How to Raise Chicks Yourself
Sooner or later, chicken farmers will certainly ask themselves what it would be like to raise a few chicks by their own. As with any other animal, you will certainly not know from the beginning how to implement such a project and whether you will be up to the task.
Here, we would like to support you with the appropriate information and advice.
Which Chicken Breed Would You Like to Breed?
Information about chicken breeds can be found in various places on the internet. We have tried to write a comprehensive and informative introduction to the selection of the right chicken breed.
Besides information from the Internet, books are always a great additional source. There, you usually have compact knowledge at your fingertips. With regard to breeds, a look at the book “Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breed” by Carol Ekarius is certainly worthwhile.
A nice thing is, of course, if you decide to breed a rather dying out or rare chicken breed. If you are interested in this topic, you are in the best of hands.
In any case it is important to get informed about the chicken breed of your choice. Chickens sometimes have macabre, strange, funny and strenuous characteristics. The hen of the Amrocks is bad at raising chicks, the Bramah is really a giant and the silk chicken cannot fly. Which race will be the favourite at the end, has to be decided by everyone themselves.
Should I Start with Eggs, Day-old Chicks or Young Hens?
You have decided on a race and are now thinking about how exactly you should get started? If you already got the hen house but have never kept chickens before, we advise against fertilized eggs, for a logical reason: If you really get your fertilised chicken eggs to hatch in an incubator without any grown hens around, how are they supposed to know how things work in life? The chicks need a hen. It does not necessarily have to be the mother and also not necessarily the same race, but there must be at least one mother hen. Just to put the little ones in the hen house and wait and see what happens, will not work. The chicks need someone who teaches them everything, looks after them and shows them how life in a group works.
The same applies to day-old chicks. Two or three adult chickens should have moved into the barn before.
If you have decided about the breed, and you are just start keeping chickens, the best choice is probably to get young hens. Our interviewed chicken farmers advise the same.
Are My Hens Suitable for Rearing Chicks?
The Breeding Instinct
How strong the breeding instinct of a hen is, depends on the chicken breed. The breeding instinct of a chicken breed is divided into different categories, which are called as follows:
Strong breeding instinct
Cochin and Dorking breeds.
Very good breeding instinct
Asil, Dwarf-Cochin and Dwarf-Sussex.
Good breeding instinct
Old English Fighters, Dutch Dwarf Chickens, Indian Fighters, Modern English Dwarf Fighters, Shamo, Sumatra, Sudanese Fighters, Yokohama.
Reliable breeding instinct
Australorps, Deutsche Langschan, Orpington, Zwerg-Orpington.
Existing breeding instinct
Brahma, Koeyoshi, Totenko, Wyandotten – very different, but reliable, Dwarf Barnevelder, Bassets, Sebright (more or less strong), Dwarf Vorwerk (still available).
Moderate breeding instinct
Appenzell bearded chickens, German imperial chickens, Mechelner, New Hampshire, Watermaal beard Dwarfs, Dwarf Araucana, Dwarf Lower Rhine.
Careful but insignificant breeding instinct
Low breeding instinct
Amrocks, Augsburger, Breda, Castilian, Kraienköppe, Krüper, Nackthalshühner, Niederrheiner, Plymouth Rocks, Ramelsloher, Rheinländer, Sulmtaler, Thüringer Barthühner, Welsumer, German Dwarf Salmon-Chickens (German Dwarf Faverolles), Dwarf Kraienköppe.
Very low breeding instinct
German Sparrowhawks, Dresdeners, Sultan Chickens.
Rare breeding instinct
Appenzeller Spitzhauben, La Flèche, Orloff, Tomaru, Zwerg-Brakel, Federfüßige Zwerghühner, Zwerg-Plymouth Rocks, Ruhlaer Zwerg-Kaulhühner.
Hardly existing breeding instinct
Bergische Kräher, Bergische Schlotterkämme, Kaulhühner, Lakenfelder, Zwerg-Houdan.
Unwanted breeding instinct
Brood instinct not present
Andalusian, Barnevelder, Bergische Zwerg-Kräher, Bielefelder Kennhühner, Brakel, Crève-Coeur, Hamburger, Holländer Haubenhühner, Houdan, Italian, Leghorn, Minorka, Ostfriesische Möwen, Paduaner, Spanier, Westfälische Totleger, Zwerg-Paduaner.
Do I Buy Fertilized Eggs or Do I leave the Brooding and Fertilizing to My Own Chickens?
The answer to this question also depends on the answer to the previous question. If you have decided for a breed and have found out how big the breeding instinct of this chicken breed has developed, this can already be the answer. For example, suppose you want to keep crested chickens and breed offspring with them. You will probably have to resort to fertilised eggs and an incubator, because this chicken breed has no breeding instinct.
If you choose a race with a good breeding instinct, like for example the German Langschan, it is up to you whether you buy fertilized eggs or get a cock and let nature run its course. However, if you buy fertilized eggs in winter, there is a higher risk of having unfertilized eggs among those you buy, as the hormone levels of a cock are lower in late autumn/winter than in spring.
If I Have Decided to Buy a Breed, Where Can I Find Serious Breeders?
There are plenty of hatching eggs and young animals on offer. In the right season, of course.
If you prefer to inform yourself about your chickens directly on the spot with a breeder, you are well advised to visit a poultry market. The best time for this would be in autumn, when poultry shows are booming. A poultry show or poultry exhibition takes place in almost every small or larger town at this time of year. Information about the location and date of the exhibitions can usually be found on the internet.
For some chicken diseases there is a legal vaccination requirement, which are recommended to be observed in order to minimize the outbreak of possible diseases and avoid penalty payments.
A club or your vet can give you information on how or when to get vaccinated. You might find more information on vaccination or on general questions for poultry on the homepage of the Poultry Breed Club Index by browsing through their Index of Breeders.
Especially Marek’s disease should be vaccinated from day one, according to the plan.
But here, too, opinions diverge. Vaccinating an artificial breed is usually considered extremely important. Vaccination is carried out either by the feed containing a coccidiostat or by injection. The artificial brood with a heat lamp naturally eliminates the risk that the hen gets sick by taking in the chick food. With a natural brood, it is difficult to separate the chicks from the hen for two weeks.
Which Food to Feed the Little Chicks?
Of course, ready-made chick food is available on the market. Good and certainly bad chick food. However, those who do not want to rummage through the offer can also produce their own chick food.
Therefore, we have found some recipes for you:
- hard-boiled and chopped chicken egg
- minced fresh nettles
- always fresh water
After four weeks also grain feed and broken maize can be added, as well as a little cat food.
- soybeans or soy pomace instead of egg
- oat flakes and tender greens (chickweed or salad leaves)
(Recipes by www.lichtarbeiter-forum.de)