With Mrs Leedle still laying eggs, we are still getting fertilized and viable eggs to hatch. Well, let me back up.
Last summer, we purchased 5 hens and a rooster (Leedle, who you know from other posts). Thanks to the dog, who has developed a taste for raw chicken, we only have 2 of the 5 hens left. So, hatching and acquiring pullets has been a priority, and I don’t want to wait until spring to get more, since I’d have to wait an additional 5 months for eggs and chicks. Right now, the incubator is full of Mrs Leedle’s eggs in addition to the 8 we hatched last month. I also acquired what I was told were blue splash marans, but I think they’re blue copper marans. They have leg feathers, so if anyone has any ideas what they are, don’t hesitate to let me know. Being a bit neurotic, I’ve decided to keep all 15 chicks in the house until fully feathered and until I can install some heat in the coop I built (the other 2 hens and rooster are still outside free ranging). The last thing I want are deaths from the cold.
So how have we been handling having so many chicks in the house? We have one brooder in our living room for the chicks that don’t fly yet. They get a heat lamp, and I check the temp constantly. We lost a 5 week old that didn’t grow right and a one week old inexplicably, and although anything could have caused those deaths, I decided to be more proactive about checking the temperature. I also added probiotics (which up until now I thought were just bs), and picked up a multi vitamin. I used the products recommended by Murray Mcmurray Hatchery, from which I bought my cuckoo maran. I think the probiotics and vitamins have helped. I read online that chicks will naturally get beneficial bacteria from picking at the hens, so it makes sense.
As the chicks grow, we move them into successively cooler parts of the house, so we have the additional 7 in our laundry room. I check the temp back there constantly too. We decided House Chicken (my lonely cuckoo maran) would be a house chicken with a diaper, and the other two older chicks are ready to be introduced to the outside as soon as this cold snap ends.
So far, everyone is doing well. The older chicks don’t get the probiotics, but they do get the vitamins once a week. The vitamins are cheap, so it’s worth doing. So it’s busy in the house and it’s an exercise in logistics!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.