Chicks Becoming Independent - W.v.Gils
One often hears of chicks dying when they are close to coming independent. Of course some weak birds may be expected to die through natural selection. But some birds may also die from entirely avoidable causes.
It is the latter situation we need to address.
When do the young become independent :
Many breeders see this straightaway - some by observing their age about 3 weeks after hatching, but an excellent indication is a fully developed V in the tail of the young bird which is a sure sign that the bird has become independent.
At the same time the bird will be eating suffiently on its own and husking its seeds well and adequately. Eggfood must be made available on a daily basis.
When the birds are eating well and the V in the tail sufficiently pronounced it is time to set the young birds apart. The best procedure is to place them for a fortnight in a transit cage (breeding cage, small flight or other) before transferring to a larger flight.
Make sure that the birds in the transit cage can readily find their drinking water and place this near the seed and eggfood. check that there are enough perches and that the floor materials are clean and dry. Check the young daily while and watch out for dull eyes, squeaking sounds. Birds displaying these symptoms may be short of something. By returning them to their parents or adopted parents any such problems will generally be overcome.
Placing birds in larger flights :
After the birds have been in a fortnight in the transit cage they can be transferred to a larger flight. This move is recommended for the development of the the young birds. The flight needs to be properly disinfected beforehand and treated against vermin for the longer term - a procedure often neglected but the consequence of which can prove most harmful.
Again check that both water and food are readily accessible for the young birds and that perches are firmly secured. Separated individual perches are also recommended. When transferring birds always do so during the morning so that they are familiar with their new space by the evening.
Never have older hens with the young as this will encourage featherplucking. Provide distractions by hanging several sprays of millet which will serve to entertain the birds and avoid featherplucking. Ensure sufficient fine shellgrit and dry floor materials.
Although the birds do not pick up all the seed initially this will change after a few weeks. Give fresh seed each day but not too much about 5g per bird per day. Continue feeding eggfood daily for the first month , but then gradually reduce to two or three times a week.
What may never be forgotten is that baths should be provided twice a week to the young and indeed all your birds.
Adding bath salts once a week is very beneficial for feathers, aids in the prevention of feather mite and the general development of plumage. During the moult birds will lose the occasional feather from the tail and wing not from the normal moult, but as a result of fighting squabbles. It is best to remove any loose feathers from the cage floor as birds will peck at these for their amino acids and this, in turn, may lead to featherplucking. Any birds showing signs of blood should be separated immediately to avoid featherplucking and not left with the other birds .
Loose feathers can be captured by placing an inclined board in a back corner of the flight - the feathers will aggregate and can be readily removed.
Of course now and then the birds should be given a piece of apple, orange or other, but only just enough to last a few hours. Furthermore it is important to keep the young from rounds one and two apart and not together. Also no older birds with the young so moulting occurs separately and definitely not to the disadvantage of the young.
Subject to the steps referred to above the young will develop well without any problems and grow a beautiful and healthy plumage. Moreover few birds will be lost or grow malformed wing and tail pinfeathers.
And of course is this not our overriding aim.
Success - Wout v.Gils