Thursday, March 31, 2011

Raising Our Layer Flock....The Brooder

How we start off in the brooder .
   When new chicks come to our farm, I like to be well prepared. Ideally the brooder is ready a few days before they come. Our chicks generally arrive by order have hatched in our own incubator.
   Our brooder is a five foot stock tank linked with plastic sheeting covered with pine shavings. For the first few days I lay an old sheet or piece of fabric over the shavings to prevent the chicks from eating the shavings and choking on it. Two standard heat lamps are suspended over the tank by a one by six keeping the temperature a comfortable ninety-five degrees. One-gallon fountain water tanks are filled with fresh water and small trays hold starter crumble purchased from our local feed co-op.
   Since problems can arise (a week chick, illness, a sluggish late hatch baby) an isolation brooder is kept nearby. A large plastic storage tub is set up with a heat lamp clipped to the side, a small quart-size water fountain and small feed pan; ready and waiting just in case.
   Upon arrival we take each chick individually and dip their beak in the water; watching to see them drink on their own. Generally they find the feed rather quickly, however, if they do not, we dip their beak into the feed as well. We stay nearby a bit to ensure each one seems active and healthy, removing any that appear sluggish or unable to eat and drink. Weaker ones are set in the isolation brooder for special care.
   The first few days we monitor our chicks very closely. It can be challenging to keep the temperature comfortable in our crazy Texas weather. Empty or not, water fountains are cleaned and refreshed four times a day and feed is available at all times.
   Two to three days in we remove the fabric cover from the shavings and start using fountain-style feeders instead of the open trays; keeping the feed more available and less messy. At this point we base the temperature more on chick behavior rather than thermometer readings. If the chicks are scattered away from the light and laying flat they are too warm; if huddled and under the lights they are too cold. Simply adjusting the height of the lights (or removing/adding one) the problem is solved. Comfortable chicks are active and noisy.
   The chicks stay comfortably in the brooder until they feather out and seem crowded. When this time comes they are not yet ready for the big coop or the great out doors, instead, they make their way to the transition pen. Covered and safe, the transition pen is larger, fully enclosed with exposure to daylight, and pasture ground. In the transition pen, the chicks get a glimpse of the other farm animals; a chance to safely get use to each other.
   Raising a new flock is not hard and it doesn't have to be expensive. Though you can never be fully prepared, every little bit helps. How do you raise a layer flock?


Hopewell Creek Designs said...

I love that more and more families are raising backyard chickens for the fresh eggs. Since I am Rachel Willow'z mother in law I try to get a few fresh from her little egg farm. Those chickens live better than some people I know...ha ha,but they are so well cared for and they thank her with a lot of much appreciated eggs =)

Simply Scaife Family said...

I must say, my grandmothers would surely balk at my hen's set up! "Ruining them"- I'm sure. The eggs are a plentiful blessing, and , like Rachel, we love sharing them with family and friends.