Do Chickens Like Music?

Here’s an article that claims that chickens grow better if provided with music.

Is it true? Do chickens do better if they have the ability to put on an impromptu hoedown anytime the mood strikes them? Beats me, but no doubt there’s been research on the subject. Any poultry question that (a) comes up over and over and (b) can be researched cheaply has been looked into: our Extension Service is like that. And it’s not like putting a radio in a chicken house is very complicated.

I do know that chickens make noises to communicate with each other, and a contented flock sounds different from an unhappy flock. They also react to noises in their environment. So it seems reasonable that appropriate background music will mellow them out. read more...

Keep Those Waterers in the Shade

We had a few hot days in a row, and Karen noticed that the broilers looked pretty stressed. It reminded us that modern hybrid broilers don’t like sunshine on hot days and often won’t leave the shade, even to drink. They can actually die of heat stress because of this.

Karen gently hosed down the birds to cool them off, and they recovered almost instantly.

The fix is to make sure every broiler pen has at least one waterer in the shade. In most pen designs, this means having a waterer at the back of the pen. We always use two waterers per pen in case one fails, and now we’ve got one in the front and one in the back. read more...

Reducing Feed Waste

Feed is way too expensive to waste these days, but try telling that to the chickens! How can we keep our chickens from wasting feed?

The biggest culprit is feeders that are too shallow. One of the old rules of thumb was to never fill a trough or feed pan more than one-third full. This is harder than it looks, because most of the readily available poultry equipment consists of glorified chick feeders — way too small for grown (or even half-grown) chickens.

Here are some tips:

  • If you build feed troughs out of boards, use 1×6 or even 1×8 boards for the sides. That oughta do it.
  • Buy the big tube feeders with the deep feed pans. The little tube feeders are basically chick feeders.
  • Tube feeders often have adjustments that let you vary the distance between the tube and the pan. Set these to the narrowest gap they will allow. Open up only if the feed doesn’t flow.
  • You can start using bigger equipment earlier if the trough or pan is mostly full, but let the level fall as the chicks get bigger
  • Feeders that are low to the ground encourage waste. The pan or trough should be roughly level with the chickens’ backs.
  • Never use a feeder that’s so low that broilers can eat from it while sitting down. It’s disgusting.
  • If you scatter scratch feed outdoors or in the litter, use whole grains. The hens won’t miss these, but finer particles will be lost.
  • Really low-grade feeds, moldy feeds, and other stuff that has inedible or unpalatable ingredients will force the hens to rummage around looking for the edible portion. Don’t bother with such feeds unless they’re nearly free. Even then, have a separate feeder of good feed, so you don’t accidentally poison or starve your chickens.

You might also want to look at my Feeding FAQ. read more...

Are Expensive Hatcheries the Cheapest?

Suppose you bought 100 pullets from the lowest-price hatchery you could find, and 100 pullets from an expensive hatchery. What do you think the results would be?

I don’t know if anyone has tried this recently, but I found this very experiment in an old British poultry magazine. The results went like this:

The box from the expensive hatchery had more chicks in it (something like 106), and they were all alive. The chicks were energetic and did very well during the brooder period. The order was for pullets, and what was delivered were pullets. read more...

Who Rules the Roost?

I hate roost mites. Roost mites (or chicken mites, or red mites) are nearly invisible blood-suckers that are transmitted to chickens by wild birds. They multiply like crazy in warm weather. They bother the chickens and can even kill them under the right circumstances. And I hate that creepy-crawly feeling! Ewww! Get ’em off me! Humans are a non-target species, but still … yuck!

I have an article about them here. Roost mites live in cracks and crevices in the chicken house, in littler, and especially on roosts and in nest boxes. Roost mites are easy to control once you know they’re there, but they’re pretty stealthy — right up to the point where their population explodes and they’re everywhere. Roost mites are particularly dangerous to broody hens, who sit around in the danger zone 24/7, instead of spending all day outdoors like the rest of the hens. read more...