Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | From the Classroom to the Backyard

Sara Mayes' interest in chickens began about 20 years ago while working as a nature specialist for a summer day camp. One of her activities was to take the children to the farm to help care for the chickens, feeding them, giving them fresh straw in their nest boxes, and collecting the eggs.

"The kids loved doing this, especially just petting and holding the hens and collecting eggs," said Sara. "I really enjoyed it, too, and I decided that I wanted to have chickens of my own someday."

In the summer of 2000, Sara and her husband, Tom, moved out of town to a small farm on 14 acres in New York, complete with an orchard for fruit picking and cider making in the fall and maple trees for fresh maple syrup in the spring. It was the perfect place to keep their two horses and raise their two boys, Alex and Thomas. The only thing that was missing was chickens.

Each spring the kindergarten class at Minisink Valley Elementary School hatches eggs in an incubator as a science project, and the kids learn how and why chicks develop inside an egg. In 2004, when Sara's oldest son, Thomas, started kindergarten, she became a classroom volunteer, helping with projects and sharing her experience as a naturalist.

"They candled the eggs to see which ones had chicks developing inside, and they waited patiently for the baby chicks to hatch," said Sara. "It was an exciting, hands-on life science project."

When Alex started kindergarten in 2007, Sara again stepped up to be a classroom volunteer, giving her the opportunity to have chickens of her own.

"This time, I asked the teacher if our family could keep a few of the chicks, and the farmer who supplied the eggs agreed to leave some chicks for us to keep," said Sara. "I was so excited. I was finally going to have chickens!"

Sara's husband and sons quickly got to work converting an old outhouse on their farm into a cozy chicken coop for their new Araucana chicks. They cleaned it, added a fully fenced outside enclosure, and built nest boxes inside.

One year after bringing the chicks home, Sara took one of the hens, Sandy, back to Alex's first grade classroom so the kids who had been kindergartners when the eggs hatched could see what one of their chicks had grown into.

"I wasn't sure how Sandy would feel about being displayed in front of 50 curious 5 and 6 year olds," said Sara. "But not only did she calmly walk about in the center of the circle of children, she allowed all 50 of them to pet her. Then she laid down on the carpet in front of the kids while I answered the children's questions. The kids kept hoping she would lay an egg, but she didn't."

Family With Purina Layena SunFresh Recipe

Sara has always loved animals and thinks of her chickens as pets. They each have names and very distinct personalities. She likes what raising chickens has, and can, teach her sons.

"In today's fast-paced world, it feels good to slow down and observe nature. I want my kids to feel a connection to the ‘real world' of where their food comes from," said Sara. "And I want them to know that one can find enjoyment in connecting with and caring for other creatures."

The Mayes were given Purina's Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe when they brought their chicks home, and Sara was no stranger to the quality of Purina brand feeds.

"I've been familiar with Purina pet and livestock products since childhood," Sara said. "We tried some other feed brands a few times, and the Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe is much less dusty, and I swear my hens prefer eating it and lay more eggs."

And laying eggs is important to the Mayes, who get all their eggs from their chickens.

"They are delicious," said Sara. "Much better tasting than store bought eggs!"

The Mayes' rooster, Stripe, is practically a celebrity in their hometown of Port Jervis, NY. He was a fanciest winner in Purina's 2009 America's Fanciest and Funniest Chicken Photo Contest, was featured in the local newspaper, and was even invited for an interview on the Delaware Valley Elementary School student produced news program, DVE-TV.

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FLOCK TIPS | Protecting Your Mixed Flock

Chickens come in multiple varieties and breeds, with each one having different qualities. Whether you're raising chickens for meat or eggs, by mixing breeds within your flock you can get a variety of looks, personalities, and products. When creating your flock, it is best to get chickens at the same time and around the same age. If they grow up together from an early age, they will be more likely to get along no matter what breed. If you're adding new birds to an existing flock, there can be issues, so follow these tips for the best luck on creating a diverse flock.

Adding to Your Flock
There will almost always be some type of scuffle when you try to add new birds to your flock. Chickens establish a dominance system, or pecking order, within each flock. When new birds are added, they must find their spot within the flock, causing chickens to fight. The dominant hen generally gets the best things and gets them first, and the lowest is often picked on by the other birds. Additionally, roosters also fight over flocks, and an existing rooster will protect his flock from new ones.

For the best luck introducing new birds to your flock consider the following tips:

Put all birds into a new enclosure, this way none of the birds will have prior claim to the land. If you aren't able to do this, divide your pen into two parts with a wire divider. This will let the birds see and interact with each other but remain separate. You can remove the divider after about a week or after they stop trying to fight with each other through the wire. If you're only adding one or two birds, you can put them in a smaller cage and place it within the main pen.

Age and Size
There will generally be less fighting if you introduce birds that are the same age or at least the same size as the birds in your existing flock.

Generally, don't add a new adult rooster to your flock. If you're going to have more than one rooster, get them at the same time. If you're just starting your flock, one rooster can generally service about 10 hens, but it is nice to have another in case you decide you want more hens or the other rooster dies.

Time of Day
It is best to introduce new birds when it's dark or when the other birds go to the roost for the night. If the chickens wake up together, they are less likely to notice that the new chickens weren't there the entire time.

Try to distract the rest of the flock using treats when you introduce new birds or the morning after you introduce new birds. If you can keep them focused on something other than the new birds, it's more likely to go smoother.

Cannibalism in chickens occurs when they peck each other and inflict injury resulting in the consumption of blood and tissues. Once a bird is injured or constantly picked on, it will usually continue to get assaulted, eliminating weak birds.

Preventing cannibalism is much easier than stopping it, so try to avoid conditions that encourage this behavior. Overcrowding is the number one cause for cannibalism, so make sure your birds have enough space. Other conditions that cause stress and increase cannibalism include not enough feeder or waterer space, poor nutrition, and cold temperatures with not enough protection.

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GET TO KNOW | Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe

Purina® Flock Raiser® SunFresh™ Recipe takes "natural" to an entirely new level by using only the freshest, highest quality sun-grown grains and plant proteins. It is a nutrient-rich feed, perfect for a mixed flock of chickens, ducks and geese from hatching until laying age (18 to 20 weeks) and turkeys from 8 to 10 weeks until laying age. Flock Raiser provides your poultry with the quality nutrients it needs to grow and stay strong, healthy and beautiful.

• SunFresh® Recipe—Fresh, natural* plant proteins, FREE of all animal proteins and fats

• Small, Crumbled Pieces—Waste less feed and ensure proper food intake

• Superior Nutrition Including Essential Amino Acids—Provide chicks with a strong start, optimal muscle development, uniform growth, and top vigor

• Vitamins A & E—Support overall health, reproduction, vitality, and a healthy immune system throughout your bird's life

• Exclusive Level of Marigold Extract—Give your birds brightly colored beaks, shanks, and overall appearance

• Complete and Balanced—Provides wholesome nutrition for your entire mixed flock with no supplements needed

*with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients

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