A nonbreeder chicken will naturally get broody every spring. They'll begin to fuss and cluck more than usual, refuse to leave the nest and generally get maternal. Usually they lay a clutch of about a dozen eggs over a two-week period and settle down to brood them so that they hatch at the same time. After the chicks have grown, the hens usually molt their feathers and begin laying again until the following spring. Because of the mother hen's body warmth, the chicks don't stay too far from her during their first week or so.
You could gather about a dozen large eggs and incubate them yourself. You then have the trouble and bother of purchasing or making an incubator and brooder. Then you must keep it properly heated so the eggs hatch. You also could purchase newly-hatched baby chicks from a hatchery. Just make sure it is a reputable hatchery whose flocks are registered and guaranteed.
Chicken Feed - Chickens receive calcium-rich egg shells and clam shells smashed up real fine. Also coffee grinds, herbal tea leaves and citrus rinds. Chickens will eat your regular garbage leftovers from raw vegetables, suet and meat scraps.
Pecking Order - The young hens will chase one another around to establish the pecking order. The top hen can peck any other hen but won't be pecked. The number two hen can peck any other hen except the number one hen and so forth on down the line. Roosters tend to ignore all this but can get henpecked by any of the females. If a bird is pecked to the point of bleeding, the others will gather around it and sometimes peck it to death. In this case, segregate the bird, apply some purple genital violet horse liniment on the wounds. Keep it segregated until the wounds heal and feathers begin to cover the bare skin.
Diseases - If you get day old chicks from a reputable hatchery, you shouldn't have any serious disease problems. Occasionally a bird will just lie down and stop walking. Paralysis has probably set in and is incurable. The bird must be killed, but do not use it for food.
Intestinal worms are present in nearly all natural soils and are parasites to chickens. They are harmless unless they get into small chicks. Do not let the chicks onto soil until they are a month or more old.
By keeping chicken netting over the top of the run, wild birds that can carry cholera and other bird diseases can be kept out.
For more information on eggs, raising chickens and building your own chicken shed, please visit the author's blog. http://www.chickenshedinfo.com
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