Warning! We have always been cautious with young birds. Their needs are basic, but if any of them are not met the results may be fatal.
They need a warm environment. Initially ours are kept in the incubator for the first 24hrs until they are dry and fluffy. Then they are moved to the brooder box.
Our brooder box is a recycled old wardrobe that is partitioned using the draws- allowing for varying sized birds to be kept at once. The younger they are, the smaller the space- not only for their size, but also as it is easier to heat. And heat is one of the most important factors of young birds.
As the boxes need to be clean and dry I have lined the base with plastic lining (make sure it’s not shiny), to stop any moisture getting into the wood. And then line each box with newspaper and sprinkle with sawdust; these are cleaned and replaced weekly- or more often if necessary. To heat our boxes we have a few lights. Each fitted with a high wattage bulb- so not their not very energy efficient; as energy efficient bulbs save their energy by not wasting their energy from heat. Where in this instance it’s the heat that the bulb throws out that you want.
So once you have a clean and dry, warm environment for them, they also require food and water. We have always made it our ritual to dunk the newly hatched and dry, fluffy birds beaks in the water, as you put them in their new home- so they know where it is. I cannot remember where we got this from, or if it is even necessary.
So breeding and raising young poultry is a fairly simple and rewarding process; something we have been doing with reasonable success for over a year now. However as with all our ventures, we continue to live and learn.
At present we have a few chicks (Silver Sussex and Plymouth Rocks) that are about 5 weeks old. So they are occupying the one side of the wardrobe, until they are big enough to move outside. If it wasn’t so cold over night at the moment we probably would have already moved them out, as they have their adult feathers.
So the other side of the wardrobe is divided between the poults (and one refugee chick) and some young Indian Games. The Indian Games being older, have the larger space and smaller light, whilst the poults, having just hatched have the smaller space and larger light, even though there are more of them.
So having various birds and varying stages at once requires a few waterers and feeders. And given we have the odd one in a bird pen, and another (inevitably) deteriorated and cracked, I set about purchasing some new ones from the local produce store, in preparation.
For the older birds we quite often recycle milk cartons etc for waterers, but this is not so suitable for young birds. As the water and food source need to be low lying, for them to be able to reach it, but also they will walk and poop all through it and you don’t want them eating or drinking dirty water, especially at such a young age. So waterers and feeders are a must for the youngster- These also need sterilising regularly and makes treating and worming them etc easier.
These new waterers/feeders are taller and more slender than our old ones- great for taking up less space. They would be great… or so I thought, being easy for the larger birds to topple; as they perch on top of them- which they will do. Is not their only issue!
Last night (and last night was a colder night- for tropics anyway). Matt checked on the birds about 8 o’clock. The two day old poults were huddled rather close in under the light. Then he noticed one lying underneath, lying rather still. So he went to pick it up, noticing it was rather wet. Cold. And lying in the base of the new feeder.
This is not an issue we have had before. The waterer (being almost empty) was in under the lamp and this little one had fallen (who knows) and become suck. The wet bird will lose heat and it was not looking good.
So he brought both inside, immediately. We attempted to towel dry it and then decided to place it back in the incubator (which was fortunately still running). It was not looking good; it was cold to touch and barely moving…
This morning the little one was up and about, chirping profusely and looked a lot drier. So we moved it back to the box. I swapped out the waterer for the older style, giving the new model with the larger lip to the Indian Games, given they are older (although around the same size) not as likely to become trapped in the water- or at least I hope not.
So buyer beware, this style of waterer may not be suitable to very young birds.