Raising Chickens in Portland: Meet the Experts

Wyandotte Chickens

Chickens have been used to eat bugs for farmers for centuries. And there is nothing more entertaining than watching your chickens scratch and peck. Many say chickens are the gateway bird to other livestock, but perhaps you’re just considering a few hens. Whether it’s three hens or ten, look no further!

Expert advice

When it comes to raising chickens, the experts and staff at our stores can help with advice ranging from feed to feeders. There are many different breeds and varieties to choose from for your flock, and the staff can answer questions about which are best for laying or meat. Chickens are also like potato chips! You’re going to want more as time goes on. For example, Orpington’s are sturdy birds and productive layers. According to Farm Sanctuary, these facts will be interesting for every chicken keeper.

  1. Chickens make at least 24 vocalizations that have distinct meanings. One call may alert others about a predator on land, and another call refers to a predator from the sky
  2. Chickens can see 300° around themselves, perceive a broader spectrum of colors than humans, and simultaneously focus on objects that are close up and far away.
  3. Like some other birds, chickens can feel the earth’s magnetic pull and use it to orient themselves.

Raising Chickens

What you need when raising chickens

Our stores carry a variety of feed options from Scratch & Peck. They offer certified organic chicken feed for various birds you have – from layers to baby chicks. There are also different veggies and fruit you can give your birds from your kitchen! Try watermelon and broccoli.

  • Herbs: You can also give your birds herbs! They can be scattered all over the coop and added to nesting boxes.
  • Feed storage: You’ll need metal tins for feed storage (you don’t want rats eating your feed), oyster shell as a calcium supplement, and grit.
  • Grit: Chickens pick up grit while foraging, which is kept for a while in the gizzard to perform this grinding process.
  • Fermented Feed: Fermented feed has increased Vitamins B, C, and K. It also has increased protein which can help with egg production. Our staff can advise you further on these steps.
  • Chicken Coop: Your coop must work for chickens and humans. There must be plenty of places to roost, including one to two nesting boxes. Also, the coop must be set up so it’s easy to clean! 
  • Treats! Worms & bugs: They love bugs! You can help attract bugs into the coop by adding fresh grass clippings and sticks from the yard. Or ask our staff as we sell bugs too (they’re dead). My birds love mealworms and will do anything for a handful during the day. 

Raising Chickens

Chicken anatomy

Chickens don’t have teeth. They are very rare, so they use a strong muscular organ called a gizzard to grind down their food. Did you know?

  • A chicken’s skin monitors sensory input (heat, cold, pain, pleasure), and unique compounds within the skin convert sunlight to vitamin D.
  • The leg scales help to protect the underlying tissue while the claws (toenails) scratch at the ground to turn up tasty morsels like seeds and bugs.
  • Chickens have a beak and no teeth. The beak can peck at and break up larger food particles, which are small enough to swallow. 

Chicken behavior is fascinating 

What should you do about the ‘rooster’?

The rooster’s role is invaluable. Protecting the ladies is their full-time job. It takes time to build a relationship with your flock, but one of the most important things you can do in the beginning is simply watching them and listening to their various noises. You’ll be amazed at how they communicate with each other, and over time you will appreciate how the rooster tells them if he found a yummy bug or to run into the coop – “there is potential danger outside!” – a hawk perhaps!

Of course, roosters are not allowed in all counties, so check the rules first. You don’t need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs! Raising chickens is work, but they’re smart, and the eggs are delicious. They can even be clicker trained.

If that sounds like fun and you’re a behavior junkie like all of us, please ask our staff about raising chickens. Head over to the garden center at Fang! Pet & Garden Supply so you can choose some herbs that your chickens will love! Grow some calendula or lavender in your garden and feed it to the hens. 

What about a chicken first aid kit?

According to Hobby Farms, here are the essentials for your chicken first aid kit.

A plastic container with a lid works perfectly to hold first-aid supplies. Your first-aid kit should include:

  • antibiotic ointment (without pain control ingredients that can be harmful to some birds)
  • disposable gloves
  • dog nail clippers (for trimming beaks or toenails)
  • Epsom salt (for soaking some injuries)
  • eyedropper or syringe (for hand-feeding water, medications, and liquid nutrients)
  • LED flashlight
  • non-stick gauze pads
  • powdered baby bird formula (for hand-feeding)
  • scissors
  • self-sticking bandages
  • styptic powder (for bleeding nails/beaks)
  • super-glue gel (to repair broken beaks)
  • tweezers
  • vitamins and electrolytes (for shock, heat stress, and dehydration)
  • Vetricyn

Our staff can help you decide the best feed for your chickens. We also carry Union Point chicken feed and Scratch and Peck. 

How to introduce new chickens to your existing flock

The introduction should always be slow. I create a ‘chicken room’ so the new chickens can see but not touch the existing flock. Do this in a large dog crate. You must quarantine your new birds for at least a month, and then you can officially transition them to the area the existing flock lives in but watch their behavior for a few days. Here’s more advice to ensure this goes smoothly. 

When to introduce your pullets (young birds) to the flock

We have a great article on introducing your existing flocks to pullets. 

  1. Space … and perhaps even a little more space: You do need a considerable amount of space and places for them to roost and rest (and escape other birds) throughout the day. 
  2. Lots of Feeding Stations: Have more than one – we have four!
  3. Someone to do multiple drive-byes during the day: More eyes on the flock mean more folks to run interference if the chickens get pushy with each other.
  4. Clean Water: All the chickens seem to be scratching near the water stations, so it feels like their water dishes get dirty quickly. Always make sure they have fresh water.
  5. Mixed Flock = Lots More Chicken Manure. Clean up the poop under the roosting bars.
  6. When to Transition From Starter to Grower? Feed based on the youngest member of the flock and supplement as needed for the older birds (such as additional calcium sources for laying hens). A feed formulated for laying hens isn’t good for little chicks who don’t need that extra calcium. RULE: At eight weeks, it’s ok to transition to grower feed. 
  7. Supplements Are Key: Grower grit is vital during this transition. 
  8. Transition Playpens Do Make a Difference: We kept them in this same playpen above for a week with food and water, of course – all the big girls got to know them with the safety of netting between the pullets and the sharp beaks of the ladies!
  9. Combat Boredom with Ways to Enrich Hens: To decrease any “Mean Girl” behavior in the coop, it’s nice to bring in some distractions. 
  10. Spread Some Love and Stick to a Routine: Chickens, like many animals, like a routine. It eases stress in their day-to-day life and helps them understand that their human caretakers will feed them and provide essentials every day. Good luck! 

Remember that chickens aren’t complicated, but you need a plan for a sick or injured hen. Please ask our staff if you have any questions.

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