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Author Topic: Over 2 decades of experience  (Read 4375 times)

Paul

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Over 2 decades of experience
« on: April 24, 2015, 10:47:36 AM »
                                                         Hatching Eggs

  In this post we are going to publicly answer many of the questions that I’m often ask by new poultry breeders.

  I enjoy sharing what I know and have most of my life (almost 60 years-Wow that time has past fast!)   This characteristic began many years ago with hogs and plants.  The past 16 years it’s primarily been with the Ameraucana breed of chickens.

  I have been asked “What do you do to your hatching eggs?”

  First they are marked with a pencil a coded number to represent the breeding pen which produced them.  The numbering system ranges from 1 to 15 for each variety group.  Wheaten, blue wheaten and splash wheaten are one group.  Black, blue, splash and lavender are the other variety group that we presently raise.  We use to raise silver and buff which would be two more  variety sets of numbers.  Only fifteen breeding pens can be tracked using this system.  We have had more than 15 pens of black, blue, splash for several years, so we came up with a (+) plus system several years ago.  The breeding pen numbers recorded on the eggs are +1 to +15.  Behind the number is a letter.  Capital “B” for black only, “b” for blue, “SP” for splash only, and “W” for the wheaten varieties.  Under the coded number is the date laid.  It is written also in code to make better use of time.  Example:  April 15 is written 415-(tax day!).

  The eggs are gathered daily and stored in a large up right freezer that has had it’s thermostat removed and replaced with a thermostat from an air conditioner-window unit.  The temp is set to be maintained at 62º to 64º F.  We also use this appliance for storing our boar semen.  The thermostat switch out tip came from an AC friend of mine about 20 years ago.  Our first unit, an old refrigerator went bad about six years ago and was replaced with the freezer that we are presently using.  Neither a freezer nor refrigerator can be set high enough temp (64ºF) without changing the thermostat.  The unit will be turned off long before the temp is adjusted high enough to maintain the hatching eggs.

  The hatching eggs are placed inside the unit each day in half gallon metal cans, which are used to hold them, while they are being gathered.  About once a week the hatching eggs are removed from the cans and placed into egg cartons.  They are pre-sorted by variety (wheaten, blue wheaten), (lavender), (black, blue, splash) as they are removed from the cans.  The hatching eggs now in cartons are placed back into the cooler and held at 62º-64ºF until the Sunday before setting day.  This is delayed to Monday on May 4, 2015 due to Memorial Day.  Then they are removed from the unit and sorted by the breeding pen number.  Once all hatching eggs are sorted, they are inventoried to see how many can be used from each breeding pen to fill the incubators. Presently we have two #1202 GQF for one hatch, then one #1502 GQF and two Styrofoam incubators for the next hatch.  The GQF each hold 288 eggs and the Styrofoam each hold 41 eggs.  When we are in full production we set 576 eggs, then two weeks later 370.  Unfortunately this year we have had issues trying to get the 1502 made in 2008 set correctly.  We have had two hatch failures.  The first failure was to capacity with 370.  Hopeful it is corrected now!  We will address this later in the next topic post.  We are trying to keep to the subject-Hatching Eggs.

  Once the eggs are inventoried to see how many are available, they are culled to get down to the number needed to fill the incubators.  Egg color, shape, size, % hatching from breeding pen in previous hatch, and parent stock are considered when culling the eggs.

  Now that the eggs are selected for incubation, they are washed in a solution consisting of 6 ½ oz. of Oxine/gallon water.  This solution is mixed ahead of time needed, and stayed with the eggs inside the cooler, so it is the same temp as the eggs!  If the eggs look clean they are just dipped in and out.  This is a very important process to keep from getting a bacteria in the incubator, plus several poultry diseases can be spread via the egg.  Once they are disinfected they are placed in the egg racks.  A bath towel is spread out, on the island counter top.  The trays of eggs are laid on it and covered with another bath towel so they can gradually warm up to room temp.  This washing takes place on Sunday night.  (Monday night when 3 weeks before holidays-Marin Luther King, President’s Day and Memorial Day).  The eggs are ready to be placed inside the incubator early Monday morning (usually between 6 and 8 AM-depends on how late it was completed on Sunday night).

  I know many poultry breeders are too concerned about storing the hatching eggs too long.  It’s a common thing for us to start saving them two weeks before setting them.  If the eggs are good and fertile-hatching well, they can be stored at 62º-64ºF for several weeks before dying in the egg.

  Consider this scenario.  A hen is laying an egg every other day.  She hides out a nest, then starts setting.  Approximately twenty-one days after she starts missing she shows up with twelve or more chicks!  This use to be a common thing for us many years ago.  We use to cage all breeding cocks and turn all the hens out after egg collecting was over for the season.  We have had eggs to hatch that were three to four weeks old.  However, I will agree that the sooner they can be set, the better the hatching percentage will be!  I also know that the eggs can be turned side to side inside the cooler to help keep them better, but we don’t mess with them other than what has been shared.

  The next writing will take up with the incubation, hatching and chicks!

  Any questions or comments are welcome!  Lets have a fun time with this poultry hobby and share info!  Anyone want to share “How/what you do with your hatching eggs?”  Please do!!!
Paul Smith

Susan Mouw

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2015, 05:58:45 PM »
This is wonderful information, Paul & Angela!!

Thank you for taking the time to do this.  I can't wait to read the next installment.
Susan Mouw
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Don

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2015, 11:01:40 PM »
This is a lot of information,Thanks Paul and Angela.   Its great to hear how others go about their process.
You mention that you decide how many eggs are needed based on several factors.  How many eggs do you set extra for say an order of 25 chicks, and what do you do with the extra eggs and any extra chicks?  And when do you hatch the chicks for your use there on the farm?   I will be glad to give you my address if you need a place for some of those extras?
Don Cash
" No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."  Mark Twain

Hannah Brush

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2015, 09:06:20 AM »
Thanks for sharing your knowledge. For us that are justge tting started.
--Hannah

Sharon Yorks

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2015, 09:59:03 AM »
Great info, Paul & Angela! Thanks for sharing with everyone. I do pretty much the same as you (with a few exceptions)...probably because you were the one who taught me how to do it several years ago when I was first getting started ;)

I hatched a 21-day-old egg once that had been hauled 900 miles in a vehicle, then left in my vehicle overnight in below freezing temperatures, and then traveled almost another 300 miles for me to get it home. Unfortunately, it was the only one that did hatch and the chick had to be raised alone...although she did make friends with a moose and a dog.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 10:01:30 AM by Sharon Yorks »
Sharon Yorks
Mark 11:23

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Paul

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2015, 10:52:07 AM »
Hi Don, 

  We figure a 50% for quality chicks.  A 25 chick order get allotted 50 eggs.  The early hatches usually don't hatch very well.  The later ones do.  The closer to equinox-March 21-the better the hatches become.  They usually are hatching very well about the time we have to quit hatching due to the hot weather.  Our last hatch will be June 8, 2015.  I'm always concerned when carrying them into the PO-that they will say, "no it's too warm to ship them," but that hasn't happened yet.  I plan on addressing the fertility in the next post.

  I count it very fortunate that we get to keep some of the chicks for ourselves when we have more than enough to fill our chick orders.

  We use to raise (feed out) 500 to 750 a year a long time ago.  They were marketed at flea markets an auction in Mesquite, TX. about 90 miles from us.  The Texas Animal Health Commission shut all of that down several years ago, so we don't raise that many now.  We sent out 1,097 chicks in 2014 and only kept about 200.

  We kept most of our first hatch this year due to lots of snow across the US on Feb. 17, 2015.  They couldn't be shipped safely!  There are a few left over from our 2nd and 3rd hatch that are here also.  There is a big demand for the young breeder birds in the fall.  We usually are sold out by the time Shawnee, Oklahoma show (Dec. 12, 2015) comes around.  We sort the birds into two categories -layers (not recommended for showing or breeding for show stock) and show quality breeders.  The layer quality cockerels and cull pullets have a one-time date with me, the butcher.  They are excellent eating without any preservatives, growth hormones or any other junk added into them!  Ameraucanas are a dual purpose chicken-both eggs and meat!

  The extra eggs are culled.  They are eaten by either us, someone from our church, or someone who purchases them.  Last year we sold them to one of the vendors at the local farmer's market.  Two years ago we sold them to the owner of a nearby business who resold them.
Paul Smith

Birdcrazy

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2015, 03:09:40 PM »
Unfortunately, it was the only one that did hatch and the chick had to be raised alone...although she did make friends with a moose and a dog.


Sharon, Moose in Ohio? You really had me going! Then you solved my doubts, pictures are really worth a thousand words!
Gordon Gilliam

Sarah Meaders

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2015, 02:49:20 PM »
Love this post! Keep them coming!
Proclaim Yahweh's greatness with me! Let us exhale His name together! Psalm 34:3

Paul

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2015, 12:56:57 PM »
  Now that the hatching eggs have been disinfected, placed in the egg racks inside the trays and set out on the island top for the remainder of the night, they are ready to be placed inside the incubator which has been running all night and preset to maintain 99.5ºF.

  About 20 years ago when setting our first GQF cabinet, we had five thermometers with five different readings, which ranged from too low to way too high!  So I called the GQF manufacturing Co. to ask, “How do you know which thermometer is correct?”  I was told “When the incubator is hatching on time (chickens 21 days) that it could be used to calibrate the thermometers.”  The temp inside the correctly running incubator will be 99.5ºF.  Keep adjusting the thermostat until you finally have the chicks hatching at 21 days.  The thermometers need to be marked at whenever reading that they are at, when they are inside a properly adjusted incubator.  This has worked very well until this hatching season.  We had a trusted calibrated (marked at 96ºF) that we have used the past several years to set our incubators to the correct temp.  Earlier this season the thermometer was correct.  However it changed (went bad) and caused us to loose two hatches!  It was used to set our newly purchased 2008 never been used #1502 GQF incubator.  The first hatch was a total failure without a single chick hatching.  They were all dead inside the eggs.  Development was from just started to ready to hatch.  The more developed ones were incubated in the two styrofoam incubators and moved on day 18 to the #1502 GQF for hatching.

  I was told about GQF manufacturing Co. using two different speed fans in 2008-so we changed the fan. 

  The next hatch was the same, but I discovered the problem just before it was time for the eggs to hatch.  I had taken the trusted calibrated thermometer out to recheck one of the other incubators that was running.  The temp reading was very low on the thermometer!  So I put another thermometer that reads a little on the high side-inside the #1502.  The temp was still increasing at over 104ºF.  I immediately went to adjusting the temp down.  Recalibrated the thermometer in one of the GQF incubators that was running correctly.  It was 4ºF less than the previous mark which was reading 96ºF, which actually was 99.5ºF. 

  Successful hatches must have the temp correct!  If it is ½ºF too hot the chicks will hatch a day early.  If they are ½ºF too cool they will be a day late.

  I use to tell my Sunday School class “If we can learn from the mistakes of someone else, then we won’t have to pay the consequences that they had to pay in order to learn.”  Learn from my mistake-thermometers can change (go bad) on their own in a very short period of time!

  We use 3 tablespoons of bleach in one gallon of water to keep the water pans full inside the incubators.  This helps keep the air clean inside the incubators.  This tip was given to me several years ago.  I think Roy Snyder told me, but it originally came from Bo Garrett a Cochin Breeder in Oklahoma.

  Eighteen days of checking to make sure that the egg turner is working, the temp is holding at 99.5ºF and that the water pan never gets too low, now it is time to increase the humidity by placing another water pan inside the incubator or wick pads in the 1502.  It’s also time to turn the turner off and take the eggs our of the egg racks.  They are partitioned by breeding pens in the trays with lids on them.  Since we have 49 breeding pens this year, we hatch one wheaten, one lavender and one black “only” altogether in one partition.  This uses less dividers inside the trays.  Occasionally a chick will get it’s head hung over one of the dividers or under a lid and gets killed.  We do not hatch blue and lavender together as they look to similar to be accurately separated.  Also the splash and wheatens are very similar but the wheatens will have lighter colored shanks than the splash.  A blue X black is never shared with the compartment of a black X black as the blue X black will also produce black chicks, disabling the separation of the pen’s progeny.  The eggs from the two Styrofoam incubators are removed and placed inside the #1502 GQF incubator for hatching.  We have extra trays for the GQF incubators.  We stack one extra tray on the top tray and one extra tray is in the bottom.  Always be careful removing the trays from the incubator as chicks can have their toes cut off if the tray isn’t lifted before pulling it out.

  The metal cookie sheet is wrapped with a plastic wrap.  This makes clean up much easier.  It’s easier to skin the plastic off than to scrub the feces off.  This tip came from Barbara Campbell many years ago.

  Now it’s time to take a breather and patiently wait for the chicks to start hatching.  During the wait time, shipping labels and health papers get filled out.
The wheatens usually hatch several hours ahead of the others.

  Egg shells are removed from the compartments several times during the hatch.  Occasionally a shell will cap itself over the top of another egg that hasn’t started hatching.  This suffocates the chick inside the covered egg.  This tip came from local fancier Buddy May, many years ago before we had Ameraucanas.

  Each of the chicks get toe punched the number which was assigned to the breeding pen which produced them.  The code is 1, 2, 4 and 8.  It starts with the bird’s left outside web being 1.  It moves to the right (just like we read left to right).  The numbers double each move.  It ends with the bird’s right outside web being 8.  One to fifteen can be made using these four numbers.  Example, a # 7 is a one, two and four.

  The (+) plus system uses the same code, but the holes are opened with a razorblade to make a slit in the chick’s web in place of a hole.  This (+) system allows an additional fifteen breeding pens of the same variety group.  We came up with this several years ago when we first had more than fifteen breeding pens of black, blue and splash.

  Once all the chicks are toe punched and inventoried, the list is checked to see how many orders can be filled.  The chicks are divided up on paper to provide as many different breeding pen’s progeny as possible to each customer to help prevent or at least prolong inbreeding the chickens.

  Angela has all the shipping boxes assembled with toe pads installed ready for filling.  Our early hatches get the ventilation holes taped before assembling the box.  The holes are taped with clear shipping tape from the inside so the chicks will not get their down stuck.  This tip came from Jeanne Trent about 16 years ago.  The later hatches are left open.  When the temp gets in the high 80’s-we quit taping the ventilation holes.

  The chicks are placed into the boxes.  The lids are tied on with a nylon fishing line.  They are also taped closed on the ends.  A few years ago we had a person call and ask about a baby duck that was in their box of chicks that we had sent!  Hasn’t been a problem since taping the ends.  A PO employee apparently played with the chicks then put them back into the wrong box!

  A Texas Pullorum-Typhoid paper is filled out for each box of chicks.  Texas has it’s own program which is an equivalent to the NPIP program.  It is placed inside an envelope that has “Health Papers” written on it.  Then the envelope is taped to the side of the chick box.

  After all the boxes are filled, tied, and taped, they are ready for a fast trip to the PO to catch the first truck!  Then it’s off to work for a few hours.  Later that evening each person who is being sent a box of chicks is e-mailed a tracking number and anticipated day and time of arrival for express mailed chicks, or a tracking number for priority mailed chicks.  We guarantee live chicks upon arrival or a refund for any which don’t make the trip, which is very few.  Therefore we require express mail for shipping zones #5 or more.  We allow priority mail through shipping zone #4.  We are very fortunate to have the DFW Airport only 65 miles away, which makes connections just about everywhere possible!  The baby chick takes in the yoke just before hatching.  This allows the newly hatched chick several days survival without any water or feed.  Another “Master” design in nature-so when momma hen hatches a brood and it’s a while before she manages to find them something to eat or drink, that they can still survive.

  It’s some relief when the chicks are left at our PO.  It’s total relief when the report comes back that all the chicks made the trip and that whoever received them indicates that they are nice chicks.

  The next day after the chicks are sent out, whatever chicks are left over and any that hatch late are vaccinated for Mareks Disease and carried to the brooder house.  The late hatched chicks are also toe punched their pen number.  We let everyone vaccinate their own chicks.  We use to offer the Mareks vaccinations, but now due to time we no longer vaccinate shipped chicks.  It’s a real rush to get several hundred toe punched, sorted into the correct boxes and delivered to our PO by 3:00 PM which only allows 30 minutes to get them checked in.  If there is a line to the back door-we are in trouble with the paperwork’s time!  I usually start between 4 and 5 AM on hatch days!  It takes many hours to toe punch and sort an incubator of chicks!

  I want everyone who reads these writings that this is how we do it.  There are many ways to accomplish the same task.  Many years ago, I use to build farm fences.  I came up with the idea “That there is a right way, a wrong way and the way, that the person who hired me, wants it done!”

  I know that there are fanciers who may disagree with how we do our hatching eggs.  Just for the record, what we do can work-we had seven pen’s eggs hatch 100% in our eleventh hatch and two more pen’s eggs hatch 100% under a lavender hen.  It’s been four years since setting the last hen.

  Plan on taking up with the chicks ready for the brooder in the next writing.

  Please share your experience with hatching with us!
Paul Smith

Max

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2015, 03:35:31 PM »
Thanks Paul & Angela, That was a great read!

Your mentorship has served me very well. I have hatched more chicks than I know what to do with. My brooders are overflowing.

Something that you might consider in the future is printing your shipping labels at home. It's faster and cheaper than doing it at the post office. To save the expense of sticky back shipping labels, I print them on regular printer paper and use a glue stick to glue them to the box. When I deliver them to the post office, I am in and out in just a few minutes.  ;)
Max Strawn

Don

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2015, 08:36:50 AM »
Great article Paul and Angela.   There is a lot of information and I will come back to read it a couple more times to take it all in.  It sounds like you've been through quite a learning curve on thermostats.  Very Interesting.  Thanks for taking time to put this down for all to read.
Don Cash
" No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."  Mark Twain

Lee G

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2015, 11:15:42 AM »
Like!!!  :D
~ The duty of the breeder today and tomorrow is to create rather than imitate or simply perpetuate -- Horace Dryden

Paul

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2015, 09:15:34 AM »
  Sorry this is so late!  I started writing it several months ago.  It was placed on the back burner while the crops were being harvested and the chickens reared.  Had a clean up and found it in a pile of old e-mails!

  I left out how we toe punch and how we vaccinate for Marek’s Disease.  So I’ll back up, to catch up, before moving on!

  The hole in the chicks web is made by an instrument called a toe punch.  It is about 2 inches long similar to a set of tweezers with a spike on one side and a hole in the other.  The toe punch is slid onto the chick’s web with the spike pointing up and the hole side on the top.  The two metal sides of the hole punch are squeezed together with the thumb and fore finger on the old style toe punch.  Make sure the spike pushes all the way through the hole side and that a very small round piece of the chicks web is completely removed.  This sometimes requires a fingernail to flip it off while the hole punch is in the squeezed position.  If this piece of web isn’t completely removed, it may grow back.  The plus numbers are punched the same.  Then the web is slit with a single sided razor blade.

  We have shown our birds in many different states under numerous judges and never received any remarks about their webs being punched are slit.  This system of marking the birds is compatible to the ear notching system in the swine industry.  A toe punch maybe purchased at many of the poultry supply companies.  Our local feed store even carries them.  They cost about $3 to $4.  We have worn out a few pair in the past 20 plus years punching out approximately 30,000 chicks.

  Now for the Marek’s Disease vaccinations.  Marek’s diluent now comes in a plastic pouch/bag containing 200 ml instead of a glass bottle.  The vaccine wafer is still in a vile/bottle.  The two are designed to be mixed together then vaccinate 1,000 head of chicks subcutaneously  (under the skin) within one hour.  Since that is more than half of what we raise in an entire hatching season, we only mix a portion of the two at one time in a sterilized open top small jar.

  Two-tenths of a millimeter/cc of the vaccine is drawn from the jar into a diabetic syringe with a 20-22 gauge needle attached.  The chick is held in the left hand with the thumb and forefinger slightly pinching the chick’s neck to raise the loose skin.  The needle is pushed into the chick’s neck-almost parallel with it’s neck (not perpendicular-as that will push all the way through the skin and release the vaccine on the outside of the chicks neck).  The needle is inserted between the thumb and forefinger, then the plunger pushed.  When properly vaccinated a small bump can be felt in the chick’s neck.  It may sound a little complicated, but once one gets the hang of it, it’s very simple.  I now can vaccinate 50 to 60 head in about 10 minutes.  The chicks are held in “Blue Bell” ½ gallon ice cream containers with a paper towel in the bottom to keep the chicks from slipping while waiting their turn for vaccination.

  Now that the chicks are vaccinated for Mareks, they are taken to one of the brooder houses.  The brooder houses were originally built for farrowing (birthing) the pigs.  They are 6 X 8 feet totally enclosed building on cement slabs.  A loop made of hail screen wire holds the chicks confined to approximately 8 square feet.  A 250 watt heat lamp light is suspended over the loop about 16-20    inches above the floor.  If the chicks huddle/pile up under the heat lamp, it is too high and they are cold.  If they lay around the edge of the light, it is too low and they are too warm.  If they lay scattered under the light it is just right!  Day old chicks need to be 90ºF to 95ºF for the first week of life.  The temp can be dropped 5ºF per week after the first week of age.  We adjust the temp by raising the light and/or changing to a lower watt bulb.  Bermuda grass hay being very soft and pliable with small thin blades/leaves is used to cover the cement floor.  A feeder filled with feed and a quart chick water is placed inside the loop before the chicks are released inside it.  We used the whole house (48 sq. ft.) in the past, but have learned to prevent a few newly hatched from getting lost out away from the light-heat source that it’s best to hold them inside a more confined area for at least a week before releasing them into the whole house.  We also used gallon waters in the past.  A few chicks would manage to drown themselves in the trough around the jug.  It hasn’t happen since changing to the small chick quart waters.  We use a local produced 18% chick starter which we add soybean meal, fish meal, a Vita-Ferm product call Cattleman’s Blend, corn oil and chick grit.  We use to mix all our feed by hand in a wash tub, but now use a cement mixer.  Thanks to Max Strawn for the suggestion.  It doesn’t do as good a job mixing the feed but it is adequate.

  The chicks get checked for feed, water and cleanness of floor liter twice a day.  The waters are filled twice a day, and fresh feed kept in the feeders but aren’t kept full to the brim as the chicks will soon waste more than they eat.  The floors are cleaned when they get a fecal buildup.  The older the chicks-the more often the floor gets cleaned.  If the chicks are kept in filthy living conditions they will develop a disease called Coccidiosis.  Coccidiosis is extremely deadly to them.  Sixteen years ago was the first and last time that we had experience with Coccidiosis.  We had a large group of 8 week old Easter Eggers and Ameraucanas (our first) that we had moved out of a brooder house into a portable shed-pen combination in the pasture.  Unfortunately it was a rainy season and their building wasn’t moved when it should have been.  They came down with Coccidiousis.  They were treated with Sulmet-a sulfur drug.  Best I remember about 75% survived.  The sulfur can effect the pullets laying ability causing some of the survivors to never lay, which happened to a few.  Since then, a medication called Corrid an Amprolium drug has been developed.  I’ve heard that it works great, but don’t have any first-hand experience using it.  I purchased some this year, just to have on hand since we have had such a wet growing season (29.5”in May).  Over crowding, too much fecal buildup and wet floors will cause a Coccidiosis breakout.  Coccidiosis is a management disease as far as I’m concerned.  It can be prevented or created by how the birds are kept.  Learn from the mistakes of may others--keep the floor clean, dry, well bedded  and don’t over crowd the chicks.  One would be amazed as to how much of the Bermuda grass hay the chicks will eat once they get several weeks of age.  The Bermuda grass hay must be fee of any mold as it can cause a problem with the chick’s lungs.  If it is baled correctly and properly stored it will be good to use.  Some fanciers use wood shavings.

  The chicks are kept inside these brooder houses for about 8 weeks before getting to free range.  It depends on the time of year and weather conditions as to when they are turned out for the first time.  The first few nights-late evening just before sundown a few chicks usually need help finding their way back to their living quarters.  Once they get trained, they will put themselves up most of the time!  We just have to go close the doors or gates depending on time of year-weather conditions, to keep the night predators out of them.

  Some groups are moved to portable pens out in the fields or pasture.  This gives the growing birds more territory to gather insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and other favorites.  Its amazing just how many they can consume.

  We use pig creep feeders filled with the chick’s feed.  They are changed from the chick feeders to these creep feeders at about 3 to4 4 weeks of age.  The feeders have an adjustment flap to regulate the feed coming down into the trough.  About three weeks of age white millet, whole wheat, chopped corn, flax seed and grower grit are added along with the soybean meal, fish meal, Vita Ferm, and corn oil to the started feed.  The white millet, flax seed and fish meal are new to us, and still on a trial basis.  About two weeks later whole oats are added to the grower ration.  Gradually the grains are increased and the starter is decreased.  About 8 weeks of age the starter is replaced with layer crumbles which doesn’t contain Amprolium.  Sunflower seeds are added-also on a trial basis for us.  We have grown several thousand birds to adulthood without the use of fishmeal, flax seed, white millet or sunflower seed, and they have performed very well, well enough that there has been 5 national champions.  These ingredients are being tried to see if the bird’s can perform even better.

  The next writing will continue with growing the birds-management of them, vaccinations, selection of breeders/layers, etc…
Paul Smith

Don

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2015, 09:59:00 AM »
Great detailed narrative Paul and Angela!   This information gives me some new ideas especially for feed supplements.  Also I ran across your article in an old edition of "Exhibition Poultry" about growing your own Non-GMO feed grains.  It was good to read some of this info too with specific grain varieties etc.
 
Thanks again for putting all of this together.
Don Cash
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Paul

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Re: Over 2 decades of experience
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2015, 09:07:33 AM »
Hi Don,

  Thanks!

  The plant that I didn't know the name of when you came, is the white millet that we are feeding the chickens.  I had planned on planting some of the white millet earlier this summer, but didn't because it never rained in time to do so.  When I was in my teens (many years ago!), dad raised fox-tail millet, at least twice, for hay.  The seed heads are totally different!

  I was able to identify the plant (white millet), by it's seed after it was rubbed out of it's panicle (seed head).
Paul Smith