Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to handle unexpected baby chicks

Unexpected baby chicks can sometimes present unexpected problems. And depending on how you are raising your chickens depends on how you handle the problem.

  1. Option one is to remove the baby chicks from the mother and raise the baby chicks in a brooder.
  2. Option two is to allow the mother hen to raise the baby chicks.

[Free range chickens]

Chickens that are being raised free range and allowed to roam can be the easiest to handle. But there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Allowing the mother hen to raise the baby chicks may mean less work for you but the chicks will be exposed to possible predators and other hazards. This also means that if a hen hatches out 10 baby chicks by the time they're half grown you may only have two or three that will have survived. A lot depends on how experienced a mother hen is with raising chicks and her skills in handling large numbers of wandering baby chicks. A new mother hen may only successfully hatch out two or three her first time, but as she gains experiences she will hatch out more and rear larger numbers. It should also be noted that it depends on the breed of chicken as to whether they are good mothers are not. Bantam's have an awesome reputation for being the best mothers. As a matter of fact we use to use bantams to hatch out and raise our other breeds of poultry.
    Regular watering and feed dishes that you use for adult poultry can actually pose a hazard to young chicks. For this reason large open watering dishes should not be used as they pose a drowning hazard, and feed dishes also can become a trap. Use watering and feed dishes designed for baby chicks or feeders and waters that they can't get stuck in.
   Feeding the mother hen and her chicks may also pose a problem as the feed that you're giving her and her baby chicks may not be good for the rest of the flock, especially if the chick food contains antibiotics. Laying hens should never be fed any kind of antibiotic while they are laying eggs. Personally I do not feel that antibiotics is a necessary ingredient in chick food unless you're raising hundreds of baby chicks at a time. As a matter of fact I avoid using any kind of feeds that have antibiotics or GMO's added to them.
    One solution to feed is to feed the entire flock a crumbles mix that doesn't have any antibiotics. Most feed stores will carry this type of poultry feed . It has the same nutritional value as many of the other feeds that your using but comes in a form that is small enough even for baby chicks to eat. This allows the mother hen to feed her chicks what everybody else is eating in addition to the food that she finds on her own.

[Confined chicken run]

    If on the other hand if you are raising your chickens in a small confined chicken run, I would recommend removing the baby chicks and raising them in a brooder. This is because of the close quarters or confinement would make it difficult for the baby chicks or the mother hen to get away from other harassing members of the flock. Poultry that is confined is usually stressed to begin with and the mother hen and her chicks need to be able to be on their own until they are older. Confined runs also pose a hazard of fecal matter making it unhealthy for young chicks.
    There are a couple of other things that should be noted; if the mother hen hatched out her chicks in a nest box that is off the ground she will attempt to return her chicks there at night to roost. And if the nest box is too far off the ground the baby chicks will not be able to get back into the nest for the night and without their mother to keep them warm they may not make it through the night.
   The other thing is if you happen to be totally caught off guard and do not have a chance to get to the store for chick feed, you can use crumbled up hard-boiled eggs as an emergency. Believe it or not hard-boiled eggs crumbled up is a chickens favorite food. As a matter of fact on the old homestead they would boil and grind up eggs that were about to go bad and feed it back to the poultry to save on food costs.
(Note) you should never feed a whole egg or whole egg shell to a chicken as they will make the connection between egg and food and begin to cannibalize their own eggs. Always be sure to crumble or smash eggs and egg shells so they do not recognize what they are eating.

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