Need advice on running a sustainable, self-reproducing flock

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by The Kibble Goddess, Jun 27, 2016.

  1. The Kibble Goddess

    The Kibble Goddess Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 24, 2009
    Sylvania, Ga
    Y'all, I'm trying to run a sustainable flock of 20+ Buff Orpingtons. By this I mean a flock that is healthy w/o a lot of medications, that are good foragers, and can raise their own babies. I don't have enough resources to have separate breeding clans, so i do bring in an unrelated replacement rooster every 2 years. I have about 2-3 girls that go broody regularly, and one heck of a broody bantam. All hatch out about 8 out of 10 eggs, 6 out of 8 for the banty, and are good mothers. Last year i lost every hatch to Mushy Chick Syndrome. Figured that out and this year let the hens brood very clean eggs in clean, fresh nest boxes. I let the hens and chicks out into the main coop on day two, and here it is a week later, and i've started to lose one chick per day. They do great eating the tinier bits of the chickens feed and they get water in their own waterer and then they get diarrea one day and are dead the next. So i'm guessing it's still Mushy Chick. I've got them on Sulmet in their water for Coccidia and I'm off to buy medicated chick feed to try to save the rest of this hatch. Going forward I'm thinking I need a broody house away from the regular coop where the hens can hatch out their babies in peace and then the babies can be on a cleaner patch of ground to build up their immunities before graduating to the big coop. My garden chicken-tractor is occupied at the moment with 15-week old replacement hens that i bought before i knew we were going to have successful hatches. I think i'm going to move them to the big coop tonight, move the tractor to clean ground, and relocate the mamas and babies to the tractor.

    Does it look like I'm on the right track here, or are there other factors I should address?
  2. The Kibble Goddess

    The Kibble Goddess Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 24, 2009
    Sylvania, Ga opinions?
  3. azjustin

    azjustin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 1, 2016
    Tucson, AZ
    I don't have a lot of experience with broodies, but I think you're on the right path to help with the dead chick issue. The cleaner the brooder, the better. If you continue to have the same problem, finding out what's killing them would be a priority vs. speculation as to why.

    I personally don't trust broody hens and would rather have a known quantity (incubator and brooder) instead of worrying about new chicks. If nothing else, letting the girls incubate them and then removing the chicks until they get big enough to be somewhat disease resistant/tolerant.

    Just my 2c, worth every bit as you paid for it.

    Good luck, let us know if it works out!
  4. AllynTal

    AllynTal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 22, 2014
    Mississippi Gulf Coast
    I don't have any specific advice, but I do have a thought. I know omphalitis -- also called "mushy chick" -- can be caused by incorrect incubation temperature/humidity as well as an unsanitary environment. If you determine that the incubation period is contributing to the problem, you can incubate the washed eggs in an incubator to control those conditions while letting the broody sit on fake eggs. At hatching time, remove the fake eggs and put the clean, incubated eggs under her to hatch -- or hatch them and put the hatched chicks under her when you take the fake eggs away. A stealthy hand overnight can fake out a broody hen. If you think it's omphalitis, what to do is determined by when the problem presents itself -- before or after the hatch.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2016
  5. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    I have a similar set up to yourself and all my chicks are broody reared within the large free ranging flock. I do keep them in a brooder with the broody for a couple of days after hatch, but the brooder is in the hen house. My gut feeling would be that coccidiosis is the problem. I use medicated chick crumb from day one. I have a bottomless cage that I chock up on 2x4 blocks and the chicks duck underneath to access their chick crumbs to prevent the older hens eating it. The broody and chicks usually get put outside in the cage for a day or two after the brooder so they get used to the cage being the place to eat and then they figure it out after that and the broody hen will take them to it even if she can't get to the food herself.
    I have read that sulmet will only tackle one or two strains of coccidia whereas Amprolium (Corid) is effective against all strains, so you may want to consider that as an alternative treatment. I have no experience of omphalitis, so can't comment on that.

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