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.

Friday, October 7, 2011

between the broody hen and the cold brooder

No photos yet, but last night I tucked 8 two-day-old chicks under the malay x ISA brown, who had again gone broody. Readers might remember that she raised several ancona chicks quite a few months ago.

The hatch from my recent incubation was quite a patchy one. The earliest-set eggs were exposed to low temperature swings at a vulnerable age and I believe many were lost to this. About half of this first setting hatched, with many deaths in shell. It turned out that the little plastic mesh box I'd made to house the second setting (the later hatch) had upset the internal dynamics and stopped the thermostat working properly. Once it was removed (after the first hatch), the temperature stabilised correctly, and of the later-set eggs, all but one hatched successfully.

But back to the broody, my malay x ISA game. She wasn't the best mother in the world, because she rejected all the white chicks (leghorn x) and was only interested in raising the dark ones. However at the moment all the chicks, black (ancona x red layer) and white (leghorn x meat hybrid) are doing well under her. She's a good mother when she decides to commit, so hopefully these chicks were placed under her early enough for her not to get too choosy.

The earlier-hatched ancona x red layer and leghorn x meat hybrids are running around in a brooder at a week and a day old. They all look in good health and up till yesterday were given the 60w ceramic heater to keep warm. This heater was put above the straw-surrounded nest area; the run is of course unheated. The chicks learned where to go to stay warm almost immediately.

Now I've taken away the ceramic heater and am encouraging the chicks to use the nest area without added heat. They're slightly confused and kept trying to huddle in the lit area where daylight streams in from the north side of the carport, but I've now blocked the light from that direction. It's a mild day, in the low 20s temperature-wise, and I'm confident these week-olds are capable of keeping themselves warm with a little extra guidance as to where to go. There are about 25 or 26 chicks in here, a sufficient number of chicks to cold brood.

About once an hour over the next few days I'll check the birds and make sure they're going into the nest area when they need to cosy up. Meanwhile I'll start thinking about diet.

Up till now they've been on 100% medicated chick starter from a shop. This is still the easiest way to get little chicks eating and to ensure that they're getting a full range of nutrients at first hatch. However the medication irks me and so I'll be switching them over in the next week to a home feed made of finely ground wheat, corn and sunflower, soy meal, lucerne (alfalfa), kefir, hard grit, seaweed meal and salt.

At three weeks old I should be able to put them in the tractor, and the whole sequence starts again, this time hopefully without temperature swings or staggered hatching.

No comments: