Despite the continuing growth of laying poultry kept domestically for wholesome fresh egg production, the task can still give rise to concerns for new entrants and indeed also for existing keepers. However, in real terms the key issues are not as fearsome as they may appear and keeping chickens can be a very simple and rewarding task for the whole family.
It is impossible in a short article to cover all the required areas of knowledge but there are a small number of key elements which when adhered to will make the total task much easier. Added together they probably would in themselves guarantee a healthy flock which rewards the keeper with a regular supply of fresh eggs.
- Choose the correct birds for a full or semi range environment, correctly reared by reputable industry professionals. Additionally to this source is the very rewarding method of obtaining caged birds from well known Rescue Centres who will thrive in their new environment and last many years.
- Correct feeding is very simple in today’s world with the supply of many excellent balanced Layers Diets in mash or pellet form. The use of wheat as a scratch feed is to be recommended but not in excess as this will dilute the protein intake of birds if taken in preference to a Layers Diet. Maize at the present moment provides an excellent wheat supplement or replacement as its UK price today is the lowest in years. Egg yolk colour enhancement is likely to result from the addition of maize to the total diet.
- Never forget the threat from external parasites which can readily damage the health and performance of the flock. Red Mite in particular remains an increasing threat due to hot summer weather and its prevention by the use of proprietary controls is a must in the current era. Whilst on the subject of health we as collective poultry keepers have a responsibility for good bio security methods in preventing the more damaging threats from Avian Flu and Fowl Pest particularly in flight path areas of migrating birds.
- The construction and selection of the correct housing is such an important issue but fortunately the UK has an excellent availability of readily constructed pens and houses for the new entrant and existing keeper alike. It may seem obvious but in a world of urban foxes and vermin make certain that physical security is as absolute as possible.
Many domestic poultry keepers are fearful of Feather Pecking and the damage it can cause by stress and physical wounding. The quest for the magic bullet in solving this issue continues but key to preventing it is the elimination of boredom which can be readily helped by using specialist Pecker Blocks which act as an occupational therapy as well as providing an additional nutritional intake. Chickens are inquisitive and we need to entertain them.
Adherence to these vital factors will go a long way to making the task of having your own poultry a very enjoyable experience with the bonus of fresh daily eggs. Sadly the one element which we have little control over is the weather, which with the potential of higher summer temperatures will lead to lower food consumption so water is absolutely critical. Failure to watch this carefully will definitely result in stress and combined with reduced feed intake will cause lower egg production and smaller egg size. In times of extreme heat there is a real case for increasing the nutrient density for protein and energy from purchased feeds by using a more concentrated diet. Remember that most birds are only eating circa 80 grams per day and that is such a small parcel so keep it as nutritionally correct as possible.
Keeping your own flock is fascinating, enjoyable and indeed rewarding for the whole family and actually it is easy.