February Photo Contest Winners Announced

February 2017 Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to our February 2017 photo contest winners. These winning photos will be be used on our website, and each entrant will receive a Murray McMurray Gift Certificate. We received over 675 entries in this photo contest — thank you to everyone who entered! Click here to see all the entries. Click the links below for more information on these breeds.

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Understanding Feed Categories for Optimal Growth

Providing your flock with a balanced and nutrient-rich diet will help them achieve optimal growth, maximize egg production, have adequate weight gain and build their resistance to various diseases. It is important that you understand the difference between the various feed categories because as your chickens grow, their nutritional requirements will change.

Following is a list of the different feed categories for your quick reference:

  • Chick Starter is used to start your chicks off on the right foot. You should use it for a number of weeks and then switch to a grower feed (for pullets) or a broiler feed (for meat birds) depending on your intentions. Chick starter feeds are available in both medicated and non-medicated varieties. The medicated variety is intended to help the chickens develop an immunity to Coccidiosis. If you chose to have your chicks vaccinated for Coccidiosis, then you should use a non-medicated feed.
  • Chick Grower feed is used once the chicks are a few weeks old until they are ready to transition to layer feed which is typically from 4 to 20 weeks or onset of egg production. If you are raising layers and you use a brand of feed that is not supplied in a grower ration, then you would switch directly from starter feed to layer ration at the onset of lay. Similarly, if you are raising broilers and a grower ration is not available, you would switch directly from chick starter to broiler ration or broiler finisher at the appropriate age.
  • Broiler Finisher is for feeding to your broilers until they are ready to be processed. Murray McMurray Hatchery sells an organic broiler finisher that is designed for use beginning at around 5 weeks of age.
  • Pre-Layer or Pullet Layer is a feed designed for early layer breeds such as Red and Black Stars. Because the birds begin laying at a younger, less developed age they have a different feed requirement. Packed with amino acids this layer feed helps the bird grow and mature physically while also providing the right nutrition to produce eggs. This feed may not be available at every hardware store and could be hard to find but it is essential in development. If unable to source you can mix Broiler Booster into your Layer feed. One packet per 250 lbs of feed or 2 Tbl per 50 lbs.
  • Layer feed is formulated for hens approaching laying age. Some layer feeds are designed to be used starting at 16-18 weeks and others are designed for use beginning at 10 weeks. Some layer feeds are complete feeds, meaning that you do not need to supplement them. Some layer feeds are lower in calcium and need to be supplemented. One supplement option is adding oyster shells to your feed. Murray’s Select Oyster Shell will provide your laying hens the calcium they need to keep their eggshells strong. Hens that get too little calcium will lay thin-shelled eggs that are prone to breakage. Why oyster shells? Oyster shells are made of calcium carbonate which is found in egg shells.

In addition to the many types feed, there are several different forms as well, including:

  • Mash is ground up feed.
  • Pellets consist of mash that has been processed to shape the feed into pellets. Note: pellets can help to reduce feed waste but are not as easily digested as mash or crumbles.
  • Crumbles are a feed containing pellets that have been broken up into smaller pieces making them easier to consume.

One other item to make sure you have easily available for your flock is access to fresh, clean water. Water is not always considered to be a nutrient but it is one of the most important items to consider for your flock’s health.

Always follow your feeds recommended feeding schedule as they are all formulated differently.

 

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How to Store Your Eggs for Maximum Freshness

Assorted Chicken EggsWe all know that the freshest eggs come directly from your chicken but, more often than not, you will have to store your eggs for a few days or possibly a few weeks. So, what is the best way to store eggs so they remain fresh until ready for use?

Eggs that have been washed should be refrigerated. Washing the egg removes the “bloom” which is the protective outer coating. Egg shells are porous and the bloom seals up the pores allowing the egg to breathe. The bloom is the egg’s best defense against bacteria and contamination.

If you plan to use the eggs that day, washing them first is a good idea. But if you plan to store the eggs, then delay washing them until you plan to use them.

When you gather your own eggs, you may leave them on the counter for several weeks and they will still be fine. If your house is too warm (above 80 degrees) its best to keep them in the fridge as they might incubate!

When refrigerating eggs, it is important that the temperature be kept between about 36 degrees (F) and 40 degrees (F). Anything colder and the eggs are likely to freeze. Anything warmer than that, and they will deteriorate faster.

Eggs can absorb strong odors from other foods in the refrigerator, so it best to keep eggs in an egg carton rather than store them in the open-topped egg tray that comes with or was built into your refrigerator. Store them on one of the shelves instead of in door as they will remain at a more constant temperature. Also, eggs should always be stored with the large end up, as this helps the yolk remain centered.

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Reducing Stress in Your Flock

Reducing or limiting stress is one of the best things you can do to keep your flock healthy and productive. Similar to how stress affects humans, in poultry it can lead to many problems including: reduced egg production, poor rate of growth and development, and greater susceptibility to disease.

According to Gail Damerow, author of The Chicken Health Handbook, chickens are always undergoing some level of stress. Our task shouldn’t be to totally eliminate stress but instead limit and reduce it.

Lots of things can cause stress to your flock, most of which are easy to correct or prevent. Some of the obvious causes of stress include:

  1. Water problems. Running out of water can cause unnecessary stress. Poor quality water can also cause stress. To reduce stress, give them a continual supply of clean, fresh water, and clean their watering equipment regularly. For more information, see our article on the importance of water for chickens.
  1. Inadequate nutritionChicken feeds are designed for specific applications and ages. Feeding the wrong type of feed can lead to inadequate nutrition, as well as not having enough feed or letting feed spoil. For example, newly hatched chicks should receive a chick starter that supplies adequate levels of protein, not a lower protein ration intended for mature birds, such as layer ration.
  1. Excessive or Rough Handling. Handling chickens stresses them to some degree, particularly rough handling. Children that have not been properly taught how to handle the birds can cause a lot of stress. On the other hand, proper handling of your birds can reduce stress overall. If you rarely handle your chickens, they will not be use to human contact so when you have to handle them (ex. to check for mites), it will stress them more than necessary. The solution is to handle them gently and frequently enough that they get used to it, but in moderation. Just spending some time in the coop or pen with them for a few minutes daily will help. Picking up a hen or rooster and holding it for awhile before gently setting it down will help them learn that you aren’t going to harm it. With regular handling, they will get tamer (some breeds more than others) and be less stressed when you do have to handle them.
  1. Fear of dogs or predators. If your chickens are being threatened by predators, or if dogs are allowed to run around the coop, they may frighten the chickens, which causes stress. You may want to consider putting up some type of perimeter fencing that can keep animals like these away from the coop.
  1. Overcrowding. Having too many chickens in a too small of a space increases stress, exacerbates tendencies toward pecking one another, makes good hygiene more difficult and can increase the risk of diseases and parasites. Make sure your chickens have plenty of space.
  1. Parasites and disease. Diseases as well as internal parasites, such as worms, and external parasites, such as mites, causes stress in chickens which weakens their immune systems making them more susceptible to disease.
  1. Extremes of Temperature. Heat stress is one of the most commonly discussed types of stress for chickens as does excessive cold. Chickens are typically much more insulated than we are, so what feels cold to us is not necessarily cold for them.

One of the best ways to recognize sources of stress and other problems is to spend time with your chickens and observe their behavior and their living conditions. You’ll be able to see quickly when living conditions aren’t clean enough and allow you to smell the harmful ammonia build-up that can result from inadequate ventilation.

Beyond that, chickens’ behavior will change when they experience higher levels of stress. If you spend time with them and watch them enough to recognize their normal behavior, then you’ll be able to more easily notice when their behavior has begun to change as a result of stress. You can then quickly determine the cause and make changes to fix the problem and reduce their stress levels resulting in a happier, healthier and more productive flock.

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The Farm-to-Table Movement Wouldn’t Be Successful Today Without the Mail Order Chick Business

Murray McMurray Hatchery | Baby ChicksNote: The following article will appear in an upcoming issue of Dirt Magazine discussing Murray McMurray Hatchery’s stance on the mail order chick business.

The growth of the farm-to-table movement wouldn’t be as successful as it is today without the mail order chick business. McMurray Hatchery has been at the forefront of backyard farming, assisting our customers with their choice of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle through our selection of chicks. Hobbyists and average consumers desire transparency in their food and rely on the mail order chick industry to supply them with wholesome bird options as an alternative to buying eggs or meat from a large produce supplier.

McMurray Hatchery has been in the mail order chick business for 100 years, working with consumers and carriers to provide a seamless transaction from start to finish. But it hasn’t been without hard work.

We love what we do, and we want our customers to have a positive experience with us. Throughout our 100 years in the industry, McMurray Hatchery has always been mindful of implementing existing shipping standards and we work very closely with our local post office. We contact the post office 3 days prior to a shipment to make sure transportation is available, after which we track each and every package to guarantee delivery. Each week we send a report to the post office detailing any complications to avoid future difficulties.

Our customers are our highest priority, but our chicks are the center of our business. In our efforts to continue to provide our customers with the highest quality products, our shipping boxes have been designed specifically for live chick delivery. The sidewalls are slanted with standoffs to ensure proper air circulation and the ventilation holes are adjusted depending on the season. In the early spring months, insulation and layering are added to the box for comfort, while in the winter or colder temperatures, 72-hour heat packs can be added to boxes with smaller breeds.

Our extensive experience of over 100 years in the mail order chick industry gives us the confidence we need to continue to supply our customers with healthy and viable chicks. We’re committed to staying on top of the business and supporting our customers’ mission for healthy living.

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Options for Starting your own Flock of Chickens

Murray McMurray Hatchery | Baby ChicksRaising chickens is becoming more and more popular with homesteaders, hobbyists, urban farmers, and those wanting to have an organic resource for their eggs and meat. Chickens can also be beneficial in helping to control pests and produce manure for fertilizer.

When starting out, you have several options for populating your flock. Each have their advantages and disadvantages so it is important to look at your situation to find the right fit.

Day-old chicks can be shipped throughout most of the United States. Upon their arrival, they will need to go into a brooder to keep warm, much like a mother hen would do if she hatched them. Chicks will need water and food right away and will need to stay in the brooder for several weeks as they grow and feather out. Once they no longer need supplemental heat, they can be introduced into an outdoor coop.

Fertile eggs can be hatched in an incubator and takes about 21 days to hatch. Once they hatch, they will need to be treated like day-old chicks. Hatching can be a rewarding experience but does require more time and equipment. If you’ve never raised chicks before, we recommend starting with day-old chicks or another option.

Started chicks are those that have been raised in the brooder until they are 4-9 weeks old. When you buy started chicks, you will receive them about the same age as those that are coming out of brooder so they are ready to go right into the coop. This is a great way to save extra time but the cost per bird will be higher because of the extra care, feed and equipment needed to raise them. Shipping costs will also be more due to their larger size.

Started pullets are female chickens that are approaching laying age, typically 18 weeks and up, and are a great way to start getting eggs quickly. They do require additional care, feed and housing and because of their larger size, shipping costs are higher.

Once you have decided on how to start your flock, the following tips from our customers submitted via social media, can help you successfully be on your way:

“Always build your coop larger than you think you want it.”

“No such thing as a coop that’s too big.”

“Baby chicks are like newborns. They eat, poop, sleep. You feed, change their water and clean poop…like a few times per day. Do not get babies unless you can commit the time.”

“Do not overcrowd your new babies or someone will get suffocated. Use two or more heat lamps so they can move around.”

“When making your pen, bury the fence at least a foot under the ground so nothing can dig under it.”

“When your birds arrive, dip their beaks in the water to verify that they know where the water is and how to drink.”

“I start my chicks on medicated feed (has a coccidiosis preventative in it) and another important thing is to give them plenty of space and keep their feeders and waterers clean and filled daily.”

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Keep Your Chickens Healthy and Producing During Winter Months

As the weather turns cold, it is time to start thinking about winterizing your coop so your chickens stay healthy and produce eggs through the colder months. To help you, we have compiled a list of basic winterizing tips.

  • Prevent frost bite of the feet and combs by checking your chickens frequently. Make sure that they have fresh bedding to lay and roost on. Consider going to a heavier bedding, like hay, for the winter months, as it retains heat better keeping your chickens warm.
  • In the winter, chickens need protection from cold weather, which their feathers provide by keeping an insulating layer of warm air between their feathers and their body, trapped in their down. If they are situated directly in the wind its impossible to stay warm. On the other hand, they need ventilation in the coop, not only to let in fresh air, but also to let out moist air that accrues from their respirations and droppings. In the winter, moist air inside a coop can lead to frostbitten combs and wattles, and an airtight coop can also cause respiratory illnesses if the air is too wet to let the droppings dry out. In those conditions, the droppings can begin producing ammonia or hydrogen sulfide gases. So be sure your coop is well ventilated and kept dry, but that your chickens are protected from direct drafts.
  • Check the coop frequently to ensure that predators have not found entry. They are more desperate to find food and water during the winter months.
  • Check on your chicken’s water more frequently during colder weather as it can quickly freeze depending on your geographic region. Use a heated base for the waterer to keep water flowing, or bring warm water in to replace the frozen water.
  • Consider adding more grains to their regular diet. This will add more fat and insulation to the chicken’s bodies as well as energy. Continue to supplement your chickens’ diet with food scraps for additional nutrition. Check out this high protein snack: https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/grubblies.html
  • During the colder months, chickens are more susceptible to a condition called “pasting.” This occurs when their vents are blocked with their droppings. Check the birds frequently, and gently remove the blockage with the help of warm water if needed.

With these tips and a little extra attention, your chickens will stay very happy during the winter months.

Visit the cold weather section on our website for our recommended accessories to help your birds weather the winter at https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/winter_accessorites.html

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2017 Catalog Photo Contest Winners

The 2017 Murray McMurray catalog — our 100th Anniversary catalog — will be extra special next year with a little help from some of our friends who have submitted photos to one of our photo contests.

These photos were selected for use in the upcoming anniversary catalog, and as a thank you, they will be receiving a $50 gift certificate. In addition, we have acknowledged their contribution by listing their name with the photo in the catalog. Thank you to all who have participated in our photo contests over the years.

2017 McMurray Hatchery Catalog Winners

2017 CATALOG PHOTOS COURTESY OF:

  1. Steven Swingle
  2. Lolita Hestand
  3. Ann Gebhart
  4. Vanessa Plakias
  5. Kayla Nunes
  6. Candice Watson
  7. Sharon Gould
  8. Stephen Eastman
  9. Melissa Libby
  10. Erin McKinley
  11. Michael Willis
  12. Lindsey Richmond
  13. Jennifer Gallus
  14. Mary Webb
  15. Jean Christine Klein
  16. Michelle Michener
  17. Jim Price
  18. Sailor Ward
  19. Neve Perdue
  20. Kristi Hantelman
  21. Gwen & Laura Burrows
  22. Kayla Nunes
  23. Claudia Hebert
  24. Yvonne Gnirss
  25. Mark & Erin Halla
  26. Mary Webb
  27. Ruth Hansen
  28. Glenn Shreiber
  29. Candice Watson

The 2017 catalogs will be mailed out in late December and should arrive in homes by mid-January. Keep an eye out for the new catalog in your mailbox after the New Year!

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Tips to Predator-Proof Your Coop

Whether you live in town or live in the suburbs, keeping your birds safe is a challenging task as they attract all kinds of predators. Nothing is worse than finding an injured, dead or missing flock member, so we decided to compile ten tips that will help you predator-proof your birds and ensure their safety and minimize loss and/or injury:

  1. Train your flock to return to the coop every night. If they are raised in a coop, they will naturally return at night to lay eggs and roost after being out all day. Make sure you lock and secure the coop every night.
  2. Ensure your coop is free of any holes in the walls, doors and floors. Cover any openings, including windows, with a tight, heavy-gauge wire or hardware cloth. Softer chicken wire or plastic mesh screens can easily be chewed, pried or torn open by outside predators.
  3. Raise your coop at least a foot off the ground to keep predators such as snakes, rats, skunks from living underneath and stealing eggs, chickens or younger chicks. Also, if you have cats, this allows them to crawl under the coop floor and eliminate any rodent or other small annoying visitors.
  4. To deter predators that are diggers, create a 12” trench all the way around the perimeter of the coop and bury hardware cloth.
  5. For maximize security, cover the run to protect against climbing or flying predators using welded-wire fencing, chicken wire or game-bird netting. You can also install a random array of crisscrossing wires overhead to discourage flying predators from grabbing your flock from above.
  6. Use a 2-step locks on door latches, such as spring locks and barrel-style locks, as raccoons and other fairly dexterous animals are able to easily unlatch simple locks and turn basic door handles.
  7. Use a motion-sensor-activated night light to flood the run with light after dark will keep most nocturnal predators away from the coop.
  8. Plant bushes inside the chicken run as your birds will like the shade and to nibble on the leaves but be sure to leave the perimeter as open as you can. Predators such as raccoons are less likely to try to work to get into a closure when they have to sit in the open to do it.
  9. Having chicken-friendly dogs around help serve as deterrents for predators hesitant to approach. A dog’s urine and feces smell serves as a natural deterrent as well. With this said, be sure your dog is trained not to go after your flock.
  10. Don’t leave uneaten food in the run or uncollected eggs in the coop as they both will attract rodents and predators. Although rodents will not go after your chickens they can spread disease. Be sure to store feed and water away from the coop or secure them tightly.
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Tips to Help Your Chickens Stay Cool This Summer

Tips to Help Your Chickens Stay Cool This SummerThe summer heat doesn’t just take its toll on humans, it affects our feathered friends as well. It is difficult for chickens to stay cool during the summer months, so the more you can do to assist them, the better off you will all be. Chickens don’t sweat, so they rely on panting to keep cool and they also hold their wings away from their bodies to allow the air to flow under their wings. Their combs and wattles also assist with keeping their body temperatures down by allowing the heat to escape their bodies.

To assist you with keeping your flock cool this summer, we have compiled some tips for you to follow. In fact, some of these were submitted to us by our Facebook followers.

COLD WATER — Clean accessible drinking water for your birds is very important. During the summer heat, switch to more shallow pans to make it easy to clean and keep full. Also, consider adding a block of ice to the water to keep it colder longer. If you use nipple waterers, make sure you add pans of water around your run for easy additional access.

Adding a product that adds vitamins and electrolytes in the drinking water, such as Quik Chik will help reduce the effects of heat stress in your poultry, as well.

Providing non-drinking water for your chickens to enjoy will help keep them comfortable as it will provide them an opportunity to get their feet wet and to dunk their heads. Dunking their heads in water and cooling their wattles and combs immediately lowers their body temperature.

SHADE — If you don’t have natural shade, create some by using a small covered structure or use a tarp or umbrellas. The shaded areas will allow your chickens to gather in a cooler place out of the direct sunlight.

FEED — Chickens consume a lot less feed in the summer. Stay away from feeding scratch grains because digesting the scratch can actually warm up a chicken’s body temperature. In the extreme heat, lighting the coop and feeding the chickens at night will encourage them to eat because it is cooler.

ADDITIONAL TIPS — Frozen watermelon is treat that many of our readers shared with us that they use to hydrate and cool their chickens. Freeze ice blocks and include strawberries, blueberries, cucumber slices, and vegetables, such as, peas and corn kernels. This allows the chickens to get the additional hydration needed from the ice and nutrients from the hidden treats. One Facebook follower shared she adds mint to her ice blocks to help reduce the chickens body temperature.

Several Facebook followers shared that they hang frozen ice jugs in front of an oscillating fans to create a “mister” effect. Be careful when using this method as it could generate too much moisture which can cause respiratory issues. Also make sure the ice jugs are secure. You can also freeze milk jugs of water and set them around the run so the chickens can lean against them to cool off as one follower shared.

If you do notice that you have a chicken that is suffering from the effects of the heat, get it to a cool area, provide hydration and soak their feet in cool water to assist with bringing their body temperature down.

By paying attention to your flock and implementing some of the tips we shared above, your chickens will remain healthy and producing throughout the summer heat.

Posted in Feeds and Feeding, Raising Chickens | 18 Comments