Among the most influential causes of failure in raising chickens are problems with brooding the chicks after they have been hatched from the shells. It is not a very difficult matter to operate in incubator, nor to hatch eggs that are strong and fertile. Every machine that is offered as an incubator is furnished with complete directions, which if followed, will give, at least, fair results, if the eggs are of good quality. The big problem lies more in what to do with the baby chicks after they have been removed from the incubator than in what to do to get them out of the shell in which they have developed. The highest percentages of losses in the rearing of chicks are experienced during the early weeks of the chicks’ lives, thus making the problem mainly one of checking mortality and the causes of it among the baby chicks.
Causes Of Baby Chick Mortality
There are many causative agencies which, unless carefully and thoughtfully guarded against, will tend to increase the death rate among baby chicks and decreases the strength and vitality of the year’s flocks. One of the foremost among these agencies is traceable back to the parent stock which produced the eggs from which the chicks were hatched. There are hundred of chicks hatched every season which have little constitutional strength and vigor with which to begin the big task of growing and developing into mature birds. They ere, perhaps, just a pace ahead of those chicks which did not have strength enough to more than pierce the shell, but never get out of it. Weak vitality is undoubtedly inherited. Breeding stock which is not strong and vigorous will not produce eggs that will hatch strong, vigorous chicks, chicks which will live to maturity. What are the actual conditions among baby chicks that are the product of poorly selected breeding stock? In first place, the chicks are usually under-sized and small. Every chick that is worth while taking out of the incubator should be good and big and strong enough to stand firmly upon its feet. Sometimes faulty operations of the incubator, irregularly in its temperature during the progress of the hatch, and neglect to attend to it regularly, which cause week chicks, but in the great majority of cases the fault is back of the incubator, to be found in the parent stock. The chicks from such stocks will not only be small but will often be stunted in growth, uneven in development, lack “pep” and “ginger,” be the first to show sign of diarrhea, hang back, remain under the hover, and finally drop off one by one. The operation of brooder temperature can do little to save those chicks which have so severe a handicap at the very start. In order to avoid losses of this kind there is only one thing to do. Select The Breeding Stock, Both Male And Female, Most Carefully. Be in mind the all-important role of vigor and stamina in the production of livable chicks. Use hens, well matured females, which are strong and in perfect health, with red combo bright, active carriage, and businesslike alertness, combining with this due regard for records of egg production in pullet year, type color, and other desirable qualities. Select a male that is alike strong and healthy, with size and quality added to it. A bit better attention to the parent stock which is to be relied upon for the spring’s flock of chicks will cut down tremendously on the losses. No medicines or tonics of careful broodings can saw chicks that are not originally endowed by Nature with strength and vigor. One cannot repeat too many times the extreme importance of this factor in building up better success in poultry raising.
A second cause of baby chick mortality may be found in a perfectly human fault, namely the failure to practice selection and the very start, beginning and the very time that the chicks are ready to leave the incubator chambers and be transferred to the brooders. This cause is somewhat closely related to the one discussed above. Every poultry man that is actually desirous of having permanent success in poultry keeping must have a clear idea of what good chicks look like, and then we willing to sacrifice those chicks which do not measure up to that standard, never even bothering with them after taking them out of the incubator. This means that all crippled chicks, very small, under-sized, weak, and abnormal chicks will be killed and disposed of when the transfer is made from incubator to brooder. Transfer only those chicks which look strong and healthy, which have fluffed out properly, which have absorbed the yolk entirely, and which are on their feet. There is often a temptation to give certain chicks a chance. I believe this false economy. I happened to visit a Barred Rock breeder last spring during the height of this hatching and brooding season. I noticed that his records show very slight mortality and that every chick was strong, big and healthy. I asked the reason, and he told me that he had selected his chicks very rigidly every season for over seven years, never putting into the brooders any chicks that were not of the best quality. The result was self evident. Now he doesn’t have to remove very many after a hatch, because it has so improved the flocks that he finds fewer and fewer weaklings and cripples each season. He did not have many losses last spring. Many can learn much from this example. Cull Out
But all the losses in chick flocks are not due to lack of vigor and inherited strength. If it were so the possibilities of remedying the trouble could be relatively simple. The actual management of the incubator must answer for some of the weakness in baby chicks.If the temperature during the hatch has been irregular, one day about ninety or ninety-five, another day one hundred five, and so on, or if the air which circulated through the incubator chamber was dry and stale, not moist and fresh, as it should be, the chicks which do hatch, and the percentage will be small, no doubt, will be handicapped in strength and ability to grow rapidly and steadily. They will be first to suffer from brooder surroundings and the first to go through digestive troubles. Try to operate the incubators according to instructions, thus preventing a cause of chick weakness that is traceable back to your own door, and nowhere else. Hatch The Chicks Properly
Little chicks come out of the shell in a temperature which varies from one hundred three to one hundred five degrees F. Particular pains should be taken not to chill the baby chicks during the transfer from the first home to second, or the brooder. Many hundreds of chicks die every year because they were chilled at this home. Have the brooders in readiness before starting to change the chicks. A temperature of from ninety-eight to one hundred degrees is none too hot for the first few hours under the hover. Use a box or basket in which to transfer the chicks. Have it lined with woolen cloths, or other suitable material which will break any possible drafts. Do not use too large a box or basket, as it is best to allow the chicks to huddle close to each other. Cover it over with a cloth while carrying from cellar to brooder house. Remember they are very tender little creatures. If they are chilled they may not show the effects of it for two or three days, but then they will gradually dropped, “paste up”, and die. Chilling is one of the causes of a whitish diarrhea. It is possible to chill the chicks after they have been in the brooder for several days. The brooder temperatures should be most carefully watched. Gradual lowering of the temperature is desirable; it hardens the chicks and gets them ready for range conditions. At the end of the first week, the hovered temperature should be lowered to ninety -five, then by another week to ninety, then at the end of the third week to eighty-five and then dropped according to outside climatic and seasonal conditions. But during all this time give them sufficient heat to keep them comfortable, to prevent them from crowding and huddling together to keep warm, for in this way many smother, or are injured seriously. Teach the chicks that the hovers are the sources of heat and they can go to them when they feel bit chilly. Then live up to your end of the bargain and keep the fires going. This is an especially important warning where the coal burning brooder stoves are used. Many, many chicks have been sacrificed because the stoves were not carefully watched and tended to regularly. Chilling is undoubtedly one of the most influential factors in causing chick mortality. Chicks raised artificially under brooders must have constant care and constant access to heat, as they would under the mother hen. Avoid Chilling Every Time
Excessive moisture has no place in the brooder house. It leads to leg weakness and other serious ailments. The floors in a brooder house should be dry, high above the soil surrounding the building. A moist floor is not only damp and uncomfortable, but during the spring season is bound to be cold and chilling. Two inches of dry sand is used to great advantage in many successful poultry plant. This can be used either over a wooden floor, cement floor, or even a natural dirt floor, but the latter is not desirable for brooder house, mainly because of rats and other vermin gaining easy access to such a house. The ventilation in the brooder house should keep the air changed, without causing floor drafts, which lead to leg weakness. A little barn chaff or barn or cut alfalfa can be use on top of the sand, especially under the hover, during the first few days with good results. It is often desirable, if the chicks cannot be gotten out of doors, to moisten a part of the sand in the brooder run every morning to prevent their little toes from drying and cracking. Another excellent way in which to overcome this trouble is to sow oats in the sand a weak before the chicks are put into the brooder, keeping them moist thus furnishing a moist stop to soften up their feet as well as succulent food in abundance. Still another solution of the moisture problem is to store up in the cellar in the fall sods that have been cut from grassed plots, each one about eight inches thick. If they are packed together they will retain their natural moisture problem is to store up in the cellar in the fall sods that have been cut from grassed plots, each one about eight inches thick. If they are packed together they will retain their natural moisture and will be much appreciated by the closely confined chicks. Some moisture in the brooder is essential, but they should be able to have dry and moist runs, the latter being much smaller in extent than the former. Of course, the most satisfactory way to check troubles arising from cracked toes is to get the chicks out of doors early. This will depend upon climatic conditions very largely. Control The Moisture Carefully.
Toe, tail and wing picking, a form of cannibalism, if you please, is one of the most serious baby chick ailments. This seems to be especially prevalent in the larger flocks of chicks, such as are kept in the colony system of brooding. It usually seems to start with chicks that in some way have injured their toes and started bleeding. In some cases chicks quite by mistake grab at a toe of another chick and accidentally start it to bleeding, with the result that trouble is commenced. The sight of blood seems to craze the chicks. Sometimes a lack of protein in the ration is the cause of cannibalism. As a general rule the following suggestions will be of some benefit in trying to overcome this habit. Do not place too many chicks together in a small room. Two hundred-fifty in a room about twelve by fourteen feet is sufficient for best results. This will depend somewhat upon whether they can be gotten out of doors or not. Keep the chicks busy all day long. Feed their little grain in chaff carefully teaching them to scratch for it. Get them out of doors just as soon as weather will at all permit, after they are ten days old. Remove any chicks which may have been picked on first appearance, keeping them by themselves until healed. Watch the flocks very closely, looking them over many times a day. Place plenty of feed hoppers before them, in a order that all may be busy in them. In some cases an extra hopper or two containing nothing but meat scraps will help a great deal. Watchfulness Prevents Many Troubles.
Feeds and feeding methods are responsible for further chick troubles. Never use any but the finest quality of grains or mash ingredients. Do not over-feed. Never feed the chicks until they are at least forty-eight hours old and better seventy-two. Nature has planned for them to use the yolks which are enclosed in their bodies on the day they leave the egg as a food for several hour after hatching. Keep things simple by using a good quality commercial medicated chick feed (to help reduce the chances of Coccidiosis – if your chicks have been vaccinated for it you will not need their feed to be medicated) or if doing things using the old methods begin feeding mashes, mainly wheat bran, at the end of the first week, using chick grain up until that time. Keep fresh water before them at all times. Sour skim-milk was thought years ago to be the greatest poultry feed imaginable for baby chicks. They would start feeding it when you put the first water before them, the day they are transferred from incubator. Use a regular water pan. It is thought to be easily digested and keeps the digestive organs in good running order, enhances growth and produces strong chicks, besides cutting down on disease to a great extent. Measure the amount mainly by the way they eat and rate of growth they make. Use much common sense as well as feed. Feed Right.
There are one or two contagious diseases that cause considerable losses in the chick yards. Coccidiosis is one which is caused by a parasite and may show itself with blood in the droppings. Another is contagious white diarrhea previousy known as Bacillary White Diarrhea and now known as pullorum disease. This is due to the infection of the digestive system with Bacterium Pollorum and although most common in chickens can also affect other fowl such as Turkeys and Guinea Fowls. It is carried from one generation to another through the mother hen, whose ovaries are infected with the organisms, and thus any chicks produced from eggs are most likely infected. Their droppings picked up by other chicks spread the infection. As a precaution against this trouble, to put it in a nut-shell, keep the incubator chamber darkened during the hatch to prevent the chicks from picking up droppings on the floor of the chamber. Disinfect the incubators and brooders between each hatch or brood with a five percent solution of a good standard disinfectant. Keep their surroundings always sanitary. Try to locate the carrier in the breeding flock, either by trapnest or blood agglutination test, if the latter is possible in your locality. Chicks suffering from this form of white diarrhea will begin to droop after a few days, the biggest mortality being during the second and third weeks usually. Their droppings are whitish in color, and of a thick, glue-like, mucilaginous consistency. The symptoms of ordinary white diarrhea, caused by over-heating, chilling, bad feeding, etc., are often confused with those of this contagious disease. If chicks are purchased from off the plant use utmost care to get them from farms which do not have the contagious white diarrhea on them. Make inquiries. Look Out For Pullorum Disease.
THE EFFECTS OF INCREASED CARE
From this hasty discussion of a big subject I trust that every reader will appreciate that the cause of baby chick troubles are many but that they can be prevented to a large extent by a careful study of every phase of their care and management. It means being on the job every minute during the spring season. Every effort should be made to increase the fertility of hatching eggs, and to increase the livability of the chicks themselves. Then every effort should be made to take care of them in such a way as to keep them growing steadily, suffering as low a mortality as possible. Many chicks will always die, from unknown reasons, but greater care and efficiency in managing baby chicks will save many that otherwise would have followed the many that never live. ~ Willard C. Thompson