The Winterizing Baby Chicks Experiment

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Kelsakat, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. Kelsakat

    Kelsakat Out Of The Brooder

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    Hello BYC,

    I have just conducted an experiment and wanted to share my thoughts and results in order to see what me fellow cluckateers make of it.

    I have been doing lots of reading as fall ended and winter set in about animals adaption to survive their changing environment. I have seen some of the safe guards mother nature has in the ways of protecting her own many times through the years as I am the daughter of a farmer. I was curious what would happen if one was to hatch chicks in the dead of winter. If one was successful, then theoretically the chicks that survived might have a slight advantage over those commonly raised in spring when it comes to coping with the cold.

    I realize that this may sound odd (I do get a little stir crazy waiting for spring), but my actions against the common sense status quo was also influenced by the fact that my current hens have finally stopped laying all together sue to their old age. I miss my fresh eggs and dislike just getting some from my parents flock, which the new hens have recently have started to lay like crazy. My thinking was that if I could somehow hatch the chicks now, they would be that much closer to laying eggs come summer than waiting to hatch until spring.

    I got a dozen eggs from my parents flock as my start up. It is important to note that they have a mixed group of chickens, though most are red or black sex links. They have three roosters, though only two that actually do anything. The other was a mistake from Murray McMurray and is a little game bird thing that the hens have a fun time chasing around when he tries to do anything. the other is a gray silke and the last is a brown leghorn.

    I brooded my eggs in the incubator just as I would have in the spring or in the past. However this time only three eggs hatched. I wasn't expecting high yields by any means, but the thing that is odd is that all three chicks were silke crosses. That is to say that had the extra toe and the fuzzy feet. I am not sure what to make out of this. I am unsure if it was just my luck of the draw or this is one of mother natures safeguards in action. I can tell you that all the eggs were the same size (jumbo) and brown and were all turned the same way, but only the silkes hatched. They are happy and healthy, but so tiny I have to put them in a tote instead of my nice large brooder box.

    Not sure what to make of all this, but all the chicks are doing fine, despite the record cold snap we just went through. I do have them under a brooder lap, but with the cold they are living in a temp slightly lower than what chicks in the spring would have. What do you guys make of all this?
    I have pics of the little one below, but I couldn't get good ones of their feet.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Too early to say one way or another, in my opinion, but will be interesting to see how your experiment turns out.

    I have had great success in breeding on characteristics both physical and behavioral in my mongrel mixes so I don't see why you shouldn't be able to breed a winter-hardy strain. After all there are known winter/cold hardy breeds and they had to start somewhere.

    If you really want to get there quicker though you would have to invest in a seriously good mother hen who will nurture them through winter and brood in winter. Protecting them in a temperature regulated environment where it's always like summer isn't going to turn on and off the right genes you need to get winter hardy birds; if anything you'd just expose them to a brutal shock as they get older and begin trying to venture away from the heat into the ambient temperature of the wintry outside world. Too great a difference, I think.

    If you had a barn that's enclosed from actual snowfall and wetness, and an adept mother hen, I would think your chicks would cope. Dry flooring and a good hen go a long way in winter. But I'm Aussie so I'm not familiar with snow. We get frosty grass but that's about it. A couple of times the water's frozen over the surface of the troughs so we had to smash it with a rock. No snow around here.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    I've never had a brooder at as high a temp as the charts recommend. I lowered the heat because the chicks would consistently avoid the warmest area.

    I believe I've read something about male fertility being lower in the winter, at least in some cocks, perhaps an adaptation to ensure more chicks are hatched in warmer onths. I know you realize your sample is too small to prove or disprove this, but still....
     
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  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Did you open the eggs that didn't hatch to determine if they were fertile at all, at what point development stopped and if they had silkie toes and feet?
    Could be the silkie rooster is the only one active or the only one active and vigorous.
     
  5. Kelsakat

    Kelsakat Out Of The Brooder

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    I do know that the other rooster was active this last fall, as my parents htached chicks that were both regular as well as silke chicks. I wasn't thinking about it otherwise I would have disposed of the rest of the eggs myself. I was sick and sent my husband out to dispose of the rest. He only opened one and there was nothing but yolk. He only shared this info with yesterday though. I sems that only the silke rooster is the only one "active and vigorous" during the winter because his chicks are the few that could stand winter temps. Either way this experience has been a wonderful growing experience as a chicken lover/farmer. I could not be more pleased with the resulting chicks.

    They are full of spunk and are quite quick witted as far as chicks go. They already have their wing feathers, which suprised me. Usually silke crosses take another week or so to get their feathers. One even had actual feather the next day after hatching. I know it sounds strange. I had to double check myself as I have seen nor heard of such a thing. They are legit adult chicken wing feathers. They look quite odd on my little chick.

    I have named in Pallas, one of the names of Athena, as it sprung from the egg fully hatched so to speak lol
     
  6. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote: Not really. ;)

    I selected for a few traits including hardiness and in a short while had chicks which hatched with blood filled feather shafts for primaries already grown, and they had full wings by the end of their first week. Some had some usually small amount of proper feathering by the time they dried out on their first day. Some can actually fly.

    It's been quite bizarre coming onto this site and seeing birds that are months old and don't have their "wings on", which I'd guess is partly diet, partly environment, and partly the genetics resulting from those factors and other human intervention. Keeping them under heat lamps seems strange to me. I think the more naturally you raise them, the smarter, tougher and stronger they are in all ways, and this effect accumulates or snowballs more and more with each naturally raised generation. That's been my experience anyway.

    Some native birds, like bush turkeys/mallee fowl etc, are known to hatch young with full wings which can fly soon after hatching. Seems chickens are capable of that too, judging by how quickly the feathering occurred.

    Best wishes.
     
  7. Kelsakat

    Kelsakat Out Of The Brooder

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    That's good to know. I had never seen anything of the sort and wondered just what I had done. I don't like using the heat lamp and have been slowly moving it further and further away with each passing day. The chicks have not seemed to notice. I agree that natural is the best way to go, but I had no broody hens nor did I know anybody who had any. Except for my folks who live a ways away, we are on our own when it comes to figuring out solutions to our start up operations.
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Broody hens are worth a lot. Even around here I can sell a proven broody, who is an old, completely mixed mongrel, for twice the price of a young layer hen. Those who know their value rarely part with them.

    I've never seen worse chicks than those people hatch under heat lamps. I'd actually considered using an artificial incubator for those times when I have good eggs but no hen is broody, but having seen the results, I don't think I'll bother. They look quite bad, really. In my experience, a chick that starts bad never makes as good an adult, producer, breeder, etc as a chick that starts good. Start them right and it carries them for life, start them wrong and there's nothing much you can do, they're always subpar. You simply cannot put in later what never went in, in the first place, and these effects carry on for generations and snowball, good or bad.

    If you keep going with your experiment, after a few generations of it, you should see some birds whose vivid health and intelligence and robustness will amaze you. I would recommend you at least test using kelp, a pinch per adult bird per day, mixed with their feed, and see the effects over a few years. They may be so subtle you doubt or dismiss them, but after testing with and without kelp for years, in various species, throughout generations, I won't do without it.

    That's my experience anyway, but many would argue.

    Best wishes.
     
  9. Kelsakat

    Kelsakat Out Of The Brooder

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    Most of the chicks I've raised under the brooder turned out just fine. They grow up faster than a broody raised chicken, but since its winter right now, that's fine by me. I am getting ready to move them into the bigger brooder box I have in my basement since they have a good portion of their feathers already and already avoid the heat lamp. They will not have it in the basement.
     
  10. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote: What do you mean by this? Gain size quicker than one that's experiencing the fluctuations of ambient temperature?

    I've admit I've never been impressed by any chicks I've seen artificially brooded but they are more than adequate for many folk's needs, many folks aren't as fussy as me, and I don't have to grapple with a snowy landscape, thankfully! I forget that some people may feel offended by my often too generalized criticisms of some methods. I don't mean to be derogatory about what anyone prefers, just sometimes I almost forget that others have different standards and objectives.

    Each to their own. Chickens are livestock more than pets for most and when you're trying to grow your own food in a frozen place, whatever works!

    I recall one Friesian cow I saw in an old picture, a barn raised one who spent at least half her life in some barn in some frozen mountain in Sweden I think it was.... She looked like a spotted pig. Not a cow. Never seen anything like it. But she was happy, and brushed till she shone, and very, very clean, and plump enough, and seeing that pic I understood why our own massive Friesian cow, not hand raised, would nonetheless always lie on the ground on her side to lay her enormous head in our laps if we sat down. Because that's what the cow in the pic was doing with the little children whose job it was to tend her. I'd bet the most tame chooks we have probably come from countries where freeranging throughout all seasons is simply not an option.

    Have fun with your experiments, and it will be interesting to see what unexpected things result. Best wishes.
     

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