Jennifer Sartell, veteran chicken raiser, walks us through how to effectively use leg bands on your flock.
When I first started out with chickens, we had a mixed flock of hatchery birds. Each one was a different breed, each one had a name and a different personality. I loved our little flock. I knew each of our girls as I would know a loving pet.
My love of chickens hasn’t changed, however the focus and reason for keeping chickens has. I’ve gone from simply wanting chickens as pets to becoming passionate about breeding them and wanting to set up breeding programs to bring back the numbers of some of the older heritage breeds.
By increasing the numbers of chickens and making educated decisions about breeding we can ensure that generations to come can enjoy the breeds that make chickens so fascinating. We can also keep the traits that make each breed consistent to the Standard. In other words what makes a Leghorn a Leghorn.
One of the problems with raising a lot of the same breed of chicken is that you lose track of who’s who. While I have my favorites among the breeding groups that we keep, it’s almost impossible to differentiate between all of the chickens that we keep of the same breed. They all look too similar to remember.
I also have to remember who is related to who to keep the breeding pairs a healthy combination. Breeding too closely for too many generations can cause genetic problems and infertility in offspring.
One of the best ways to keep track of your chickens (for whatever reason) is to use leg bands.
Why use leg bands?
As I stated above, it’s a great way to keep track of your chickens. You can also create groups within a larger flock without having to create a separate enclosure. You can mark generations, single out birds to breed, tag certain birds that carry genetic traits and separate different lines.
It’s just as important to keep good records as it is to place the bands on the right chickens. Be sure to have a document that explains what the leg bands mean. I keep one on my computer under our farm files. It tells the number of the chicken, the breed, when it was bred and it’s parents.
What kind of leg bands?
Right now we are using metal leg bands for our Buff Orpingtons. When we visited the Ohio National show there were vendors selling chicken products. I was going to buy the different colored plastic bands but the vendor talked me into the metal bands. He told me that they stay on much better.
The metal bands have numbers stamped into them. This is how you can keep records of your flock.
I do like that the metal bands seem to be well made and sturdy, however, what I don’t like is that I can’t see the numbers at a glance. The numbers are stamped rather shallow and I usually have to catch the chicken to see what its number is. The colored bands make separating much easier. But they are more flimsy made.
There are many different styles of leg bands on the market. Some are made of rubber which helps them stretch and move with the chicken somewhat. There are metal “belt” type ones that look interesting.
You can also use colored zip ties to mark chickens.
How to fit a leg band?
Leg bands come in many sizes ranging from bantam to turkey. You want to ensure you buy the proper size so that the band stays on, but also does not restrict the bird’s leg. If properly fit, the bird shouldn’t even notice the leg band.
What age is safe to use leg bands?
You can safely begin using leg bands on chickens at about 2 weeks of age. However you need to check them every week to make sure the chick is not outgrowing the band. While the chick is growing, it’s easy to use zip ties at this young age. They’re cheap and lightweight. They can also be snipped easily. Fit growing chickens with bands that are quite loose.
How to fit an adult bird?
It’s a lot easier to band a chicken with 2 people. One to hold the chicken and one to band. You want to fit the band so that the band opening is closed tight enough that it won’t slip off the leg, but loose enough to where it will twist freely. Think a bracelet for your own wrist.
These metal bands (I think) are a size 15 in this product range. They are for the largest chicken breeds and turkeys.
The plastic colored ones are size 11 and list Buff Orpingtons as a breed that can wear them, but I feel like this is a bit of a tight fit for our rooster. They do stretch slightly as they are in a coil, but I would like to see a larger fit.
Where to find leg bands?
You can find them at most any farm supply store, they’re also available on Amazon. Zip ties can be found almost anywhere, so that might be another advantage to using them.
Jennifer Sartell is a farmer, writer, artist and photographer. They live on Iron Oak Farm in Fenton, Michigan. Visit Jennifer’s Website