Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Raising Chicks

When I first got chooks, I bought Brown Leghorns, because I liked the idea of old breeds, and I had always loved the roosters of this breed, which look like the roosters of farmyards in children's picture books. A couple of years later, when I wanted to extend my flock, I couldn't get any, and had given up on the idea of a rooster. Partly because of the noise, and partly because I thought the cats would eat the chicks produced. So I bought Red Shavers, the hybrids used in battery egg farms. They have proved to be wonderful layers, and pleasant natured in the main.

One of the characteristics of hybrids is that they hardly ever go clucky or broody. I've had one who has gone clucky several times over the last three years, but that was easily cured by putting her in a pet rat cage given to me by a friend. (Rat not included!) With lots of light and air, and nothing to make a next with, she quickly gave up on the idea of raising babies.

However, this January not one, but three hens decided their internal clocks were ticking and all went broody the same day - and I couldn't fit three of them in the cage! I bought a dozen eggs off Trademe and put four under each hen. Twenty-one days, the Lifestyle Block book How to Car for Your Poultry said. Would they be right? They weren't right about hybrids not going broody!

 Day 2 - 1 egg broken by a clumsy new mum.

Day 18 - 2 eggs broken by helpful children collecting the eggs for me. Sad, but I knew from the remains that something was happening inside the shells.

Day 21 - CHICKS!!! But one died, exhausted from its efforts getting out of its shell.

 What's that little bit of white on the right? Egg shell!
 Breaking out.
 So much easier when they were in, though.

For the first few days after hatching, I kept the chicks and mums in an old chook hutch designed for 2-3 chooks, but soon the mums were fighting and so I decided that they would have to take their chances in the main chook run.

 The old 'hutch was so dilapidated, I had to encase it in bird netting to stop them getting out....
 .... and to stop Spike from getting in.
 So glad my new-borns weren't this active!
 The chook mommas would have preferred that too.
 Out in the big chook run.
We weren't sure what decapitated number 8, but a couple of weeks later there was much squawking from the chook run and when we got down to the run, we could see just 2 chicks, and found 3 broken eggs as well, rolled away from the nest some hens had made in the grass. We assumed ferret, stoat, weasel or rat, and set a trap. Later, when the chooks had settled down, we discovered that only one chick was missing.
 And there was dancing in the streets....

Turns out, it was an Australasian harrier (hawk), so I set to and made some extra 'canopy' to deter the harrier, and as far as I am aware, it's only been back once. Mac heard that there are people who will come out and trap them, and relocate them away from people. I hope he can track them down, because earlier, the same bird was stealing our duck eggs. They have gone off the lay now, which is, I assume, why it has moved its attention to the chook run. Enough, I say!
 There is quite a bit of cover in the run, from flax, fig, apple, pear and avocado trees, also a bare area.
 Looking like a hippy chicken run now!

The remaining 6 chicks are growing well - now I'm holding my breath to see if any are female, or if they will all turn out to be roosters. I hope not, although I think I might keep one rooster.

1 comment:

juliet said...

What dear little chicks. We always had chooks when I was growing up, and I've had some since, but now I don't have the land for it.