This article on winter equipment maintenance for waterfowl is being republished from Acorn Hollow Bantams website with permission from Lou Horton.
For many of us, winter brings a time where taking care of our birds can be both physically demanding and, at times, unpleasant. Hauling water by the bucket and breaking ice out of water containers in cold weather is nobody’s idea of fun. Winter can, however, be a time when things can be accomplished that will make activities later in the year both more fun and more rewarding. Forever it seems, Midwestern and Northeastern farmers have used the inclement weather to make repairs, make improvements, and in general to do things that there was no time to accomplish at other times. So it should be with poultry raisers. What follows is a “To Do” list that will leave us with a sense of accomplishment and preparedness when the breeding season gets underway.
Have your incubators received that thorough cleaning and motor lubrication that will have them ready for that first setting of eggs? Have you stocked up on spare wafers, wicks, and even that spare fan motor “just in case”? What about that moisture pan that you know is about to spring a leak any time? If you have a solid state thermostat, have you taken the time to protect it with a quality surge protector? The surge protector can cost you $15 dollars or less; the replacement thermostat can cost you $100 or more and an incubator full of eggs.
Brooder Maintenance and Improvement
We all hope for a good or even a great hatching year but the question is, are we truly prepared for one? Overcrowded brooder facilities probably account for a sizable percentage of the chicks, ducklings, and goslings lost every year. Smaller, weaker young birds always suffer when brooders are overcrowded. Disease is more both likely and quicker to spread in such conditions. What good is there to hatching more if the increase also means more losses? A wise poultry raiser will have at least one or more extra brooders ready to put into use in the event that hatches are larger than expected.
Brooders also require periodic maintenance. Wire mesh floors deteriorate and must be replaced. Heating elements and other electric components deteriorate under the kind of harsh conditions to which they are subjected. Water and feed troughs can rust out and quickly become useless.
Pen and Fencing Maintenance
Fencing can deteriorate so slowly and so subtly that we can easily fail to realize that it is no longer capable of doing what we installed it to do: protect our birds. Wood supports rot, metal rusts and suddenly we find out to our disgust that a predator was easily able to defeat our fencing and birds are lost. Fix those pens not used or lightly used over the winter. It is also a good time to sheath even chain link or other tight fencing with plastic or wire mesh to prevent wild birds from entering the pens to consume feed and spread disease. Flocks of wild birds can consume as much as 1/3 of the feed we pay for.
So you see, there is plenty for us to do to make good use of the “downtime” during the winter months.
Winter Equipment Maintenance by Lou Horton