Pastured Chicken: Huge Potential for Your Meat Birds

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So this was “big news” – all over the Internet a few months ago. The story was picked up by news outlets worldwide. And it was a good story:  A 12 year old  4-H kid,  in Texas who raised this huge, 23 pound chicken. It made me curious – the stories claimed it might be the world’s largest chicken.

I wondered who held the record? What breed of chickens were these? What’s the story behind this? And when I began to dig into it a little more, it got even more interesting…at least for us chicken people.

It turns out, Dakota’s 23.47 pound chicken (named “Big Mac”) did not break the record. The record was considered to be held by “Big Boy”, weighing in at 24.18 pounds, raised by Sue and Don Ritter. It was mentioned they raised him as pastured poultry, on grass.

Now in case you aren’t familiar with it, pastured poultry is where your chickens are in movable cages and every day (or every few days) you move them to a fresh area of grass. This way, they’re raised eating the grass, weeds, bugs as well as their feed, which is generally organic. You can do this with chickens raised for meat or for eggs. There’s a lot of benefits to doing it this way:

  • Healthier birds
  • Healthier meat
  • It can be more cost effective
  • Cleaner
  • More environmentally sustainable and more natural for the birds
  • If you’re raising a hybrid meat bird, bred to gain weight quickly, they generally don’t do well free ranging. This is a great way to keep them safe and get them the fresh “pasture” to eat.

Now all of this stuff I find really interesting but it’ll take too long to go into it all here so we’ll have to save that for another blog post! This is something being used by farmers and backyard people because it makes a lot of sense.

But let’s move on to the record holding chicken, shall we? Sue and Don raise chickens for meat and eggs and have a thriving business. One unique aspect is they raise chickens for Thanksgiving instead of turkeys. They decided they liked the taste better (I’m in agreement here) so every year they raise some birds to a dressed weight (meaning what they weigh when you buy them) of 10 to 18 pounds, enough for the holiday dinner. Customers claim this is the sweetest, best tasting chicken they’re ever had.

Now this is not something your Perdues and Tysons can do. They’ve got a strict schedule in the factory: the birds reach a certain age, they should be within a weight range. They’re butchered. Done! Next batch, coming in! It’s an assembly line process because that’s the only way they can keep their profit margin high. And we’re talking thousands and thousands of birds at a time.

The Ritters weren’t trying to break any record. They noticed Big Boy was 18 or 19 pounds and they decided to see how large he’d get. The thing is with broiler type chickens, they generally are known for a lot of health issues. They gain so much weight, so fast they tend to have leg problems; they love to eat and can even die from overeating. People usually butcher them at 6-8 weeks of age when they’ll weigh out at about 5-7 pounds. These breeds aren’t meant to live long.

But obviously the Ritters are doing something right – and different. Their pasture has been free of pesticides and fertilizers for over 35 years. Their feed is certified organic with no animal by-products and the chickens have constant access to the earth, bugs and sunshine. No antibiotics are needed. Don is adamant that grass is the building block for food. Because of all of these factors, Big Boy lived until 18 months old and died when it got a bit too cold in Pennsylvania and the grass stopped growing.

12036394425_7145a69443_zDespite documenting Big Boy with photos and videos, he was sadly not accepted by the Guinness Book of World Records. They no longer keep records for livestock weight. But the Ritters have started their 2016 season.  And what about 12 year old Dakota and his chicken? Dakota’s Dad said he was probably giving up chickens, due to the early morning feeding. And they planned to use “Big Mac” in gumbo.



For more information on things mentioned in this post go to:
Sue & Don Ritter’s website:
Dakota’s “Big Mac”:
Pastured Poultry information:
Chicken photo courtesy of:
Gumbo photo courtesy of:


Chick Hatchery Guide: Get Started With Day Old Chicks

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Hand in hand with our previous article about armchair gardening we put together a handy list of hatcheries for those looking to start raising themselves some fine feathered friends. Believe it or not, hatcheries routinely ship chicks across the country via USPS — you just have to be willing to order a minimum number required by the hatchery.


Now is a great time to start raising baby chicks provided you have a warm, draft-free environment. We’ve made sure to include the name, address, phone number, URL, and any thoughts we have about the assorted hatcheries listed below.

Cackle Hatchery
411 W Commercial St
Lebanon, MO 65536

Fairly old and well-established hatchery that is smack dab in the middle of the country. They frequently have sales and have a good reputation. They also have a wide selection of bird types including many rarer ones.

Country Hatchery
P.O. Box 747
Wewoka, OK 74884

A nice, friendly little hatchery that loves to help you select the very best for where you are. They state that they are an old-fashioned business that answers phone calls and they’re right!

Ideal Hatchery
P.O. Box 591
Cameron, TX 76520-0591

Email is manned by real people who actually know about chickens. Very helpful and friendly. Quality is great. Carries: chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, bantams, guineas, pheasants, partridges.

Meyer Hatchery
626 State Route 89
Polk, OH 44866

This is pretty much the standard, go to hatchery on the East Coast and Midwest. That being said, they’re good and they will ship small numbers of chickens during the warm season. They have great customer service by phone, never emailed.

Murray McMurray Hatchery
PO Box 458, 191 Closz Drive
Webster City, IA 50595

Carries started pullets, meat – everything, including “special packages” – a specialty order that contains several types of poultry geared towards a specific purpose, such as the Frying Pan special or the Top Hat.


And here are some other well known hatcheries that we haven’t personally dealt with:

Belt Hatchery
7272 S. West Ave.
Fresno, CA 93706
Phone: 559-264-2090 / Fax: 559-264-2095

Phone, fax and email orders (no online orders). There is an extra charge if you order more than one breed to meet the minimum requirement. They maintain their own breeding flocks.

Dunlap Hatchery
Box 507 – 4703, E. Cleveland Blvd.
Caldwell, Idaho 83606

Established in 1918, they have a store as well and do phone orders, MO and checks.

Hoffman Hatchery
P.O. Box 129
Gratz, PA 17030

Started in 1948 with one small Sears-Roebuck incubator. Family-run business. Only accepts checks and money orders. Orders must be mailed in.

Hoovers Hatchery
P.O. Box 200
Rudd, IA 50471

Established 1944. Free shipping, rare breeds, meat birds, bantams.

Ideal Poultry
PO Box 591
Cameron, TX 76520

Minimum order $25.00. Accepts Paypal. Claim to be the largest supplier of backyard poultry in the United States, shipping close to 5 million chicks annually. Offers surplus chick bargains and make your own mix.

Moyer’s Chicks
266 E. Paletown Road
Quakertown, PA 18951

Started in 1946. They hatch out year-round. They sell their own hybrid cross chickens.

Myers Poultry
966 Ragers Hill Rd.
South Fork, PA 15956

150+ varieties. Payment information must be phoned in.

Purely Poultry
PO Box 466
Fremont WI 54940

300+ breeds of chickens, bantams, ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas, peafowl, pheasants, ornamentals, chukars, swans and quail.

Ridgeway Hatchery
615 N. High St., Box 306
Larue, OH 43332

In business 93 years. Orders are placed online and then you call in your payment information.

Sand Hill Preservation Center
1878 230th Street
Calamus, Iowa 52729

“We are doing this as a hobby business service and we work as fast and efficiently as the time allows. If you are impatient and absolutely have to have something by a certain date, please do us and yourself a favor and order from somewhere else.” Linda and Glenn run this as a labor of love.

Schlecht Hatchery
9749 500th Avenue
Miles, IA 52064

Smaller selection but they do all of their own breeding.

Welp Hatchery
PO Box 77
Bancroft, IA 50517

Started in 1929. Broilers are specialty. Accepts money orders. No additional shipping charges.

Do you have a favorite hatchery or have a comment about one listed here? Tell us about it in a comment below!

AgriCast Digest E11: Interview with Homestead Jenn of Rent the Chicken

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Folks, we’ve got something good for you today. A golden opportunity to make a little extra income doing not much more than what you’re already doing. Gabrielle spoke with Homestead Jenn of last week and there was some great information exchanged there, as well as some links Homestead Jenn gave us for all of you activist types.

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Chickens in the Garden: A Match Made In Heaven

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To those of us who love gardens, weeding and pest control is generally pain more than pleasure. Our first few years gardening was a constant exercise in finding new and innovative ways to avoid weeding or spraying anything nasty on our plants.

We tried wet newspaper first (no one told us that it would blow away!). Then raised beds with the lasagna method. You know, layering wet newspaper, straw, and a manure/topsoil layer then letting it ‘bake’ for a few months under sheets of paper stapled to the edges before ripping it off to plant. The soil turned out awesome. Too bad horses eat a lot of seeds. We introduced more weeds to our garden, but my wife got some great new wild herbs that way and we found that lambsquarters are an excellent ‘wild’ food source. We’ve intentionally grown a bed of it every year since and that soil grew the biggest, sturdiest weeds you ever saw and enough zucchini to choke a horse. If horses ate zucchini. Do they?

Lastly, we set aside our aversion to plastic and started laying landscaping fabric down covered in mulch and planting through it. It’s works okay, but weeds still pop up in there and drive us bananas. But not nearly as bananas as all the bugs make us.

Fortunately, chickens prove to be a delightful solution when you make a controlled introduction to your garden.

The key to success here is a few of things: timing, age, and direction.

Timing (age of plants)

  • Before planting your garden, let the chickens in to scratch, peck, and loosen the soil.

  • Added bonus to letting the chickens get the garden ready: manure!

  • There is an assumption here that you are NOT using chemicals in your garden as they can hurt you, your plants, and any chickens pecking around in there. Even stuff like Bt is coming out now as possibly harmful to humans. Think about it this way: Bt blows up the digestive system of bugs who eat it. GMO’s are infused with Bt so the plant makes its own pesticide. GMO’s are linked mainly to digestive disorders in humans among other things. Therefore, not using Bt on my plants makes some vicarious sense to me!

  • Ensure that the plants are old enough to be picked or scratched at gently by a chicken; it needs to be obviously different from the little picky weeds coming up.

  • When ‘chicken training’ I usually start things off by pulling weeds for a week and tossing them into a pile so they start eating those and getting a taste for them.

  • Once plants start to bear fruit or if you are growing green leafy vegetables, then you may want to run netting around these to keep the chickens out of them.

  • By the time you are ready to start harvesting, the plants are usually big enough to help keep weeds down anyway.

  • Growing a special area just for the chickens is great.

    • oats

    • chard, spinach, lettuces

    • millet

    • beans

  • Chickens can help glean your fields and garden after the season is over.

Age (of your chickens)

  • Any chickens you ‘ask’ to be a weeder in your garden should be a couple of months old.

  • Start them fairly young and you can ‘train’ them to avoid certain plants.

  • Guineas are great for weeding a garden because they’re so small.

Directing your chickens

  • Light netting over garden to prevent hawks from swooping down.

  • Protective caps and other barriers over any tender, young plants.

  • If the chickens start to dig up plants, then put a barrier around it, eventually you will be able to determine which areas are best for the chicken-powered weeding.

  • Generally chickens love to peck at fully formed fruits, vegetables, and green leafy stuff so keep this protected after a certain point. It’s really easy to put in stakes and then wrap some netting around it so you can still get in there and weed it yourself if needed, but by this point it usually isn’t required to weed if you plant close together.

  • Brassicas and other cole crops are usually very safe and very sturdy to be weeded by chickens as are most nightshades. They may peck, but they usually don’t eat much of these.

  • Chickens will eat any and all pests in your garden. So if you are having an infestation of, let’s say, Japanese beetles, then you can still dust wood ashes on the garden and let the chickens go to town on those fellas. The wood ashes won’t bother the chickens and your squash plants will thank you.

  • Down side is that they will eat ANY insect, even beneficial so make sure to encourage the beneficials and even purchase extra lady bugs, etc. if necessary.

For many people, chickens are just glorified egg layers or meat birds until they really get to know them. The benefits of owning chickens number in the hundreds. Aside from production as food, many ethical vegans and vegetarians are starting to keep chickens for the joy they bring. Even better, they are also now making them help-meets in the garden in a completely symbiotic relationship that I can’t help but admire and respect (even though I do eat chickens myself). While the chickens are helping with some of the hard work of weeding, they are feeding themselves and having a great time doing it. Weeding is true chickentainment for both you and the chickens!

Vaccinating Your Chicks Against Marek’s Disease

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Photo by: faungg’s photo

Marek’s disease is a highly contagious and frightening phenomenon, characterized by paralysis of the legs, wings, and neck, vision impairment, weight loss, and raised and roughened skin around feather follicles. This herpes virus infection shows up in various manifestations: neurological, visceral, and cutaneous. It is also highly fatal and if your chickens get the disease, there is no cure. What can one do to protect their flock against Marek’s Disease? Vaccinating your chicks against Marek’s Disease is a good place to start.

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate

While it is common practice to vaccinate all newly hatched chicks in large factory farms, it is not always done in small flocks. Vaccination is an excellent way to prevent the adverse effect of diseases, but even greater is careful sanitation and effective flock management. Small backyard farmers may not vaccinate because they have never had a problem with disease in their flock. That is entirely possible and this is the case with many backyard chickens. Or perhaps they are not aware  disease is present, don’t know how to diagnose a disease or get the disease diagnosed, don’t know where to buy vaccines, or don’t know how to give a vaccine.

Introducing new birds into your flock greatly increases the risk that your birds will be introduced to a new disease as well. If you buy birds from an outside source, it’s a wise idea to vaccinate. If you take your birds to poultry shows or have had problems with disease in the past, it’s a great idea to get your chicks vaccinated.  While it is entirely up to you whether or not to vaccinate your birds, it can save you a whole lot of heartache and hassle later on.

When To Vaccinate Against Marek’s Disease

Chicks are generally vaccinated against Marek’s Disease on the day they hatch. This is done at the hatchery and is given subcutaneously at the back of the chick’s neck. If you order chicks from a hatchery, they should already be vaccinated for Marek’s Disease. Be sure to ask just in case!

Chicks between the age of 2-16 weeks are quite susceptible to Marek’s Disease, so if your chicks hatched at home or you purchased them from a supplier that did not vaccinate before delivery, consider vaccinating yourself. The vaccine can be purchased online from livestock supply companies such as Jeffers Livestock. Here is a link for Marek’s Disease vaccine for day old chicks: read more here.  Since it must be administered to day old-chicks, order before your chicks hatch. Your local farm supply store may also have the vaccine.

Common Egg Layer Health Problems

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Photo by: HA! Designs – Artbyheather

No one buys chickens imagining images of sick birds, death, and heartache. Yet this is a real risk involved in owning animals of any type. If you’re ever owned a pet, you know firsthand how traumatic it can be when your beloved friend becomes seriously ill and/ or passes away. Yet, don’t let the fear of sickness and losing birds keep you from keeping your own flock of chickens. Prepare yourself that things might happen and that a chicken death will happen eventually (even if it is just old age). Also, educate yourself about common chicken health problems and how you can avoid or alleviate these issues. There’s a good chance you’ll never run into chicken health problems of any kind. It’s still a great idea to be prepared. Here are a few common problems to get you started.

Egg-Bound Chickens

Sometimes, in humans, a baby grows too large to easily and naturally fit through the birth canal. Before the advent of modern medicine, this was often a fatal complication. A similar conundrum sometimes occurs in chickens. Sometimes, an egg becomes too large to fit through the chicken’s vent. A chicken who is egg bound will often be lethargic. She may be straining and doesn’t feel that great. If the bound egg is not removed, she will die. 48 hours is as long as you have. It’s time to act.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to help your hen out of this painful situation. Wearing a glove, lubricate your finger and gently insert it into the chicken’s vent, gently squeezing or massaging the hen’s abdomen with the other hand to help ease the egg out of the bird with slow and steady pressure. Be very careful not to damage your chicken’s insides! If at all possible, avoid breaking the egg. Egg material left inside your chicken can cause infection and/ or death.  If you have any questions or cannot help the egg dislodge, call your vet or an experienced chicken-raising friend.

Prolapse Vent

Sometimes, such as if a hen has laid an unusually large egg for example, the lower part of a hen’s oviduct turns inside out. It protrudes visibly through the chicken’s vent. A prolapsed vent is quite serious and likely to recur, but it is also quite treatable if treated immediately. Should the prolapsed vent be left out, it is possible that the chicken’s oviduct and/or intestines will be pulled out  or that it will become cut and infected. The chicken will die. Sorry for the graphic nature, but it is true. Exposed wounds simply ask for trouble; your other chickens will peck at her. Should you notice a protruding area of pink or red behind your chicken’s vent, manually push it back inside and apply hemorrhoid cream. Carefully watch for a reoccurrence and handle the issue immediately.

Respiratory Infections

Just like people, chickens can suffer from a wide range of respiratory infections. Severe respiratory infections can be fatal if not treated (others clear up on their own). Infectious bronchitis, fowl pox, avian influenza, infectious coryza, and swollen head syndrome are just a few of many examples. This is a great source of information about chicken respiratory infections and diseases: read more here.  The Poultry Guide also offers an excellent guide about common chicken diseases: Poultry Guide.

Interesting Facts About Chicken Eggs

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The egg is a pretty simple thing.  Full of protein and very inexpensive, the egg is part of human diets worldwide and has been for thousands of years. Its smooth and unassuming texture and taste lend it to usage in cooking styles of innumerable variety. Yet, have you ever sat and contemplated the egg? It may be more interesting than you think.

Why Do Some Chickens Lay White Eggs and Others Brown Eggs?

The color of the chicken, and specifically the color of the chicken’s earlobes, determines the color of the egg. Sounds strange, right? Yet, according to NPR, it is absolutely true ( According to the American Egg Board, feather color also determines egg color. If a chicken has white ear lobes, its eggs will be white. If it has brown or reddish ear lobes, its eggs will be brown. There are always exceptions to this rule, but in general the ear lobe rule works well. Egg color is a breed characteristic. Neither white nor brown eggs are healthier. An egg is an egg.

Egg size, just like color, is dependent on the breed of chicken. Egg size is also determined by the age and weight of the chicken.

Have Chicken Eggs Always Been About the Same Size?

If you read a recipe from Colonial America, one thing will stand out right away. They called for a ridiculous amount of eggs, such as 7-8 per recipe! Why? The eggs laid by the typical colonial backyard chicken were considerably smaller than the average supermarket egg of today. As chickens eggs entered the mass-produced, grocery-store market, consumers sought large, generally white, and uniform sized eggs in their prepackaged dozen. Breeds that produced these large, white eggs, such as the Leghorn, were chosen over traditional breeds. While many egg colors and sizes exist, the large, white Leghorn egg has become a standard in modern society.  If you have a variety of backyard birds, don’t expect your eggs to all be the same size and color. You’re sure to get a much more eclectic mix!

Did Sailors Really Bring Chickens on the Ships of Old?

Yes! It was extremely common to find small chicken coops on sailing ships throughout history. There was no better way to provide the crew with fresh eggs than to keep some low maintenance chickens on board. Other ships carried huge amounts of livestock to meet the needs of passengers. The Great Britain (1852-1876) carried 550 chickens on its 1861 voyage from Melbourne to England, as well as lambs, oxen, 30 pigs, 250 ducks, 55 turkeys, and 150 sheep. Now that’s one full ship (including, of course, the 750 passengers and 130 crew members) (

Egg-Laying Has Nothing to Do With A Rooster

One last egg-related thought for you: Do you have to have a rooster in order for your hens to lay eggs? No. Hens will lay eggs whether or not they have ever seen a rooster in their life. A rooster is not a necessary part of your flock if you want eggs. If you want fertilized eggs and thus chicks, a rooster is required.

Who knew eggs were so interesting?



A Guide to Feeding Chickens

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In order for them to live up to their full potential, your backyard chickens must eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet.  Layers need the right kind and amount of feed to lay quality eggs. Broilers need the right kind and amount of feed to gain weight in a healthy way.  This is slightly more complicated than merely picking up a bag of feed at your local farm supply store.  Chickens can benefit greatly from foraging as well as from some table scraps. Other table scraps are toxic to chickens and if your birds are given these common items with their daily meal, it’ll ruin your day. How can you know just what to feed your flock?

Type and Amount of Feed Changes Over Time

Chick starter feed, with a protein level of 20 to 22%, is required for chicks from hatching until they are 6 weeks old. After that, pullet grower feed is the way to go. This has 14-16% protein and you feed this to your layers until they are about 20 weeks old. After 20 weeks and for the duration of your chicken’s life, feed them layer feed. Grains like corn or barley can be substituted for part of your layer feed.

How much should you feed your birds? Resist the urge to feed too much. While some backyard farmers prefer to leave out a constant supply of food, this is really not the healthiest choice for your birds. Feed several times a day and not in between. This will also reduce the risk of attracting pests like rats and mice. Young chicks will eat about 2 to 2.9 lbs of chick starter feed for their first six weeks. For the entire pullet phase, your growing chicks will eat a total of 12-13 lbs of feed. Layers then consume 1.8 to 2.4 lbs of feed each week for the remainder of their lives. Like people, there will naturally be periods when your birds want to eat a bit more or a bit less.

Broilers are different. From hatching to six weeks, a growing broiler can be expected to consumer 30-50 lbs of broiler starter feed. Then, from six weeks until slaughter, they’ll consume another 16-20 lbs of broiler finish feed. Talk to knowledgeable staff at your local farm supply store to find just the right feed for your flock and for advice on feeding should you have any questions.

Scraps—To Feed or Not to Feed

Table scraps alone are not a well balanced diet for your chickens, but they can be a wonderful treat if fed in moderation. Many sources suggest waiting until your birds are 3-4 months old before you begin feeding them table scraps because before that they desperately need the high protein levels found in chicken feed in order to grow and develop properly. Most vegetables, both cooked or raw, are perfectly safe to feed your chickens and offer some great nutritional value too. Bread, grains, oatmeal, cooked meats, and most fruits are safe too. Chickens love table scraps!

Don’t throw your flock every single kitchen scrap you have, though. Raw potato skins are toxic to chickens. Avocado skins and pits can be fatal too, as can chocolate.  Garlic and onions won’t hurt your birds but can seriously affect the taste of your eggs. As a rule avoid giving your chickens processed foods, greasy foods, spoiled or rotten foods, or raw meat. Got it?

Foraging for Healthier Eggs and Meat

One great benefit that free-range chickens reap is the ability to forage for plants, insects, and worms. This means added nutrients. Birds allowed to forage are believed to produce healthier, better quality eggs and meat. Still, these birds require a healthy diet of chicken feed and can also benefit from scraps.  Foraging will probably have more benefits for your backyard than for your chickens, but it is still highly beneficial.

How To Keep Your Flock Happy

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You’ve finally set up the chicken coop of your dreams. Your chicks have arrived, your chicken run is clean and ready for action, and your mind is brimming with idealic thoughts of pecking backyard fowl dotting your perfect backyard. Likely your visions don’t include sickness and death, birds who will not eat or can’t stop fighting, or sneaky predators taking out your favorite birds. Yet these are dangers every backyard farmer faces. Here are a few handy hints to keep your flock happy and avert hen heartache.

Who Wants Chicken For Dinner?

Dogs love to chase chickens. Cats love to catch them too. Coyotes, raccoons, foxes, opossums, bears, weasels, hawks, owls, fishers, and snakes all enjoy a good chicken dinner too. Make sure that your property is securely fenced, if possible. Your chicken coop must be securely built to keep predators out. Holes invite snakes and rats inside. Poor fencing risks dead or injured fowl. If birds of prey are a threat, consider a covered chicken run. It’s highly beneficial for your chickens to have plenty of room to roam, but that area must be safe from animals and birds who wish to turn them into a tasty meal.

Plenty of Space Makes For Friendly Neighbors

Factory farms may keep their birds in tight, confined quarters, but this is terribly unhealthy. Give your flock plenty of living space. The bigger the better. Aim for at least 4 square feet in your chicken coop for each bird but if you can provide 8-10 square feet per bird, that’s even better. Provide each of your birds with a roost too. In addition to a spacious, ventilated coop which you’ll clean frequently  (of course), give your chickens a safe, enclosed chicken run so that they can walk about outdoors and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. A chicken tractor is an excellent option; one can move the enclosure frequently to provide the chickens with fresh ground to peck and forage. Fresh bugs, anyone?

Good Food and Fresh Water Does a Body Good

Along with a clean, ventilated living area, some sunshine, and room to roam, chickens thrive when given good food and a constant supply of fresh water. High quality feed and good table scraps create a healthy bird. The statement “You are what you eat” can apply to your birds just as it applies to your family. Quality chicken feed and a variety of table scraps does well. Don’t over feed either. Too much food isn’t healthy for any species. Also avoid giving your chickens rotten food, raw potatoes and potato sprouts, chocolate, and raw meat. Keep their water container full of fresh water and make sure it doesn’t freeze in the winter. These simple steps will go a long way toward a happy, healthy flock of birds you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Now Here’s a Bird That Stands Out From the Crowd! The Golden Laced Polish Chicken

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This bird’s wild feathered top hat, or bouffant, is probably the first thing you’ll notice about him. He bumbles around the chicken run, his feathered fringe partially obscuring his vision and causing him to bump into things and startle. The birds big personality is another noticeable trait, making this breed prized for their personalities as well as their ornamental looks. Largely a show bird, the Golden Laced Polish Chicken is one fantastic fowl that will surely add some pizazz to your backyard flock.

A Little bit of History

The Golden Laced Polish Chicken has been raised in Eastern Europe since the early 16th century and may have originated in the Netherlands. They were brought to the United States in the 1830s and 1840s and became quite popular by the 1850s due to their unique looks and decent egg-laying capabilities. Polish Chickens were admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1874; the Golden Laced Polish Chicken has never officially been registered with the APA.

Mainly Ornamental, But Fun To Have About

While it does lay around 120-200 small white eggs annually (sources vary widely here!), the Golden Laced Polish Chicken is mainly a show bird. It rarely goes broody and is admired for its wild crest of feathers. Bearded and nonbearded, this breed comes in a variety of colors. Because of their feathered crest, the bird can’t see that well and startles easily. However, the breed tends to be friendly if slightly flighty. If handled frequently and gently from a young age, this breed will grow into a friendly and gentle bird. Also keep in mind that this breed has been known to be aggressive toward others of its kind; plenty of living space is an excellent solution to this problem.


Due to their obstructed vision, this breed is an easy target for predators. Make sure that they have a wide enclosure that keeps them safe from prey. Loud noises startle them and they tend to run into things—be careful of your chicken’s living area.

Another consideration is climate. The Golden Laced Polish Chicken is not as cold-hardy as other breeds and if they drink water in winter (which they must do), ice may build on their crest.

This breed is widely available online from a variety of hatcheries. A simple web search will yield multiple hatcheries selling Golden Laced Polish Chicken chicks. In most of these hatcheries, chicks hatch from March through September.

This funny breed will offer some amusement to your backyard flock. The Golden Laced Polish Chicken is an instant conversation starter as well as a wonderful backyard bird.