Episode 15 – Don & Suzy finish up their discussion on raising baby chicks.
Welcome to the World, Braden Wright
Suzy’s sister, Sheryl, has a little boy they named Braden. His middle name is Wright, and I choose to believe they named him that in honor of the Wright Brothers.
Chickens Turn Into Wiseguys [01:37]
While Suzy was tending the chickens last weekend, she observed some odd chicken behavior. When it is hot, our dogs like to hide between the shrubs and the house to stay cool. Suzy watched as Lieutenant Tso (a Golden-Laced Wyandotte rooster) decided he wanted that turf and chased them out of there. The Lt. and his ladies spent the next few hours enjoying the dogs’ shady spot.
Question About Nesting Boxes [03:25]
Joe emailed to ask a question about nesting boxes. He writes:
Having a blast listening to you guys from upper bucks county pa. Here’s a newbie question. I have 10 white leghorn hens and 1 rooster but only 6 nesting boxes in the coop. Not sure if I should add boxes or will they double up. Thanks for all you do for us novices. -Joe
First off, for those who aren’t familiar with White Leghorns, they are the queens of white egg production. They are the backbone of the commercial egg industry, and with 10 hens, Joe can expect 60 to 70 eggs per week! Remember Joe, with that many eggs comes responsibility. Only use them for good, and not evil!
Hens will share nesting boxes, and the general rule of thumb is one box for every four hens. With ten hens, you would need three nesting boxes. You have six, so you have got the nesting box situation covered.
Raising Baby Chicks Part 2 [05:17]
We are finishing up a two-part episode on raising baby chicks. Last week we talked about setting up a brooder and heat source. This week we will discuss feed and feeders, water and waterers, and a little thing called pasty butt.
You start baby chicks off on something generically called ‘chick starter.’ Traditionally, they would eat chick starter for six weeks and then switch to a ‘grower’ feed. Most manufacturers now combine starter and grower into one feed, usually called something like ‘Start & Grow’ or ‘Starter/Grower.’ If you use this combined feed, you would provide that to your chicks all the way up until they begin laying.
If you are raising meat birds, they require a higher protein content to grow their bodies faster. Ideally, you would start with a ‘meat bird starter’ or ‘broiler starter.’ At six weeks, you would then switch them to a ‘meat bird feed’ or a ‘broiler grower/finisher.’
Medicated vs Non-Medicated Feed [07:00]
Most starter feeds come in medicated and non-medicated formulas. medicated feeds contain a coccidiastat, which slows the growth of coccidiosis in baby chicks so that they can develop an immunity to it before it kills them.
Some people worry about over using antibiotics in their chickens. The coccidiastat used in medicated feeds is not an antibiotic, so you don’t need to worry about that.
That being said, you do not want to consume eggs or meat from chickens that have recently been eating medicated chick starter. For laying hens, stop using medicated feed six weeks before they lay. For meat birds, stop using medicated feeds two weeks before butchering.
Chick Grit [10:55]
If you decide to feed treats to your chicks, make sure you provide chick grit in a small container in their brooder. Chick grit helps them digest anything they eat. If you only let them eat starter feed (which we recommend), then you do not need to provide chick grit. Starter feeds are designed to be digested without the aid of grit.
You have a few options when it comes to feeders. Personally, we do not care for the basic ‘chick feeder’ you find in the local farm store. The problem with them is that they sit on the floor of the brooder and will quickly become plugged up with shavings kicked up by the chicks. Beside being annoying to clean, this will rpevent your chicks from having full access to the feed they need to thrive.
We recommend using a hanging feeder. During the first week, when you use paper towels on the brooder floor, you can just set the hanging feeder on the floor like a basic chick feeder. Once you switch to shavings, raise the feeder up just enough so that the smallest chick can still access the food. As the chicks grow, keep raising the feeder. This will prevent it from being fouled with shavings.
Just like feeders, basic chick waterers can quickly become fouled with shavings and poo. When combined with water, these thing are extra disgusting to clean, and the deprive your chicks of clean water.
We prefer to use chicken nipples, which are sort of like a hamster waterer except for chickens. By screwing the nipples into the cap of a water bottle and suspending it upside-down in the brooder, chicks will not be able to contaminate their water supply. As long as you keep filling it, they will always have access to clean and healthy water.
Pasty Butt [22:34]
Pasty butt is dried up poo stuck to the butt fuzz of your baby chicks. If it blocks the vent, this can be very dangerous for your baby chicks. Check all your chicks for pasty butt daily to make sure you find it in time.
To remove pasty blockage, rub it with a wet q-tip until it dissolves enough to fall off. Do not pull the poo off forcefully. You could cause damage to your chick.
A faster way to remove pasty butt is to run hot water from your faucet and stick their little butt under the stream. Gently work at the poo until it falls off. If you do the sink method, make sure you blow dry their butt completely until it is dry before you put them back in the brooder. Baby chicks should not get wet because they cannot regulate their body temperatures. So make sure you dry them quickly and get them back in the brooder.
When Can My Chicks Go Outside? [25:45]
When the baby chicks are fully feathered (about six weeks), they are ready to move from the brooder to live outside full time. The very last thing to feather will be their heads.
Starting at two weeks, you can take them for short trips outside as long as it is warm enough. Make sure you keep a close eye on them. Baby chicks are surprisingly fast and because of their small size, they can hide in very small spaces.
We use a large dog cage that has the floor removed to keep them contained.
Final Thoughts [30:00]
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