Chilly Critters

22 Jan

The mercury has plummeted in the past 24 hours here on the farm.  We woke up to a -6 degree temperature this morning and it only got 11 degrees warmer during the day.

I prepared for the cold snap yesterday, but I still didn’t know how the critters would take it.  On my morning rounds, the pigs were not terribly interested in getting out of bed.

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But after some cajoling, they decided that a bucket of corn & oats was worth braving the cold, but just until the yummy stuff was gone.

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The chickens were all feeling fine as well, although they have two 500w heat lamps to take the chill off.

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I’m not having the best of luck so far with my first (and hopefully last) batch of winter-raised chickens.  I’ve lost 3 pullets and 2 cockerels so far, with a further 4 pullets that’ll need to be culled due to leg problems.

Most of the deaths so far I’ve attributed to their tendency to pile up in a corner at night when it gets cold.  They’re fully feathered-out at this point, so they shouldn’t need to huddle together to stay warm, but I haven’t had any luck getting them to believe it.

I think that this pile-up may be where I’m getting the leg problems as well.  Three of the four pullets with leg problems have presented with lameness literally overnight.  It could be that they’re getting caught at the bottom of the pile-up and making it out alive, but with a lame leg (or legs) instead.

On the off-chance that it’s a calcium deficency in their diet, I’m going to be switching them to a layer ration a few weeks ahead of schedule.  They have been eating chick-starter so far, which is has 18% protein to help their growth but only about 1% calcium.  The layer ration is about 16% protein, because layers are adults and thus not prone to much growing, but have around 4% calcium to help the hens form all the egg shells they’ll be laying.

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