For some homesteaders, preparing chickens for spring is as easy as throwing open the barn doors and letting them run. However, there are a lot of little things that go into getting things ready for your chickens to make the most out of your flock.
Nothing says renewal of life quite like a barnyard full of fluffy little chickens running about. Chicks are adorable and a lot of fun to watch. Spring is the time for baby chicks, but they are quite vulnerable, and you can do a lot to make sure they make it through the difficult early days.
One of the surest ways to get the most out of expanding your flock is to incubate your own eggs. Incubation allows you to hold on to eggs until the most opportune time to hatch, after the coldest weather of the season is past. It also improves the chances that you’ll get the number of new chicks you desire.
Late winter is the time to get your incubating supplies together, make sure everything is working properly, and ensure you know how to use everything.
Nothing can be more fun than watching a mother hen taking care of her brood. Many breeds are quite efficient at hatching their own chicks. If natural hatching is your desire, make sure you pick the types of chickens that go “broody” (sit on their eggs) easily. Orphingtons, Standard Silkies, Cochins, Old English Game, and Arachana are some of the best brooders.
The biggest problem with natural hatching is you can never be sure exactly how many eggs a chicken will set on, and a lot of things can happen during the course of the hatch to keep eggs from hatching. In some cases, a chicken will set on eggs for days or even weeks and then just simply get up and walk away. Some say they just “know” when the eggs aren’t fertile or have been compromised and just stop sitting.
Natural hatching has a lot of advantages, but there are a lot of disadvantages as well, and it is rather hit or miss.
Keeping Things Warm
One way to increase your flock is to buy day-old chicks from a hatchery. They you don’t have to worry about how many eggs will hatch or be tied down to an incubator day and night. Whether you buy chicks or hatch them yourself, you are going to have to keep them warm. Even after freezing weather has passed, the first few weeks of a chick’s life need to be carefully regulated, temperature wise.
Under natural conditions, the mother hen will do the job by letting her chicks sleep underneath her wings and body. If you raise chicks, you are going to have to keep them confined to an area you can heat.
The easiest source of heating is a heat lamp several feet off the ground. There should be areas outside of the heat lamp’s range where the chicks can go if they get too hot, and the area that is heated by the lamp should be big enough to allow all of the chicks in the warm area without huddling to the point where some might get trapped or trampled.
Regardless of how you prepare to increase your flocks, spring chicks will be a source of wonder and enjoyment for the whole family.
©2012 Off the Grid News