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Chick raising advice

Jessica Windle

Joined: Mar 22, 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Kimberley, BC Canada ZONE 3
I have a couple of hens sitting on fertilized eggs, estimated to hatch next Thursday. This is my first time raising chicks, although I've had a small flock of 6 layers for a year now.

My local farm store is trying to sell me medicated feed for the chicks because they won't be vaccinated. They also recommend some germ-be-gone something or other for the water... with my hens I've always just put some apple cider vinegar in their water and they've been healthy. I'd like to keep them as organic as possible, can anyone recommend an alternative feed Any other tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated!

Dreams don't work unless you do
Kat deZwart

Joined: Aug 13, 2011
Posts: 103
Location: Limburg, Netherlands, sandy loam
If you search for "chicken" on these forums you'll find a treasuretrove of information.

My hens (I have dutch dwarfhens with some silkyblood mixed in, 4 and a rooster, the original flock were strays that turned up in my garden one sunny morning) raised a few chicks on their own last year. I keep my hens in an enclosure, as I live next (and I mean really next) to an interstate and my chickens like to cross the road (problably to visit my neighbours flock). I fed the chicklets nothing different than the big ones and they turned out just fine. I buy some biodynamic feed and grain of a local biodynamic farmer. The feed is a fine mix and they did fine on it. Protein (in the summer flies and bugs enough, in the winter whatever I can get my hands on) get chucked in, I fill the enclosure with the weeds from my garden and they scratch seeds and bugs from that too. If the oregano (a local weed) gets out of hand, they get that too, it's a good dewormer. Every once in a while I fill a bath with diathemous earth for them to get rid of external parasites.

For drinks I get them fresh, clean water everyday.

That's it. No tricks (vinegar, garlic).

Except for a problem with scaly mites they alreay had when they came here (some are more succeptible than others) they are healthy as horses.
Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5320
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
I make feed for my chicks by grinding whole sunflower seeds, whole oats, and mixed birdseed in a hand grinder. I also give them a handful of worm compost each day, or a handful of composty garden soil and some chopped fresh greens. Gradually increasing the amounts as they grow. Medicated feed is a huge mistake, in my opinion.

Idle dreamer

John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5837
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
I also disagree with the use of medicated feed.

Chicks naturally brooded by their mother will inherit natural immunity from her.
If chicks are fed medicated feed, they can become dependent on it, as they do not develop their own immunities.

It might be useful in a factory farm, where they are very tightly confined with large flocks.
Such confined birds are prone to diseases, and one sick bird can kill thousands.

Worming chicks is the same thing.
A routine worming program will render the birds unable to naturally stay worm-free.
They become dependent on the medicine to maintain themselves.

Since your flock is feral natives, they should be well adapted to your neighborhood.
Leave them alone, and nature should take care of them.

Good luck with your flock.
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3464
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
I don't know anyone who's chickens have become sick because they didn't use medicated food.
On a side note, I'd be careful about dosing chickens constantly with cider vinegar; apparently it can kill off beneficial gut flora and it's a good idea to 'dose' the water, say monthly, rather than all the time.
I think garlic's a great all-round tonic, but I'd only give chicks a very small quantity since it's really strong.
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5837
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
(I generally add the garlic just before they go into the oven.)

Jay Green

Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
Vinegar will not kill off beneficial gut flora, particularly if you are using unpasteurized vinegar with the mother intact. This will actually contribute towards healthy flora in the bowel and can help prevent disease. Mother vinegar contains the very probiotics that promote healthy intestinal flora. If you are using regular, pasteurized vinegar there is nothing in it that will "kill off" anything in the body either unless you are using it in high concentrations.

Mother vinegar has many beneficial bacteria types within it that can benefit our digestive systems and overall health. I've been using it in the water every day for my chickens for many years now and it shows in their health and production levels. I've never had illness or disease of any kind in my flocks and I have hens that still lay every day or every other day in peak season at the ripe old age of 6 and 7 years of age. I regularly keep flocks of 30 or more on free range of dual purpose breeds chosen for exceptional laying, hardy vigor and meaty builds.

I'm currently using it in the water for a batch of 50 CX chickens and have seen their feces go from the typical stinky, liquid stool that is the norm for this breed to normal, formed feces with little smell at all. This indicates a normal, well-cultured intestinal function and it happened as quickly as the first week after they arrived. As day old chicks, I placed it in their water immediately and I started to see changes in the fecal matter within three day's time.

Lactic acid bacteria refers to a large
group of beneficial bacteria that have
similar properties and all produce
lactic acid as an end product of the
fermentation process.
They are widespread in nature and are
also found in our digestive systems.

At least one beneficial bacteria found in unpasteurized vinegar, in particular, that might interest those who are fearful of cocci in new chicks and want to take steps to prevent it.

Pediococcus acidilactici

Pediococcus acidilactici can function as immune modulators. Animals fed with P. acidilactici have shown enhanced immune responses against infectious coccidioidal diseases.

Pediococcus acidilactici is also known to prevent colonization of the small intestine by pathogens like Shigella, Salmonella, Clostridium difficile and Escherichia coli among small animals.

Pediococcus acidilactici has not been stated in any literature to have toxic effects. Another potential benefit of using them as Probiotics is their use as alternative medicines against infectious parasitic pathogens like Eimeria* in broiler-chicken [6].

*Eimeria, genus of parasitic protozoans of the spore-producing phylum Apicomplexa (previously Sporozoa). Eimeria, which causes coccidiosis in livestock and wild animals, infects mainly the cells of the digestive tract, although it also attacks cells of the liver and the bile duct. Symptoms of infection are diarrhea, weight loss, and general weakness. Eimeria is characterized by spore cases that contain four spores, each with two infective sporozoites. Among the common pathogenic species are E. necatrix and E. tenella (in poultry); E. stiedae (in rabbits); and E. bovis, E. ellipsoidalis, and E. zuernii (in cattle).

As for the feed, any unmedicated feed should be fine for your don't have to give them starter feeds. I've fed new chicks on layer mash and general flock ration before and they all turn out the same...healthy and thriving, living to be a ripe old age.
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3464
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
Good to know Jay, now I look at it from a general health perspective, that info really doesn't make any sense!
Ilustrates the dangers of just accepting supposed 'expert' advice without actually thinking about it critically...
Ivan Weiss

Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 152
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
One of the best guides I know of is Robert Plamondon's Success with Baby Chicks. I hope this is helpful.

Pastured poultry, pork, and beef on Vashon Island, WA.
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5837
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
I agree with Ivan here. "Success with Baby Chicks" is a great book for newcomers, and experienced raisers alike.

Jessica Windle

Joined: Mar 22, 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Kimberley, BC Canada ZONE 3

Wow, thanks so much to everyone for all the advice. I particularly like Tyler's recipe for homemade feed, I've come across a few recipes, but this one is all things I have on hand.

Thank you for confirming that I DO NOT need medicated feed, it reminds me of feeding infants formula when mother's milk is pretty dang perfect.

Also thanks for the info regarding ACV. I've been adding unpasteurized ACV to my chickens water for about 4 months, and I've definitely noticed an increase in health.

Woohoo I'll have a much bigger crew in the coop by the end of the week!
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