All posts by mriley

Should I raise chickens?

Should I raise chickens?

Many people are drawn to the idea of raising backyard poultry for fresh eggs and the flavorful meat. Of course there are also other benefits as well, such as manure for fertilizing gardens, keeping down the populations of bugs and other garden pests and they are great companions.
But before you decide to join this fast growing trend, there are several things to consider when raising any poultry.
First , determine your time to dedicate to these animals and how they may impact your life and your family. They do require daily attention and chores. This means daily feeding, watering and yes cleaning up manure. Decide whether you want chickens for egg laying or meat production. If you want egg layers, keep in mind it usually takes 20+ weeks before you will see any eggs. If you want meat production, the best breed would be the Cornish Rock Broilers which take 6-8 weeks from start to finish. If you go with broilers we do recommend a strict feeding schedule of 12 hours on and 12 hours off.
Once you decide which breed of bird you are interested in, you next need to decide how much space you’ll need to accommodate the birds. If you live in a town or city you will also need to check your laws to determine how many you are allowed to have. Most cities have a limit of between 4-10 hens only. You do not need to have a rooster to have egg production. Do you have a coop for them or do you need to build one? A coop protects chickens from predators, and provides shelter from sun, cold and rain. It should have a locking door, a roosting bar and nesting boxes for layers. If you want to try to build your own, I would suggest a couple of items we sell at Welp Hatchery, the Multi-Purpose Mini Barn Plan or Poultry House Shelter Plan. If you’re not the DIY kind, there are numerous places on-line to order coops or check out your local farm supply store.
Before bringing your baby chicks home, you will want to be sure you have waterers, feeders, feed, bedding and a heating lamp. Your chicks need to be handled with care, so having everything set up before you bring them home will help alleviate any stress on the birds. You want to line your coop with woodshavings (not newspaper, it’s too slippery for the chicks), have clean fresh water and food, have the temperature set to 95 degrees for the first week. You drop the temperature 5 degrees every week until there is a constant temperature of 70 degrees or chicks are feathered out. Be sure that the chicks always have fresh water. This is very important as the chicks drink a lot of water.
Lastly, enjoy the chickens. They will provide an entertaining and relaxing atmosphere to your backyard, keep the bugs down, as well as provide you with eggs and or meat.

Contributed by Michelle Coleman

Send us your poultry photos!

As the leaves start to change from green to the yellow, orange and red colors of fall, there is a definite feeling of transition in the air. Although it seems the “busy” season of hatchery life seems to extend each year (and that is a good thing!), fall is a time where we can catch our breath, and maybe enjoy the beauty of the poultry we hatch and/or raise.

For a lot of people who ordered egg layer chicks in the spring, the birds have grown up now into chickens and are probably giving you plenty of fresh eggs. They probably have all of their permanent feathers grown in, and are pecking around the yard to get the last bugs of the season. Or maybe the last vegetables of the garden are being picked, and there is enough to share some with your birds.

We’d love to see some pictures of you and your birds enjoying the fall season. We are asking you to email us some pictures of you and your birds. Please email to bkollasch@welphatcherycom . We’ll try and share some of the these on our blog page, and we are always looking for photos to include in our print catalog. If you send in a photo, we prefer a digital image, and also include the name of the people (and the poultry, if they are named) in the photo.

We look forward to seeing some great photos!

Things to consider if your hens aren’t laying well.

Are you having difficulty with your hens laying eggs? Are they not producing to their standard? You may want to check on some of these factors that may be the cause of this.

Is there enough lighting? Your hens will need at least 15 hours of daylight. This is easier to do when there is more natural light during the late spring to early fall. However, if you would like to keep your production of eggs going, provide some additional lighting. To try and give them as much light as possible it’s recommended to use no less than a 75 watt light bulb.

What are you feeding them? It is recommended to have a quality layer feed which will have the right portions of everything they need to produce eggs. Some table scraps are ok for your birds, but should be given to them in moderation so it does not upset the balance of the feed.

Are your hens stressed out? Are there predators? This is caused by different things. One would be to make sure they are not being frightened. This could be from predators trying to get in the pen with them, or a snake that made its way into the pen. Other reasons for stressed out chickens would be handling them too much, moving them to a different pen, letting them run out of food or water, or even disrupting the pecking order by bringing in new birds.

Do they have enough water? They should always have plenty of clean water to drink, and during the winter months it is important to not let their water freeze.

What is the temperature like? Hens usually lay best when it is not too hot or too cold. During the summer it is necessary to provide cool water, and shade. During the winter it is recommended to try and keep their pen at above 55-60 degrees.

Are they molting? The molting process happens about once a year. This usually causes a production decrease or a halt to the eggs. Molting can last anywhere from 4 – 16 weeks. Chickens will lose feathers in a sequence starting with the head and neck and then down the back, across the breast and thighs and finally their tail feathers. The new feathers that emerge are called pinfeathers and will grow in following the same sequence they were lost.

How old are your hens? It is typical for your hens to have their best production in the first and second year after they hatch. After three years old their production will start slowly decreasing. It is estimated that at about five years of age they will only be producing half as frequently as they did the first two years.

Contributed by Cory Johnson


When cooking your chicken, here are some general guidelines to help prepare it safely:
Cleanliness–Make sure everything is prepared and cleaned to prevent bacteria from getting on the food. It is important to wash your hands before and after handling the food. Also make sure that all of the cooking dishes you use are clean.
Separate–You want to avoid cross-contamination with other foods. It is important to keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate. Before preparing your raw chicken, you should not rinse it in your sink. The bacteria can easily be spread from your sink to your countertops and onto the other food you are preparing. The only way to kill this bacterium is to cook it to a safe internal temperature. It is recommended to have at least 2 cutting boards as well (one for fresh produce, one for raw meats).
Cooking–When cooking poultry you want to make sure that is cooked thoroughly. Poultry should always be cooked to 165 degrees internal temperature. You can use a meat thermometer to make sure this is done accurately, and it is not recommended to just judge the poultry by the “color test”. Just because it isn’t pink or odd colored anymore doesn’t mean that it has been cooked thoroughly.
Chilling—it is best to select the poultry items you wish to purchase from the store as one of your last items in the cart as to keep it cold longer. Once you get it home it should immediately go into the refrigerator or the freezer. Your refrigerator should maintain a temperature of about 40 degrees (F). You should thaw the frozen poultry in the refrigerator instead of on the countertop or in cold water. This helps prevent the spread of bacteria. It is recommended to refrigerate leftovers within an hour or two after cooking; they will then be safe to eat for the next two-three days.


Compiled by Cory Johnson

Chicken labeling definitions.

The Food industry uses many different terms on it’s label to advertise it’s products. These terms can be a bit confusing trying to figure out what makes them different from each other. Here are a few definitions from the National Chicken Council to hopefully help clear up some of the confusion.

Free Range
There’s no precise federal government definition of “free range,” so the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approves these label claims on a case-by-case basis. USDA generally permits the term to be used if chickens have access to the outdoors for at least some part of the day, whether the chickens choose to go outside or not. In practice, most chickens stay close to water and feed, which is usually located within the chicken house. Chicken labeled as “organic” must also be “free-range,” but not all “free-range” chicken is also “organic.” Less than 1% of chickens nationwide are raised as “free range,” according to the National Chicken Council (NCC).

All chickens are raised on farms. So any chicken could be labeled “farm-raised.” When this term is used on restaurant menus and the like, it usually refers to chickens raised on a local farm.

Under USDA regulations, a “natural” product has no artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives, and is minimally processed, just enough to get it ready to be cooked. Most ready-to-cook chicken can be labeled “natural,” if processors choose to do so.

The USDA has a very specific rule to define “organic” production and prohibits the use of the term “organic” on packaging of any food product not produced in accordance with its rule. According to USDA, the organic label does not indicate that the product has safety, quality or nutritional attributes that are any higher than conventionally raised product.

No Hormones Added
Despite what you may hear, no artificial or added hormones are used in the production of any poultry in the United States. Regulations of the Food & Drug Administration prohibit the use of such hormones. No such hormones are used. So any brand of chicken can be labeled “Raised without hormones” or something like that. However, any package of chicken with that type of label must also have a statement that no hormones are used in the production of any poultry.

“Raised without Antibiotics” or “Antibiotic-Free”
“Raised without Antibiotics” on a package of chicken indicates that the flock was raised without the use of products classified as antibiotics for animal health maintenance, disease prevention or treatment of disease. Animal health products not classified as antibiotics (such as some coccidiostats, which control protozoal parasites) may still be used. “Antibiotic free” is not allowed to be used on a label but may be found in marketing materials not regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It means the same thing as “Raised without Antibiotics.” All chicken is “antibiotic-free” in the sense that no antibiotic residues are present in the meat due to the withdrawal periods and other precautions required by the government and observed by the chicken companies

Enhanced Chicken Products
Some fresh (raw and uncooked) chicken products are enhanced with chicken broth or a similar solution. The presence and percentage of the broth or other solution must be stated clearly and the actual ingredients listed on the label. Both enhanced and non-enhanced products are currently available in the marketplace.

Sodium is used in the broth or solution of some enhanced products, usually at very low levels. The presence of salt or sodium is noted on the label.

“Retained Water”
A “retained water” statement, such as “May contain up to 6% retained water” or “Less than 4% retained water,” is often found on packages of fresh poultry. USDA prohibits retention of moisture in meat and poultry except for the amount that results from essential safety procedures, such as chilling processed chickens in ice-cold water to reduce their temperature and retard the growth of spoilage bacteria and other microorganisms. If any moisture is retained by the product after this procedure, it must be stated on the label.

All-Vegetable Diet
Poultry feed is made primarily from corn and soybean meal. Poultry feed sometimes includes some processed protein and fats and oils from meat and poultry by-products. The composition of all animal feed ingredients used in the United States is regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). If the chicken company chooses not to use these ingredients, the feed would contain no ingredients derived from animals and could be described as “all vegetable.”

Chickens: Made in the USA
Nearly all the chickens and chicken products sold in the United States come from chickens hatched, raised and processed in the United States. The only exception is a small amount imported from Canada, which has food safety and quality standards equal to our own.

Interesting Odds & Ends about Eggs

•Howard Helmer, former American Egg Board representative, is the Omelet King. Helmer holds three Guinness World Records for omelet making – fastest omelet-maker (427 omelets in 30 minutes); fastest single omelet (42 seconds from whole egg to omelet); and omelet flipping (30 flips in 34 seconds).
•The name meringue came from a pastry chef named Gasparini in the Swiss town of Merhrinyghen. In 1720, Gasparini created a small pastry of dried egg foam and sugar from which the simplified meringue evolved. Its fame spread and Marie Antoinette is said to have prepared the sweet with her own hands at the Trianon in France.
•To tell if an egg is raw or hard-boiled, spin it. Because the liquids have set into a solid, a hard-boiled egg will easily spin. The moving liquids in a raw egg will cause it to wobble.
•Double-yolked eggs are often produced by young hens whose egg production cycles are not yet completely synchronized. They’re often produced too, by hens which are old enough to produce Extra Large-sized eggs. Genetics is also a factor. Occasionally a hen will produce double-yolked eggs throughout her egg-laying career. It’s rare, but not unusual, for a young hen to produce an egg with no yolk at all.
•An egg roll can be any one of three very different things: 1) an Asian specialty, usually served as an appetizer, in which a savory filling is wrapped in an egg-rich dough and then deep-fat fried, 2) an annual Easter event held in many places, including the White House lawn and 3) an elongated hard-boiled egg made for the foodservice industry. When the long egg roll is sliced with a special slicer, every piece is a pretty center cut.
•It is said that an egg will stand on its end during the spring (vernal) equinox (about March 21), one of the two times of the year when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are of equal length everywhere. Depending on the shape of the egg, you may be able to stand it on its end other days of the year as well.
•Long before the days of refrigeration, the ancient Chinese stored eggs up to several years by immersing them in a variety of such imaginative mixtures as salt and wet clay; cooked rice, salt and lime; or salt and wood ashes mixed with a tea infusion. The treated eggs bore little similarity to fresh eggs, some exhibiting greenish-gray yolks and albumen resembling brown jelly. Today, eggs preserved in this manner are enjoyed in China as a delicacy.
•You really can have egg on your face. As egg white tends to be drying, it has long been used as a facial. Egg yolks are used in shampoos and conditioners and, sometimes, soaps. Cholesterol, lecithin and some of the egg’s fatty acids are used in skin care products, such as revitalizers, make-up foundations and even lipstick.

Source American Egg Board

Variables affecting your hatch

Many people decide to hatch chicks themselves, from either fertile eggs they gather themselves, or purchase from others. Aside from the incubation process itself, there are other factors that can affect your hatch. Here is a list of some things to consider.
1. The age of the breeder or chicken that produced the egg you are incubating.
2. Fertility of the eggs you are setting.
3. The length of holding time on the eggs before you start incubating.
4. The environment of the area you are holding the eggs (temperature/humidity, etc.) prior to incubating.
5. The physical quality of the eggs you are setting (cracks, soiling, shape of the egg).

All of the above are things you should be aware of prior to setting eggs in your incubator. Here at Welp Hatchery, we take into account all of these things, plus the actual incubation process when we project our hatches (how many chicks we think will hatch in our incubators for each set). When you keep detailed information about these things, it allows you to make hatch projections a lot closer to what your actual hatch numbers are. However, even with great documentation, we never project our hatches perfectly. Like they say, you really can’t count your chickens before they hatch!

Breed spotlight: Red Ranger

Red Ranger

The Red Ranger is a breed we’ve added to our list of offerings a couple of years ago. Each year, we seem to have more customers interested in them. Most are interested in an alternative breed to the fast growing Cornish Rock. The Red Ranger does not grow as fast as the Cornish Rock, but is not far behind. They are great on pasture, and offer another choice in meat bird. Please check out the link below to our website for more information on this breed!

How long are eggs safe to keep in the refrigerator?

The following information comes from the American Egg Board.

Eggs are perishable and must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. When properly handled and stored, eggs rarely spoil. However, if you keep them too long, they are likely to dry up.

Refrigerator Storage: Refrigerate eggs at 40°F or less. Store them in their original carton on an inside shelf and away from pungent foods. The temperature on an inside shelf remains more constant than one on the door, which is opened and closed frequently. The carton keeps the eggs from picking up odors or flavors from other foods and helps prevent moisture loss.

Raw eggs that have been removed from their shells should be refrigerated in a tightly covered container. Refrigerated whole egg yolks should be covered with water to prevent them from drying out; drain before using.

Eggs in a Refrigerator (35°F to 40°F)
Raw whole eggs (in shell) will last 4 to 5 weeks beyond the pack date or about 3 weeks after purchase.

Top 10 Ways Chicken Contributes to a Healthy Diet.

The information below comes from the National Chicken Council’s website. As you are probably aware, chicken is one of the best sources for lean protein around. Read below to see why!

WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 14, 2014 – According to health professionals and nutritionists, protein is the cornerstone of a healthy and balanced diet. Chicken is one of the best sources of what nutritionists call “high-quality” protein. The body uses it to create new cells, repair existing ones and produce the enzymes necessary to boost metabolism and promote healthy digestion.

To read more about the importance of protein in your diet, see this article by the National Chicken Council.

There are a number of benefits to gain, simply by incorporating chicken into your diet. Read on to learn more and eat your way to a healthier 2014!

1. Only 4 grams of total fat in a skinless chicken breast serving—only 6 percent of the daily recommended intake.
2. 5 to 7 ounces of protein should be eaten by Americans on a daily basis, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. A 3.5 ounce serving of chicken has half the daily recommendation of protein. Chicken is a high quality protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids and has a great nutrient per calorie ratio. The American Heart Association also promotes chicken as one of the best ways to keep cholesterol levels down naturally.
3. Only 9 grams of fat in a 3.5 ounce serving of dark meat. Though dark meat is slightly higher in fat than white meat, it’s still lower than most cuts of red meat and a great (and flavorful) source of iron and other nutrients. Don’t fear the legs and thighs!
4. 2014 Dietary Trends all incorporate chicken, including Paleo, DASH, MyPlate, Weight Watchers and the Dukan Diet, famously employed by Kate Middleton in the months leading up to the Royal Wedding.
5. Affordable – Chicken is not only the best protein option for your waistline, it’s the best option for your wallet. You can even take the money you save on chicken and put it towards a gym membership!
6. Natural – There are no artificial or added hormones used in the production of any U.S. chicken. In fact, the use of such hormones is expressly forbidden by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Labels that read: “Raised without hormones” are redundant and must also include a statement saying that no hormones are used in the production of any poultry raised in the United States.
7. Nutrient-Rich – Chicken is a great source of iron and zinc, as well as Vitamins B3, B6, B7 and B12, helping boost metabolism and the immune system, while also lowering cholesterol and promoting normal function of the brain and nervous system.
8. Weight Loss – Chicken can help you lose weight because protein helps regulate appetite and cravings by making you feel fuller longer. Our protein needs are determined by lean body mass, not calories, so as calories are decreased on a weight loss plan, protein intake should stay the same, or even increase if you want to preserve muscle.
9. Versatile – Chicken is the little black dress of protein—it’s always in style and goes with everything. Use it for “planned-overs,” not leftovers. Use grilled or baked chicken throughout the week to make simple, healthy dinners, served over a salad of mixed greens, or mixed with peppers and onions for fajitas.
10. Winter blues getting to you? Chicken is high in an amino acid called tryptophan. If you’re feeling seasonal depression kick in eating chicken will increase the serotonin levels in your brain, which will help to improve your mood and kick stress to the curb.

“Chicken is my go-to food for nutrition, taste and easy prep,” says Sheah Rarback, a registered dietician, nutrition columnist for the Miami Herald and faculty member of the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. “It is multi-cultural and tastes terrific in Italian, Spanish, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine as well as the classic American chicken salad. A neat 4 ounce portion is less than 200 calories and provides 36 muscle-building grams of protein.”

For chicken recipes, visit and