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One of the most shocking things to see as a new poultry keeper is chickens going through a moult. Most chickens shed their feathers in late Summer or early Autumn.
Chickens that go into moult will slowly lose their old feathers and new feathers will grow in the place of old. Young birds will shed their feathers twice during the first 6 months of their life although this is a much more gradual process and normally it is only the feathers lying around the run that gives this away, visually, youngsters still carry plenty of feathers. When new feathers are growing through (called 'pin' feathers) it can be painful for a bird to be handled so take care if you need to catch or hold them.
Protein: Feathers are 85% protein so when birds moult, replacing their feathers, laying hens will usually stop producing eggs. Eggs are made up mainly of protein and it is too much for a hen to produce new feathers and eggs.
It’s best to supplement you moulting chicken’s ration with additional protein. Some folks feed chick starter or a meat builder ration instead of layer, others add fish meal, and 'old timers' often recommend dried cat food as a good source of protein- a handful of this a day can help top up your birds protein levels. Good quality cat food protein comes from clean meats and is rich in amino acids which will help them get back into laying after they have finished their moult but most hens moult in the autumn and early winter so daylight hours will be short and they may not come back into laying until the early spring.
Apple Cider Vinegar is a great help to chickens at times of stress and is packed with vitamins and minerals. It can easily be added to their water to help them through this difficult time.
Careful with the Corn! Ensure you don't overdo the mixed corn (often in scratch mixes) during the moulting period. Feeding too much corn will reduce the overall protein intake of your birds when they ideally need it to be increased. Chickens will usually prefer eating mixed corn to their layer feed since it's high in sugar, so it is necessary to keep this as a treat during moulting.
Feather Pecking during the Moult: In extreme cases if chickens are not getting enough protein, they will peck at other birds feathers and eat them in order to increase their protein levels. Birds are very vulnerable at this time since it doesn't take much for a wound to appear and chickens love to peck at red blood exasperating the problem. You should always separate a bird if blood is visible.
Why Keep Backyard Chickens?
1. You can be a food producer! The local food movement is flourishing, and by keeping backyard chickens you can take pride in being a food producer and not just a consumer.
2. You know exactly where your eggs come from! When you raise your own eggs and/or meat you know what the animal ate, its living conditions, and how it was treated.
3. You can eat fresh! Fresh foods simply taste better and eggs are no exception. Combine chicken keeping with a vegetable garden and you’ll never look at store bought eggs & produce the same way.
4. You can fertilize your garden! Chicken poop is high in nitrogen and great for your compost pile. Give your vegetable garden the nutrient boost it needs.
5. You can practice natural pest control! Got cockroaches, grubs, or any other pest you don’t want in your yard or garden? Chickens are great at controlling certain pests naturally- no need to put down nasty chemicals. And yes- chickens will even eat mice!
6. You will be entertained! While chicken keeping may sound like a chore to some, many people see egg collection and putting out feed as a relaxing morning ritual. Also, just like cats and dogs, chickens have personalities and can be great companions.
7. You will make new friends! Crazy chicken people are contagious !
8. You will learn something new! Never been handy with tools? Building your own coop is a great way to learn. Not sure where the chicken egg actually comes out of the bird? You can dazzle your friends with random chicken facts and anatomy.
Poultry Feeds we carry
Organic Feeds: we are proud to be Bozeman source for organic poultry rations for the discriminating egg & meat producers
Organic Brands We Carry Are:
Big Sky Organic Feeds made in Fort Benton, MT
Scratch and Peck Feeds from Bellingham, WA
Organic Pride from Purina Mills
Manna Pro Organic from St. Louis, MO
Phoenix Renew non-GMO from Willows CA
Fresh LIVE ORGANIC Meal-worms, these really make hens happy!
We Offer Organic Poultry Feeds In The Following Formulas:
All Natural Poultry Feeds: Feeds that do not contain any animal byproduct
All Natural Brands We Carry Are:
We Offer All Natural Poultry Feeds For:
*Grit, Mineralized Pigeon grit, oyster shell, Fish Meal, Diatomaceous Earth, ground flax and apple cider vinegar are also all available
Chick Rearing Basics
Whether you hatch fertilized eggs in an incubator or purchase baby chicks at Bridger Animal Nutrition, getting started with a new group of chicks is very exciting… a sure sign that spring is on the way ☺
Before you bring your new chicks home, get prepared: Set up a brooder, which is a place for the chicks to live, grow, eat, and drink for the first three to five weeks of their lives. You will need an artificial heat source to replace the warmth they would normally get from a mother hen. A simple option for a brooder is to just use a sturdy cardboard box, like those used by moving companies, and a clamp lamp with a red heat bulb. It’s best to allow a 1/2 square foot per chick in any type of brooder. You don't want them to be overcrowded at the water and feeders, and they’ll need room to get away from the heat lamp if they get too warm. Some folks have even been known to use their own bathtubs with a hanging heat lamp!
When it comes to food for newly hatched chicks, a good quality starter feed in the form of crumbled pellets with a protein of at least 18% will be all you need. Bags range in size from 5lbs to 50 lb bags and are available in medicated, non- medicated & organic. Make sure the chicks also have access to fresh water. Use a very shallow container in case the chicks fall in, and use tepid water so as not to chill them.
It's important to clean the chicks' water twice a day, and their feed once a day. In order to do this chore easily- it’s often nice to have a spare box to put your chicks in for the few moments it takes to get the feed & water clean again. It's important to keep new chicks away from any grown hens you might already have as they may try to peck at them.
Chicks can be moved into a regular chicken coop at three to five weeks of age, depending on the temperature of the coop. If it's extremely cold or hot, give the chicks some extra time indoors. Once in the coop, chicks should be sectioned off from older birds. They can also start eating a grower feed at this point also known as Pullet Developer. At about 20 weeks of age, they’re ready to go on regulate layer rations and hens can begin laying eggs!
Bridger Animal Nutrition begins ordering chicks in March!
Layers, Broilers, Exotics, Ducks, Geese & Gamebirds
Bridger Animal Nutrition