Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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How age of the mother affects hatching eggs

Chicks on pastureAlthough Joel Salatin doesn't hatch his own chicks, over the years he's noticed that the age of the mother hen has a large impact on the chicks that arrive on his doorstep.  At one extreme, Salatin reports that pullets lay small eggs that produce small chicks.  More chicks from these young mothers tend to die compared to when the eggs come from older hens, and the chicks gain less weight.

Meanwhile, old hens lay huge eggs that produce huge chicks.  While that sounds good on paper, Salatin sees a lot of inconsistency, with quite a few runts mixed into the flock.  When we visited a friend's Salatin-style pasturing operation a year or so ago, I remember she had a few birds that were less than half the size of their siblings and that didn't seem inclined to grow --- now I suspect her chick supplier was trying to eke one more batch of chicks out of old breeding hens.

The good news with chicks from old hens is that fewer chicks die than usual.  On the other hand, even though the majority of the chicks start out on the large size, the average weight of the entire batch is below average (probably because of those runts).

Newly hatched chickWhy do I think this information is important?  If you're buying in chicks, it's handy to know that not all of the problems you see are your own fault.  And if you're home incubating, knowing the signs of an old hen can help you decide when to cull that bird from the breeding flock.

I hope you've enjoyed this peek into Joel Salatin's chicken operation.  If you missed previous posts, check out the links below, and don't forget to read the book!

This post is part of our Pastured Poultry Profits series.  Read all of the entries:

Our chicken waterer keeps our flock well hydrated on pasture.

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