Norton Creek Poultry and Chicken Lore
Books from Robert Plamondon's Publishing Company, Norton Creek Press.

Success With
Baby Chicks

Robert Plamondon
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Gardening Without Work
Ruth Stout
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Poultry Production
Leslie E. Card
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Genetics of the Fowl
F. B. Hutt
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Feeding Poultry
G.F. Heuser
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Norton Creek Press Bonus Newsletter, July 3, 2003

Negative Mortality

Yesterday we moved a group of pullets out of the brooder houses and into range housing on our back pasture. These pullets were hatched in May and were about five weeks old. From an order of 150 pullets, we ended up with...154! In other words, our mortality was less than the number of extra chicks added at the hatchery.

Over the past few years, such results have become more and more usual around here, as we've learned what it takes to have success with baby chicks.

Another Example

People keep telling me that turkeys are hard to brood; that all poults want to do is die. We used to think that, too. But we recently started a batch of 80 Bourbon Red turkeys, and we're having no problems of any kind. Our turkey-brooding techniques are identical to our chicken-brooding techniques, except the feed sack says "turkey starter" instead of "chick starter."

And Another

In our broiler flocks, we used to have a lot of runts and quite a few losses to heart attacks ("flip-over" deaths). These have become very rare.

What's the Secret?

The improvement is due entirely to more effective brooder-house management. Even flip-over broiler deaths, which affect only the largest broilers when they are practically at slaughter age, are controlled by giving the chicks better care when they are small.

None of the causes of our improved results were very difficult, but they weren't spelled out clearly in any book still in print. That's why I wrote Success With Baby Chicks; to make it possible to find, in one place, the things you need to know to make brooding a consistently pleasant and rewarding experience. You can get an autographed copy of Success With Baby Chicks from me, or you can buy it from by following this link, and from other online booksellers as well.

Fall Brooding

On the PasturePoultry mailing list, the issue of brooding in the late summer and early fall has come up. I've been doing fall brooding for years. It has some advantages:

  • The weather is usually more chick-friendly in September and October than in late winter and early spring.
  • The timing is good for broilers if you want to fill your freezer with enough chicken to get you through the winter.
  • The chicks are brooded when the weather is still relatively warm, and the weather cools off as they need less heat. This is the opposite situation from spring brooding, where summer heat is often a big threat to the chickens.
  • Management is generally more pleasant because you're mostly past the period of brutal heat.
  • By brooding chicks in both spring and fall, you double your brooder-house capacity for free.
  • If you raise broilers, butchering is done in cooler weather (though with more yellowjackets).
  • If you raise pullets, they will begin to lay in February-April, about the same time as your old hens would start laying again, so you can get rid of your old hens who would stop laying for the winter and save some money on feed, or use the pullets to replace any winter mortality.

The downside of fall brooding is that the selection of breeds is much smaller. Hatcheries that cater to small commercial growers have Cornish-Cross broiler chicks and commercial layer-type chicks available all year, but other breeds will probably not be available. Many smaller hatcheries shut down entirely for the winter. I've had good luck getting chicks from smaller hatcheries through September, but you'd want to call your favorite hatchery to make sure.

September and October are both good brooding months through most of the country. By the time the really nasty weather sets in, the chicks are large, fully feathered, and ready for anything.

Because fall weather often involves wide temperature swings, you might consider building an insulated lamp brooder, which only takes a couple of hours, keeps the chicks warmer, and cuts your electricity usage way down. This brooder is described in microscopic detail in Success With Baby Chicks.

If you like this newsletter, please send copies to all your friends!

Copyright 2003 by Robert Plamondon. Permission is granted for copying if the material from here to the end of the message is left unaltered.

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