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.