Snacks for 3 wo chicks?, Mixing with the hens?, & How hot is too hot?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by swirler, Nov 4, 2011.

  1. swirler

    swirler Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My nearly three week old babies (Barnevelders and Australorps) haven't had anything to eat except starter crumble and a little bit of boiled egg yolk and yoghurt. When can I start them on greens, and how? I tossed in a weed or two, but they weren't interested. Do I need to mince up the greens? What other sorts of snacks are appropriate at this age?

    (The hens get most of the kitchen scraps, fruit peels, cabbage, old vegies, bread ends, occasional bits of meat, blueberry porridge (their favourite!), and weeds and gone-to-seed green veg from the garden.)

    Also, when can I let them mix with the hens? They're under lights in the grower hutch in the chookshed, but it's been on the cool side so I haven't taken the towels off the side of the hutch yet.

    The weather should warm up pretty fast from here, though. Which brings me to my last question: how hot is too hot? If the shed gets overly hot for them, we'll need to build a little ladder to let them up out of it (there's a big step up to the chooks' outside area), and more importantly we'll need to chick-seal that outside area, which might take a bit of work. So I'd rather keep them in the shed till they're a fair bit bigger, so long as it's not going to get too hot for them. The shed has through-ventilation, but the weather here hits the high thirties in December, sometimes to over forty around Xmastime.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Obviously you are in the southern hemisphere. I'll envy you for the next four months. And to convert for others, 30C = 86F. 40C = 104F.

    3 week old chicks can eat practically anything an adult can eat, with the exception that some things are just too big for them to swallow. But you'd be surprised at what they can swallow. A couple of warnings. To digest many things, like greens and grains, they need grit. They don't have teeth so they grind things in their gizzard. Heck, you probably already know all this. You can buy commercial chick grit, which is just granite crumbles, or you can use coarse sand or small pebbles. I generally just take sandy dirt from the run or sand and small gravel from my gravel driveway. Some people cut a piece of sod and put that in there for them. They get greens and grit both that way. If they eat stuff they can't grind up in the gizzard, the stuff will not be digested and they can get an impacted gizzard. That means stuff can't leave the gizzard, it eventually builds up and blocks their system, and they die.

    The other warning is that they should not eat long strands of stuff, like grass. If the strands are too long, it can get balled up in their crop and cause an impacted crop, which works much the same as an impacted gizzard. If you notice this, it can maybe be treated, but it can also be fatal. So if you feed them greens especially, they need to be either minced as you said, or in large enough pieces still on the stalk that they can break off smaller pieces like they do when free ranging.

    How hot is too hot? Good question. They can certainly handle cold better than hot. I had a hen die in about 40C weather this summer while laying an egg. I don't know what your coop looks like or how hot it gets in there. Through ventilation is not enough. Hot air rises. You need ventilation at the top so the hot air can get out. I don't have a good answer as to how hot is too hot, but give them good ventilation, shade if possible, and plenty of water.

    When can you mix chicks with hens? This is going to be even longer than the other answers, so I apologize in advance. We all have different circumstances and different experiences, so I am real reluctant to tell you what to do. Maybe by trying to help you understand what the issues are, you can come up with the strategy that is best for you.

    Broody hens often wean their chicks as early as 4 to 5 weeks of age. These chicks are fully integrated with the flock and usually get along. You don't have to wait until they are grown, but they will still have issues. For some people, especially if space is tight, it might be better to wait.

    The first thing to worry about is pure integration. Chickens are territorial and will often defend their territory from any chickens of any size that they don't think belongs there. You'd think this would be the rooster's job, and sometimes it is, but with mine it has always been hens. This is where housing them side by side where they can see each other for a while is really good. After a week or two, the other chickens accept that these new chickens have a right to be there. You may still have a chicken, usually a hen, that seeks out to destroy. Some chickens are just brutes, but this is usually not a problem if they have been housed side by side for a while. Sometimes this does not happen at all and the old flock immediately accepts the new chickens. Sometimes this part goes so smoothly you wonder what the concern was, but sometimes it can get really bad.

    Even after the new chickens are accepted into the flock, you still have the pecking order issues. A more mature chicken is always higher up in the pecking order than an immature chicken. If a lower ranking chicken invades the personal space of a higher ranking chicken, the higher chicken is perfectly within its rights to peck the other to enforce its rights. Usually, intimidation works and the lower ranked one runs away. All is again well in the world of chickens. But if the lower ranked does not run away, this is considered a challenge and the higher ranked can get pretty violent while enforcing her rights. This is usually a hen or a non-dominant rooster. This is where room to get away and places to hide become important. You can have chickens that seek and destroy in the pecking order business, but usually intimidation is all it takes.

    A quick story to demonstrate. I've seen two week old chicks being raised by a broody eat side by side with adults. Sometimes the adults ignore the chicks, but after a while, one will usually peck a chick to remind them it is bad manners to eat with your betters. The chick runs back to Mama as fast as little legs and wings can get them. Mama generally ignores this behavior. That chick needed to be taught a lesson on flock etiquette. But if that hen tries to chase the chick to do damage, Mama gets enraged and teaches that hen a lesson. Sometimes it takes a little violence to maintain peace in a flock.

    Some things you can do to help reduce your risk when you mix the two flocks. Provide separate eating and drinking places to reduce potential conflict areas. Give the chicks a way to get away from the older chickens. This may be perches or things to hide under or behind. Mine free range, so the chicks find a place well away from the adults to hang out.

    For mine, one area of high conflict is on the roosts, once they start roosting. Sometimes, but not always, one or two hens take it upon themselves to make life miserable for the lower ranked chickens on the roosts. It has been so bad, both with broody and brooder raised chicks, that the chicks start looking for safer places to sleep, maybe in the nest boxes or even outside the coop. I put up extra roosts, higher than the nest boxes but lower and away from the main roosts, to give them a place to go until they get mature enough to make their way on the main roosts.

    We are all going to have different strategies because we have different circumstances and experiences. Hope you can find the right strategy for you.
     
  3. mommto3kiddos

    mommto3kiddos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mine are a week old and broody has been taking them out to snack on grass.. Maybe cut a small square of dirt/grass from your yard and throw it into the brooder. Gives them fun play food and grit.. I did this for my brooder chicks this past spring....
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2011
  4. SA newbie

    SA newbie Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi there, my chicks are now 5 weeks old and have been in their tractor since they were 2 wks. They munch pretty much anything, including me if I stand still too long. If you are in the SH then they should be able to go out now. Agree with others, introduce slowly over a few wks!
    As for too hot - I lost 3 17wk old pullets and a roo to the heat last week- 35 deg C. So rather be careful and replenish water 3x a day in such heat. If near 40 put a few ice blocks in the water to cool it as the water easily reaches bath temps in that heat? Where are you? I'm in South Africa!
     
  5. swirler

    swirler Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Long answers are good! Sounds like we're on about the right track. I've got frozen soft drink bottles/ice packs ready to be inserted into the drinkers, and watermelon chunks frozen off as well. I might set up a sprinkler out there to turn on for a minute or two now and then - we've a full rainwater tank out back, so at least it won't be precious scheme water.

    With the socialising, our current plan is to open a chick-sized door in the grower hutch when they're old enough, so that the chicks have somewhere to run if they need to. We've also set up a couple of bolt-holes in the outdoor pens. And we've plans to build a set of lower-ranged roosts, but haven't quite got around to that yet.

    I'll have to try to find some lawn to dig up! Maybe borrow some from the neighbours or a tucked-away bit of verge [​IMG] We've replaced all ours with lippia and mulched gardens.

    SA newbie, I'm in suburban Perth.
     
  6. Atlantakycklingar

    Atlantakycklingar Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I don't know if that's common practice, but that's brilliant. (I'm a total newbie)
     

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