Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Racism? My hen doesn't like white chicks.

My malay x ISA brown has been broody for a few weeks, so on the weekend I went to a local auction and purchased a dozen chicks for $28 from someone I've bought from before. Unfortunately one died on the way home (it was badly pasty-bottomed and had obviously been sick and weak for some time) but the remainder looked perfectly healthy. That night, after brooding them with a lamp for the day, I put them all under the hen, who seemed to take them quite well.

However the next day I noticed quite a lot of cheeping, and found that the hen had decided that 3 of the chicks were not 'hers'. These 3 chicks were all fully white or white with a faint tinge of brown. All the chicks the hen decided were 'hers' were anconas (which are mostly black). Basically she seems to have decided the white chicks are interlopers.

I've heard of game hens being racist in this way before, so I wasn't suprised. However having just got my 30 meat chicks to use a cold brooder I wasn't keen to raise 3 chicks under a lamp. Frankly it would have been a huge waste of energy and an extra burden on my time. And yet what else could I do? They were only half the size of their meat cousins and I couldn't imagine what would happen to them if the bigger birds decided to attack.

Yet with breath held and readiness to take them back out I did put them into the cold brooder... And miracle of miracles, not a single meat chick harassed them! The little ones are now completely integrated and seem to be using the cold brooder in exactly the same way as their big friends, which are at least twice the size. It probably helps that the youngsters aren't day olds but look closer to a week in age, and they're feathering fast enough that staying with the 'herd' isn't a big problem (chicks with fewer feathers than the meat birds would chill more easily as they follow the 'herd').

What a stroke of luck — this could easily have gone a horrible way. And it's not perfect to raise layers with meat chicks as they're always going to be outgrown and have to fight harder for food, but as the meat birds get heavier I imagine the wiry fast layers will compete quite well.

So now I have 33 in the cold brooder and 8 under the hen, all doing well... And the chicks are all on medicated starter this time (which I'll keep up for another week then reassess). Hopefully weaning them onto the sprout diet a little more slowly will allow all the birds' gizzards and digestive systems to keep up with what's being fed... And hopefully my problems with the poor sussex and his runting-stunting-type illness (below) will be a one-off case now that I'm cutting back on meat meal.

We'll see! Meanwhile both the hen and the cold brooder (with its 33 growing bodies) are making my life a lot easier... And I don't have to worry about power outages. :-)

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