In the first series of this
article, I described getting started with a good trio of Rhode Island Red Bantams. In this article, I will explain how to
use three trios and how you would go through the process of feeding the parent stock, taking the eggs from their nest, incubation,
pedigree, toe punching, and then placing of the chicks in the brooder box. The first-breeding trio will consist of a four-year
cock bird that is mated to two of his great-grand daughters. Each female is in a 3 foot X 3 foot pen where the male is rotated
every day to each female’s pen and then on the weekend the male is placed in a small pen by himself for a rest and then
I repeat the same process starting on Monday. The second breeding pen consists of a two year old cock bird who is the grand
nephew of the pen one cock bird and he is mated to two of his daughters from last year. One of the females reveals the great
style and brick shape of the pen one cock bird and the other female is a good type bird but just a little on the large size
but, still maintains great over all color and type. The third mating is a small cockerel that has the type of a large fowl
male, great color and only has a fault of not having his legs dead center or plum. He is mated to two year old hens who are
his mother and aunt. Each trio is housed indoors in a barn in the same 3X3 ft pen format as I just described. Each female
has a nest which is lined with wheat straw or hay where the eggs are protected from manure, moisture, dirt and other items
that could ruin an eggs chance of hatching. Each female has fresh water container and a 1 qt container to hold their feed.The water is changed daily and the containers are cleaned with a bleach wash on the
weekends consisting of a half a cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water. The feed that is provided for the breeders is a game
bird breeder formula by Purina and is kept in front of the breeders all season long. Green feed consisting of Clover leafs;
grass or sprouted wheat grass is given to the breeders daily as a supplement to their feed.
COLECTING THE EGGS:
Each day we collect the eggs
from the nest and with a pencil that is tied onto a string in each of the females pen we write the date, the pen number and
place a X on one side of the egg and on the opposite side we place a 0. We have a total of six females so each egg from each
pen will have a number on it from one to six to represent the female in each mating. Each egg is placed in an egg carton box
and is stored in a room that is about 55 to 60 degrees. The eggs are stored in this environment for no longer, than four days
as the longer the eggs are kept the less chances of the chicks will hatch or will maintain strong vigor.
MANAGEMENT OF THE INCUBATOR:
Here begins the
most important learning experience of a beginner Red Bantam breeder that is getting your incubator ready for your eggs that
you plan to hatch in your incubator. First of all we are going to discuss the common inexpensive Styrofoam incubator that
is sold at local feed stores or Poultry Supply houses. If it is new, it is perfectly clean and you will have no need to go
through the steps of cleaning it. However, if you have an older Styrofoam incubator you need to clean it thoroughly with a
bleach solution that I explained earlier or a good cleaner that will get the old egg debris off from the previous hatches.
Once the inside of the incubator has been cleaned and rinse off with tap water, lay the incubator out in the sun for a few
hours to help dry and sanitize it. Next, you need to spray the wire mesh screen and the bottom of the incubator with PAM to
help keep the eggs shells and liquids from sticking to the surfaces. Now let
us put the incubator in a room that you can maintain a tempeture around 60 to 70 degrees and normal consistent everyday humidity.
You should then turn the incubator on and place the thermometer in an area that you can see through the window until it reaches
a temperature of 103 degrees. Once you have maintained an even temperature that will hold at this setting until you are ready
to place the eggs in the incubator. Let us say you wish to hatch the chicks on a weekend when you are home, you would put
the eggs in on Sunday. At this time, you should take each egg and place the date
that you are putting in the incubator on each egg. Take the lid off the foam incubator, place the eggs in the center of the
floor on its wire screen, and set the eggs so the X is facing you. Then place the top on the incubator and leave the incubator
alone until early morning. In the morning, the setting should be still at 103
degrees F. and if it is off a little adjust the setting on the incubator until you maintain the ideal level. Next, remove
the top on the incubator and turn the eggs to the opposite side so you have the eggs with the O facing you. Place the top
on the incubator and then in the evening when you get home from work go out and turn the eggs again till the X is facing you
and then again you could turn the eggs if you wish just before you go to bed at night. Repeat this process until you reaches
the 10th day and then you can candle the eggs and remove the eggs that do not have signs of a chick in them.
have enclosed a chart to show you what the stage should look like inside the eggs, but on the 10th day your egg
should be very dark inside with a predominate air sac present. There are many methods to candle your eggs, I use a bright
flashlight with three D batteries in it and hold the egg in the palm of my hand and place the light under the egg so the illumination
can be seen in a dark room. As we reach the 18th day it is time to check the eggs to see that they are still healthy
and alive with a chick. If you have a separate incubator, I recommend you place the fertile eggs in this incubator where its
temperature is again at 103 degrees F. If you wish you pedigree the chicks that you placed in the incubator you can place
them in plastic baskets with covered lids which you can buy from Walgreen’s Drug Store. The baskets are about $1. each
and are made by United Plastics and are called Teeny Basket with lids. In each
basket, you will place each egg from the three matings so you will have a total idea which
chick came from which family.
On the 21st day, you should see the chicks hatching in the incubator. Do not open the incubator to check on the chicks till
late in the day to allow some of the chicks that are slow to hatch. Now it is about and its time to take the lid off the incubator and check the chicks in
the pedigree baskets and identify them by toe punching their toes to the relationship of their mother. I have enclosed a toe
punching chart for you to utilize and I would toe punch each chick in my case from pen one to pen six. After the chicks are
toe punched you can put them back in the incubator so they can finish drying off or place them in the brooder box. After you
are finished with the hatcher incubator, it is time to clean and disinfect the Styrofoam box as you did before and then spray
the bottom with PAM.
VENTILATION AND HUMIDITY: There is one issue that I did not talk about and that is ventilation and humidity. Now
some people are not using any water on the bottoms of their incubators and this process is called dry incubation.Some people only use one of the channels with water during the incubation process. Some may use no water
and then place a little water in the hatcher incubator on the three remaining days of the hatch. The issue on ventilation is something of a mystery to me however; I have been experimenting over the years
and found to have improved success by leaving all the holes open during the incubation period.Also some of the Styrofoam incubators have forced air fans that can be used and if you have one you regulate your tempter
to 99.5 degrees F instead of 103 F.In addition, some Styrofoam incubators have
an electric automatic turners and this is fine if you wish to use them, but I think it is important to open your incubator
for at least ten minutes every time you turn your eggs to cool them just as a mother hen does when she leaves her nest to
eat and drink water. In addition, there are other incubators available such as
the GAF Sportsman 1201, which I use, however this article is geared towards the beginner and I thought I would center the
attention on the inexpensive Styrofoam models. You will need to add water to the incubator as the instructions from the company
tell you to so you can maintain correct humidly for your eggs.
There are many
methods of starting your bantam chicks out in a small brooder box. I once used a 30 gallon aquarium with a top on it to retain
their heat. You can make a custom plywood box which would be about 2ft X 3ft X 16 inches high, with a covered top with a hinged
door about 16 inches wide. This box is heated with two 60 watt (soft light) light
bulbs one connected to a wafer thermostat. I presently use cardboard boxes that are about the same size or I go to an office
supply company and get the cardboard box that a four-drawer file cabinet comes in. This bantam brooder can be constructed
using a knife to cut out a door on the top, placing a light bulb in side about six inches from the top using wire or a strong
cord to support the bulb and extension cord. I place sand or pine shavings on the floor when I put my day old chicks in the
box. I change out the litter when the ratio becomes a 50% liter and manure. The ideal tempiture for the new chicks is 95 degrees
F. and then you change the settings down about 5 degrees F. each week and around three weeks it should be around 80 degrees
F. Most experience poultry men can tell by behavior of the chicks when they are cold as they will huddle up in a group and
chirp loudly of their discomfort. When they are to warm they will go to the corners of the box and may be panting to overcome
their distress. Ideally, the chicks will move about and lay on the floors spreading their wings and resting when they feel
like it. However, for the beginner a good thermometer is a must until you learn the actions of your little chicks. To test
your thermometer, you can use hot water and check the tempiture against an oral thermometer that you would buy in a drug store.
To go a step further a special thermometer can be purchased that is used in photography labs, hospital labs or you may purchase
a good digital thermometer.On the floor of the brooder, I place a one gallon
plastic water fountain that you can purchase at a feed store. I deposit about two tablespoons of sugar in the water the first
two days for added nourishment. I hold off on feeding the chicks until they are about 48 hours old so they will absorb the
yokes into their stomach. Next, I start a 20% medicated baby chick starter crumbles by Purina in a foot long metal chick feeder.
I feed this formula until the chicks reach an age of about six weeks or they are fully feathered. It is important to use a
mediated type chick starter to avoid your chicks from getting cocksidious. After the chicks are about two to three months
old, I place them on game bird finisher until they go into the breeding season.
CONCLUSION:The most important issue is to not to place too many
chicks in a box causing overcrowding and as they grow older to have fewer chicks in a box when they grow older. Control your heat by adding or removing different watt light bulbs or adjusting the venting accordingly.
Good sanitation is paramount to avoid diseases and unnecessary deaths to your chicks. Also, remove any chicks that are slow
developing, crippled or show unusual behavior. In the next issue I will explain the post brooder care, culling your chicks,
nutrition changes and other events as you reach the summer care of your started bantam chicks. Best of luck to you this spring
with your chicks and I hope this article will help the beginner learn the basics of raising Rhode Island Red Bantams.