Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | Nichole Miller Tests Start & Grow® vs. Corn

Purina nutritionists know the benefits of a chick starter feed, but for some, they've got to do a little experimentation themselves. Eighth grader Nichole Miller put Purina's Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe to the test in her science fair project titled "Chick Starter vs. Corn."

Although Nichole never owned chickens before, one of her grandfathers has about 40 brown egg layers. After seeing another student's experiment testing which breed of chicken could go through a maze the fastest at last year's science fair, she decided she wanted to do something with chickens, too.

"I think they thought it was a good idea but warned me it would be a big responsibility," said Nichole about her family's reaction to her idea to raise chickens as an experiment. "In the end, they supported it, and it will be nice because sometimes my Grandpa doesn't have enough eggs to share with us. This way we can have our own supply."

For her experiment, Nichole used 24 Barred Rock pullets and divided them into three groups. Group one was fed Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe Medicated that Nichole got at her local Purina dealer, Litchfield Farmers Grain, group two was fed a half and half mixture of Start & Grow® and ground corn and group three was fed only ground corn.

Nichole, with the help of her mom and sister, measured and recorded the chickens' weight every four days. Over the first three-week period, group one gained 1,503 grams, while group two gained 1,248 grams and group three only gained 533 grams.

"I think because the chicks in group two ate the corn, which filled them up, they didn't get as much chick starter to give them the needed nutrients," said Nichole. "The chicks with straight ground corn were smaller in size compared to the other two groups and still had most of their downy feathers and not very many warm, big feathers."

Initially planning on running the experiment for six weeks, Nichole cut it short once she realized that she couldn't keep the chicks on different feeds for health reasons. She began feeding all three groups straight Start & Grow® Recipe and studied how it affected the chicks' weight gain.

Again, Nichole recorded each group's weight every four days. Over the next three weeks, she discovered that the chicks in group three did start gaining more weight than before. Even though they didn't pass the other two groups in weight, they did get close. Group two, the group that was initially fed half Start & Grow® Recipe and half ground corn, started to gain about the same amount as group one, sometimes even gaining more.

"I wanted to see the importance of chick starter to a chick's diet, and I ended up proving that the most important feed to give a chick is chick starter," said Nichole. "If you have a choice between the more expensive chick starter and a cheaper ground corn, you should pick the chick starter. It will make your chicks healthier and bigger."

Nichole won the science fair at her school, Gillespie Middle School, this February and competed in the Illinois Junior Academy of Science (IJAS) Region 12 Science Fair held at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, IL on March 26. Nichole received an "Outstanding" award for her project and was chosen as one of the representatives to the State Projects Competition. She will compete at the IJAS State Science Fair at the University of Illinois in Champaign in May.

"It was difficult getting all the information written up and finding research pertaining to my subject," said Nichole, "but I enjoyed taking care of the chicks and having them respond to my voice."

Now that her chicks are getting older and outgrowing their boxes in the basement, Nichole and her family, including both of her grandfathers and her Uncle Dave, are working together to build a coop and an outside run. Once her chickens start laying, she plans on going into the egg production business and using her chicks for her FFA project next year.

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FLOCK TIPS | Predators & Pests: How to Protect Your Flock

Spring is finally here, and for many people, that means new chicks and pullets. For others, it's time for a break from the coop and a little fresh air. Whether you're learning the ropes or a poultry professional, don't let predators and pests catch you and your flock off guard.

Possums: Possums arrive at night and can dig underneath pens, killing an entire flock, especially chicks. They are also talented egg stealers. Signs that you've had possums in your coop or run include finding chickens with a bite in their thigh or missing a leg, or worse, finding only feathers and missing an entire chicken.

Raccoons: Raccoons are very persistent and clever and work to find just about any opening to get into a pen. In fact, they will lure chickens to the wire, reach through and grab the chicken, killing it very quickly. Also, because they have opposable thumbs, raccoons are very good at opening latches. A sign that you've had a raccoon is finding chickens with missing heads or limbs, ripped open necks and breasts and missing eggs.

Foxes: People who live close to an undeveloped area or near a vacant lot or perhaps a railway might be surprised to find out there is a high probably that foxes are living nearby. Foxes are very crafty and will stake out coops for days or even weeks and attack in the daytime, making them a serious predator. If you don't have chickens in runs and they're out semi-unprotected, foxes will grab them and kill them. Foxes are excellent at digging and can climb surprisingly well. Signs that you have had a fox include broken necks, feathers strewn around the ground and missing chickens, and feathers in areas away from the coop.

Coyotes: Coyote attacks will be similar to those of foxes, except they are not good climbers. They are, however, very skilled diggers.

Stray dogs: Not only are stray dogs themselves a predator, but they can cause your flock to be more susceptible to other predators as well. Stray dogs that run into your yard can scare and scatter your chickens, causing them to take flight, get on rooftops, jump on fences and go into trees. This will make them more prone to be subjected to other types of predators that might be lurking around.

Hawks & Owls: Hawks are very prevalent and can take out a chicken quite quickly since they're not expecting an attack from above. Just as hawks will often prey on songbirds that feed at feeders, they'll swoop down and attack chickens that are outside the coop or run. Owls are very similar to hawks in their attacks, but will attack during the night, whereas hawks attack in the day.

An important part of keeping your flock safe from predators is having an enclosure or run already built. Often people will build their coop and let their chickens roam the backyard, putting them in the coop at night, but not having an area that's secure during the day. If you do this, you have an increased risk of predator attacks. Just because it's light outside, doesn't mean your chickens are safe. Listed below are a few tips to help you protect your birds and build a sturdy, effective coop and run.

  • Use a small welded wire for coops and enclosures—One inch by half an inch with a 16 or an 18 gauge is best. This will prevent a lot of predators from reaching through the wire and will last a long time.
  • Bury the wire at least 6 inches in the ground or have a very solid foundation so predators cannot dig underground or under the perimeter and get in to the chicken coop.
  • Use a spring latch to prevent animals from accidentally or intentionally opening gates.
  • Set up motion sensor lights and objects that move such as pinwheels or flags to startle predators.
  • If you free-range your chickens during the day, be sure the enclosure is secure. Put a fence up and/or make sure you or somebody is outside watching them. Many people introduce their pet dogs to their chickens and train them to protect the flock from other predators.
  • Be sure all your birds are safely locked into the coop at night.

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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 all 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.

*with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients

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