Chickens in Five Minutes a Day by Murray McMurray Hatchery
Raising, tending and getting eggs from a small backyard flock.
Murray McMurray Hatchery has just published this nice simple book about caring for chickens “In five minutes a day”. The main point of this book is – caring for hens is not complicated and doesn’t have to take a lot of time, 5 minutes a day. As Mr Huseman and employee at the hatchery says “The task of raising chickens at first seemed daunting, especially because I didn’t grow up on a farm. We only had a dog. I remember thinking what are we getting into? But it’s easy. The chickens just need food, water and shelter. That’s it”
The book has a nice seasonal guide for raising chickens and also a daily guide, below are some of the steps outlined in the book:
Watering – “Your chickens need access to clean water every day” I would add, even in the dark cold frozen winter. It can be a challenge in the winter making sure the hens have access to water 24 hours a day. I use a heated dog bowl to ensure this.
Feeding – “A balance chicken feed that is stored in pest – proof containers and housed near the coop for easy access”. I would also add consider adding some diatemaecous earth to your feed to help manage lice. Simply toss a small amount on your feed when loading it into your pest proof container.
Collecting – “When your chickens start laying eggs, you should check the nesting boxes in the coop at least once a day for fresh eggs”. When I go to the barn I simply take a peek in to see if there are any eggs. Just a note that hens need lots of light in order to lay eggs. We have clear panels in the roof of the barn so that even when the hens are in the inside coop, not out in the outdoor run, they are exposed to natural light.
Observing – “Good backyard farmers get to know their chickens and can spot lethargy, loss of appetite and other symptoms that might be the first signs of illness”. This is a very important part of raising hens. Knowing and understanding your hens is critical: are they broody, do they have lice, is anyone on the bottom of the pecking order, are the nesting boxes clean, is the coop completely safe (no holes in the fence for predators)
My favorite section in the book is "Choosing your Chickens". There are some very useful tips in this section for example, what is the right sized flock for your backyard?, Which chickens are best for you and your location, and breeds listed by temperament, multi colored eggs or exotic looking birds. Honestly I want all of them. I have 32 birds of various breeds, bantams, standards, good egg producers, roosters, you name it I probably have it and it all works out.
Obviously, the section titled “Everything you need to know for those first few weeks” is very very complete, this is a book from MurrayMcMurray after all. If you are considering getting chicks, get this book. This section of the book gives you critical, life saving information on how to care for your new birds: Pasting up, how to introduce them to water, huddling, pecking order. Read this chapter, then read it again to make sure you have it all.
There are only a few things I might think twice about. One is on page 110 "Tips for Protecting Your Chickens from Pests and Predators". This is a very critical part of the book, in fact I think one of the most important. I don't have much patience when neighborhood dogs attack and injure hens. I think it is our number one task to keep our chickens safe, at all times. So I would recommend chain link instead of chicken wire. Where I live a fox or coyote could easily get through chicken wire. Keep your hens safe and happy.