Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter


After spending a summer in Sullivan, Maine, with her Uncle Danny, Polly Smith was hooked on chickens, and they were hooked on her.

"He had Rhode Island Reds roaming around his place, and his one hen took a liking to me for whatever avian reason," said Polly. "She followed me around and slept on my windowsill in the evenings."

As Polly was getting ready to leave at the end of the summer, her uncle wanted to give her the hen, but Polly's mother, whom she describes as not much of a domesticated animal lover, said no way. Although it's taken Polly 35 years to get to a place in her life where she could get chickens of her own, she never gave up, and there's no going back.

Polly lives in an urban area and is one of the many Americans that have joined the backyard chicken movement. She raises them in her yard and thanks her very understanding neighbors. Polly really likes the Heritage breeds. She has two Rhode Island Reds, the birds that first drew her attention at her uncle's farm, two black Australorps, three Golden Campines, and one small orphaned grey Bantam Silkie.

Heritage Chickens were defined by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) to draw attention to and support the conservation of breeds that have become endangered due to the industrialization of the chicken industry. The ALBC defines Heritage Chickens on their website by the following characteristics: "A Heritage Egg can only be produced by an American Poultry Association Standard breed. A Heritage Chicken is hatched from a Heritage Egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard breed established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated with a long productive outdoor life."*

Polly loves how much personality her chickens have and the constant entertainment they provide. Her birds come running when she calls them and will follow her around her and the neighbor's yards. She always knows when they're unhappy about anything, as they aren't afraid to give a cluck. The girls, as Polly affectionately calls them, also aren't afraid of the other nearby pets.

"They chase my Yorkies and torment the Boxer next door by standing just outside her electric fence," said Polly. "Oh my gosh, they are hysterical!"

Polly uses Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe and Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe to keep her hens healthy, robust, silky, and colorful.

"I use Layena® Recipe because the girls love it!" exclaimed Polly. "I've tried other products, but half of it always ends up on the floor of the hen house. With Layena® Recipe, I can get crumbles or pellets, they don't care either way, but there is never any waste. They gobble it up and look for more!"

Even her neighbors have noticed the difference that using Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe makes on her chicks.

"I have even gotten complements from the FFA guy that lives behind us who mixes his own feed. My chicks are big, healthy, and feather out more quickly than his do," said Polly.

For some, holding onto an idea for 35 years might seem impossible. But for Polly, the joys and benefits that these backyard birds bring to her life were well worth the wait.

* American Livestock Breed Conservancy, http://www.albc-usa.org/heritagechicken/definition.html, 2009.

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FLOCK TIPS | Laying Better Eggs

Many people are aware of the protein benefits of eating eggs, but what they might not know is eggs also offer almost every vitamin and nutrient needed for life, including iodine, phosphorous, selenium, choline, antioxidants, vitamins riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and B12. There are a number of factors that can affect the quality of eggs laid by your chicken. Read below to see how you can make sure your chickens are laying you the best, healthiest eggs possible.

Light: Purina Mills recommends giving your hens 14 to 16 hours of light (natural or artificial) a day for maximum egg production. Chickens have a pineal gland located behind their eye that controls reproduction that is stimulated by light. When daylight is longer in the spring egg production rises, and as the hours of daylight decrease in the fall and winter months egg production does as well. Supplementing natural light so hens consistently get the recommended amount all year will provide you with optimum egg production.

Age: The life expectancy of chickens can be up to 8 to 10 years, but they are most productive during the first four years of life. Most hens become sexually mature and can begin laying eggs between 18 and 22 weeks old, with optimum production occurring around week 28. In their first year, owners can expect about 20 to 22 dozen eggs. After peaking, egg production decreases about 1 to 1.5 percent each week.

Water and Nutrition: You are what you eat, so giving your hens the nutrition they need will help them lay the healthiest eggs possible for you and your family. Make sure hens have plenty of water available at all times. A hen's body contains 60 to 75 percent water. They need to rehydrate themselves regularly to keep egg production up, since laying eggs depletes a hen's internal water supply.

Healthy laying hens need a balanced diet with proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, calcium and vitamins. Purina Mills® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe contains all the quality nutrients laying hens need to produce lots of strong-shelled, healthy, golden-yolked eggs.

Over supplementing nutrients such as calcium can cause laying problems. It can cause the same symptoms as a deficiency, including weak or soft shells and reduced egg production.

Breed: Each breed of chicken has certain qualities that make them better for egg production or for meat. If you're raising specifically for egg production, White Leghorns are known for being great producers of white eggs, and Rhode Island Reds and related breeds for brown eggs. Other breeds known for good egg production include Black Star, Red Star, Light Sussex, Plymouth Rock, Cuckoo Maran, and Barred Rock.

If you plan to use older hens that aren't laying eggs anymore for meat, choose a dual purpose breed such as New Hampshire, Wyandotte, Plymouth Rock, Barred Rock, Araucana, Ameraucana, and Rhode Island Red.

Housing: Give hens special nesting boxes to provide the best environment for them to lay eggs. Although three to four hens can share each nest box, having one to two birds per nest box can reduce the potential for broken eggs. Boxes should be big enough for one hen to enter and be able to turn around comfortably in. Keep nest boxes in dark or dimly-lit areas, away from predators, and line them with dried grass or hay.

Collecting, Cleaning, and Storing Eggs: It is best to collect eggs two to three times a day, especially during hot weather. Collecting often will help keep eggs fresh and from getting cracked or dirty. It will also help prevent hens from breaking and eating eggs.

If your eggs do get dirty, wash them carefully with water and dry and cool them as quickly as possible. You can remove stains by scrubbing gently with a fine brush.

Store eggs at approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit and at 70 to 75 percent humidity. Try to avoid storing them with strongly scented foods since eggs pick up odors and flavors easily through their pores. Putting an open container of baking soda in your fridge will help absorb. In general, a washed egg stays fresh for about four to five weeks.

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GET TO KNOW | Flock Block SunFresh® Recipe

Purina® Flock Block SunFresh® Recipe is a whole grain enrichment supplement perfect for free-ranging poultry and game birds.

• Encourages natural pecking instincts

• Contains oyster shell and grit for added calcium and digestion aid

• Available in a 25 pound block

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