Monday, June 6, 2011

Poultry Keeping....Moving to the Coop

Looking ready to merge into the flock; Clay and his ladies.
   As the flock grows and matures their needs change and expand. Helpless little pullets develop into bossy broody hens. Around four to six months of age the transition pen has become crowded, urging us to move along with our layer flock management. It's time to move to the coop.
   Our flock consists of hens and roosters at the ratio of one rooster for every ten hens. Aside from the obvious egg fertility, roosters are protective of their hens- alerting danger as well as good scratching ground. We love to hear the unique sounds used by our roosters to call and communicate to their hens; not to mention their beautiful hearty crow throughout the day. It goes without mention- we will not keep any rooster who is aggressive or uncooperative toward people.
   The new flock is added to the existing flock in phases; one week of simple free ranging together during the afternoons along with moving their transition pen as close as possible to the main coop; one week of 'house arrest' in the main coop together as well as completely removing the transition pen so they will not return to it at the end of the day. There is always some squabbling in the beginning, but it will fade as they adjust. On occasion we will have to "heard in" the new hens until they get the hang of the new home.
   Our coop is a converted stall in our barn enclosed with small mesh panels and wood providing shelter from the elements, nesting and roosting areas, feed and water, as well as protection from predators. The earthen floor is covered with a layer of pine shavings to provide scratching material as well as odor control. Nest boxes are converted from our rabbit nests and lined with soft shavings; under a slightly dark covered area. The roost is an old frame positioned against one wall giving plenty of space and shelter.
   Feeders are "trough style" as well as a few "scrap pans"; waters are five gallon poultry fountains. During cold winter days a heat lamp is hung from the ceiling by chains to provide adequate heat. Hot summers require a large industrial fan positioned to push air through the open vent area (we also provide shallow water pans for them to stand in- cooling their feet helps prevent heat stroke).

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