I will be spending a bit more time counting my chickens from now on.
If you were watching the Chicken Cam over the weekend, you saw chicken math in operation. On Saturday, I brought home the newest additions to my flock. And now I’d like to introduce them to you.
Meet Marigold and Betty. They are Easter Egger pullets that are almost seven weeks old.
Marigold and Betty join my Dominiques, Mabel and Petunia, and Gold-Penciled Hamburg, Hazel. For anyone who’s counting, that’s five chickens. I’m now at my maximum flock size, at least until I build a larger chicken coop. (And, believe me, I’ve already been dropping not-so-subtle hints to my husband about the need for a bigger coop.)
I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my new Easter Egger chickens, and this post is intended to answer those questions and some of the general questions you may have about adding chickens to the flock.
1. Why did I get more chickens?
The easy answer is that I am a crazy chicken lady obsessed with all things chicken. But, of course, that is only a partial explanation.
All three of my existing flock are three years old, which means they are getting past the peak of their egg production. At this point, they are all still regular layers, but I didn’t want to wait until they all reached henopause before I added more birds.
From now on, I plan to add a couple of new chickens every few years to maintain the flock. The older girls will NOT become dinner, even when they stop laying; I will let them live out their days as beloved family pets.
2. Where did I get the chickens?
Marigold and Betty came from the same place as Mabel, Hazel, and Petunia (and dearly departed Penelope): my sister-in-law Jen. Jen got them as newly-hatched baby chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa.
When you order chicks to be shipped from a hatchery, generally you must order a minimum number that may be a lot more chicks than you want, need, or have room for. Jen ordered 25, the hatchery threw in a couple extra, and all 27 chicks survived. Although Jen lives on a small farm with lots of room for chickens, she didn’t need 27 additional birds. She brooded them all, gave two to me, and gave several more to our other sister-in-law.
And they arrived well-brooded. They already have learned important chicken behaviors, like scratching and pecking and roosting, and they already are eating garden scraps like lettuce and strawberry tops. Thanks, Jen, for taking such good care of them.
3. What are Easter Egger chickens?
Easter Egger chickens are a mix of the Araucana and Ameraucana bloodlines, which have their roots in Chili and are named after Arauca Indian tribe. Easter Eggers are known for their colored eggs that range from turquoise to olive to pink, hence the name.
Adult Easter Egger chickens are medium-sized birds that come in a variety of colors. They are cold hardy, adapt well to confinement, and have calm dispositions. They are popular backyard chickens because of these traits and their colorful eggs.
4. How did I introduce the new chickens to the other chickens?
When I introduced the new chickens, they were confined to a large cat carrier with their own food and water. At first, I simply set the carrier in the chicken pen and let the other birds check it out.
After a bit, I opened the door to the carrier. Before too long, the pullets were sticking their heads out, and soon they ventured out into the pen to explore. The others mostly ignored them, although there was a good amount of wing-flapping and feather-puffing by all five birds over the course of the first day.
When the other birds went into the coop to roost, I put the pullets back in the carrier for the night, although they seemed ready to roost on the tree branch jungle gym in the back of the pen. In the morning, I let them out with the others. So far, the three big hens seem to be pretty accepting of the newbies, although I’ve seen Mabel administer a couple of pecks to Betty’s head when she got too close.
After a couple of nights of separation to ensure that everyone has adjusted to one another, I will move the littles into the coop with the big girls.
5. What do I feed the chickens?
My suburban chickens eat commercial chicken feed supplemented with:
- Scratching grains with added grit that I toss around the pen
- Garden and kitchen scraps (mostly vegetables)
- Meal worm treats
- Whatever bugs they catch in their pen.
I may vary from this general diet from time to time to address particular needs. For example, I will add extra protein when the hens are molting to promote new feather growth.
As for the kind of commercial feed I use, before I got the new birds, I was using NatureWise layer feed. Layer feed contains 16 percent protein and a calcium supplement to promote egg production.
With the addition of the pullets, I switched to NatureWise non-medicated starter/grower feed. It contains 18 percent protein, which helps the rapidly growing chicks develop, but does not contain added calcium, which can damage the kidneys of chicks younger than 18 weeks of age.
Because it is not practical to feed the younger birds separately from the older, I will feed them all grower feed until the pullets reach 18 weeks of age. The additional protein won’t hurt the older hens, and I will provide crushed oyster shells to the older hens to make up for the temporary lack of calcium.
A note about medicated vs. non-medicated feed: Medicated feed contains Amprolium to prevent coccidiosis, a common chicken malady, until the chicks develop their own immunities. It is a personal choice to feed one or the other. I have never used medicated feed because my chickens are kept in a clean, dry, and uncrowded environment that I believe promotes the development of natural immunities.
Did I answer all your questions about my new Easter Egger chickens? If not, please ask any additional questions you have in the comments section below.