FAQ's Chicken 101

Frequently Asked Chicken 101 Questions

posted Nov 2, 2012, 9:39 PM by Christie Brown

FAQ: How is a chick sexed? First of all, an egg being incubated CANNOT be manipulated into becoming a female.  Plus 50% of all chicks born WILL BE males.  That's just how it works!  God planned it that way!  The term "Straight Run" means "as hatched".  Sexing at the hatcheries (for a fee) is done by a trained professional.  The sex-or squeezes the poop out of an hours-old chick's vent.  Then they carefully open the vent with two fingers and shine a light up inside the vent to look for a tiny pimple-sized bump called a papilla, the male copulatory organ.  If they see one, it is a cockerel (male).  If they don't see a papilla, it is a pullet (female).  It is a very, very dirty job and the sex-ors are highly trained and highly paid!  So I, personally, cannot even guess at a chick's sex until it is a few weeks old, and sometimes not until it crows at 4 months.  I look for things like: growing faster & taller than the others, pinker & bigger comb, pointed tail feathers that later arch up then hang down.

FAQ: When will my hens start laying? Each breed reaches its "POINT-OF-LAY" at a different time & varies from 16 weeks to 8 months!  Read up about each breed under the "Comments" column.

FAQ: How long will my hen lay eggs? You should replace your laying hens EVERY 2 Years to keep egg production Tops!
So right when your hens are LAYING REALLY WELL,  you need to PLAN AHEAD for the next group of layers!  That's where Sunny Brooke Poultry Farm can help you.  You should pick up chicks EVERY 18 MONTHS so that the new ones will be starting to lay when the older ones are worn-out two year olds!  After a hen's 2nd molt at age two, she will resume laying as a "POOR LAYER" of only 1-2 eggs per week!  You'll find it is TOO EXPENSIVE to feed non-productive hens and BUY EGGS FROM THE STORE, too!  That is just plain silly! The whole key is to plan ahead so you don't run out of eggs!   A hen can ONLY lay @ 450 eggs in her lifetime!  She was born with all the egg follicles inside her oviduct which will mature into eggs. She CANNOT lay more eggs once she reaches "HEN-O-PAUSE"! LOL

***NEW FAQ: How do I get my hens to lay in the Winter?  Laying Hens are directly affected by the # of daylight hours.  So during the winter Solstice with only 10.5 hours of sun, chickens generally won't lay eggs.  They need 14-1/2 to 16 hours of light in order to lay eggs.  Get a two-stage timer from Home Depot and set it for 4-8 am and 4-8 pm between October & March. Use a 100 watt light bulb (the CFL kind is just fine).  Heating your barn is not as critical as light!

FAQ: How long does a chicken live? The average lifespan of a chicken is ten years but egg laying ceases completely @ age 4 years, her "HEN-O-PAUSE"! 

FAQ: What do I do with my two-year-old spent hens?  1st option: Email me for a list of people who buy old stewing hens.  Please understand that a two-year-old hen has fulfilled her "Measure of Creation", and she is pretty tired and worn out!  It is better to send her on to someone else to feed their family since you may obviously have emotional ties to her.  You have new babies to turn your attention on to.  Understand, this is how the cycle of life works BEFORE you get into chicken raising.  Otherwise you're in for a shock when you have to change out your hens.  A 2nd option: Some people prefer to let their chickens live out their life (up to ten years) and they don't care if they get eggs or not.  That's fine, too.  "To each his own".  A 3rd option:Sometimes there are people who will take your old spent hens into retirement out on a multi-acre farm (but realize a coyote may get them).   A 4th option: If you would rather process them yourself, I rent out my electric feather-plucker for $10 for 24 hours.  Rhett Peterson of Wish-Bone Poultry Processing in Lehi will process your birds for you, but he needs a minimum of 50 so he can take time off his regular job & set-up all his equipment.  So get with your neighbors and put a group of 50 together.  They'll be bagged & freezer-ready.

Live poultry can be a source of potentially harmful microorganismstherefore, precautions must be taken when handling and caring for them, to prevent fecal/oral transmission among people.  
Do not keep baby poultry or mature poultry in the family living space. 
Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling poultry!

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