I post on many different websites, and I often get people e-mailing me or messaging me about how I do this or that when it comes to care for my birds. When I start raising any kind of animal or bird, I go all out reading everything that there is about the subject, BEFORE I do it. That is just the way I am. I do not claim that I am an expert, I start this chicken thing many years ago and have changed a lot in my ideas from when I first started and would do things much differently back then if I had to start all over from scratch. This page will serve as a information page to answer any questions about how I take care of all my birds, from Egg to Adult. These are just my experiences, and may not work for everyone depending a lot on your location, climate, cost or birds preferences. I am always willing to help other bird owners so if you still have any questions, or want to comment on some of my ideas, please e-mail me and let me know what you think about my site. I will be adding pictures to help illustrate my ideas to you when I get a chance to take some.
Here are some general questions that I have been asked recently.
Does this mean I would not vaccinate since my chicks since they were raised by a couple broody moms?
I would not treat them as they are already exposed. It paralyzes so the bird cannot walk and will eventually kill them or they will be crippled for life. Its a tumor thing. can also happen in the ocular form, meaning the eyes but the leg paralyzes is the most common.. They wont be able to walk and most of the time they die. The only reason I know of it..was when I ordered ducks last year they I do not know, my birds rarely get greens and they do fine. I feed the seeds as my birds were usually thin and these seeds, give much more fat and protein than just the regular game bird feed. I do not want them fat though, so I have cut back now that its getting to be spring/summer and will only do it once a week. They have filled out nicely now.
What is exactly mareks?
How do you know if you ever had it?
wanted to know if I wanted them vaccinated for mareks.
Do you vaccinate for anything else? No
So the seeds are more important than the greens are?
Well just called emailed the feed store to tell them what I need and see if they have it.
Now do you feed the seeds every day with the layer? I have been mixing seeds by hand, using all the same size bowl, whatever you want to use. 3 of oats, 2 barley, 1 sunflower hearts, 1 safflower, and 1/2 flax seed. Sometimes I throw in Wheat, but I buy that at the grocery store in the baking section. Once all mixed I keep doing it till I end up with my barrel full (I buy all in 50lb bags) Then I will take a large coffee can, and take 2/3 regular game bird feed and 1/3 of the seed mix. mix all together with a bit of wheat germ oil.
How much seeds do you feed? See above.
When you mix your seeds do you do 50/50 (bag of oats to a bag of safflower to a bag of blah blah??) See above
when you say "rolled oats" is that the same as what you get at the feed store? Rolled meaning cracked". Yes, I get them at the feed store (though not any different that what you buy for oatmeal really) and mine are called Rolled & Steamed oats. The Barley is called Rolled Barley.
As far as babies I am feeding starter/grower non medicated. How long do I do that? You can feed that until they are about 6month old if you want to, some people never change. Here, I can get a Nutrena product that is called Meat Bird Grower that can be fed indefinetely.
Then on to layer and the seeds Yes/no? Yes
Why do you only feed alfalfa in the winter? Alfalfa is a hot food, like corn, helps their bodies keep warm better in the winter. Our temps can get well below zero and summers are over 90°F most of the time. Often over 100.
Do you get your wheat germ oil at the feed store or grocery store?
How often and how much do you give? At the feed store in Gallon Jugs. I feed in the black rubber bowls, and if I fill that half full, I usually put in a few tables spoons I think...I do not measure. About 1 time a week.
The vit. E and Selinum supplement what name brand do you use? I have used different brands, this one I currently have is yellow and black, no real brand, maybe Select? The other one I had didn't have a brand either, it was white and purple and had a yellow horseshoe on the front. I mix in a few of the provided scoop full per batch of seeds.
Do you feed that due to them not getting grass? See below
Or are they normally deficient in those two things? Silkies suffer from lack of a skull most of the time, which is why they are vaulted or non. The vaulted skull is lacking a completely formed skull which means that their brain is just under the surface of the skin. A vaulted chick will look like it has a cap on its head, and a non will look normal. (Anthoer good reason why mites are drawn to the head to feed) I usally get mostly vaulted, but have had some not. Because the brain is pretty well unprotected, silkies can get head injuries pretty easily from running into things, bumping their heads or being pecked int he head by others. All this can cause swelling int he brain, giving them what other breeders call crook neck. their neck will twist around over their back or between their legs etc. I cannot tell you anything about the Vit E and Selenium, except that I know that it is a common treatment for crook neck. Crook neck can also be brought on by vitamin deficiency, like when they brood too long or if the weather outside is too hot for too long. Strong vitamins can help cure them.
Where do you get "Red Cell" at? Does it boost the red cells is that what its for? Again how much do you give and how often? You can get red cell from the feed store. Dark purple jug or bottle. or at Foys online. Foys sells everything you need really, even the seeds but they are more costly. Red Cell is a iron supplement. Good if the bird has been anemic due to mites or lice. 1 time per week, I like to mix with the Wheat Germ Oil.
It paralyzes so the bird cannot walk and will eventually kill them or they will be crippled for life. Its a tumor thing. can also happen in the ocular form, meaning the eyes but the leg paralyzes is the most common..
They wont be able to walk and most of the time they die.
The only reason I know of it..was when I ordered ducks last year they
I do not know, my birds rarely get greens and they do fine. I feed the seeds as my birds were usually thin and these seeds, give much more fat and protein than just the regular game bird feed. I do not want them fat though, so I have cut back now that its getting to be spring/summer and will only do it once a week. They have filled out nicely now.
My chicken coops started off as 2 attached 10x10 rooms, divided in half by a entry hall, that houses the plastic garbage cans to store the feed.
And has now morphed into what you see on the main page of this website. Each of the chicken runs has a connecting door in the wire, that we used to use to let the birds onto the other side not being used, when we wanted to let the grass or seed grow. That lasted oh, about 6 months before we were over run with birds and had to use both sides at the same time.
Some people question the little chicken chutes that are coming out of the coop. My husband built those as we get high winds on the plains here and it was designed to limit the amount of wind blowing into the coop causing a draft. The top part is hinged so we can open it if we have babies that do not know how to use the chute at first. There is also a closing door on the inside that slides down to keep them locked in in bad weather or in case of predators. We used to have a problem with skunks, but not anymore. We replaced the chicken wire over the run with Flight Netting and although our relationship was strained during the installation we got through it and it has been the BEST thing to have done with the snow load we sometimes get. We also used many metal roofing sheets to line the bottom of the runs, all about 2 foot down into the ground to prevent digging predators. We have not replaced all the chicken wire yet in the main coop areas but when it gets bad enough, we will replace with 2x4 welded wire.
We put a lot of work into the breeding pens, and although these are not insulated, they are still good to use in the winter as we put heavy plastic over the windows in the coops in the winter. It was never the plan to keep birds in the breeding pens all winter, but thats what happens when you get the "addiction".
These are the main doors, 2x4 welded wire. Had intended on doing ramps for the chickens or the chutes however, hubby has not gotten to them yet.
We put these latches on the outside of the doors. They work great, however, not everyones hands fit through the welded wire to open them up if you are inside. So, I had to cut a hole in each to be able to fit your hand through. Of course in doing that, I realized a small skunk could get in, so, we put the other piece of welded wire over it, zip tied it at the top as a hinge and then we fastened it with a snap clasp at the bottom
At the bottom of each doorway, hubby placed bricks, two bricks deep to deter predators. Everytime we get a critter trying to dig under the coop, we fill the hole with quickcrete. Eventually we will have a complete foundation LOL.
The backside of the breeding pens that hubby completed last year with newer handmade doors.
The inside of the breeding pens are individual, and we can divide them in half (for the silkies seeing they do not fly) to do target breeding of just a few birds.
I try to only keep natural breeders on the property, but have learded from other breeders at shows how to do AI. There is a few videos on YouTube that can show you how to do this.
For my brooders, I use large dog kennels. One I bought for the chicks but the other I had when my dog was a puppy. They have worked extremely well, once modified so that the chicks could not escape. I used to line with cardboard but was a pain when the tape stopped sticking. So then I zip tied plastic canvas sheets along the sides of the cage. You can see in, and you can still get air flow so it does not get too hot.
This picture was still set up from when I had adults in here after their bathing for show so has only one heat lamp in each and the bottom cage has wood shavings in it.
I lined the bottom where the black tray is, with the sticky shelf liner over cardboard. (Needs replaced, I know)
I have tried various methods of brooding chicks. I started with the usual newspapers, which stink, and then wood shavings. All are fine until they start kicking the shavings or newspaper into the waterer and then it sucks up all the water and makes it wet, cold and they have no water!
Then I started using play sand. Bought a bag at the Lumber Yard. Works great and sinks to the bottom of the waterer if they kick it in and does not absorb it all. However, it is very dusty and I brood all my birds in the house, at the time, in the other bedroom. It was great for the chicks though, the heat lamp made the sand nice and warm for them, and they had their grit. Some people have said that they had issues with the babies eating the sand and not the food and then dying. I have never had that issue. To clean I had bought a metal pasta strainer (Colander) and would fill and shake to get the poo out to dump. You had to wear a mask though. Periodically adding sand as needed.
I got tired of it, so then started to just use rubber shelf liners and washing the poo off.
Then I went to a friends house to see his set up and he told me he always just uses chick started. It is not bad to allow chicks to come in contact with their poo, in my opinion, it gives them a bit of a resistance to whatever they might get into when they get older. I bought a 50lb bag of starter last year. I put about 1/4 to a 1/2 bag in the bottom of the brooder. Works about the same as the sand, its nice and warm on their feet and I do not have to worry about them running out of food. Yes, they do poop in it, but, they will dig through it. Every week, I clean out the top layer of the feed and poo with a dustpan and broom. It does waste some feed, but, a 50lb bag lasts the whole season I have babies in the house. I also just use regular light bulbs in the brooders. I put two in each cage, so in case that one burns out, they have a backup. I also place the waterer on a 12" ceramic tile to try to keep it cleaner.
PICS OF NEW BROODER HOUSE
Hubby was AWESOME this year as he renovated the little labor house on our property. We used to house everything from chickens to turkeys and goats in this house. These are a few pics of the before. You cans ee it was in sad shape by the walls, they were old greenish walls with holes all over them, and it had a chimney that leaked like a sieve.
(Please excuse sick goat- she was put down by the vets that day)
This is the NOW Pics- I still have to move in the dog crate cages and my 3 tier rabbit cages, but you get the idea.
This set up here will hold 8 bantams and 2 large fowl at the bottom. I have a three step stool to reach the top level. (only needed two step though) The other cages go on the side of this unit.
Back window with new laminate countertop- perfect for setting up my 4 incubators.
This section is for holding 8 birds for show conditioning- each space is 2'x2'- but, the dividers come out so I can use it for a whole group of chicks, or breeding trios of birds. the length is 8ft.
The bottom row is for 3 large fowl birds for show conditioning. The whole room has new drywall, electric, texturing on the walls, new paint and new vinyl flooring in one huge piece. The building is 11'x13'
The door has a window that can be opened for cross ventilation- the building has concrete siding and a metal roof, all matches our own house.
I find that the Game Bird Layena from Purina gives my breeder birds much more health and makes the eggs, embreyos and chicks stronger than when I did not use it. If I do happen to have an issue with a chick not doing well, a drop or two of cod liver oil sometimes brings them around.
I also vaccinate all my babies for Mareks disease. Seeing I keep the chicks well away from the adult birds, I generally wait till I have a few hatches over with before I do them. I raise my chicks in my laundry room, so they are completely isolated from the adults. Now, I have had mareks on my place before, Dutch bantams are very susceptible to it for some reason. Its the only reason I vaccinate. Because I brood in the house, I vaccinate at any age as long as they have not been outside. That being said, you can vaccinate an older bird, just there is not guarantee that the bird has not already been exposed to the disease, which if they have, makes the vaccination utterly useless. I just vaccinated some chicks that are 2 weeks old. Get the vaccine from Jefferslivestock. They are the cheapest, and do not require you to purchase the styrofoam cooler to go with it. You get the tablet (very much like foam lol) and the bottle of Dilutent. All must be refridgerated. You can divide the vaccine into 1/4s which will save you money as once you mix everything, you have to throw it out once finished. Take the bottle of dilutent and suck out 50ml (1/4 of 200ml) with a large syringe and needle. Put this into a glass container (I just use a clean jelly canning jar.) I used to sterilize everything, I do not feel its necessary. Then you have to take something and cut the tablet into 1/4s. Add a 1/4 of the tablet to the 50ml you put into the jelly jar. The tablet can be cut with a paperclip or a long sewing needle. (really) Sometimes the tablet is all powder, just do your best to divide it into 1/4s. All birds/chicks, regardless of size gets .2ml. You need a syringe for Tuberculosis or diabetes, it only holds a ml of stuff so its tiny and the needle is very small. You can buy these online as well at Jeffers. Vaccination works better with two people, one to hold the chick and one to do the vaccination. Your suuposed to give the injection in the back of the neck...I do not. Too difficult for me to do corectly so I inject into the chicks thigh. Some cry, but most do not. Have one person hold the chick with leg extended. Take some water and wet the site you will inject. You do this so you can see through the fluff to the skin, much easier, trust me. You want to inject the .2ml just under the skin, so grab a bit of the wet fluff and pull it gently away from the body. You will tent up the skin. Inject with the needle into this area, towards the body. If you do it right, sometimes you cans ee the needle go just under the skin. When you inject, it will form a small ball under the surface. Will quickly dissolve. Dispose of the needle and leftover solution. I have a burn barrel for trash so I dispose there.
I never use broodies for incubation. My climate is such that my outdoor humidity is usually below 30% and I have poor luck with the birds hatching babies.
My incubator of choice is Lyon brand. You can buy parts on their website at http://www.lyonelectric.com/ . I have two TX-6's, a TX-7 and a Roll-X, the older model. The TX's hold 18 large fowl eggs or 26 bantam. Silkie eggs are slightly bigger than bantam and smaller still than large fowl, so I just use the large fowl grid most of the time. I can use the bantam grid too, but I often have to leave it every other space. The TX-6 has a little stick that you use to control the temp. A TINY turn will move the temp significantly. The TX-7 has a 10 turn thermostat which means that one full 360° turn will raise the temp about 1 1/2 degrees (I think). The knob on the TX-7 is an actual knob and it is easily turned so I tape mine in place with duct tape once I get it set. I have a cat that enjoys chewing on stuff and once had the temp up to 105°F. I like the clear plastic dome. I have seen these incubators used in Zoos for reptile hatching so you know they are reliable. It is a pain to clean, but once you get the hang of it, its not so bad. There are 4 long screws that you can remove so you can clean the top part of the incubator more easily. Be careful when putting back together that the wires are all still connected and none are touching the fan blades. For the very top of the incubator, I use a can of air to blow it out.
This is the picture of the inside of the dome, where you remove the 4 center screws to clean
This is the picture of what the inside looks like once you open it up to clean
Picture of top with what outlet you need to cover to keep humidity in. This is the TX-7 with the 10 turn thermostat.
When using a glass mercury thermometer, it is more difficult to get the wick into the bottom.
This is the turning grid and the plastic sleeve, which the knob on the dome fits into.
How the turning are connects to the dome.
I often have a tendency when I go to candle eggs that I bump the water bottle, allowing too much water into the bator. I remedy this by putting tape around the nut of the bottle so it cannot come loose so easily. I do not put it on tight, just enough to hold the bottle on there, as you will need to take it off to refill the bottle. Always use Distilled Water, it helps keep the machine clean.
A new thing I have implemented this year (2010) is to add 2 TBS of Clorox to the gallon jug of Distilled water and using that solution ONE TIME in the water bottles for the incubator while the eggs are growing, usually the first week. It is supposed to increase hatchability by killing off any harmful bacteria in or on the eggs. I have had wonderful hatch rates as usual.
I have one incubator that has the little carded thermometers that it came with. They are okay, but if the thermometer ever comes loose from the card, you are in trouble. (I have done it when trying to dis-attach a wick from one.) I prefer the actual Mercury thermometers or the glass spirit ones, but as you can see from the pictures, they are a bit awkward to have in there. I am a stickler for accuracy, so I always have more than one gauge to check humidity and temp. I do not always leave them all in there, as they take up space. I use Accurite digital sometimes, and I also have small round ones that I got at Pet Smart used for reptiles. For some reason after setting up all three incubators today, I find I am missing a Accurite and a round thermometer, I need to get some others quick!
I get frequent questions from people who are not familiar with reading a wet bulb thermometer. So this is what you need to know:
If you run your incubator at 99°F, for the first 18 days you want the wet bulb to read between 83-85°F which is equivalent to 51-56% humidity. For the last 3 days, you want the wet bulb to read between 87-90°F or 62-70%.
If you run your incubator at 100°F, for the first 18 days you want the wet bulb to read between 84-86°F which is equivalent to 51-57% humidity. For the last 3 days, you want the wet bulb to read between 88-91°F or 62-71%. This is the temp I generally run at and I have had the humidity as high as 70% with no ill effects to the eggs.
The most crucial thing I can pass on as far as these incubators go is that if you are not using the turner that plugs into the top of the dome, (as you do not for the last 3 days) DO NOT UNPLUG IT FROM THE DOME!!!!!
That outlet in the top WILL let in or out humidity. I could not figure out what on earth was going on with the last three days for some time. Not all of the incubators have this issue it seems as I have had other people tell me they do not notice this. However, if you are having a hard time with humidity after you disconnect the turner, here is what you do. Keep the turner plugged in, but take the turning arm off. Or, of you rather, take the turner off, but put a piece of duct tape over the outlet. In my incubators, within 15 seconds of disconnecting the turner from the outlet, my humidity started dropping. It is due to the fact that Colorado is VERY DRY, and out humidity where i live is rarely above 30% outside. So, in my case, it is causing it to leak humidity out. If you are in a high humidity climate, (higher than 70%) you might have the opposite problem.
I always leave the chicks in the hatcher until they are completely dry and able to stand up on their own and walk. It gives them some time to get their bearings together.
I have had a hard time learning what feeding was best for my birds. I noticed an extreme in poor health and quality once most brands of feed switched over to using all plant/soy proteins. I had skinny, unthrifty and birds that molted hard and often. I have tried all brands I can get here and all were the same, Purina, Ranch-Way and Nutrena. When I mentioned this soy issue to the Feed Store I go to, he said he would ask the Purina Rep about my claims. I really figured he would come back with I was full of crap. He didn't. He told the store manager that it was true, soy was not as good as the other, however, the common mentality to most people nowadays is that soy is the best thing out there for you so they want that to be relayed into the same mentality to feeding the animals. They tout Soy for all people, why would it not be good for animals too? So the rep said, they sell it alot because its what people WANT to HEAR, that its a better product.
I NEVER FEED SCRATCH!!!!!!
I started mixing an extreme combination of powders together and adding it to the feed a few times a week, consisting of DE, Fish Meal, Kelp Meal, Spirulina, Clovite, Bee Pollen, Brewers Yeast and Garlic. This was helpful, but it was a royal pain in the butt.
I then discovered Purina made a Game Bird Feed, and it does have animal proteins in it still. Lets face it, birds are Omnivores, so they need meat. Whether that is from bugs or mice or other sources, they eat it. Granted, a chicken is not going to take down a cow and devour it, but we will take what is available.
So, I had seriously noticed that the Game Bird Layena from Purina was the best food I could get and it gave a dramatic boost in the hatchability of the eggs, and produced much stronger babies.
I NEVER FEED SCRATCH!!!!!
The Game Bird Layena is now my base for all my feeding, year round if I can get it. However, my friend at Premier Silkies always had nice hefty and healthy girls. Mine were healthy, but always a bit on the scrawny side. I read up on what she feeds and was dismayed when I didnt think I could find all the products she had. I bought my first bag of Safflower and Sunflower hearts, each were 7.5lbs. The sunflower hearts were $22!!!
I contacted my feed store who did not have these items on the board, but I am glad I asked as I can special order whatever I need, in 50lb bags. So, I am now feeding a mixture of seeds in with the Layena, about 50/50 ratio. The seeds I am feed is: Sunflower Hearts (not whole with shells), Safflower, Rolled/Steamed Oats, Flax seed, and Rolled Barley. I cannot seem to find wheat, so I go to the grocery store and buy a small bag used for hot cereal. I think its like Bobs Red Mill or something like that for a brand. I also mix in a Selenium/Vitamin E supplement for horses. I do not have a ratio, I just mix it by hand to whatever looks right to my eye. You have to give them grit though, seeing it has a lot of seeds in it. I mix all the seeds by hand, and keep it in a seperate plastic garbage can than the Layena and mix as needed. Every few days I mix it together in their bowls with Wheat Germ Oil. I have been feeding this for a few weeks now and I have already noticed an improvement in weight. Plus, they do not waste anything. They eat every last bite. Some people wonder if they would pick out the seeds and just eat those, I do not see that at all. In winter, I do not feed corn. I buy the Alfalfa pellets for horses and re-hydrate them in warm water and mix in with the regular feed. Did I mention I never feed scratch?
Granted all this is time consuming, and more costly, but, if the birds like it and they are healthier, then it is worth it to me.