Late Hatches of Chicks - Coping with Cold Weather - Tips and Strategies 2

Continuing my post on caring for chicks in cold weather, Part 1 can be found here. Today being a good example of the vagaries of this year's temperatures, we are looking at a high of 19°C  or 66°F so let's hope none of my broodies finds a cache of eggs! At least I know where broody Chickles is sitting on her china egg!


How well does the mother hen and/or the chicks know me?

If you want to make raising chicks in cold weather as easy as possible, then as I've already mentioned previously,  the fact that your chicks know where to come if they get cold or left behind by the mother hen is of tantamount importance. There is a very fine line between interfering and intervention with chicks and as with quail there is no way you want to break the bond between mother and chick by forcing a chick to chose between you. A hen who knows you well, will have no problem with you picking up a chick to warm it or even removing it for extra food or a respite from the cold. A chick who knows you well can be picked up and even taken away and fed without screaming for its mother and making you out to be an evil chicknapper. If the answer to the question above is not at all or very little then...

Handling mother and chicks helps in bonding and mutual trust
SOLUTION Handling mother and chick at the same time shows them both that you see them as a unit and reinforces the idea that you are a friend. Feeding a mother and chicks together at the back-door, for example, and/or letting them in now and again, so they all come to see that as a place of safety and sustenance, is also part of the bond with you. That said, chicks are not adverse to coming in the house on any occasion if they know you have food and a hug available on tap, so you'll need to decide where to draw the line!

Above all remember, every mother hen and every chick is an individual, how they react in any situation can be different. It can never be stressed often enough that observation is key. It is through knowing each individual in your flock that you will have the greatest success and the happiest relationships in keeping poultry or rather in living together in harmony.

Why bother about getting chicks outside at this time of year?

Five month old mottled Polish cockerel young roosterWell basically because I believe it is crucial to their growth and health. In particular as we now are heading towards November in our part of the world this will be the last few days we can receive UVB from the sun and make D3. A vitamin which is crucial to so many functions both physical and of the nervous system. In hens, Vitamin D3 is an important factor in the calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and Vitamin K2 balance, crucial to skeletal development. In laying hens this will obviously also impact on egg shell quality, hatchability and health of the chicks. Giving a bird calcium in the form of crushed oyster shell is just the start, this calcium needs to be driven into the bones, otherwise it will end up deposited in the arteries and soft tissue where it can cause damage. In humans, in the Northern hemisphere, even for those who have been soaking up the sun on a regular basis during the Summer,  D3 is running low in the body around mid-October and UVB from the sun will not become available again until March. Ring Bingo (above left), our mottled Polish hatched end of May, knows the value of UVB, he's out in it now soaking up those rays!

Mother hen digging for food with chicks
This time of year we are also seeing a reduction in arthropods and in cold and frozen ground there will be very thin pickings for all the birds, never mind chicks needing amino acids such as methionine and vitamins such as B12 for feather production, growth, immune and nervous system function. Getting your birds out now will allow them to get as much of this resource as is available and to hone their foraging skills. However, if you have low temperatures, high wind chill factors and hard ground, what do you do?

Quail chicks and vitamin D3
Mother hen and chicks getting D3 from direct sunlightSOLUTIONS for Vitamin D3. This is something I use for quail chicks even in the Spring because newly hatched chicks are supposed to be kept at around 32°C 90°F. This is a brooder temperature and mine have a mother but even so, I need to be wary in the first days. UVB will not penetrate glass but placing the mother and chicks in their box before an open window or doorway for around 20 minutes of good strong sunlight works wonders. Here with Frizzly and her chicks, you can see, that by choosing a suitable box I can even create a sun trap in one corner.

For hen chicks and with a high wind chill factor I use a double cage. A wire one to keep everything together and stop them running off, of particular importance as a chick will run when it finds a worm and I use this set-up to provide both sunlight and invertebrates. The inner run is made of the cardboard outer of a shop display for oranges, I get this from my local organic shop and it makes a great wind break! Here the mother and chicks are preparing soil for a new flowerbed and finding plenty to eat. In fact I filmed this a quarter of an hour after taking this photo and the chicks were so full I couldn't even get them to demonstrate eating a worm!

The importance of D3 for chicks

The idea of cutting down on wind chill leads me on to another question but as this post is already pretty wordy, I will ask it in the next article

A mother hen and her adored and adoring chick
The unhatchable egg or so I thought had been passed between three broodies and often left completely ignored. I had candled it and thought it should have a chance. To the mother who finally hatched this adorable chick, it is the apple of her eye, she dotes on it, as I think you can tell from the photo.

Thanks for dropping by and if you have enjoyed this piece and found it useful think about sharing it and also maybe about joining this blog. Please also feel free to ask questions or make comments in the section below.

All the very best,


How to cope with chicks in cold weather. Part 1

With the weather being so capricious at the moment, the hens are risking late hatches, so I'm sharing some of the strategies I use to get the best outcome for the chicks and more

How to cope with chicks in cold weather. Part 3

Greenhouses as an ideal solution for raising chicks in the cold wet months and at how to make sure of optimum nutrient more

Broody adopts chicks in cold weather.

Some times people comment in surprise on my films that a hen will raise anything but her own eggs but this is only half the more

©  Sue Cross 2015

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