For many of us, winter brings a time where taking care
of our birds can be both physically demanding and, at times, unpleasant. Hauling
water by the bucket and breaking ice out of water containers in cold weather
is nobody’s idea of fun. Winter can, however, be a time when things
can be accomplished that will make activities later in the year both more
fun and more rewarding. Forever it seems, Midwestern and Northeastern farmers
have used the inclement weather to make repairs, make improvements, and in
general to do things that there was no time to accomplish at other times.
So it should be with poultry raisers. What follows is a “To Do”
list that will leave us with a sense of accomplishment and preparedness when
the breeding season gets underway.
Have your incubators received that thorough cleaning and motor lubrication
that will have them ready for that first setting of eggs? Have you stocked
up on spare wafers, wicks, and even that spare fan motor “just in case”?
What about that moisture pan that you know is about to spring a leak any time?
If you have a solid state thermostat, have you taken the time to protect it
with a quality surge protector? The surge protector can cost you $15 dollars
or less; the replacement thermostat can cost you $100 or more and an incubator
full of eggs.
Brooder Maintenance and Improvement
We all hope for a good or even a great hatching year but the question is,
are we truly prepared for one? Overcrowded brooder facilities probably account
for a sizable percentage of the chicks, ducklings, and goslings lost every
year. Smaller, weaker young birds always suffer when brooders are overcrowded.
Disease is more both likely and quicker to spread in such conditions. What
good is there to hatching more if the increase also means more losses? A wise
poultry raiser will have at least one or more extra brooders ready to put
into use in the event that hatches are larger than expected.
Brooders also require periodic maintenance. Wire mesh floors deteriorate
and must be replaced. Heating elements and other electric components deteriorate
under the kind of harsh conditions to which they are subjected. Water and
feed troughs can rust out and quickly become useless.
Pen and Fencing Maintenance
Fencing can deteriorate so slowly and so subtly that we can
easily fail to realize that it is no longer capable of doing what we installed
it to do: protect our birds. Wood supports rot, metal rusts and suddenly we
find out to our disgust that a predator was easily able to defeat our fencing
and birds are lost. Fix those pens not used or lightly used over the winter.
It is also a good time to sheath even chain link or other tight fencing with
plastic or wire mesh to prevent wild birds from entering the pens to consume
feed and spread disease. Flocks of wild birds can consume as much as 1/3 of
the feed we pay for.
So you see, there is plenty for us to do to make good use of the
“downtime” during the winter months.