Well, the laying flock is off to a sketchy start, but we still hope for great things.  First of all, although we’d had Cornish Rock crosses in that hover for two entire weeks before we moved them out to the tractor and put in the Buckeyes and Silver Appleyards, with absolutely no complications, the first night the new breeding flock was in there a rat got in and killed four.  Actually, and to place blame where it belongs, we think he killed three — at least, three were chewed on — but it’s possible that the fourth got trapped under the hover light by the press of the other chicks/ducklings (it was a cold night) and overheated.  We should have had a couple of bricks in the focal point of the heat lamp to make sure that couldn’t happen.  Phut goes $50 in one night.  We spent hours next day putting up hardware cloth in all the cracks and eaves.

After that things were fine until the new birds were a week old, when we lost five Buckeye chicks in two days.  This one was more disturbing since we couldn’t find any problem — no bloody poops, no sign of predation — except each little chick had a purple tummy and a scab over his umbilical scar (and yes, birds have them).  Omphalitis is what the internet suggested, but the internet is a venue for idiots as well as experts, so that was still inconclusive.  Jordan River generously offered us a refund on those chicks, but there was really no hard evidence of the cause of death, and we’re too grateful to real breeders to want to make their job less rewarding; besides, we plan to pick Jody and Nathan’s brains on a regular basis as we start our own breeding flock, and we want them to like us!

Since then, all has been well, and the chicks and ducklings look great.

Feed:  rolled oats added to 22% protein mash, kefir, clover, and a little beef liver.  Bedding:  straw and wood chips.  Raw garlic in the drinking water.