Monday, March 25, 2013

Caring for Your New Chicks

When you get your chicks home from the post office or feed store, they will need you to provide water, food, and warmth. Your chicks will be thirsty!  As you place chicks into the brooder, dip each chick's beak into the water.  Make sure they drink.  They will tilt their little heads back and smack their beaks.  This makes sure they know how to drink, where to drink, and to drink.
After they have their first drink, set each chick next to your heat source.  If you have an Eco-Glow contact brooder, nudge their little behinds under it.  A contact brooder will allow the chicks to self-regulate their temperature and become used to the day-night cycle. If using a heat lamp, just set them down.  Be sure to use an infra-red lamp, secure the lamp very carefully to prevent it from falling and causing a fire, and be careful not to overheat the chicks.  Use a thermometer in the brooder at chick height.  They should be 95 degrees during their first week, 90 their second, 85, and so on.  Accomplish this by raising the heat lamp. 

Make sure the chicks have enough room and clean litter.  Give the chicks 1/2 a square foot each for the first two weeks and be prepared to increase this to 2 square feet per chick by the third week.  Use a few inches of pine shavings on the floor.  Do not use cedar; the fumes are harmful to the chicks.  Cover the shavings with paper towels for the first three days to prevent them from eating the shavings instead of their food.  Check the litter for damp spots a few times a day and remove the damp litter.  Change out large proportions of the litter daily. 

Use a feeder with little head-sized holes; this prevents them from scratching all of their food out onto the floor and into their litter.  On the first day in the brooder, sprinkle some of the feed onto the paper towels to encourage them to eat.  Place marbles or small rocks in their waterer.  Chicks will do anything -- including falling asleep in their water.  The marbles will help prevent drowning.  Make sure they never run out of food or clean water.  If you use a nipple waterer, make sure the water is away from the heat source.

Check the chicks’ bottoms every day for at least the first week and longer if you are having problems.  You are checking for pasty butt, a result of physiological stress.  Look for dried poop on their vent.  If you find dried poop, soak their little behind in warm water.  You can also use a warm wash cloth to loosen small bits of poop.  Just picking it off might pull their feathers and skin.  If your chicks have pasty butt, check to be  sure that their water has vitamins or vinegar  (1 tsp. per 1 gal.) and that the chicks have enough room and are not picking at each other.  Be careful not to confuse the dried remnants of their umbilical with poop; leave the bit of umbilical.  Their vents are higher up: Look down their back and then around their bottom, and the vent is the first opening you see.  You may also see a pink bump near the end of their spine.  That is their oil gland.

Also good to know:

  • Do not cook with any nonstick cookware while chicks are in your house.  The fumes can kill them.

  • Try never to brood a chick alone.  Try to get another chick from a farm store or another owner.  If you must brood alone, make sure to give the chick a lot of attention.  Also, put a stuffed animal into the brooder for it to cuddle for comfort.

  • Chicks are ready to live outside when fully feathered, at about six weeks.  If it is warm during the day as well as the night, this can be sooner.  If you want to put them outside in the winter, run electricity to the coop and use a contact brooder in the coop (or heat lamp with extra fire precautions.)


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sassy: Then and Now

The first picture was taken the day we brought Sassy home.  She had been bullied and pecked by the rest of her flock.  She had also been in isolation for three weeks.  She looked scraggly; she was not emotionally a chicken.

The second picture is about eight weeks later.  Her feathers are beautiful and fully grown in.  She has completely joined the flock; she free ranges with the other girls all day long.  She is very happy.

Sassy the day we brought her home.
Eight weeks later.

Sassy is Laying Weekly!

Sassy, our eight year old Golden Wyandotte, seems to be laying one egg per week. 

Her eggs are considerably more golden than the other eggs we collect.  But we can tell because her egg is slightly wrinkled or bumpy on one end. 

Sassy's feathers are completely grown back --beautifully.  She is very happy here.  And we are happy to have her!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chicks and the Nipple Waterer

I purchased two nipple waterers for the new chicks.  I love, love, love them!

The nipples screw onto a soda bottle.  I used a water holder for a hamster cage for one of the bottles, which has limitations of the same height in the brooder.  The other bottle hangs from wire attached to the bottom of the bottle.  I can adjust the height of this bottle. 

The chicks peck the nipples instinctively.  Both chicks drank from the nipples within five minutes.

Previously, I had used a traditional waterer.  The water was dirty within minutes after changing it.  There is no dirty water now.  Clean water means less work for me.  I like less work!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pullets and Molting

Sunny looks pretty scraggly right now.
Our chicks are about three weeks old.  Their molting makes them look so funny!

Molting is the process of shedding and renewing feathers. During the molt, the reproductive physiology of the bird has a complete rest from laying and the bird builds up its body reserves of nutrients. The provision of new feathers or a coat (a feature inherent in most animals) is a natural process, designed by nature to maintain a bird's ability to escape enemies by flight and better protect against cold winter conditions. Under usual conditions, adult birds molt once a year. Some may molt twice in one year and, rarely, once in two years.
The chick goes through one complete and three partial molts during its growth to point of lay. Generally, complete molting occurs from 1-6 weeks of age, and partial molting at 7-9 weeks, 12-16 weeks and 20-22 weeks. During this final molt, the stiff tail feathers grow.

Mature birds normally undergo one complete molt a year. The three main factors that bring about molting are:
  • physical exhaustion and fatigue
  • completion of the laying cycle (as birds lay eggs for a certain period of time)
  • reduction of the day length, resulting in reduced feeding time and consequent loss of body weight.

If a bird stops laying and molting, this means its physical condition is deteriorating and, therefore, cannot support egg production, continued nourishment of their feathers or body maintenance. Feathers contain protein and are more easily grown when laying ceases because of the difficulty in assimilating sufficient protein for both egg and feather production. During the molt, the fowl still needs a considerable amount of good quality food to replace feathers and build up condition.

The time at which a laying hen ceases production and goes into molt is a reliable guide as to whether or not the hen is a good egg producer. Poor producing hens moult early and take a long time to complete the process and resume laying i.e. they 'hang' in the moult and are out of production for six to seven months. Poor producers seldom cast more than a few feathers at a time and rarely show bare patches.

High-producing hens moult late and for a short period (no more than 12 weeks), and come back into production very quickly. Rapid moulting is seen not only in the wing feathers of good producers, but also in the loss of body feathers generally. Because of this, it is common to see a late and rapid moulting hen practically devoid of feathers and showing many bare patches over its body.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Four Hens = Four Eggs

We have four hens.  We have beem collecting an average of four eggs every two days.

Today -- the first day since last fall -- all four laid an egg!  It has been so nice to have eggs again. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sonny and Cher

Sunny and Cher are our two new Buff Orpington chicks.  Of course, we thought we were being so funny when we chose their names. 

However, Cher is keeping her namesake's reputation intact.  She sings long and loud and quite prettily.  She is loveable and likes attention.  She is very aptly named.  Sunny makes the pair complete; they are always close to each other.

Who knew?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My, They Grow Up So Fast!

Jakob was 15 months old when we got our first batch of chicks.  Those hens are now full grown.

Our two new hens are doubling their size every day.  Well, not really.  But it seems like it.

Jakob, now two years old, loves his chickies.  He stands by the brooder for hours, laughing and enjoying their antics.  Soon, we may even let him hold one of them.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Meet Sunny and Cher!

Our city ordinance allows six hens per backyard.  We have four hens, so we were able to get two more chicks today.  Enter Sunny and Cher!

We decided on two more Buff Orpingtons.  This gives us three Buff Orpingtons, one Black Austrolorp, and two Speckled Sussex.  What a great flock.

We just purchased bottle nipple waterers.  Tomorrow I will get a bottle hanger.  I hope it works because I hate how dirty the water gets.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Not a Typical Storm -- Oh, My!

On Sunday we had the oddest storm. 

The basket ball shows how the wind was blowing hard from the north.  It was 60 degrees an hour ealier, then plummeted to 30 degrees. 

We had 60 mph winds, hail, thunder, and snow. The storm lasted 30 minutes, even though it stayed cold for another day. 

Many houses lost power; fortunately our power stayed on. 

The chickens ran for their coop and safety as soon as the wind started. 

What a freakish storm!