Jul 022010

So, you have a hen that has gone broody and you decide that you want to raise a few chicks.  I have done this countless times and I finally have a method to the madness of chick raising.

After I put a few fake eggs under the broody hen to keep her happy, I then decide which hens that I want chicks from.  Some of my hens are friendlier or prettier than others and I usually pick these hens.  I will gather up the hens that I want eggs from and confine them to a different chicken house and run for a few days.

I collect the eggs every day and I don’t use any of them that don’t look perfect.  Any eggs that are an odd size or just don’t look right are not good candidates to put under your hen.  I put the date that each egg was laid right on the egg.  I collect 10 – 20 eggs depending on how many chicks I want and when I have as many as I need, I put them under the broody hen.  I also release the other hens and keep all of them away from my broody hen so they don’t keep chasing her off the nest to lay more eggs.

I then feed and water my broody hen every day because sometimes they won’t leave the nest at all and they can starve to death.  I keep a close eye on her and the eggs and I usually don’t candle them until they are around two weeks old.  I remove any eggs that aren’t fertile and place the rest of them back under the broody hen.

All that is left to do is to count down to hatching day and watch for the chicks to begin to hatch.  I always monitor them and make sure that none of them have any problems.  Sometimes one or two will hatch late after mom has left the nest. 

I will take them inside to incubate them.  Once they hatch, I grab one of the hen’s chicks and when it starts to scream for her and she gets upset, I slip both the new chick and the old chick back in.  Chances are good that she won’t even notice that she has an extra chick or two.

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Jun 272010

I made the decision to buy some chicks a few years ago on a whim.  Now, I can’t image not having my chickens because they have given me a certain amount of self sufficiency that I really enjoy.

People ask me all the time if they pay for themselves and really, that isn’t what this is about for me.  I usually say I doubt it and I really don’t care.  This is more about my need to not be so dependent on others to feed me and my family. 

Chicken care and chick care are all about how to best take care of my family and my flock.  A broody hen is a great thing to me becaus she is ready to raise the next generation of chicks for me.

My chickens provide eggs, meat and new chicks for future egg layers and meat producers.  They also provide a lot of fertilizer for my garden in the form of chicken poop.  The chicken poop makes my vegetable garden healthier and it produces a lot more vegetables for me to feed to my family as well as sell to locals.

They also provide a lot of entertainment. I can spend hours watching baby chicks run and play as they discover the joys of being outside.  I also love to watch my hens and roosters peck and scratch around the yard.  Even when they manage to escape and cause havoc in the garden, I still have to chuckle at them.

So, to those of you considering raising chickens and making a profit, I wish you luck.  I’m sure it can be done but I’m just not that into that.  My initial goal wasn’t to be more self sufficient but it has transformed into that for me as the years passed.  I enjoy knowing that no matter what our government does or the state of the economy, I will be able to feed my family.

To learn how I figured out how to build my very first chicken coop without pulling my hair out, check this out.

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Jun 272010

I’m happy to report that about a week after their mother was killed, all 8 of the chicks hatched.  They are so cute and active.  Caring for chicks can be so much fun!

I love watching them as they attempt to break out of their eggs.  I have to really resist the urge to help them out of the egg and it is really nerve wracking for me.

I had the chick brooder all set up and ready to go.  Given how the hen was killed, I’m not taking any chances with these babies.  I plan to keep them in a metal cage in my kitchen for as long as they could stand it.

They are eating and drinking just fine.  I had to fiddle with the heat lamp a little at first so that I could get the temperature just right by they seem happy now.

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Jun 232010

While caring for a flock of chickens is pretty straightforward because they are so self sufficient, chick care is just the opposite.

What can go wrong?

  • Keep them too warm and they will die. 
  • Keep them too cold and they will die.
  • Forget to check them for pasting up and they will die.
  • Keep the chicks in a brooder that isn’t predator proof and they’re going to be killed.

All chicks require plenty of attention, particularly during the first four weeks of life.

As soon as you pick up the shipment of chicks that you ordered through the mail, you need to keep in mind three vital chick care tips that you have to be aware of or your baby chicks may die. 

The three most important things that you need to be concerned about are pasting up, access to water and umbilical cords.

Pasting Up
As soon as you collect your baby chicks from the post office or wherever they were delivered, get them straight home.  The first step in proper chick care is to remove the baby chicks from the box one at a time and inspect their butts for a condition called “pasting up”.  It is very easy to spot as you will notice blackish waste that has become stuck to their butts. The dried up poop covers up their vents and prevents them from being able to poop any more.

This is a very dangerous condition and has to be handled straight away.  I prefer to use a damp, lukewarm washcloth and soak this area to get it to the point that it is soft enough to remove the stuck poop.  In a number of the most severe cases, I have been forced to immerse the chicks’ rear end in water just to get it off.  It is possible to use a tooth pick or anything that is disposable to also help get the balck mess to come off.  I dry the chick off using my hair dryer ( set on low heat to be sure that I don’t injure the baby) and then I put it in the brooder.  Keep a close eye on the entire flock of chicks since this problem can return.

Provide water immediately
The second important chick care tip is that your new baby chicks will need to have water as soon as you have  inspected them and taken care of any pasting up problems that occurred in transit. I don’t take any chances that my baby chicks can’t figure out what to do with the water. Remember, they were plucked from the hatcing box and placed in a box as soon as they were hatched.  They have never seen food or water.

As I place each chick in the brooder for the first time, I gently dunk their beaks into the water source.  They always get the concept very quickly and begin drinking.  Keep a careful eye on them and be sure that all of the chicks have the hang of both eating and drinking.  Do not ever try and force them to drink using a syringe because you will drown them.

Umbilical Cord
The third essential chick care tip is to not be taken aback any time you notice that some of your baby chicks still have their umbilical cords attached.  You may note what looks like a black string which is attached at their butts.  This is very common and will fall off with no help from you.  Do not under any circumstances pull it off orremove it yourself.  It is possible to badly injure your chick by doing this.

The issues discussed are  just three essential chick care tips that everyone needs to be aware of.  Chick care is generally incredibly time consuming during the first four weeks and you’ve got to be able to provide the constant care they need to keep them alive.

Don’t make the mistakes that will cost your chicks their lives.  CLICK HERE to find out more about how to keep your newly hatched chicks alive.

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