Friday, 4 August 2017

Natural poultry keeping...... hatching and rearing

I have been keeping poultry for over sixty years, hatching, rearing, producing eggs and table birds. It has taken a long time but experience has taught me that for the small scale poultry keeper natural hatching and rearing is superior to the use of even the most sophisticated modern incubators.

First invented in ancient Egypt incubators were to supplement natural hatching not to replace it. Of course if you are producing tens of thousands of chicks for sale the use of hens is out of the question. New incubators are expensive, used ones can be dodgy. constant attention to the temperature, humidity and turning routine is called for. Then you need heat lamps, a cage of some description and a draught proof vermin proof shed for 5 to 6 weeks of rearing.

You can safely ignore the advice in textbooks. Eggs can be set at any time of day either by placing them under the broody hen or putting them in a nest at floor level and letting her find them herself. Once she has settled down don't interfere. She doesn't need dusting with insecticide for example and doesn't need the disturbance of a daily inspection. She knows what to do.

She knows exactly what to do
During the first week the hen will rarely leave the eggs to eat or drink, she begins to eat again in week two, by day nineteen she has a voracious appetite for grain.

I put my broodies in a small coop with access to food and water, the coop is then used to provide protection from hoodie crows, sun, wind and rain during the first week of life.. After that the hen and chicks can rake about outside reasonably  safely and supplement their diet with seeds, insects and worms.

After 5 or 6 weeks the hen begins to lose interest in the chicks as they become bigger and more independent, the chicks are also integrated into the social hierarchy of the flock..... simple!

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