For years, the poultry industry was dominated by large commercial producers, but with trends towards sustainable living and eating organically, more families are starting their own backyard flocks.
To help ease the learning curve for new chicken farmers, we’ve answered your most frequently asked questions. Together with our Glossary of Poultry Terms and helpful books & resources, you can learn a lot about raising chickens.
If you have further questions about starting your own flock, feel free to contact us and our team can answer your questions.
Chicken Farming 101
- How long do chickens lay eggs?
Under ideal conditions, chickens could lay eggs indefinitely. However, egg laying birds are most efficient the first year of lay with production below 70% at 80 weeks of age and gradually declining over time.
- Do I need a rooster with my laying hens?
Hens do not need a rooster in order to lay eggs. However, if you want fertile eggs, you will need one rooster for every 8-12 hens. Roosters are also known to act as a protector of the flock against predators and they look great too.
- What is a straight run?
Straight run refers to day-old chicks that are not separated by sex. This means you will get the natural split of pullet (female) and cockerel (male) chicks, according to how they hatch. Because our hatchery team members do not have to sex separate chicks that are being purchased as straight run, this is a more cost-effective way to order your meat chicks. (Remember, only a pullet will lay eggs.)
- What is the difference between brown egg layers and white egg layers?
Our brown egg layer is a hybrid cross between a White Rock and Rhode Island Red. The hen has reddish-brown feathers and lays brown eggs. Our white egg layer is a White Leghorn. This is a white feathered bird that lays white eggs. The mature white egg layer is approx. 3.6lbs., the mature brown egg layer is approx. 4.4lbs. Besides the color of the egg, there is no difference between brown and white eggs.
- How do I prepare for my order of day-old chicks?
Our best tips and advice for caring for your new flock can be found in our Guide to Raising Healthy Chickens.
- What breeds are best for winter or summer?
All our breeds can be raised in the colder northern climates or the warmer southern climates of the continental United States. However, proper management is critical! Birds that are listless and panting need ventilation and additional waterer space. Birds that are huddled together need additional warmth and protection from the elements.
- What egg layer breed is best for backyard or free-range farming?
For producing eggs in a backyard, urban setting, or on the range, we recommend our brown egg layers. These layers are more docile and do well in these types of environments. They are a hardy bird with excellent egg production. The white Leghorn has a tendency to be more flighty and is better suited for an indoor system.
- What meat bird breed is best for pastured poultry production?
For pastured poultry systems, our Specialty Broilers is the preferred choice. These breeds produce hardy birds with great livability and are natural foragers. However, many customers have raised our conventional broilers on pasture for decades. The conventional broiler will grow more rapidly than the specialty broilers.
Hatchery & Hatching Services
- What is the NPIP?
The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) is a voluntary program designed to improve the health and safety procedures within the poultry industry. A partnership between federal and state agencies, hatcheries, and farmers, this program provides our hatchery with guidelines and regulations for sanitization, testing, and biosecurity.
- How does a hatchery help with biosecurity?
At Moyer’s Chicks, we are always on alert to identify and eliminate biosecurity risks throughout our operation. From our supplier flocks, to inside our hatchery, to our handling and delivery of day-old chicks, we adhere to strict regulations, to prevent the introduction of disease. With our certifications from NPIP and Poultry Handling & Transportation, we are always up to date on the best practices in the poultry industry.
- Why should I get the Marek's Vaccine?
We strongly recommend having your birds vaccinated for Marek’s disease. Marek’s is common, highly contagious, mortality is nearly 100%, and there is no treatment for affected birds. Marek’s vaccine is included in the chick price and the use of the vaccine in day-old poultry does not affect organic certification.
- Can my day-old chicks receive beak treatment?
Yes, beak treatments are available for all our day-old chicks. Some customers purchasing layer chicks request beak treatment to address picking as the birds get older.
- How long can I store fertile eggs?
Fertile eggs may be stored at 65 degrees F before starting incubation. However, for best results, fertile eggs should be set when they are received. Lower hatch results occur the longer fertile eggs are in storage.
- What should I do to protect from harmful germs?
Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can live in the intestinal tract of many different animals. As a Salmonella Monitored NPIP participating hatchery, our flocks and facilities are routinely tested. However, it is important to ALWAYS wash your hands after handling live poultry or their equipment.
For further guidance, please visit the CDC website.