of pine shavings and dust-free chopped straw make excellent bedding options for your coop year-round. You can replace heated waterers with regular ones; keep an eye on the temperature forecast to ensure the water won’t freeze. Warm spring days often lead to cold nights, so be diligent. Fill feeders with fresh food and return your chickens to their clean coop!

Stop by your local Feeds ‘n Needs store to view our large selection of poultry essentials, which will help you get your spring coop cleaning under way!

For more tips, tricks, and information about raising and owning chickens, check out our related blogs:
Hen’s Health Throughout the Seasons
Prep Your Coop for Chicks
Livestock Bedding Options

Predator Proofing Your Chicken Coop
Predator Proofing Your Chicken Coop

Predator Proofing Your Chicken Coop

When owning chickens, keeping your birds safe should always be a priority. Unfortunately, these birds have a rather lengthy list of predators who won’t hesitate to harm your flock if the opportunity arises. It is important to ensure your coop is a safe place for your birds. This blog covers all the basics of predator-proofing your chicken coop, from proper fencing to locking up feed bins.

Know The Predators:
Familiarizing yourself with the wildlife in your area that may pose a threat to your chickens is ultimately the first step in knowing how to protect them. By doing this, you will have a better idea of any potential weak areas in your coop that need to be reinforced to prevent these predators from breaking in. Some common chicken predators include foxes, coyotes, raccoons, weasels, rats, and birds of prey, but depending on your location, these predators may differ.

Inspect Your Coop:
Check your coop regularly for any areas that a predator may easily breach. Inspect all coop structures, including doors, windows, walls, roof, and floor. Predators are often capable of fitting through tiny holes, so use hardware cloth secured by washers and screws to cover up any cracks or holes in your coop structure, as well as any windows. Keeping all windows locked and adding a complex lock to the coop door will help prevent raccoons from opening them, as they are known for their cleverness.

Whether you have a fenced-in run attached to your coop or a large area where your chickens can free-range, ensuring your fence is secure and won’t allow predators through is essential. Our experts recommend using hardware cloth with ¼” holes or smaller when building a fence to protect your chickens. Chicken wire is typically flimsy and has larger holes that predators can easily get through, so investing in a sturdier wire will better protect your flock. When putting up fencing in a run or a larger fenced-in area, bury the wire 6 to 12 inches underground to deter digging or burrowing predators. An alternative to burying your wire is to create an “apron” of hardware cloth which extends 12 feet outward from the base of your fence. Check out our selection of different fencing options at your local Feeds ‘n Needs!

Prevent Aerial Attacks:
Digging and burrowing predators aren’t the only ones threatening your chickens. Birds of prey such as hawks, vultures and owls are also a danger to your flock while they are outside in their run or when free-ranging. Cover the top of your run or fenced area with hardware cloth or a solid roof to prevent aerial attacks from these predators who fly overhead. Ensure that your covering does not leave gaps between it and your fence, as climbing predators could squeeze through.

Secure Food Sources:
Easy access to your chicken’s feed is an almost guaranteed way to attract predators to your area. Keeping all chicken feed and other food sources locked up in metal bins with secure lids will help to keep rodents and other predators out of it. Keep chicken feeders inside the coop to avoid spilled feed on the ground outside, which would surely draw in predators.

Lock up at Night:
Most predators of chickens are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. This is when your chickens are the most vulnerable since they are defenseless as they sleep. If your flock free ranges during the day, ensure everyone is back inside before nightfall and that the coop door is latched securely each night with a lock that predators cannot open.

Motion Sensor Lights:
Since most predators are nocturnal, mounting a motion sensor light on or around your coop may startle them, deterring them from coming closer and making attempts to break in.

At Feeds ‘n Needs, we know the best defense against predators is a secure coop and fence. Check out the fencing options available at your local Feeds ‘n Needs, and be sure to ask our experts any questions about how you can keep your birds safe year-round. We’re happy to help!

For more tips, tricks, and information about raising and owning chickens, check out our related blogs:
Hen’s Health Throughout the Seasons
Prep Your Coop for Chicks
Livestock Bedding Options

Prep Your Coop for Chicks

Getting ready for the arrival of baby chicks can be an exciting but also an overwhelming time. Making sure you have everything prepared before welcoming your new flock is beneficial in ensuring your chicks get the best start in life. From setting up your brooder to transporting your birds, this article will break down all the basics to help you feel confident in preparing to bring your chick’s home.

Preparing Housing for Chicks

Brooder Options:

The setup required for housing your chicks can be simple. When deciding what to use as a brooder (the space in which your chicks will live), you’ll want to choose something sturdy, large enough to comfortably house your chicks, and, ideally, inexpensive. Because of how rapidly baby chicks grow, they need to be moved into larger housing units as they get bigger. A strong cardboard box, Rubbermaid tote, or kiddie pool are all suitable options if they provide enough space. If you have pets or small children in your household, consider covering your brooder with hardware cloth or chicken wire to prevent accidents and keep chicks from escaping as they grow larger.

Bedding Material:

The bedding you use for your baby chicks should be absorbent, easy for them to walk on, and not slippery. Paper towels or puppy training pads are great options to use for the first 5-7 days after getting your chicks as they meet all these requirements. These options also make it easy to monitor if your chicks are eating since the smooth, white surface makes droppings visible. Bedding should be changed frequently to ensure your chick’s environment stays clean and dry.

Heat Source:

Since baby chicks do not yet have their feathers, they cannot regulate their own temperature. A constant heat source must be provided for them. The most used heat source for baby chicks is a heat lamp with a 250-watt infrared heat bulb. This should be secured over top of their brooder box; however, some alternate heating options include radiant heat plates or simply keeping the brooder in a small room with the heat turned up enough to keep them warm.

Food and Water

Once you have prepared a housing unit for your chicks to be placed in upon their arrival, it is time to prepare their food and water. Baby chicks require access to food and fresh water at all times and will likely be very thirsty following their journey to their new home. The feeder and waterer that you choose for your chicks should be small enough to fit in your brooder without overcrowding and easy for your chicks to access. It is important that you change your chick’s water several times per day to ensure that it stays clean. Spot clean or add fresh feed as needed if contamination occurs. Use caution if using an open water source for your chicks, as they are at risk of accidental drowning and contracting diseases related to fecal contamination.

*Pro Tip – Adding clean marbles or rocks into the bottom of the chick’s water dish and elevating it slightly from the ground while they are young can help prevent accidents and contamination.

Food Options:

We pride ourselves on providing feed to help your chicks thrive from day one. Chickens require different feed formulations throughout their life stages, and when it comes to baby chicks, we carry two options:

  • Medicated Chick Starter – A crumbled formulation containing the medication amprolium. This medication helps fight off coccidiosis, a disease that is spread through fecal contamination and is deadly to baby chicks. See bag for feeding instructions.

*Note – If raising meat birds, switch to unmedicated feed at four weeks old to ensure no medication is present when they are processed.

  • Plain Chick Starter – A crumbled feed formulated to meet the nutritional needs of young chickens without added medication. See bag for feeding instructions.

Now that everything is ready for your chick’s arrival home, it’s time to pick them up. When bringing chicks home, you must have a secure way to transport them. Ensuring they have a smooth, non-stressful ride home will help your chicks transition quickly into their brooder environment.

An ideal container to bring your chicks home in should meet the following criteria:

  • Has a solid bottom and four walls
  • Small enough that chicks won’t stumble around and fall
  • Large enough to fit chicks without them being on top of each other
  • Lined with a paper towel or similar bedding to absorb any messes.

You should now be well on your way to becoming an expert in caring for baby chicks, and before long, you will be reaping the rewards of all your hard work! Visit one of our experts in-store to learn more about preparing for chicks, and be sure to check out our wide range of products and feed to find everything you need to get started!

Hen health throughout the seasons
Hen health throughout the seasons

Hens Health Throughout the Seasons

A hens’ optimal temperature is between 18-24 degrees, and when temperatures start to drop below and rise above these, it can affect them in different ways. Keeping them warm and healthy is important to your hens health and egg production.

As the sunlight hours begin lessen through the winter months, this will affect your hens’ production schedule. By providing a light or heat lamp during times that used to be daylight hours this will keep her on her regular laying cycle.

Heating sources are not always necessary, however. If your coop is well enough insulated to their water from freezing, and/or you have a small flock that is large enough to huddle with one another, then you may  not require a heating source. Chickens are very adaptable and can tolerate colder temperatures!

Winterizing your coop

Providing infinite above freezing temperature water and clean, dry bedding will keep your chickens comfortable and healthy all winter long. Deeper bedding can keep their feet from being too cold. Dampness and draft will affect your chickens more than the plummeting temperature, and these factors of winter can quickly start the onset of frostbite. Ventilating your coop properly and ensuring it is always dry will keep your hens healthy through the winter months.

Summer months

As the temperatures start to rise in summer months this can affect your hens differently. Heat stress can be fatal to your chickens so it is imperative to find ways to keep them cool. Providing good ventilation in their coop, and perhaps with the addition of a fan to circulate air can help keep temperatures from rising. Providing shady areas in their run can help them regulate their body temperatures on a hot, sunny day. If your coop doesn’t have a shaded area for most of the day, it is easy to set up something that can provide a bit of shade for them.

Having an area where they are able to scratch into the dirt to lay on cool ground can also help them regulate their body temperatures. As always, providing clean fresh water is of the utmost importance. Sometimes in extreme temperatures if you notice your hens are distressed by the heat, adding an electrolyte can help to prevent dehydration which can be detrimental.   If your hens become too hot for a prolonged period of time, the stress can inhibit their laying production and therefore it will sometimes slow down or even stop. Keeping them cool and preventing heat stress can avoid this cease in their cycle!

Feel free to visit us and ask us any questions you may have about your hens health!

Livestock bedding options
Livestock bedding options

Livestock Bedding Options

When it comes to providing your livestock with bedding, making sure it’s clean, absorbent and comfortable is a must. There are several options for materials that you can use to place under your animals in their enclosure to ensure overall well-being. Organic materials are usually best, as they contain lower levels of bacteria counts, resulting in better air quality and less discomfort (and will consequently result in less sores and other harmful ailments). While the type of flooring, animal breed and population density of animals in the enclosure matter when choosing the right bedding, here are a few good organic options to consider when making an informed decision for your furry friends.

Vegetable Litter for bedding

Plant litter is arguable the least harmful option for the environment, as it’s ecological and biodegradable and can be a great solution for your poultry flock! It’s mainly composed of natural elements, like wood chips, hay or pellets and is mainly used for animal enclosures.

Ripe wood

If you opt for a wood-based litter, it’s recommended to use soft wood that’s specially treated for composting purposes if you want better absorption quality. Like wood shavings, which are both absorbent and comfortable for farm animals. An interesting aspect of plant litter is that it doesn’t produce much dust, which benefits the respiratory health of the animals.

Hay and straw

Hay or straw are also materials used to create bedding for farm animals. Hay is cut and dried legumes and or grasses and is commonly used for feed, but lower qualities of hay are great for bedding purposes. Ensuring the quality of the hay is not palatable so animals don’t consume it.

If you’re considering using hay or straw, it’s important to know that there’s a bit more upkeep required due to the lower levels of absorbency than some other litter options. Another thing to consider is to ensure the quality of the hay or straw is older and dry when you are spreading it, as old hay may give off dust, resulting in potential respiratory damage in animals. When they have a high level of humidity, the risk of mold increases which rapidly grows bacteria that can be harmful to your animals.

Peat moss

Within the vegetable little category, you can also find peat moss as an option. This type of litter is becoming increasingly popular, as it tends to be more absorbent than wood or hay and it helps eliminate the amount of flies in facilities. Peat moss has a controlled PH, which helps to reduce odors and the amount of ammonia in the litter. This bedding has even been known to help improve areas of animal health, including udders, legs and airways.