Managing small laying hen flocks

February 26, 2024

More Info

This session will delve into key practices to successfully manage small flocks of laying hens for peak production.

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Video Transcript

My name is Katie Ockert and I'm an extension educator with MSU. Tonight I'll be talking with you about managing small laying hen flocks. When we talk about small laying hens, I'm really talking about under 3,000 hens. That's the state regulation for selling off farm and not having commercial regulations and things like that. That's really what we'll be focusing on tonight. We're going to talk about animal well being as a basis of management, some nutrition, parasite management, and keep call decisions. There's a lot of things to talk about with, with poultry management and I just want to make sure that we're getting everything that we've got here. So All right. I want to start off the presentation with some information about animal well being. There's oftentimes this misconception that animal well being principles are the same as animal rights. And I just want to be very clear that they are not the same. The difference is that animal well being is the scientific measure of behavior, biology and access to resources. Whereas animal rights are an ethical viewpoint that can't be scientifically evaluated. Animal rights are unique to every individual person because they're based on their own ethics and belief systems. Just keep that in mind as you talk to people about animal well being versus animal rights. Animal well being describes the physical and mental state of an animal in relation to the conditions in which the animal lives and dies. Every individual animal will cope in its own way to the environment that they're in. Their well being exists on a continuum from very poor well being to very good well being. An individual animal is on that continuum during its entire life. And it changes based on different factors that are happening in the environment, both physically, socially, all of those things. And that can change from moment to moment. So for example, if it's super hot outside and you notice that there's a hen that's experiencing some heat stress, she's going to be on that poor end of the continuum. But you've addressed it. You've identified it. You address it. You get her someplace cool. You get her some water, you get her calm back down in a better thermal neutral zone. You took that appropriate action, then she moves back on that good side of the continuum. That's how we look at animal well being is along that continuum. And knowing that they're going to shift based on all the different factors that are around in the environment. On that continuum, we say that an animal is experiencing good welfare. When it's healthy, it's comfortable, it's well nourished. It's safe. It's not suffering from any unpleasant states such as pain, fear, distress. The animal is able to express behaviors that are important to its physical and mental state. The five provisions of animal well being seem to make perfect sense to me to start off this presentation, because animals that are having a positive interaction with their environment and their care will be productive. The provisions are super easy concepts. The first one is good nutrition. We know that without good nutrition, birds can't grow, let alone be productive. We're going to get into what constitutes good nutrition in a few minutes. But good nutrition also includes ready access to fresh water and a diet that helps the animal maintain its health and vigor. Good nutrition aims to minimize thirst and enable eating to be a pleasurable experience. Some practical applications for good nutrition are considerations like providing enough feeder space and an appropriate number of water dishes and water space so that birds don't have to compete for food or water. They don't have to get pushed away from those feed troughs. They have ready access all of those things. As a general rule of thumb, it's appropriate to provide three to four linear inches of feeder space and three to four linear inches of watering space per full grown bird. And that's a standard sized bird that reduces crowding around the feed and water sources. It eliminates that competition and creates more opportunities for those less dominant birds to eat and drink and not be pushed away from feeders. The second is good environment evaluating, is your housing system adequate? Is there enough space so that negative behaviors are kept to a minimum? Because we know when birds especially are overcrowded, they tend to exhibit some behaviors that are negative. We want to make sure that environment is good, they've got enough space, the environment meet the birds need for temperature regulation and maintaining that appropriate body temperature, no matter what season it is. Is there protection from predators? This provision focuses on promoting the thermal, the physical, and the other comforts that the animal needs in its environment. Practical applications are providing shade during hot weather, providing warm housing in the winter that's free from drafts. Making sure that there's proper ventilation if they are in an enclosed housing system for either all of the day or part of the day, and making sure that animals have a really comfortable place that they can rest. Third, good health. Preventing and rapidly diagnosing and treating disease or injury, and fostering good muscle tone, posture, and cardio respiratory function is what constitutes that good health provision. This provision covers the act of intentionally observing your birds every day. That quick mental checklist that you develop over time that helps you identify when an animal just isn't acting like itself. You create that baseline over time as you're going through your chores every day. That quick mental checklist that becomes second nature, making sure that each bird is healthy, they're not showing any signs of injury or illnesses. That's what that good health provision really encompasses. The fourth is appropriate behaviors. All animals have their own set of standard behaviors when they're provided with sufficient space, proper facilities for that species, congenial company, and appropriately varied conditions, things to keep them occupied. This provision focuses on minimizing threats and unpleasant restrictions on that behavior. And it promotes engagement in rewarding activities for the animal. Like, for example, we see cattle scratching posts, dust baths for chickens, those types of things that they enjoy doing in their environment. And the provision minimizes the opportunity for aggressive individuals in a group to do harm to others in the group. Then the last provision is positive mental experiences. Animals are provided that safe, congenial, and specie, appropriate opportunities to have pleasurable experiences. Animals have that sense of control over their environment. For example, if they're in an area where it's too hot, they have the option to move to a space that's cooler or more comfortable for them. They're able to move about their environment confidently and there's things in their environment that interest them, they're mentally stimulated. All of these provisions aim to enhance the animal's positive experiences throughout their lifetime. Again, that well being is a continuum. And each individual animal will have its own experiences along the continuum. And the most important goal for producers is to make sure that the opportunities for discomfort are minimized. Now that we have a good handle on animal well being and those factors and provisions, we'll move on to a quick crash course in nutrition. Again, this will be just a very brief overview of those key components that we need to address with our nutritional plans to make sure that our birds are in the optimal position to be productive. There are six key nutrients that chicken needs in their diets. We're going to break them all down and talk about why they're important. The first is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for birds, and they make up the largest portion of that poultry diet. They're typically eaten in the form of starches, sugars, cellulose, and non starch compounds. Poultry typically cannot digest cellulose and the non starch compounds that are often called that crew fiber, and they don't digest that very well. Important sources of carbohydrates in that poultry diet are corn, wheat, barley, and other cereal grains. Next is proteins. Proteins are complex compounds made up of amino acids. You've probably always heard that amino acids are the building blocks for muscle and the body. If we think about those proteins, when an animal ingests the proteins, the digestive process then breaks down proteins into amino acids. And then those amino acids are absorbed by the blood and transported throughout the body to all the cells. Amino acids are divided into non essential and then essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made in adequate quantities by the body. They must be supplied and feed. Non essential amino acids are those that the animal's body can generate insufficient quantities by itself. Protein quality is based on the presence of essential amino acids. It will vary depending on the quality of the feed ingredients on a feed tag. They're generally referred to as crude protein. The two most critical amino acids in poultry diets are methionine and lysine Deficiencies in either one of these can lead to a drop in productivity and as a result, overall flock health. Some common protein sources are Sob meal, panola meal, corn gluten meal, fish meal, and bone meal. Next is fats. Fats are what provide the calories or the energy for the bird that they need. Fat is also needed for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Fats also increase the palatability and the pellet quality of feed if you're feeding one of those pets, just like in our diets makes everything taste better is true in our poultry diets. Adequate fat content in the feed keeps feathers looking sleek and shiny and helps the bird maintain good body condition. Next vitamins. Vitamins are a group of organic compounds that are required in very small amounts, but they're very essential for normal growth and development. Vitamins are classified into two main categories, both water soluble and fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins include vitamin C and vitamin B. B Vitamins are involved in many of the body's metabolic functions. Birds can make vitamin C on their own, in their bodies. There isn't necessarily a dietary requirement for C, however, when birds are stressed, vitamin C supplementation has been shown to be useful to pick that bird up. There are various commercial products available to supplement vitamin C, such as Asco. You can Google various over the counter supplementation products that can just give that bird a boost when it's stressed. The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. Vitamin A is required for normal growth and development of the epithelial tissues and for reproduction. Epithelial tissues include the skin, digestive system, lining, reproductive, and respiratory tracts. Vitamin D three is required for growth, bone development, and egg shell formation. Vitamin K is essential for blood clot formation. Many of these essential vitamins are supplied by feed ingredients. But it's always recommended to have a vitamin and mineral Premix to compensate for fluctuating levels of vitamins and minerals in the natural feeds stuff. Speaking of minerals, minerals are also important for bone formation. But they're needed for other important body functions, like the formation of blood cells, enzyme activation, energy metabolism, and for proper muscle function. Minerals are classified into two different groups, micro minerals and macro minerals. Micro minerals are required in lower amounts. Macro minerals are required in higher amounts. Micro minerals include iodine, zinc, and iron. Macro minerals are calcium, phosphorus, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Most of the O grains that we're going to feed in poultry diets will be lower in minerals. It's really important to make sure when you're looking at that feed tag that minerals are included in that formulation in the diet. Last, but certainly not least, water. Water is probably the most critical component of the overall feeding program. All animals can live longer without feed than they can without water. One way to know that birds are not getting adequate water is their egg. Productivity will sharply decrease within a few hours if water is scarce. Water serves a couple other functions as well. It softens feed, and helps it carry through the digestive tract. Blood is made up of about 90% water. It carries nutrients from the digestive tract to cells and it carries away waste products. Water really is an important component to make sure all those bodily functions are working. Water also helps cool birds through evaporation, since birds can't sweat, their heat loss occurs through those air sacs and lungs through that rapid respiration. Water is an integral part of that. There isn't a precise water requirement for birds because there are so many factors that affect the amount of water a bird will need at any given time. If we think about age, body condition, the current diet of the bird, the temperature outside, the temperature inside their housing, the water quality itself, and the humidity, those factors all impact how much water that bird will need. As a general rule of thumb, you should provide twice as much water as you do feed. That's how you can quantify that water. It's really important during the summer when it's hot to provide water so that that thermal regulation can take place. It's also important in the winter when none of us want to drink, there's no animal in the winter that wants to drink as much water, whether that's cattle, sheep, people, birds are no different. It's really hard to get that water component in, in the winter because we don't feel like drinking. But in order to support all of those body functions, it's really important to make sure that that water is a good temperature during the winter when it's cold out to promote drinking. A lot of times there's this debate on where do we source feed. Is it better to get a commercial feed blend or is it better to make your own feed blend? That's really a personal decision, totally up to the producer and what resources you have in your area. Some pros and cons. Commercial feed, it's a convenient option. You can find pre formulated and complete diets or balanced feeds available at any farm store. Generally, most of us have a farm store fairly close. Commercial feed is available in various forms, from pellets to crumble, to mash. Whatever your birds like to eat best, you can generally get commercial feeds come in a variety of price points. You can decide what's in your budget, how many birds are you feeding, and what is it that they want to eat. It's really important to just always read those feed labels to determine if that particular feed is right for your flu. Is it for the right age? Is it for the right stage? Is it for the right production type? You want to feed layer formulas, broiler birds, broiler formulas, so on and so forth. Rather than creating your own ration for small flex, it really does make sense and MSU extension recommends using one of those bag complete feeds. Number one reason being there are several on the market, various price points, but they've all been researched and are continuously tested for quality. You're getting essentially the same with every, when it's a commercially available feed. When you formulate your own feed, you don't necessarily get that consistency. The other thing that you need to keep in mind is that you're using local ingredients. If there's deficiencies in your soil, then that feeds stuff may have some of those nutrient deficiencies too. You should always use a nutritionist. And most of the feed mills that are around that mix feed for people will have a nutritionist and it's super important to utilize that nutritionist to make sure that your birds are getting a balanced formulation for their diet. Generally, homemade feeds are more expensive than commercially available bag feeds. And that's a common misconception, is that homemade feeds and using your own blends is actually more cost effective, and generally it's not. Now you might ask about birds that are foraging or free ranging, that's a great pasture method. That's a great way to get them out and supplement. But foraging and free ranging doesn't provide all of the needs that your birds will have for their nutrition. It's always important to provide that balanced ration to employ feeding strategies. You can either have set feeding times or you can allow them to and free feed. Regardless of whatever you decide, it's important to manage and handle feed appropriately, whether it's homemade or bagged feed. It's always important to make sure that your feed is fresh. Remember that fat can become rancid and that will render all of the fat soluble vitamins in that mixture completely inactive. The other thing to be aware of is checking for mold and bacteria because the mold and bacteria can grow and feed and cause illnesses which will then lower flock production and the impact their overall health. Always store your feed in a clean, dry, rodent proof area. If you're using bag feed and you're buying quantities of it at a time, make sure that you're storing that up off concrete floors because if it's laying directly on the floor, it'll absorb that moisture from the concrete and then it will absorb that moisture and it'll mold and go bad very quickly. Just some storage tips to keep in mind. A big question is supplementation needed? If you're doing this for productivity and you're looking at bottom line, you want to be as efficient as possible. And it's important to recognize that generally if you're feeding that complete ration, that chickens won't need supplementation outside of possibly calcium and grit. Calcium will vary. You can monitor that through watching egg shell quality. There's a lot of factors that impact that need for calcium, age of the bird, how their body functions are being used. Because you've got to remember that those birds will pull calcium from their bones for that eggshell development. If they don't have the calcium in their bones to pull, then that needs to be supplemented by calcium in the diet. Always be the complete feed that provides for the nutrition laying hang diet should contain between 2.5 and 3.5% calcium which again will be listed on that feed tag. And you can see on the picture circled in red, it's always a range because that calcium amount will vary them in this ration. Whatever this product is, is 3.5 to max 4.5 The 2.5 to 3.5 is a minimum amount if you're feeding a good percentage of calcium. And you still question that egg shell quality you can through free choice oyster shells or limed stone that are just available and the birds can eat it as they need. The other component to consider supplementation is that you don't want to have hard grit available at all times. You really want to focus on having that two to three days per month in order to help the gizzard function properly. You've got to remember that if those birds are outside foraging, free ranging, or just even out in a run, they're picking up stones, they're picking up little rocks, things like that, that are going to go in that gizzard and they're going to get broken down. They're going to have some of that. You don't need to supplement it all the time. That can help lead to that impacted gizzard, where you'll want to keep an eye on your birds gizzards to make sure that they're not too big, they're not too hard, they're working properly. Grit comes in different sizes, making sure that you're feeding the appropriate size. There's chick grit and there's hen size. Making sure that you're selecting the appropriate product is important. The other question that gets posed a lot is what about table scraps or fruit or things like that? Different treat. I classify them in the treat category. Treats are okay, just like in our diets, treats are okay. In moderation, we don't want to rely on scraps or treats as the entirety of the diet because the birds are not going to get their nutritional needs met by just using that as a feed source. Is it a nice thing for them to have? Scratch grains are the same. Always think about that. Nutrition is MI meeting the needs that the bird has for its body to be productive and maintain normal physiological processes. Always those things to keep in mind. Next we'll talk about parasite management. I know we're cruising through because we're limited on time and there's so much to cover. If I were to choose the important things in parasite management is another one of those areas that I think is oftentimes overlooked. The impact that parasites can have is great if it's left unchecked. There are several types of parasites. There's internal parasites and there's external parasites both infect birds and it's important to know what they are and what their symptoms are so that you can treat them appropriately. Because if you're using the wrong treatment, then that treatment will be absolutely ineffective. Knowing what you're looking for is really important. Generally, parasites are transmitted through the environment with the bird, either ingesting a parasitic egg found on the ground, or from bird to bird contact, or by an intermittent host, like a mosquito that feed on the bird. And then leave management strategies like keeping the birds environment as clean as possible. Rotational grazing to make sure that they aren't forging through fecal matter is important. Developing that parasite management routine with your veterinarian are generally effective practices to minimize those parasitic loads. It's super important to work with your veterinarian and do those fecal tests to know exactly what you're working with so that you can treat effectively. Otherwise, you're flushing money down the toilet. The internal parasites such as Asids or roundworms, commonly known as Cl worms, tapeworms and gap worms will generally cause the bird to lose weight and they will exhibit poor growth. The bird's feathers are going to dull. They'll have diarrhea, and their egg production will really decrease if they're infected with those internal parasites. External parasites are things like mites, lice, and ticks. Those external parasites are a little bit easier to identify because you're going to see feather loss or damage skin irritation, redness, swelling, itching. Those external parasites typically live in the environment in bedding, and they can be passed along from direct contact with contaminated bedding or from other birds. It's really important to make sure that you're paying attention to those birds and regularly inspecting their skin, their feather condition. You can dust, you can spray. But again, keeping those environments clean is really the number one preventative measure that you can take to control those parasites in the environment. Our last topic, and this is going to be a little bit longer, those keep call decisions. It's never easy to make those decisions. But there are some criteria that you can use that will help assist you in determining if a bird should remain in the flock or not. If production is your goal, sometimes you just have to make those decisions. We're going to discuss a few different calling factors. The decision to call birds shouldn't be made based on one indication, but all indications as a whole should be considered. One of the first criteria that you should look at is the birds overall health and vigor as an individual. Over time, like we had talked about before, you'll have a baseline for how the birds in your flock look, how they act, how they carry themselves, how they interact with other birds, and what their overall disposition is. You'll immediately know when something is off. With one, you should be able to pick up on it rather quickly. If an individual bird isn't growing, isn't thriving, isn't acting like it's normal self. It may be time to isolate it or pull it from the rest of the flock and really start evaluating where that bird is at. Off it needs some extra feed. It needs just a lone time, whatever. Is it something that can be remedied? If it's something like the birds just getting older, it's losing productivity. All of those things, that's an area that you should consider as you're looking at that overall health and vigor. Next laying production diverts that yellow coloring from certain body parts deposits that pigment into the yoke of the eggs that causes bleaching of various body parts. Bleaching is a really good indicator of the time that the hen has been in production. If you don't remember how old a hen is, you can use that bleaching as an indicator of where they are in their lifespan and where they are in that production cycle. The loss of color can be easily seen in yellow skin breeds like leg horns, but in whiter skin breeds it's a little more difficult to detect that bleaching because it's going to be less pronounced. Bleaching first starts around the vent area. When a pulp begins to lay, the color of that vent will start to fade within a week of that first laying, a good producing Han will have a white pink or bluish white vent. That's the first area that you can look at and evaluate from there. The next area to start to bleach is the rings. Usually the Irings are completely bleached by about two weeks of laying. Then this is what most people really pay attention to when they're looking at the bleaching factor is the beak. Because the beak is the most pronounced body area. And it's what's generally used to judge because it's easiest, it's the most visually eye catching. You don't have to really inspect the vent or the eyes, You can see it fairly easily. The beak will start to lose its coloring, starting from the base of the beak and then go outward to the tip. It takes 4-8 weeks for that beak to begin to bleach. After laying begins a hen whose beak is fully colored. So it's back to that fully colored yellow has not laid for at least four weeks. Keep that in mind as a litmus that if that bird's beak is starting to yellow back up and once it's completely yellow, she's likely not going to be laying. The shanks is the next good indicator of production time. The pigment bleaches from the shanks in a specific order. From the bottom of the feet then to the front of the shank, the back of the shank, and then up to the hock. Joint shanks have no coloring in 2-6 months after continuous laying. They'll be more white when the hen stops laying eggs. Those body parts will be recolored in the same order that they were bleached. The vent first and the shanks last. And the speed that the color returns will be dependent upon the type of feed that is being consumed and the state of the bird's overall health. But typically, you can expect that the color will return in about half of the time it took to bleach that vent bleaches out within a week. About a half a week, that vent is going to recolor and so on and so forth. Molting is the next factor to consider. All birds are going to mold. Most hens will stop producing until after their molt is completed. The rate of lay for some hens may not be affected as they mold, but the molting time might be longer. Those hens are referred to as late molts. Molts, 12-14 months before they start their first molting. Late molts as a general rule, are better laying hens. They will have more ragged and tatter covering of feathers as opposed to those early moltors. Those are the hens that molt only after a few months of laying. Early moltors will drop a few feathers at a time, and they may take four to six months to complete their whole molting cycle. Early moltors are generally poorer producers in the flock. Just keeping gauge on when and how those birds are molting will also give you some clues into what their productivity looks like. Another important factor in calling decisions is temperament and behavior. The only time that a bird should be called exclusively for a singular reason is if it's exhibiting negative behavior such as cannibalism, feather picking, or pecking other birds. This is a problematic behavior that, unfortunately, will spread to other birds once it has begun. It's really important to identify any aggressive birds and isolate them until you make a decision on how you want to handle the situation. Chickens are naturally cannibalistic. Generally, that behavior is caused by stress due to poor management practices. That's why management is super important because it affects not only productivity, but behavior and overall well being for those birds. Once those birds are stressed, one bird can begin picking feathers, combs, toes, and vents of other birds in the flock. Once a wound is opened up and blood is visible, cannibalism will start to spread through the entire flock. If you notice this behavior quickly, it can be managed. Some factors to consider that cause cannibalistic behaviors are overcrowding, excessive heat, excessive light. Really aiming for that 12 to 16 hours of daylight per day, not having lights on 2047 to get the most production out of those birds that long, excessive light is not a good idea. It causes stress. Absence of feed or water shortage of feed and water space if they're too crowded and there's lots of competition for that feed and water space. Unbalanced diet. If they're not getting the nutrients that they need from that diet, they're going to look for it in other sources. And feather picking, cannibalism will be one of those ways, mixing of different types, size, and colors of birds can add to cannibalism. Birds who are slower to feather and develop are oftentimes those lower on the pecking order birds, and they may be targets of that. Aggressive behavior abrupt, changes in the environment, and the management practices that you use can cause stress. Shortage of nesting boxes and then allowing injured or crippled or dead birds to remain in the flock can also add to that cannibalistic tendencies. The last really important factor to consider is when you introduce new birds into the flock too quickly and they're establishing that hierarchy that can also cause stress and spur that cannibalism behavior. To prevent cannibalism and bad behaviors are making sure that you have that adequate space. If birds are exclusively kept inside, you need at least eight to 12 square feet per bird. If they have access to an outdoor run, you'll want a minimum of 3 square feet of inside space and then 10 square feet of outside space per bird. Also, adding enrichment toys such as colored or shiny items for the birds to pack at. That will draw those birds attention away from pecking other birds and they'll pack that object. Um, overall, reducing that stress is in your flock by making sure that your lighting is set appropriate times, allowing enough physical space and feeder space and water space for the number of birds you have. And making sure to identify and remove any injured or overly aggressive birds can help you manage cannibalism pretty effectively. It's as if you're not competent in your ability to decide if a bird should stay in the flock or not. You can check your culling techniques if you have extra space or laying cages available to you, pull a couple of hens, observe their egg production for a few days. Then that gives you a little bit more information to make a better informed decision. Give those birds plenty of feed, plenty of water. Don't stress them out while you're doing that or while you're just actually, if you're confident in the birds that you're calling, make sure that it's as stress free as possible. Because anytime you add or remove birds from their Plex situation, that hierarchy is going to change. Behavior will change. Making sure to really pay attention to those things will be important. So some helpful resources that I just want to make sure are shared. The first resource, it's the added, producing a value added product on the farm. This is a fact sheet that Mart and MSU Extension pulled together for farms that are producing less than 3,000 laying hens. This is a quick synopsis of regulations for selling eggs, what equipment you'll need, what licensing you can market eggs, the food safety aspects to keep in mind. While you're doing that, I find that this is a super helpful quick reference to have on hand. Definitely bookmark that if you're considering selling eggs and trying to maximize your productivity and have a income generated from your birds. Next, a couple of good resources, chicken breed chart. If you're exploring new breeds, this is a really good resource to look at the pros and cons of each breed. What are some characteristics? What are you looking for to make sure that you're selecting breeds that are going to work for you? Next, the nutrition for backyard chicken flocks. This is a great resource that has a lot of information about meeting those nutritional requirements, why it's important, and various aspects of feed and feeding. Then one resource that I really like in terms of looking at that well being is we know that chickens vocalize. And there is a relationship between those vocalizations and behavioral health and welfare. So this is a really great article that, that explains what those different vocalizations are and what they mean. And that will help you as a flock manager, be able to manage your birds a little bit better. Those are really good resources that I always like to share. I know we're getting short on time, so I'm going to go over to the questions, and I know we have a couple black skin breeds. Emily has a question, and I'm assuming that what color should there be if they bleach? Yes, they will also, it may not be as pronounced, but that black will dual down. Hopefully, that helps a little bit. That color will change, maybe not super noticeably depending on how dark that beak is, but there will be some color change. That's just another one component to really look for. Does the color change issue apply to ducks? I'm not sure about ducks, I'm not super well versed in ducks. But I would make the assumption that since physiologically, ducks and chickens are quite similar, I would say that probably the same would ring true. Would it be? To the same extent? I'm not exactly sure, but again, I'm not a expert by any means. That's a great question. When I get chickens from another person, should I keep them separate from my flock? Yes, yes. Really good management technique is, anytime you're bringing in new birds to your flock, you should always keep them separate for at least 14 to 21 days. The rationale 14-21 days is because at that point in time, if those birds, their immune system, they're going to be stressed from moving. So if they are carrying any diseases or any illnesses in that 14 to 21 days that's going to be pronounced, they'll be symptomatic, so you'll know that they're not taking any diseases into your existing flock. The next part of that is making sure that they're acclimated appropriately. And there's two different ways that you can do this. The first, after you've separated them for 21 days or up to 21 days. When you do that, you want to make sure to do your chores and care for your existing flock first. Then after your existing flock is taken care of, then you take care of the new flock. That way you're not taking anything that those new birds might be carrying and transferring it to your existing block. Inadvertently do chores first on your existing, the new birds, then when you're ready to integrate them, you can either do fence line, of course, all of this depends on what your resources for space are. The best way is separating them so that there's a barrier in between them where they can see each other. They can't physically get at each other and peck each other or fight, but they can see each other, they can smell each other, they can interact. You do that for a couple weeks until everybody starts settling down. They get used to each other, they see each other, and then you can start to integrate them together. But that's a really effective way to make sure that they get to know each other before they're all put in the same spot. You want to make sure in either of these methods that the birds are the same size because you don't want big birds versus small birds, right? The second way is if you free range, what you'll want to do is where you have the new birds, you introduce your existing flock into the area that you have your new birds, because that serves a couple of purposes. Number one, your existing flock will be focused more on the new environment than the new birds. They'll be like, oh, there are birds here already but it's a new place. I want to get used to my new place. Those are the two most effective and recommended ways to integrate new birds into the flock. Does that make sense? Any questions about that? But really it's super important to make sure that you are isolating those, any new birds, before just putting them in with your existing flock just for biosecurity purposes. If you ruminate on this or you go back and watch the recording and you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. My E mail is O C K E R T K A at M S U dot E D U. I'm always available to answer questions and help problem solve if I don't know an answer. As you can see, I will find it for you because we all have things that we're really good at and other things that we're not. Thank you all for joining tonight.