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Chickens

Chickens come in all sizes, shapes and are raised for a variety of uses. Some homesteaders raise chickens used specifically for layers or broilers, some raise a dual purpose bird and get eggs from the hens and use the roosters as broilers. Bantams are frequently raised as barnyard pets, or used to hatch other birds eggs, as they love to set eggs.

By clicking on the button below you can see our photo album of Cochin Bantams. You can also visit our other album pages for more pictures.

Pictures of our Cochin Bantams.

Fancy Bantams

Bantam chickens come in hundreds of varieties, and are often miniatures of members of the standard breeds. We have 7 different varieties of Cochin bantam chickens. Cochins are fluffy feathery chickens with feathers on their feet. The colors we have are Black, Red Frizzled, Buff, White, Blue, Barred, and Mottled.

The roosters are usually fancy colored, while the hens are more plain in color. Bantams lay small cream colored eggs year round. Hens often turn broody and hatch out broods of baby chicks, they are very good mothers, teaching the chicks to find food and water and keeping them warm under their feathers. A mother hen will often have several heads sticking up thru feathers as the babies peek out at the world. We use the Bantam hens to hatch out eggs from the pheasant, quail, turkey, and peacocks.

Broilers

Most years we raise broilers, usually the Cornish-White Rock cross. This cross will produce a large fast growing chicken of superior taste with remarkable feed conversion. Chickens may be slaughtered at 4-6 weeks for fryers of 3-4 lbs and at 6-8 weeks for broilers of 4-6 lbs and at 8-10 weeks for roasters of 6-9 lbs. We always keep a few for larger roasters that may dress out at as much as 12 lbs.

When picking a breed for broilers it is important to choose a white feathered chicken so pinfeathers will not be a problem. Chickens are offered as straight run which means they will not be sexed or you can choose all cockerals or all pullets. Usually cockerals will have better feed conversion and grow quicker then pullets, but a mix will give you a greater variety of weights and sizes and more leisure time to deal with them. The cost of a chick is but a small portion of the total cost of raising a meat bird so choose the best you can for your area.

Chicks may be purchased at your local feed store or by mail order, depending on convenience. Chicks are usually ordered by feed stores to arrive on one big Chick Day, because of the large amount of chicks they order this may be the cheapest way to obtain you chicks. Chicks ordered by feed stores usually represent a excellence choice of birds that will thrive in your area.

When your chicks arrive they will need heat, food and water all prepared. Make a warm spot with a heat lamp so the temperature is 90 to 95 degrees, it is best that the area is round instead of square so chicks don't pile up in a corner. Make sure chicks can get out of the heat if it is too hot for them. Heat can gradually be reduced 5 degrees a week until you get to 70 degrees, then they shouldn't need a light any more.

Have a one gallon chick water with warm water for each 50 chicks. You may add 3 tablespoons of sugar to each gallon of water for extra energy for the first 2 days. Make sure chicks are drinking, dip the beaks in the water if they seem not to find the water, they should be very thirsty after their trip.

Litter can be shavings (not cedar or sawdust they may eat them), rice hulls or ground cobs. Keep the litter covered with newspapers for the first 2-3 days and scatter the food on the newspaper as well as in feeders. Feeders should be 2 feet for each 25 birds.

At about 4 weeks your balls of fluff should be little feathered chickens well on their way to Sunday dinner.

A flock of laying hens

Many farms have small flocks of laying hens, these may be pure bred older breeds or the new cross breeds that are smaller and more efficient. The older breeds can be used to keep a continuous flock, with several hens hatching out new chicks every summer. The newer cross breeds will not breed true and are usually not kept with a rooster.

We raise laying hens to provide us with fresh eggs and help with the feed bill. Our hens are a cross breed using the Rhode Island Red as a base. We usually have between 100 and 150 hens, and do not keep roosters.

Each hen will lay one egg a day in ideal conditions. Some of the things that will cause a hen to lay less are, overcrowding, lack of water, lack of light, poor ventilation, or cold weather.

To keep hens happy and laying use the following hints. The space must be large enough so they don't start picking on each other excessively, for brown egg layers this is about 2-2.5 sq.ft. per bird. Bedding should be deep and kept dry. The birds must have a constant source of food and clean water. Water is very important, laying hens must never be without water, this will require a heating system in colder climates. Light is very important to keep laying hens laying. They need about 14-15 hours of light each day to lay properly.

Hens will start to lay at 22 to 24 weeks. This first period is the highest production time in a hens life, they may lay about 90 to 95%. After about 1 year a hen will moult, or loose the majority of her feathers. During this time, 1 to 3 months, she will not lay at all. When all the feathers are back in place she will start laying again, larger but fewer eggs. The cycle continues as long as the hen lives. Jumbo eggs are much more expensive in stores because the hen must be kept during a time of unproduction and does not produce at the rate she did as a young chicken.

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