Silkies For Sale – 4/21/18

How to Choose a Heat Source for your Brooder

20180309_092902A baby chick runs to the safety and warmth of its mother’s wings. Here it feels secure and loved. The mother hen’s body heat warms the little chick and when it is ready the chick will dart out into the world to find food and water.  When choosing a heat source for your brooder you will want something that can be as close as possible to a natural mother hen.

Chicks need supplemental heat.  Their little bodies will not keep themselves warm enough until they fully feather out.  Feathering out means that they completely lose their baby down and develop true feathers.  This can happen at different ages depending on your breed of chicken.  The larger the breed, the sooner they will no longer need a supplemental heat source.  Most breeds need it for about six weeks depending on the outside weather.  Brooding in the winter is different than brooding in the summer.  The temperature around your brooder will make a difference in how long you keep your chicks under the heat.

Chicks also need steady heat both day and night.  You will need a heat source that is dependable and allows for a typical  sleep cycle.   A steady white light on them 24/7 is not normal or natural.  A red infrared bulb is better for their sleeping patterns and is supposed to cut down on any pecking activity among the chicks.

The basic heat formula that most people use for baby chicks begins at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for newborns. This is what the temperature of the incubator was. You then subtract 5 degrees for each week of age after that. A one week old would be 95 degrees, a two week old would be 90 degrees and so on.  I find that formula way too warm and could lead to your little chicks pasting up on their fluffy behinds. In the world of the mother hen, the little ones would be exposed to cooler temps much sooner and I think that less heat is better than too much heat when it comes to brooders.  You need to make sure that the chicks are able to escape any temperature that is too warm.

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The most common way to brood chicks indoors is with a heat lamp fixture and a 250 watt heat lamp bulb.  It is the cheapest way to go and many people use it especially if they don’t brood chicks very often.  The pros for going this route is that you can purchase them at most places that sell chicken supplies.  You can hang them at any distance from the brooder.  However, many things can go wrong.  The biggest issue is that they can fall into the brooder and start a fire.  They must be hung very securely.  Do not rely on just the clamp.  Use zip ties and chain to secure it.  We always use a double system so if one cord fails the other cord will prevent it from falling. I will put a flat screen on top of my brooder as an additional measure to keep the heat lamp from falling into the brooder.  Make sure that your heat lamp fixture has a porcelain socket, not a plastic one that can melt.  The bulbs will have to be replaced. I have found that they also lose strength as they get older and do not put out as much heat.  Always have extra bulbs available in case your bulb burns out.  If they bulb burns out at night your chicks will become cold and begin to pile up on each other for warmth.  This will cause the ones on the bottom to suffocate.  Always start each season with a new bulb.  I have found a 250 watt heat lamp bulb too warm for small brooders. You can get infrared bulbs at lower wattage. Always dust your bulbs and hoods as dust buildup can cause a fire as well.  Reptile ceramic heat emitters  can also be used as a safer alternative to heat lamp bulbs.

There are also heat lamp holders  that are caged at the top to operate safer.

Radiant heat is another brooder heat choice.  Radiant heat passes through air without warming the air.  There are several products that rely on radiant heat.  Brinsea’s Ecoglow , Titan’s Electric Mama Hen andRentACoop’s heating plate all use less electricity than  a heat lamp bulb and mimic a mother hen.  They are for small batches of chicks but the Ecoglow 50 can warm up to 50 chicks.   The advantages of these are that there is no fire hazard , it uses less electricity (14 watts vs 250 watts) and there is no disruptive light.  It is more like a natural mother hen by creating a little cave to hide under.  You can adjust the height of them as the chicks grow.  You do not have to hang it up as it stands on legs.  You will have adventurous chicks jumping up on top of it and creating messes but it is easy to clean up.  These types of radiant heat brooder heat sources work best if the air around it is above 50 degrees. They are not effective in outdoor use if it is less than 50 degrees.  These products are not as warm as a heat lamp can be and will not heat the air around it.  I think that these are nice if you plan on doing a batch of chicks every year.  It may be expensive at first but it will pay for itself in lower electric costs.  There is nothing to replace on it so you do not need to worry about bulbs burning out.

A Sweeter Heater uses radiant heat as well. Instead of being a free standing unit, it is hung from above or as a side panel as in the cozy products panel.  Sweeter Heaters come in different sizes and are the best heaters for people who brood chicks frequently.  Hang it above on chains so that they are just above the chick’s height.  Raise it higher as the chicks grow taller.  Since it swings on chains, the chicks will be reluctant to roost on top of it.  Radiant heat has one temperature and no light to keep chicks up at night.  The unit is completely sealed so there is no fire danger.

I am in the process of changing out all of my indoor heat lamps and replacing them with Sweeter Heaters.  I have used heat lamps with brooders for ten years, but I have always had that nagging feeling that I should replace them.  I brood chicks all year long so it was best to switch to the Sweeter Heater method.  It will be cheaper in the long run on the electric bill and I will have the peace of mind that no bulb will burn out and leave all of my chicks in the cold.

Chicks will let you know if they are too warm or too cold by their behavior.  Cold chicks huddle up and cry (cheep). Too warm of chicks stretch out to the corners of the brooder to get away from the heat source.  Chicks that are just right will wander around all over the brooder doing typical chick things like eating and drinking.

If you are still undecided on what kind of chick brooder to get, check out “The Perfect Chick Brooder“.

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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Companion Birds For Silkies

A question that I am often asked at VJP Poultry is “How do silkies do in a mixed flock?” It really depends on so many things. They can do well with other birds but remember, they will probably be at the bottom of the pecking order. Because of their docile, laid – back lifestyle, they will not be the ones causing problems. The do not fly, so they will not be flying up to roost at night with the rest of the flock. They will sleep on the ground in a corner with hopefully another silkie buddy.   They don’t wander far from the food dish.

Silkies are classified as Bantams. There are many different bantam breeds and many of them would make good companions for silkies. Because bantam breeds are smaller , they are nearer to the same size as a silkie is.  Not all bantams are good choices. Seramas  are small but do not do well in a colder winter. Some bantam breeds can be very aggressive and would also not be a good fit.

Bantams are breeds of chickens that are smaller than standard size. There are true bantams which are breeds only available in bantam size and then there are bantam varieties of standard sized breeds.

Bantams are great for the urban or suburban flock. They eat less, take up less space and cost less to take care of. There are several breeds that are similar to silkies in that they have fluffy foot feathering and docile temperaments. I am going to suggest five different breeds that would be a good fit with silkies. I am including pictures. These are not my pictures but were taken from the internet as examples.

barred plymouth rock

Barred Plymouth Rock Bantams have lots of personality.  They are very friendly.  My all time favorite chicken was a Barred Plymouth Rock that we had years ago. They are cold hardy and great egg layers.

buff brahma bantam

Buff Brahma Bantams are gentle and quiet. They  make a great over-all pet. They have feathered feet and small combs which make them perfect for our cold winters. They are mini versions of the larger sized Brahmas.

bantam cochin

 

Cochin Bantams have a calm disposition and an ornamental look. They are wonderful mothers and are good at hatching out any egg you give it. They come in many different colors – buff, partridge, golden laced, barred, mottled , black, white and red frizzled.

mille fleur

Mille Fleur d’Uccle Bantam’s name means “thousand Flowers”  in French. They have heavily feathered legs and a bushy beard. This is an example of a “true bantam”‘ as opposed to a smaller version of a large fowl.

salmon faverolle

Salmon Faverolles are calm and docile. They have beautiful feathering on their muffs, beards and legs. The male is straw, redish brown and black. The female is creamy white and salmon brown. It is easy to tell the males from the females.

These are just five examples of good companions for silkies.   Look for other gentle breeds that won’t bully Silkies.  Silkies do tend to be picked on by more aggressive breeds. If it is not working out, you may need to separate you silkies in a different area. All birds have individual personalities so you just need to find out what works for your flock.

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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Sprouting Grains and Growing Fodder For Your Silkie at VJP Poultry

20170328_072958Looking for a way to let your silkies enjoy free range greenery in the middle of winter? Want a break from the boredom of the coop and give the birds some entertainment? Sprouting will give you the benefits of free range all year round.

At VJP Poultry, we are always looking for ways to improve our operation. Sprouting grains and growing fodder is one way in which you can get more “bang for your buck” as far as your feed bill goes. Sprouting not only makes your grain more usable nutritionally, but it also reduces the amount of feed you purchase because of the increased volume of sprouting seeds.

Sprouts and fodder are simply different stages of the same thing. Seeds first sprout and then as they develop stems they turn into fodder.

Sprouting makes vitamins, minerals and proteins in grains more digestible. Sprouting improves enzyme content. After sprouting, the grain becomes 40-50% more digestible . The silkies are actually getting more nutrition and fiber than from the same amount of unsprouted grain. Sprouts contain chlorophyll and beta – carotene resulting in darker yolks and more nutritious eggs.

Seeds and grains come with a preservation system that is designed to protect the seed’s stored proteins, fats and minerals over an extended period of time until conditions are right for germination. This protective shell consists of items that are anti nutrients when ingested.

Sprouting or fermenting seeds and grains reduces or eliminates the anti nutrients and increases the bio availability of many nutrients such as B vitamins, Vitamin C, Folate, fiber and essential amino acids such as Lysine.

Sprouting is very easy. First acquire seeds from a reputable source. Always use clean, sanitized containers and clean, fresh water.  You can sprout any seed but most people sprout wheat, oat and barley seed. BOSS sunflower seed are acceptable too.

Next rinse the amount of seeds you plan to sprout and then soak them in water for 8 to 24 hours. I just soak them overnight. The next day rinse again and put into some kind of tray with drainage holes in it. I then rinse the whole tray in water for five minutes once a day. I keep my trays on shelving where they get some sunlight.

Each day they will continue to grow sprouting roots and then stems. When the stems are between one inch and four inches is a good time to feed them to the silkie chickens.  You don’t want the stems too long as this can cause an impacted crop. Around 6-7 days growth is good.

Watch out for mold growth. The more you rinse the seeds, the less black mold growth there will be. I have yet to see any mold growing in our fodder.

At VJP Poultry, our silkies love to gobble up the fodder and sprouted seeds. Even the seeds that don’t end up sprouting but have just been soaked are yummy to them. I feel better knowing that they are getting green growth all year round.  Growing fodder is a fun project which can be done indoors in the winter and outdoors in the summer. Have fun sprouting seeds and growing fodder for your pets.

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