The More You Know Pt. 2: Chickens
Chickens have become increasingly popular as backyard pets. However, many people do not know what they are getting themselves into when they get chickens. Often people purchase chickens as day old babies. At this point in life, they need a warm space (called a brooder) with a heat lamp, as well as plenty of water and food. They eat and drink a lot, so water and food will need to be refilled at least once daily. As they get bigger, they can start to be supervised outside, and once they are around 6 weeks of age, they can often be left outside in a coop. Once they are fully grown, at around 18 weeks, chickens will begin to lay eggs.
Before they are washed chicken eggs are coated with a protective layer called a bloom. This will keep your eggs fresh without being refrigerated for a very long time. After they are washed the bloom will no longer be an effective form of protection and refrigeration is necessary. In many other countries, chickens are required to be vaccinated against diseases so their eggs do not need to be washed to sell in stores. However, in the United States this is not the case and eggs are required to be washed and refrigerated.
There are many different types of chickens. Some are bred to be eaten, like the Bresse or the Cornish Cross. Other breeds are much better for egg laying, like the Rhode Island Red, or the Australorp. Some chickens are bred to look fancy, like the Silver Laced Polish, or the Silky. It is important to research different types of chickens based on what you are looking for before deciding on which to purchase.
If you keep chickens in your yard it is also important to decide whether you will keep them in a coop, or keep them free range. Free range chickens will eat all sorts of bugs and plants, but they will still require supplementary feed. They will also often have a much darker egg yolk. Chickens in a coop require much more feed than free range chickens, and they often don't have the opportunity to find as many bugs. Make sure you have a large enough coop if you don't let your chickens free range. There are many resources you can use to learn more about chickens, and the library and the internet are both great options!
This is Emo. She is a Silver Laced Polish Hen and is 8 months old.
This is Dr Pecker. His is a Silver Laced Polish Rooster, and is also 8 months old. He likes long strolls in the yard with his many lady friends.