The Art of Artificial Rearing - Hints on Choosing a Brcoder - How the Brooder should be
In the earlier part of the year, at a time when chickens should be hatched in order to allow ample time for development, the wather is more often than not most unfavourable for the rearing of young poultry, and unless a brooder is reliable and properly managed, the chickens cannot possibly thrive. The chances are they will be stunted in growth, and when once checked they never entirely recover lost ground.
Choosing a Brooder
In choosing a brooder for the artificial rearing of chickens preference should be given to an appliance that has gained for its maker a sound reputation. There are so many low-priced and inferior types of brooder on the market that one needs to exercise caution in buying. Although artificial hatching appliances have been brought to a state bordering on perfection, brooders have not been perfected to the same extent, and sound judgment is necessary when making a selection.
For all-the-year-round work the three-compartment brooder is to be preferred. This appliance consists of a heated chamber, in which the chickens sleep and find warmth; a second, or middle, chamber, with a boarded floor, in which they can be fed in inclement weather, and a third chamber, or wire-fronted and bottomless run, to which they can resort and exercise themselves on fine days.
In some brooders of this type the brooding chamber is heated by means of a guarded lamp placed in its centre, whilst in others the chamber is heated by a hot-water system, either in the form of a water tank or circulating pipes. While the lamp-heated brooder is reliable when properly constructed and operated by an expert chicken rearer, the one heated by a hot-water system is safer under the management of the novice.
No matter by what system the brooding chamber is heated, the lamp operating such a system should be so arranged that no fumes can possibly reach the chickens. If the lamp arrangement is in the second or unheated chamber, so much the better.
In a good brooder the heated chamber, when in operation, has a fairly equable temperature about all parts of the floor. It is impossible to get an even temperature in any brooding chamber, however well constructed it may be; but it is possible in a passable rearer to get the temperature sufficiently even for all practical purposes. If the brooder is operated in frosty weather, and a thermometer, placed a couple of inches above its floor, can be got to register 900, the heating arrangement is all right.
The greatest difficulty experienced by some brooders is in getting their brooding chambers sufficiently warm for the chickens during spells of frosty weather, and this fact should remind us that the best time thoroughly to test a brooder is some time during the winter.
In a good brooder the heat should descend right on to the floor. If the heat in the brooding chamber only exists above the chickens, and the floor under them is cold, the strongest birds will climb on to the backs of the weakest in search of heat, and either crush or suffocate them. It is of vital importance, therefore, that the brooder be constructed so as to generate a genial warmth close to and over all parts of the floor of the brooding chamber.
A sectional view of the interior of the brooding chamber
Combined with efficient warmth in the brooding chamber must be good ventilation. The ventilators of a good brooder are so arranged as to prevent currents of air playing directly upon the chickens. The cool, fresh air is conveyed to the brooding chamber by means of ventilating shafts, the tops of which are Well above the floor, and after becoming warm and buoyant, the air escapes by way of outlets formed in the roof or heat radiator.
The brooder should be thoroughly aired
Woman's Work and cleansed before being entrusted with newly hatched chickens. The heat in the brooding chamber should be kept up until all damp is driven out of it, as damp is fatal to the well-being of chickens. When the heat has been kept up sufficiently long to dry and warm the floor of the brooding chamber thoroughly, the latter should be bedded with litter, such as straw chaff, oat culms, or even dry sand, the last-mmed being preferable when operating the brooder in warm weather.
A thermometer should then be placed with its bulb resting two inches above the litter, and in such a position as to be easily read. During the first Week the chickens occupy the brooder, the heated chamber should be kept somewhere between 85o and 90o; the temperature should be lowered gradually to 750 during the second week, and to 70° by the end of the third week. After this only a little heat may be needed during the daytime, but at night the temperature should be raised sufficiently to ensure comfort for the inmates.
No rigid rule can be laid down respecting temperature at which to keep the brooding chamber during any season of the year, as all seasons are attended with climatic variations which may affect one's calculations. The operator must be guided by the state of the Weather, and by the chickens themselves. Too much artificial heat is as bad as too little, for, if the Weather is dry, chickens can bear more cold than is generally imagined. It is during spells of frosty and rainy weather that the half-naked chicks need shelter and warmth.
Expert chicken rearers seldom use thermometers to ascertain the temperature of the brooding chamber, but are guided by the attitude of its inmates. Should the temperature be too high, the chickens will show signs of it by lying about and gasping; if it is too low, the birds will huddle into the corner and chirp in a plaintive manner. When the temperature is right, the youngsters distribute themselves about the floor and chirp contentedly.
The second, or middle, chamber of the brooder should be littered thickly with chaff, among which the chickens will scratch and find much amusement hunting for fine grain scattered therein on such occasions as bad weather prevents them from going into the third chamber, or open-fronted run.
During the time the brooder is in operation cleanliness is of the greatest importance. The excreta must be removed from the brooding chamber daily, or foul air will result, and this being breathed by the chickens will speedily debilitate them. The litter, too, in the second chamber must be replaced on the first signs of foulness. to provide fresh green food for the hicks, the brooder should be moved about when the ground is dry, so as to bring the "third chamber, or bottomless run, on to fresh grass daily.
A gre&t help towards hygiene in the management of the brooder is the avoidance of overcrowding. Chickens, like adult fowls, do better in small flocks, and rather than place a hundred chicks in a brooder advertised as holding such a number, it is safer to entrust it with only half that number, so that the birds may have ample room during the entire period that they occupy it. When the sun is shining, the hinged roofs of the brooding and second chambers should be opened, so that the rays of sunshine may enter - sunshine being a destroyer of disease germs.
On all occasions when the weather is favourable the chickens should be induced to leave the brooding chamber as much as possible, and to find exercise in the open run. No warmth artificially applied can excel that generated by healthy exercise in the fresh air. When inclement weather prevents the chickens from taking open-air exercise they should be found employment in the second chamber, where among the litter they should be induced to hunt for buried grain. The great thing is to keep the chickens active during wet and cold weather, and this can be done, if the youngsters are not overfed, by making them scratch and find most of their food.
According to the time of year and climatic conditions, the chickens should be allowed artificial heat until they are four or five or six weeks old. Even at the latter age, chickens, if brooded in the colder seasons of the year, are unable to do without artificial warmth during the night-time, and they should, therefore, be provided with it until climatic conditions are favourable for their removal from the warm brooder to an unheated one.
This usually consists of a sleeping chamber and a covered outer run. The former should be well ventilated, lofty, and free from draughts, with a floor space sufficiently restricted in area, to allow the chicks to huddle close together for warmth. The floor should be covered to a depth of three inches with peat moss litter, which requires to be raked over and replenished from time to time. The outer run should be bottomless, and the earth, which forms the floor, should be covered with cut chaff, among which dry food may be scattered. This will afford the chicks exercise in inclement weather. During the summer time chickens can be safely removed from the heated brooder at a month old. The method of feeding them is the same as that adopted when chickens are reared naturally.
Thermometer for testing the temperature of the b;oodin3 chamber
The management of the sitting hen will form the subject of the next article.