Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | The Ugliest Chickens You've Probably Ever Seen

When Mark Bernahl's wife, Stephanie, gave him chickens for his birthday about four years ago, they were both in for a colorful surprise.

Stephanie contacted a woman she'd heard about that lives just outside of the Bernahl's hometown of Bend, Oregon, and rescues chickens from bad environments or takes in chickens when their owners no longer want them.

"I guess you could call this lady a chicken fanatic," said Mark. "She has about 150 chickens and a few ducks that she's rescued."

It turns out that the woman had a couple chickens to give away, two in fact. They were at the bottom of the pecking order, and because the other birds constantly picked on them, they couldn't remain at her facility. The two chickens the Bernahls picked up were almost completely bare and had been spray painted purple, supposedly to keep the others from pecking at them.

"They were probably the ugliest chickens you'd ever seen," said Mark.

The two birds' conditions improved, and their feathers started coming back immediately after the Bernahls took them home; however, it took about five months for them to start looking like actual chickens again. Despite their rough start and less than desirable appearance, Mark was a huge fan of his birthday chickens and still is.

"It's a pet that actually produces something," said Mark. "The leghorn laid an egg everyday even through winter. Having a pet that both eats compost and gives you something, that is awesome."

Mark also likes that his children are able to enjoy the birds since the chickens don't run away when the kids try to pet them.

The Bernahls mainly use the chicken eggs for their family and give the excess to neighbors and friends, so it's important for them to have healthy chickens that produce quality eggs. They feed Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe to their chickens because of its added calcium for stronger eggs and shells.

"The eggs are harder," said Mark about the difference Layena® SunFresh® Recipe made. "When we didn't use Layena® the eggs were occasionally soft, or they would just break."

TOUR DE COOP Mark and Stephanie aren't the only ones in town to notice the benefits of raising your own chickens. This past summer they went on a tour of 25 chicken coops throughout Bend and the surrounding area.

"It was interesting to see what other people were doing," said Mark. "That was really neat to see how different everyone's were."

HAPPY AS A BIRD Although Mark and Stephanie didn't get to enjoy their chickens as cute, fluffy chicks, the whole family, including the family dog, loves them regardless.

"We had a yellow lab that was trained in hunting birds, and when we first got the chickens, he thought we got him live toys," said Mark. "It only took about a day and a half of just watching and correcting, and he was soon as happy with the chickens as we were."

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FLOCK TIPS | Chicken Breeds and Choosing Your Flock

With over 400 chicken breeds and varieties recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) since 1874*, picking out which type of chickens you want for your flock can be tough. Read the facts and tips below to help you choose which one is right for you and your flock.

Breed: group of chickens having a particular body or shape.
Variety: A subset of a breed, often determined by feather color or pattern, comb shapes or additional feathers.
Bantam: A miniature to the standard chicken that is usually a 1/4 to 1/5 the size. Bantams often have a standard size counterpart but can exist only as a bantam.

The APA classifies chickens into six classes, the American, Asiatic, English, Continental, Mediterranean and Any Other Standard breed. Bantams have their own classification system with four classes, Single Comb Clean Legged, Rosecomb Clean Legged, All Other Clean Legged, and Feather Legged.

Each breed of chicken has certain qualities that make them better for egg production, meat, both, or for entertainment and show.

Egg Layers
Modern egg laying breeds' ancestries can be traced to the APA's Mediterranean class of chickens. They typically have smaller bodies, allowing them to use more nutrients for egg production rather than increasing body mass. White Leghorns are known for being great producers of white eggs, but are also known for being quite flighty. Rhode Island Reds and related breeds are often considered the best for brown eggs. Some other breeds known for good egg production include Black Star, Red Star, Light Sussex, Plymouth Rock, Cuckoo Maran, and Barred Rock.

Dual Purpose Breeds
If you plan on using your older hens that have stopped laying eggs for meat, consider a dual purpose breed. They still do well laying eggs but are meatier than chickens specifically bred for laying. Some common dual purpose breeds include the New Hampshire, Wyandotte, Plymouth Rock, Barred Rock, Araucana, Ameraucana, and Rhode Island Red.

Meat Production
If you only want to raise chickens for meat, chickens with fast growth rates are the best choice. Most of these belong in the APA's English class of chickens which includes the Cornish, the Australorp, and Orpington. Nothing beats the Cornish Cross's (Cross between Cornish and New Hampshire or White Plymouth Rock) growth rate. They reach 4 to 5 lbs in 6 weeks and 6 to 10 lbs in 8 to 12 weeks.

If having pretty birds to look at, to entertain you or to show is your main concern, consider an ornamental breed. These are the breeds that generally have colorful or long flowy feathers. In addition to how the breed looks, show judges also factor in things like, sexual maturity, body conformation, and deformities. Some ornamental breeds include the Belgian D'Uccle, Sablepoot, Sicilian Buttercup, Crevecoeur, Silkie, Cochin, Houdan, Phoenix, Polish, Sultan, and Yokohama.

Other considerations to make when choosing your flock include the climate where you live, the personality or temperament of the breed and how well they handle confinement.

*American Poultry Association. www.amerpoultryassn.com. "Recognized Breeds."

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GET TO KNOW | Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe

Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe takes "natural" to a whole new level by using only the freshest, highest quality sun-grown grains and plant proteins to give birds the wholesome, healthy goodness and fresh taste they deserve.* Made from natural plant-based ingredients free of all animal proteins and fats, Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe contains all the quality nutrients laying hens need to produce lots of strong-shelled, healthy, golden-yolked eggs.

• Certified Natural*—our guarantee that this is the very best feed providing safe, natural nutrition for poultry
• SunFresh® Recipe—formulated with sun-grown grains with a recipe free of animal proteins
• Superior Nutrition—gives great appearance and healthy eggs
• Essential Amino Acids—enhanced with lysine and methionine to give birds the healthy nutrients they need to produce plenty of tasty eggs
• Exclusive Level of Marigold Extract—for rich yellow yolks
• Key Levels of Calcium and Manganese—strong shells with few cracks
• Proprietary Level of Vitamin A—strong reproduction and overall health
• Key Level of Vitamin E—supports a healthy immune system

*with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients

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