If you are just starting a new back-yard free range venture you need to know some basics before starting.
Most chicken rearers will supply an information page to get you started but it’s important to get birds from a reputable rearer.
With day length now increasing, backyard birds will start to get back into a proper laying cycle. Hens come into lay which is dictated by the amount of light they receive whether this is natural or artificial.
It is important to ensure that the hens have everything spot on and available to them as they come into lay.
The three main essentials are feed, water and light. Make sure birds have enough feeder space so the birds donot have to fight one another for feed. Clean drinkers as required. Birds love clean fresh water; once a week give birds 1ml per litre of cider vinegar. This will help the birds gut health which will improve the uptake of nutrients and minerals in the feed. Try and make their roosting area where they lay as draft free as possible.
Have plenty of perching space available. Keep the nest boxes clean by adding wood shavings/straw or sawdust (DO NOT use treated shavings). Also spray or apply some form of lice/mite powder every 2-3 weeks depending on severity of problem.
Worm birds regularly. If you are serious about being a back-yard free-range farmer try and stay awayfrom other avian species and ask visitors if they have been near other birds. This is due to bugs/viruses being easily transmitted from one property to another.
Most birds purchased from markets or rearers will hopefully have been vaccinated forvarious common diseases that laying hens can get, this is similar to your pet cat and dogs having to be vaccinated. It is recommended that birds also get revaccinated so when they have lost the maternal anti–bodies they have immunity to disease. The main disease is called IB (infectious bronchitis) this is a respiratory disease and can cause depressed production and thin shelled eggs. If you see this in your birds it is time to revaccinate via the water and should be repeated every 8-10 weeks.
Sit and observe the birds now and again to see if they are happy and comfortable.
A happy chicken will lay as often as it biologically can.