Poultry Tips

from Randy " Chicken Man" Walker

Check in with the "Chicken Man"  Randy Walker
for tips and helpful information on raising poultry. 
Randy will be sharing his knowledge and experience on

this topic based on over 35 years raising poultry at his home.

TIP #12

DON'T LET THAT WATER FREEZE!!!

Are you tired of having to change your chicken's water 4, 5 even 6 times a day due to freezing temperatures?  Winter is just around the corner and you can bet this is what you will be doing quite soon. 

UNLESS...   You beat the rush and get a heated poultry fountain or electric heat base for your existing poultry fount.  Both are thermostatically controlled and will keep the water from freezing.   This will save you time, sore backs and damaged waterers that split open by ice.  Pickering Valley Feed stocks the two items listed below.  Get yours now and beat the rush at the first freeze.

Miller 125Watt Heater Base

Prevent water from freezing with the
Miller HB125 Water Heat Base F/Fount. This mechanism is
designed for use with double wall fountains and other metal
containers. Cord should be protected from animals and used
with a ground fault protected outlet.The unit will not draw
electricity until temperatures drop below freezing.
Uses 125 watts and is perfect for outdoor use in a dry sheltered area.

This 3.3 gallon poultry fountainby Allied Precision allows ice free water for your chickens all winter.
  • 100 watts, 120 volts
  • Energy efficient, does not overheat the water
  • Thermostatically controlled, keeps drinking water ice free
  • Large 3.3 gallon capacity, 6' heavy duty cord with cord
         storage under unit
  • Easy-fill plug on bottom with built in funnel and

         multiple heating units.

TIP #11

TIME TO ADD LIGHT

Well, it is the middle of August and if you haven’t added light to the inside of your chicken coop, now is the time.

Please keep in mind, chickens lay eggs for reproductive purposes and not for your benefit of eating their eggs. They will naturally slow down producing eggs in the late fall and winter unless you can fool them into continuing to lay. The rate of lay has more to do with the number of hours of daylight (photo-stimulatory period) than temperature.

To make sure your hens are getting adequate light, set up a timer in your chicken coop hooked up to a 60 watt bulb. Beginning in July, have the light come on around 5:30 am and turn off at 9 pm. This step needs to be done during the summer before fall arrives, since the daylight hours have already begun to reduce.  If you wait till September or October, you will be too late.  Those of you who are awaiting your first eggs from chickens that hatched back in the spring, light will be the determining factor.  If you don’t add light, you may not see your first egg until early spring.

You can find timers with two sets of on and off so you don’t have to be running the light when it is truly daylight. Using the new energy savings screw in fluorescent bulbs will have minimal impact on your electric bill.

Not following this routine will most likely result in your hens ceasing egg production later this fall and not resume laying until late winter or early spring.

TIP #10

Keep Your Chickens Cool This Summer

Well... It's the end of July and we are into our fifth heat wave of the season.  The weather man isn’t giving us much hope for a break either.  Chickens react adversely to high temperatures like people do and we need to give them a little help.

Since chickens do not sweat, they release heat by rapid respiration. You will see them panting like a dog, taking dust baths, stretching out their legs and wings and of course finding some shade.

The ideal temperature range for chickens is from 65o to 75oF.  As  the temperature rises, you
will begin to notice a reduction in feed consumption.  In addition, egg size could shrink and 
the quality of the egg shell diminishes.  At 85o to 90oF, egg production slows and it is time to
begin the cooling  procedures.  Above 95oF there is  a real  danger  of heat prostration resulting
in the possibilities of fatalities.   Egg production could cease and feed consumption drastically
is reduced.

The following are steps you can take to reduce the effect of high temperatures on your flock….

  • Provide an area of shade outside of the coop.
  • Make sure there is plenty of cool fresh water which means that you should be changin it several times a day.  Adding ice to the water would be helpful.
  • Circulate the air.  Chickens need plenty of ventilation.  Use fans to move the air and exhaust stale air out of the coop.  Make sure windows, doors and vents are open.
  • Hose down the exterior of the coop.  This can be easily accomplished with a rooftop sprinkler system.  The evaporation of this water will aid in cooling the interior.
  • Don’t offer foods that create body heat such as cracked corn and scratch.  These are better added to their diet in cold weather months.  Stick with layer pellets or crumbles.
  • Offer cold or frozen treats.  Frozen fruit and vegetables are a wonderful treat for your birds. Frozen watermelon, peaches and tomatoes are eagerly devoured and will help cool them down while providing additional water for hydration.
  • Add electrolytes to their drinking water to help replenish the ones they are loosing. 
  • Provide frozen ice packs.  Freeze water in 2 liter soda bottles and lay them on the floor of the coop or in shady areas.  Chickens will lay against them or perch on them thus helping to keep them cooler.

Following these steps will help keep your flock healthy, happy and cool during this HOT Summer.


You can find timers with two sets of on and off so you don’t have to be running the light when it is truly daylight. Using the new energy savings screw in fluorescent bulbs will have minimal impact on your electric bill.

Not following this routine will most likely result in your hens ceasing egg production later this fall and not resume laying until late winter or early spring.

TIP #9

Why are my hens eating the eggs?

Chicken owners frequently tell me that they are not getting the egg production they thought they would and ask me what they are doing wrong.  Most commonly, after a series of questions, it becomes quite evident that they have an "Egg Eater" in their flock.  This is a situation that must be addressed because it will not cease by itself and will only get worse.

What are the causes?

  • Fragile egg shells due to a lack of calcium in the diet.
  • Overcrowded living conditions
  • Too few nesting boxes for the flock
  • Insufficient bedding in the nesting boxes
  • Too much light in the coop

Here are some things you can do to change or prevent this behavior.

  • Add oyster shell in their diet for stronger egg shells
  • Collect eggs more frequently... 2 to 3 times per day if possible
  • Reduce lighting in the nesting area providing a more calm atmosphere
  • Add nesting boxes to a level of at least one for every four hens
  • Provide at least 2 inches of dry nesting material in the nest boxes...  straw, hay or pine shavings
  • Mix 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper in a beat up egg and offer it to you flock.  Your hens will find this not to their liking and break the habit

As a final option, identify the problem hen and remove her from the flock.  Look for the one with

the brightest red comb.  Also look for signs of eggshell or yoke on her beak.  Removing the guilty will prevent others from learning this bad behavior.

The following are steps you can take to reduce the effect of high temperatures on your flock….

  • Provide an area of shade outside of the coop.
  • Make sure there is plenty of cool fresh water which means that you should be changin it several times a day.  Adding ice to the water would be helpful.
  • Circulate the air.  Chickens need plenty of ventilation.  Use fans to move the air and exhaust stale air out of the coop.  Make sure windows, doors and vents are open.
  • Hose down the exterior of the coop.  This can be easily accomplished with a rooftop sprinkler system.  The evaporation of this water will aid in cooling the interior.
  • Don’t offer foods that create body heat such as cracked corn and scratch.  These are better added to their diet in cold weather months.  Stick with layer pellets or crumbles.
  • Offer cold or frozen treats.  Frozen fruit and vegetables are a wonderful treat for your birds. Frozen watermelon, peaches and tomatoes are eagerly devoured and will help cool them down while providing additional water for hydration.
  • Add electrolytes to their drinking water to help replenish the ones they are loosing. 
  • Provide frozen ice packs.  Freeze water in 2 liter soda bottles and lay them on the floor of the coop or in shady areas.  Chickens will lay against them or perch on them thus helping to keep them cooler.

Following these steps will help keep your flock healthy, happy and cool during this HOT Summer.


You can find timers with two sets of on and off so you don’t have to be running the light when it is truly daylight. Using the new energy savings screw in fluorescent bulbs will have minimal impact on your electric bill.

Not following this routine will most likely result in your hens ceasing egg production later this fall and not resume laying until late winter or early spring.

TIP #8

What determines egg color?

Do white hens lay white eggs and brown chickens
lay brown eggs?  Or… is it the color of the chicken’s
ear lobes?  Some people say that chickens with
white ear lobes produce white eggs and those
with red ear lobes produce brown.  This may be
true in some cases but not all.

Actually, chicken eggs appear in three main colors, white, brown, and green to blue shades.  The color of the egg is determined by the breed’s genetics.  Eggs will appear in varying colors and shades due to different pigments which are deposited as the eggs move through the hen's oviduct.  Some breeds like Blue Andalusians produce snow white eggs while Cukoo Marans have dark chocolate brown looking eggs and Ameraucanas giving us a range of colors from green to blue to even pink.

The color of the egg shell has nothing to due with the taste.  Flavor is determined based on the food the chicken eats.  Chickens who are allowed to free range tend to produce healthier and better tasting eggs.  They consume minerals, vegetation, insects and worms resulting in bright orange yokes unlike their commercially raised cousins whose yokes are pale yellow.

TIP #7

How many hens should I get?

Customers ask me all the time, how many hens should they get? 
Of course my response will vary for each family based on family
size, how often you eat eggs for breakfast and how often you
bake.  As a general rule 10 production egg laying hens age 8 to
24 months will provide on average 7 eggs a day.  Most hens will
go into a molting period for 2-3 months each year around late
summer/early fall.  During this is a time nutrition is redirected
toward growing new feathers, resulting in a down time
in egg production.

Other considerations are different breeds are better egg
producers that others.  We group them into the
following categories.

Best Egg Layers...       Production Reds, Ideal 236 Leghorns

Excellent Egg Layers...   Plymouth Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, California Whites, Black Australorps, Production Blacks, the Sexlink varieties  (Black, Brown, Gold and Red), Ameraucanas, Naked Necks

Very Good Egg Layers...    New Hampshire Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Blue Andalusians Black or Buff Minorcas, Dominiques, Danish Brown Leghorns, Anconas, White Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Whites

Good Egg Layers...     Buff Orpingtons, Partridge Rocks, Speckled Sussex, Brahmas, Jersey Giants (Black or White), Golden Laced Wyandottes, Delawares, Buff Rocks, Dark Cornish

This list represents the most popular breeds we carry but is by no means complete.

TIP #6

When will I start to get eggs?

With some variations between breeds, hens typically are ready to lay eggs between 18 and 26 weeks of age.
Translated, if you get your chicks now, you should see results this fall.  But........ First you must remember that chickens are laying eggs for reproductive purposes and not for your benefit of eating their eggs.  Mother Nature tells them that raising young in cold weather is not the smartest thing to do however, temperature has little to do with egg production.  It is the number of hours of daylight that will trigger this activity.  We will discuss this more in upcoming weeks but just to bring you up to speed now, hens need a consistent 16 hours of light to keep or in this case begin laying eggs.  Climate also has something to do with egg production. If temperatures are below freezing, or well above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, your chicken(s) may not lay, of course within breeds there are always exceptions to your chickens' rules.
TIP #5

How do I introduce baby chicks to my existing flock?

Keep in mind baby chicks need heat during their first weeks.  If you have a broody hen, you may be able to remove the eggs she is sitting on and slip some chicks under her.  Keep a close eye on her to see if she will
take them as her own.  Frequently, she will raise them for you.  She will keep them warm, show them to food and water and protect them from the rest of your flock. 

If you don’t have a hen that will do this, you will have to raise them inside until they are about 6 weeks old and fully feathered.  Introduce them to your existing flock in the cage in which you raised them.  Sit the cage in your chicken house giving the adults the time to get used to seeing them without being able to pick at them.  After a few days, open the door to the chick’s cage to allow them to go in and out as they please while giving them a place they feel safe to retreat to.  This method usually results in a non-event.
TIP #4

How do I deal with the Pecking Order?

You certainly have heard of a “Pecking Order”. 
Well, this is where the phrase came from.  Any flock of chickens, regardless of size, will have a dominant hen.
This dominance is established through pecking.  This is a normal behavior that occurs and usually results in a peaceful hierarchy among the members of the flock. Occasionally, however, this pecking results in injury of the submissive bird. 

What should you do?  First remove the injured bird. The cannibalistic nature of chickens will turn nasty if
left unchecked.  Once a chicken gets the taste of blood, it will continue this behavior to the point of destruction of the weaker bird.   Sometimes it may also benecessary to confine the   “bully”. 

Treating the injured bird will require first aid just like in humans.  Cleaning the wound with soap and water and applying some form of antiseptic like “Blue Coat” or Neosporin.  Keep the bird in a clean environment and check for infection.  Do not re-introduce the bird back to the flock until the wound is totally healed.   Make sure the birds are not over-crowded.

TIP # 3

Are baby chicks when hatched, the same
color as the adult of that breed?

Not necessarily.  Some varieties are very different and some not at all. Chicks of black breeds will frequently have a yellow or creamy color in some places, and chicks of the white breeds may be smutty or have dark patches in the down. Breeds such as Golden Lakenvelders which as and adult are golden on the body with a black head and tail will be the reverse as a chick. Some breeds as a chick have markings more resembling a chipmunk.  The true color begins to appear when the first feathers begin to show and after the first downy covering of the chick has disappeared.
TIP # 2

Starting out with different breeds…..

Baby Chicks are nothing if not inquisitive.  They are attracted to differences rather than similarities. 
“You have spots”… “You have feathers on your toes”…
“You are a different color then me”…  The problem is that they check out these differences out by pecking. 
What started out as innocent behavior just got ugly because the pecking drew blood.  Chickens are drawn to the taste of blood and the color red.


How do you stop or even prevent this behavior?
I recommend using an infrared bulb.  The red bulb does a few important things.  First, it tends to hide the differences to a great extent more than a traditional white bulb.  Secondly, if they do happen to break the skin and draw blood, the red bulb makes everything red so they don’t see the red blood.  Lastly, since you need the bulb for heat 24/7.  The red bulb won’t stress them out giving them a spectrum of light that imitates night time, where as a regular white bulb would be like it being daytime around the clock.

By the time they no longer need the light for heat, they will have become used to each other and this behavior will be behind them.

Another means to keep your chicks occupied is a new product, BabyCakes.  BabyCakes make a great treat for your baby chicks. They are designed as a high-calorie supplement for your chicks.  Ingredients promote digestive health with elevated amounts of fiber and probiotics. It also helps prevent boredom in the brooder. Their attention will be redirected to BabyCakes keeping peace and harmony in your brooder.  Chicks younger than two weeks do not have adequate digestive systems for sudden introduction to rich foods. Hold off using BabyCakes until you see the need, usually after the second or third week.  BabyCakes is not a complete ration, but a fun treat for chicks two to eight weeks old!

Hang BabyCakes in your brooder or place it in a feeder off the brooder floor. Make sure it will not tip over! Begin by offering it to your two-week-olds for an hour, and then increasing the time gradually over the course of two weeks.  By the fourth week, the treat can be left out for several hours a day. Make certain that you keep the BabyCakes away from any heat source (such as the heat lamp in your brooder).
TIP # 1

Do I need a Rooster?

Every year I get the age old question….
Do I need to get a rooster to get eggs? 

If you are raising chickens just for eggs to eat, you do not need a rooster.  Hens will lay eggs
regardless if they are fertilized or not.  Roosters can be somewhat of a protector for the hens.  They will herd them to a protected area if they sense danger.  They will also show them where there is food and usually let them eat first.  How mannerly is that? 

As for how many roosters should you have…

Depending on the breed, usually 1 male for every 10 hens works well.  I do not recommend more than one rooster unless they are in separate pens.  In the spring especially, roosters will fight over their hens. 

Contact Details

Pickering Valley

Feed and Farm

305 Gordon Dr

Exton, PA 19341

 

Phone: 610-363-8810

Fax: 610-524-6356

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