Needing words of encouragement...

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by BackyardDove, Jun 6, 2016.

  1. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I first started my attempts at trying to start breeding chickens in March of 2013, when I bought a batch of silkie chicks. All but one chick died from that batch. At the time, Silkies seemed to be very hard to find, so I was eventually able to get another batch. They all died at about 9 weeks old, a week after I put them outside, due to an unexpected rain storm. It wasn't until late-2014 that I was able to successfully raise a batch of Silkies past a few months old. Then, they got sick with Coccidiosis, which cost me two chickens before I was able to get it under control. In the end, I managed to successfully raise three hens and three roosters to breeding age, and was able to start breeding in April of 2015. I suffered lots of losses due to raccoons and possums(I live in the middle of town - why on earth would I think I'd have to worry about them?!), even losing one of my hens to them. I was able to fix this issue by enclosing their areas. I now breed Red Golden pheasants too, or have tried to at least, since I failed to raise any last year due to a protein deficiency in the adults last year. This year I fixed that issue, yet it's looking like another failed year at breeding them.

    Over the past 14 months, my hens have gone broody 15 times. I've had 49 chicks hatch. Of those 49, 30 lived to be sold/are still alive. Of those 30, I've made $130. I know this because I keep records of everything. This spring, I had 28 chicks hatch. How many have so far survived? 13. We've been getting lots and lots and LOTS of rain here in central Texas, but all my chicks and hens are safe, so I'm not sure why my chicks are dropping like flies. It doesn't matter if I'm raising them or if they're under a hen, they just keep dying. I haven't changed anything in my routine. The chicks were acting fine just hours before. I've also had terrible luck with using incubators. I spent $100 on an incubator, and despite working myself to the bone getting everything right, out of 42 fertile eggs I've incubated from three separate incubations, two chicks have hatched. 15 of those 42 eggs are currently in the incubator, and today is day 21, yet there are no signs of life.

    I'm really just tired of it all. Leaving town is a nightmare because, each and every night, I have to manually go outside and close all the doors to my coops and cages, and each and every morning, I have to open the coop and cage doors. The cost of feed is probably about $50 a month on a good month and I've been constantly struggling with rats due to the fact that I can't exactly put up ALL the feeders at night. I didn't start this for the money, but with the cost of feed, heating lamps/bulbs, building materials, cages, the incubator, buying the chickens themselves, feeders, waterers, and so on, I would not be surprised if I've spent at least 3k on these chickens. I am a 19 year old college student, so this isn't chump change for me. I'm tired of waking up every day, wondering if another chicken has died. I'm tired of being unable to enjoy rain anymore, since now all I can think about while watching it is if my stupid chickens are freaking out/killing their chicks over water falling from the sky. I'm tired of regularly tossing dead bodies into the trash. I'm tired of having to bleach all my water jugs every few months because the **** algae won't go away. I'm tired of all the stupid rats we have now, thanks to the chickens(I've even had to pay $600 in repairs on my truck due to a rat eating my wires).

    But, I also like to watch them walk around the yard and enjoy knowing that they're happy and healthy, seeing the baby chicks hatch under their momma and watching them follow after her. I'm just not sure if it's still worth it, because so far, it hasn't been. I kept at it, hoping things would get better, but it's been three years since I started this, and I just feel like a giant failure. The disappointment, the blood and tears I've shed trying to make this work, it's all very stressful. Every time I fix one thing, another thing shows up. Not to mention the only thing people want to buy is Silkie pullets, which sucks because I breed Booted Bantams, Gamebird, and Silkies.
     
  2. 3feathers

    3feathers Out Of The Brooder

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    I don't breed chickens and originally got them to turn grasshoppers into eggs. But I've become attached to them. One rode on my shoulder when for some unknown reason the rooster banished it. It recently died of water belly. I gave it a viking funeral.
    There is always some discouragement in getting attached to a creature that is designed as food, low on the pyramid and also a raptor. Chickens can be brutal to each other. You're going to have a lot of chickens pass through your life. It isn't like a dog, they simple aren't designed that way. The only real answer is to understand that and appreciate the time and success you have. The one time I left the brood hen and the egg feel on the floor and as a newbie I helped it out. Bad move, but I managed to nurse it and it was so much smaller than the rest, till something got into the ground coop and killed them. I focus on me saving it.
    Decide your reason for raising them. If it's a business look at the costs and return and make your evaluation based on that, if it's a hobby then focus on the success and decide if this is what you want to put your spare time into. I enjoy mine. I am also in central Texas and mine run on 10 acres free as a bird or birds. The other birds have figured out that the chickens mean food and they come down and eat with them. My friends give me a hard time about turning into a Disney princess. I'm a guy. sigh. The rabbits are figuring it out too.
    A possible solution for the rats: Use a raised coop and the rats won't be able to get in, but the chickens need to be able to fly up into it. Helps with raccoon, skunk, possum etc.
    It sounds like you lose a lot of eggs or possibly they aren't fertilized? Can the rooster get to the hens and are they receptive?
    Algae, paint the outside of the water bottle. You can't see the water level then unless you leave a band unpainted but the algae won't grow inside.
    If the mothers are killing the chicks try raising the chicks separate. I typically buy pullets and raise them then introduce. Although I did get a nice rooster out of a breeding mix.[​IMG]

    As for chicks deign there are several things that you should watch for such as poopy butt etc but I'm assuming you're aware of them.
     
  3. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I originally got them for the same reason, but it became too tempting to not breed them. I actually haven't had any fatalities between my adult chickens, my chickens all get along pretty well, but they can still sometimes be pretty brutal to each other. I didn't raise them for business, I'm doing this as a hobby. But these chickens are not my only pets and this "hobby" is starting to take a toll on my wallet, and I'm not sure the brief satisfaction of seeing a few chicks hatch and grow up is worth seeing all the other chicks die suddenly. I use to give all my pets, chickens included, a special funeral because they're all my babies, but there's just been so much death that I no longer have an issue with tossing them over the fence into the abandoned overgrown lot beside me, if my trashcan is full. In order to not completely go insane with stress, I have to emotionally detach myself from the chicks knowing there's a very real chance they'll die, which means it's hard to even find happiness in raising them. I really don't know why I continue to breed them, I guess because for some false hope things will get better and I'll be able to enjoy the chicks again. I can't raise my coops due to a lack of money, really the best thing I could do for that issue is replace my chicken wire with wire that's got less spacing, since the rats can easily squeeze through the chicken wire. But, again, money... As for fertility, no, the majority of my eggs are fertile. There's some eggs that are infertile, but that's rare. If you're referring to my lack of success with my incubator, I have no idea why they aren't hatching. The eggs in it are always fertile and growing, and usually fully develop too, they just don't hatch. The hens were doing great raising their chicks before, but even my best hen's chicks died. I'm not sure if it's them or the rain or something else. I even took the chicks away from the hens when their siblings began dying, but even then the chicks I separated would die. And yeah I watch my chicks, but I haven't found any reason why they're dropping dead. No poopy butt, they're energetic, drinking and eating fine, a good weight, feces is normal, nothing seems to be wrong with them. I didn't know that about the water jugs though, thank you for telling me about that! I have lots of spare spray paint, so maybe now I won't constantly have green water.
     
  4. keesmom

    keesmom Overrun With Chickens

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    You really should have some of the chicks necropsied to find out why so many are dying. Call your state vet and find out what you need to do the next time you have losses.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Again, money. Besides this past month, my chicks have never died for no apparent reason, it's always been because of predators or something else identifiable. Which is why I'm frustrated with breeding, I usually know the problem, yet I'm helpless to fix it. All the chicks who died this past month were no older than a week before these intense rains started, my hens who had older chicks/the older chicks I raised are fine. I didn't think the rains would be an issue since they survived a good portion of the rains just fine and weren't just a couple days old when the rains started, but the fact that only the youngest chicks died and we just happened to get probably two years worth of rain in one month doesn't seem like a coincidence to me. Perhaps it stirred up something in the soil, or the increased wetness caused respiratory issues that the young ones couldn't handle, there's endless possibilities. Now, I don't know why one chick in particular died last night, since the rains have stopped for the past couple days and I had been raising this chick with it's siblings myself, but it's possible it was weak due to a previous incident. I'm just tired of the constant obstacles, it's like there's no way to actually be successful at breeding unless you're a big industry. But I do appreciate your help, I just can't afford to send every dead chick to the vet.
     
  6. 3feathers

    3feathers Out Of The Brooder

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    Not sure what your coop is like but raising it is not expensive. Just some muscle and time. If the chicks are in the raised coop you'd have to block them in. They will not be able to fly back up. Maybe a timed door? You can do some stuff with a timer and an electric fence to discourage other critters. May be able to pick one up cheap on craigslist.
    Does seem like you have a high mortality rate. Are you keeping the chicks warm? No mite infestation? Maybe its the other hens killing them? If a hens decides no... they aren't very gentle.
     
  7. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 8, 2014
    Central Texas
    The coop that my broody hens are in is established into the ground. The only way I could 'raise' it is if I were to make a wooden or wire floor and somehow attach it to the coop's floor, since their 'floor' now is just sand on top of dirt. My other coops are raised, but the stupid pests are still somehow climbing up into them. As for the timed door, I've thought about doing that, but timed doors aren't exactly cheap, and I'd have to get at least three of them, not to mention I'm not sure how I'd get power to them without having three separate cables! I didn't think about looking on craigslist though. I do have an electric fence set up that I could use, but do to the limited size of our yard and where the coops are located, putting it up would be quite a workout, assuming it can even be done. Not to mention there are lots of trees around the coops, so it wouldn't take very long for the raccoons and possums to learn to just use the trees to get into a chicken area. I'm not trying to be difficult, believe me, I've looked at many options for what I can do for the chickens as far as rats and predators go, but every option requires yet another investment that may or may not work out. Until I see this hobby of mine actually starting to work out, I really don't want to put more money into it, not when just manually putting them up and blocking off their feeders works okay. It's a major hassle, but still.

    As for the chicks, the ones that I raised are kept warm. They're kept outside since my house isn't big enough for cages and cages of chicks. Of course, I leave the broody hens to do their thing, but they've done a great job raising them in the past. I don't see any mite infestations or anything. I'll do a little breakdown of what I think(or know) killed my 15 chicks.

    Broody hen #1(Silkie)- One chick disappeared a couple days after hatching, two were found dead on separate days in the middle of when the rains were still intense, the fourth was removed from the hen and placed with some same-age chicks but died suddenly a day later.
    Broody hen #2(Gamebird)- One chick was crushed by a board falling over. Hen and chicks were separated from the Silkies(I was keeping her in there because the Silkie area is bigger than my cages, but she was tormenting them) and placed in cage. Huge rainstorm hit and a chick was found dead the next morning, potentially because she freaked out and crushed it. Another chick was found practically dead the next day, again probably because of the hen freaking out(the chick's toe was badly hurt). The fourth chick was found very weak the same day as the third, it felt cold so I placed it in with some chicks I was raising. This chick perked up, even ate and drank, but was found dead the next day with no injuries. The chicks it was with were a couple weeks older, but I had watched them for a while and they got along just fine. There were no rains that night.
    Broody hen #3(Silkie)- Both chicks were abandoned by the hen and I found them too late. Hen had decided to go back to the high-up nest, where they can't reach. This was her first batch, so I'm unsure if she's just a bad mom or if the two broody Austrolorps that were in the area caused her to abandon them. The Austrolorps were removed shortly after and placed in an impromptu corral.
    Chicks I was raising- Two died after getting their legs caught in the wire floor, leaving them weak. The wire floor wasn't messed up, these chicks were pheasant chicks and they are a lot leggy-er than chicken chicks, so this extra legginess caused them to get stuck between the wire spacing. I found them shortly after they got stuck, but they apparently lost the will to live.

    There were also a couple more that died, but they died because the hen was quite stupid and was trying to go into areas her chicks couldn't reach. This hen was not my hen, she was apart of a 'wild' flock of chickens that roam the neighborhood, but she incubated her eggs and hatched them on my property, as well as I was the one who had to throw away the bodies, so I counted them. I have a lot of these hens who come over into my yard, but I generally take their chicks away soon after they hatch, for that very reason.
     
  8. katmoog

    katmoog Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Breeding chickens is difficult. I just have m ine for enjoyment and grasshopper duty.
     
  9. 3feathers

    3feathers Out Of The Brooder

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    I don't know what rain would have done to promote the death. I have 4 new chicks and they did fine through all the rain outside in a small coop in a larger cage with no hen and a heat lamp for the cold. The only chicks I ever lost were to preds. I put them in a protected environment with lots of food and a heat lamp on a thermostat. Are any of the breeds prone to chick death?
    Are they getting enough food? The one chick I helped acted weak and it was a food issue. You might try what I did it worked well, but it is a time investment. I only had to do it in the beginning and then the chick was fine.
    If one disappeared some predator likely. The rest sound like they are dying very early which I would have to guess is a food issue with nothing else to point at. The rain makes it colder so food is more important rather than the rain itself. Also raccoon's like to come out in the rain. Try this a few times in the first week or so.
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/930202/nursing-a-baby-chick#post_14191568

    The electric fence won't work as a fence setup. You need to make an unwelcome mat. Fur will for the most part deflect the zap unless you got a more powerful one. I use nails in a board and interweave the ground wire and the hot. You have to have enough space between them that you won't get arcing but if anything steps on it, it will avoid that area. You can make multiple from the same fence power source and put it on a timer. I've taken zaps from the hot to ground and ... it isn't something you would ignore.

    This is all guess work. A lot of the preds will also just kill them and leave them.
     
  10. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I didn't lose any chicks that I raised during the rains. The chicks I lost were chicks that were on the ground 24/7, with their mom. They have a sheltered area, but other than that, mom is left to protecting them from the elements. The breeds I breed have all done well with mom before. They should've been getting enough food, I refill the feeder everyday and more as needed. But they were not weak at all, which is the main thing. I've had food issues before, this was not it. They were healthy, active, and showed no signs of anything being wrong. Their bodies had no injuries, they looked like they literally just dropped dead. It didn't get cold here because of the rains though, I believe the lowest was about 80 degrees. They didn't die when they were that young either, they were about two weeks old before they started dying.
     

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