3 Common Questions About Keeping Poultry

Asking questions is important for both new and experienced chicken-keepers. Here are three answers to some common poultry questions.

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: SanduStefan/Pixabay

As a poultry farmer and a poultry writer, I am always happy to help my fellow chicken keepers to the best of my abilities. I earned the nickname “Chelsea Chicken Lady” for my local poultry activism and activities. But, thanks to the internet, my neighborhood is global and so are the questions I receive.

I’ve selected three of the most common inquiries, along with my answers, to share here, just in case you’ve been asking yourself the same poultry questions.

Why do my hens lay different-sized eggs?

This is one of the most common poultry questions I get. The size of the egg is determined by three key factors: breed, size, and age.

Some breeds—like the Orpington, Welsummer and the Rhode Island Red—lay large eggs, while other breeds, such as the Fayoumi and Hamburg, lay small eggs.

The size of the hen also influences the size of an egg. A bigger layer, with a larger skeletal structure, can better accommodate the development of larger eggs than can a smaller hen of the same breed.

Similarly, pullets—which have not yet reached maturity—tend to lay smaller eggs than their older flockmates. This isn’t to say that a small pullet can’t lay a jumbo egg … or that an old biddy can’t lay a wind or “fart” egg.

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As a young bird’s egg-production system matures—or as an aging hen’s system slows down—eggs can unexpectedly vary in size.

Can I ship chicks or adult birds to other countries and continents?

Shipping baby chicks and adult chickens across state lines in the U.S. is a tricky business. The majority of states require that the poultry farms and hatcheries of origin be certified by the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP).

Beyond that, the United States Postal Service has strict requirements for the shipment of live animals.  Meeting these shipping requirements is not easy for a small flock owner.

Shipping live birds to another country—or another continent—would involve fully the following:

  • Researching live-animal shipping requirements for the destination nation
  • Filing appropriate customs documentation
  • Verifying what—if any—quarantine must be arranged for the arriving animals
  • Locating an international courier service that is reliable and trustworthy enough to deliver the birds overnight

With so many obstacles to overcome, I choose not to attempt international shipments. I would recommend the same for other small-poultry operations.

Hens looking a little scruffy? Here’s what it could mean.

My hen looks awful by the end of summer. I’m thinking of selling her. Should I tell my potential buyer she does this every year?

I strongly believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to customers. Customer service is how you build community and create a returning clientele.

However, before you sell off your scruffy hen, be aware that you might be trying to get rid of your best egg layer. Hens draw the calcium and protein needed for the development of eggs from their own bones and feathers.

The more productive the layer, the scruffier she will look. Her appearance will reflect the deficiencies in her body as the calcium and protein go towards egg production. That gorgeous, fully feathered hen wandering around the run in September is most likely nowhere near as productive an egg layer as that scruffy, sick-looking hen you are thinking of selling.

A quick note: you may want to consider adding an oyster-shell supplement to your hens’ feed for additional calcium. A feed with a higher protein percentage could help their feather—and egg—development, too.

I hope this answers your poultry questions!

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