Do you want to liven up your garden? Then chickens are really something for you. Chickens create some ambience and are very easy to keep. Besides that, hens are also very useful. They can give you a fresh egg nearly every day, and they are always prepared to pick at some leftovers from the kitchen. But the question remains: how do you start?
If you want tame chickens, you should start with chicks. You can get chicks in various ways:
- You have some hens and a rooster, so you let nature do its thing
- You buy a fertilised egg and let them hatch this egg
- You buy chicks in a pet shop and raise them
The chosen method of course has its influence on the way you will need to take care of the chick. In the first two cases, the hen will do it. In the latter, you are on your own.
From egg to chick
First and foremost, you need to make sure your chickens lay enough eggs. It is possible that the eggs are not fertilised, even though you have a cock around. It is therefore advisable to stimulate the hens' egg laying. This can be done, for example, by giving them good laying feed, such as Gold 4 Mash.
Aside from the egg fertilisation, it is important that the hens keep the eggs warm. This is called brooding. When the chickens are not broody, and when the eggs stay cold, the chicks will not develop.
How can you stimulate broodiness?
- Provide a brooding nest in the coop. This can be a wooden crate with some short straw or tobacco stalks. Tobacco stalks have the additional advantage of working preventative against lice.
- Put some fake eggs in the hens' nest box. Only when your hen stays on the nest, then you can be sure that she is ready for the job.
- Once your hen is broody, you can remove the fake eggs from the nest and put the fertilised eggs back in the nest. It is therefore important to collect eggs already fertilised before the brooding period, and to store them in a dark and cool place.
After about 21 days of brooding, the chicks should begin to hatch out of the egg. And behold, the chicks are born!
The chicks can peep, walk, eat and drink from day one. Scatter some chick feed on the ground to teach the chicks to eat when they are scratching around. Also put down a shallow water tray. The mother hen will protect them from the cold and other enemies. You can house the mother and her chicks in a closed off room, so the chicks stay calm. This way they are better protected from enemies like crows, magpies, jackdaws ...
Chicks need lots of warmth. If it is cold, or if they have insufficient shelter, you should provide a heat source in the coop. The chicks will gratefully make use of it. This can be a heat lamp, but there are also tube heaters or heating plates. In contrast to the lamps, the latter devices do not emit light and they do not disorder the chicks' normal day and night rhythm.