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Lou's Tips

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When using an incubator to hatch either waterfowl or chickens, do not turn the eggs for at least the last three days of the incubation cycle. That will allow the embryo to position itself for proper pipping of the shell and will lead to better hatches.


Ducklings and goslings must be protected from thunder showers well after they are feathered. Ideally, a rain shelter should be provided close by their pasture/pen. The first thunder shower that they experience may well send young birds into a panic.


Ducklings and goslings grow at a fantastic rate. The amount of space each young bird needs basically doubles every 10 days so plenty of brooder/pen space is needed as the crop grows. Crowding them will bring trouble in several forms.


It is easy to get into the habit of helping ducklings in particular out of the shell when they can't seem to hatch by themselves. Big mistake. First, you should be determining why they do not hatch normally as that is the main problem. Second, you do not want a bunch of weaklings down the road as breeders.


To be sure where your best young birds came from you need to record matings and web mark ducklings, goslings, or chicks.


Resist the tempation to open the incubator during a hatch until it is completed. Opening the machine allows moisture to escape and adversely affects the chicks/ducklings ability to hatch. That is even more critical for waterfowl than for chicks because the hatching process is longer and more difficult.


With any type of hatching eggs, allow the eggs to rest (don't turn them) for three days prior to hatching to allow the youngsters to adjust their postion so that they can pip the eggs.


Overcrowding probably causes more losses than any other factor when raising chicks, ducklings, or goslings. The reason is because it stresses the weakest among the young birds, encourages feather picking and other types of bullying behavior.


Even young chicks need grit to digest their food. I use grit designed for cage birds in the chick's first few weeks of life.


All mite control sprays are not effective and if you use the wrong one, the lack of control could pose a serious threat to chickens in particular. I know from experience that Adams Flea Off spray, Absorbine Ultra Shield, and Sevin spray and powder all are effective. Of those products, Ultra Shield is perhaps the longest lasting but it will stain the feathers of white birds.


Resist the temptation to set any hatching eggs which are mishappen or which have porous shells, no matter how good the birds they came from.  Not doing so is likely to encourage more such poor quality eggs. Egg quality can be transmittable from one generation of birds to the next.


When collecting waterfowl hatching eggs, do not use soap/water to clean them unless absolutely necessary as the washing washes off the protective coating. Use a slightly abrasive pad to remove the dirt.


Breeding birds (waterfowl and chickens) should not start the breeding season in a fattened condition. If they do, fertility can be severely reduced, particularly in heavy breeds such as Rouen ducks and Toulouse geese as well as chicken breeds such as Cochins.


Some breeders find that trimming the heavy feathers above and below the vents of males and females aid in improving fertility.


One key to consistent good fertility is choosing the right number of females each male can handle. That number would vary greatly depending upon breed. Heavier breeds (chickens and waterfowl) usually have a lower male/female ratio. I do not recommend more than one male per mating.


It is important from the standpoint of fertility to put matings together several weeks before eggs are wanted if at all possible. Relationships particularly among the females must be sorted out and that takes some time.


When poultry (including waterfowl) are kept inside during the winter, it is important to provide grit for the birds to allow their digestive systems to function properly.


Be extremely careful in using artificial light around flocks of waterfowl during the winter. Even the use of one lightbulb in their shelters can cause them to lay out of season. Even infrared heat lamps can cause waterfowl to go into production.


Winter is the one time of the year when corn is a significant part of my bird's diets. The high fat content in corn helps them keep their weight up even in sub zero cold.


This is an excellent time of the year to make sure that medications and vaccines that you are storing have not exceeded their shelf life. It is also a good time to reorder those supplies that have been depleted but will be needed later: incubator wafers, etc.


Do not neglect to keep rodents under good control  during the winter. They not only carry disease but they steal large amounts of feed. There are new products on the market that are much better than the Warfarin based ones. The Tomcat line has worked well for me.


More on winter chores. Water is the one basic necessity that flock owners are most likely to shortchange during the winter. If ice must be knocked out of each water cup, for example, it is pretty easy to talk ones self into providing that unfrozen water once per day instead of 2-3 times. Frozen water is simply unavailable to the birds. You might as well be giving them none at all.  because they will eat less, the birds gradually lose weight.and bone chilling cold becomes


Do whatever you can to make caring for your birds in winter more convenient and less labor intensive. The harder it is to perform the basic tasks involved in feeding and watering, the more likely is the caretaker to take short cuts to get those chores out of the way more quickly.


Now is the time that matings should be constructed whether they be waterfowl or chickens. Don't expect instant fertility if the birds are just thrown together. Matings together for several weeks prior to when egg production begins will, on the whole, produce better results.


Tip for White Call exhibitors: If you put your birds into a tub of clean water prior to a show to allow them to bathe, add enough bluing to give the water a faint bluish tint. Doing so will lessen or eliminate a yellow cast to their plumage. Warning: Do not use bluing if there is any soap in the water as it will allow the bluing to permanently stain the plumage.