Ronnie Sillitoes's Diary 2023
The season started with the cocks being really fit and the hens following shortly after .
The first hen to lay was an over year dark hen, she laid 4 eggs with two being fertile these are due in the next few days as the hen was slow to brood so it may take an extra few days .
The weather is up and down with warm days followed by really cold days with strong winds from the west .
Temperature in the bird-room has been between 10-13 degrees in last few days
I set 5 nests between the 19th-23rd February, and apart from one young hen the rest are sitting nicely ,the hen that didn't sit is starting to carry again so I will see how she does .
All additives are stopped to the hens when they start building and only calcium added to the water until they have laid the full clutch.
The cocks are on plain water only, as they are in great condition .
This week has brought colder weather and the hens are sitting tight ,the early nests have a few chicks and feeding is going well .
I am using Easyyem egg-food with just a little added Niger and hemp and separately some finely ground up broccoli.
The hens that I sat last week have a decent fertility rate, so I am happy and hopefully a few more chicks next week .
Only the hens laying are getting calcium in the water,the hens sitting are on plain water only so as not to over stimulate them to leave the eggs. I've found this works well .
Temperature in the cabin is 12-13 degrees and humidity is mid 60's.
The cock birds are caged in double breeders away from the hens and are in good voice, but they still can hear them .
I have left the odd pair together as testers for next year as I usually run one cock with 3-4 hens .
This week has seen more chicks hatch off and the hens are feeding well, a few problems occurred through the week with hens being off their eggs too long resulting in a couple off addled eggs and some delayed hatching, but I am still happy considering the weather is really cold registering minus 3degrees C. as a low, and 4 degrees C as a high.
The humidity is dropping as the tubular heaters are drying the humidity up and I have resorted to washing the floor daily and leaving it wet which has increased the percentage back up to high 50's.
The older chicks are looking well and getting plenty of soaked seed which I put to soak over night and rinse in the morning and give it to them.
The hens are loving the ground up broccoli in the finger draws and it is soon gone.
A couple of the young hens are still playing up and not going broody, so I may try to leave the cock bird in with them, as this usually works, but I am sure they will settle eventually.
This week has had everything snow, frosts, rain sunshine but the birds have been doing well keeping feeding and incubating, the first two chicks a self and a tpd are on the edge of the nest pan calling for food and getting ready to jump so I will stop giving egg food in the egg drawer and use pecking boards and hopefully they will follow mum to feed themselves.
A disappointing day Tuesday, a nest with 2 full eggs failed to hatch and after testing in the egg buddy no heartbeat was found so I will leave her to sit while I offer extra protein to build her up for the next round.
For the first week in a chicks life I only give egg food,at week two a little perle morbide and a finger draw of ground up broccoli, finger draw of soak seed is added. I watch the nest for ill effects as soaked seed in my opinion can be a problem to some. If the chicks gape is nice and red then it is okay, if it goes a dull yellow/pink there's a problem ,should this happens I give a little trimethoprim sulpha powder (prescribed by the vet ) in the water and they quickly get better ,it's all about observation and knowing your stock.
One of my young hens laid 3 eggs and looked a little poorly (ruffling up) so I give her 0.5ml of neat calcium directly in her beak with a syringe, and the next day she laid her 4th and looked lots better this sometimes happens to young hens.
Overall not too bad a week .
This week has been a lot milder, and the hens with chicks have been feeding well with the chicks feathering up nicely.
I rung the first 2 chicks at the weekend and they are picking up and progressing.
Monday saw a nest hatch with 2 chicks, and Tuesday 3 more hatched and Wednesday a single chick ,the Monday nest had the hen feeding okay but the Tuesday hen not feeding at all (young hen first nest ), so I topped the chicks with A19 Handmix but the next morning she still wasn't feeding so I topped up again, and then gambled and swopped the Monday nest with Tuesdays nest, as the chicks in Mondays nest had grown and I hoped that this would stimulate the Tuesday hen to feed as they were stronger also this meant the Tuesday nest would get a feed in the Monday nest. After a worrying night I came in to see both hens feeding to my great relief.
I have stopped all extras to the cocks as they are bordering on being over fit where they will attach the hen instead of singing to her to call for tread.
I have added a little extra niger and hemp to the egg-food as the hens seem to be looking for it when I give the egg-food.
Soaked seed is going down well with the hens taking plenty of it.
I am topping up the seed hoppers on feeding hens daily as they are also feeding this to the chicks.
This week has been difficult with the weather going from minus 2℃ overnight to 15℃ through the day, just my opinion but the birds like consistency and we rarely seem to get it these days.
I've weaned of more chicks this week using Perle Morbide and egg food mixed together which has worked well, however two chicks wouldn't touch it so I tried soaked seed which they have fed on for 3 days now and look well on it, I still put some perle morbide and egg food in, but as yet they haven’t touched it, this is the first time I've seen this.
One problem I came across on Monday was a chick in a nest of 3 had its outer skin inflated looking balloon like, I sterilised a needle and punctured it on the back and it immediately deflated back to normal, the problem was probably a puncture in one of the air sacs leaking air out to the skin.
Soaked seed is the food most fed by the hen to chicks throughout the cabin with ground up broccoli second, which questions eggfood, are we using it because we always have? are times changing? Something to consider.
With a few chicks weaned the hens are building again and the treading has been good so hopefully we may get more full eggs.
As the weather is warming, I have increased the apple cider vinegar with "mother " to twice a week with 20ml to a litre of water to curb any coccidiosis which grows with dampness and warmth.
This week started off absolutely miserable with it being cold, wet and foggy for nearly 3 days, it’s something that we have to endure from time to time living so close to the east coast.
Chicks in the nest are progressing and looking well with soaked seed still the top choice for hens.
The chicks that are weaned are taking perle morbide mixed with a little egg-food and broccoli, the two eating soaked seed still haven't touched the soft-food mix which is strengthening by belief we don't need it as they look as good as the others.
The eggs set this week are mostly full and hens are sitting tight.
Two chicks which should have been weaned on Saturday are still in the nest with the hen laying more eggs and incubating but comes off periodically to feed both of them, I wonder how long she will continue with this, 27 days and no sign of jumping well I decided to remove them and almost immediately they started to feed and haven't looked back (sods law).
The chick with the inflated skin is looking well with no further problems
The fluctuation in temperature and humidity is slowing feeding of the chicks down, one of my theories is birds’ sense barometric pressure and adjust their feeding and time spent off the nest to suit.
But all in all, not a bad week with no major problems.
This week has been much better weather with good sunshine which the birds always perk up to although cold on a morning, the feeding has gone well with a few chicks rung and feeding themselves on Perle morbide with a little egg-food and soaked seed.
Show-cage training has begun for the first chicks and it's nice to see them showing a bit of confidence in the cage, a bit of string tied to the top of the cage with a bit of honey on gets them stretching up for it. Also baths have been on for them with some diving in and others wondering what they are but they quickly learn.
Soaked seed is still the number one feed for the chicks and their looking well.
I've set a few more hens for their last round and will check the eggs on Monday hopefully they will be full as they have been treading well
But if there not I will leave them for 10 days and try again my last setting date is the first week in May.
Keeping vigilant can save chicks so I inspect nests if I suspect something is wrong, as I was sitting quietly watching a hen feeding I knew she had two chicks (4days old) but I could only see one coming up I checked and found the second chick (hatched 12 hours after the first) starting to struggle competing for food so I moved it into a nest which had slightly smaller chicks for a few days and will hopefully move it back soon.
At 6 weeks old I treat my chicks for coccidiosis for two days to prevent going light even though their showing no signs it is important to do this.
This week the weather has warmed up and it’s time to treat the breeding team for coccidiosis as warm weather brings out breaks, I will treat with baycox for 2 days.
A problem occurred with a cock who was feeding his hen and chicks, he started putting his head under his wing, it’s very difficult to know exactly what the problem is but on observation I saw he was straining when doing droppings so the solution was half a teaspoon of Epsom’s salts in the water and 24 hours later saw a big improvement.
Another problem came when a single hen feeding 3 chicks decided to go to nest again and wouldn't feed the chicks who were 20 days old, so hand feeding began with a mixture of Perle Morbide and A19 hand mix blended together to form a porridge, I started with a syringe putting the mix straight into the crop but after 24hrs I started using a small spoon which after a while they accepted this and now doing ok.
Wednesday saw the wind turn easterly and although it was bright sunshine the cold east wind blows straight into my cabin door, and as the old boys used to say nothing comes good from an east wind and sure enough feeding slowed right down so I tried different things like soaked groats and petite poi's peas which helped a little but feeding is not as good as it was.
I've stopped putting anything but plain water in the drinkers so as not to stimulate the birds to go to nest before the chicks are ready to feed themselves.
This week has started off with prolonged cold and wet with fog this makes the birds miserable, so it was no surprise to see feeding dropping off to the point I had to top up a good few chicks to keep everything going using A19 hand mix with Perle Morbide added and mashed together.
A few days later the weather dried up with a bit of sunshine through the windows and the hens started feeding normally again.
With my season coming to an end with the last setting of eggs next weekend I am happy with what I have and will maybe try for a few more from the pairs producing the best chicks visibly as they stand, but we all know of the ugly duckling story.
I've added ground up hemp to the egg food / perle morbide mix as hemp is an oily seed and helps in cold weather which the hens are relishing but soaked seed, soaked for 8hrs rinsed and given is still the top choice for hens.
With the weather very cold the tubular heaters have been on keeping the cabin to 14% temperature but with this it lowers the humidity which has dropped to 40% not critical but it needs to be higher for hatching eggs so washing the floor and leaving wet is my solution.
The 3 chicks that I took away as the mother wasn't feeding them have been a struggle, but finally 2 of them are eating soaked seed while the other is eating perle morbide made up a bit wetter making it easier to eat .
One of my young cocks that I bred last year had gone into a moult possibly the temperature warming up and cooling down has triggered it but I'll keep an eye on the rest but it is concerning
This week's weather has been so unsettled it’s hard to keep on top of it but we must just deal with it.
The birds are feeding to the weather conditions I think and when it's cold and wet they don't feed as well but we have had a bit of sunshine and this helps enormously.
The hens with chicks that are 18- 20 days old are trying to go to nest and are neglecting feeding the chicks for the last few days but trying to give different foods helps. Foods like soaked groats (12hrs then rinsed) pin head oatmeal, dandelion heads and stalks, kale and finger drawers of niger with condition seed, just anything to keep them feeding. I also give more nesting materials to the cages to stop hens plucking youngsters.
The chicks I have weaned are 4 to a double breeder with a slide between with a 2-inch gap at the back to stop them flying to hard into the perches and getting stiff claw when spooked. They are enjoying the show cage in one side for half a day and the bath for the other half with feed in the other side and a dandelion head with stalk to keep them amused.
I always put seed hoppers on for newly weaned chicks and it's surprising how they take hard seed as well as the soaked seed and soft food to the point of 5–6-week-old they are eating lots of hard seed and I think this helps to harden them off ready for the moult.
Fluctuations in temperature is a concern if its real sunny and warm the temperature goes up high inside and then back down and if it’s too high one or two flight feathers begin to appear which is always a worry to see.
This week the weather has been warmer but still very unsettled, however the feeding hens are still doing well to the point most of the nestlings are feathered up and it won't be long till their leaving the nest.
One problem came on Sunday with a hen starting another nest in the old pan and plucking the chicks for nesting material even though there was some on the cage front, she is also refusing to feed the 20-day old chicks which meant I had to start handfeeding them which is not easy at that age. I mixed some A19 hand mix with perle morbide and added a bit of honey which they like and after some persistence one got the idea but the other one didn't so it was a syringe full into the crop usually after a couple of days, they start to pick up so we will see.
The warm weather has seen a few more dropped flight feathers from the unused cocks so if you’re wanting to use a cock hang him on the front of the hen’s cage for 20 minutes so he keeps interested this seems to work for me.
The chicks on their own are getting confident in the show cage hung on the stock cage so it's time to put them on the shelf and gain more confidence then after another few days a light spray to get them steady also a show cage drinker full of condition seed gets them used to putting their heads through.
All the hens are either finishing or are in the middle of incubation and I will not set any more now as the season is over for me and I will finish up on 60 +.
This week has been warmer and the birds are just finishing off with the last few chicks feathered up and ready to leave the nest .
Some hens want to go again but it's to late now so it's into flight cages as they finish for a well deserved rest with plenty of baths , I add a little saffron to the water to try and get them to molt out .
The chicks that are feeding themselves are getting a dish of pinhead oatmeal and soaked seed with a midday dish of egg food and perle morbide mixed and premolt 100 In their waters.
Cage training for the young'uns is going well and they are stretching up for the honey on a string is something that they like.
With the weather being warm coccidiosis and trichomoniasis is something to watch out for so a treatment with baycox for coccidiosis and Ronidazole for trichomoniasis is needed .
This week's weather has been much more settled and very warm which has made more over year birds drop flight feathers which is OK as my breeding season has finished.
My attention is now on the moult, training and singling off the most promising youngsters.
The young ones are having Premolt 100 in the water daily giving them essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy moult.
They are now getting pinhead oatmeal, soaked seed, soaked groats (8hrs) as well as greens and soft food mixed with perle morbide with calcium added on rotation.
Some of the young’uns are feeding on hard seed but I will keep an eye in them to make sure they are taking some of the other feed.
Daily baths are given and with the weather as it is they are straight in also show cage training is ramping up so they are left in Show cages for 1 hour then light sprayed with a product in the water called dyna-mite which gives them nice soft feathers it's like a conditioner for hair.
I am also keeping an eye out for birds with the dreaded stiff claw as I always get the odd one or two, but setting the perches so they don't fly hard into them is something that is important.
This week's has started with plenty sunshine and 20 degrees but ended with overcast 9 degrees no wonder some are struggling.
My week has been reorganising the bird room by putting the hens into flight cages and singling off the youngsters into the cage where they will have their moult so they don't get their feathers damaged by other youngsters which happens when they are all together, I also think it settles them down and gets them ready for shows with the show cage hung onto their stock cage for half a day and a bath the other half. Periodically I lift the cage off and put 6 out onto the shelf to give them confidence.
The diet used now is morning, egg food/perle morbide mix, afternoon soaked groats and green food and evening soaked seed. I also have a finger draw of pin head oatmeal in the cages constantly topped up.
Premolt 100 is in the water daily giving them all the goodness required.
The diet for the hens and cocks that have started molting in flights is the same as the chicks also a bath is constantly on the flight cages.
I don't use grit but I do give charcoal twice a week until they are nearly through the moult .
The perches used in the cages are one plastic and one wooden one to keep the feet exercised as they a different shape .
I have used 2 sets of fountain drinkers throughout the breeding season swopping a sterilised set everyday to minimise infection which I consider helpful.
This is the last one for this year as its holiday time, the weather has been cold but dry on the north east coast.
The are more feathers on the floor daily now ,with all the youngsters singled up I am starting to see their characters and type .
Some love the show cage but others are reluctant so a bit of string on the top of the cage with honey on makes them come in also a show cage drinker with condition seed in gets them confident to put their heads through the drinker hole ready for the shows.
A coccidiosis treatment is given to all chicks over 6 weeks old to stop any going light .
Then a monthly coccidiosis treatment is given to all birds for 2 days .
The stock cage perches are changed weekly but scraped if dirty at any time to stop bacterial infections as they wipe their beaks on the perch after eating.
Premolt 100 is In the water all the time apart from treatment days.
The youngsters have been taking hard seed much earlier than other years but look well .
I am starting to spray the confident youngsters in batches of six starting off with only a very light mist and building up to a soaking with a product called Dyna-mite which helps the feathers break out the sheath and soften them .
Good luck to all for the rest of the season and I am looking forward to catching up with you at the shows .