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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Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, February 21, 2005

As always, if you're tired of this newsletter, please scroll down to the bottom of the message for easy instructions to make your subscription go away.

Success With Baby Chicks

Yes, I've been pitching the same book for a zillion newsletters in a row. But it's baby chick season, and this book really helps. I've had a lot of testimonials. In fact, I'm my own testimonial, because my baby chick care really improved while I was researching the techniques in the book.

So pick up a copy of Success With Baby Chicks. It's an easy read and is packed full of useful stuff.

Did you know that baby chicks are attracted to the glint of glass, and using glass jars instead of plastic on your quart-jar waterers seems to get them drinking faster? This is just one of the many things I stumbled across while writing the book.

You can get the book directly from me, from online resellers like, or by special order from your favorite bookstore.

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Friendly Chicks

I've always had far too many chickens to think of them as pets, but even with commercial flocks, it's important to stay on good terms with them.

Sure, it's possible to pretty much ignore your chickens and just fill up the feeders, collect the eggs, and so on, but this isn't any fun. It disconnects you from the chickens, and soon you don't care anymore. This happened to me, years ago.

When I realized what was happening, I started feeding my hens scratch grain every time I went out to collect the eggs. (I take a bucket full of whole wheat and scatter it widely in the grass as if I were sowing.) Suddenly, the hens were always glad to see me! This was a good feeling. And it tended to get hens out of the nest boxes, making egg collection easier, and it got all the hens out where I could get a good look at them. This made a huge difference in my farming, but most of the benefit was inside my own head.

We have a college student, Beth, helping out on the farm. She's taking this to the next level. She spends time with the chicks when they are small, and offers them feed in the palm of her hand. Soon they get used to this and become much more friendly and will also let you touch them. She's doing remedial friendliness training on the hens as well, offering a few handfuls to the friendlier one before broadcasting the rest.

When you feel more connected to your livestock, you take better care of them, and feel better about yourself. A good bargain for a handful of grain and a minute or two of time.

Chilled Chicks

I got a hundred chicks last week, 75 Red Sex-Link pullets and 25 Araucana pullets. These were airmailed from Privett Hatchery. The Araucanas were fine, but the Red Sex-Links had been chilled. Five were dead in the box, and I lost a dozen more in the first few days.

The Red Sex-Links were smaller than the Araucanas. The whole batch must have been chilled in shipping (which happens sometimes, maybe one shipment in ten), and the smaller chicks didn't hold up as well.

When you get a batch of chilled chicks, some of them will die over the first few days. Sometimes all of the chicks seem fine, but then you find dead ones under the brooder. This is very distressing, especially for new poultry-keepers. There's no miracle cure other than providing the same excellent care you should be providing anyway. However, I recommend the following:

  • Keep the brooder house lit 24 hours a day until mortality ceases.
  • Feed scratch grains rather than chick starter for the first 48 hours, because chilled chicks are very susceptible to paste-up, and you have enough problems already.
  • Feed on single sheets of newspaper (rather than, or in addition to, using feeders), since it's more natural for the chicks to eat out of feed off the ground, and sometimes it takes them a while to learn to eat from feeders.
  • Provide plenty of warm water when they arrive, in quart-jar waterers with glass canning jars. Adding one cup of sugar per gallon of water the first time will help perk them up, too.
  • The floor of the brooder must always be warm to the touch when the chicks arrive. Keep the unopened box of chicks somewhere safe and warm while the area under the brooder warms up, if you have to.
  • Double check for the absence of floor drafts and rig up some kind of guard if you suspect drafts.
  • Crank up the heat a little. For example, if you are using an insulated lamp brooder as described in Success With Baby Chicks, increase the size of one of the bulbs -- from 150 watts to 250 watts, for example.
  • Check on the chicks frequently, in case something goes amiss.

The good news is that the mortality starts trailing off around the third or fourth day, and will almost certainly be over by the end of the first week. The survivors will develop normally.

Chicks that are not shipped through the mail tend to do better, assuming that you fetch them from the hatchery yourself and do a good job babying them during the trip (which isn't hard). But given the choice between a mediocre local hatchery and an excellent distant one, I'd go for the excellent hatchery every time.

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

Copyright 2005 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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Gardening Without Work
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