Purina® Flock Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | Bill Ruppert: Chickens Flock to the Garden

Having grown up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Bill Ruppert would not be expected to have such a great interest in chickens. However, the visits that he took to his aunt and uncle's house in a small southern Illinois town had a lasting impact on him.

"My Aunt Magdalen was a serious vegetable gardener, home style cook and keeper of chickens for fresh eggs," said Bill. "I can vividly remember wonderful visits to their home in Pinckneyville and upon our arrival, couldn't wait to visit the coop to collect eggs and feed the chickens their daily treat of kitchen scraps."

The memories of the chickens and his Aunt Magdalen inspired Bill and his wife, Joan, to work with the architect that helped them renovate their home, to design and build a two-story "chicken palace" called Coop de Rupe, complete with both indoor and outdoor chicken runs, a garden support center and a second story lookout tower, the tree house Bill says he never had as a young boy.

"For some, the urban chicken thing may be a fad, but here, at the Ruppert Gardens and Chicken Ranch, chickens have become an important part of our daily life," said Bill, who's had chickens since the spring of 2005.

The Rupperts have a flock of 17, including Ameraucana, Barred Rock, Plymouth Rock, Buff Orpington and Black Australorp hens and 12 new pullets they got this spring.

Both Bill and Joan enjoy gardening as a hobby, Bill focusing on landscape design with annuals, perennials and ornamental shrubs and Joan focusing on vegetables. Their flock helps fuel these passions. By adding their chickens' waste to compost, the Rupperts are able to provide a natural and effective fertilizer for their garden.

"Our chickens are walking composting machines. The input of nutritious food ultimately creates 'output' that eventually ends up in the soil of our vegetable garden," said Bill. "And the eggs are an integral part of our low-carb diet. It's really a full-circle experience here at the Ruppert Gardens and Chicken Ranch."

For someone that is just starting to compost, Bill recommends having two bins. This will let you move the compost from one to the other, allowing air to get in amongst the wood shavings or other bedding within the compost.

"I like to hold the manure for two to three years before I put it on my garden because it takes fresh wood shavings awhile to breakdown," Bill said. "However, if you use another type of bedding, like fallen leaves, which don't take as long to decompose, you can put it on much sooner."

After the compost is ready, Bill lets his girls into the garden to help spread it around. The chickens also help keep pesky bugs away and will even eat certain weeds; however, Bill doesn't let them roam free in the garden once plants start growing, to keep them from picking at good plants.

The Rupperts feed their chickens Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe pellets, and as a treat, occasionally give them cracked corn and food scraps from their garden and kitchen. For their chicks, the Rupperts use Purina® Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe.

Bill's interest in gardening and plants isn't just a hobby. He attended the University of Missouri in Columbia to study horticulture. One of his favorite chickens, a black and gold Ameraucana, is actually named Mizzou after his alma matter. Bill now owns and manages the St. Louis office of National Nursery Products, a horticultural sales, marketing and consulting company that represents regional and national wholesale growers of ornamental and environmental landscape plants.

One of Bill's favorite phrases is: "The world is run by those who show up." This mentality is demonstrated through his vast involvement in the Kirkwood, St. Louis metro area and horticulture communities.

He is the executive director of the Horticulture Co-op of Metro St. Louis; treasurer of the Landscape and Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis; has been on multiple planning boards for horticulture symposiums and conferences; serves on several advisory boards and committees for college and university horticulture programs; is involved with America in Bloom, an organization that promotes nationwide beautification programs and personal and community involvement through the use of flowers, plants, trees and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements; and is an advisor for his local downtown enhancement committee and garden club. Bill also serves on the board of Gateway Greening, a nonprofit that promotes neighborhood vitality and stability through community food projects, education and wellness programs and civic greening and is on the horticulture advisory committee for the world renowned Missouri Botanical Garden.

Many of Bill's passions recently converged at an event he helped plan, the 2011 St. Louis Garden Blitz held at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Gardeners joined together for educational seminars on edible landscapes including several on backyard poultry. Bill's prized hen, Mizzou, even got to come out for the event.

And what's next for Ruppert Gardens & Chicken Ranch? Bees! This summer, Bill and Joan plan on having a beekeeper place and manage a hive in their backyard, which is an ideal place for one due to the nearby woods and vegetable garden.

To learn more about Bill and the girls that reside at Coop de Rupe, visit www.nnpstl.com and click on Ruppert Gardens & Chicken Ranch.

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FLOCK TIPS | Creating a Comfortable Place for Your Flock

Spring is coming to a close, you've gotten your chicks and now they're growing. Soon, it will be time to move them into a larger space. Pullets and laying hens can be housed in many kinds of accommodations, but be sure to consider the following when you're thinking up your new flock's home.

The most important features are that the housing adequately provides both ventilation and insulation, it is dry, it provides protection from predators and it can be easily cleaned. Pullets should not be housed with layers, as older hens can transmit diseases to the younger birds.

Shown in the chart below are recommended space allotments for different birds at different ages. Space requirements increase with age and size and can be affected by temperature (for instance, the birds need more space when hot) and the availability of outdoor runs.

Type/Age Square feet of coop floor space per bird
Hatch to 6 weeks 2.0 to 3.0
6 to 20 weeks 6.0 to 10
Roasters (12 to 20 weeks) 2.0 to 3.0
Mature birds (5 months and older*)
Brown Egg Layers 3.0 to 3.5
White Egg Layers 2.5 to 3.0
Turkeys 4.0 to 5.0
Ducks (yarded) 4.0
Geese (yarded) 5.0

*It is assumed that older birds also have some access to an outdoor pen or yard. If not, allow for twice as much space inside the coop.

Floor housing rather than cage housing is the most common housing system for small flocks. Be sure to refer to the spacing chart above when planning your housing system. Roosts can be provided to help concentrate droppings for easier cleanup, but they are not appropriate for waterfowl or meat birds because of the tendency for these birds to develop breast blisters. Start with low perches when the birds are young to accustom them to using the roosts. Roosts make it much easier to catch birds, especially after they have gone to sleep for the night!

Nests can be built or purchased. Hens will take turns using them, so you will need one nest for every four or five hens. A simple box one foot square is adequate. Hens will also use a long, dark nest that has a single entrance and can accommodate four to five hens at once. A perch in front and a 3-inch board across the bottom of the front make access easy for the birds and prevent the eggs from rolling out. Use a thick layer of straw or other litter to cushion the eggs and help keep them clean and unbroken (broken eggs are a major cause of egg-eating behavior in chickens). Keep the nests up off the floor in the darkest corner of the house. Be sure that all the nest areas have a uniform environment. If the hens deem that one nest is preferable to the others, they will all try to use that nest, thereby causing themselves stress which can lead to other issues such as egg breakage and egg-eating.

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GET TO KNOW | NEW PRODUCT! Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3

The chance to give your flock something they truly enjoy would be reason enough to try Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 pellets poultry feed made with whole grain, but it's what you can't see that makes Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 poultry feed truly unique. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid necessary for proper heart and brain function, growth and development. Because our body cannot manufacture Omega-3 on its own, Omega-3 has to come from our diet. What better way than through fresh eggs? Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 significantly enhances the Omega-3 content of backyard eggs. It's formulated to produce at least 200mg Omega-3 per large egg*—300% more Omega-3 than a typical egg. Layena® Plus Omega-3 is specially formulated to produce exceptionally nutritious eggs, made with the same natural grains as the original Layena® feed, with added flaxseed.
  • 200 mg Omega per large egg*
  • Vegetarian formula without added antibiotics or hormones
  • Enhanced with Vitamin E for healthy birds and wholesome eggs
  • Complete Feed – no oyster shell or grit required
Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 is a 16 percent-protein, high-calcium ration formulated for top-producing laying birds once they reach 18 weeks of age. To try this feed and others and See the Difference it makes with your animals, visit www.purinadifference.com to register for free coupons to take the 60-day feeding trial.

*This is based on a diet of Layena® Plus Omega-3 exclusively for at least 3 weeks and a large egg (50g). Results may vary with factors such as total diet and hen health. A typical egg has up to 65 mg Omega 3.

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