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We often receive questions about raising poultry. We've posted them below to assist you in your chicken raising endeavours. Please note that due to the large amount of correspondence we receive, we are no longer able to provide support via email. However, if there are any questions not covered within these pages, leave a message on our new online poultry community!

new poultry article Raising Quail (Questions and Answers)

Our members often send us questions pertaining to raising chickens via our free online poultry community. The following are a few of these letters that we feel could be of use for other visitors. Enjoy!

Question: My hen has scaly legs. The scales on her legs are pushed up and sticking out. She's also walking stiffly. What's wrong with her and how can I cure this problem?

Answer: It sounds like your hen has an infestation of scaly leg mites. The pests burrow under the leg scales of the chicken, which is why the scales stick out. Since leg mites travel very slowly from chicken to chicken, stopping the problem is relatively simple. Control the mites by brushing the perches, roosts, and bird's legs once or twice a month with a mixture of kerosene to two parts linseed oil (be sure not to use motor oil). Older birds are more likely to get this problem than younger ones, so if you cull heavily you will probably not run into these mites. Another way to treat scaly leg mites is by smothering the parasites with petroleum jelly or a kerosene/oil mix. According to A Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow, the most effective treatment is ivermectin, whose accompanying box says its a "Parasite Zapper".

Question: My hen has blood spots in her eggs? Is it okay to eat them?

Answer: Blood spots are actually bits of tissue or blood that become molded with the egg as it passes through the oviduct. As an egg ages, the blood spots become paler or even disappear (that is one way to tell how fresh an egg is). Eggs with blood spots are edible, although if you are selling them your customers might think these blemishes are unappetizing. Blood spots occur in less than one percent of all eggs that are laid, and may be hereditary. If you are planning on breeding chickens, don't use hens who lay eggs with blood spots. Also, making sure that the hen has enough vitamin A in her diet might minimize the laying of eggs with blood spots.

Question: Are cracked eggs edible?

Answer: Yes, they are edible, as long as the membrane is not broken and intact, the egg is refrigerated immediately, and it is used within a week. If you see yolk leaking out of a cracked egg then throw it away!

A hen's laying lifespan, meatbird breeds, and chick growth...

Our members often send us questions pertaining to raising chickens via our free online poultry community. The following are a few of these letters that we feel could be of use for other visitors. Enjoy!

Question: About how long do hens normally lay eggs?

Answer: It depends on what breed you have, what your feed them, and what their living situation is like. For example, if you only feed your chickens every now and then, don't empty out their muddy waterers, and don't collect eggs regularly then you shouldn't expect your flock to even start laying (unless they are a strange, extremely hardy breed unknown to the world). On the other hand, if you take very good care of your hens, feed them exactly what they need (visit our archives to read a past article on chicken feed requirements), and cull regularly then your flock should be living 'till Kingdom come!

Question: What breed would you suggest I should raise for meat?

Answer: If you want meat as soon as possible then you should buy a meat hybrid, such as the Cornish Cross. If you don't mind waiting a while, then a dual purpose breed such as the Barred Plymouth Rock should fit you just fine. Some people claim that home-grown chickens taste better than commercial meatbirds, but that's for you to decide. More people are raising meat birds for themselves, especially to avoid the harmful hormones and chemicals injected into commercial meat birds to boost body weight.

Question: How long does it take for an egg to develop into a chick and hatch?

Answer: About three weeks, twenty-one days to be exact. Goose, duck, pheasant, and quail eggs vary widely, so you should go to a site specifically about those breeds, since Farmlinks is mainly about raising chickens.

Melanin, crowing roosters, and chicken sites...

Our members often send us questions pertaining to raising chickens via our free online poultry community. The following are a few of these letters that we feel could be of use for other visitors. Enjoy!

Question: Are roosters only supposed to crow at sunrise? I live in a rural area and hear them at night all the time!

Answer: In days long past, the only light source was the sun. Originally, the roosters did crow at sunrise (and then throughout the day) since the sun's rays stimulated them to "let loose their vocal chords"... or what we call "crow". However, now that we have lights streaming through our windows into the chicken coops, street lamps glaring down into our yards, and an array of other light rays bothering the poor, confused roosters, they end up crowing day in, day out and all night long!
Also, did you know that when a rooster crows it's like a challenge to all the other roosters within hearing distance? That is why if there are several roosters in your neighborhood, once one rooster crows it sets off a chain reaction.

Question: What great sites would you recommend for a beginner like me to learn about raising chickens?

Answer: Besides our site, poultryOne,com, there are many great information sites out there. Unfortunately, many chicken dealers have taken advantage of the web and created webpages that only promote their products. However, there are a array of websites that we have found very helpful for beginners. You can find many great resources in our link directory.

Question: What decides the skin color of a chicken?

Answer: The germinative layer of the epidermis is the home of the melanocytes. These are specialized cells which produce a pigment called melanin. Melanin is what's responsible for skin color. All chickens have the same number of melanocytes; however, the amount of melanin produced in these melanocytes varies among individuals. Production of melanin is a hereditary trait involving a number of genes (the units of heredity within the cell). Because of the many genes involved, skin color is a variable trait. There is also one gene that allows melanin to be produced regardless of the amount.Without this gene a chicken would produce no melanin and thus be completely devoid of skin color, an albino.

Egg formation, debeaking chicks, and chicken feed energy evaluations...

Our members often send us questions pertaining to raising chickens via our free online poultry community. The following are a few of these letters that we feel could be of use for other visitors. Enjoy!

Question: How long does it take for a complete egg to be formed?

Answer: Each yolk, enclosed in a follicle, is attached to the ovary by a very slender stalk. From the inner surface of this follicle, a thin membrane is secreted. This is the vitelline membrane containing the yolk material and the germinal disc. Each yolk grows very slowly up to about a week or more before it is completely ready to be released from the ovary. During the end of this week (or even into the ninth or tenth day) growth of the yolk becomes quite rapid.
During the period of growth before the rapid stage, only white yolk is added. During the period of rapid growth, when laying hens eat feed with xanthophyll (a yellow pigment found in a variety of materials such as corn) at varying periods of time in the day, concentric layers of white and yellow yolk are added. An interesting thing to note is that confined hens fed a restricted, uniform diet all at once add their yolk in a uniform pattern.
When the yolk is ready it is released from the ovary and caught by the oviduct. The layer of thick white, the inner layer of thin white, the chalazae, the outer layer of thin white, two shell membranes and the shell are added when the yolk is in the membrane. If the eggshell is colored (such as brown or bluish-green), the pigment is added in the uterus.
All in all, it take about 25 hours for an egg to be completely formed and laid.

Question: What age should I de-beak my chicks?

Answer: Chicks should be debeaked at about 2-2.5 weeks. However, many folks are debating whether debeaking is really beneficial. I'll discuss this later on.

Question: Is chicken feed evaluated using P.E. or M.E.?

Answer: Several years ago, P.E. (productive energy) values were used for feed ingredients and complete feed rations. Now, most feeds are evaluated using M.E. (metabolized energy). M.E. is determined after subtracting from gross energy the undigestible energy (energy excreted in the feces), "useful work" energy (energy used by the chicken to walk, flap its wings, lay eggs, etc.), and urinary energy. That which is left is the M.E.

Egg money, chicken scientific names, and sexing chicken eggs...

Our members often send us questions pertaining to raising chickens via our free online community. The following are a few of these letters that we feel could be of use for other visitors. Enjoy!

Question: How much do chicken-egg farmers make annually?

Answer:Great question! I sent out my researchers and came up with some interesting figures according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The following summary is the average prices received by U.S. farmers from 1940 to 1996. The eggs are listed price per dozen. The marketing year was changed in 1964 from a calendar year to a December to November basis.

Year / cents per dozen

1940 / 18
1950 / 36.3
1960 / 36.1
1970 / 39.1
1975 / 54.5
1980 / 56.3
1984 / 72.3
1985 / 57.1
1986 / 61.6
1987 / 54.9
1988 / 52.8
1989 / 68.9
1990 / 70.9
1991 / 67.8
1992 / 57.6
1993 / 63.4
1994 / 61.4
1995 / 62.4
1996 / 75

Question: What is the scientific name of the chicken?

Answer: The following information was provided by a local librarian. Librarians can be very useful sources of information. Whenever anyone asks about something, I tell them "Go to your local library".

Kingdom: Bird
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Thesienidae
Genus: Gallus
Species: There's no species name. It's a breed like Rhode Island Red, Jersey Giant, Leghorn, etc.

Question: Can you tell if a male or female chicken is in an egg before it hatches. Or more specifically, when it is laid can you foretell the sex?

Answer: No matter what the old wives' tales say, you cannot tell in any way if an egg will develop into a rooster or hen. There are many fables about this. Some of the ways that you can supposedly tell an egg's sex is by hanging a key above the egg and seeing which way it swings.
After a chick hatches, the traditional way to learn its sex is by the Japanese method, also known as cloacal sexing or vent sexing. Accuracy depends on the skill of a trained observer in examining minor differences in the tiny cloaca just inside a chick's vent. Many people have bought a batch of female chicks and found that a couple of them were roosters! Out of a hundred sexed chicks you should expect at least one of them to be opposite the sex you ordered.

Eating Plexi-Glass, evolution of the chicken, the chicken's scientific name, and storing chicken eggs...

Our members often send us questions pertaining to raising chickens via our free online poultry community. The following are a few of these letters that we feel could be of use for other visitors. Enjoy!

Question: Is it all right for chickens to eat Plexi-Glass?

Answer:Of all the questions that I have received, I think this one is the most unique. Plexi-glass? Your chickens eat plexi-glass? How did your flock get access to plexi-glass? Although there is currently no "official" rule saying "Do Not Feed Chickens Plexi-Glass", I wouldn't advise it. The sharp shards of the broken glass will wreck havoc in your chickens' digestive tract. Read an article in the Chicken Information Central's archive about the feeding requirements of chickens for details on what your chickens SHOULD eat. Again, to all our subscribers, PLEASE don't feed your chickens plexi-glass, styrofoam and other non-organic/man-made material. Although I've read messages from other chicken farmers who swear such things don't cause harm to chickens, no one knows the long term effects on a chicken's digestive system. LOL, plexi-glass? This is extremely odd!

Question: What is the scientific name of the chicken?

Answer: Gallus Gallus or for domestic chickens Gallus Domesticus. If you have questions such as this, librarians can be very useful sources of information. Your local library is often a wonderful resource!

Question: Is the DNA of a chicken distantly related to that of a sparrow? If this is so, and since a sparrow is a distant cousin of a parrot (who evolved from a four-legged reptile), doesn't this mean that a chicken once had scales and four legs? I read last year's post by you and you said that evolution is false. What planet did you come from?

Answer: I've done lots of research on this subject, and let me assure you. There is no solid evidence for evolution. I have argued this point countlessly and have challenged many evolutionists to give me their best proof. Yet time and time again I or one of my comrades would find holes in their arguments. This is not to say that there is solid proof for creation. However, I personally feel that there is more evidence supporting an Intelligent Designer than there is for Darwin.

All living organisms share similar traits. Although evolutionists claim that this means they all evolved from the same organic structure, this in no way constitutes scientific fact. Evolution is a theory, a philosophy and a faith and should not be taught in schools as science. Yes, the DNA of a chicken is DISTANTLY related to a sparrow, and its molecular and atomic ratio is nearly congruent but that does not mean they evolved from reptiles. Doesn't a plane architect use the basic structure principles for a jet as it does for a cargo carrier? They are two distinct planes yet use the same "structure". It's the same with the animal kingdom. It would be understandable that God used the same basic bone and DNA structure for all animals, especially since He knew that they would all be living in similar climates and eating similar food.
As you probably learned in school, all life (both animal and vegetable) is divided into groups called "kinds". These groups are composed of individual organisms having similar or identical characteristics. Evolutionists tell us that these groups have developed from other groups having similar characteristics but not similar enough to be confused with each other. For example, we apes, monkeys, lemurs, and of course the human being. Evolutionary zoologists include these four kinds in the same order- the primates. Evolutionists also place them in a "line of descent" (or ascent, pay your money and take your choice), but even the most rabid evolutionist would definitely NOT venture to say that they were in a direct line of descent, that is, that the lemurs fathered the monkeys, and that the monkeys brought forth the apes, and that the apes begat man. If you and I were to accept the evolutionists' own timetable, there must have been millions, billions and trillions of years and probably that many distinct forms during the unbridged gaps between these four modern kinds. Well, we will accept the amendment all right, but where are those forms? That is the question (not, as Shakespeare said..."to be or not to be")!
If there be any basis of fact in the evolutionary nightmare (or fantasy, give me a penny and choose), it isn't the missing link we want; its an ARMY of missing links! Whole squadrons of them, from one horizon to the other and ten times over. Remember that these yawning gulfs are between ALL of the species of ALL the different forms of life, both animal and vegetable. There should be millions and millions and multiplied trillions of missing links, only they should not be missing. We should be stumbling over them every time we step out into the open. Charles Darwin himself saw this difficulty and writes:

Why, if species descended from other species by fine graduations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitionary forms? As by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them imbedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?

Brother Darwin is right; missing links should be abounding! They should be running around the galaxy as familiar to us as bunny rabbits. The earth should be packed to the limit with them. There should be rabbit-like animals of all different forms and descriptions, long haired rabbits, short haired and furry rabbits, big rabbits and little rabbits, one legged, two legged, three legged and four legged rabbits, white rabbits, black rabbits, yellow rabbits and Welsh rabbits. But wait, remember that both the animal and vegetable worlds evolved from one common ancestor. So.....we should not only be seeing rabbits, but rabbit-turnips and potato-rabbits by the zillions. And not just rabbits, but chickens and dogs and horses and radishes and pigs and birds and fish and marigolds and guppies and ferns and every other imaginable type of animal and plant. But may I so humbly ask...where are they? And where are the multiplied trillions of gradually changing forms between the other 1, 999, 999 species that clutter up the landscape? It would be quite impossible for them to hide....one would have to by blinder than a dead man not to see the mountains of evolving creatures. However, not a single trace of any such form has ever been found. Surely that is your lost brigade! And until a trace of this vast and numberless army has been found or accounted for, I, at least, will have to take my evolutionary rations with a ton or two of salt. Lots of it.

Question: How long can an egg keep?

Answer: If you store it in water glass it can "keep" for approximately six months. However, unrefrigerated eggs can keep for about a week at normal room temperature. Some eggs can last up to 4 months when stored at the proper refrigerator temperature.

Broody Rhode Island Red hen, eating Leghorn layers, and foraging chickens...

Our members often send us questions pertaining to raising chickens via our free online poultry community. The following are a few of these letters that we feel could be of use for other visitors. Enjoy!

Q: I have a broody Rhode Island Red. She has been sitting on her eggs for a little over a week now. How long will it be before the eggs hatch?

Answer: Chicken eggs take about 21 days (three weeks) to hatch, so you only have to wait two more weeks before you're the proud parent of a batch of chicks!

Question: Can you eat commercial layers such as Leghorns?

Answer: Commercial layers are bred specifically for laying with an excellent feed-to-egg ratio. Because of this, Leghorns and their counterparts hardly focus on laying instead of putting on weight. Although you can stew them, you wont get a substantial amount of meat.

Question: Is it all right to let my chickens forage in my yard, even after pesticides and fertilizers have been spread on my property?

Answer: Unfortunately, unless you want to risk the health of your flock, it is best to confine your chickens to their cage if your property has been treated with such chemicals. Also, if you have a layer flock some of the poison on the plants that they digest may be passed on into the eggs. I'm sure you, your family, and your customers wouldn't want to endanger their well-being by eating tainted eggs.