Silkies For Sale 7/12/18

Bachelor Pads for the Silkie Rooster

20180627_154829What can you do with your extra roosters?  Almost every flock owner that keeps roosters is faced with this dilemma.  There are rooster rescues,  craigslist ads or even the stew pot,  but not all of these solutions work for all people. Maybe a rooster bachelor pad or Roo frat house is a solution for you.

Bantam breeds are very difficult to sex.  Silkies may be at the top of that list.  Silkies are usually sexed at around 3 to 4 months old.  Bantams and silkies are sold “straight run” which means that you are buying the chicks unsexed.  Fertile chicken eggs have a 50/50 chance of being roosters.  Consequently, many people end up with more rooters than they bargained for.

If you and your family have raised a group of baby chicks up from day olds, you will no doubt have become very attached to every single member of your flock.  It will bring a tear to your children’s eyes if you contemplate selling or giving away your little guys to someone  who may be planning a chicken dinner or even worse, such as using them for cock fighting or as bait birds.

The problem with extra roosters is that the many people who end up keeping all of them and not removing them from their flock assume that the boys can just continue to be part of their little group and that nothing will change.  Well, puberty happens and the male hormones start to kick in and the sweet little boys that you cuddled will suddenly have other things on their minds.

The optimal ratio for roosters to hens is around one rooster for every ten hens.  In a pen where just one rooster rules the roost, the flock is content and happily free from stress.  If you invite several “extra” roosters to join them you are opening up your flock to what could be a disaster.

Normal rooster behavior is to defend his flock of hens from all predators and other males. He will give his life to protect his girls.  When you add more males into the pen it will create fights and anxiety.  This disruption of constant fighting will cause the hens in that pen to stop laying as a stressful environment is not conducive to raising a family.

Multiple roosters mating with too few hens will cause the feathers on your hen’s back and crest to be pulled out and damaged.  Hen aprons can be a solution if you are experiencing this problem.   You may also find that the roosters will turn on you as well, as all are fighting for a place of dominance in the pecking order.

Creating a bachelor colony or frat house is a solution. All extra males would be housed together in a separate pen away from the rest of the flock.  Ideally, you want it to be somewhere where they cannot see or hear any hens.  If they know that hens are nearby they will continue to fight each other for them.

First of all, your rooster run will need to be adequately sized so that they do not feel overcrowded.  Even with no hens around, the males will still feel territorial and need plenty of space.  Multiple feeders and waterers are important.  Roosters that are higher up on the dominance scale may try and prevent lower roosters from eating and drinking.

Trim or remove all rooster’s spurs in order to protect pen mates from damage during any squabbles.  Use a diagonal wire cutter to trim off as much as you can.  Keep nails trimmed with a nail clipper  and trim around their eyes with blunt scissors so they aren’t surprised by anything.

Studies have shown that in the wild, roosters will willingly spend time together in a flock away from the hens so penning them separately is not entirely unusual for them.  Watch for signs of anxiety .  I have found that all will be getting along fine and then suddenly all are fighting.  This is when I generally let them out to free range.  Putting space between them generally settles them down. Some people permanently let their roosters free range and simply keep the hens locked in their own run.

Some people will rotate roosters into other pens so that all roosters get to spend some time with hens.  Remember that all chickens hate change.  This will be reflected in a drop in egg production as they get used to having a new rooster.

Sometimes it is easier to have a separate cockerel pen with no hens in sight or ear shot. Once birds reach maturity individual pens are sometimes best.  Then you only move the roosters for breeding .  This gives you total control of your flock or breeding program.  When they are not breeding, the roosters are in their quarters which gives the hens a break.  Many roosters will be friendly and docile when you are the only one having contact with them.  Pick the roosters up frequently and carry them around .  They love to have their chests and wattles stroked.  If a rooster is too excited, hold him until his heart rate goes down before putting him back on the ground.  When roosters are trained and treated well, they can make excellent companions.

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Keeping your roosters in individual pens also controls their environment. You will be able to evaluate your breeders more accurately and be able to make improvements to the quality of your birds.  You can use small coops like the one in the above picture, or even a dog house with fencing like the picture below.  A nice plastic snaplock coop is easy to clean and take care of.  Chicken tractors are always good choices for male colonies as they can be moved around far from the girls.  At the end of this article you can see the bachelor pad we recently built.  I like to have an heir and a spare when it comes to roosters and we built this one on the side of the garage away from the rest of the flock. They are not able to see or hear hens from this spot.

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For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our weekly silkie blog at VJPPoultry.com.  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria Peterson

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Silkies For Sale – 6/28/18

How to Perform a DNA test on your Silkie Chick and Determine its Sex.

20180613_103403-1Silkie chicks are known to be very difficult to sex at a young age.  An Avian DNA sex test is a scientific way to determine the gender of your baby chick before you become too emotionally attached to it knowing that if it is a rooster you will not be able to keep it depending on where you live.

Many people live in cities and towns with ordinances that prohibit roosters.  Their crowing makes them unpopular with city officials. It would be wonderful to know the sex of your silkie chicks within the first week of life.  You could, of course, wait until it crows or lays an egg but with silkie chicks that can take many months.

Many people try and sex silkie chicks based on feather sexing, appearance or behavior.  None of these methods are always reliable.  Feather sexing is something genetically bred into a breed of chicken.  It has to do with the length of wing feathers. Not all chicken breeds can be feather sexed. However, some believe that early feathering of the wings and tail are an indication of a female.  Because silkie’s feathers are fluffy and not hooked together, it makes this kind of feather sexing especially difficult.

Luckily, determining the sex of your chick through DNA sexing is highly accurate.  They claim that the reliability of the laboratory protocol is 99.9%.  Many companies offer this type of DNA test and a quick online search can provide you with some reputable companies.

The first company I looked at was PollyGene through Amazon. They specialize in parrots and other home birds that can be very difficult to sex. Many of these birds are very expensive so it makes sense to spend the money in order to find out the gender. I did not see chickens listed so I wrote a question to them about whether or not they could sex baby chicks. The answer that came back  was no, which kind of surprised me. I went on to look at some other companies.  IQ Bird Testing specifically states that they do silkie chick sexing. They charge $11.99 per bird and you get the results back in about a week and a half.  I also had a customer who tested five newborn silkie chicks that she had purchased  from us and had very good things to say about the IQ Bird Testing company.

DNA bird gender determination can be performed with blood samples, feather samples and eggshell samples.  Laboratory analysis will test for the Z chromosome or W chromosome in birds to determine their sex.  Males will have only Z chromosomes and females will have ZW chromosome pairs.  It is the females, not the males who determine the sex of the embryo.

The collection of samples is very easy to do. After placing an order with a company online, they will send you a downloadable and printable Sample Form.  Print out the form as you will need it when you are collecting samples.  An incorrect collection of samples may cause delay in your bird’s results or even affect the outcome due to sample DNA cross- contamination. Always be very careful in following directions exactly.

Before beginning blood collection, wash your hands thoroughly.  Use a pair of clean nail clippers sanitized with alcohol.  Clip the tip of any toe nail approximately 2/3 of the distance from the root of the nail. Blood will flow from the nail.  Place the circle of the  submission form underneath it until it absorbs a few drops.  Do not touch the blood at any time as this can contaminate your sample.  Allow the blood to dry completely before folding the submission form.  Check that your bird is not bleeding anymore and apply an anticoagulant onto the area.  The blood sample has a higher chance of finding good quality DNA than feathers or eggshell.

For feather collecting, you want to move aside the surface feathers from the lower chest area and find the smaller ones that are underneath.  Pluck at least five of these smaller feathers making sure that they come with a visible quill. You could use tweezers to do the plucking.  If the quill comes with some blood, allow the feathers to air dry for one hour.   Never touch the quills of the feathers with your hands.    Never pluck the wings.  Any feathers that are molted or shed naturally can not be used for DNA testing.  Tape the feathers onto the submission form and make sure the tape does not reach the quills.

The last way is to use eggshells.  After the chick has hatched from the egg, place the shell sideways and allow the inner membrane to dry a minimum of 24 hours.  Do not touch the inside of the eggshell.  Make sure that you have the right eggshell.  Use the one the chick actually hatched from.  Once it dries, place the entire eggshell into a plastic bag.  Pierce the bag with a needle several times to allow air flow through the bag.

Lastly, mail your form with the sample collections to the company.  They will ask you the species name which in the case of chickens would be Gallus Gallus.  If you are doing several different birds you will need a way to identify each bird.  Colored rubber bands that are quite small work well with tiny chicks. Place a different color on the leg of each chick and then use that color for identification on your form.

In a week or so the company will send its results back to you.  There will be a separate certificate for each bird tested.  They will let you know if it is male or female.  Of the five birds that my customer tested, three came back male and two came back female.  Since the male/female ratio for chickens is 50/50 this is pretty typical.  The picture at the top shows the three chicks that came back as male.  Would you be able to tell that just by looking at them?  I recommend DNA testing for people that can’t stand the heart break of parting with one of their pets. If you do the testing early, it is worth the cost in the long run.

For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our weekly silkie blog at VJPPoultry.com.  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria Peterson

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