Another bad few days

I always find it takes me a bit longer to write up bad events on the holding, and we seem to have a had a bit of a bad run over the past week or so. Something’s have happened due to rookie errors and others have been a bit unlucky. I am going to write it all up, as I want to be able to look back and remember some of the lessons we have learnt, but also others might be able to avoid mistakes.

The ducklings didn’t hatch. Well…one did, but it couldn’t get out of the egg. When we tried to put a towel under the eggs, to help the hatch (as many books advise) the temperature changed too much, and we lost control of the environment.

I think in future, if we try to incubate again, I would put a towel in right from the start, so that when the crucial hatch day comes we don’t need to fiddle around. We also moved the incubator, which in retrospect was a mistake, temperature and humidity is everything. On the positive side, I’m pretty sure we got the eggs pretty far along (this is also very sad for obvious reasons), the cheap incubator just makes things harder to manage, but it could work and I might have another go with some of our fertile Muscovy eggs in the future, but not right now.

The other sad thing that has happened is that we have lost a meat bird. My diagnosis is Coccidiosis, which is not great at all, as the spores live on the soil for ages. The laying hens are inoculated against this, but obviously you don’t inoculate meat birds. Several reasons could be the cause. 1) I have given them too much free range, which means all the birds mix, I am learning that this makes control of parasites more difficult. 2) We have not allowed enough distance between the birds and the droppings overnight, and although we clean them out completely, this has obviously led to this problem. 3) We didn’t feed them a preventative chick crumb for long enough.  I have now taken the following steps to try to eradicate the problem in the rest of the meat flock. 1) I have penned them in on fresh grass, I intend to move them everyday to a fresh area to avoid re-infection from the droppings. 2) We have moved them higher off of the floor away from their own droppings. 3) I am giving them cider vinegar in their water, this raises the acidity in the gut, and although it will not fight the Coccidiosis, it will improve their gut health and help them to fight it. 4) I have a more drastic medicine I can give them, but as they are for human consumption I am reluctant to put this chemical into their systems, and will monitor things are a few more days. We may lose some more, but some look like they will survive. 5) I have bought a disinfectant that fights this type of parasite for the houses. 6) I have moved them to a new house.  

My final thoughts on this, are that meat chickens are a bit of a hassle. They don’t have the same vaccinations as hens, so they are more susceptible to parasites, (I am obviously using a wormer, but this doesn’t work against Coccidiosis). I am going to see how the Muscovy’s do with raising their young, and we may decide to not bother with chickens for meat. On the whole I think that rabbits and muscoveys are going to be less heart ache….but we’ll see.


One response to “Another bad few days

  • Gill

    Hey Zara and Becks,

    So sorry to hear about first the rabbit now a meat chick and your hatching eggs. Please don’t be too down – where there is livestock there is deadstock – good old farmers saying. Re the meat chick, if it was coccidiosis I would expect them all to be unwell. It could just have been a death waiting to happen but you are right to take precautions and moving them to fresh ground daily is a great idea. Please don’t give up on meat chicks – the meat is so much better than you will get elsewhere it really is worth sticking with it.

    Re: your ducklings. I think you will get better results once you know your incubator. Ducks are harder to hatch than hens – why not try chicks first? Every incubator is different and you have to get to know yours – my cheapest incubator is the one I have the best results from, but I know how to tweak it! I often help ducks out of the shell but it’s timing that so they are actually ready to hatch – if the membrane bleeds let them be, they are not ready. Humidity is difficult but comes with practice. I often use a flannel to help. Also a garden plant sprayer to spray the eggs a few times a day helps.

    Don’t give up on livestock – we all have deaths and my first hatchings were not far short of disasterous.

    This is a fantasic time of year for smallholders. Everything is growing and there is the promise of loads of good things to come.

    Blessed be!

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