Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What's a chicken brooder ?

A chicken brooder is what you raise baby chicks in.

A brooder is well worth the investment if you're going to be raising baby chicks on a regular basis. But if you don't have the money they can easily be made. All you need is a large plastic storage container, a couple of lightbulbs some duct tape and stick to go crossed the top. You don't need the lid just the tub itself. The tub should be at least 16" deep so chicks can't jump out. Line the bottom with newspaper, wood shavings or clean sand and suspend the double light over the tub using the stick and duct tape. [NOTE: do not use newspaper or any other slick surface with turkeys or larger poultry, as the slick surface may cause straddle leg and may cripple your poultry.  Also make sure that whatever material you use for bedding, that it is a material that can be periodically cleaned out. And never use colored newspaper as it may contain lead in the ink.]  Make sure that the lightbulb is close enough to the bottom that the chicks can put their body next to the light (40 to 60 W bulbs) but not touching or close enough to be a fire hazard. You should be able to place your hand underneath the lightbulb and comfortably leave it there. If it is too hot simply raise the lightbulbs an inch or so.  The reason I use two lightbulbs is in case one of the lightbulbs burns out. It is important that the chicks can move away from the light if they need to, as they will regulate their own body temperature by moving next to the light and then away from it. Most feed stores use a large water trough with heat lamps suspended over the top at one end. If you have more than 10 chicks at a time, a heat lamp may work better because it will cover a larger area. You should locate your brooder in a place that is free from drafts, away from children and predators such as cats. [NOTE: children should not handle baby chicks as their droppings can contain salmonella and other diseases that children can pick up if they put their hands in the mouth after handling the baby chicks. Always wash your hands after handling baby chicks so you do not transmit diseases to other animals or yourself.]
Old Sears and Roebuck refurbished chicken brooder

    Now normally I'd be using the brooder heater in the back but as I only have three or four chicks the double lightbulb will work out better. The heater is an old heater and doesn't always heat as well as I think it should and even though it is adjustable for this small a number of chicks, the lights will work better. I've added newspaper to the bottom temporarily for a couple of days so the chicks can get acclimated and to give a little added warmth. Even though chickens are not susceptible to straddle leg, I will remove the newspaper in three or four days. One of the things that I think is important to do is to introduce your baby chicks to the food and water. I do this by dipping each chicks beak in the water dish once so they know where the water is. And then I will tap my finger in the feed dish to simulate a mother hen trying to coax her chicks into eating. For the next few days I will periodically monitor the baby chicks to make sure that each and every chick is drinking and eating normally. I will also look for baby chicks that may not be acting normal or any other indicators of illness. I will also watch for fecal matter(poo) building up on their behind's, which can cause poultry to become impacted. If you should see a large build up of fecal matter, use a moist warm washcloth to gently remove the dried fecal matter. Try not to get the chicks feathers wet, as this can cause the bird to become chilled and go into shock.

    As always if you have additional questions you should go to your local extension office. These offices are located throughout the country and are affiliated with your local agricultural University. So if you have any gardening, farming or agricultural questions these offices can be of great value when you're trying to find answers to problems. You can also obtain pamphlets and brochures on a wide range of how to topics. Including canning and food preservation, recycling, and many more topics than I can mention.
    I hope that this post a is bit of help, if you have any questions please feel free to post them in the comment section. I will do my best to respond in a timely fashion. Thank you for checking out this blog and be sure to check out all our other blogs, YouTube videos and websites on other topics.


Monday, April 4, 2016

My first successful incubator hatch

Hatching chickens in a incubator. 

    This is my first successful attempt at hatching chicken eggs in a incubator. In the above photo you can see the chicks starting to peck their way out of their eggs at day 20. (chickens take 21 days to hatch.)
    In my first attempt, I mistakenly tried to hatch turkey eggs, which I later learned that the broad breasted and hybrid turkeys require artificial insemination in order for the eggs to be fertile. The tom turkeys are simply too heavy to perform their required duties. In the end, I realized I should have tried to hatch chicken eggs first, just to get a little experience. 
    Prior to this, I was allowing hens to set on their eggs and hatch them out. The advantage to this is I do not have to keep a constant eye on a incubator's temperature and humidity. I don't have to worry about power outages or other problems. And afterward, the hens do a fair job of looking after the baby chicks by keeping them warm and feed. 
    The disadvantage is that some hens are inexperienced and would only hatch out one or two eggs out of a clutch of 12. In addition, by allowing the hens to do the work it also takes that particular hen out of production for several months. This means that if she was laying an egg a day, I might be out 200 eggs during that time. 
    My father told me that they use to keep a few Bantam chickens on the homestead for the sole purpose of hatching out eggs. The bantams eggs were too small to have much commercial value, but they made the best mothers and would hatch out just about anything, including goose eggs. In addition to that, the bantams being so small, were pretty much self-sufficient, and if allowed to free range would fend for themselves.
   Here to the right you see the wet, less than a day old chicks. It takes about a day for the chicks to dry out in the incubator before I can move them to the brooder. Baby chicks can survive for several days on their internal food stores. This is why baby chicks can be shipped across country with little ill effect. 
    In this first successful attempt, I was actually surprised that I got any of them to hatch. I had three power outages and on several occasions the temperature or humidity drop below what was recommended. 
    I also had to collect eggs for 10 to 12 days before I had enough eggs to put in the incubator. I put the eggs in an egg carton and in a room that stayed around 55 to 65° and turned them twice a day by hand. Too cold the eggs would've died, and too warm the eggs would've began to incubate.
    The best advice that I can give you is make sure you read all the instructions that comes with your incubator. Then go to your local extension office for any of your farming or homesteading information. They are a great resource for many topics and directly connected with your local agricultural university. And of course don't forget to look for additional information on the Internet.