Introducing New Hens into the Flock

INTRODUCING NEW HENS INTO THE FLOCK 

I’ve now owned hens for about 15 years now and over the years, I have tried different ways and methods of introducing new hens. I do not believe that any method enables you to magically introduce the new kids on the block to an established flock and not expect there to be some teething problems. I have found that as long as the original flock is happy and well-balanced then new hens can be introduced without any problems but invariably it takes time.

I have installed two security cameras in the chicken coop, one on either side. The original idea was to detect mice so that I could block up any holes where they were coming in but I’ve found them invaluable for keeping an eye on the hens to check that all is OK and they have everything they need regarding food and water. It also means I can keep a closer check on what is happening when I get new hens.

The pecking order exists for a reason and it is important for every bird in the flock to know their place and to respect the older hens. It is not something that can be achieved overnight and it can take at least several weeks before they are fully accepted.

I’ve found that 3 is the ideal number when buying new hens. This way, they have their own little gang who they feel comfortable with so that they are not so isolated.

I thought it would be interesting to keep a track of how long it took for them to become part of the flock and accepted. 

The cage is something I bought way back when I first had hens and I now use it for new hens or if a hen needs to be separated from the rest if they are sick, etc.

DAY ONE
I bought the 3 newbies in the morning of Friday 19th May. For the first three days, I kept them in the cage with food and water. I installed a new wire mesh with finer squares on the floor so it was nicer for them to stand on as I didn’t like the way that the chickens’ claws went through the gaps in the original floor. I simply cut a new piece of mesh and attached it to the base with pieces of wire.

DAY FOUR
I let the older hens out of the hen coop and let them wander outside before closing the coop door. I then opened the two doors of the cage and encouraged the new hens to step outside. Eventually they did. I left the new hens inside to explore the coop and have a drink and some food.

I also installed a second ladder so that they easily get up onto the manger to sleep.

Their “safe” space was the area under the egg-laying boxes. I allowed them access to this space for the first three days but then gradually reduced the amount of space by blocking it with crates. They then began to spend most of the day on the manger, flying down every so often for food and water.

I would go in every night to help them up onto the manger which is where they sleep.

The breakthrough day was DAY TWENTY-FOUR, Sunday 12th May 2024.

DAY TWENTY-FOUR
Over the past few days, the newbies had been gaining in confidence. There had been no excessive bullying form the other hens, apart from the occasional peck to show who the bosses were.

That night, the new hens got themselves up onto the manger to sleep, with a small space separating them from the other hens.

DAY TWENTY-FIVE
The hens slept the entire night in the same positions.

DAY TWENTY-SIX
This was the first day when the new hens were fully integrated in the flock, moving with the older hens as one flock.

That night, the new hens had gone up onto the manger early at about 18:00 but had then got off. Meanwhile, the older hens had gone up onto the manger to sleep and were huddled around at the top of the longer ladder, which is were they normally slept. This meant that the younger hens couldn’t access the manger. 

This was the first time that the new hens had tried to get up onto the manger using the longer ladder. Eventually, they sorted themselves out and they all went to sleep on the manger. Here is the picture:

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT (16th May 2024) – HEN UPDATE
Today one of the new hens laid her first egg and amazingly she laid it in the egg box. Here is a photo.

Featherless Hens

Featherless Hens: Supplementing their diet with egg yolks and eggshells

 

 

 

PROBLEM: a featherless hen

I have decided to see whether it is possible to supplement a hen’s diet with egg yolks and eggshells in order to improve the amount of calcium she consumes so that her feathers can grow back.

Although this hen does not have many feathers, she is a good layer and generally lays an egg a day. I thought her feathers would grow back when two of the other hens who had been picking on her and pecking her died but I’m still waiting. Although some feathers did grow back, she is still a long way from full feather form.

I have in the past given her crushed up calcium tablets but that hasn’t seemed to work. So I decided to try an experiment. My theory is that she is using all her calcium resources on egg production and so I would try to replenish them by feeding her egg yolk and eggshell.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: supplement her diet with egg yolks and eggshells

The experiment started today (29th May 2019). I ground up some eggshells in a spice blender. I then mixed an egg yolk and a teaspoon of eggshell in a jam jar lid and fed it to her. 

A hen is at the peak of her laying life when she is 35 weeks old. She will normally consume 4g of calcium a day. She consumes most calcium in the early hours of the day but also a small amount throughout the day.

0.5g of her daily calcium intake is indigestible and is lost through faeces, 0.4g is lost through urine and 0.1g is used for bone regeneration. The remaining 3g is used in the egg process: 2g for the eggshell and 1g for the yolk and albumen.

The photo at the top of the page shows her today. The photo below shows her and some of the other hens finishing up the leftovers.

 

Breaking broody hens

Breaking broody hens

breaking broody hens

Breaking broody hens

For the first time ever, one of the hens has gone broody. She is one of the two remaining hens that I incubated from eggs so she is now just over two years old. She was spending all the time in one of the laying boxes and as the number of eggs laid by the other hens had gone right down, I thought it best to get her out. I checked on Internet and various solutions are offered for breaking broody hens and these include hosing her with cold water or putting a bag of frozen peas in the nest box. Before using the cage, I first tried taking her out of the laying box and putting her outside a couple of days running but she would always go back .

Basically, hens go broody when they think they have a clutch of eggs to incubate and hatch. A broody hen will flatten herself out to cover the eggs and fluff out her feathers. She might also peck at you if you go near her or screech or she can even break eggs that other hens have lain.

Some breeds of chickens are more prone to going broody than others and if you want to hatch your own eggs then this is a distinct advantage. However, as I have the hens for eggs, I want to discourage this if at all possible.

The best way to break a broody hen is to place her in a wire cage. Broodiness is associated with a higher body temperature so it is important that the cage is raised off the floor so that cooler air can circulate around her. A dog crate or rabbit hutch is a good idea. You should supply her with food and water. Three days in the cage should be enough to break the broody cycle.

Egg update

seven eggs

A full house

On two days now the 7 hens have each laid an egg. The first time was 24th March 2014 and then they did it again on 26th March 2014.

7-eggs1

They adapted well to life in the new chicken coop. Although there were four eggs boxes attached to their sleeping quarters, they always laid their eggs in the same one diagonally opposite the door.

I was really pleased with the chicken coop I bought when we were back in the UK last November from EGGSHELL. The only modification I will make to it for next year is to attach some pieces of plastic to each section of the run. What’s been happening is that the hens kick out the straw and pigeons come and eat it. I’ve bought the plastic from IKEA (PRÖJS desk pad) and I’ll punch some holes in them and then attach them with cable ties to the inside.

7-eggs2

On 27th March, one of the older hens laid my first double yolker ever.

Is keeping chickens economically viable?

Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop

From the end of December to April, we are at the coast in a city. We keep the chickens in a coop with a hen house and run on the top terrace.The same system could be used by anyone with just a few metres of free space even in a city.

I thought it would be interesting to work out the viability of keeping a few free-range chickens and selling the surplus eggs to friends and family. We want to answer these 3 questions: 

How much does it cost? 
Is there any profit?
Is it worthwhile?  

Wooden Chicken Coop

Wooden Chicken Coop

Here are the results of our experiment:

Starting on 26th December 2013, we decided to sell our surplus eggs to friends. There are 7 chickens in a wooden henhouse and chicken run.

Details of experiment:
Duration: 52 days from 26th Dec 2013 -15th Feb 2014
Total eggs laid: 207

Expenses:
Chicken food:
14 euros for 25kg chicken food
7 euros for 14kg loose wheat
3 euros for a bale of straw
Total: 24 euros

Two chickens

Two chickens: these are two of this year’s newly hatched hens (with white ears)

Income:
The eggs were sold at slightly below the price of free range eggs in the supermarket.
The average price of the eggs was 1.30 euros for 6 medium eggs (54-63 grams), 1.50 euros for 6 large eggs (64-73 grams) and 1.70 euros for 6 extra large eggs (84-93 grams).
207 eggs were sold for 49 euros.

By now, all of the 4 new hens were laying medium-sized eggs and the older eggs were laying large-extra large eggs.

Profit: 25 euros
Profit per day: 48 cents

Infrastructure costs:
7 hens 56 euros. Three of the chickens were bought and four were raised from eggs. The cost of buying a laying hen is 8 euros per bird.

Chicken coop: 120 euros

The full infrastructure costs are 176 euros.

It would take an entire year to recoup the investment if the cost of the chickens and their coop is included.

Once the infrastructure costs have been covered, there would be a profit of 174 euros per year.

Conclusion:
Most people would not consider keeping chickens on a small scale to be economically viable if only the amount of work and the amount of financial gain is considered.

However, it seems to be worthwhile if you consider it to be a pleasant hobby.

There are other advantages which cannot be judged on financial terms and which override the purely commercial concerns and may explain why we continue to do it.

These are the following:
The taste and quality of the eggs is very high.
The chickens appear to be happy and much happier than commercially-reared birds.
A by-product of the chickens is highly nitrogenous  manure which is very useful on the garden.
Happy chickens are amusing to watch.
We like the sounds they make.
Eggs are very easy to sell and most people are very happy to buy them even though they are more expensive than supermarket eggs.
The packaging (egg boxes) can be reused.

Keeping chickens also has a some negative aspects.
These are the following:
A chicken coop does not smell very good albeit for only a fairly small radius.
It would be unfeasible to spend money on vet’s fees for a chickens. If a bird has a health problem such as a prolapsed vent, it would be necessary to kill it humanely. Someone must be willing to do this.
If you raise the chicken from eggs, the male birds must be killed. This could be distressing for vegetarians.