Thursday, October 22, 2009

Keep an Eye on Your Chicks, Part 1

By watching your chicks, you have a chance to catch any kind of situation before it’s serious. Checking babies daily is a good practice, but at least every few days or so.

The photo with this blog shows a young Rosie Bourke whose bands had become encrusted with bird droppings that attached to her bands. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s something to watch out for, particularly in a large clutch.

Our nest boxes have about an inch of absorbent pine shavings in the bottom. This usually solves that problem, and most hens leave the nest to defecate, so only baby droppings are a risk. However, some hens throw the majority of shavings out, preferring to nest on a hard floor in the same way that budgies do. (Budgie boxes don’t need shavings, and should have a round, shallow indentation in the middle of the bottom of the box to keep eggs from rolling away).

Our Bourke and Splendid hens choose where they want their eggs to be. Few choose the middle of the box, and are more likely to choose one of the four corners. Some like to be near the entrance and some as far from it as possible. Pine shavings, even if only around an area the hen cleared, will help keep the eggs together.

If you find a chick with excrement on its feet or under its tail, remove it quickly – especially under the tail. If he can’t easily defecate, you may lose him. It’s easiest to remove when it is soft and hasn’t dried hard, or built up over time. So, removing it quickly is important

Run warm water over the area to soften it and gradually “pinch” off dried excrement piece by piece until gone. In the case of this bird, she is sitting in a dish of warm water to allow the droppings to soak. That was easier and less frightening than holding her under the faucet. By the time I thought to take this picture, however, most of the material hardened around her bands had been removed.

She seemed to enjoy the warm bath. Afterwards, I carefully dried her with a towel before returning her to her nest box. This was also done in a warm house with NO DRAFTS.

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