Purina® Flock Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | Linda's Backyard Flock

In 2003, despite having no prior poultry experience, Linda Hamid decided to start her own flock.

"I didn't like the way commercial eggs are produced so I thought I'd raise a few hens for eggs," Linda said.

She dove right in and ordered 25 Buff Orpington chicks from McMurray Hatchery.

"I am an animal lover but knew nothing about poultry," Linda said. "I was surprised by how intelligent chickens are and how sophisticated their social structure is."

Despite having to learn as she went, over the past eight years Linda has turned her idealistic notion into a thriving hobby. For awhile, she even branched out to quail, pheasant and chukar, although she recently downsized to just chickens again.

Linda raises purebred Buff Orpingtons and Black Copper Marans for laying eggs that she hatches for chicks and a mixed flock of Easter Eggers, Cuckoo Marans and a Rhode Island Red for laying eggs to eat. She'll soon be getting a flock of 25 Freedom Rangers for meat, too.

One of her favorite chickens, and one of the best mothers, was a hen from her original flock of Buff Orpingtons that she got at the hatchery.

"When I sold them, I kept my favorite hen, Mia. She would take in any chick, from another hen, from the incubator, or one she had hatched, she didn't care. She always had room under her big wings for another chick," said Linda. "Early one morning a neighbor's dog paid us a visit and massacred many of my birds. Mia and her 17 chicks disappeared. I looked all over but couldn't find a trace of her or the chicks. Around 5 p.m. she appeared–with all 17 chicks in tow. When she saw danger she gathered her babies and hid, and stayed hidden until she was sure it was safe."

In 2008, Mia got sick and Linda took her to the vet. She was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, and because her prognosis was so poor, Linda decided to have her euthanized.

"I still miss her," said Linda. "She was a cheap hatchery bird, but to me, she was priceless."

In addition to her flock, Linda has two dogs, an 11-year-old Labrador Retriever mix and a 3-year-old German Shepherd, who she and her husband took in after he was abandoned and living on the street. She also has two cats that she rescued, an older female from the SPCA and a younger male that was dropped off in the field adjacent to her house.

Linda lives in Roseville, California, an unincorporated area 30 miles outside of Sacramento on two acres.

"Many people have livestock in this area," said Linda. "A gated community with a golf course was built literally in my backyard–they erected the fence between my property and the gated community. And one of my neighbors in the gated community even has chickens, despite the fact that it's against the regulations for the community."

Linda feeds her flock Purina® Start & Grow® Medicated for her chicks and Purina® Flock Raiser® and Purina® Scratch Grains SunFresh® Grains for the rest of her flock. She buys her feed at River Valley Feed in Rio Linda, California. River Valley Feed is a Purina® Certified Expert Dealer, which means their staff is specially trained to answer questions about care, feeding and management of poultry and other animals.

"I have had great results with medicated Start & Grow® feed," said Linda. "Some people choose not to use medicated feeds, but I swear by Start & Grow® feed. I have seen what coccidiosis can do to chicks."

She feeds the rest of her birds Flock Raiser® feed along with oyster shell for the birds that need it and gives Scratch Grains as a treat, mixing in sunflower seeds.

One of Linda's favorite parts of owning chickens is watching the mother hens with their babies and hatching chicks. She also enjoys what they can do for her garden.

"The miracle of life never gets old," said Linda. "Also, all the manure goes into my eggie garden."

One quick and easy dish that Linda likes to make, Leftover Frittata, takes advantage of the fresh eggs from her chickens and fresh vegetables from her garden. She's shared her recipe below.

Preheat oven to 350°. In a cast iron skillet, sauté sliced onion, mushrooms, garlic and jalapeño, if desired. Add any leftover vegetables or meat (cubed). Beat 4 or 5 eggs in a bowl and add to pan. Mix in a handful of cubed or grated cheese. Put skillet into oven and bake for about 25 minutes until set and slightly brown. Cool for 10 minutes, and then slice into wedges. Top with sour cream or salsa, if desired.

For more information about Linda and her flock, visit http://www.sweeth2o.us.

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FLOCK TIPS | Protecting Your Flock From Serious Conditions

Often chickens, and chicks in particular, will get pasty butt because of hardened loose droppings. It can be caused by any type of stress that upsets the digestive tract, like a change in temperature. In the winter, the loose droppings will dry quickly and very hard because of heat lamps. It forms a harmful clump and prevents the animal from voiding any manure or waste products, so it’s very serious. It can even lead to death.

To treat pasty butt, you need to remove the hardened droppings. If you have to, use a little bit of warm water and soap to try to remove the clump. Then, dry the chicken and make sure it gets back under a heat lamp to dry off and stay warm. You may have to repeat this for two to three days until the chicken's intestinal tract normalizes and they resume producing normal stools. Just as if you visited a foreign country and came down with intestinal problems, it usually takes two or three days to overcome intestinal troubles in chickens as well.

Another issue is cannibalism or feather picking, and it can start at a very young age, even with baby chicks. Sometimes, you'll have a smaller bird that maybe hasn't had the chance to drink or eat and is growing slower than the other birds. These birds can be bullies, and they can start picking on the young bird. It could be caused by overcrowding, overheating, different age birds, boredom, long daylight hours, very bright lights, poor nutrition, and it also occurs again right around 16 to 18 weeks when the chickens reach sexual maturity, since they have a little bit more aggression during that time.

There are a number of ways you can eliminate this behavior.
  • Give the birds more space. If you have one bird that is getting picked on, isolate it for a couple days. Provide it its own feeder and water. Keep it away until it grows up a little it bigger and closer to the same size as the other birds. Then reintroduce it and it should do fine.
  • Poor ventilation could cause birds to become agitated and pick, so make sure to allow fresh air into your coop.
  • If you have too much light or if it's really bright, the birds become agitated. Reduce the light intensity. As long as you can see fairly well within the area it should be fine, and the chickens should be more than happy.
  • You can also put small handfuls of hay out, and create some barriers within the environment with hay bales so the birds can escape each other for a little while.
  • Purina® SunFresh® Recipe Flock Block® feed is very effective in restoring natural pecking instincts. If you provide this type of a block the chickens may peck on the block rather than themselves. Flock Block® is similar to a scratch only in a block form. If you are going on vacation for a couple days, you can put one of these out in addition to supplying sufficient clean, fresh water. It feeds up to 25 birds for two or three days or maybe longer.

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GET TO KNOW | Purina® Scratch Grains SunFresh® Grains

SunFresh® Grains takes natural to an entirely new level by using only the freshest, highest quality sun-grown grains.* It's free of added animal proteins and fats to give birds the safe, healthy goodness and fresh taste they deserve. Formulated as a supplement for adult chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys, SunFresh® Grains encourage natural pecking and feeding instincts and help reduce incidence of birds pecking and harming each other.

Scratch Grains is a grain supplement, not a complete feed. If too much is fed, it will dilute the feed intake of complete feeds such as Purina® Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe, Purina® Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe or Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe, reducing the bird's nutritional intake and overall performance. Remember, a feeding program is only as effective as the management practices.

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