Table of Contents Hide
- What Exactly Is A Brooder, And Why Do You Need One For The Baby Chick?
- When And How Should You Use Your Brooder?
- Using Nature’s Brooder For The Baby Chick
- What Is The Maximum Number Of Chicks One Hen Can Care For?
- A House And A Yard For The Hen And The Chicks
- Provide Dust Bath Facilities For Your Hens And Chicks
- Eliminating The Chick On His Own
- Feeding And Feeds
- What Should I Feed My Baby Chicks?
- Feeding The Adult And The Growing Chicken
- Keeping Your Waterers And Feed Contents Clean
- Closely Cull For Better Egg And Meat Production
- Summertime Care
- How To Get Your Flock Ready For A Productive Winter
- How To Get The Henhouse Ready For Winter In Sub-Zero Temperatures
- The Most Common Chicken Parasite And How To Control It
Buy your newborn chicks as near to your house as possible. Make sure the chicks are neither overheated or chilled, either at the store or hatchery where you bought them or during the travel from the store to your beginning brooder.
A strong cold or overheating en route will permanently impair them. The chicks should be placed in a warm brooder, as soon as they arrive.
What Exactly Is A Brooder, And Why Do You Need One For The Baby Chick?
Although there are many varieties of brooders, their primary function is the same: to create a heat diffusing mechanism that will supply the young chick with the extra warmth that he would normally obtain by snuggling close to the mother hen’s body during the first few weeks after hatching. In reality, the brooder serves as an artificial mother.
The Battery and Floor or “umbrella” designs, whose construction and function are extensively explained in the preceding article, are among the most popular and affordable types of prefabricated brooders.
When And How Should You Use Your Brooder?
If the temperature is even somewhat chilly during the first four to six weeks of the chicks’ lives, you should anticipate to utilize your brooder almost continuously. Even in June or July, despite the daytime heat, you will almost always need to supply brooder heating at night.
Using Nature’s Brooder For The Baby Chick
If you already have hens, maybe the easiest way to raise chicks is to place them in the care of a “broody hen,” a hen overtaken by nature’s drive to hatch and rear a family.
Signs of a broody hen include the cessation of laying, the desire to remain on the nest, the bristling up of her feathers when approached, and the emission of a loud scolding and clucking note when disturbed.
Before introducing the chicks to the hen, a pinch of sodium fluoride or similar suitable pesticide should be applied to the head, beneath each wing, and around the vent (anus).
The majority of chickens have some lice. Unless killed, they will immediately abandon the hen for the more delicate bodies of the chicks. They will multiply quickly here, reducing the vitality of the chick and slowing its appropriate growth.
Delouse the hen a week and two days before the chicks are put with her, if feasible.
What Is The Maximum Number Of Chicks One Hen Can Care For?
The ordinary hen can easily care for fifteen to twenty chicks. Most of your issues will be resolved after she “adopts” the chicks. You may have a tough time convincing the broody hen that she must adopt the foundlings.
If the chicks are placed beneath her at night, she will most likely take up their care right away. The hen must be closely monitored to ensure that she is happy with the arrangement. (If the hen is reluctant, a different broody hen can be substituted.)
A House And A Yard For The Hen And The Chicks
Place the new family in a small brood coop when the hen has legally adopted the foster chicks (if space is not available in the hen house). The coop should be at least two feet wide and two feet deep, with a “run” where the chicks may play.
While the hen is confined in the brooding coop, the chicks may exercise and enjoy sunshine and fresh air. To protect the chicks from stray cats and dogs, rodents, and other predators, the “run” should be lined with one-inch mesh wire netting.
Provide Dust Bath Facilities For Your Hens And Chicks
You will have little to do in rearing the chicks after your family of hens and chicks is safely situated, other from keeping their quarters and feed clean and giving adequate feeding.
Chickens keep parasites at bay by “wallowing” in dry soil and shaking their wings and entire bodies, which fills their feathers with fine dust. This destroys the lice while also scours the feathers.
After a few days, let the hen out in the run with the chicks and provide her with a dusting area.
If your “run” is on turf, cut a portion off so the hen may scratch the ground and loosen it up herself, resulting in a dusted surface.
You may alternatively make or buy a 15 to 18-inch-square box with two-inch-wide sides. Fill this with dry soil or coal ashes, never wood ashes, and dusting the hen will get rid of any parasites that survived the last delousing.
While regular body lice are rarely a major concern for adults provided dusting facilities are available, they are a genuine threat to little growing chicks and should be avoided by delousing the hen as previously stated.
Eliminating The Chick On His Own
If room is not available in the hen house when the chick is three to six weeks old (depending on the temperature), he may be transferred to an outside growing house, which will be its home for the next four or five months or until winter season.
If the chicken house is already full of laying hens, the growth house is a temporary tent-shaped building with roosts where the developing chick will dwell. From the moment the chick exits the brooder until it begins to lay, it is housed in the growing house.
Keep an eye on the chicks for the first few nights following the transfer to prevent them from huddling and crowding. Teach them to roost if they do. This should be done as soon as you enter the growing house. It is possible to do this by putting a few birds on the roost for a night or two. The rest will come shortly.
When the hens begin to roost on the poles at night, your problems are mostly resolved, and the birds appear to develop more quickly.
Feeding And Feeds
Do not attempt to make your own feed. It’s tough, inefficient, and wasteful. Feed manufacturers have overcome the problem of food mixing by using only the right ingredients for each function.
They’ve spent a lot of money on research and testing to figure out the best amounts of each grain and other nutrients, minerals, and vitamins for starting, laying, and finishing diets.
There are Starting Mashes for the young chick, Developing Rations for the growing chicken, Laying Rations for the laying hen, and so on. Such rations are available at any feed store. Feeds offered by any of the well-known feed producers are trustworthy, and the price difference is little.
It is critical, however, that the feed be fresh and pleasant when fed. Mouldy feed will wreak havoc on any type of fowl. If your flock is small, buy your feed in modest quantities.
What Should I Feed My Baby Chicks?
The baby chick’s diet consists primarily of:
- 1. Water, which should be available immediately upon the arrival of the young chick and at all times thereafter. Cheap drinking fountains are available at any feed or hardware shop and are thoroughly explained in the previous article ”Backyard Chicken Raising: A Complete Guide”.
- 2. Grit, which is made up of chipped or powdered granite, limestone, mica, and other minerals. Neither baby chicks nor grown chickens have teeth. Because their food is masticated by the grinding action of tiny stones (grit) in the gizzard, Grit is provided to grain-fed chickens throughout their lives. (Incidentally, don’t be alarmed if the chicken initially refuses the water and grit.)
- 3. Feeding. After the young chick has had a chance to sip the water and peck at the grit, give it some commercially prepared Starting Mash and fine chick grain. For the first week or two, the young chick can be fed only chick grain (including grit and water, of course). Then, add to this diet by putting the Starting Mash dry in a self-feeding hopper or chick feeder where the chick may eat whenever they want.
The Complete Mash Ration, a professionally produced meal that provides everything the newborn chick needs for optimal growth, is another excellent technique of feeding the chicks.
A chick fed a Complete Mash Ration does not need to be supplemented with grit. Regardless of the sort of meal utilised, the bird must be supplied with water. This ration can be provided to the chicks until they reach the age of six weeks.
Feeding On A Regular Basis Produces Healthy Chicks
Feed the chicks four or five times each day during the first four or five days. It is not suggested that the feed be maintained in front of them at all times during this phase. (However, some poultrymen effectively folk wed this technique by leaving the feeders before the birds from the time they are initially placed in the brooder.)
Start by feeding the tiny fellows every two and a half hours if you have lots of time. Leave the feed in front of them for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove until the next feeding time.
After the first week, the feed can be left in front of them all the time. During the first six weeks of life, the young chick will consume around 2% of its body weight in feed.
There is no single technique of chick feeding that is widely accepted as the best. Different techniques have their supporters and are effectively implemented, demonstrating that there is no one “best method.”
It is considerably more essential that chicks be from excellent, strong parent stock, that they are adequately born and brooded.
Exercise is critical for developing chicks if the strongest and most vigorous are to be produced, and strength and vitality are required if your poultry is to provide the greatest outcomes.
Make sure there is enough space for the growing chicks to run about in. Get them out in the sun as soon as possible. When the chicks are old enough to be out in the open, they should be fed there whenever the weather permits.
Even before they are exposed to sunlight, the chicks should be given vitamins to avoid limb weakness and rickets.
Most excellent, prepared feeds contain these vitamins, but if the feed must be mixed at home (which is not advised), be sure to add around 1% by weight of some good cod liver oil.
The sunshine vitamin will be supplied naturally if the chicks are exposed to direct sunlight every day. If the chicks are confined and do not have access to natural sunshine, this crucial ingredient must be given if they are to grow properly. Sunshine via glass will not suffice since glass eliminates the necessary vitamins.
Feeding The Adult And The Growing Chicken
You can switch the chicken’s Starting Ration to a professionally produced Growing Ration at the age of 6 weeks. When the hen reaches the age of five or six months, switch to a commercially prepared Laying Ration.
During the laying phase, the hen must be fed powdered oyster shell because the lime in the shell ensures smooth, robust shells for the eggs. Any finely ground calcium-containing material will suffice. All Mash meals should be fed dry.
As the winter weather approaches, feed more heavily. Last thing at night, give a hearty feed of whole corn. When the days are short, it will pay to thread a wire to the poultry house, install an electric light bulb (or use a normal barn lantern), and feed the birds at eight or nine o’clock in the evening.
The quantity of feed taken has a strong influence on egg production, and thus extra feed during the shortest days will assist. Contrary to popular perception, you are not tricking the chickens into producing eggs. You are just increasing the amount of food consumed, and feed produces eggs.
Green food, in some form, should be provided. When the grass is young and delicate in the spring and early summer, fresh, tender lawn clippings are ideal.
When the grass becomes stiff and dry, it loses its value and might cause significant stomach problems. Garden lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and beet tops are all OK.
A row of rape or Swiss chard planted to your vegetable garden will provide the greatest green nourishment for your developing chicks over the summer. Often, discarded green veggies from the corner store can be obtained for little or no cost. Green food is essential.
By collecting all of your leftover items, including meats and veggies, and feeding them to your flock, you may save up to 25% on your feed bill. It is advisable to ground or chop food into little bits for the hens’ simple and complete ingestion.
Remember that hens will eat nearly everything a human will eat and will appreciate the variation in their diet.
Keeping Your Waterers And Feed Contents Clean
Place the drinking fountains and feed hoppers on something to lift them off the ground. Flat stones, bricks, or low boxes will suffice, or platforms may be created for very little money out of leftover box material.
To keep the feed dry, feed receptacles should be built with roofs or have roofs installed over them. Mould and stomach issues are caused by damp feed.
The threat of dirt and contamination is avoided by elevating the water and feed containers. Rat and mouse breeding grounds are also eliminated.
Closely Cull For Better Egg And Meat Production
Culling is the practice of removing any hens from your flock that exhibit symptoms of stunted or inadequate growth, which will undoubtedly result in poor laying ability and meat quality.
Fine specimens are just as vital for the poultryman growing poultry on a small scale as they are for the poultryman breeding them by the thousand.
Culling should begin as soon as the chicks reach a weight of a pound and a half or two pounds. Raising birds with poor vitality or that are malformed in any manner is costly and unsatisfying. Keep a watchful eye on the flock.
Make a meal of any chick that does not appear to be developing as quickly as the others. Identify the “slow developers” first.
The longer you retain them, the worse your situation will get. These are the birds that do not produce meat on a commercial scale. These are the birds that are the first to be afflicted by illness.
They take up space and crowd the remainder of the flock, depriving it of the house-and-yard space required for appropriate and lucrative growth. Infection from disease may also begin with these sluggish developers and spread to the rest of the flock, with devastating consequences.
Remove the cockerels as soon as they are large enough to produce excellent broilers (usually when they weigh about two pounds). It allows area for the pullets to develop, which is crucial in the ordinary backyard.
Cockerels will start bothering the pullets as soon as they reach sexual maturity, slowing economic growth. Remove the weak and unpromising pullets as well. It’s better to have fifteen excellent, large, strong pullets in the laying house in the fall than twenty-five chickens, ten of which are inferior birds.
Culling is crucial and should begin early in the season. Chicks with any kind of abnormality should be removed as soon as possible. Poor breeding or development is indicated by wry tails, crooked backs, knock knees, or bow legs.
Birds that are off-color or not characteristic of the breed should also be removed, but this is not as important. A nice, uniform “breedy” flock of pullets will offer you more pleasure to look at than a flock of generic birds, and the uniform flock will lay the same number of eggs.
Summer is a key season for small-scale poultry growers’ developing birds. Room and shade are likely to be restricted, and care must be taken to ensure that the developing hens do not overheat during the day due to a lack of shade, or at night due to a lack of ventilation.
Set in the ground, an outdoor growing house. This will keep the birds out of the scorching sun in the middle of the day.
Sunflowers planted in the early spring will give summertime shade, while ensilage corn put in rows approximately two feet apart will also provide shade.
Growing these crops provides a two-fold advantage by sweetening and cleansing the ground as well as providing shade. The pullets, on the other hand, require shade in order to grow correctly and provide a large number of eggs in exchange for your time and money.
Heat is typically not a major issue at night if sufficient ventilation is provided. However, in poorly ventilated roosting buildings, heat can become suffocating on hot summer nights, severely impeding the birds’ development.
If you have the space, a dedicated summer shelter without walls is perhaps the ideal location to roost. Place the roosts about a foot or eighteen inches from the ground, and instead of board sides, use 2″ wire netting to keep wandering dogs, cats, or rodents at bay.
This overcomes the ventilation issue because such shelters seldom grow too hot for comfort during the summer nights.
If you don’t have room for a specific summer roosting home, the all-purpose Ives type house addresses the situation quite well.
It allows a stream of air to flow from the low opening in the the front to the ventilator opening at the highest point of the roof in the back of the roosts, which is closed in the winter to keep the birds’ heat for their comfort.
Furthermore, during hot summer evenings, the door should be left open. Freshwater is also necessary during the hot weather if the developing chickens or laying hens are to perform optimally.
A self-filling fount is nearly essential. This should be positioned in the shade or furnished with a shade. There are numerous types of self-filling founts, but the Ace, described in Chapter II, is simple, affordable, and has additional advantages.
Plenty of shade, ventilation at night, and plenty of clean drinking water can keep your birds healthy throughout the hot summer months if the home is kept free of mites, the most prevalent and unpleasant chicken parasite. If your home is infected with mites, your efforts will be largely futile.
Many novices are unaware that chickens shed their feathers and acquire a totally new set each year. This is a normal procedure that should not worry you, but the bird may appear particularly unappealing during its moulting stage.
When the new covering of feathers is finished and the chicken has recovered from the extreme strain of achieving this, there will be a significant change in look.
Moulting begins in the summer and fall and can take up to 8 weeks to complete. Some chicks moult faster than others. The time “taken out” for the yearly moult and the time of year it happens are strong indicators of the hen’s usefulness as a layer.
Moulting occurs late and fast in good layers. In general, the poor layer moults early and slowly. Because of the drain on the hen’s vigour, the moulting phase is essential. The hen should be given special attention and nutrition when moulting.
This is especially true for the late moulter, who will begin to lose her feathers as fall approaches, typically a desirable layer. Her feathers will be almost naked during the first cold days of early winter, making her vulnerable to sickness.
If she is to withstand the effort of moulting and return to laying condition promptly and completely, such a fowl need good, cozy housing and enough of feed. (During the moulting season, your chickens will stop laying eggs.)
How To Get Your Flock Ready For A Productive Winter
You don’t need to worry about installing stoves or electric heaters in your chicken house when winter approaches. The chicken is a warm-blooded bird, well protected by its feather covering, and can create enough of body heat even on the coldest of days.
This is true for regular American climates, but not for Arctic or semi-arctic temperatures, which will be explored later.
All you need to do is build a cozy, draft-proof chicken coop where the birds may stay until spring.
After using the chicken house for the summer, you should sweep, clean, and disinfect it. Any excellent coal tar disinfectant that has been diluted with water and used as indicated on the label will suffice. The disinfectant is available at any feed or supply store.
Check for cracks that might lead to drafts. When you find them, cover them with wood strips or cover the home with roofing material or construction paper. There must be no drafts, but there must always be enough of fresh air.
However, if you have an aperture in the front of a house that is 1% the width, there will be no ventilation issues and no colds.
If the home is raised above ground level, ensure that it is banked with leaves, straw, or other material, or that a wall of roofing paper running from the lower section to the ground is supplied to prevent wind from cycling beneath the building.
A heated floor greatly improves the comfort of the birds, and happy hens are considerably more likely to lay well than those housed in homes that are either too hot or too cold.
When the weather turns cold and uncomfortable, the pullets should be housed for the winter. Once housed, they will perform better if they are kept in the house at all times. When hens are released on pleasant days, they become nervous and unsatisfied, and hens lay best when they are acclimated to and content with their routine.
How To Get The Henhouse Ready For Winter In Sub-Zero Temperatures
Although the chicken normally provides its own heat throughout the winter, poultry grown in northern Canada and other severely cold regions will require heating assistance from the poultryman.
Houses in such conditions must be exceptionally highly insulated, snugly constructed, and, in certain cases, heated with pot stoves or other methods. Hot water heating systems with pipes beneath the chicken house floor or at the rear of the house are occasionally halted for this reason.
The open front home becomes impracticable at temperatures of 30 or 40 degrees below zero and must be redesigned to offer enough ventilation. Ventilation should provide a consistent, equal change of air.
In chilly areas, dampness can also be a concern. Creating a “straw loft” is a wonderful way to keep the house liveable. Simultaneously, moisture is absorbed and the home is kept dry.
Place a loose board flooring on top of the supporting roof cross beams to create a straw loft for your hens. Fill the upper section of the home with straw or hay piled on this basis.
This will keep the lower portion of the home warm and dry by collecting moisture from the birds’ breath and repelling outside cold.
A thick layer of dry litter on the floor will also assist to keep the home at a consistent temperature and humidity level.
The Most Common Chicken Parasite And How To Control It
The Red Mite is often regarded as the most vexing parasite in poultry. Fortunately, keeping the mite out of your flock or eliminating it if it is already present is quite straightforward.
Red mites are insects that hide in cracks and crevices as well as on the underside of roosts during the day. They emerge at night and attach themselves to the chicks, sucking themselves full of blood and continuing this night after night, reproducing and expanding fast until the chicks are so depleted of energy that they fail to develop or lay, and occasionally die.
Red mites can be found by carefully inspecting the bottom of the roosts and at the ends where they were fastened to the building. They are brilliant crimson from feasting on the fowl’s blood. At times, they’re a gray color. Mites can be detected by the presence of a brownish, powder-like material under and near the roosts. However, mite management and eradication is a basic problem that can be solved quickly.
Carbolineum, Creosote, or any other commercial roost paint) is inexpensive and widely accessible at feed and poultry supply stores. This should be sprayed with a brush to the roosts and anywhere the roosts are attached to the structure. Just a little area surrounding the roosts’ connection to the structure would suffice. The mites are unable to pass due to the lethal fumes of the roost paint and hence cannot reach the birds.
Another approach advocated is the use of diluted creosote or other specifically prepared coal tar product sprayed with an atomizer or spray gun, which is faster, less costly, and appears to be as effective. Mites are a significant issue that may be easily resolved.
The small bug that causes scaly-leg by burrowing under the scales of the shank is another mite that can be bothersome but not nearly as fatal as the Red Mite.
The simplest and quickest treatment is to fill a baking powder container with clear kerosene and submerge the bird’s shank for about sixty seconds. Repeat this process once a week until the work is completed. New scales will form quickly, and the shanks will become smooth and regular.
The oil should be applied in the morning so that it may evaporate before the bird goes to sleep at night; otherwise, the fumes might become trapped beneath the feathers and burn the skin, causing lameness.