Saturday, 13 June 2015

Taking risks

We knew after 7 days of incubating, at first candling,  that we didn't have any baby Normans.

I started to contact breeders (of the breeds on my 'wish list')  to see if they had any eggs hatching around the same time as ours.  I knew from the Norman experience that it is possible to introduce chicks of a slightly younger age to other chicks,  but I wasn't sure what the limit was on ages.

Eventually I found a breeder about an hour from me who potentially had 3 of the breeds I wanted, with their hatch being due 1.5 weeks after ours.  I lodged my request and waited.

The reason I wanted to raise all the chicks together was (a)  any that turned out to be boys, and any 'spare' girls, could all grow together and go to the allotment together.  Any 'spare' girls would bring diversity to the allotment flock;  we might even consider keeping one of the boys, to cross with our current ladies.   And (b) our garden grass management means that we can give one area over to one load of chicks and if they trash it, it has time to recover before next year;  we don't want to put a second hatch on the same patch of grass in the same season.

It all turned out to be a bit academic. The chosen breeder very sadly had a problem with their incubator.   However, they had another hatch due a week later, which had some of our preferred breeds in. This would mean there was a 2.5 - 3 week gap.  Was this too much?

DH and I discussed what to do.   Did we risk it?  Or should I just wait until next year.

Then Poppy went broody, and poor Gloria was on her own.  Poppy is an exceptionally broody girl, this would not be her only period of broodiness.  I decided to risk it.

The risk taking didn't stop there.

We had tested that we could run the incubator off a spare car battery and inverter,  and we went to collect our chicks this morning.  I already knew that one of he breeds I wanted wasn't available,  and the breeder had a gut feeling that the two hatchlings of another were boys.  I already knew that we would only be getting 3 chicks, instead of the 8 (2 each of 4 breeds) I had originally planned.

The place was lovely. The birds were well kept, each breed in a separate pen with no way of getting mixed.  It was clean, smelt fine, the birds looked healthy.  We were happy with the 3x4 day old chicks.   And then on impulse,  I picked 2 slightly older chicks, probably 2 weeks old.   So we brought home 5 chicks, 3 teeny tiny ones, and 2 tiny ones.

We transported them in the incubator. We had thought about using the spaceship brooder,  but decided that the incubator temperature was more easily controllable. Although the journey home took less than an hour, we stopped en route to make sure they were OK.

When we got home, I moved the incubator into the kitchen while we finished setting up in the shed.
TinyTinies: 2 lav araucana and an Appenzeller.   Tinies:Wyandotte and Cuckoo Maran

More risks.

Our biggest risk was that we weren't keeping the newbies in a completely separate brooder. Instead, we had enlarged (doubled the size) and separated the existing brooder.   We had 2 electric hens, at different heights,  we had the heat lamp lowered and more at one end.  We had separate feeders and drinkers.   If our new chicks are carrying anything,  it will spread to the other chicks.

After a discussion, we decided to put the 2x2 week olds in with ours instead of in with the tinytinies. Their heat needs were different, and they should be big enough to cope with the rigours of our bigger chicks. We beak dipped them, they ran off and threw themselves into whatever the bigger chicks were doing. All seemed well.

We then popped the 3 tinytinies in the separate section.  They immediately started trying to get in with the bigger chicks.   We had a discussion , then took out the divider, and watched to see what happened.  All seemed well.   If we had had many more bigger chicks, I wouldn't have risked it.  Even so, I was concerned that they might need to get away from the bigger chicks. After all, at 4 days old they would be spending a lot of their time trying to sleep.

We then decided to put the smaller electric hens inside the top of the spaceship brooder, and to cut a hole in a newly made cardboard entrance. This would enable them to get in, but the bigger chicks wouldn't be able to.
The tinytinies end of the brooder

The other end of the brooder

I popped the tinytinies in,  and they wouldn't come out.  They looked dead when I moved the hastily made shelter....but they were just asleep.  How quickly I had forgotten just how tired they get at that age!

I keep watching the camera and then popping out to see what's happening.

I'm nervous that I've put them together without a period of quarantine ; I'm nervous that putting 3 tiny chicks in with 6 (well, now 8) bigger chicks might be a bit foolish.   I am, however, very aware of  the potential consequences, so I haven't gone into this blindly.   In reality, even if we kept them separate, we would probably accidentally end up transferring anything between the two pens.  And we've put in the small-entranced safe place for the tinytinies to escape to.

Of course if it does go horribly wrong then I'll be wishing I'd listened to my cautious side.

Wyandotte and Maran, having a nap under the lamp (tiring day!)

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