The kickoff meeting of the Poultry Club will be held at 6 p.m., March 6, at the Letcher County Extension Office.. For more information, call Jason Brashear Agent for 4-H and youth development at 633-2362.
Chicks bought in late winter or early spring can be raised successfully under a warm brooder lamp. As the chicks mature, they will progress in step with the weather, heading outside as the days warm up. They will quickly reach an age appropriate for 4-H activities, whether as a dressed carcass, dual-purpose layer or ornamental show bird.
When buying chicks, keep in mind the following tips. Select a reputable hatchery. Good hatcheries sell high quality birds that meet breed standards. They also usually offer vaccines against illnesses such as Marek’s disease and coccidiosis. Good hatcheries also participate in the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), which seeks to screen out diseases transmitted from mother to chick in the egg.
Some online hatcheries now process orders for a small number of chicks, in some cases as few as three, kept warm by a heating element, which can be a boon if you want an unusual breed or a selection of breeds that lay a specific egg color. Expect to pay a little more for the convenience of these specialty purchases. A typical minimum is 25, since that number ensures enough shared body heat for the chicks’ journey.
You will need to determine if you are buying males (cockerels) or females ( pullets). “Straight run” chicks are a mix of boys and girls and will be the least expensive option. Some breeds have “sex-linked” characteristics that reveal their sex (such as color). But don’t be surprised when a few of the “pullets” start crowing in adolescence!
Prepare in advance. Your chicks will need immediate attention, so it’s critical that you set the stage for their arrival. You will need, at minimum, a brooder lamp, thermometer, brooder with a layer of shavings, water and feeder. Your “brooder” can be as simple as a cardboard box with flaps. Flaps are useful when you need to adjust the heat in the box up or down. Local feed stores will have most basic supplies, including chick starter feed.
Getting them home. Charmingly, chicks still arrive via the post office. Be prepared to wait for the call and answer it promptly. While they manage being shipped quite well, your new chicks are depending on you to attend to their newborn needs: warmth, water and food.
There are many resources for rearing chickens available to the young 4-H’er, including University of Kentucky’s smallflocks.com and http:// www.ca. uky.edu/ smallflocks/ky_ 4H_ poultry. htm. For more information on 4-H poultry, contact the Letcher Cooperative Extension Service at 633-2362.
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