Backyard chickens and roosters can be a great addition to your homestead. Backyard chickens, sometimes called urban chickens, are fowl breeds that you can raise in a typical backyard. Chickens are an excellent food source. They produce eggs. Later, as the chickens mature and their egg production declines, they produce meat.
Raising Backyard Chickens and Roosters
Chickens are trending as people become more concerned where their food comes. Raising chickens in their own backyard give people more control of the quality of eggs produced. Perhaps they choose to free range the chickens or feed them with organic feeds only. This significantly increases the health factor of the eggs and also the meat from the chicken. There are also people who sell eggs and who are keeping chickens as part of a survival or prepping plan.
And what about raising a rooster? Are you considering one? We explore all there is to know about roosters so you can make the right decision.
Creating a homestead can be a difficult process if you’re not sure what type of livestock can help sustain your rural lifestyle. One of the most beneficial is to invest in is the Ameraucana chicken.
This unique chicken breed is fairly new and only made its first appearance in the early 1970s.
While it may not seem like an ideal breed to keep in your backyard, you’ll be surprised by its uses.
The Ameraucana breed of chicken is known for being ideal for rural areas due to its skittish nature.
It doesn’t do well in suburban areas and is susceptible to stress when placed with other livestock.
This sounds like a downside, but when living isolated, the chicken produces many different resources that become valuable.
Many people enjoy the Ameraucana breed because of its puffy and comical cheeks, while others love the chicken’s disposition.
The chicken’s personality aside, they are very bright and curious birds that make amazing pets.
Lastly, they work well in multiple climates and are very versatile.
Let us learn more about the Ameraucana breed to help you understand if it’s right for you or not.
History of the Ameraucana Chicken
The Ameraucana breed of chicken was first bred using a type of blue- or green-tinted egg-laying chicken called the Araucana, so the Ameraucana is commonly confused with the Araucana breed.
The Araucana is a popular chicken breed from South America and has slight defects that cut down its life expectancy.
On that note, the Ameraucana chickens were bred in the USA in the early 1970s to help remove a genetic defect that the Araucana suffered from, which was an ear tuft that could heighten the death rate of baby chicks.
After a decade of breeding, the Ameraucana was recognized as a breed of its own.
As of 1984, the American Poultry Association recognizes the Ameraucana as a standard breed.
They also have included eight different color variations of the species and noted their different characteristics.
More of the Ameraucana breed survived birth and were able to live healthy lives.
This produced a healthy chicken that could still produce high-quality eggs, plumage, and meat.
Additionally, their temperament was less aggressive and friendly.
Ameraucana Chicken Characteristics
Let us now look at how this breed looks, behaves, and more.
This way, you’ll understand its needs, as well as how you can take care and breed it.
What does a Ameraucana Chicken Look Like
The Ameraucana breed has a few notable appearances.
It is one of the most versatile chickens when it comes to looks.
It can have up to eight different colors, which makes it hard to describe.
Nonetheless, we will do our best to give you the overall appearances that are notable to them.
Each chicken includes its unique palettes, which are a mixture of black, white, blue, and brown.
This allows each chicken to be unique and have stunning colors and looks.
Either way, they are beautiful and eye-catching to keep on your property.
With their thick feathers, they are considered a winter hardy bird, which allows them to survive in a multitude of different climates.
Their beard and muffs are often puffy and give them a distinct silly chipmunk-like face.
Other characteristics include deep red eyes that look sharp and intimidating, while their puffy cheeks and skittish personality make them less scary.
Weight-wise, females range from five to four pounds, while males can be as heavy as up to seven pounds.
These chickens are bursting with personality and are very curious about their environment.
We want to provide you with quality information about the Bantam breed of chicken, so we will talk more about its characteristics.
History Bantam Chicken Breed
Explaining what a Bantam breed is can be a bit confusing because, unlike most chicken breeds, the word “Bantam” refers to its small stature, and not of its origin.
These small chickens don’t have a complete known origin, but the name was originally introduced back in the late 1800’s in Indonesia.
Sailors who would stop by the port city would refer to the chickens as being “Bantam” chicken due to being unique to the port city of Bantam, Indonesia.
After this, the breed had become popular in other suburban areas of the world for their small and convenient size.
There are three types of Bantam breed: True Bantams, Miniature Bantams, and Developed Bantams.
The True Bantams are naturally occurring in nature and are just small in stature.
The Miniaturized Bantams are bred from either a standard breed of choice or a specific small breed of chicken.
The last type, the Developed Bantams, is small breeds that have been genetically enhanced through humankind’s techniques.
After much genetic breeding, the true standard of Bantam was born and spread across the world.
The chicken generally does well in most warm climates, which makes it a favorite around the world.
However, it can be mixed with other breeds of chickens to help give them dominant traits.
We understand that it’s hard to keep up with Bantam. So, we’ve done our research and have provided a full list of most Bantam breeds.
Here’s a small breakdown of the popular ones:
Old English Game
Rhode Island Red
As you can see, there are many different types of Bantam, which can be both good and bad.
Many of these allow for versatile breeding, but the genetic traits can be hard to pinpoint for the Developed and Miniature versions.
Bantam Chicken General Characteristics
With so many varieties, let us look into the characteristics that distinguish the Bantam breed in general.
Bantan Chicken Appearance
The appearance of Bantam can also be tough to explain due to their many genetic cross-breeds.
Some range from large birds with black or white specklings while others are brown and black.
Others result in crosses with warm-colored feathers such as white, cream, and red.
As you can see, they are very variable in genetics and looks.
The American Bantam Association has recently added over 400 different kinds of chickens to their Bantam Chicken Variety list.
This makes their appearance hard to describe.
That said, as mentioned earlier, what mainly distinguishes a Bantam breed is its small stature.
Many of the ones located in America are smaller than the standard size of chickens. These small Bantams weigh between 16 and 30 ounces and can be up to one half the size of a standard size six-pound chicken.
Some larger cross-breeds of Bantam, though, have started to become heavier.
The standard Bantam breed is either one third or three fourth the size smaller than the standard size breeds. This allows them to produce the same quality products without taking up much space.
With so many varieties, it should go without saying that these chickens can be used for plumage.
If you have multiple breeds of Bantam, you will essentially have plenty of different color varieties to choose from.
This can be good if you want to sell their feathers for some extra income.
Bantam Disposition and Behavior
As for the disposition of the Bantam breed, these chickens tend to be very friendly and overall have sweet temperaments.
They do well with other animals and are generally nice towards humans.
The roosters can be a bit aggressive towards each other and humans during mating seasons, but other than that, there are usually no problems.
Due to the large variety of the Bantam breed, we always recommend doing individualized research on the type you’re getting.
Genetics play a huge role when it comes to chicken temperament.
If you research the mixes accordingly, then you should have no problem in finding their individualized temperaments.
Many Bantam breeds are very agile and love to move around.
Physical activity is a must for these small, energetic chickens, so they need to be able to rustle their feathers and move around.
A majority of them enjoy flapping their wings and jumping around.
If you can provide a place for them to roam, they will gladly appreciate it.
Bantam Chicken Egg Laying Habits
Bantam eggs are smaller than the standard version of eggs.
This is, of course, due to the chicken’s smaller stature.
If we were to compare them to other breeds’ eggs, they would be around half the size.
Many Bantam breeds don’t start producing eggs until almost eight months into their lifespan.
Ones linked to standard breeds, they tend to produce larger eggs and also lay a bit sooner.
It varies from chicken to chicken, though.
On average, the Bantam hen will lay around four to five eggs every seven days.
Some of the Bantam get broody while others don’t. It’s highly dependent upon what parents the chickens had.
If they were sex-linked with two non-brooders, then you can expect non-brooding behaviors.
That being said, we recommend you to get an incubator just in case you plan on breeding them or using them as starter eggs.
Sex-linkage is very hard to pinpoint due to them having over 400 different mixes.
The True Bantams are either from Nankin, Sebright’s, or Rose Comb chicken breeds.
On the other hand, Miniaturized Bantams were genetically enhanced with one parent chicken.
The common breeds for this are the Rhode Island Red, Orpingtons, or even the Cochin breeds.
As for Developed Bantams, they range in sex-linked genetics and parents.
Pinpointing which breeds are used is nearly impossible.
Nonetheless, we’ve tracked some of the common ones which were used in other countries to create the Developed Bantams.
These breeds are either the Cochin, Japanese, or Belgian chickens.
Common Health Issues of Bantam Chickens
The lifespan of most Bantams ranges from four to five years if kept healthy.
Many of the Bantam breeds are susceptible to either mite and lice and other diseases, but many health-related issues are due to poorly kept coops rather than genetics.
To ensure that they have good health, you must have the best nutrition plan for chickens and provide a portion of decent food and water source while also keeping their coops clean.
They also need to be kept in a warm coop; otherwise, they can easily get sick.
Many Bantam pass away from unknown illnesses.
Even professional poultry management has a hard time identifying any symptoms.
This could likely be due to recessive genetics or birth defects that were undetected.
The video below also discusses differences between bantams and standard chickens.
Is It Right for Your Homestead?
If you’re looking for a small chicken that can produce a steady flow of eggs, then you will be pleasantly surprised with the Bantam breed.
But if you’re looking to have a high egg producer, you may want to skip out on this breed.
They are good for suburban areas due to their small size, but this also yields smaller eggs and less nutrition.
For a homestead, they can be good if you’re limited on land.
We believe, though, that the large variety of looks and temperament can be useful if you find a few varieties with ideal traits you’re looking for in chickens.
Their price point isn’t that bad either, which can come in handy for beginners.
The API De-icer is a submersible product that is great for birdbaths, pails, pans, and buckets alike.
With it, you’ll get a handy 6-foot cord as well as a cord chew protector and stainless steel guard.
API Pail and Birdbath De-icer with Guard Features
Like many of the water heaters on this list, this de-icer is a versatile product.
You’re not limited to using it only to warm the water of a chicken flock.
You’ll even be able to heat the water in any birdbaths you may have on your property.
It is a very sturdy product that you can expect to heat your water for many seasons to come without fail.
If you’re looking for a durable water heater for your coop, this is your guy.
This is a really easy-to-use heater.
You can plug it in and forget about it until you need to unplug it for spring.
It’s not a high-maintenance product and a great buy.
API Pail and Birdbath De-icer with Guard Pros
This product has a built-in thermostat that will de-ice your chickens’ water quite nicely.
You won’t have to worry about them not having drinking water.
You also get an adjustable clamp that you can use to attach the product to your water container.
You get a 6-foot cord included
Can de-ice up to 15 gallons
API Pail and Birdbath De-icer with Guard Cons
Users have complained that the product is not as effective as it promises to be and that the cord splits.
Several bad reviews
Chicken Water Heater Buyer’s Guide
It is imperative that you know exactly what you’re getting into when buying a chicken water heater, so you’ll end up with the best product and not be left disappointed with something that doesn’t do what you expected and hoped for.
Of course, everyone’s needs are not the same, and what you’ll end up buying depends on just what it is you want the chicken water heater to accomplish, and in what environment you expect it to do so.
Here we’ll look at a basic list of things that most chicken breeders will need to look at before investing their money in a product.
Easy to fill Chicken Water Heater
This is likely one of the biggest things for people who use water heaters for their chickens.
It may seem like a simple thing, but if a product gets it wrong, it will mess things up royally.
You’ll want to keep the chickens’ water fresh, so filling should be easy and hassle-free.
Easy to clean Chicken Water Heater
Another important factor that, if not easy, can screw things up.
It can even move people not to buy a product if they can’t find out if it is easy to clean or a complete pain in the behind.
Keeping your chickens’ water clean is important for their health.
What is a Chicken Water Heater Made From
What kind of material is the chicken water heater made from?
It’s important to know so you’ll know what to expect.
Metals will be corroded by apple cider vinegar, which many chicken feeders add to their flock’s water to reduce their pH levels, combat ingested bacteria, and many other health benefits.
Plastic is, in general, considered the best material.
Chicken Water Heater Waste
You’ll want minimum waste when it comes to your chicken water heater – this will make or break a product in many cases.
Chicken Water Heater Thermostat controls
Some chicken water heaters come with thermostats that kick in as soon as the temperatures drop below a certain level.
Make sure that the product with this feature is trusted because if it malfunctions, it won’t thaw your chickens’ water, and chickens will dehydrate.
Chicken Water Heater Electric cord
You will generally get an electrical cord included with your product but don’t expect it to be very long.
There are exceptions, but in most cases, you will not get a cord that is longer than 4 feet.
Maintenance for your Water Heater
This is yet another significant factor to keep in mind when you go out to buy a water heater (or buy one online).
If you are not prepared to keep maintenance at the top of your list of chores, you might want to consider not buying a water heater.
That will mean you’ll have to get rid of ice manually, so this really shouldn’t even be an issue.
A waterer of any kind that isn’t maintained well will cause problems.
The water will be stagnant, meaning gross slimy residue will form, and all sorts of bacteria and algae will start growing.
This will result in your chickens refusing to drink the water (good on them).
So before you buy a water heater, be sure to check how often you’ll need to change the water with the product and how easy or difficult that will be to do.
That is usually easy to guess just by looking at the design of the product.
Below is a short video that will help you keep or maintain your chicken water heaters going during the winter:
If you can solve that problem, and won’t mind spending a few bucks more than average, this could be the water heater for you.
It is straightforward to use; you won’t be wasting any water with it during use or filling; there is no way for the chickens to try and roost on it, and thanks to its removable screen, it’s easy to keep the chickens’ water nice and clean.
The best chicken water heater for you really depends on the unique needs of you and your chickens.
Once you’ve determined what exactly you need and what it is that your flock needs, you’ll be able to find the perfect product.
Just be sure to keep in mind all of the things mentioned in the buyer’s guide, so you won’t miss something and end up wanting to kick yourself.
For the most part, picking a water heater for your chicken coop isn’t rocket science.
Remember to look for a product that has a maintenance level that you’re comfortable with.
Most heaters are pretty simple when it comes to maintenance.
Then take into consideration how big your water feeder is if you’re not buying a feeder with a built-in heater.
Also remember that cleaning can be a hassle for all of us, so check out how the product is cleaned and how often it will need to be cleaned.
In the end, choose whatever will work for you and your chickens or other animals you’ll want to give running water.
Incubation for Beginners – Hatching your own chickens can be an educational and rewarding experience and with the right equipment and some best practices you can be on your way to having backyard chickens in no time.
Incubation allows backyard poultry enthusiasts to hatch chickens and ensure the eggs are developing correctly in a controlled environment.
Incubators are able to control the temperature, humidity and turn the eggs automatically making the egg hatching process stress-free.
While you can incubate eggs any time of the year, spring is considered the best time to raise chickens because of the warmer weather which is ideal for new chicks.
If you’re considering hatching your own flock of backyard chickens, here are a few tips that will make egg hatching success.
Incubation for Beginners by Brinsea, Inc.
Choose a good incubator
To find a quality incubator, we recommend looking at the functionality.
Does it have an accurate temperature control?
Can it be cleaned easily?
Can turning the eggs be done automatically?
You’ll also want to look at the sizing.
For example, how many eggs, and what type of eggs does a specific incubator hold?
Especially as a beginner, these are important qualities to look for in an incubator to ensure yourself the best possible chance at successful hatching.
Also, read the reviews, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, either to the manufacturer directly or in online social spaces.
Getting the Eggs
Once you’ve decided on the right incubator for your situation, you’ll need to find fertilized eggs.
If you already have hens and a rooster then you are good to go.
If you don’t have a rooster, then it’s always best to source your fertilized eggs locally because they will be fresher and their chances of hatching won’t be affected by shipping.
Setting Up Your Incubator
Before setting the eggs in the incubator, read through the incubator’s manual to ensure everything is working properly.
An important step to note is to make sure the eggs are at room temperature before setting them.
Once eggs have reached room temperature, place them in the incubator on their side or pointed end down and do not adjust the temperature for 24 hours.
Importance of Temperature and Humidity
In order for the fertilized eggs to develop correctly, they need to be kept at the correct temperature and turned often and positioned in the right way.
Humidity is also crucial because eggs breathe and lose water through the pores of the shell.
Small changes in temperatures can cause eggs to develop too fast or too slow which could result in deaths or deformities.
The correct temperature for most species when incubating is 99.5°F when using a forced draft incubator.
However, there are incubators without fans and if you are using one, the temperature should be set at 103°F because hot air rises.
No matter the incubator, room temperature should always be between 68°F and 78°F and kept out of direct sunlight to get the best results.
Incorrect humidity is one of the main causes for poor hatching success because it is the most difficult to measure and control accurately.
Humidity is important only to achieve the right balance between excessive dehydration and space within the egg to allow the chick to maneuver into hatching position.
Humidity is affected by evaporation from the eggs themselves and the incubator water reservoirs.
All incubators have water reservoirs and ventilation holes, some have digital humidity displays and ventilation controls.
Humidity levels are measured in % Relative Humidity (% RH).
Ideal humidity during incubation is 40-50% RH for poultry and game birds and 45-55% for waterfowl.
If the humidity is too high, you will need to increase the ventilation or if the incubator does not have a ventilation control, remove water.
Conversely, if humidity is too low, you will need to reduce ventilation and add water.
Humidity at hatching time needs to be higher than during incubation, at least 60% RH to prevent the membranes of the egg drying too fast as the chick hatches and becoming tough and difficult to tear.
Turn, Turn, Turn Eggs
Positioning and turning the eggs is important for egg development because as the embryo develops on the yolk, it causes the yolk to become lighter and float upwards.
When the egg is turned, the embryo moves downwards into fresh nutrients in white of the egg allowing the embryo to develop.
Note that most modern incubators turn the eggs automatically.
Using an incubator with this automatic feature is the best way to ensure the eggs are turned consistently and accurately.
However, if you are turning eggs manually, mark each egg with and X on one side and O on the other with a pencil.
This helps with remembering what side they need to be turned to.
This should be done a minimum of twice a day, to prevent the embryo sticking to the sides of the shell.
Turning should be stopped two days prior to when the chicks are scheduled to hatch.
Certain models with the automatic turning setting will also stop turning the eggs two days before they are due.
An incubation period varies between birds but for chickens, it takes 21 days.
To check on the state of the embryo, the candling method is used.
In the past, people would use candles to shine on the eggs to see how the development process was going.
Now we are able to use LED lights which don’t emit heat.
Eggs can be candled after 5 days of incubation and every few days after that. For best results, light the eggs in a dark room.
Initially, you will be able to see a small embryo and a web of blood vessels radiating from it.
As the chick grows it will be hard to make out detail but you should be able to see movement.
However, if the egg is infertile it will remain clear and eggs that have died will show a dark ring.
Time to Hatch
Two days before the eggs are due to hatch, you should stop turning and make sure the water reservoirs are filled.
Humidity will need to be higher than normal so it’s important not to open the incubator.
It will take about 24 hours or more from the first bump on the shell until the chicks fully hatch.
After the chicks have hatched and are fully fluffed, transfer them to a brooder where they can stay warm.
This experience is very exciting so enjoy watching how your eggs develop and have fun.
For more information on incubators and chicken hatching, visit www.brinsea.com.