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Trouble in the Brooder!

Colonel's Blog, Earthdate 22 March 2023...

Hey Y'all!

Hello and Happy Spring!! Yesterday didn't feel like Spring to me so I refused to acknowledge the change of season; today on the other hand, woohoo! We awoke to a gray, foggy, damp, 46 degree morning and the temps are quickly rising to a high of 73 today. The top pic is us with the beef cows and a foggy backdrop. The animals are not all good this morning, but I'll get to that. The hogs are great and all have full bellies, enjoying their forest life. The sheep and beef cows were very happy to have fresh hay this morning after the rains yesterday. The bales we are currently feeding are HUGE! I mentioned that we can't transport them with our bale unroller so we have to use the tractor to get the bale to the cow pasture. We unroll about 2/3 of the bale for the cows and then use the unroller to carry the remaining 1/3 to the sheep. The bale is so big that I can't see around it as I transport it to the pasture. I drive like a tail-dragger airplane taxiing, weaving back and forth to see in front of me. We use radios with Shelley in front on the side-by-side to ensure there isn't traffic, which is a very rare occurrence, but we don't want to take the chance on the UPS driver whizzing around the corner into a bale of hay! Yesterday we finished up a couple of house projects, right on schedule as things begin to get busier in Spring. We also made yogurt, ricotta, and paneer cheese. Papa and Nana went home this morning after being here a few weeks. Papa is responsible for the majority of the house projects getting finished and Nana has been a cheese-making-machine! Hurry back! Shelley and I spent time editing our next YouTube Video about getting the hogs to the processor. Hopefully we can get it finalized today or tomorrow. The more we discuss it, the more dedicated we are to continue the YouTube venture. Today we will prep for storms tomorrow and work on our video.

Trouble in the brooder! When I looked in on the beef chickens last night, I was taken aback by what I saw. There were what looked like a dozen or so chicks laying down with their toes curled under. They weren't able to stand up or walk. WHAT IS HAPPENING? They were alert, eyes bright. Time for Mr. Google-pants! Our research led us to two possible causes for the symptoms we were seeing. The first is Marek's Disease, a herpes virus that is present in most chicken flocks but is normally dormant. It can cause the symptoms we were seeing , but normally starts affecting chicks older than 5 weeks. Since ours are only 2 weeks, we continued to search. That led us to what we believe is the issue, a vitamin deficiency. Riboflavin, or vitamin B-2, deficiency in chicks causes the sheath around their fast-growing nerves in their feet to not grow as quickly as necessary, effectively restricting the nerve and causing paralysis. It begins showing at around 2 weeks of age, exactly the age of our chicks. If not treated, it can eventually lead to death because they can't get to food or water. Ok, great, we know what it is, but how do we treat 2-week-old chicks with B-2? The best solution we came to, given our rural existence, was to treat them with a large-animal vitamin supplement we had on hand but at a chick dosage. We removed the 11 chicks with the worst symptoms, dipped their beaks in the full-strength supplement, and put them in a "hospital" brooder--bottom pic. They have easy access to food and water and minimal competition to get to either. We then added a dose to all of the water for the remaining 69 chicks in the big brooder, and to the layer chicks in the small brooder. Triage complete, we attempted to get to the bottom of the issue. Why do the birds have a B-2 deficiency? The common cause is feeding an incomplete ration, normally a home-mixed feed without enough supplements. NOT the issue for us as we bought an expensive soy-free, GMO-free complete ration grower crumble. I cannot find any reviews of the feed we used that mention the issues we are having. We believe it to be a combination of things. First, these birds grow SUPER fast and any tiny imbalance that might otherwise be harmless is amplified due to their growth rate. Second, there is a lot of press recently regarding backyard layer flocks that have stopped laying eggs. Folks are blaming their feed and a change in the proportions of the mixture. We haven't experienced this with our local GMO-free feed mill but they don't have a starter/grower crumble option so we had to buy a different brand. Ultimately, we think the feed we purchased has too little vitamins, at least B-2, for their growth rate. We will continue to supplement and monitor until they get old enough to get them on our standard feed from our local GMO-free feed mill. Hopefully, we've at least curtailed the trouble in the brooder.

Local Farm Report for 21 March 2023:


29 Chicken eggs

13 Duck eggs

1 Goose egg

5 1/4 Gallons of milk



Farm loss:

1 Beef Chick (Multiple issues, culled)

Cheers! Psycho & Shelley

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