Do you want new life in your garden? Then chicks are a great idea! You can buy them in a shop or you can breed with the chickens you already own. We gathered some tips:
To stimulate the egg laying in hens, it is best to give a laying pellet (e.g. Gold 4 Pellet). Of course, the eggs have to be fertilised by a rooster.
To brood or not to brood?
You need at least one broody hen to be sure of little chicks. This means that the hen is sitting on the nest to keep the eggs warm and to hatch them.
Good breeds for breeding
Not all breeds get broody as easily. A number of breeds known for their easily broody hens are the Wyandotte, Cochin, Sussex and silkies (see photos below from left to right). You can also have these hens hatch out eggs from other breeds.
Do you want one of these breeds at home? A pet shop is the place to be!
How to stimulate brooding
Provide a nesting box (e.g. a wooden crate or a sturdy cardboard box) in the coop. You best put down some straw cut short or tobacco stems. Tobacco stems have the advantage of working preventative against lice.
Put some fake eggs in the nest. Only when your hen will stay on the nest, then you can be sure that she is broody. Remove the fake eggs and place fertilised eggs in the nest. It is therefore important to collect already fertilised eggs before the brooding period begins. Store them in a dark an cool place. Please note: Do not store them in the refrigerator. The eggs carefully have to be turned two to three times a day to keep the yolk floating.
Tips during brooding
A brooding hen will go to the feeding tray less often, but she will take in a larger portion each time.
- Hatching eggs
Hens brood until the chick pecks open the egg and leaves the egg. This will happen on the 21st day after the egg was laid under the chicken.
- The "birth" of the chick
Chicks have a special egg tooth to break the shell. When the chick hatches, it is still wet, but the down will dry quickly and a healthy looking chick will appear. It is normal that some eggs are not hatched. Those are sadly lost. The chicks can peep, walk, eat and drink from day one. Scatter some chick feed on the ground to teach the chicks to eat when they are scratching around. Also put down a shallow water tray. The mother hen will protect them from the cold and other enemies. You can house the mother and her chicks in a closed-off room, so the chicks stay calm. This way they are better protected from enemies like crows, magpies, jackdaws...
Nutrition and care for the chicks
As of day one the chicks are able to take in a starting meal or starting crumbs (e.g. *Gold 1 Mash or *Gold 1 Crumble). After 5 weeks, the starting meal is best swapped for a growing feed (e.g. *Gold 2 Mash or Gold 2 Pellet). This ensures a balanced growth. You can give growing feed until the animal is fully grown. As of that moment, you give a laying feed (e.g. *Gold 4 Pellet), so they can start laying quicker and easier.
(*) The Country's Best Gold products are feed specifically for laying hens. Would you like to breed animals to participate in shows? Then our Country's Best "Show" range is exactly what you are looking for.
Chicks need lots of warmth. If it is cold outside, or if they have insufficient shelter, you best provide a heat source (heat lamp, radiant tube heaters, heating plates, etc.) in the coop. The chicks will definitely love to make use of it. In contrast to the lamps, the latter devices do not emit light and they do not disorder the chicks' normal day and night rhythm.
DID YOU KNOW: Rooster or hen?
The physical differences between roosters and hens become obvious only after a few weeks. The roosters often carry their tails a little higher and are sometimes a bit bigger than hens. As from the age of 3 months the roosters will start to crow. They also grow ornamental feathers, something the hens do not have. The rooster behaviour will also be different from the hens'. The roosters will have fights to determine the pecking order.