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I’m having one of those days I can’t wait to see the back of today. I found one of my chickens dead this morning and my cockerel lying down and looking all sullen, understandably so he’d just lost one of his girls. It’s been a mad busy day I was rushing to get to a hospital appointment only to find it was the wrong day. Entering my cree I noticed (Timid-Timmy) lying down, as it wasn’t very warm today and no other hens were resting I went into his Cree, standing over him he still never moved, allowing me to pick him up sent alarm bells ringing, a cockerel allowing me to scoop him up in my arms without a struggle. Removing him and setting him down it became apparent that he had no co-ordination and was unstable on his feet. After a full examination I found his shoulder bone was broken, removing a cockerel from his flock is stressful at the best of times, prolonged isolation from his flock is another matter. With his wing and shoulder bandaged up He’s unable to roost and for his own safety is isolated for 5-6 weeks and is currently on pain killing medication today. He was just lying down when I left him, he’s eating and drinking well considering his dilemma, if no improvement in the next 24-48 hours I shall be bringing him home to recuperate. A neighbour held him as I bandaged him and he never once moved, he wasn’t being restrained, it’s like he knew I was helping him. He’s a vorvex cockerel, a German breed named after the vorvex vacuum cleaner, there is no gentler breed of cockerel. It is said that they are the only breed of cockerels that can stay together without fighting, hence, Timid Timmy . Despite my best detective efforts, and believe me I’ve looked, I can’t find a link between these two occurrences. My initial reaction was predator, Ive crawled on hands and knees and finger tip searched for holes in floors or fencing that would point to a predatory attack. It would be common for the cockerel and his mate to defend the flock, this wasn’t his partner and I found no blood, just a dead chicken and a broken bone.. Timmy is 5 years old and still has another 10 Plus years of life left in him.
The title of today’s Blog is self explanatory I think. So Sunday my busiest day on the garden, a great weather day and an action packed day with gardening and pulling weeds and cleaning out my chickens. I know many people who go to the gym or to a diet club weekly, my workout is outdoors organically gardening with my chickens. So the photo I set shows that this is my health app on my mobile phone, that’s the best cardio workout I ever got. Sunday 11,771 steps on my garden in one day totals a complete walking distance of 7.7 km. and today’s app which again is a typical working day 12,848 steps and a total 8.4 km. ignore the bit on the photo where it says running, Iv,e never ran for anything in my life. 12,848 and a total walking distance of 8.4 km.
known as :starve out: this is a term used to describe a newborn chicks condition when they have exhausted their internal supply they are born with and then do not eat/drink. More commonly found in chicks that are hatched out in an incubator, these chicks have no instructions on how to eat or drink and must be taught by you. Placing a sheet of white paper in the incubator and dropping chick crumb onto it should get some of them interested in eating, tapping on the paper with your finger mimicking pecking should get them all eating. As for drinking, gently dip the birds beak into the water container and watch the birds throat to see she/he is swallowing. Temperature can play a part in a healthy appetite too, again more so incubated chicks as mum keeps her chicks warm, if temperatures drop below 35 degrees this can slow down the appetite, your young chick could be eating or digesting their feed at a reduced rate. For food issues you could try some small meal worms, (live) as the movement may arouse the chicks curiosity and instinct to eat. Offering finely chopped boiled eggs and fresh chive may work. As for drinking, giving chick some warm water with honey added to flavour the water, also the sugar in the honey will give your chick an energy boost. young chicks may be eating but at a much reduced rate. chicks hatched under mum have a great start and are taught by mum to eat. mum calls them to feed and she demonstrates this by pecking at the feed and the chicks simply copy her actions. Mum,s teach their off Spring everything they need to know in the 5-7 weeks they remain with their chicks. A lot of breeders I know say this is survival of the fittest and say it's best to let the chick die, however if like me your chickens are pets and not a commodity then you want to try everything you can to keep them alive.
Spring is the season for broody hens in your flock, depending on how to choose to view this it’s either a curse or a blessing, firstly let’s address the benefits of the positive. For myself it’s a blessing, this year I had no plans to raise young chicks but my girls have different ideas so I’ve formed a partnership with my neighbouring gardener which means neither of us have to worry about temperatures, humidity or turning the eggs or teaching our young how to eat and drink. All of the above including the important teaching chicks to forage, feed and survive are done by mother hen. A mother hen, how do you spot the signs your hen is going broody, well just try and remove eggs from her, she can hiss at you like a snake, she can emit an angry growl, she can attack your hand violently and raise her hackles and she will lay forward on her eggs and stick her tail up into the air and fan it open wide and waft it up and down like she’s waving it at you, All of these are acts of aggression on her part, she,s telling you to back off. It’s not usually an ideal situation as my Broody hen tend to sit eggs in their favourite nesting box which in turn happens to be every other hens nesting box, so job number 1 is to move her as she is now putting my best egg layers off. Somewhere nice, quiet and dark is ideal and out of the way of the other hens is best for all. Mum will pluck feathers from her chest to line the nest and she will roll forward on the eggs directing her body temperature onto her eggs. For me personally I only breed to replace any losses I’ve encountered over the last year, breeding in spring ensures I’ve fresh eggs in the winter when my older hens go into the moult... now looking at the flip side of the coin we have the curse of the clocker. Not everyone views chicks as a good thing, maybe you see it as not financially viable, having a hen sitting on eggs may be inconvenient if your keeping chickens for eggs, after all she’s going to be out of action for around 2 months. So how can you break your hens broody spell, it’s simple, heartbreak hotel as I call it. I have several covered disused rabbit hutches with a wire mesh floor which I place outdoors in the light and where it’s going to catch the best draught. Night-time comes and with it brings cool air regardless of season, the wire floor allows the cool night air to circulate underneath mums vent cooling it. If the cooling night air hasn’t cured your hen of her broodiness then we need a plan B. I find placing her back with her cockerel breaks the broody habit, once your rooster has his female back his amorous advances towards her can make her forget all about sitting on eggs. Simply removing eggs from your hen repeatedly just stresses your hen out as she will seek out another nesting box so swift action not delayed is best for your broody. There are many many other tips and tricks but I like to keep my Blogs readable and not in a long novel type of reading way.
In today’s Blog were discussing the benefits of sprouting grains as opposed to simply feeding our hens the grains directly as many people do and were looking at the moisture and protein content. What I will say is if you have the inclination to sprout your grains then do so, your hens will benefit greatly from it. There are varying examples of information on just what the protein content of sprouting grains is, some say very little, however Wikipedia says that sprouting grains can increase the protein content 50% more than if fed dried to your chickens. To be honest when you see the root mat as the seeds germinate and the tall greens shooting up from the surface then it’s easy to see how sprouting can give a much higher protein content. For example, feeding your hens grains directly as against feeding sprouted looks like the below Barley for example.
Sprouting grains of any kind activates the valuable enzymes contained within the seed. This process gives our chickens access to a higher % of proteins which keeps our Birds fully functioning throughout the day. The sprouting process increases your flocks metabolism which in turn boosts their energy levels. I have listed no benefits on the merits of sprouting oats as they (in my experience) mould up the most so I don’t sprout those. If you wish to try oats I would say to use the correct oats, that is not rolled oats.
Feeding Barley : In the dried form directly from the sack accounts for around 13% protein, with a moisture content of around 13%. Feeding sprouted grains accounts for up to 28% protein, however the moisture that sprouted grains is 10 times more than dried seed and comes in at a moisture rate of 90%. This is because the seed is retaining 10% more moisture than in its raw dried form. The vitamin contents is also increased through sprouting and is around 25% more beneficial than in its dried form.
Feeding wheat: By sprouting wheat we are increasing the percentage of protein by a staggering 300%. Also amplified are the nutrients and vitamins not to mention all the the digestive enzymes which boost your hens energy levels, and the added deep golden colour it adds to your laying birds eggs.
Feeding corn: you have to be extra careful when sprouting corn as it seems to mould up quickly. However not as quickly as sprouting other seeds but my chickens seem to do best on sprouted wheat, a little more expensive but worth it I believe.
How to prepare: We rinse the grains twice daily to wash away the starch contained within it and by doing this we increase the benefits of the nutrients per volume.
Feeding ratio: There are no hard and fast rules, How much we feed our birds is dependent on the type/breed and size of birds your feeding and the season your feeding them. For example your chickens will eat less during spring and summer and will eat more in the autumn to winter seasons. But a rough estimate per chicken would be in weight/volume. The below weights are for fodder including the greens and the root mat, not the seed. The greens which I harvest when they reach 3 inches.
Spring/summer = 1.8 ounces of fodder.
Autumn/winter = 2.6 ounces of fodder.
For ducks, geese and other Birds please contact me via my website below and I can calculate the ratio for you based on the ideal weight for the size and specific breed of your birds at www.thechickendoctor.co.uk
And finally my tip for sprouting, I let mine sprout for around 6 days when the greens peak at around 3 inches high, I do this height to prevent my hens crop from being Impacted by lengthy greens. But again you would grow yours to suit the size and breed and type of animal you raise. One of my pals feeds this to his goals and as a treat to his pigs.