Silkies For Sale – 9/6/19

Here is what is available for the week of September 6, 2019.  My next scheduled hatches are for Sept. 12, Sept. 19 and Sept. 26th.  We are NPIP and a state inspected hatchery.  No shipping/pick up only.  Chicks are not sexed.

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Newborns hatched 9/5 – 30 chicks in white, black, buff, partridge, blue and grey. – $11 each.

 

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Pen 21-20 – One week olds hatched 8/29 – 10 buff, 2 partridge, 1 blue, 2 white, 3 white out of black, 6 black, 10 grey/partridge – $12 each.

 

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Pen 5 – Two week olds hatched 8/22 – 7 Grey/partridge – $13 each.

 

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Pen 6 – Two week olds hatched 8/22 – 6 black – $13 each.

 

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Pen 7 – Two week olds hatched 8/22 – 4 blue, 1 white out of black – $13 each.

 

20190904_130023Pen 8 – Two week olds hatched 8/22 – 4 buff, 2 white out of black – $13 each.

If you have any questions or would like to set up a time to come out and pick up some silkie chicks, you can contact me by texting 612-756-1414 or PM me at the VJP Poultry Facebook page.

 

Silkies For Sale – 7/23/19

Here is what is available for the week of July 23, 2019.  My next scheduled hatches are for July 26, July 31, August 4 and August 11th.  We are NPIP and a state inspected hatchery.  No shipping/Pick up only.   Chicks are unsexed.

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Pen 21 – Newborns hatched 7/21 – 2 blue, 2 buff, 4 partridge – $11 each.

 

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Pen 20 – Newborns hatched 7/21 – 5 white, 1 black – $11 each.

 

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Pen 5 – One week olds hatched 7/12 – 1 white, 1 black 2 grey/partridge – $12 each.

 

20190722_161832Pen 6 – One week olds hatched 7/12 – 3 grey/partridge, 2 black – $12 each.

 

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Pen 7 – Two week olds hatched 7/6 – 4 white – $13 each.

If you have any questions or would like to set up a time to pick some out, you can text me at 612-756-1414 or PM me at the VJP Poultry Facebook page.

 

 

How To Prevent Chick Deaths During the First Week of Life

 

20170518_104519One day old chicks are so irresistibly cute when they first learn to eat, drink and move around. First time chicken owners are drawn to the sweetness of a baby chick and make rash purchases before realizing that newborns are more fragile than they think.  There is a huge difference between a chick that is one day old and a chick that is one week old.  Truth be told, a baby chick is much more apt to die in that first week than at any other time in its life.

Some don’t make it to the point of hatching out. Lethal genes or creeper genes can cause chicks to die during development. This is a genetic trait that certain breeds have. Some will make it to the hatcher and then die before hatching due to humidity and temperature issues.

When a clutch of eggs is hatched the chicks that hatch first are usually the strongest and healthiest.  They have no trouble zipping around that shell and breaking free. If the chick is a late hatcher it has been my experience that they have more trouble. They are prone to leg issues or even need to be helped out of the shell.  They tend to be stickier as well and have a harder time fluffing out.  Leg issues include straddle leg or even having a hard time standing up on their feet.  Right from the beginning you have some chicks that are just healthier and stronger than others.

Hatching out too quickly or often when being helped out of the egg, can lead to unabsorbed egg yolk. The umbilical cord can also end up hanging out. Pulling on it can cause the intestines to pull through.  Sometimes by helping it hatch you are giving life to a chick that may not end up living very long. Chicks that have a red or sore looking umbilical area should be watched for infection.

Water and food should be offered to chicks within the first 24 hours.  Hatcheries that ship chicks often rely on the fact that chicks can live off the energy from their egg  yolk for three days. Chicks will become dehydrated if not offered water and will be healthier if they start eating sooner. Shipped chicks have a higher death rate than chicks bought from local breeders or raised by a broody hen.  Some hatcheries will include Grogel to their shipping boxes to help chicks stay hydrated.

By day 3 or 4 chicks are no longer receiving energy from their yolk.  Some may begin to die after the third day.  They will close their eyes and become lethargic.  Then they die.  Losses of baby chicks almost always occur in the first two weeks of life.  A mortality rate of 1-5 percent is considered normal for a hatch.  Anything above 5 percent is abnormal.  Failure to thrive is a very real thing and young chicks often die leaving us wondering what has happened.

One of the biggest chick management factors for early death has to do with brooder temperature.  Most people use a heat lamp and bulb for small groups of chicks.  You adjust the temperature by raising and lowering the heat lamp over the brooder. Often the brooder ends up being much too hot.  Too high of temperature can lead to dehydration. The body of a young chick is 70 percent water. A water loss of 10 percent will cause death.  Pasting up, which is poo that sticks and covers the chick’s vent, is often due to too high of temperature in the brooder.  Many chick deaths occur because their vents have become plugged up with dried poo and they can no longer eliminate.

Low brooder temperature can also lead to deaths in young chicks.  If they are too cool, they can become chilled and develop pneumonia. Chicks that huddle together can ultimately smother the weaker ones. Pasting up can also be caused by too cool of temperatures. Chicks will let you know they are too cold by huddling under the lamp and making very loud cheeping noises.  Too hot and they will gather in the corners, panting and lying down. Transitioning from too warm to too cold back and forth is also a cause of pasting up and ill health.  Any transition can cause stress which can lead to death.

I recommend something with radiant heat like a sweeter heater  or an ecoglow as a heat source. The radiant heat is safer than a heat lamp bulb and will give a constant temperature.  For more information check out Brooder Heat Sources.  Make sure that you adjust  the brooder temperature 24 hours before introducing chicks to it. We like to use a temperature gun for accurate readings.

The food and water you choose to give your chicks can also lead to early mortality. Chick starter that is old and has started to get moldy can cause death. Check for a date on the bag. Chick starter can often come in pieces too large for a newborn chick which could cause them to choke. I like to take my chick starter crumble and grind it up even smaller in a coffee grinder. I feel that this helps with digestion and with pasting up as well.  Do not give newborns a lot of other foods besides the chick starter. Treats should not be given until they are over one week old.  Anything besides chick starter, yogurt or scrambled eggs needs grit (sand) in order to grind it in their crop.

Water that is too salty can lead to early death.  I like to add Rooster Booster with vitamins, electrolytes and probiotics to my water. I also add apple cider vinegar with the mother as well to the water.  Make sure that you have your feeders and waterers up as high as the backs of your chicks. The chicks tend to kick shavings and poo into them which can plug up the waterers and contaminate the water. Change water daily and clean and sanitize feeders and waterers weekly.

You may need to show your young chicks how to drink.  Mother hen usually gently pushes their beaks into the water and you can do the same. If you pick up a chick and it feels much lighter than the other chicks, it has probably not learned how to eat or drink yet.  I will dip their beaks into the water first and then dip them into their feed so that the chick crumble sticks to their beaks.

Make sure that there is adequate air ventilation in and around your brooder. Toxic gasses such as ammonia, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide can kill small chicks if they are exposed to them.  Chicks require a minimum 100 percent air exchange six times in a 24 four period. This should not be a cold draft but continuous movement of air in the brooder.  A plastic tub with high sides does not have a lot of air movement allowed.  One problem encountered with poor air movement is sinusitis. This is caused by excess humidity and ammonia released from chicken poo. Remove damp bedding which causes pathogenic micro organisms  to multiply  and large clumps of poo in the brooder and spread a thin layer of bedding on top of the old. Once a week change out the bedding and sanitize the brooder with something like Oxivir.

Construct your brooder to keep out predators.  A screen should lay over the top to keep out insects, vermin, dogs and cats.  If you have small children who like to handle the chicks make sure that they are supervised.  Newborn chicks can jump out of your hands. Injuries caused by crushing or squeezing too hard are a very real problem with little ones. I would keep handling of chicks less than a week old to a minimum. Any injuries can lead to infection and should be treated with Vetericyn spray.

Avoid having too many chicks in a brooder. Overcrowding is one of the number one causes for early death.  Trampling, starvation and damp litter are caused by overcrowding.  Chicks with vaults like silkies or polish need to be especially careful with having too many pen mates. A well placed peck to the head will result in death. Any drop of blood or open bare spot is an invitation for the other chicks to peck at it. Loss of down caused by pasting up attracts others in the pen to continue to peck at it until bleeding occurs. Separation is sometimes necessary.

Practice biosecurity around your brooder. Wear gloves around your adult chickens and wash your hands before handling the newborns. Wear different shoes or boots around your adults than you do around your brooder.  Newborns do not have well developed immune systems.  You will be bringing in germs and diseases on the bottoms of your feet. You may also bring in mites from the outside coop.  Young chicks are very prone to an attack by mites which will result in death if not dealt with. I use the powder very sparingly if I think that they have been exposed.

Light is important in your brooder.  Chick activity is greatest in bright light. They need to be able to see the food and water. Lights should be low or off at night. If you use a heat lamp bulb, choose one with an infrared coating. This helps with pecking and at night can help simulate darkness.

Coccidiosis can be a killer during the first week of life. Because of possible exposure to the disease people will use medicated chick starter.  I would only use it if you think that your chicks are being exposed. If they are inside and you practice good brooder hygiene you probably won’t need to worry. Medicated feed can rob your chick of some vitamins.

Some items to have on hand just in case of a problem would be Save-a-chick, which goes into their water and provides electrolytes.  There is also one which adds probioticsNutridrench can give a boost to a lethargic chick but read directions for use with young birds.

Chicks under one week old are very fragile. If at all possible try and purchase birds over one week old. They are stronger and sturdier and have a much better chance of survival.  They know how to eat and drink and the pasting up usually ends after the first week.

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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Pecking Order and Who Rules the Roost

20180429_133813-1If someone says that they “rule the roost” at their house you may wonder where that term came from.  The top chicken gets the best place on the roosting bar at night as part of a complex hierarchy commonly called “the pecking order.”  The pecking order has an influence on feeding, drinking egg laying, roosting, crowing, mating and even dust bathing.

Chickens are a social animal and enjoy the company of their flock mates. Chickens will become lonely for others of their own kind if they are deprived of them. However, the pecking order is anything but gentle and chickens are very aware of their own place in that order.

Everyone knows their place in the pecking order so when a new chicken is introduced, problems arise until the pecking order is reestablished  again.  Pecking order rank determines the order in which chickens are allowed access to food, water and sleeping spot.

The top chicken is usually the strongest and healthiest.  It is their responsibility to protect and take care of the flock, keeping it safe from predators and mitigating disputes between lower members.

The pecking order is a sort of cooperation between members of the flock. It ensures the survival of the flock by giving the best chances to the fittest birds. Unless a member of the flock is removed or added, the pecking order will remain the same for a long time.  However, it is a fluid thing and is never permanent. The younger will always challenge the older.

A flock of chickens who were hatched and raised together establishes a pecking order early on.  Pullets and cockerels that grow up together will play games of running and bumping chest together.  The strongest one is usually chasing a weaker one around the food dish.  Serious games of pecking order start at around six weeks.

The most dominant bird will be the rooster if you have one in your flock.  The lowest bird will be the meekest and the gentlest. Older birds will be dominant over younger ones until the younger ones start challenging them.

Gender has a lot to do with what the pecking order looks like.  If you do not have a rooster in your flock, then the strongest hen will take this spot. It will usually go roosters, hens, cockerels and pullets at the bottom. The order is established by pecking, chasing, blocking from food and water and sometimes violent fighting.  If there are several aggressive birds fighting for that top position there can be blood shed.

Pecking order positions are fixed when one flock member confronts another.  The weaker will back down and become lower in position than the stronger one.  Do not try and interfere unless bleeding is occurring.  They need to work it out themselves.

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Flaring hackle feathers with a lowered head is one form of intimidation.  Loud wing flapping with the head held high and the chest puffed out is another form of letting everyone know who is the boss. They may also use the wing dance to challenge one another.  The dominant bird will come up sideways to the other bird. Then he will lower his outer wing and dance in a half circle around the other chicken.  If the other chicken walks away, the dancer is now higher than the other bird in the pecking order.

Roosters who copulate with hens throughout the day are asserting their dominance over the other roosters who are not allowed to. Roosters who are lower in the flock crow less and rarely mate.  They only get a chance to when the other rooster is not around.

Alpha roosters will crow to signal their dominance to the other chickens.  Roosters who are the flock leaders will look out for the hens by watching for predators, finding them treats, mating and chasing other roosters away from their group of hens.

Hens who are at the top tend to be fearless and boisterous.  Hens high in the pecking order will chase other hens out of the nesting boxes.  Chickens high in the order get to eat more and have a better spot in choosing where they will roost.  Weaker hens have to wait to drink or eat and will often be pushed away by others. If one of the low ranked chickens tries to feed before their leaders, they may get a nasty jab or peck to teach them a lesson. If a bird tries to go out of turn, she will earn glares, pecks and feather pulling from higher ranked hens.

Establishing a pecking order can take anywhere from two days or up to two weeks.  Once everyone knows their position, the stress will go down and disputes will be settled very quickly.

The less space chickens have, the more violent they are in establishing and maintaining the pecking order. They need around four square feet of space per bird inside the coop and eight square feet outside in the chicken run.

Use hanging feeders and waterers in the middle of an open area rather than in a corner if you are having problems.  There should be three inches of feeder and waterer space per chicken.  If you have more than six birds, use multiple feeders and waterers.  One inside the coop and one outside the coop if smaller birds are being pushed away.

There should be one nesting box for four hens and eight inches of roosting bar per bird.

Problems can occur when a new chicken is introduced to an existing flock. This upsets the pecking order and an new one must be reestablished.  If the new chickens are younger and outnumbered this can create additional problems.  Chickens have a habit of ganging up on any chicken that is bleeding and pecking at the red wound.  They are very attracted to the color red.  Remove and bleeding chickens and apply an antiseptic wound spray.    Silkies can be very territorial.

When introducing new flock member, fence off an area inside the chicken run for the new chickens.  After a couple of days remove the fencing and let them mingle. For more ideas on how to introduce new flock members,  check out “How to Integrate New Members Into Your Flock.

Humans are also part of the pecking order.  Roosters see you as part of their flock and will seek to overthrow your top position. Aggressive roosters can be dangerous especially if you have small children.  Never leave them unattended with a rooster who has shown past aggression towards humans.

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Doing the chicken wing dance around you and charging towards you are some clear signs that a rooster is challenging you for top spot.  Pecking and jumping at you to claw or spur you should not be allowed.  Never run from a rooster.  Stand your ground or run and chase after him.  Grab him and hold him down to the ground.  Put your hand over his head and back.  Hold him until he calms down and then let up on him.

Segregate any bully birds that you might have. Place them in a crate for a few days.  The pecking order will change while she is in isolation and when she is reintroduced, she will be the “new bird.”

In order to avoid problems in your coop make sure that there is always enough space for your birds and enough hiding places for members of the lower ranks.  The “hen pecked” chicken is always your most submissive and is often a silkie in a mixed flock. Try to keep to one rooster per pen.  A happy, stress free flock will give you more eggs.

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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