Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Chicks

Three weeks ago, I set up an incubator in Paul's class so that the students could enjoy the experience of watching eggs hatch. They should have started hatching on Monday, but they haven't started yet. Sometimes, it takes a few extra days. I hope they aren't duds because that would be really disappointing to the kids.

I created a handout for those who are taking chicks home, so I'll copy and paste it here (because it's late and I'm feeling lazy).

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According to the experts, the chicks should be kept at 95 degrees during the first week, and the temperature should be dropped by five degrees per week until they are at room temperature.

Personally, I have never stuck a thermometer into the brooder. Neither, to my knowledge, does a mother hen know how to read one.

What you need is some kind of a container, a feeder, a waterer, some litter, and a heat source. People have spent hundreds on brooders, while others have had good success with a cardboard box or a bathtub with wood chips in the bottom.

We used a short bucket at first, then graduated to a 40 gallon stock tub (available at TSC in Cadillac). We cover the bottom with wood chips, and have used a variety of feeders and waterers. I prefer the hanging one gallon waterer and the small feeder, though the ones that screw on to the top of mayonnaise jars work well. The only problem with them is that it's easy to knock them over, and you need to keep adding blocks of wood under as the chicks grow.

The feed and water should be at about the height of the chicks' back. If it's any lower, they will kick litter into them. They'll do that even if it's properly adjusted, but at least that will minimize the problem.



We put chicken wire over the top of the tub, and set the lamps on the chicken wire. We use two lamps so that they won't be without a source of heat if one fails.





We adjust the temperature by looking at the chicks. If they are huddled in a miserable little mass, we use bigger bulbs or lay aluminum foil on the chicken wire. If they get as far as possible from the lamps, we let things cool down. In general, they feather out better and become hardier if you keep the temperature a little on the low side.

The chicks should be fed chick starter.

When the chicks are fully feathered and can handle the temperature (no problem since it'll be summer at that time), they can go outside.

You'll need a sturdy predator-proof coop. If you lock them in the coop and attached run for a few days, they'll adopt it as home and return to it. Once they do that, you can free-range them if you like.

The hens will start laying eggs some time in the fall. The roosters will start crowing somewhat before that. You will swear that someone is strangling them when they are first learning.


You can get some brooder and pen ideas by looking here: Down on the Farm


Two of the best chicken groups on yahoogroups are Chickens-101 and Dom_Bird.

Subscribe by sending email to:
CHICKENS-101-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
for chickens-101, or

dom_bird-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
for dom_bird

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