|4 week old pullets|
This morning we went into town to pick up our new laying fowls. They are only 1 day old so this is a case of the chicken coming before the egg, about 6 months before in fact. So much Delayed Gratification because a lot expensive food and 22 weeks goes by till a chick is at " point of lay"(POL) . Chicks need to be kept warm. They are very contented at 37 degrees celcius , but will cheep loudly to alert their carer that they have been left out in the cold.
|This young muscovey duck did us proud hatching 15 ducklings!|
.If the ruse fails, the chook is actually good at maths and figures these are imposters , she may peck them. So yes it is a delicate operation and slow and calm movements are essential to not ruffle any feathers too much it, but mostly it is up to how motherly the individual is. You only get one chance at this....it is rare for a hen to accept 2 day old chicks. If the bond fails to develop by morning, we must quickly rescue the rejected orphans, gather them up and place them in the good ol rammed earth solar passive designed chicken brooder with lamp. Then not only will we be raking out poo and replacing fresh sawdust bedding weekly, we'll be on constant vigil for the next 6 weeks against dry water bowls, goannas, rats, snakes, hawks,crows, kookaburras, fleas , cold winds, heat stroke or drowning. So we dearly hope the 4 clucky chooks we have out there take to the chicks tonight. A maximum of 25 chicks per hen is advisable. The broody hen should have her own space because older chooks may have diseases, or at least keep eating the special chick food and drinking out of the special chicken drinkers, which you then need to refill much more often.
Update: We had 2 chooks keen to take on any chick we stuck under them and 2 that were not going to take any, they just moved away .So being a very warm time of year we took full advantage of motherly instinct and crammed 35 under each co operative mumma fowl! We considered placing the rest under a clucky duck but having never tried this.....ducks don't sleep at night like chooks, they are very alert in the dark, I predicted pandemonium: after much loud quacking from a retreating duck we would have been looking with a torch under bushes for hours trying to find the rejected chicks. So why didn't we just put them in the rammed earth chick house? Well, I heard some rats out there . I once had 50 day old chicks killed by rats on their first night under a lamp out in a shed. Horrible! I remember a time when there were hardly any rats, but they are now plaguing everyone I talk to, now why is that?
We will have to rig up a covered outdoor pen for these chicks and bring them back inside each night.
As you can imagine, a started pullet is an expensive bird, and we don't want to sell many. We will prepare a pullet paddock now to grow beetles , slaters, sunflowers , alfalfa, kale and other greens for their consumption in their "teenage" phase before they join the layer sheds at 5 months old.
Having got your birds to POL, imagine the anguish , never to mention financial loss, of losing your entire flock of new hens to a fox in one night. Oh yes, it has happened to me when I was 23, I still remember the pain of the day time fox incident in Neerim South Victoria. Always lock up your fowls at night because foxes will not attack very often, but when they do, there are few survivors. Foxy certainly enjoyed my tender young birds....but left quite a few of old tough ones .
Foxes can jump onto tall fence posts, are extremely stealthy, will dig their way in and will often kill far more than they eat. The technique I witnessed of a day time fox was to run around and around in circles amongst the panicked fowls, snapping their jaws wildly. In this manner they manage to kill or horribly injure heaps of chooks before they can get away. We hope beautiful Alby our Maremma dog will be onto any fox approaching our henhouses.
So you now have more of an idea of what it takes to bring you your next dozen beautiful golden eggs from Merri Bee Organic farm.