We also decided that since we were free-ranging the hens they needed a rooster to alarm for hawks and other air predators and a friend of ours gave us one of her extra roosters.
All of this kept the chickens in a state of stress... and it showed in the amount of eggs we gathered every day. What started as a wonderful 31 eggs the first week steadily went down until we only received 8 eggs by week 6 of having the chickens.
Just as they started to lay better, we discovered that they had scaley leg mites and lice! YUCK!
After doing alot of research, and even though our goal is to be as organic, chemical free and green living as possible, I couldn't stand the thought of creepy crawlies in the hen house or on the chickens and chose to use a chemical pestiside called Sevin to remove the little beasties from the premises in the hopes that once they were completely eradicated we could maintain an organic preventive routine and avoid ever having to use chemicals again.
The treatment for scaley leg mites consisted of dipping each chickens legs in oil every night for 14 days. Not fun for the chickens, not fun for us - and messy! My chickens went from cute, clean beauties to dirty, ragged-looking birds in 2 days as the oil got on their feathers which then got dirty from dust-bathing.
For the lice problem, we had to completely and thoroughly clean the coop out and spray it down with Sevin spray. The hens had to be dusted with Sevin dust, again not something either of us found enjoyable. This treatment had to be repeated in 10 days to make sure to get any hatching eggs.
So we are still getting a small number of eggs, but are hoping that now that the stress triggers are past, the hens will pick back up to acceptable egg production.
Because my goal is not only to feed my own family a healthier egg, I also want to have enough eggs to market to help pay for the chicken feed, it was not long before I decided to go ahead and place an order for a bunch of chicks. After reading some great reviews, I chose to get my chicks from Ideal Poultry.
Oh what fun I had picking out the breeds of hens that I wanted to increase my flock! As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I wanted my children to be able to gather a basket of multi-colored eggs, so that was one of the goals I kept in mind when I chose which breeds of chicks to get. I also wanted a good, steady production of eggs, so all the breeds I chose were considered good layers (3+ eggs a week). And lastly, I love having a mixed flock! Chickens can be quite colorful and beautiful as well as having different personality traits and characteristics. All of these factors weighed into my decision making process.
Ameraucana, Black Australorp, Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, Salmon Faverolle, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Speckled Sussex, Welsummer and just for my son, who is obsessed with anything Russian (just as I was at his age, strangely enough), Speckled Russian Orloff.
We also ordered 10 meat chickens and 5 meat turkeys to put in our freezer.