Raising chicks = tell me all

Lacuna

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So we are currently kicking our heels in a temporary house in Pembrokeshire waiting for our house purchase to finally get sorted and completed. I'm running through plans of what we can do once we move into our new smallholding. As a fun mini project I'm giving thought to raising some chickens. Now I've had chooks for over a decade and they've varied in age from approx 4mths until old age, so it isn't a new experience but I've been giving thought to buying some fertile eggs from a local seller and attempting to hatch them.

Could anyone offer some advise of what to watch out for? Basic Necessities I may not of thought of? At the moment the shopping list is incubator, heat lamp/brooder and a cat-proof pen to keep them in with feed/drinkers
 

QuantockHills

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your biggest problem will be what to do with the boys... you'll need someone who can dispatch them for you, as you'll always end up with loads... I'm a volunteer for 'Fresh start for hens' and we re-home ex commercial hens and are always being asked to take boys in.... some people are continuing to hatch their own, but have time and time again made no arrangements for what to do with the boys...
 

ponyparty

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I got day-olds - at first I had them in the utility room in the house, with a heat lamp they could go under or out from as they wished; they were enclosed within something (a puppy pen I think? Or maybe it was an old guinea pig cage? Really can't remember!) to keep the dogs and cat away. They just need chick crumb and water; think I kept them indoors until they were 6 weeks-ish? It was absolutely LOVELY and I'd thoroughly recommend it, they're just so sweet! I'm going to do the same when I get chickens again I think; will be educational for my little boy too.

If you haven't the stomach for dispatching the cockerels I wouldn't risk hatching to be honest. Although it's handy to know how to dispatch humanely anyway, in case of fox attack etc.
 

JunoJones

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I always found the eggs took longer to hatch than the normal stated time (from memory 21 days). Mine would take up to 25 days under a hen. Count your days. If they are not hatching within a few days of the expected date, or if most have hatched but some not, you may need to help them out of the shell. If they stay in too long the shell gets drier and harder and they can't peck out and will die in the shell. Crack open (very gently) like a boiled egg and peel them out, then put back in with brothers and sisters.
I did not do random eggs many times because of the cockerel dilemma, and went with the option of sexed day old chicks. From memory I think buff sussex is one breed that produces sex-linked coloured chicks, and is a nice smallholding breed.
I think you also need to turn the eggs, but I always had a hen to do that job.
 
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Heat lamp or electric hen, medicated chick crumb, knowledge of how to cull - not just the boys but the chicks that are for deformed with stomachs outside their body for example, incubator that turns the eggs, torch to candle the eggs so you can chuck the non-fertile ones before they get too stinky, somewhere rodent safe to keep the chicks ( a rat can take one easily), time - because they are great time wasters. I miss my chickens.
 

Nudibranch

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The males from the day olds generally ended up being minced, etc and it limits you breed wise. I have dual purpose rare breed which are good eating so the boys go in the pot at 6 months. They have a lovely free range life until then!
Personally I'd go for a good productive rare breed for hatching, otherwise ex commercials.
They should hatch more or less bang on 21 days in an incubator. I do find they take a little longer under a hen sometimes if they don't sit straight away - they sometimes lay a clutch over a few days before incubation starts so the chicks hatch together. Postal eggs usually have a lower hatch rate but I've had good success with them. I have a closed flock so new blood is only via hatching eggs.

Never "help" them to hatch. If the humidity is right they'll do it by themselves. If they can't then they're generally not strong enough for whatever reason. You can easily kill or maim them by assisting the hatch. I've been given several splayed legged chickens over the years, all caused by people interfering with the hatch. One poor boy couldn't even stand so he was despatched.
 
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Clodagh

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I hatch less and less now as I hate culling. Who am I to play God and take a life because it's a male?
Totally agree with Nudibranch, when I started hatching I assisted chicks and you end up with disabilities and going forward a weak genetic pool.
Something like a Sussex - proper pure breeds and not hybrid imitators, go through the breed society, make good eating and reasonable layers so you could do that. The cocks are not very cost effective but if you seperate them when they start being annoying and feed them on a fattening ration or lots of corn you can get a decent meal from them. Even if you only breast them out, if like me you can't be doing with plucking and gutting. Last load I raised for meat a local older man processed them for me, that was brilliant.
They are super cute. I am working with a friend on new colour variations in Wyandotte bantams and have learned so much.
 

D66

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I think if you buy the day old chicks they come vaccinated. Our last lot came from France, some years ago; not sure where they come from post Brexit.
Hatching your own is a faff and expensive buying all the kit if you’re only going to do it once or twice. You’ll need a rat proof, heated enclosure for the little chicks and a pen for when they get bigger.
Watching them hatch is great though.
 

Clodagh

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Vaccinated chicks are a bit of a pain as technically they cannot live with unvaccinated chickens when older. Although I mix vax and unvax with no problems, but my breeds are not prone to the diseases like Mareks that the chicks are vaccinated against, so a shedder is not the end of the world.
 

QuantockHills

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I always found the eggs took longer to hatch than the normal stated time (from memory 21 days). Mine would take up to 25 days under a hen. Count your days. If they are not hatching within a few days of the expected date, or if most have hatched but some not, you may need to help them out of the shell. If they stay in too long the shell gets drier and harder and they can't peck out and will die in the shell. Crack open (very gently) like a boiled egg and peel them out, then put back in with brothers and sisters.
I did not do random eggs many times because of the cockerel dilemma, and went with the option of sexed day old chicks. From memory I think buff sussex is one breed that produces sex-linked coloured chicks, and is a nice smallholding breed.
I think you also need to turn the eggs, but I always had a hen to do that job.
cream legbars are auto sexing as well.... boys and girls different colours at birth...
 

Nudibranch

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We have a single remaining silver laced wyandotte bantam from when I had a little group. She happily lives with the cochins who are twice her size, and has become my little boy's pet hen. She lets him pick her up for cuddles. If it wasn't chicken lockdown and all the uncertainty about movement restrictions I'd definitely get some more little wyandottes again!
 

Clodagh

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We have a single remaining silver laced wyandotte bantam from when I had a little group. She happily lives with the cochins who are twice her size, and has become my little boy's pet hen. She lets him pick her up for cuddles. If it wasn't chicken lockdown and all the uncertainty about movement restrictions I'd definitely get some more little wyandottes again!
Let me know if want eggs sometime. I have millefleur, porcelain and black mottled. :)
 

GSD Woman

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I buy my chicks from the local farm co-op. I've lost most to predators. However, I have finally, I hope, figured out how to prevent that. I did mail order 5 chicks and I won't do that again. I like the farm and feed chicks. They're sexed and sell only pullets out my way. I'm not zoned for chickens so no roosters here. I have a brooder plate that is safer than a heat lamp. The brooder as such is a large Rubbermaid tote. I have it covered with 2 wire crate dividers to keep the chicks in.
Unless you're going to try and breed rare breeds IMO, day old chicks are the way to go.
 

Lois Lame

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Not read all of the thread but I think if I were raising chickens, I'd look around for a hen who loves being a mum, and I'd buy her some day-old chicks. You can choose all female chicks -- that's my understanding.

And before giving the chickens to the hen, I'd give her some fake horrible supermarket eggs to sit and 'incubate'.

I suspect it's hard work being a chicken mother. Friends of ours did the whole incubator business when all our kids were young. I felt a little sorry for the chickens but I kept my mouth shut (I'm learning slowly).

A hen gets so much enjoyment out of something which, to us, would be exhausting, messy, pongy and somewhat stressful. Not just any old hen of course, because a lot have had the broodiness bred out of them. Apparently silkie bantams are a good choice, I once read in a chicken book.
 
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