It’s been a hectic breeding season so far and this year I have done it all under broodies. I have never know a breeding season when so many birds went down on eggs. Even 2 of my Exchequers took broody and have given me 15 so far, moved under a Welsh black that already had 10 of her own. I just leave them sit together in the nest box and remove the chicks they hatch and when I have enough remove the hens and give them some freedom around the farm to break them.
I have bunched the chicks in groups of about 20 this season, as under hens doesn’t produce large numbers like filling an incubator with eggs. I foster untill the chicks are fully feathered in grass runs that are moved onto fresh ground each day.
These are 6ft x 4ft and made from 2×2 inch timber that frames a sheet of heavy duty weldmesh. The ends are made from marine ply that is 4ft x 2ft.
A couple of 6 x 1 boards each end keeps the chicks off the ground and holds a drinker above grass level.
Total cost of one of these is
£5 for a 6x4ft weldmesh panel (heavy duty).
Timber about £10 for tanilized and plained 2×2 and the ply on the ends cost about £15, but it should last for years, so about £40 (without the weatherproof cover or of course labour)
The cover is an almost clear reinforced tarp from QVS online (ebay) and for £23.78 you have enough to cover 2 runs of that size…just.
I used it last winter on all my fixed runs and it’s brilliant stuff. It took the full force of the wind up here and never ripped or tore. One reason my runs are not very high is the wind. Castle Farm is at 1000ft and exposed.
I try to get the chicks out on grass as soon as they have lost most of the fluff and have enough feathers.I leave them another couple of weeks if they are without a broody or the weather is cold.
Getting them out on fresh greens gives them a real boost as growing tips contain a high protein. I have sown a lot of white clover across the yard which is on stone and free draining. The chicks from around 3 days old get a handful thrown into the brooders at least 3 times a day and they love it. If you have them under a lamp put the clover in away from the heat.
Once they have been in the runs a week or so and have got used to being outside I let them all out to run around and do they enjoy it.
The amount of everything that makes a grower into a first class adult is all around them. Fresh greens,bugs,flies,soil and sunshine.
Within a couple of days they settle into an area that they will always return to and roost up in the grass runs without being herded in at dusk.
I have breed some nice birds this year and look forwards to the autumn selection of next years breeding stock.