Purina® Flock Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | Thibodeaux's Town & Country

Renee Chiasson started working at her family's feed store, Thibodeaux's Town and Country, in the sixth grade, and it, along with the family farm of cattle, horses, goats, sheep, hogs and various birds, taught her a lot about hard work and the value of fresh food.

"Our parents taught us old-fashioned values of hard work, and by working in the store, our college educations were paid when we graduated," said Renee. "Each of us greatly values the start that it has given us in life."

Renee still works at the store today, along with her parents and two brothers, Nathan and Eddie.

"Our parents raised us to accept that a family business is never 50/50," said Renee. "There are times that some need time away more than others, and that shift and open communication year round is what makes our family able to happily work together. My parents own the store, and I love the fact that we work with our parents and not for them. Each of us has a primary responsibility for the store, and we share human resource responsibilities and take turns on the sales floor."

Thibodeaux's Town & Country began as an existing small Purina feed store in Erath, Louisiana, and was purchased by Renee's family in 1976. Over the years it's endured many changes—a 4-foot deep flood, a catastrophic fire, multiple locations, Renee's father's health issues and finally a new 20,000+ square foot, state-of-the-art retail store that opened in June of 2009.

Thibodeaux's 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.

Each year Thibodeaux's like many Purina dealers hosts Chick Days to help families start their own flocks, and this year they went all out.

"This year was unique for us because we implemented our first annual Poultry Party Gras celebration—think Mardi Gras," said Renee. "We decorated our store in purple, green and gold, and for the Mardi Gras holiday, we invited kids to come celebrate. Thirty-five kids participated in a 'Chick Chase and Race' and we had a mask/costume contest, a petting zoo, bead throws, a King cake, an egg poking contest and a poultry exhibition and learning center where we had a grand champion 4-H poultry showman teach the kids about showing poultry. Everyone had a great time and our hard work paid off."

This season, Thibodeaux's has sold more than 4,200 chicks, ducks, geese turkeys and guineas, and with this many new poultry owners, there are bound to be a lot of questions.

"I'm amazed at the number of people who think a rooster is required for a hen to lay an egg," said Renee. "The second most common question is 'How long do I have to keep a light on them?' and the third is 'When do they start laying eggs?'"

Renee doesn't just sell Purina feeds at the store, she also uses them for her flock at home. She primarily uses the Purina® SunFresh® Recipe feeds, but occasionally feeds a bag of Honor® Show Chow® Broiler Complete to help birds molt or improve feather condition.

"I have 6 and 7-year-old boys," said Renee. "They love to pick their eggs daily, and I know that their food is safe and healthy for them. We also appreciate the poultry are getting the best nutrition we can buy for them."

Renee's flock is made up of six Buff Orpington hens and a rooster, seven Barred Rock hens and a rooster and 236 White Leghorn pullets along with a slew of various breeds of doves and six Mondain Pigeons.

Renee also has a 6-year-old miniature black Dachshund who has designated herself as bird watcher.

"When we let the flock graze in the grass, she lays in the sunny grass right in the middle of them," said Renee, "and then moves over with them as they graze for bugs."

Primarily, they raise their poultry for eggs, and after two to three years of egg production, use them for meat. Once her children get a little older, Renee thinks they'll probably show, too. You'll find Renee's recipe for Cajun Brunch Eggs below.

"I view our poultry as a way of life," said Renee. "My family means more to me than anything."

You Will Need:
1 box seasoned salad croutons
1 package of breakfast sausage (cooked then chopped)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
4 raw eggs
2 cups of milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can of mushroom slices
2 teaspoons of Cajun Powder all purpose seasoning

Mix. Refrigerate overnight. Bake, and then share with 10-12 friends.

Day 1: Pour one box of seasoned salad croutons into a greased 13" x 9" glass baking dish or baking stone. Then, add cooked sausage and shredded cheese. In a separate bowl, mix 4 raw eggs, 1 cup of milk and Cajun powder all-purpose seasoning. Pour liquid mix over items in the baking dish, cover and refrigerate overnight. (You may also freeze and thaw out for a later date.)

Day 2: Preheat oven to 375°. In a bowl, mix cream of mushroom, mushroom slices and 1 cup of milk. Remove cover from casserole dish and pour over refrigerated casserole. Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil. Remove foil and bake 15-30 more minutes. Casserole should be moist but not under cooked. When sliced into squares it tastes like you're eating biscuits, sausage, eggs, and gravy all at once. Enjoy!

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FLOCK TIPS | Which Chicken Breed is Best?

There are hundreds of breeds of chickens, and most all of them are suitable for backyard flocks. So, it really depends on what you like and what you're hoping to get out of your flock.

Chickens are organized by class, breed and variety. Class refers to the geographical region where the breed was developed. The classes of domestic fowl are American, English, Asiatic, Mediterranean, Continental and Other. Breeds are distinguished within a class by differences in body shape, size and skin color. Breeds are further divided into variety by comb type, feather color and pattern. A strain is produced by inbreeding members of a specific variety or breed through at least five generations. The resulting offspring always looks the same and can be identified as belonging to a certain strain.

Bantams are miniature chickens that originated in the Dutch East Indies. Typically, they are identical versions of the standard sized chicken. However, there are some bantams which have characteristics not found in standard poultry. These are sometimes referred to as true bantams and the others as miniatures. The American Standard of Perfection lists all characteristics of standard and bantam size fowl. The Bantam Standard includes breeds of varieties not found in the Standard of Perfection. In general, bantams are kept for ornamentation or sometimes as natural incubators due to their broodiness. They are also prolific egg layers and can be used for meat.

Chickens are also divided into categories based on their productive qualities. Each group is noted for their success at producing meat, eggs, or both. In addition, certain breeds are known as exhibition breeds and others have usefulness for their feathers in fly-tying. The American and English classes are typically considered dual-purpose breeds. That is, they are good at both egg and meat production. The Mediterranean class is noted for their excellent egg production. This class is fairly light in body weight so are not used for meat production. The other classes are more often considered ornamental.

For hobby farmers, other factors come into play besides production qualities. If you want a flock that will withstand cold northern temperatures, stick with the full-feathered American and English class. Choose varieties with smaller combs that are more resistant to freezing during hard winters. If children will be involved, it is better to raise a more docile breed that will easily tame. Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Brahma and Dorking will all fit this requirement. For smaller hands, the Cochin bantam is a nice choice. Most of the high egg production breeds are also extremely flighty. They can be handled and tamed with a lot of effort but in general they are very reactive to stimuli.

For brown egg producing chickens, Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshires and Australorps are a few good choices. They are all very good dual purpose breeds and can withstand a lot of different temperatures and management situations.

For a more interesting egg, many people like the Ameraucana, a breed originating in South America. They lay eggs in a variety of colors, from light blue, to light green and shades of pink. Their personalities work well in backyard situations, and their eggs create a lot of conversation.

Some of the show or ornamental breeds include the Silkies, White Crested Polishes and some of the Japanese breeds, which are usually smaller in size and very colorful.

They might not be chickens, but turkeys, guineas, geese and ducks are still within the poultry family and a consideration for backyard flocks.

Turkeys are bigger and require more food but can be quite colorful. Guineas are great backyard birds, especially in rural areas and can be good home security systems. There are also many varieties of ducks and geese that make great additions to flocks. And then there is the peacock. Like many of the ornamental chickens, peacocks are quite beautiful, but remember that it takes three years for them to grow the characteristic plumage.

Interest in raising chickens has varied over the centuries. As a result, many breeds developed in the late 1800's have all but disappeared. The American class chickens have suffered due to zoning ordinances, the depression and general shifting of interest. To combat this decline of breeds, a few organizations have been developed. The first of these is the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities (SPPA). The SPPA is composed of volunteer judges that track endangered breeds and varieties. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) was formed in the mid 1980's to identify the most endangered old production breeds. This group has published lists of existing flocks and their number. As a result, the Rare Breed Poultry Conservation Project was developed to provide assistance to those hobbyists trying to prevent the extinction of rare and endangered breeds. One of the more recent organizations is the Heritage Poultry Conservancy, formed in 2009 by food and gardening expert, P. Allen Smith, dedicated to the preservation and support of all threatened breeds of domestic poultry.

No matter the breed of chickens you choose, to ensure good health, some things never change. You need to keep their environment clean and dry. Make sure your enclosures are predator proof. Disinfect regularly. Avoid overcrowding. And always provide plenty of fresh, clean water.

Feeding recommendations vary depending on whether you're raising chickens for meat or eggs. They also vary according to age.

To help get egg-type chickens/pullets off to a healthy start, feed Purina® Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe. This 18 percent protein ration is perfect for raising laying chicks from hatch to 18 weeks of age or until they initiate egg laying.

For meat-type birds, try Purina® Flock Raiser® Sun Fresh® Recipe. This 20 percent protein, nutrient-rich ration provides top starting, growing and finishing nutrition from hatch to final weight.

Mature birds can graduate to Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe. This 16 percent protein, high calcium ration is ideal for birds 18 weeks of age or older, whether they are laying eggs or not. For those birds that are laying, why not get healthy eggs? The new Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 provides three times the Omega-3, an essential fatty acid, than regular eggs and still provides all the benefits of the original Layena® SunFresh® Recipe.

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GET TO KNOW | Purina® Honor® Show Chow® Broiler Complete

Supported by Purina knowledge, experience and research, Purina® Honor® Show Chow® Broiler Complete is a nutritionally complete, balanced ration for growing broilers from hatch to market. This 22.5 percent protein feed is designed to get birds off to a good start and grow them into show condition within a very short period of time.
  • Nutritionally complete feed—Contains all the essential nutrients required throughout the growing and finishing phases to develop birds to their full potential
  • Amino acid balance—allows proper growth and development to produce good conformation – promotes excellent feathering
  • Highly effective pigmenting materials—Results in a deep skin, shank and beak color
  • Product form—size is easy for starting chickens and growing birds to eat, prevents sorting for consistent nutrient intake, reduces feed wastage
  • High fat and energy content—provides necessary fuel to grow birds to an excellent finish
  • Research and field proven
  • Medicated Option (Amprolium and BMD)—aids in the prevention of coccidiosis, helps increase weight and feed efficiency; no withdrawal time required
Efficient production requires a thorough understanding and application of the Purina® 4-Square® principles of good husbandry and sanitation including:
  1. GOOD BREEDING: Good breeding gives poultry the ability to perform satisfactorily and produce healthy offspring.
  2. GOOD NUTRITION: An adequate amount of a balanced ration containing all required nutrients, vitamins and minerals is essential for good health and proper conformation.
  3. SOUND MANAGEMENT: "Know How" is required to provide the proper environment and care to minimize stress, which can adversely affect development.
  4. CAREFUL SANITATION: Cleanliness is essential in providing a healthful environment.
These are the building blocks of the Purina® Honor® Show Chow® poultry program and the keys to successful poultry production. Practical application of these basic principles will not only enhance your bird's growth and development, but also increase its potential of winning on the show circuit.

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