getting pullets vs unsexed chicks
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Actually, chicks can vary in age when you get them from the store. I've seen them as old as four to six weeks at TSC. You can judge how old they are by size and wing and feather development.
Day-olds are the size of large eggs. At one week, they are double that size with feathers emerging from their wing stubs. At two weeks of age, they are again double the size of one-week olds, etc.
Four-week olds will be pretty much feathered out.
The feed requirements are to a great extent contrived by the feed industry to sell specialized feed. A good chick starter will take them all the way to point of lay. In fact, many people never bother with chick starter and just feed them all flock 22% protein feed.
Articles by azygous:
Articles by azygous:
- Crazy for Silkies
Most feed bags have some kind of chart on them that suggests when to feed what product at what age. Those are for chicks that will become laying flocks. Don’t take those too literally, they are only suggestions. A general routine most commercial operations follow is to feed the chicks a fairly high protein feed the first few weeks to help get them feathered out and off to a good start, then cut back to as lower protein feed after that have that good start. They have it down to a science to make them the best layers they can without wasting money. They are dealing with special hybrid hens, we really aren’t, so what they do won’t necessarily be the best for us or at least, it’s not required. They do not want those special hybrids to grow so fast that their internal organs or skeleton can’t keep up. They also want to delay egg laying a few weeks so their bodies are bigger and better able to handle it. They use lights as well as feed to manage that. The hybrids bodies are pretty small and they lay large eggs for their body size. They want to avoid potential egg laying problems from small bodies laying large eggs. With our dual purpose breeds especially we don’t have those problems, at least not to the extent the commercial hybrids do. I’m trying to explain where those charts on the bag of feed come from without frightening you too much. We are not commercial operations and our chickens are not their chickens.
I normally feed a 20% protein starter/grower for the first few weeks, until the bag runs out after four weeks, then switch to a lower protein grower. They don’t need anything more and I’m cheap. The starter/grower costs $2 more per bag. Since they don’t need it I don’t get it. The adults eat whatever the chicks eat, with oyster shell on the side. The ones that need the calcium for egg shells seem to know to eat it and the ones that don’t need it don’t eat enough to harm themselves. I never feed layer, mainly because I almost always have chicks of some age in with the adults.
Others feed a starter all the time, never switching to a lower percentage protein grower. It doesn’t hurt our chickens, they have bodies big enough compared to egg size most of us don’t worry about it. For a flock where some will be layers and some will be butchered, one recommendation is to feed them a 20% flock raiser or all-flock all the time. You have a lot of options. These are just suggestions, not absolute laws. Don’t stress out on this.
Someone mentioned medicated feed. I like to read the label to confirm what the medicine in medicated feed actually is. It’s almost always Amprolium so I’ll discuss that. If the medicine is not Amprolium, then obviously what I’m about to say is a bunch of garbage.
Amprolium inhibits the reproduction of certain bugs that can cause Coccidiosis. It is not an antibiotic. It will not destroy the probiotics your chicks may have in their system like an antibiotic will. In the dosage in medicated feed, it does to totally stop the reproduction of those bugs, just greatly reduces it. After exposure to those bugs for two to three weeks your chicks will develop an immunity to them. The problem comes in when the number of bugs gets out of hand. That can be fatal. This dosage of Amprolium allows enough to reproduce so they are exposed so they can develop immunity. That bug thrives in wet poopy water or wet poopy brooders, coops, or runs, especially in warm temperatures. You still need to try to keep the brooder, coop, and run reasonably dry but Amprolium can help reduce the risk of problems. Even on medicated feed hey can get Coccidiosis if conditions are bad so keep on your toes.
If you think about it. Amprolium does absolutely no good until they have been exposed to that bug. An all too common sequence is that people feed medicated feed to them while they are in the brooder before they are exposed, then stop the medicated feed when they are put on the ground where that bug lives. Then they complain how the medicated feed doesn’t work.
I don’t use medicated feed but keep the brooder dry and change out their water regularly. I feed them some dirt from the adult run about Day 2 in the brooder and every few days after that to keep them a constant supply of that bug so they can work on their immunities. That also gets any probiotics the adults have in their system to the chicks and they get grit from that dirt. I like trying to strengthen their immune systems instead of raising them on medicine. Since Amprolium is not an antibiotic and allows them to develop their immune system I don’t have anything against it. It can be a valuable tool if used right, especially if you have a history of problems with Coccidiosis.