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Feather picking in growing chicks can become a real problem if it is not addressed in the early stages. Feather picking can be caused by overcrowding, too much brooder heat, or even just boredom. It is often just one/two chicks doing the picking. More on this topic next week.


Never breed from weaklings no matter how good their other qualities are. That principle is true in all types of poultry but is even more essential in bantam fowl.


Always use distilled water in your incubators. Otherwise, you will deal with hard water and mineral deposits


It is important to keep in mind that during incubation,  the larger an egg is, the less humidity is ideal for it. I find that bantam chickens and Standard chickens even of the same breed and variety have different needs in terms of humidity.  What is perfect for the bantams is too much humidity for the Standards. The results of too much incubator humidity are bloated chicks which often cannot move enough in the shell to hatch properly.


Any time that new birds are introduced to a flock, there is some risk of introducing disease and or parasites. If one obtains the new birds at a "swap" that risk is substantially increased in my opinion.

If at all possible, "quarantine" new birds away from the flock for two weeks while treating the newcomers for parasites.


Remember that a freshly laid egg will freeze in as little as 20 minutes in extremely cold weather. An egg does not have to show a crack from the cold to be ruined.


Never set hatching eggs laid in cold weather until they reach room temperature. Some hatcheries never set freshly laid eggs for 12 hours regardless of temps.


Contrary to what  one might think, not all chicks and baby waterfowl begin to drink on their own when in a brooder situation. A very wise practice is to dip each chick, dukling or gosling's bill or beak into the waterer within a few hours of being placed in the brooder. Normally, that jump starts their instinct to drink and they can take it from there.


Overcrowding can be a serious problem at any stage of a chick or duckling's life but it is especially critcal during the first 1-2 months. Smaller youngsters tend to be bullied away from food and water and may even be attacked by larger birds. Disease also spreads much mor quickly when brooders are overcrowded.


The three most common causes of losses among chicks or ducklings in their first month of life are overcrowding, dehydration, and damp conditions in the brooder. We will go into detail about each in the next few weeks.


Be aware that if oyster shell is not provided when birds are laying, that the females will draw vital nutrients from their own bodies. do not depend on calcium provided in layer or breeder feed.


Chain link "kennel panels" make excellent poultry pens. They come in 6' thru 10' lengths and are commonly available in this area at least in 6' height. I even use the panels to cover the tops. Line at least the bottom 24 inches with sturdy 1/2 inch hardware cloth to prevent raccoons from reaching through and grabbing birds.


It is important that after returning from a show that you treat every bird which attended the show for mites. Once mites infest a bird, they can reach a level which is life threatening to the bird in 3-4 weeks if not treated.


Some people think that only white chickens need to be washed prior to being shown. In fact, only the hard feathered games will not benefit from a washing. Sometimes, such attention to detail makes the difference between winning and losing at the show.


Try never to go into  a breeding program in a new breed or variety with less than two males and two females. Having at least two of each sex available may spare you the loss of an entire breeding season in case the unforseen happens.


Believe it or not, mites prefer male chickens as their hosts. If you want to see if your mite treatment is still effective, check your male breeding stock.


It is important to understand that different breeds of chickens will have different optimim diets, growth rates, space needs, and hardiness levels. It is vital that prior to taking on a new breed, that one knows as much about their needs and requirements as possible.


Chickens in particular need to be sprayed or otherwise treated for lice and mites regularly. Some types which penetrate the bird's skin need be applied every six to eight weeks. Contact insecticides need to be applied at least every four weeks.


Because female chickens in particular are in prime condition for a relatively short amount of time, it is wise to hatch at least a couplel of groups about a month apart if one is showing for the entire fall/winter show season.


Not all respiratory infections are caused by bacteria. A significant percentage is caused by fungi. Treating a respiratory infection with antibiotics will not only not work if the infection is not caused by bacteria but the antibiotic can kill beneficial bacteria in the gut.


While I realize that feed costs are high, I feel strongly that the cost of carrying over quality birds as backups (males in particular) is well worth the cost. A year can be lost in a breeding program when a male is either infertile or is lost for any reason.


Now is the time to begin thinking about making preparations for the winter care of your birds. Think about how water will be provided, about putting heavy mill plastic on the sides of pens which will be used all winter, etc.


I have mentioned before that when one handles birds, there is an opportunity to accomplish multiple tasks. Each time I handle my birds, I try to check for parasites, see if the beak or toenails need to be trimmed and verify that the bird's weight seems right. If the bird is one I plan to show, I also check for damaged feathers, pulling broken ones.


Due to the Avian Flu situation in the Midwest, shows in IA, WI, and MN. have been cancelled. That means that breeders have fewer outlets for surplus stock. As a result, it may be easier for buyers to locate and purchase quality stock at shows in IL. and IN which are being held as usual. Make your arrangements well in advance if you want to secure the best available stock.


While poultry of all kinds love treats and we love to give them to them, we need to keep the" junk food" to a minimum. Bread, for example, is high in calories but low in actual nutrition. The same is true of corn in large amounts. Such processes as moulting, reproduction and winter survival all require a balanced diet for best results.