Episode-1401- Chicken Keeping Questions and Answers

A Group of Our Hens in Conference Mode!

A Group of Our Hens in Conference Mode!

Episode’s 1397 and 1398 on keeping chickens were a big hit and they also generated a large number of questions.  Today we tackle most of the questions that came in.

If this show generates a lot more questions, I will be happy to do another follow up down the road.  The chicken is a remarkably simple animal from a needs stand point.  In the end chickens really need only, protection, housing, control, food, water, some room to roam and a bit of daily up keep to be happy.

As you begin to develop more complex systems that you wish to have your birds interact with though, this simple single element can become more and more complex, leading to a lot of “what ifs”.

Additionally as one moves from a small backyard flock for personal egg production to a larger flock for meat production, an egg business, etc, things do become more complex.  Management of coop, runs, food, water all require more thought to prevent a simple assert from turning into a major time drain.

Join Me Today As I Answer Your Questions On

  • Chicken nipples, what are those, get your mind out of the gutter
  • Nine month old Chickens that have never laid an egg
  • A new hen the rest of the flock just won’t accept
  • What do you do when customers want their eggs washed
  • Are there chicken scraps that should not go to chickens
  • Chicken breeding, genetics, etc.
  • Growing a chicken garden in a dual run system
  • Developing chicken pasture with overseeding
  • Cleaning the coop with bleach, why I may switch to peroxide
  • Isn’t DE just DE why do we need food grade DE for chickens
  • How do you raise a kind and gentle rooster

Resources for today’s show…

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27 Responses to Episode-1401- Chicken Keeping Questions and Answers

  1. Cody (9 month old chicken)


    Haha, no brother they are indeed hens. More info: They were given the “laying food” at around 6 months old and were fed starter scratch until then. I will be searching my yard today to see if they are laying somewhere secluded, but as my yard is small, I will be surprised. Is it possible they are eating the eggs??? I would think I would see shell remnants at least a tad. Thanks for the help!!

    • I purchased 12 Rhode island red hens from a neighbor of mine at about 6 months of age I put them in a chicken tractor on a neighbor’s farm and they were laying good and then they just stop and this went on for about a month until I figured out what the problem was. Turns out that there were predators pestering the bird so bad that they were not lying at all. There were coyotes especially circling the tractor in the daytime and the chickens didn’t like that at all. My solution? Took 1/8 inch plywood sheets and put up a two foot solid border where the chickens could not see out of their pen. They started laughing again in about a week and picked up to full production the next week.

  2. How about an electrical outlet that comes on when the air temperature drop below a certain level….

    • Modern Survival

      Those work too but keep them off the ground if you want them to be accurate. I use those for a lot of things like heating greenhouses.

  3. Not real relevant to today’s show but I just notices the “Granberg Chain Saw Mill” from Northern is on sale today for $139. I’m finishing up my PDC and my project land is heavily wooded so I looked this up to show the couple I’m working with.

  4. Hey Jack,
    Thanks for addressing my question regarding breeding. I agree with your prognosis, I guess my goal on the hen side is to preserve the look/size of the BO hen but a bit better layer. On the rooster side Im hoping to preserve the original genetics of my rooster just because he is awesome in every way, I really lucked out. So Im hoping that after 8 generations, the rooster I get will be my current roosters replacement and then I can mess with the hen side for a new breed as you pointed out. I just wasn’t sure what they would act/look like after 8 generations. Great show again!

    PS. I also use the nipples, attached to 4 inch PVC that is plumbed to a 55 gallon drum. Their drinking station is in an enclosed area of a greenhouse That I built and their roost area is attached to the greenhouse so the water stays fairly warm. The drum is refilled from rain water collected off of the room of the greenhouse, and has an overflow which leads to plants in the greenhouse. It really works great. Even at -15 this past winter in PA, my air temperature dropped to about 25 as a low overnight, but my water temps were up around 50. I have another 55 gallon drum that is attached to a passive solar collector that kept the water really warm as thermal mass for the night times. I have an olive in there and a lot of citrus.

    • Modern Survival

      Um a bird that lays better then the orpington but maintains the body size and dual purpose nature of it. Just FYI, it has been done, that is exactly what the australorp is. Sure they are generally black but that is just how the genetics worked out. If you look at a black orpington and a black astralorp you will have a very hard time telling the difference. The astralorp is basally an improved orpington.

      Ironically it is based on the RIR and Orpington (black) but other things are in there including Minorca, White Leghorn and Langshan. It is possible that some Plymouth Rock blood is in there as well.

      I am not saying the you should not work on this, just if what you really want is an orpington that maintains meat quality and lays like an RIR, that is the astralorp.

    • I did actually know about the australorp, I managed to get some actual local chickens so I was hoping to work with local genetics at the same time. Im going to try and prove them out for things like improved foraging, winter hardiness etc, as it relates to my local area. Kinda like a local in season recipe book that Geoff Lawton talks about. The whole chicken thing is so much fun, for the whole family! Id like to hear you do a show on your experience keeping bees so far, Im a fairly new bee keeper myself and its always good to hear from other newbies particularly in a permaculture context.

  5. mthomesteaded

    A great bleach alternative I’ve been using for general cleaning is 1 1/2 cups of 3% H2O2, 1 tbsp citric acid, 1/2 cup of lemon juice in a gallon container filled with water. Should work in the coop as well.

  6. I bet Cody’s hens are just laying somewhere else and he just doesn’t know where the eggs are being laid. My hens are well trained to the nesting box, but awhile back I noticed the number of blue eggs we were getting seemed pretty low and I wondered if one of my two Easter Eggers was into henopause. Then one day I while weeding I found about 16 blue eggs in a nice little nest made in the strawberry patch deep under an apple tree. I think Cody should look around under bushes and figure out where those eggs are. I’m guessing they’re somewhere on his property.

  7. It would be nice if you could attach a little camera on the chicken’s head to see where it goes during the day. Mine seem to disappear sometimes but they always come back.

    • Modern Survival

      I can see it now, “The GoPro Cluck”

    • Funny you should mention that. We just ordered a GoPro harness to put on the Dogs/Pigs/Sheep etc. Chickens would be tough. I think you’d need an air-sickness bag to watch the footage 😉

  8. Hi Jack,

    Could you explain a little bit more about the genetics break down? I don’t really understand how a chicken who has 50% of its genetics coming from a bird with 100% gene A, and 50% of its genetics coming from a bird with 50% gene A / 50% gene B. So in my rudimentary understanding, the chicken would be comprised of 75% gene A, and 25% gene B.
    The concept of this being different is very intriguing. So I believe what you described is this chicken with the breeding I described above would have 66. 67% gene A and 33.33% to gene B.
    Thank you for being a constant teacher,

    • Modern Survival

      Making it as simple as I can.

      Take a type A breed it to type B, you have 50% of each gene pool.

      Now take an animal that is 50-50 Type AB and breed it to a 100% A.

      50% of the genetics are now 100% from type A. Now I know what you are thinking, the AB cross back bred gives 25% of A and 25% of B. So 75% A and 25% B in the final result.

      But it isn’t that simple, what we have are contributions of 100% on one side and 50-50 on the other. So the contributions are A+A+B. Each piece is a third of the final Genotype.

      You can drop types in a punnet square to make it more clear if you wish.

      So take a punnet square and put A on one axis and B on the other. A and B here are not individual traits but representative of the entire code. It doesn’t take a genius to see you are going to get 100% ABs

      Now make a square and put A on one access and AB on the other. Again this is the full code not a single trait.

      What do you get, since both sides contribute half of ALL they have?

      You get 100% AABs 66.6%A 33.4%B

      Simple but confusing.

      • Unfortunately this simplification is misleading. In your example you can’t say that a bird has three pieces of the code. Each bird can only get two parts not three. The off-spring get half of AA, call it 50%AA, and half of AB, which would be 50%AB. So the birds are A+50%A+50%B or 150%A+50%B. Not A+A+B.

        • Modern Survival

          You are correct and it doesn’t matter. I tried to make it simple enough to understand for someone that didn’t understand it at all.

          Frankly from a PRACTICAL standpoint my explanation is completely and totally accurate.

  9. This isn’t going to help, but 3 years ago, we made an order of chicks from hatchery that did the same as Cody’s hens. It was the whole bunch that didn’t lay until they were 10-11 months old and then not very well. The hatchery blamed it on me( I have been raising chickens for more than 15 years), however other folks that bought from the same hatchery that year, also had the same problem, so needless to say, we never purchased from them again. Bad Breeding,

  10. Yes, please do a show in hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. This is information I’d love to know!!!

  11. On chicken nipples. I heard a guest on another podcast (not TSP) state that chickens will not drink as much from the nipples as they will a traditional water can, especially when they are sick and may need more water. Has anyone observed this? It’s the only negative thing I’ve heard on using the nipples. I only have four hens now so changing the water out is not so bad, but I can see how they would be very useful for a lager flock!

    • Modern Survival

      All I can say is they prefer to drink from tanks, traditional waters, etc.

      This is why I only use them in the confined areas like the coop and “duck yard”. That way they have water if they want/need it at night and early in the AM before let out, but I can tell you they all hit up the 15 gallon tubs hard first thing in the AM.

    • Thanks Jack.

  12. Just wanted to toss out a


    for the idea of doing a Peroxide and / or Vinegar show!

  13. Thanks for answering my question about raising a friendly rooster. The rooster that broke his spur off in my leg was a Black Australorp. I didn’t raise him from a chick but he was meaner than the Devil. As I listened to Jack’s answer, I remember the only rooster I’ve ever had that wasn’t mean was a Rhode Island Red. I did have a RI Red once that was mean, but I also have a barred rock hen that is setting on a dozen eggs too and they generally don’t go broody.

  14. Regarding language evolution, there’s a great children’s chapter book called Frendle. Its a story about how language changes, by following the specific example of the word “Frendle.” It’s a quick read. Only takes about an hour and a half.

  15. Another idea to deal with frozen waterers is to “feed” your chickens snow. This past winter, my water nipples froze up, just like Jack mentioned. Being too busy to come back every few hours to hit them with a heat gun or hair dryer, I just brought a few buckets of snow for my hens. They dived right in and seemed no worse for wear, even after a few days of “solid water”, egg production didn’t change, which I assume would be one of the first indicators of stress from anything, including thirst. Oh, and don’t forget to collect your eggs every night!! By morning, they are completely frozen!