Poultry terminology & Management tips...
We’ve got plenty of experience hatching, rearing and maintaining healthy chickens, how to keep them healthy and sorting out problem shooting — we are more than happy to help & share our knowledge with you.
Feel free to browse our online store that includes products we’ve used, tested & recommend.
If you have any questions not covered here, just get in touch!
Pullet : Female poultry from the age of 0 – 12 months of age.
Hen: Female poultry over 12 months of age.
Cockerel: Male poultry from 0 to 12 months of age.
Rooster: Male poultry over 12 months of age.
Chicken: Correct term for ‘Chicks’ but is also used as a general lay-mans term for poultry which can be confusing!
Point of lay ( POL ): The point at which a pullet of a certain breed will most likely commence laying. This is only a rough guide as it can fluctuate with breed, genetics, nutrition and environmental factors.
This is always going to be a tricky as chickens have a strict pecking order which is enforced at all times. It is the social hierarchy they live by. Newcomers are outside the social group so are naturally seen as intruders. We have found most purebred poultry are generally relatively accommodating but repeatedly hear stories of the commercially bred Brown Shavers/Hylines often not being quite so accommodating and are generally very territorial when it comes to mixing in new birds. The best way to bring new birds into your flock is to house the two flocks separately so they can see each other but there is wire between them so as they sort out pecking orders, no one gets hurt!. The longer you can do this the better but ideally 10 -14 days is ideal. Once you are ready to mix them, pop the newcomers in with the residing birds at night by placing them onto the perches in the coop. From there the birds will sort out how to get out of the coop and therefore, how to get back in when needed. If you place them in the run area, they will pile up in a corner and there they will stay. For a few nights you may have to place the new birds back in the coop perch once darkness falls as the residing birds will not be overly pleased they are arrived. Providing a distraction is a great idea, hanging cabbage, meat on bones, peck blocks, hanging vegetables. No fight spray helps to provide confusing smells within the flock which also helps facilitate smooth integration. Best to have another feeder/drinker added also as the residing birds will possibly not let the new birds near these points initially.
1. Generally we find, if the birds are all new to the area, similar age and mixed on the same day they integrate well. Brown Shavers and Purebreds can work together well for eggs and beauty. Maximum chaos seems to be the key !. The pullets from The Chook Shed, head out at 10-12 weeks of age. Shavers can be sourced and purchased at the same age usually. These integrate better vs purchasing Shavers that are at point of lay.
The difficulties arise when you wish to mix new pullets in with established birds.
The ideal way of integrating the new poultry is to house them in a separate run, beside the existing chickens so they are separated through wire for a period of time.
This way the new girls can see the existing chickens and they can get to know each other through the wire without too many problems occurring. They can still sort out pecking orders to a large degree through the wire. After a week to 10 days, the new girls are put onto the perch in the normal chicken run once dark at night. There will always be the inevitable ‘sort out’ so you need to keep a close watch that the new comers are ok. Best to do this on a day when you are about as things can get out of hand relatively quickly if they are going to.
It is also a great idea to pop up a half or whole cabbage on a suspended hook in the run to cause a distraction for the existing poultry, giving them something to peck and eat instead of the new pullets!. Silverbeet can be hung up in a bunch also.
A big wedge of dog roll in an onion bag suspended works well and they get great protein as well!
2. If the girls are not too dissimilar in age, they can be put on the perch with the other birds once dark at night and then kept a watch over the next morning to check the pecking order sorting out is going ok and not getting out of hand.
There are a few options available here depending on what you would like the outcome to be. Some breeds are tend more towards broodiness than others.
If you would like some chicks, Silkies or Bantams are great little broodies. Before incubators became available to the backyard rearer, Gold Tops were popular – A Silkie crossed with Light Sussex. An interesting cross which produces a big bird that is super broody!
** Just a note – fluffy chicks are lovely but do turn into large chickens and Cockerels! You need to have a plan on what you are going to do with the cockerels and excess pullets etc before you start hatching**
Once your hen goes broody, you need to shift her into her own accommodation. She needs a comfortable nest with food and water and ideally some grass etc to peck around when she gets off her eggs once a day to eat and drink.
You need to shift your hen and let her settle before ordering fertile eggs as some hens will not stay broody when shifted and only want to brood in a specific spot.
If you leave her where she is in the main house, the others chickens will probably have a peck at her as she is probably in their favourite nest box! The broodiness is also catching and you will find others trying their hand at going broody as well….not good for egg production !
Once the chicks hatch, they need protection from other hens and predators also so need to be in a secure run.
If you do not want chicks – you need to remove the hen from the house and put her in a small run with no nest box, only a perch off the ground. The fresh air circulating under her while perching helps to cool her down but it probably more to do with changing her environment and to something less appealing and time away from the nest. Make sure she has food and water etc and leave her in this area for 5 – 7 days. Usually after this they ‘come out’ of the broodiness and can rejoin the group and will be laying again within two weeks.
* We found using roll-away nest box units was a breath of fresh air. These can be made or purchased from our shop. The eggs roll away into a covered egg collection area. The hens still go broody but they have to get up once a day to get food and drink. Anything sitting under them rolls away. Usually they stop brooding after 10-14 days and commence the egg laying cycle again, bored with sitting on nothing.
There are all sorts of other ways used as well, some not so politically correct or enjoyable for the bird and probably not approved by the SPCA which we do not condone as they are archaic and not required!.
Some hens are serial offenders though and are more difficult than others to deter!. These are usually the Alpha hens and they generally get to go broody first in the flock. Sometimes removing these girls from the flock and popping them into a rabbit hutch for 7-10 days, then re-introducing them once they have stopped brooding works well. The re-shuffle in the pecking order can mean these hens have dropped a few rungs and are not encouraged to go broody again.
Research has shown a chicken can recognize in the vicinity of 200 other chickens! Variety is the spice of life they say and your flock looks fabulous with a good mix of chook sizes, colour’s and personalities.
Poultry don’t like change and even though they are perching and fine in the paddocks with friends when purchased, once they head to unfamiliar surroundings it is a different story!.
Make sure you open your cage or boxes in the coop area. Let the chooks settle into the coop area so they can find their own way out into the run etc. They will find their way back in at nightfall then vs having to round them up from under a tree!.
The best way to get them to settle in is to have some meat on hand, either mince or dog-roll works very well. The girls absolutely love this and if you take out some little bits each day they will soon be running to you flapping along for some extra protein.
There are a few things you need to get right when setting up your coop to give you the best chance of achieving successful pest management levels within your coop. Coop design is critical. If this is not right then you will be forever struggling with obtaining pest control. The basic requirements include keeping the design as simple as possible. Plywood sheets with roofing iron is great. No small overlapping slats or intricate woodwork. This gives red mites lovely hiding places to live and breed in your coop. Removable perches that make checking and then treating the perch rails an easy task each week. If maintaining your coop is fiddly and difficult, you won’t bother and things will get out of control leading to a big problem. Roll-away nest boxes are fabulous and make egg control and broody control a breeze. Auto feeders placed outside the coop so birds are not entering your coop and bringing unwanted lice and mites to your coop area.Coop floors – floor or dirt? Depends on how your coop is setup. If dirt, riversand works very well to provide a base for cleaning up faeces etc. I have a floor in my coop and ideally you want this raised up as otherwise it becomes a great place for vermin to setup through winter. I run riversand on my floor as it provides a great substrate to dry & easily remove the faeces dropped overnight while perching occurs.
The best perches we have found are dressed wood, 45 x 45 mm. The girls, especially if you have heritage heavy breeds, like to sit with their feet flat rather than gripping around a smaller diameter rounded piece of wood. The smoother the better and this means less holes for red mites to set up in and easier to get your Koop M8 spray/powder onto. Each bird requires a width of 20cms to perch comfortably on the perch rail to sleep. You are best to have more perch space than you need as there always seems to be more birds arriving – tee hee! The girls like to move about a bit and have their favourite ends of the coop they like to sit on. A couple of different heights of perch are great also. My coop has two heights which are at approx 1m and 1.6m. Birds like to perch up high as this is away from predators. The more dominant birds and roosters like to get up to a higher point than the lower ranking hens.
Attached perches – if attaching your perches hard to the the coop, make sure you apply a good dollop of glue first before screwing down. This removes the gap for red mite colonies to setup.