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Your first decision is whether you want ducks, chickens or geese Then what you want the birds for: pets; eggs; meat; showing; breeding; Then you get to choose the ones you like best in character and shape etc. then you need to decide : what age is right for me? CHICKENS:- hybrids : purebreeds : eggs : meat : other These, in general, lay more eggs and produce meat quicker. Feed is generally available in feed stores and pet shops. They will range around your place happily eating bugs, clearing weeds, fertilizing your vegetable plot and laying in nest boxes. They do tend to be a little more prone to disease than ducks even with the best care. Roosters can be rather noisy and disturb neighbours (some urban areas will ban the ownership of male birds). The choice of breed depends on the use you have in mind: HYBRIDS For lots of eggs every year then you should look at the hybrids. These have been created by recent intensive selective breeding by Man. Most are almost entirely 'manmade' for the intensive production of eggs and in our opinion they are not as good for backyard and free ranging. We use and rear the Black Rock which is a first cross rather than a hybrid, and is bred from specially selected pure breed parent stock. The result of this breeding is that they are much more productive than the present day utility pure breeds and have superb disease resistance in comparison to the other hybrids. You can only get females (pullets) and the high productivity falls off after a couple of years. However for backyard birds for family eggs they will carry on laying and being friends for many years. Commercial free range producers such as ourselves may sell birds at the end of the second year very cheaply and these can make a good introduction into poultry keeping. The birds are worldly wise and the cost is lower. They may die suddenly occasionally but we have old customers with birds that are 5-6 years old still laying a few eggs every week. The Bovans Nera is the nearest cross in the USA I think to the Black Rockbut from experience over here they are not as good. People in the United Kingdom should be aware that some unscrupulous folk are selling the Bovans Nera and others as
. Yard Art For a great looking flock get a mixture of breeds the contrasting colours moving across your land is delightful. then the Rhode Island Red. mostly mid brown. These birds are specially bred to mature very fast (and really are not for keeping over 18 weeks as they can get quite severe structural problems ). a wider variety of sizes and plumage and. and Light Sussex These breeds will lay a reasonable number of eggs. The young males mature more quickly so can be reared separately and culled for the table. UTILITY PURE BREEDS If you like the idea of pure breeds you will get birds with fascinating history.welsumer : next marans : next . but the birds are larger.do you want white eggs? YES . They need special food but give a good product quickly. in Scotland. White Wyandotte. One of the best for free range is supposed to be the Sasso .he is the sole breeder and he will know all the genuine agents who rear Black Rocks. There are places where lots of birds are produced and little selection for good birds and good productivity happens. the welsumer is a very attractive bird with mahogany eggs but hasn't been 'improved' as much to increase its productivity. speckled marans. if you choose carefully.if you are at all wary contact Peter Siddons at Muirfield Hatchery.deepest brown .Black Rocks .there are now hatcheries in the UK with them but I haven't found any web links yet.Rhode Island Red Of these breeds the Marans and Leghorn are the most productive. Meat and eggs These are called Dual Purpose breeds and include the Buff Orpington. Egg layers . birds that will provide you with eggs and meat that will easily fulfil a family's needs.do you want brown eggs? YES .Leghorn .probably at the growers stage or even day old. The other consideration is that exhibition birds are often not as productive as the breeding programmes are concentrating on feather and form not meat and eggs. You need to ensure that the stock you get are from known utility parent flocks. If you want birds for lots of meat you need to buy broiler breeds. deep red Rhode Islands against the clean white of Leghorns or fluffy Wyandotte and glossy black Leghorns. with the classic Kelloggs cockerel that is the welsumer make wonderful moving pictures. Apricot Buff. From such places the results can be variable and the birds can be poor examples of the breeds. Kinross.
SHOWING: If you want to enjoy the hobby of showing you will be looking for exhibition quality birds. with many others in existence throughout the world. OTHER PURE BREEDS: Many of the pure breeds have not been 'improved' (for egg production) but come in just about every colour.Temperament and other features: (this is just my opinion) Which are the most friendly :. marans Which are medium sized:.the bantams such as the Scots Grey bantams we have. original purpose. popularity.we also find our Black Rocks to be great characters . . We don't have them as they are not really very productive but are great fun. Waterfowl are similarly divided into 'Light'.Orpington Buff and Blue completely soppy :~)) . and form. White Wyandotte.Leghorns and welsumers Which are the smallest :. what faults to look out for and how the judges score birds. shape. Two sizes of fowl exist . and 'Bantam' Duck. or size.our girls can be pretty broody too (although this year we are going to be doing it for them so we get more babies) There well over 150 breeds and varieties of poultry in this country. It is important to tell any s upplier of your intentions.this book will show you the standards expect for each breed. Go to shows and ask the exhibitors for ideas. 'Medium' and 'Heavy' Geese.strutting around the yard like they are on parade . are those with no Large Fowl counterpart and the breeds under this heading are usually for ornamental purposes. British Poultry Standards . Our bantam Scots Greys are wonderful little characters .will be in the back door given half a chance Which are the biggest :.Large Fowl and Bantam. and is classified by The Poultry Club accordingly. the Bantam version having been created as a miniature of the Large. Both sizes can be found in many breeds. 'True Bantams'. 'Light'. Orpingtons.Light Sussex.Rhode Island Red Black Rocks Which are the smaller :. This can also be based on a breed's historical origins. and 'Heavy'. These will tend to be more expensive for quality birds as there are fewer good ones about but are just as satisfying to keep especially if you breed a little. Each of these breeds has distinct attributes and character. Many of the breeds of large birds have a bantam counterpart.
Good utility pure breeds can give you a modicum of success at smaller shows depending on the concentration of exhibition breeders in the area but don't expect to be taken too seriously. For the table choose Aylesbury. The range of colours is beautiful especially when against the reflection of a sparkling pond. For exhibition information see British Poultry Club DUCKS These are. Our birds are good of their type but not top exhibition standard: they do produce more though.there is plenty of choice. Muscovies.Call ducks make small but noisy pets. After that choose the ones you like . Utility Runners(when you can still find them) will provide the family with plenty of eggs for quite a bit of the year.most are no longer really very useful for either meat or egg production . This will get bigger over time as they eat away at the edges. unlike chickens who won't fly but can flap over quite a height. Birds from good lines will produce nearly 300 eggs a year. Rouen. although can sometimes get foot problems. The commercial egg layers such as Khaki Campbells. FEEDING DOMESTIC POULTRY and WATERFOWL on a small scale . will keep your garden slug free.they will keep the whole family entertained and are simply delightful to have as part of the family. and fill up with silt. Ducks are absolutely charming to have around.but make lovely pets and moving garden ornaments But BEWARE they are addictive one or two can lead to a large number somehow. In practise most ducks are seasonal layers nearer 100 eggs so during the winter you may have none. See our Domestic Ducks web site for lots of other breeds . There really doesn't need to be a reason to have ducks . For dual purpose choose Blue Swedish. Most ducks don't fly but just in case clipping one wing prevents disappearances or predators taking them. For sheer character . in general. They need at least enough water to be able to dunk their heads in but prefer (and look wonderful on) a pond. Saxony and the heavy breeds. more disease free than chickens. They love to dibble into lawns . but will walk over plants and make mud pies out of the ground if there is limited space.which makes holes for the hens to scratch up so aerating and de thatching it!!!! They are however fairly easy to fence out.
The same goes for feeding too much in the way of scraps etc. seeds and also scraps fed in the afternoon will supplement the usual free range layers meal or pellets which is 16% protein. Most free ranging birds do not need an 18% feed like the more intensive units . ducks. or geese.I hope that in these pages and the links to our other related sites you will find some of the answers to the questions you may have about getting hens. any problems you may encounter. These pages are mainly directed at the small flock keeper whether as pets.just because a . Also important is the number of feeders . We also do not have our birds inside much as many folk who show do. If you feed differently you can affect the egg numbers and often the health of your birds dramatically.this is a time of maturation and a lack of all the best nutrition can slow down the onset of lay and produce birds that are poorer in general. WHAT DO I NEED TO FEED MY BIRDS FOR A HEALTHY AND PRODUCTIVE LIFE? This advice is for free range conditions whether fully ranging out around a field or orchard or in houses and runs for their protection . vitamins. Feeding is probably one of the most vital factors in poultry and waterfowl keeping. or small commercial units. minerals etc. Birds these days are bred and selected to live well using good proprietary feeds. Hens may well prefer the corn feed but if this becomes the main part of the diet then the protein levels that the bird is getting declines and her ability to be a good producer is compromised.the bugs. what is involved in looking after them.I don't have experience of the intensive commercial units and so will give no advice on them . and other items of interest that are poultry related. These provide good quality protein. Many times I am phoned regarding birds that are not laying particularly well and the main reason is the feeding regime.you can find information on this on the web from the large commercial poultry producers. The birds are being fed a mix of layers feed and corn or corn alone instead of layers ad lib and anything extra like grain or vegetable kitchen scraps only in the late afternoon. This is especially important in young birds coming into lay . although I don't suppose it will ever be complete. There is definitely a British leaning to the information but I will include links for the rest of the world as I find them It may take me a while to get all the information on line. grubs. productive livestock.
They are both the same simply a different form of presentation.pellets and mash (usually around 16% protein).feeder has feed in it does not mean that all birds are feeding adequately. The best way is in a hopper feeder hanging up at their head height so they cannot get at it with their feet and scratch it all over the place.that is always available. However if feed gets wet it will go mouldy very quickly and this can cause botulism which shows up as LIMBER NECK where the head of the bird is twisted back.well scattered over the ground preferably away from the house to encourage useful ranging. This feed should be fed ad lib . -1 : Laying birds : Proprietary mixes for laying birds come in two types . The quality of the feed is also important . If you have more than 20 birds have 2 small feeders rather than one large one and extrapolate that for higher numbers of birds.this is not necessarily the case .almost all feed these days is GM free but there are some organic feed merchants nowadays too if you want it.is fed dry as well.or meal as it is also called .it is a bare maintenance diet [only about 10% protein] and . In the afternoon they can have a wheat feed ( around 2-3 ounces per bird . Mash . Once a week make sure they finish up before replenishing so you know there is no foul food at the bottom and then refill. If you have a run that the birds are allowed out of during the day then the wheat feed can be a good way to get them back into it for the evening. This can allow you to go out kowing the birds are safe if you are not going to be there to shut them in at dusk. All ours are inside so there is no chance of the rain getting at it and spoiling the food. Wheat alone is not enough for keeping your birds healthy . Bad feed is also less likely to be eaten so the birds can go hungry although feed is present. This is a good time to direct them to that weedy patch you want them to dig up for you.some people feel that they are being organic in the way .if the wheat you get is organic then the chances are you can get organic layers meal too so feed it. A secure run with the house means that you can shut them in on your return and prevent them from considering trees as an alternative or getting munched by a passing predator while you are out enjoying yourself!! Feeding wheat alone is certainly insufficient . If you have a lot of birds the weaker ones may be being prevented from accessing it. Do not feed wheat or scraps in the morning as the birds will fill up on it and not eat enough layers feed to be able to lay well.
the first eggs are not good enough for hatching and it allows the birds to complete their development. It is not necessary to feed a higher . If they don't then they are getting enough from the soil.18% protein to good layers . .wheat in proportion as long as they are active.they can get over fat and this may lead to premature death as they only have little insides and any fat deposits will obstruct their organs quite easily. Whether or not you need to provide grit depends on what your natural soil is like.2 : Breeding Birds If you are seriously breeding your birds then there are specialist feeds. You can get specific feeds for breeding chickens and for breeding ducks. If your birds are on good range then they will top up themselves on the natural bugs and grubs around.3 : Non Productive adults If you have birds as just pets or a collection of cockerels or older birds that are laying only a few eggs you can increase the amount of corn . Make any changes gradually.the extra 2% tends to be fishmeal and can result in that fishy taste some eggs have. This is not healthy. Some breeders have used dried cat food in small amounts to pep up breeding stock. In cold weather it is a good idea to increase the amount of wheat in the evenings and maybe even add maize to the afternoon feed to help the birds stay warm and keep up their body condition . These have a better protein and mineral mix for higher fertility and hatchability. Again they are fed ad lib in the same way as the layers. Most duck breeds these days are not particularly good layers and once they have finished laying for the year can go over to a mainly wheat diet. . Just what the condition of the birds . The other very important things when you get new birds is to feed what their previous home has been feeding to start with. Birds tend to eat grain in preference to the layers so by offering a mixture you can reduce the quantity of meal and so the cost of your feed bill.if the birds are a productive strain they may get nutritionally stressed trying to produce eggs and so start to take minerals and protein from their own body to compensate. I would suggest that pullets are put on this after they have been laying for a few months . The best plan is to offer it (in an old baking dish with holes in to let any rain through) outside and if they take it keep it replenished.
changing over gradually in that week from crumbs. It contains all they need.we use egg trays for the first week .with a bowl of water beside..or unmedicated chick crumbs. You continue with growers until the chicks are around 14 weeks in the hybrids and commercial first crosses such as Black Rocks.we have had good success with using the chicken one for both . As always it should be fed ad lib from around 6-7 weeks in the chicks . Check 3 -4 times a day to make sure they have not run out especially if you have quite a number. We don't find they need a grit but you can offer fine grit which they may use.and it is usually cheaper as long as it is unmedicated for the waterfowl. As they get older they can have bigger chunks . This is mashed into a shallow saucer with a little water when they are very young . After this they go on to layers feeds . and about 9 weeks for the ducks. . They eat a lot more than chicks and so can end up getting too high a dose of the antibiotic which can be lethal.4 : Chicks : These are best fed on the proprietary chick crumbs.7 : Growers : Again there are proprietary waterfowl and chicken growers pellets .as  Some people use wheat alone at the later part of this stage we do not agree with this as it is this stage that the main .5 : Ducklings : Don't feed ducklings medicated chick crumbs unless you really cannot get anything else. Again this is fed ad lib .plenty of newspaper and clean shavings at the ready:~)) Mega mess but chunky ducklings. We have not found a need for the memdicated grower pellets but if there are commercial units in your area you may find that young birds out on range are more susceptible to air borne bugs. working up to the time when you just take both ends off the tin and let them at it!!!! .it makes a terrible mess but they love it.10 days until they are big enough to get over a long chick feeder [Discard the tray every couple of days and use a fresh one]. . 16 weeks for the pure breeds as they are slower maturing. Fresh clean water is also absolutely vital. Well advanced ducklings can change at around 4-5 weeks. There are proprietary waterfowl starter pellets which are great . They are very susceptible to bugs when they are young and most feeds have a good antibiotic in the right concentration to protect them against coccidiosis which is a major chick killer even in the best kept bird unit. This feed is used up until they are 6 weeks old when they go on to Growers in a gradula transition. If you only have a few ducklings to rear we have had very good results using a cereal based dog food such as Chappie.
bugs can quickly develop in dirty drinkers and cause no end of problems. Most flocks will have a strong pecking order and the boss hens can prevent others from getting to drinkers. productive livestock. . ducks. HOUSING DOMESTIC POULTRY and WATERFOWL on a small scale I hope that in these pages and the links to our other related sites you will find some of the answers to the questions you may have about getting hens. The wheat alone seems to have been to delay laying but I have found no evidence yet that it does so [unless a reader to this knows different] and well bred birds will be genetically programmed to get on with laying and any short fall in diet could adversely affect there development as they try to finish growing and start laying without a balanced diet. It may be that in days gone by the quality of feed grains was a lot better than is available to normal poultry keepers now so they could get away with it. These pages are mainly directed at the small flock keeper whether as pets. and other items of interest that are poultry related. Every drinker should be spotlessly clean . Any shortages will be drawn from the animal itself and must have a long term detriment. Introduction: The main requirements for housing all kinds of poultry is that they are protected from predators. any problems you may encounter. have adequate ventilation and that the house is easy for the owner to use. There is definitely a British leaning to the information but I will include links for the rest of the world as I find them It may take me a while to get all the information on line.if the drinkers are not filled with fresh water at least once a day some birds will not drink much. or geese. All the internal organs are completing development and the egg laying mechanism is getting created. or small commercial units. Also important is for there to be enough drinkers for the less dominant birds to drink. The prime concern at all times . the weather. what is involved in looking after them. It is vital in cold weather to make sure there is plenty of unfrozen water. The nutrition they get now is what fundamentally affects them for life. As a high proportion of an egg is water if the birds are not getting enough they will not make many eggs.development is happening inside.8 : Water : Fresh water is vital . although I don't suppose it will ever be complete.
co.obviously the optional nestbox on this model would be unnecessary.uk OR Aylesford house and run from Henhouses.uk .the house is raised off the ground which keeps the birds away from rodents if they are a problem. There is solid panels to protect the birds from the wind and rain.it is best to have a house and run like this: Grosvenor house and run from Henhouses. I will try and explain how to provide the necessary facilities for your birds using houses from Henhouses. Both have external nestboxes for chickens .in the South of the UK especially these have become much bolder and will be present in the daytime. The precautions you take against predators will depend on what is prevalent in your area. I know of people who have had birds taken from their garden right under their noses literally.co. It provides an area of shelter and somewhere for the feeder to be put in the dry. Foxes: . available nationwide throughout the United Kingdom only.a range of poultry and waterfowl housing.co.so reducing the mucking out that is needed. It also means that the ground beneath is available to the birds and the grass is not killed off by the pressure of the house. At the end of the run of both is an end release panel . In this environment . which also means they do not have to go into the house .must be the welfarer of the birds.this means that is is very easy for you to collect eggs and more space inside the house is available to the birds. .uk The Grosvenor illustrates several useful features not seen in some houses .this allows you to let the birds out to range around your garden when you are about. The Aylesford is good for a few ducks as it is at ground level .
The other advantage of a run either attached to a house or free standing is that when you go away you can safely leave them enclosed and the family member or friend. If you are lucky enough to live in a dry area with well drained soil and keep the bark well turned over between use then this may only be once a year. MINK and PINEMARTEN: If you have a flowing stream / burn through your garde or close by in some parts of the country you may have mink in the area. . Vegetable peelings can be put in the run as well.which will germinate providing fresh greens. They will enjoy cleaning up after crops: for example beans and peas .which you can them dig in. If your space is limited and you feel that you are likely to end up with simply a mucky poached bit of ground. If you have coniferous woodland around you then in some parts of the country you may have pinemarten. how many hens. Every so often . eating all the grubs and bugs. etc. then what you can do it cover an area with a deep layer of bark and move the birds over this.As these sort of houses can be moved pretty easily they are very useful to include in the rotation of a vegetable plot. It will be a very good mulch for any garden if put in a pile for a while to compost further. I suggest to people who buy one of the houses that doesnot have a solid roof to put 1/4 or 1/2 inch weldmesh underneath the Onduline.depends on the thickness of the bark. how often they are moved. These two are the worst predators. You can scatter grain in the patch they are about to use . the porosity of the ground.put the house over it so the hens will work it over. manuring it and working over the clods. They adore raking around in the bark which will be home to lots of bugs. who you bribe with fresh eggs. to look after your babies will have less responsibility in that the birds are safely confined and just need fresh water and feed every day. There must be no way for them to access the house and they can get through gaps smaller than an inch. Houses that have an Onduline roof without a timber backing cannot have the corrugations blocked in or the essential built in ventilation would be badly affected. slaughtering wholesale if they get in and need special provisions. As you dig over a bed . the bark may need to be removed and replace.
.without the nestbox shown here. link to Lynford house and run If you have the space to have a number of birds and no day time foxes then a larger shed is more useful. The chicks we incubate ourselves or buy from other excellent hatcheries are are reared inside in brooding pens until they are about 6-8 weeks old. good ventilation . If in your area there are reports of attacks then either a house and run or a covered larger pen is necessary We cover our large breeding chicken pens with netting for raspberry cages from LBS horticulture suppliers . Covered runs are most important for us when we have chicks outside.in this house it is provided through the corrugations of the Onduline roof. It has a solid floor. for geese you can use the larger door for them to go in and out which they prefer.this is because we want to ensure that no birds can get in or out so upseting the purity of the lines. For a broody a house like the Aylesford above or the one below is ideal.I also suggest that they do the same to the base of the run to prevent them burrowing underneath. We use a few slates and some Damp Proof Membrane to level the house and protect it from the moisture in the ground so extending the life of the base. BIRDS OF PREY: We have a variety of birds of prey here in the West Coast of Scotland but have been little bothered by them. a pophole for birds to go in and out. However if we have a broody hens who rears her own the major problem we have are crows and gulls who will decimate the clutch in very short order. This is ideal for geese and ducks . This can be pretty simple in structure needing easy access for the owner .like the good sized door in the Westford above for cleaning out.
This goes for ducks . if you have 50 . It is best to avoid having the birds heads up near the ventilation or respiratory problems can easily occur. BIGGER BREEDS A larger house is also vital for the bigger breeds . Bantams and the smaller medium weight birds will be happy enough with 12 inches. or you want to separate one part of the flock from another. Jersey Giants etc need the perches lower as they don't like to drop down adn getting up can be more difficult. The other option if it is to be sited permanently is to put down a layer of gravel before installing the house. especially around the door.using a bit of ground that has special plants nearby.15 hens then 3 nestboxes is good. This is easy to rake over and can be replenished if it gets mucky. Houses like this can have a free standing run.coops that are only around 30 inches high are really rather low especially once the birds are up on their perch. .if you have space 2 foot for the larger breeds. Lighting: If you want eggs all year round you will need to investigate providing light to the house. when some one else is looking after them. If you have pure breeds then they naturally have a shorter laying season although some breeds are good winter layers. taller housing and more perch space.where they may need larger nestboxes. For chickens (around a dozen) you will need the roosting bars and the external nestbox. which can be useful if you need to enclose them for any reason . It is preferable to provide about 18 inches length for each bird . For example if you have 12 .where they will need greater floor area and chickens.75 hens then 10 is fine.This size of house (approximately 4 ft by 4 ft) can be fitted with bars on the side making it easy to move around if the ground in front of it gets mucky. If you consider that the bigger breeds are larger in all dimensions it becomes easy to see that the figures given for house occupation will have to be adjusted. The bars are about 2 inches square with the top bevelled off to create a good gripping surface. Roosting bars can be around a foot to 18 inches off the ground for medium and light breeds but the larger breeds like Orpingtons. The nest boxes need to be around 12 inches square and one for 5 to 10 chickens is ideal.
you can find information on this on the web from the large commercial poultry producers. What size to get : THE BIGGEST YOU CAN AFFORD .The commercial birds. snowy. it should be covered in wire (weldmesh is best) as glass can break.5 square foot floor space each. plus space to put a feeder of the apporpriate size and waterer then your birds will be able to use it easily when the weather is wet. very hot etc. If you can afford to get one that is big enough to give the birds around 1.as in the house above. but not drafts.5 to 2. It is vital that the birds when roosting do not have their heads in a draft. The Brentford poultry house for up to 24 birds Ventilation: To prevent respiratory problems and the build up of condensation and bacteria it is vital to have good ventilation in the poultry house.I don't have experience of the intensive commercial units and so will give no advice on them . A 14 hour day is necessary for egg laying and using a low light and a timer will simulate nautral daylight. such as the Black Rock.some for the table ( so they get bigger and quicker than other breeds): these are known as dual purpose and will lay less than egg laying breeds as more of their resources go on . We also do not have our birds inside much as many folk who show do. will respond well to increasing the light in the winter. The best place at the top. For larger coops it is a good idea to have a sliding wooden window so you can alter the level of air . The bigger house will also mean that you are not having to clean it out every five minutes. WHAT FACTORS AFFECT THE NUMBERS OF EGGS YOUR GIRLS LAY EACH YEAR? This advice is for free range conditions whether fully ranging out around a field or orchard or in houses and runs for their protection . -1 : Breed: over the years different breeds have been bred for different reasons .I really mean this.
if a line has been breed to achieve the breed standard the features selected for may be certain feather patterns etc. .the birds can be good layers but can also be very poor layers even though they may be pure. sometimes rather dramatically. colours etc The British Poultry Club is probably one place to start for more information. The concentration on selecting for a certain feather marking or shape seems to have drastically reduced the productivity and often also the hatchability and fertility.the marans to some extent although they are good layers if you get the right strain .for example the Rhode Island Red . a : . b: .the Aylesbury duck .some for broodiness (Silkies are a major breed for this) .the Jersey Giant . First crosses like the Black Rock are a good back yard bird as well and will lay more than the pure breeds and eat less for the eggs they produce because of improved breeding. They do not seem to have the vigour to last more than a year or so.the Leghorn . We are only interested in the utility strains here at Kintaline.for example the Orpington .there are hundreds of breeds.some for egg production .some for feather and form only (pretty birds that many people will exhibit at shows) .Khaki Campbell ducks . c :.if a hen is broody she is not laying so this will cut down your numbers.these are birds that have been especially produced for more commercial operations.and then there are the first crosses and hybrids . . Some of these may be very disappointing in their current productivity.good utility strains are bred by people who concentrate on each years egg numbers and use cockerels from their . The other hybrids are really now designed for the highly intensive and environmentally controlled conditions of the big production units and do not last very long in free range smallholding conditions.procuding a larger frame and flesh . Most of the purely exhibition breeds are relatively poor layers even those breeds that were once breed for productivity.(mostly are smaller. slighter birds often with Mediterranean influence) : . This sort of selection frequently results in the decline of egg numbers. .2 :Strain: In the breeds that were originally bred for productivity there are now very definitely different strains.some for fighting (rarely bred for fighting these days but the types are very different) .the Plymouth Rock the welsumer .if a line has not been selected at all then the results can be very varied and unpredictable .
Breeds like the White Wyandotte were especially reknowned for good winter laying. minerals etc.3 : Feed: Probably one of the most vital environmental factors. This is especially important in young birds coming into lay .the light .the bugs. It can be seen therefore that because the books say that for example . If you feed differently you can affect the egg numbers dramatically.4: Where you live : The further north you live in the autumn and winter you will have more hours of dark than someone on the south coast. seeds and also scraps fed in the afternoon will supplement the usual free range layers meal or pellets which is 16% protein.this is a time of maturation and a lack of all the best nutrition can slow down the onset of lay and produce birds that are poorer in general. Most free ranging birds do not need an 18% feed like the more intensive units .just because a feeder has feed in it does not mean that all birds are feeding adequately. grubs. Hens may well prefer the corn feed but if this becomes the main part of the diet then the protein levels that the bird is getting declines and her ability to be a high producer is compromised. click here to find out more about feeding your birds .it will very much depend on the strain you get. The normal 14 hours of daylight are hard to achieve without artificial lights further north and may affect the onset of lay of spring / summer hatched pullets and of layers in the spring. In days gone by quite a lot of selection was done for winter layers -. If you have a lot of birds the weaker ones may be being prevented from accessing it. vitamins.best hens to keep productivity high. These provide good quality protein. . If you want to increase winter laying it is suggested that you increase the light to the optimum using timers . Daylight triggers are especially important to pure breeds (the hybrids are better at laying outwith optimum light conditions but can still be affected). The same goes for feeding too much in the way of scraps etc. Show welsumers may lay under 100 eggs a year whereas strong utilities are nearer the 200 mark. Birds these days are bred and selected using good proprietary feeds. Also important is the number of feeders .this seems to have declined in recent years and is something that current and future generations should look at.Rhode Island Reds are good layers .
This allows a natural roost but wakes them up earlier.although individuals may start earlier (these are important birds to breed from if the egg quality and numbers are good too).the second tends to be good with larger eggs.5 : The weather : This is similar to the previous one certainly here in Argyll in the autumn the weather can deteriorate rapidly in the autumn . It is vital in cold weather to make sure there is plenty of unfrozen water.but they will lay for many years.6 : Water : Fresh water is vital . It must be remembered that for birds that have a limited laying season you will not necessarily get more eggs in a year or a lifetime you may find the birds go into moult earlier in the late summer/autumn to compensate for not having a long winter rest.7 : Age : Selection in the modern hybrids and first crosses has brought the onset of lay further forward . Also the dual purpose breeds tend to lay a lot less than the light breeds and may not respond so well.they take longer to mature . .35 weeks . . As a high proportion of an egg is water if the birds are not getting enough they will not make many eggs. . Pulets should lay well in their first year . Most flocks will have a strong pecking order and the boss hens can prevent others from getting to drinkers.only needs to be at a low intensity and seems to be better added to the day in the morning than the evening. Obviously all the other factors will impact on this too. . After this the numbers tend to decline but good utility strains should carry on for quite anumber of years.an egg is mostly water and if the hens simply don.its just too horrid. In other areas very hot weather in the summer can be a problem . Also important is for there to be enough drinkers for the less dominant birds to drink. The onset of lay again after it can depend rather on the weather after that.t take in enough it is difficult for them to divert their resources to laying. Onset of lay can be from 24 .in intensive conditions the young birds can start around 19 weeks (mind you don't forget they are designed to lay for only 14 months so the producers are trying to get the maximum number of eggs out in that time) Pure breeds are slower off the mark .if the drinkers are not filled with fresh water at least once a day some birds will not drink much.wet windy weather reduces the quality of the light and the activity of the birds outside . The bugs and grubs etc decline and a grotty autumn can produce a strong and long moult.
.the wild bird population can infect your birds and give them what seems like a cold. There are plenty of resource son the net and in books to explain all about the diseases in birds.up to a week is usually enough and she should come back into lay in a couple of weeks. If you intend to breed then you can let her incubate and hatch either her own (if you have a cockerel) or other eggs you can put underneath her. It can also cause the egg colour quality to decline.9 : Shock / Stress : . No bedding .best done by putting her in a wire bottomed cage up about a foot high with feed and water. Pheasants amongst others are notoriously infective. This can cause what is known as egg drop syndrome . How long depends on the bird . ..8 : Disease : several of the common problems that free range birds are challenged with can affect laying numbers.if the hens or ducks get a fright whether by a passing predator or some such they can often go off the lay. Worm load and skin bugs can also cause the birds to perform less well.the idea is so she cannot get comfortable and make a nest. If you do not want her to hatch young then you will need to break the brood . Infectious Bronchitis is probably most common .all the things discussed already if not taken care of will cause stress. The same applies to any other sort of stress moving birds or adding new ones to the flock .strong otherwise healthy pure breeds will recover well and probably not be permanently affected but it can affect them for a while.10 : Broodiness : When a hen/duck goes broody she stops laying and sits on her eggs all the time. .
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