Silkies and Incubators – 1/31/17

20170122_143349“What could you do today that would vastly improve your life three months from now?” That was the inspirational message on my computer screen. “Buy more incubators ” , was my instant thought. I knew that I would be so much happier in three months if I ordered some incubators today. Now I had some hard decisions to make as there are many incubator choices out there. I asked for help from others on the web and I had responses from around the world.

I currently own seven Brinsea Octagon 20 Econs, one Hovabator, two Little Giants and three Farm Innovators. Some are simply wonderful and others are a piece of junk.

The Brinseas are my pride and joy. They run like a charm and keep perfect temperature. They are small but you can get between 28-35 eggs in them if you place them and balance them just right. Cleaning is a breeze. The base is solid plastic so you just need to wash and disinfect. I take an air hose and blow out the top part when dirt and dust get in them.

I use three of my Octagons as incubators and four of them are hatchers. I can easily hand turn the Octagons if need to by lifting and turning the whole machine. It’s nice to have the automatic turners but I have had a hard time repairing them when they stopped working. Hand turning is easy and I just set an alarm on my phone to remind me when to turn.

I have had the fans stop working on the Brinseas. I sent away for new fans and it was an easy fix. I have had to send the whole top part back to be repaired by the Brinsea company. They fixed it and returned it to me free of charge. I always fill out the warranty information. Brinsea has a three year warranty on their products.

I also have a Hovabator. It is a foam incubator but it works wonderfully. It has an automatic egg turner in it and you can just fill it and forget it. It will hold temperatures quite well. I have never had to repair it or adjust anything on it.

Now we come to the two Little Giant foam incubators. They were both originally still air models. We added a computer fan to circulate the air. One of them works great but the other one is a little iffy. You do need to take temperature checks periodically. A little  bit of babysitting is needed with them.

The three Farm Innovators have not worked at all for me. There seems to be big differences in temperature between the corners, middle and edges of the incubator. Temperature spikes have occurred. I find that they also leak water.

In a pinch, I will use a silkie hen as an incubator. I almost always have a broody who will be more than willing to sit on eggs for me. I have had good luck hatching with them but not such good luck raising the babies out in the  coop. Too many things can happen to them out there. Silkies are known for being able to hatch any chicken egg, duck egg and pea fowl eggs. They are great little mothers.

I plan on ordering one more Brinsea Octagon this month. I am expecting more eggs this year and as the days get longer the hens will begin to lay more. I don’t want to be surprised by my hen’s egg production and not have enough incubators to take care of them all. VJP Poultry is happy to provide enough silkie chicks for all come springtime.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center 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 J. Peterson

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January Improvement Project – Chick Windows at VJP Poultry – 1/21/17

20170107_171441    We are always trying to think of ways to improve how we do things at VJP Poultry. We want to be able to complete chores  more efficiently . Time is a factor and it is important that we look for ways to do things faster and better.

If you have been here to visit, you know that I keep my silkie chicks in dog kennels or crates that are split in half. A wooden door was created in the front so that the baby chicks would not escape or fall to the ground. This door idea worked great but I knew that it could be improved.

The major difficulty was that you couldn’t look inside to see the chicks. We love having children come and visit VJP Poultry but they, being small, always had difficulty seeing into the pens. Their parents would often need to lift them up so that they could see into the crate.  When we moved the pens up higher, I couldn’t see in there as well.

I asked my husband, Dennis, to create windows in the front of the door. In the space of one afternoon he was able to create “chick windows” for me.

After measuring, he first used a circular saw to create openings in the door frame. Since each of the dog kennels were different sized, the door frames were all different as well.

Next he cut hardware cloth to fit the openings with some overlap. He used tin snips which easily cut through the wire cloth.

He then stapled the hardware cloth onto the wooden frame using a staple gun. Lastly, he used a body hammer to smooth any raised staples or wire edges.

I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. Not only can children and adults see clearly into the pens, but there are other added benefits as well.

Ventilation and air circulation is now improved. During the summer it can become very hot in the chick room, but these new windows can help the chicks stay cooler by not trapping hot air in their pens.

It’s a thrill to have improvements made in your chicken care routine. Everyone benefits – even the baby chicks. They get to look out their windows and watch the world go by until they move on to their new home.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center 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 J. Peterson

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A Trip To The Feed Store With VJP Poultry – 12/30/16

20161031_094232     I visit my local feed store at least once a week without fail. I don’t have a lot of room or space to stock pile supplies, so it is a necessity  that I make request trips. I don’t want to run out of anything important. It would be a crisis if I ran out of feed or didn’t have bedding available, so as soon as I start to run low, I head out to my favorite feed store.

Chicken feed is probably my biggest expenditure. I buy Game bird Conditioner for my adult silkies and Chick Starter for the babies.  Game Bird means that it is made for turkeys or pheasants  and has a higher protein content than most regular chicken feed. The ADM brand has 20% protein and it includes animal protein. I think that animal protein is important for chickens. They are, after all, carnivores.  In the wild , they would be eating worms and insects. I also like this brand because it is in pellet form. With pellets there is less waste and mess.

The Chick Starter is also high in protein. It is in crumble form. Pellets are hard for a chick to break apart and digest. I sometimes grind it up even smaller for newborns in my coffee grinder. I use regular chick starter made by Houle Inc. for most of the year and then switch to Medicated Chick Starter in the summer months when it is more humid out.  Medicated feed is used for controlling the disease Cocci which is more frequent in the summer.

I also purchase bedding for the silkies at the feed store. I buy two different kinds – pine shavings and flax bedding.  I use the “small, fine” pine shavings because I compost all of my chicken bedding and put it in my garden. It makes wonderful fertilizer. The flax bedding is a little more slippery so I use it on top a a dressing over the pine shavings. Flax bedding is really nice for absorbing chicken poo or spills. It also leaves their feathers more shiny when they rub against it.

I also regularly purchase oyster shell for the hens. It is a good source of calcium which they need for creating egg shells.

The feed store will also carry things you may need in an emergency such as Corrid, Selmet,  wormers, antibiotics (Tylan) or vitamins. They also carry plenty of treats such as meal worms, cracked corn and Boss sunflower seeds.

My feed store sells poultry supplies like feeders, waterers, and incubators.. They also carry chicken diapers. Last week I even saw chicken harnesses and chicken leashes.

What I like most about my local feed store is the friendly atmosphere. You get to really know the people who work there. These folks are very knowledgeable and are happy to spend the time answering your questions. I find prices to be very competitive with the name brand larger stores.

It is truly a pleasurable experience to enter a feed store and have a feeling of going back in time when life was a little slower. My favorite feed store is Houle’s in Forest Lake. Look for the grain elevators in any small town and you will find your local feed store.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center 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 J. Peterson

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Silkies For Sale – 12/27/2016

Heat Lamp Use at VJP Poultry – 12/20/16

20161123_120428    Now that the weather is getting colder, I have a lot of VJP Poultry customers asking me about using heat lamps in their coops. People are concerned that their silkies will not be able to stand the cold of a Minnesota winter.

My use of heat lamps has changed dramatically since I started raising silkies seven years ago.  I used to worry that my silkies would die from exposure. I had 250 Watt heat lamp bulbs hanging in every color pen the entire winter. Some even had two hanging in them.  My electric bill was crazy. I kept the windows open only a crack and tried to raise the temps as high as I could inside.

After seven years of experience , I now rarely turn on the heat lamps in my outside coops. The silkies are fine. They actually are very winter hardy. They have a small comb so you don’t need to deal with frostbite issues. They aren’t fond of snow but they do love to go out into their runs no matter what the temperature. What is cold for a human is not cold for them. Think about all of the woodland birds. They do just fine in the cold Minnesota winter.

I have one 250 Watt heat lamp above each waterer just in case it gets really cold. I did have them all on during the spell of -40 windchill. They shouldn’t be thought of as a way to heat an entire room. They only heat what is directly below them. If it gets to be around -10 I will flip the heat lamps on. My waterers are heated a different way (from below) so I don’t need the heat lamps unless it is super cold and the water is staying frozen.

I do use heat lamps in my baby chick room. I like to use the lower 125 watt bulbs. They are not as hot and not as expensive to run. I will use a heat lamp over the newborns and the one week olds  I don’t always use it over the two week old, but I could if I needed to. The chicks are in a small room off of my garage. The room is not heated with central air, so I also use a standing space heater to keep the entire room warm during January.

I am very aware that heat lamps must be hung securely. I use chains and wire so I can adjust the distance down to the brooder. I do not rely on the clamps that come with them. Heat lamps that are not secure and fall can easily start a fire. Make sure that the hoods are wiped clean of dust and that you also blow out the outlets with an air hose.

Heat lamp bulbs gradually become less strong the longer you have used them.  You are still paying for the same amount of electricity from the 250 Watt  bulb, but you are not receiving the same amount of heat the longer you continue to use it. When I feel that its not as strong anymore, I generally switch it out for a new bulb.  I don’t want the surprise of it burning out when I really need it over newborn chicks. The 125 Watt bulbs are harder to find so we order ours online.

Remember, it is not the lack of heat that can cause issues with silkies in the winter. It is the moisture present in the coop. If you are seeing frost on your doors or walls, it is a sign that there is too much moisture and not enough ventilation.  Open the windows, but keep the drafts off of the sleeping birds. I use pillow cases stuffed with old T-shirts and place them in front of the pop holes to block the drafts on the floor.

Electricity from heat lamps can be costly. One 250 Watt heat lamp costs about 90 cents a day to run. Add a space heater and that would be an additional $1.80 a day to run.

At VJP Poultry, we use heat lamps as sparingly as possible. They are necessary for young chicks in the first few weeks of life. Make sure they are hanging securely and change out the bulbs when they start losing their heat. They can be a useful part of your breeding program.

An alternative to heat lamps brooder heat plates. There is less of a chance of fire with these.  You can also use the sweeter heaters that are hung from a chain above the chicks. This would be a more secure way of doing it.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center 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 J. Peterson

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