Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Egg layers: An update of chicken breeds (3 months)

My chickies have grown bigger! Even though we got them as point of lays, we've noticed some growth, particularly to their faces which have turned a darker shade of pink and longer combs and wattles. Our chooks have been wonderful additions to the family. We love letting them roam free in the afternoon and finding worms with them. Even the dogs don't bother the chickens too much! It took a while for the dogs to adjust to these guys but they've been really good around them now. Of course, we never let the dogs out with the chickens unsupervised. A reminder of who's who....

Patricia, Barred Utility
Clara, ISA Brown
Martha, Barred Utility
Getting chickens takes a decent amount of decision. You might want a quiet chicken or a great egg layer or just a pet for the family. Here are what I've experienced with my chickens. This is the first time we've had chickens!

General Behaviour
My Barred Utilities are definitely more of watch dogs than my ISA Brown. You'll often see Martha standing tall and watching everything around her, Clara going about her business digging and Patricia flinching or reacting to something ridiculous. Clara loves to follow me around the yard and she'll come over to see what you're doing. ISA Browns are one of the recommended breeds for my area and I can see why. They are very friendly and don't cause too much trouble. Martha will come over if you have any food but if you come too close for her comfort, she'll start a little warning vocalisation. She dislikes being touched so she'll squat before walking away. Patricia by far has the most dramatic behaviour - she bolts. Patricia doesn't like human interaction and will stay close to her chook friends but at least a metre or two away from humans. You'll often see her running from somewhere - and because she's running, the other two sometimes follow her.

Egg laying
Clara started laying first followed by Patricia a couple of weeks later then Martha a few weeks after that. Clara's egg count is now 61, Patricia's is 58 and Martha's on 48. I haven't checked today but I expect there's an egg from each chicken sitting there.

Clara's laying is quite varied. She used to lay an egg everyday for a week then stop a day then start again. Now she's laying maybe four days in a row before stopping but she went through a period where she was laying two eggs before stopping. We figured the more worms she gets the more regular her laying is. That being said, her eggs are jumbo or king sized ones. She's also laid two double yolk eggs! You can tell if she's going to lay the next day or not from the time of day she lays - the earlier the higher chance she'll lay tomorrow. A few sites say that ISA Browns are good layers in their first year of laying.

Patricia lays the smallest eggs of the three. Her eggs are small but she's a great layer. She lays for a longer period before taking a break. Her current laying period is about a week and a half now. She's catching up to Clara fast. Barred Utilities are a breed that was started by the chicken farm we got these guys from. According to their website they were bred for looks and have a good egg laying capacity. So far they are definitely living up to their description.

Martha lays large eggs and she's also a quite good layer. She lays about 6 days then takes a break before laying another 6 days. She is also living up to her breed description.

When they started laying my chickens didn't brood at all. Two and a half months in and both Barred Utilities are brooding. Patricia started brooding first but she only broods for around half an hour. Martha is currently brooding as I'm writing this and it's 1pm! She currently broods the longest. Yesterday she sat up there for nearly three hours and today she made it to three and a half hours*. Clara doesn't brood at all. She'll lay then rest a little before coming out. It probably takes her 20 minutes in total. I should add that we have a great shot of the coop from the house so we can see what their doing by passing the window. We aren't going to go out there every 20 minutes to check if their out of the nesting box haha.

*Edit as I'm still writing I just heard her come out - she lands heavy on the metal coop roof.

Noise level
Generally speaking all three are pretty quiet birds. However there are certain things that get them started. Starting from the start of the day - laying sometimes causes some verbalisation. My dad made a nesting box especially for the chickens. Unfortunately they preferred the milk crate which I was storing extra dried grass bedding for the coop. When they started laying it became a problem when at least two birds wanted to lay at the same time. So we got them a new milk crate so they'd have another spot. The only time they're noisy now is when two chickens take too long laying (usually the Barred Utilities) and one bird is left alone on the ground. Sometimes one of the chickens will vocalise right after they lay an egg but this doesn't happen often with my girls. In the afternoon around an hour to half an hour before we let them out to roam they'll always vocalise, almost like "hey let me out!". They aren't too bad, they'll complain a bit then stop and start again. In comparison to the noise on my street, they are a bit noisy but truth be told my street is absolutely quiet right now, except the sound of wild birds and an aeroplane. We hardly get traffic here.

This is probably the biggest thing you have to get a handle on. Chickens poop a lot. Like a seriously large amount of poop per day. More chickens brings more smell. My grandpa built a chicken coop and my dad built an aviary-like building for the coop so the chickens can roam a bit. Because it was custom built we chose to have most of the sides a wire mesh fence and two sections that are solid metal so they aren't too disturbed while laying. Since it's kinda open, our coop doesn't smell too bad. You want to be cleaning the coop daily but if not definitely the next day. With my 3 chickens I clean daily since uncovered poop does bring flies.The chickens also help out by covering up most of their own poop when digging or dust bathing. Unintentionally of course.

There might be rules with where you can build coops too. In my area we can't built one closer than a metre next to a neighbouring fence. One of my neighbours has a closed off coop and it smells bad! You can smell it from across the road and he's even got a solid fence... Just think about all that before building...

And yep, that's all I've got for now.

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