If bread is the staple of human life, calcium is its backbone Lacking calcium, the bones of every living creature, from people to flounders, wouldn’t exist Without calcium neither clams nor bird eggs would have shells Chickens, and especially laying hens, need plenty of it to maintain both their health and laying ability
Laying hens have a calcium dilemma When chickens were wild birds roaming the Southeast Asian woodlands, they would only lay one or two clutches of eggs a year, maybe two dozen total Every egg removes calcium from the hen’s body, but when she didn’t lay many eggs,
Anyone studying the Hoover’s Hatchery catalog or Website faces one easy and one challenging decision The easy one is deciding whether to buy layer or broiler chicks
With delicious fresh eggs the goal of most people it’s easy to rule out broiler hybrids, like Cornish Rocks
Other choices get challenging Hoover’s sells dozens of breeds and hybrids that all promise good egg production How does someone select chicks that are likely to begin laying at the youngest age and keep producing for many months?
Actually, that’s also a fairly easy decision but takes some planning and thought Hoover’s lists the characteristics of
Of the hundreds of chicken breeds only one is dressed to attend a wedding She wears lace every day just in case a ceremony will soon start
Most backyard flocks feature Rhode Island Reds, Americaunas, Barred Rocks, Australorps, or Isa Browns Far too few include the wedding breed, the dainty yet meaty Delaware
The Delaware is a relative poultry newcomer, had a brief burst of popularity, lost favor as a meat breed and is only recently showing up in some backyard flocks The hens are easily managed good layers that, for anyone so inclined, are big enough to be transformed into
Raccoons live almost everywhere and love dining on chickens, eggs, and feed Wise owners of backyard flocks keep their hens in a sturdy coop with doors tightly closed when nighttime raccoons are on the prowl
Imagine the damage a 20-pound raccoon could do to a coop if it weighed 500 pounds!
That would be an American Black Bear
In many ways bears behave like giant raccoons They have an amazingly keen sense of smell, love eating chickens, feed, and eggs and have nimble paws able to open gates and unscrew jar lids And, they are strong Take a look at tis photo
Summer’s dog days are miserable Plants droop in the heat as wildlife retreat to shady places On scorching days people sequester in the comfort of their air-conditioned home But, what about the poor chickens out in the coop?
Chickens feel the heat That seems ironic since the species evolved in the steamy tropics of Southeast Asia Despite their origin more chickens die of heat stress than from the frigid cold of a northern winter
Heat can stress or kill chickens nearly everywhere, not just in the deep south North Dakota and upstate New York, both famous for frigid winters, often see
The delightful fragrance of sizzling bacon fills the kitchen as freshly cracked eggs plop into the frying pan Along with whole wheat toast topped with English marmalade, few breakfasts are more delicious than eggs fresh from the backyard coop
Before those eggs enter the pan, they’ve undergone a remarkable journey that starts in the hen’s ovary
When a female chicken hatches she has two ovaries but one gradually shrinks and becomes unfunctional The other gradually matures to generate all the eggs she’ll lay When she’s about 20 weeks old, give or take a few weeks, a hen begins ovulation It is
Ask a major league baseball manager what team member is most valuable and he is likely to answer, “my utility player” Rarely a famous media star, a utility player is a flexible athlete who can, at short notice, skillfully play many positions If a star player is sick or injured a utility man fills the gap
New Hampshire Reds are the “utility player” chicken breed They may not be the absolutely most prolific layer, the fastest growing broiler, the most beautifully colored chicken, or the very best broody hen But, they are darn good at all of them That may
Late winter It is cold Why in the world are my hens losing their feathers when they need every single one to keep toasty warm? Feather loss could be caused by age, molting, crowding, brooding, an overactive rooster or, gulp, lice or mites
Just before they begin laying, hens that hatched four or five months earlier look like they just stepped out of a chicken spa Their feathery wardrobe is gorgeous and covers everything but their legs, feet, and heads Then life’s stresses begin taking a toll After months of laying, patches of feathers disappear revealing reddish bare skin Although