Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Arrivals and Simple Poultry Care

   Recent predator activity caused a need to replenish the layer flock, after all, seven hens do not lay very many eggs. New arrivals are now housed snugly in the brooder with plenty of bedding, food and fresh water...but that didn't come without plenty of before-hand preparation. 
   When new chicks come to our farm, I like to be well prepared. The brooder is swept clean and all feed/water implements are given a hearty scrubbing. Ideally the brooder is ready a few days before they arrive. Due to erratic weather fluctuations and the low egg count, we decided to order our chicks instead of home incubating them.
   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; insuring each one 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.
   Those first few days we monitor our chicks very closely since it is challenging to keep the temperature comfortable. Lamps are raised or lowered according to need; cloth coverings are added to the brooder top if we have a cold snap. Empty or not, water fountains are cleaned and refreshed four times a day and feed is available at all times.Yes, babies that come here are well tended and quite spoiled.

   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.
   Our little peeps are only a few days old and already a source of great laughter and regular trips to the pen are a precious highlight to my day. I love their intricate colorings and the way they stare at me with such and inquisitive manner..they are already learning my little clicking noises mean 'treats'.
   By the way, I believe it is time to head out there right now..surely one of them needs a little snuggle, don't you think?


Lisa Lynn said...

I love baby chicks and always enjoy having them in a brooder :) Found you on Natural Living!

Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead said...

I volunteer to help snuggle. ;) Looks like you've definitely got your hands full lol.

Thanks for linking up at NOH!