What to expect when adding new chickens into a flock

Intermingled flock

Assuming you’re not willing to dispatch old hens, egg numbers inevitably decline to the point where you’re tempted to integrate new hens into the flock. But will they get along? What constitutes normal pecking-order-establishment and what is an early warning sign of pecked-to-death?

Unfortunately, new and old hens are very unlikely to intermingle in serene harmony from the very beginning. There will be pounces and squawks and some of your hens may run off and turn into loners. Meanwhile, even though you’re likely to get eggs for a day or two (since those eggs were already in production), stressed hens are likely to stop laying for a while soon thereafter.

In a perfect situation, the establishment of a new group dynamic peters out after a few days, leaving the henhouse mostly peaceful. But if you see any of the following behaviors, you should keep a closer eye on the flock and consider separating out the bottom-rung birds:

  • Hens hiding with their face in a corner for hours on end.
  • Hens roosting for the night somewhere far away from the main flock. (Off to the edge of the same perch is alright.)
  • Hens with backs and/or heads pecked bare. (If you see blood, separate the hen immediately!)

Fresh eggs

And then, slowly but surely, serenity will return. At last, you’ll be rewarded with the chickenkeeper’s favorite sight — a nest full of freshly laid eggs!

Egg Education

Do you ever wonder about what an egg is made up of? How it all creates a chick, or even what each part is actually for? Recently I did some in depth research to find the answers to these questions. I was astonished by the complexity of the egg that is so easily overlooked.

When talking about the shell of an egg you might say its hard, protective, solid, but actually an average chicken egg has about 7,000 pores on its surface. These are so the chick can breathe on the inside on the egg. This is also how moisture and other essential vapors/gases (including oxygen) come in and out of the egg. This shell is made up of calcium. The Cuticula is inside the egg shell and keeps out bacteria and dust that would otherwise contaminate the inner egg.

 

Underneath this shell are two membranes, the outer and inner shell membranes (this is what makes it slightly difficult to peel eggs at times). These membranes protect the eggs from bacteria & prevent necessary moisture from expelling from the egg.

 

When the egg is first laid it is very warm. About 106 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. Once it leaves the hen and cool to room temperature the egg shrinks inside the shell creating a vacuum effect that pulls air into the egg. This is similar to a bottle of water left in your car on a hot day then taking it into the cold house and the bottle shrinks like someone squeezed it. Due to this the air cell is formed in the egg on the large side of the egg.

 

As the embryo grows the shells inner membrane surrounds & contains the Thick and Thin Albumen of the egg. This membrane helps protect against bacteria. The Albumen provides the liquid in which the embryo develops, and it also contains a large amount of protein for the necessary development of the chick.

 

The Vitelline membrane is very thin until after fertilization. Then the membrane thickens to protect the Yolk and Germinal disc.

 

In a fresh egg you can see the Chalaza (2 cords), which are made from twisted strands of fibers & protein. This is also what holds the yolk in the center of the egg. The more noticeable the Chalaza is, the fresher the egg is.

 

Many people mistaken the yolk for the baby chick but actually the yolk is a form of protein for the chick as it develops. The yolk also contains all the fat in the egg. The Germinal disc is where the hen’s genetic material is found and where the chick develops.

 

Jeremy Smith

AutomaticChickenCoopDoor.com

It’s time for an Eggucation.

It’s all about the eggs.

I was recently asked if hens would lay eggs whether a rooster is around or not. Many people even ask me if they need a rooster to have eggs. I respond, “Your chickens will still lay eggs without a rooster, they just wont be fertile without one”.

When all chickens begin laying their first eggs do not get upset about the size. The majority of chickens will lay smaller eggs at first before they lay their full sized eggs. I guess you can say this is God’s was of breaking them in.

Did you know how many different breeds of chickens there are out there? All of them lay eggs more or less frequently than others. Leghorns are the primary commercial egg layer breed laying around 280 eggs per year. Buff Orpingtons are the primary breed of chicken that we have because they are a fluent egg layer, large eggs, and lay around 280 eggs per year. You might say, “well that’s not even one a day”. Fact is, no chickens lay an egg every single day of the year. Gloomy weather will cause a chicken to miss a day or two of laying, sickness will affect their laying, and each year they have a molt where they shed and grow new feathers and during this period they will lay few or no eggs at all lasting up to three months.

This means the winter weather can cause chickens to lay very little eggs due to the cold and gloomy weather. I personally keep anywhere between 25-40 chickens at one time and on one of those is a rooster. During the winter months ill be lucky to have 15 eggs a day. Sometimes I can trick my chickens into laying more by turning on a lamp inside the coop with them to trick them into thinking its bright and sunny out. I did read a book one time where a Black Australorp had laid record 364 eggs in a year. But most breeds will take a day or two off each week. Some chickens will even be broody for up to a three-week period each year.

Mother Earth News worked with Skaggs Nutrition Laboratory at Utah State University and Food Products Laboratory in Portland, Oregon, to test free-range chicken eggs versus store bought eggs. The free-range eggs contained four to six times as much Vitamin A; Twice as much omega-3 fatty acid; half as much Cholesterol, a quarter as much Saturated Fat of commercial eggs.

There are many people that think all brown eggs are free-range eggs, but actually the color of the eggs has nothing to do with the diet of the chickens and almost everything to do with the breed of the chicken. I found this interesting but often the egg colors are linked with the color of the chicken’s earlobes. Red earlobes generally mean they have white eggs. White earlobes have brown eggs. This does not hold true to all breeds but it does apply to the majority. Some chickens are even thought to have Easter colored eggs. The Araucanas & Ameraucanas lay blue eggs.

I hope this article has helped Eggucate you. No matter what kind of chickens you choose to raise, you really cannot make a wrong choice. Raising them to be free-range chickens will give you the benefits of healthier & more nutritional eggs than commercial ones.

By Jeremy Smith

AutomaticChickenCoopDoor.com