Autumn Hints

Birds Moulting

During Autumn all birds begin to moult (except those which have hatched this season). They lose lots of feathers from their backs, necks and the sign of a good layer is that they may go very bald all over (so it’s said – who knows!).

Moulting birds need lots of protein in their diet to grow new feathers, so don’t drop the protein level of the roosters diet any more than you would the hens. Hens stop laying at this time, as they can’t put protein into laying eggs as well as into new feathers, so the feathers win. Many rooster go into a bit of shock and lose condition very fast. They rarely have to pull protein from their bodies to grow feathers, so they are very stressed by all this. Keep their diet well stocked with protein, vitamins and trace elements. As sunlight begins to be a bit sparse, vitamin D will be needed as well, so a bit of cod liver oil is a good boost.

The Coming Cold

As Autumn extends into winter, birds can become stressed by the cold (especially if they are still moulting and don’t have a full feather coating to keep warm). So provide a shed or pen which is warm, dry and not too drafty (they need fresh air still). Watch for signs of droopiness and medicate if need be.

The Coming Wet

Wet conditions increase the stress for fowl as they need dry feathers to keep warm. Turkeys display a moderate tolerance to wet conditions. Ducks and Geese love the wet, but even they can be “wet through” if they lose condition and lose oil from their feathers. Muscovy drakes are particularly vulnerable to cold and wet conditions.

Diseases

Changing weather conditions can cause stress in birds. Birds become sick when they get stressed. It is not the only cause of illness, but is a big factor, especially in times of weather changes. Commercial breeders solve this problem by providing a temperature controlled environment all year round for their birds. Sniffles and colds are common and can be avoided buy the provision of adequate housing.

Have the birds sleeping quarters well prepared to avoid stress. Warm pens with clean dry litter is essential. Change litter frequently (weekly if need be) to keep the roosting area dry. Birds will often roost here during the day in inclement conditions. If birds begin to look droopy, stress may be setting in and medication should be administered to avoid increases in internal parasites (worms and the coccicidosis protozoa).

Culling

Get rid of all the birds that are not needed for breeding (unless they hold sentimental reasons for their presence). Cull out unthrifty looking birds, and birds that do not comply with the standards you have set, be they for show or utility purposes. A normal sized fowl eats almost a 40kg bag of feed a year, so they are not cheap to keep. An unproductive bird eats as much as a productive bird, so there need to be good dollar reasons for keeping each unproductive bird.

Selecting Breeders

Female breeders need to be good layers no matter what type they are. This almost eliminates any birds that are more than three from the fowl list and any that are over five from the geese, duck and turkey list. Unless they are the rarest of the rare, they will produce little beyond these years.

Roosters over three years of age are beginning to lose fertility and turkey toms over three are too big for the hens and can damage them easily when mating; so young birds are the best for all poultry species.

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