Sussex chickens are among the oldest chicken breeds and they are still very popular among homesteaders and farmers today. They are a great dual-purpose breed, capable of consistent egg production even in cold weather and their heavy statue makes them suitable for meat.
Sussex chickens are nearly 2000 years old! The first Sussex chickens were probably bred in England beginning as early as the Roman invasion of the area in 43 AD. Prized for their eggs and meat as well as their great personalities, these birds are believed to be the ancestor to the modern-day boiler chicken.
Sussex chickens are large, weighing up to eight pounds, and have single combs, and four toes. The speckled variety (brown feathers with black and white spots) of the Sussex breed is the most common. Not only are the speckles beautiful but speckled Sussex chickens will also develop more speckles after each molting cycle and the spots provide camouflage against predators. Although less common, Sussex hens can also be red, light, brown, buff, silver, white, lavender, gold, and Coronation. The Coronation Sussex is extremely rare, has light feathers with grey-blue markings, and was bred in the 1940s specifically to celebrate King George’s coronation.
Sussex chickens are great egg layers, producing about four large, light brown eggs each week, even in very cold temperatures. Homesteaders who are waste-cautious will appreciate that Sussex chickens are economical eaters and enjoy foraging for food on their own.
Best of all, Sussex chickens are fun to raise! Their docile and mellow personality allows them to tolerate confinement easily. They are also curious and friendly, making them a great choice for homesteaders who have small children.
Like mites, lice are a parasite that may infect your chickens from time to time. Lice will live beneath your chickens’ feathers, lay eggs there, and suck blood from your chickens’ bodies. Although lice are small, they can cause huge damage to your flock: an infestation of lice can cause a decline in egg production and anemia, and, in severe cases, death.
An infestation of lice is not necessarily a sign of bad chicken coop hygiene. Keeping a clean chicken coop will certainly help prevent lice, as will regular dust bathing, but lice is usually transmitted to chickens through wild birds. Lice that afflict your chickens is different from human head lice, so don’t worry about catching lice from your hens.
Lice are difficult to spot, so it’s important to check your chickens regularly. The easiest places to find lice are around chickens’ vent area and under the wings. You may also see lice around the chicken coop if you have an infestation.
If you find that your chickens have lice, you’ll need to treat it promptly and aggressively. Here are a few ways to treat lice in chickens:
- Diatomaceous Earth. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is the safest way to treat lice in chickens. DE is not a chemical, but it comes from fossilized marine algae (diatoms) that is reduced into a powder. DE works by tearing the bodies of parasites like lice and causes them to die within one or two days. If you use DE, make sure that you use food-grade DE. All other DE (like DE for pools) is too strong for chickens and will kill them. Even if your chickens don’t have lice, sprinkling DE around your chickens’ coop, nesting boxes, dust bathing area, and in their feed is a good way to prevent parasites from feeding on your flock. It is safe to eat your chickens eggs while using DE and DE may not be effective for severe infestations of lice.
- Sevin Dust. If you have a severe infestation of lice, you may need something stronger than DE, like Sevin dust or Adams spray, to treat your flock initially. The active ingredient in Sevin dust is an insecticide called Carbaryl. When purchasing Sevin dust, make sure the product contains at most 5% Carbaryl. Wear gloves when handling Sevin dust, and follow the package directions accordingly, adding the dust to water to make a spray. Apply the spray all around the interior and exterior of your chicken coop, including your chickens’ nesting area. Do not apply Sevin dust directly to chickens.
- Malathion Spray. Malation spray is similar to Sevin dust. To make a Malathion spray, mix 1.5 pounds of malathion with 10 gallons of water. Malathion spray can be applied to the chicken coop’s walls, roosts, and ceiling. Do not apply Malathion spray directly to your chickens or on their feeders, waterers, or nests.
- Permethrin. If you need a lice-killing product to apply directly to your birds, mix 6 ½ ounces of 10% Permethrin with 10 gallons of water. This solution can be applied to chickens directly. Lice like to congregate in your chickens’ vent area, so use Permethrin generously there as well as underneath their wings.
Molting is a natural process chickens undergo, usually once each year. Although chickens usually molt in the fall, when the daylight hours begin to decrease, you may find that your chickens molt in the summer.
If you notice your chickens are losing their feathers, beginning with a few feathers missing from the head and neck area followed by lots of feathers missing from the breast, back, thighs, wings, and tail, don’t be alarmed! Once your chickens have shed their feathers, they will grow new ones and look even prettier than they did before their molt.
In general, two activities trigger molting in chickens: breeding and laying. If your chicken is breeding, she will generally molt after she has finished her breeding season.
In most cases, however, your hens will probably molt after an intensive egg-laying period. For high-producing hens, molting usually occurs after about one year of laying eggs consistently. High-producing hens are referred to as late molters, and their behavior is most desirable, as they will lose their feathers and grow new ones in a two or three months. For lower-producing hens, molting may occur after a few months of laying eggs and can last up to six months.
Caring for your chicken during their molt is important. Molting is a high-stress time for chickens because molting requires a lot of energy and involves a significant loss of body weight (in feathers). To care for your molting hens, reduce their stress level by following these three steps:
- Water. Water is always important for chickens, but they may need extra water during their molt. Take care to provide fresh, clean, and cold water always.
- Food. Chickens may require a higher protein diet during their molt. Some chicken raisers feed their chickens dry cat or dog food, cooked eggs, bacon, or yogurt in moderation to boost their chicken’s protein. You can also purchase a high-protein feed from a feed store.
- Temperature. Keeping the temperature steady during the summer can be a challenge, but use fans to try to keep the temperature in your chicken’s coop below 80 degrees. Heat naturally causes chickens, and if they’re molting, their stress level will increase even more.
If you’re experiencing your chickens’ first molting cycle, be patient. After they molt, their feathers will look better than ever and they will return to their egg-laying cycle. Keep their stress level at a minimum, and you’ll have happier and healthier chickens in the long run.
One of the best things about chickens is that they will eat—and thoroughly enjoy—so many of your table scraps. Not only does this eliminate your food waste, but feeding your chickens treats like melons, berries, peaches and plums, leafy greens, and other veggies can provide extra healthy nutrients in their diet.
As with most pets, however, there are some foods that you should avoid feeding to your chickens. Feeding your chickens the wrong foods can result in unhealthy birds, a decline in egg production, and even death.
Below are a few foods your birds should never eat:
Citrus (peels and fruit). Citrus won’t poison your birds but it causes a decline in egg production, something backyard chicken enthusiasts want to avoid at all costs!
Spoiled meat. This can poison your birds.
Meat in large quantities. Although chickens are not vegetarians, too much fat in their diet is unhealthy.
Raw eggs. Raw eggs are safe for chickens to eat, but it will encourage them to eat their own eggs and prevent you from enjoying them.
Garlic and onion. Garlic and onions are safe for chickens, just be ware that if your hens eat these, you’ll have garlic- and onion-flavored eggs.
Avocado. The fruit of avocado is OK for chickens to eat, but the skins and pits are slightly toxic to chickens.
Potato peels. Potato peels contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens.
Dried or undercooked beans. Beans that are not cooked thoroughly contain hemagluten, which is toxic to chickens.
Very salty foods. Too much salt in your chickens’ diet can cause salt poisoning.
Very sugary foods. To much sugar is unhealthy for chickens.
Processed foods. Processed foods usually contain high levels of salt, sugar, and fat, which is very unhealthy for chickens.
Chocolate. As with most pets, chocolate is poisonous to chickens.
Morning glories or daffodils. These are poisonous to chickens, so it’s best to avoid planting them in your backyard garden.
Mites are a common problem in the summer, especially if your chickens are free-range for some or all of their day. There are actually many different types of mites that prey on chickens and cause varying degrees of irritation and infestation. If you notice that your chickens’ legs have scales that are irritated, protruding outwards from their legs, your birds may be suffering from scaly leg mites.
Scaly-leg mites are simply mites that live underneath the scales on chickens legs and feet, causing irritation and thickening of the chickens’ scales. The mites can spread quickly from one bird to another, so it’s important to treat the mites properly to avoid a full-out infestation.
To treat and prevent scaly leg mites, follow these three steps:
- Suffocate the mites. Scaly leg mites need to be suffocated in order for them to die. Usually, suffocating the mites is accomplished using a topical treatment applied directly to your chickens’ legs and feet. Any of the following may work:
- Vaseline (or other petroleum jelly)
- Mineral oil
- Baby oil
- Orange oil
- A bath with hot soapy water
- A strong apple cider vinegar solution
- Vick’s Vapor Rub
- Reapply topical treatment until all mites are dead. Apply the topical treatment at least once each day on the affected birds until all mites are dead.
- Clean your coop thoroughly. Mites can live in your chicken coop and prey on your birds at night, so make sure that you thoroughly clean your chicken coop. Remove your chickens from their coop, remove—and preferably burn—all nests, litter, and food from the coop, and clean it thoroughly with an animal-safe disinfectant. Be sure to scrub cracks and corners where mites can hide. Painting the surfaces of the coop with kerosene or linseed oil makes it more difficult for mites to live in the coop.
Even if your chickens are eating an ideal, balanced diet that provides them with all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need to be healthy and happy birds, there are two supplementary foods that you should consider feeding your chickens:
- Oyster Shells
Many beginning chicken raisers confuse these two supplements, or think they are for the same purpose. This article will explain the difference between grit and oyster shells and also explain why you need both.
Oyster shells are exactly what they sound like: crushed oyster shells. Crushed oyster shells provide an extra boost of calcium that will allow your chickens to lay nice, hard-shelled eggs. To give your chickens oyster shells, just offer in a bowl or cage cup in a separate container next to your chickens’ feed. Usually, the chickens that need the oyster shells’ calcium in their diet will eat the oyster shells and the chickens that don’t need the vitamin boost won’t eat the shells. Never feed oyster shells to chickens that are not yet laying eggs.
Crushed oyster shells are available at feed stores and also at chicken websites like My Pet Chicken. The oyster shells at My Pet Chicken’s website, for example, are available in a five-pound bag and contain heat-treated oyster shells with a minimum of 33% calcium.
Have you heard the myth that chickens don’t have teeth? They don’t! Instead of chewing, chickens store grit, or small stones in their “crop,” an area of the digestive system where chickens begin to digest their food before it enters the stomach.
If your chickens are not free ranging in areas where there are small pebbles, rocks, and stones, you should probably provide them with some grit. Unlike oyster shells, it’s likely that if one of your chickens needs grit the rest of them also need it, so you can either sprinkle the grit directly into the feed or offer it to your chickens in a separate container. Either way, if they need it, they’ll eat it.
Like oyster shells, grit is available at most feed stores and online chicken websites. The grit at My Pet Chicken, again, comes in five-pound bags and contains 100% crushed granite.
The decision to let your chickens free range or not is a tricky decision among backyard chicken raisers. Indeed, both methods of raising chickens have pros and cons, and the definition of “free range” is often unclear and debated.
In the commercial egg world, “free range” can sometimes mean that chickens only have a very small space to roam and only at certain times of the day. Otherwise they spend their days in cages. Small farmers and backyard homesteaders should know, however, that free range means chickens can peck, forage, and roam wherever they want, and whenever they want.
The decision to let your hens free range can be scary and often impractical for homesteaders. Often, some sort of fencing is still required to keep your hens off your neighbor’s property; predators like wolves and coyotes can make free ranging your chickens dangerous. Chickens less than one month old should not free range.
Letting your chickens free range will allow you to enjoy the great benefits listed below.
- Happier birds. Chickens were made to roam and forage, and they are happiest when they are doing just that. Many chicken breeds are extremely active and need time outside of their coop. Chickens that can free range will love exploring their surroundings, eating grass, pecking for bugs, and taking a dust bath whenever they want. When chickens forage they generally have a healthier diet than when they eat chicken feed alone: grass and plants, insects and worms all contain protein, vitamins, and nutrients they may be lacking in their grain feed. A healthier bird is indeed a happier bird, and don’t worry, your chickens will come back to their coop at night to lay even better eggs.
- Better eggs. Grass, plants, worms, insects, and most other things your chickens eat while free ranging contribute to a better egg. According to Mother Earth News, eggs from true free range chickens, when compared with eggs from factory farms, contain:
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- ¼ less saturated fat
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 3 times more vitamin E
- up to 6 times as much vitamin D
- 7 times more beta carotene
That’s a huge difference in egg quality. Even if you can’t let your chickens free range all the time, allowing them to forage on a large fenced-in area or for several hours of the day will allow you to experience a measurable increase in egg nutrients.
- Save money on feed. Allowing your chickens to forage will save you money on feed. If your chickens are outside their coop, they’ll automatically want to fill their stomachs with delicious grass and grubs. In turn, they’ll eat less of their feed in the coop and enjoy a healthier diet.
Plymouth Rock chickens are one of the most popular chicken breeds among small farmers and backyard homesteaders. They’re an incredibly versatile breed and one of the oldest varieties of chickens native to America. Here’s a little information about Plymouth Rocks birds.
Plymouth Rock chickens are native to the United States and were first exhibited during the United States’ first-ever poultry show in 1849 in Boston, Massachusetts. Poultry breeders originally produced Plymouth Rock chickens by breeding a Dominique rooster with a Black Cochin or Black Java hen. In 1874, the barred variety of Plymouth Rock chickens was accepted in the Standard of Perfection, the American Poultry Association’s official guide to standard chicken breeds.
Barred Plymouth Rock chickens are probably the most popular variety of Plymouth Rocks, with beautifully striped black and white feathers, but there are many other standardized Plymouth Rock varieties, including white, buff, silver, partridge, blue, and black. Plymouth Rock chickens have a single red comb, naked legs, and four toes.
Plymouth Rock chickens are large birds, weighing up to nine pounds, and are dual-purpose, which means they can be used for eggs or meat.
If you’re raising your Plymouth Rock hens for egg producers, you’ll most likely be pleased to find out that they’ll lay about four large brown eggs per week. Monitor your egg-layers carefully, however, as Plymouth Rock chickens have a tendency towards broodiness.
Plymouth Rock chickens are great for backyard homesteaders in nearly all parts of the United States because they tolerate confinement to their coop and are hardy through cold winters and hot summers.
One of the reasons Plymouth Rock chickens are so popular among homesteaders and farmers is because of their terrific personalities. They are docile, making them great birds for homesteaders and farmers with small children. They’re incredibly friendly and smart and are likely to provide you with endless entertainment and enjoyment!
If you’re experiencing a decline in egg production among some of your hens, heat may be one explanation, but broodiness may be another. Unless you have a rooster in your flock to fertilize your hen’s eggs and you also want your hen to hatch baby chicks, you probably don’t want your hen to be broody.
If your hen is setting on unfertilized eggs, not only will she be grumpy when you try to collect the eggs and engage in potentially destructive feather-plucking, but she will also not eat or drink as much as she needs, increasing the risk of dehydration and malnutrition during the hot summer months. Aside from that, setting on unfertilized eggs causes the eggs to decompose more quickly than they normally would.
To stop a broody hen from setting on her eggs, try these four steps:
- Get the hen off her nest. If your hen is broody and you don’t want her to try to hatch chicks, she needs to be moved from her nesting box. To break the habit, try simply taking her out of her nest and placing her outside. Although not a guaranteed fix for broodiness, repeatedly putting your hen outside may convince her to give up her broodiness.
- Use cold water (or ice). Cold temperatures can stop a hen from becoming broody. One way to “cool off” your hen’s desire to be broody is to put a few ice cubes in her nest. Another way to do this is to dunk your hen’s rear end in a bucket of very cold water. This may distract your hen from her desire to set on her nest.
- Solitary confinement. It sounds cruel, but in many cases, removing your hen from any nesting materials is the only way to break her broodiness. During the day, keep your broody hen outside where she can focus on foraging and pecking. At night, place your hen in a comfortable area with a bare floor, low perch, and access to food and water. Closing off an area of your chicken coop is the best way to do this, as it makes reintroducing your hen back into the flock easier. This method of isolation may take several days. If your hen lays an egg while in solitary confinement, you’ll know she’s not broody anymore.
We all know how great a cool mist feels on a hot day, and guess what? Your chickens will think this feels pretty great, too! Fortunately, it’s very simple to construct a misting fan to keep your birds cool and happy inside their chicken coop. You’ll only need a few simple supplies to set this up:
- Simple fan. A box fan works perfectly for this because the back of the fan is flat, but others fans may work equally well.
- Misting Ring. The low-pressure variety is best when used with a fan, to avoid giving your chickens a shower!
- Low-pressure tubing and hose adaptor. The low-pressure tubing should fit the misting ring.
- Zip ties. Zip ties will connect your mist ring to the fan securely.
- Outdoor extension cord.
To set up the fan, make sure that you have an electrical outlet and spigot within an accessible distance from your chicken coop.
Step 1: Set up the misting ring
To set up the misting ring, connect the low-pressure tubing to the misting ring and make sure it is securely in place. Then, connect the hose adaptor to the tubing and connect the tubing to your spigot. If your spigot is too far from your chicken coop, connect the hose adaptor to the end of a hose.
At this point in the set-up, you may want to run water through your misting ring to make sure it works properly.
Step 2: Attach the misting ring to the fan
Use your zip ties to attach the misting ring to the back of the fan securely. This will require at least three zip ties, depending on the size of your fan.
Step 3: Position the fan in the chicken coop
If you’re using a box fan, you’ll want to place your new contraption securely on a window ledge or elevated surface. Keep the fan out of your chickens’ reach so they don’t knock it over.
Step 4: Plug in the fan
Use your extension chord to plug the fan in. Make sure you use an outdoor extension chord and an outlet with a ground fault circuit breaker.
Step 5: Let your chickens enjoy their mist
Your chickens will love staying cool in the mist (and probably playing in the water, too)!
There are many tips and tricks to raising happy chickens, but nothing makes sense unless you have a properly built chicken coop. Get a safe, comfortable coop for your birds and you'll have yummy fresh eggs every morning. Make a critical mistake or two and your whole chicken operation will turn into a disaster. Learn what these critical coop mistakes are and how to avoid them. Download my FREE report right now - Go here: http://www.mysnazzychickencoop.com/free-report/