Keys to Raising Healthy Chickens

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We all want healthy happy chickens on our farms. We’ve found that monitoring your flock is key to their health. When you see a problem, you can correct it before it negatively affects your flock and their egg production. So, in this article we will outline a few key metrics that we feel are vital to keeping your flock in optimal health and production.

Key Metrics to Track for your Chicken Flock:

1. Environmental aspects

Chickens are pretty adaptable animals overall but they lay best when the temperature is between 59°F to 75°F. Extreme hot or cold weather and hours of daylight, will make your chickens stop laying. Chickens can experience temperature stress in extreme weather and it will signal their bodies to stop laying and conserve energy.

By monitoring the temperature of their environment and watching how they are reacting you can get ahead of these changes. You might elect to help make them more comfortable with a heat light or ventilation when you see these changes happening.

2. Chicken Feed

There are 2 things that go into feed that you will want to be mindful of, cost and quality.

Cost of feed:

Obviously you want your chickens to be at their optimal health for either body mass or egg laying production. You should be tracking how much feed they’re consuming and what types produce the best result. For instance, if a feed type doesn’t have enough calcium you chickens egg shells will be too brittle but too much and they will be very hard. Fortunately chicken feed producers have spent a lot of time on researching this very thing. So, find the brand that fits your needs and is readily available.

Quality of feed:

The type of food they eat goes into their overall health. It’s important to keep track of what foods your flock ate so that you can measure the outcome. Here are some types of for different feed.

  1. High quality poultry pellet or crumble (Starter/Grower/Finisher or Starter/Layer)
  2. (Some) Fruits and Vegetables
  3. Corn scratch
  4. Bugs or give them a place to scratch for insects- (Omnivore diet)

3. Daily Gains

If you are producing broilers/roasters then the amount each chicken gains in a day on average will be something you want to keep track of. It’s called keeping track of Average Daily Gains (ADG).

Many broilers chicken breeds have a faster growth rate. Birds usually weigh about 42g at hatch and grow to 2,800g in the next 42 days. Remember; you don’t have to weigh every bird. Take an average: catch 3-5 and take a measurement of them and divide that by the whole group.

The amount of food ingested will hopefully produce gains in a relatively short amount of time. Depending on the type of chickens you’re raising for this purpose this can be something you need to watch closely.

Here is another article we wrote and free calculator to help find feed conversion rates.

Keeping track of layers ADG is also important. You can then track the amount they are eating and how much you can expect to need to feed them.

4.Egg production

Different types of chickens will lay different amounts of eggs per year. Choose the best breed for your climate and the production you’re looking for. Then keep track of how many eggs they are producing each day.

You may also want to keep track of how many eggs you have lost to breaks, drops, freezing temperatures or other accidents. This gives you an idea of how many eggs you can expect and the profit from them. If you have overflow, you can expand your egg sales into other markets.

  • Longevity

Just like with their egg production, different types of breeds of chickens will live different lengths of time. In regards to layer breeds their lifespan is between 3-10 years. Most layer breeds will start laying around 6 months old and have top production for the first 2-3 years. Egg production will start to drop after that. If you’re keeping track of their production you will start to see trends in the types of chickens and their production.

When your chickens’ egg production starts to taper off, as it will as they age, you can choose to sell those hens to local backyard chicken enthusiasts. Those hens can still be producing as many 200+ eggs a year and that’s plenty for some small farmers and homesteads.

  • Mortality

You want to raise the healthiest chickens you can but even with the best plans sometimes problems arise. Mortality rates vary between broilers and layers but it is the rate of mortality that you want to keep track of. If you are loosing many chickens you may have an illness going through your coop. This is something you need to catch early.

Mortality can also depend on the way you are keeping chickens. For instance, if you have free-range chickens you face different challenges than those who are managing chickens in confinement. We won’t go into the causes of those today but keeping track of those losses are important so you can be aware of them, the impact it’s having on your profit and losses and how to make changes to protect your investment.

Overall the most important things to keep track of for your flock are environment, feed information, average daily gains, egg production, longevity, mortality rate.

Take a look at Farmbrite for your farm management. Whether you are tracking your chickens ADG or if you’re tracking crops for a CSA, Farmbrite can help. Start free today.