Side by Side Case Study
Last week we hatched out a batch of our Delawares and received an order of 26 straight-run Delawares in the mail. We are raising them side by side (as pictured below) and measuring the weights of the chicks and the amount of feed they consume.
The chicks that we hatched averaged 1.45 oz each, the mail-order hatchery chicks averaged 0.95 oz each when placed in the brooder.
We are using the flat panel brooders sold by Premier 1. Several features of these brooders that I like are:
- Their low energy usage – they’re rated at less than 70 watts.
- The design precludes the possibility of a heat source causing a fire. Falling heat lamps, on the other hand, cause fires each year in brooders.
- The large warming surface heats the chicks from above, similar to the way a mother hen would.
One issue that I don’t like – with a heat lamp, there is heat throughout the brooder. So no matter where a chick is, there is some heat. With the flat panel brooder, there is heat only under the plate. So recently, when the temperatures dropped into the 40’s, the water and feed were out in the cold zone, and chicks were reluctant to go out from under the warming panel for long to eat and drink.
One morning I found the chicks that I had hatched huddled up in the corner of the brooding area – out from under the warming plate. Once it gets dark, if they are not under the flat plate, there is no light to attract them to the flat plate. And chicks that huddle in the cold to stay warm can injure one another.
I’m taking video of the case study, and once I learn how to process the video – I’ll post it on youtube and send you links.
‘Tis the season for hens to go broody. I have a Buff Orpington hen, a Rhode Island Red hen and a Black Australorp hen that have to be taken off of the nest each day. The Buff and the Red are getting a bit testy about being removed each day. And the Buff eggs are hatching a day early, which I think is because she sat on them long enough to start the growing process. Two of our Beltsville White turkeys and one Heritage Bronze turkey are trying to sit on eggs also.
Today I got a call from someone who has grown out our Barred Plymouth Rocks. One had gone broody, and he was asking how to handle her.
When I have broody hens that I want to hatch out eggs, here’s what I do. I have a 40 inch long by 24 inch deep by 18 inch high turkey transport coop that I use as a broody box. We put hardware cloth around it, covering at least the bottom 6 inches to prevent baby chicks getting out. The box is prepped with bedding, water and feed.
At night we move the hen and eggs into the box. Moving her at night is less traumatic for her and us. If she stays broody after being moved, then we say that she is “proven” and let her hatch out the chicks. Otherwise, if she looses interest in sitting on eggs after being moved, we put her back in the coop with the other hens.
The box is large enough that she can get off of the nest and stretch, eat and drink, relieve herself and then get back onto the nest. Being in the box prevents other hens and roosters from disturbing her and prevents the egg robbing that broody hens are prone to.
We let the chicks hatch out in the box and then start them on chick starter. After a few days, we move the mother hen and chicks into their own coop for grow out. Or sometimes we let her introduce them back to the flock under careful supervision and a willingness to intervene if another bird gets too aggressive.
With the Delawares that we are using in the case study, the ones that came in the mail developed a case of pasty bottoms.
This condition can cause death if not treated, so I’ll soon be making a video on our treatment. In the meantime, there are videos from other sources that show using warm water to wash clear the vent and a blow dryer to dry the chick.
That approach might be fine if your birds are pets, but I had 20 or so to clean up, and my chicks have never seen a blow dryer. Besides, I’m not sure I could convincingly explain to the ladies in our house that I needed to “borrow” their blow dryer for the task. Instead, I’ve had very good success at gently teasing the manure off of the vent.
In the past, I used to wipe petroleum jelly onto the newly-cleaned area to prevent further sticking of manure, but lately I’ve not been doing that, as I’ve found a treatment that seems to be working better.
At the first sign of dirty bottoms (and whenever I clean them) I take rolled oats and run them through my feed mill to make a sort of oat powder – though there are still some larger pieces in the mix. I then liberally sprinkle the oat mixture onto their feed, covering it so they must eat the oats before getting back down to the feed.
Usually one cleaning and 1 or 2 oat treatments is sufficient to get them over the episode. By the way, sometimes when you’re cleaning them – no matter how careful you are – a little skin might tear. Don’t worry. It will heal by itself.
You might remember from several newsletters ago I said that our phone rang to an answering service. Not any longer. I have a cell phone that I carry during business hours and answer if I’m able. I’ve found that this is better for you who call and for me, as now I have fewer calls to return.
At present, our main number (254-829-5333) is forwarded to the cell phone. I hope that in the next week it will be ported to the cell phone, and the call quality should improve. Plus then I’ll then be able to receive your text messages and photos.
Email is still a very good way to get your questions answered. I check email several times a day and normally first thing in the morning – and answer all that are waiting.
Breeding Black Australorps
Matthew wrote an article that describes his Australorp breeding program — plans for 2017. The article describes his more immediate plans on how to work toward the longer term goals outlined in last newsletter’s article.