Peaches & Rose, the oldest members in an existing flock of 18. Each bird wears a brightly colored I.D. leg band so I can keep track of age, breed, color, sex, and where they originated from. Otherwise, alike breeds of same color can often look the same.
Each hen’s broodiness is recorded as well, because unfortunately not all hens are good Moms. It’s important to know which hens will not only be be loyal to their clutch of fertile eggs, but which ones can also be trusted to care for the chicks when they hatch.
As an example, these two hens are both broody on a regular basis, only the one on the right will stay on her eggs until they hatch. The bird on the left perhaps has good intentions, but gets bored with the idea of being a Mom and sometimes abandons the nest after a week or so.
Knowing who’s who in an immediate situation means a quick and convenient solution. So I better get busy… today there are 10 more birds to add to the chart!
Sometimes size matters in the brooder, but there are ways to avoid and resolve trouble. I added four new chicks to the brooder a week ago. Two blue and two silver laced six day old standard Cochins… and put them in the brooder with my three week old Silkie Bantams.
Age doesn’t matter much to baby chicks, size however, can be reason enough to start a bully fest. The six day old Cochins were the same size as the Silkies, but now, a week later, the Cochins are substantially bigger. The size issue seems to go unnoticed when chicks are raised together, so they’ll continue to share the same brooder in harmony.
If new chicks refuse to get along, it’s easy enough to put a divider between the chicks, as long as they can see each other it will be pretty uneventful to reintroduce them in a week or so.
Leaving the Brooder
At two months these little fuzzy butts will be moved from the brooder to a transitional coop where they’ll be in full view of the existing flock. Around four or five months the coop door will open and they’ll have a choice to venture out and join the existing flock, but they probably won’t for days, sometimes even a week! Then What?
It’s reality time, and their peaceful world comes to a screeching halt when they’re finally brave enough to step out and explore the real world. A world that is run by powerful chicken rulers who have earned their significant positions in the pecking order. Learn More about the Pecking Order and Adding Chickens to an Existing Flock
There are many reasons to I.D. your chickens and it’s easy if you use leg bands. There are many types, colors, and sizes appropriate for chicks, bantams and standard breeds. The hard part is finding who sells assortments, or has quantity options. Leg bands are perfect for tracking broody hens, keeping track of the ages of your birds, or if you have birds the same color that look identical.
Where to Buy Leg Bands
Arcata Pet Supplies, you can order as many or as few as you like, (that’s a plus!) but they don’t offer color assortments and their styles are very limited.
Note: To help give you an idea on sizing, TBN Ranch uses size 9 leg bands for our mature Silkie Bantams.
Understanding Behavior, Traditional Heat Lamps, and the Radiant Heat Alternative
One of the biggest concerns most people have is keeping the brooder at the proper temperature. You’ve probably read the norm… 95 degrees the first week, then lower the temperature by 5 degrees each week until the chicks are fully feathered. That’s the rule of thumb, and one I have always been faithful to. However…
I know heat lamps are a royal pain when trying to achieve a specific and consistent temperature. And radiant heat from today’s brooders probably have you wondering if they offer enough heat. That’s why this season I decided to experiment, pitched the heat lamp and put my trust solely in radiant heat on my newly hatched chicks.
Yes, it seemed too cold in the brooder at night, certainly wasn’t 95, and that made me nervous. But I had a feeling radiant heat would prove better if I just stuck with it. Radiant heat seemed more natural, more like a mother hen, and that just had to be better than a clunky bright heat lamp dangling over their head.
Is Radiant Heat Better?
At one week old: The temperature in the brooder was 65, and the chicks weren’t huddled together trying to stay warm. They were playing, eating, and on and off congregating under the radiant heat brooder. No fuss, no worries, and no pasty butts, which is a common problem of chicks under stress during their first week of life. I think chicks can take the cold a lot better than we think. I’ve seen hens take their chicks outside in 30 degree temperatures with no problem. So why do we need to stress over the perfect 95 degree law in the brooder? We don’t, plain and simple. Here’s my Silkie Bantam chicks in perfect condition, raised using radiant heat in temperatures 25-30 degrees below the the recommended 95 degrees the first week. They’re five weeks old now and happy as can be.
The trick is to watch your chicks, they will tell you if they are uncomfortable. Too hot and they will be scattered far from the heat source. Too cold and they will huddle together in a corner for warmth. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is or where you live, baby chicks all communicate the same.
Note: If I thought radiant heat wasn’t enough during very cold spells, I would use a heat lamp near the brooder rather than right over them. This will help warm the air around the brooder box just enough to still encourage use of the radiant heat brooder within.
It’s all about behavior… watch and they will teach you how much heat they need. It’s just amazing to watch those fuzzy butts, they’re a wealth of information… watch them, and you’ll see for yourself!