October and it’s raining and the nights are drawing in. For the next 4 months it’s a case of keeping the birds as comfortable as possible. While inside the litter must be changed before it gets to the stage of being wet and soiled or the build up of disease will trigger health problems.
The coops are cleaned and disinfected and fresh bedding is put in. I use either dust free white shavings or Aubiose which is chopped flax.
It costs around £8-£10 a bale, but lasts well.
Pros: Absorbent and stays very dry on top, soft, easy to clean out, rots down super quick on compost heap
Cons: can be dusty, hard to get out of bale, as very compacted,but a first class bedding.
With daylight getting shorter and the birds having less time to feed outside, keeping them in condition is on-going.
Water is vitally important as it controls the body temperature and removes toxins in the body, besides making up a large part of an egg if the bird is in lay.
I’m still using cider vinegar when I refresh the drinkers on all the birds including the chicks. I had only 2 chicks with signs of coccidiosis this season out of well over 260. Signs of blood in the droppings and a fluffed up chick which I culled immediately, as the last thing I needed was a chick spreading the germs of this around the brooder.
I had 1 chick/grower with respiration problems that sounds like a gurgling noise and the possibility of this being infectious was removed and again culled.
When you have a batch of chicks/growers and 1 of them starts looking ill you need to assess the problem there and then and not ignore it and hope it will right itself or get better, trust me it won’t.
If your running the chicks at the right temperature, with the correct amount of space with no over crowding and on dry clean litter and with clean fresh water not contaminated with droppings and giving the right feed anything that effects your chicks needs removing. A sick chick is spreading what ever it is suffering from to all the other chicks in the brooder. You need to take the chick out and clean the whole brooder out and disinfect or the remaining chicks will pick up, usually from dropping the sick chick left behind and they will catch whatever it is that’s causing the problem.
The light has gone by 7 pm now and the birds are not let out of the runs till around 8 am to free-range. Most of the adults are moulting, so the egg numbers are low and I have added a little more cod liver oil to the corn mix. Grass is still available and I have used up almost all the spinach I planted back in the spring on the growers still in the broody runs in the granary. I hatched some very late chicks this year due to some very persistent broodies and I have had to extend the light in the granary to give them about 14 hours to feed. With some early hatched birds now almost at point of lay and some chicks still on a heat lamp it’s been a long season.
I have a large number of cockerels that are becoming a nuisance, mainly Improved Indian Game and Welsh Blacks and within the next week I shall start going through them and selecting the 2 best from each breed to go on to the breeding pens next season. The ones that don’t come up to standard will be penned for a couple of weeks and finished on a grain diet.
This will be a worthwhile exercise, as I know by the breeding I can get another pound or two on them yet if I pen them and restrict free-range and chasing around after the hens. While they are still growing exercise gives them the appetite and vigour a cockerel should have, but once they start showing any sexual intentions it’s time to curtail the freedom.
These birds will be penned in the groups they were hatched with, so fighting should not prove to be a problem. I pen them after dark with just fresh water in the run and about an hour before dark on the first day in the pen I give them a feed by which time they will be hungry. They are then fed on wheat,cut maize and rolled barley without cod liver oil. I slightly increase the cut maize and give them as much green feed as they will eat within half an hour after the grain feed. You need to keep them interested in the feed and only give them enough to fill their crops and then remove the feeder. For the first 3 days they get 3 feeds a day and after that they get 2 untill they are ready.