Silkies For Sale – 6/21/19

Here is what is available for the week of June 21, 2019. My next scheduled hatches are for June 21,  June 26,  July 1 and July 6th.  We are NPIP and a state inspected hatchery. No shipping/Pick up only.  Chicks are unsexed.  Ask us about our rooster return policy.

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Pen 7 – Two week olds hatched 6/5 – 3 black – $13 each.

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Pen 6 – One week olds hatched 6/11 – 2 buff, 1 grey/partridge – $12 each.

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Pen 20 – Newborns hatched 6/15 – 4 buff, 5 black 1 partridge – $11 each.

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Pen 21 – Newborns hatched 6/15 – 7 white, 4 grey/partridge, 1 grey – $11 each.

Contact me through text at 612-756-1414 or PM me on VJP Poultry’s Facebook page.

How Correct Humidity can Improve Your Incubation and Hatch Rate

20190528_163125Humidity in the incubator has always been a tricky thing.  Too much of it or too little of it can ruin your hatch rate.  Humidity starts out at one percentage but then needs to be raised at just the right point in order for a successful hatch.  This can leave some people scratching their heads at just how to accomplish this feat.

Air can absorb water. This water vapor is a gas.  Water vapor in the air can range from none to the full maximum which air can hold.  We call this saturation. This full maximum can increase as the temperature rises.

When talking about humidity in the incubator we are usually discussing the Relative Humidity.  This is expressed as a percentage. It is a measure of the amount of water vapor in the air compared with the maximum that could be absorbed at that temperature.  If the Relative Humidity level is 50% that means that the air contains half of its maximum possible water vapor capacity.

Most people (unless they practice dry incubation) shoot for 40-50% for the first 18 days of incubation and then raise it to 65-75% for the final three days of hatching.  In general, slightly lower humidity is better than too high of humidity during incubation.

Start by following the manufacturers recommendations for humidity and temperature for your individual incubator.  Then for future hatches you can tweak the numbers and make minor adjustments for what works best for you.

Many factors affect humidity such as : Egg size (the smaller the egg, the greater the moisture loss.), Porous shell (which increases with a hen’s age), elevation, egg storage length and conditions, weather, incubation temperature, air speed and shell thickness (which decreases with hen’s age. Thinner shells require higher humidity.)

Egg shells are porous and they allow water to pass through.  The amount of water that an egg loses during incubation is important and is determined by the humidity levels in the incubator.

If you set your eggs with the pointy side down, you will notice an airspace at the top rounded part of the egg when you candle it.  Water is lost through the shell gradually and is replaced by air which is also drawn through the shell.  This airspace gradually increases in size.  The greater the water loss, the larger the airspace.

This airspace is critical to the chick. It is the first air that the chick breathes and is needed in order for the chick to move into the correct position for hatching.

If the humidity has been too high during incubation, the egg will have lost too little water and the air cell will be small.  This will cause the chick to have trouble breathing and will have trouble breaking out of the shell.  Often you will see the chick’s beak protruding out of the shell. The bird is stuck and unable to zip around the shell and will not be able to hatch.

If the incubation humidity has been too low there will be very large air spaces.  The chicks are often small and weak and will have trouble cracking the shell and hatching.

Monitoring air cells when you candle will also let you know if your incubator is maintaining the correct humidity.  This chart shows you what your air cells should look like as the egg loses water. Use a pencil to draw the outline of the eggs air cell every time you candle.

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During incubation, you can control humidity through the use of vents to monitor the amount of fresh air entering the incubator.  The more fresh air entering, the lower the humidity.  There are also pans of water that can be added to increase the humidity or troughs at the bottom of the incubator that can be filled with water.  Covering the pans with foil will decrease the water surface area.  It is not how deep the water is but the amount of surface area on top of the water that determines how much water will evaporate into the air.

During the last three days of hatching, you will need to up the humidity in the incubator/hatcher.  Add more water surface through the use of pans, troughs and sponges, humidity pads or wick pads. This is where a good hygrometer will serve you well.  Use it to keep track of where your humidity is at.

You can also monitor humidity during incubation by weighing the eggs.  Most eggs need to loose 13% to 15% of their weight from the time of setting eggs until hatching.  Weigh them every 5 days and chart their weight. Use this chart as an example.  Adjust your humidity if your eggs are not losing enough weight or are losing it too quickly.

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I use Hovabator incubators for the first 18 days of egg incubation.  I only fill the first trough with water and remove the red vent plugs so that the eggs get plenty of fresh air.  I end up putting additional water in that first trough about every three days.  It will dry out if you don’t add more water.  Depending on the time of year I am at around 50% for the first 18 days.  Candling on day 18 should show an air cell that takes up about 1/3 o

I use a Brinsea Octagon for the last three days of hatching.  I increase the humidity by placing two absorbent shop paper towels so that they hang into the troughs and up under where the eggs will sit. When the water is poured into the trough, it will wick up making a large wet surface area. This will increase humidity in the hatcher.

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I begin by only filling one of the troughs with water and I place the basket that will hold the eggs on top.  I then cut out little holders for the eggs made from paper egg cartons.

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I place the eggs in their holders and leave the hygrometer inside where I can see it through the window. Humidity is around 66% at this time.  The hatcher stays this way for day 18 and day 19. On the morning of day 20, I fill the 2nd trough with water and begin lock down.  I like to wait until I see the first egg pip before I add water to the second trough.  This will cause the humidity to go up into the 70s %. I keep the vents open slightly to let some fresh air in, but keep most of humidity trapped .  Once the eggs start hatching I try to delay lifting the lid for as long as possible. Once the lid is lifted it is hard to keep the humidity up for hatching. It can cause the membrane to dry out and make it harder for the chicks to break through. If I need to open the lid I make sure to spray the inside walls with warm water to bump the humidity up faster. I have found that this method works very well for experiencing wonderful hatch rates.

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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Correct Brooder Temperature and Introduction to Outdoors for Chicks

20190227_151759-1It is both fun and exciting to have baby chicks in the house.  Many first time chick owners fret about what the ideal brooder temperature should be. As the chicks grow and their space needs expand many people wonder when would be the best time for integrating the chicks outdoors with the rest of the flock in the coop.  We will be exploring both of these questions in this article.

When deciding on a source for brooder heat you need to think about the air temperature surrounding your brooder. A brooder should be inside to regulate temperature and moisture and to prevent predators from getting at the chicks. Inside means that it can be in a garage, laundry room, shed or barn.  It can even be inside of your coop.  You will want to have some kind of cover on it to keep out predators.  A cookie rack or screen works well.

A newborn chick’s body is covered with down. The newborn will have a hard time controlling it’s own temperature since it does not have real feathers yet.  They will warm themselves by huddling close together.  Chicks need an additional heat source until their down gives way to hard feathers.  Chicks raised by a mother hen will be seen darting in and out from under her wing as they use her body as a heat source.  A hen’s internal temperature ranges from 105-107 degrees F.

The rule of thumb is to start your brooder temperature at 95 degrees F (35 C) and reduce it 5 degrees F (3 C) each week until the brooder temperature is the same as the room’s temperature.

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This chart from Roberts Farm is a good resource to judge what temperature the brooder should be for how old the chicks are. It also can give you an idea of what age they can transition to the outside according to the outside temperature.  For example, if your chick is 6 weeks old, it needs to be at least 65 degrees F for it to be outdoors.

Make sure that your brooder heat source is up and running for at least 24 hours before you introduce chicks to it.  Chick brooder temperature is measured with a thermometer placed 2 inches (5 cm) above the brooder floor. You may want to measure it with several different thermometers as sometimes they will each read differently.

Many people use a brooder heat lamp with a 250 watt bulb.  The red heat bulb helps to prevent picking among chicks and can help with night time light. Start by hanging the lamp with an adjustable chain at about 18 inches above the chicks. Don’t rely on the clamp to hold the heat lamp safely. You need to add a chain and hang it from a hook above the brooder.  You must take safety precautions when using this type of brooder heater as if they fall they will cause fires.  As the chicks grow, you can shorten the chain to decrease the temperature in the brooder.

A heated panel uses radiant heat.  It only heats directly below the panel.  This makes it easier for chicks to move away from the heat. Ecoglow can have its heat adjusted by lengthening its legs.  Sweeter Heaters are hung from above and can  be raised and lowered to change temperature.  Heated panels are not a fire hazard and will not burn out like a heat lamp bulb could do, which would chill your chicks.

A chick’s body language will tell you whether or not they are too hot or too cold.  Chicks that aren’t warm enough will crowd towards the heat source.  They will peep shrilly and constantly. Their poo will begin to paste up on their bottoms.  Pasty Butt can clog their vents which could lead to death.  In an attempt to get warm while they sleep, the chicks could pile up and smother each other. Piling often happens at night when the room temperature drops.

Chicks that are too warm move away from the heat source. They spend less time eating and grow more slowly. They pant and crowd to the edges of the brooder. They keep their heads down and are very quiet.  If the brooder is hot enough to raise their internal temperature above 117 degrees F, they will die.

Chicks at the correct temperature are happy chicks.  They wander around their brooder making musical sounding noises of contentment.  They breathe through their nostrils and do not pant.

Chicks need one half square foot of space each for the first two weeks.  They grow fast. You will need to increase the amount of space as they head into three and four weeks of age. You will need a bigger brooder or split the group and get a second brooder.  They can be off of the heat lamp when the temperature of the room they are in matches their age on the chart above. Chicks hatched in winter or early spring will need a heat source longer than chicks hatched in late spring or early summer.  Larger breeds will be sooner than bantams.

When they are ready to transition outside (They must be feathered out) start by letting them outside during the day.  Chicks can be vulnerable to predators such as hawks and the neighbor’s cat so be sure to keep an eye on them.  A dog kennel or fencing keeps them protected and doesn’t let them escape.  Bring them back inside at night.

If they are too cold outside they will let you know by puffing up their feathers and peeping in a frightened way.  Don’t leave them alone as they could become chilled quickly.

Don’t be in a hurry to put them with other adult chickens. Ideally, they should be the same size as the rest of your flock. Pecking order is a real thing and they will be pecked at by the larger birds.  Start by having them close together but separated by a barrier.  They will be able to see each other but not touch each other.  Gradually give them more opportunities to be together.  The integration process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

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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How To Integrate New Chickens Into Your Flock

20161106_123815Chicken Math is a very real thing.  We enjoy adopting new members to our flock and we want it to go as smoothly as possible.  Every year new birds are added and older birds are replaced or die off naturally.  A hen may chose to raise a clutch of chicks or new breeds catch our eye and we then must figure a way to incorporate these new birds into the standing social order.

Chickens are very social animals.  There is an order of dominance or what is called a “pecking order.”  The correct  integration of new birds is important.  You need to manage the pecking order so that new birds and chicks do not get hurt and the original flock does not become overly stressed.

When you first acquire new adult birds, they will need to be quarantined before you can mix them in with your home flock.  This is for the safety of your flock.  Do not quarantine them in the same area as your current birds.  Have a separate pen or crate away from the others.  They will need a place they can stay for thirty days.  You do not need to quarantine chicks that you buy from a hatchery as these are not exposed to an adult flock that may contain germs.

Each flock of chickens has their own germs that make them immune to certain things in their environment.  A new bird will not have that immunity.  This would  be a good time to give it some probiotics or Rooster Booster to help supplement its immune system.  A feed with extra protein will help it deal with the stress of being in a new place.

The new adult bird may also have some hidden issues.  Check for lice, mites, breathing problems or discharge from the eyes or nostrils.  A little poultry dust in case of mites or apple cider vinegar in the water for general health wouldn’t hurt.  Disease can take up to a month to show itself in a healthy bird.  Make sure that you practice biosecurity  and wash your hands when handling new birds.

It is best to introduce new birds in pairs or more. Do not buy a single bird and expect it to smoothly be accepted by the others.  Being alone and new is a double disadvantage.  If there is more than one bird introduced at the same time , they will then have a buddy to hang out with.  There is also more than one bird to take all of the pecks that will be directed their way.

Always add birds of a similar size to the flock. Larger breeds are always more dominant and will bully the smaller breeds. If you have a flock of Jersey Giants it would be difficult for a small bantam to be accepted.  Try to wait as long as possible to introduce young birds.  They should be done making baby noises and be as fully feathered out as possible.

The first step is to separate them in the coops and outside runs.  The idea is to keep them separate but visible to each other.  Seeing but no touching each other. They may try to fight through the fence but they can’t hurt each other.  Poultry netting is a good way to separate them.  Even just a dog crate sitting in the run will work.  Do this for a few days to a week.

When it is time to actually put the birds together there is a few ways you can do it.  Some people think that the best time to do it is at night after they have gone to bed.  Stick the new ones on the roost and they will all wake up together the next morning and may be more accepting.

Another method is to do a free range situation.  Let the new birds out to free range first.  Then let the rest of the flock out.  There is plenty of room for the new birds to run and hide or just plain get away from any unwanted pecks.

If you don’t let your birds free range, you can put the new birds in the run first and then let the older flock out. By letting the new birds out first, they can find out where the food and water is first. Distract the flock with treats so they won’t be so focused on the new chickens.  Make sure that you have multiple feeding dishes and watering stations.  The older flock may try and block the new birds from eating and drinking.

Make sure that they have plenty of room.  Overcrowding will stress everyone out and make the older birds resentful.  Put out more food and treats than they actually need.  Flock blocks can be helpful.  Hiding places are also important.  Just placing a piece of wood against a wall can provide a hiding place for a scared bird.

I know that it is hard, but the less interference from humans the better.  Unless there is blood it is best to let them work it out themselves.  If a bird is super aggressive towards a new one, put it in a dog kennel for a few days.  When it comes out, it will become a “new” bird and be taken down a peg or two.

Two or more roosters will not get along unless they are raised together and are not where they can see hens.  Ten hens per rooster is the recommended amount.  Don’t introduce a new adult rooster to a flock that already has a rooster. They will fight for dominance.

After you have introduced new birds, watch to make sure that they are eating and drinking.  Give them plenty of places to hide behind.  Put everyone on the same food and have separate dishes of oyster shell.

The introduction of new birds can cause your old flock to stop egg production for awhile until things settle down.  It will take a few weeks but soon everyone will have a new place in the pecking order.

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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Why Your Chicken Needs a Dust Bath

20180323_145950-1   All chickens should have access to dust baths.  It doesn’t matter what breed or age of chicken, it is instinctual for them to wallow in the dust and dirt.  It is their way of getting clean and practicing good hygiene.

When you first witness this dust bathing, you may think that something is wrong with your bird.  It almost looks like they are in trouble or having a seizure.  They are lying on their sides with one leg sticking out and the other scraping dirt and dust in kind of a circular motion.  The wings are throwing dirt up into the air so that it falls back down on top of them.  It looks scary , but it is perfectly normal.

Chickens will create a dust bath area all by themselves.  A chicken scratches and digs out a bowl shaped depression in the dirt or will even use the shavings inside of the coop.  The chicken settles into this hollow, fluffs up its feathers and then scratches up the dirt.

It might look like they are making a nest to lay eggs because it is round in shape but these are preparations for dust bathing.  Chickens use their feet and wings to get loose dirt throughout their skin and feathers.  Once they are completely covered in a layer of dirt, the bird will fluff and shake off the substance to evenly distribute it on their bodies.

A chicken’s dust bath helps to remove excess oil, as well as parasites such as lice, mites and ticks.  Dust bathing is an important part of keeping chickens healthy and clean.  It is important that your chicken has access to areas where dust bathing can take place. Most will look for a sunny spot with loose dirt.  Even if they never get to free range, you can set up a dust bath in their coop or pen.

There are four main behaviors when dust bathing: vertical wing-shaking, head rubbing, bill raking and scratching with one leg.  The hen scratches with her feet and beak at the ground.  She then erects her feathers and lies down. They create deep bowls as they wiggle and squirm to get dirt deep under their feathers.  They make happy noises while flipping dirt all over themselves.  The dust collects between the feathers and then is shaken off.  This helps to give the feathers good insulating abilities.

Chickens clean their feathers and skin by preening with their beaks and using an oil gland at the base of their tail. After a dust bath a hen will spend time primping and pecking at their feathers. This helps to smooth their feathers and removes sheaths on new feathers.  Feather maintenance is very important.  Birds of all kinds take dust baths and certain mammals do as well to keep clean and remove parasites.

Most dust bathing occurs in the middle of the day. Warm temperatures increase dust bathing behavior. Hens will tend to dust bath if they see other hens doing it.  It ends up being a very social activity.  It is not just hens that will dust bath, but roosters enjoy doing it as well.

The need for a dust bath is ingrained in their behavior.  They will dig holes if you don’t provide them with a spot.  Free ranging birds will find a place in your garden if you let them.   Battery hens in cages will sham dust bathe.  They will go through the motions of dust bathing even if there is no other material in their cages.

Here at VJP Poultry, we decided it was time to create some dust bathing areas inside of our runs.  We used treated 1″ X 4″ lumber and made 18″ X 24″ boxes with no bottom.  We set them in the run and filled them half full with play sand.

There are other things that you can use to create your dust bathing areas. Any large shallow pan such as a kitty litter pan or small kiddie pools.   Fill it with a variety of substrates.  Some examples would be :  Fine sand, dry dirt,  or peat moss.

Some people like to add food grade diatomaceous Earth or DE.  The sharp edges pierce the soft body parts of parasites and kills them.  Be careful with DE as it can be very harmful if inhaled and can damage lungs.  Use a small amount as part of your substrate.

Firepit ash or ash from a wood stove is another product that can be used. Birds can absorb magnesium, calcium and vitamin K from the ash.  Use ash from hardwood trees and make sure that if you remove it from your own fire pit that there isn’t any additional chemicals such as in treated lumber.

Dried herbs are natural pest repellents.  They can get rid of mosquitoes, flies and ants as well as parasites such as mites, lice and ticks.  They provide calming aroma therapy and have antibacterial properties to heal minor scratches and wounds.  Add them to the substrate as well.

You can also purchase ready made dust bath products.  It is easy to add to what ever other products you want in your dust bath mix.

Remember that you will need to periodically clean out your dust bath area.  I pick out the big chunks daily and give it a good raking.  A cover or a beach umbrella will help to keep out the rain.  You want your dust bath to stay as dry as possible.  One of those turtle sand boxes with a cover or any plastic cover sandbox can make a great dusting area.  If possible, move your dusting area inside in the winter to prevent the substrate from freezing.

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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