So, we recently received a batch of chicks from Murray McMurry hatchery. It was a fairly small order as we are hoping to be able to propagate our own brood going forward. But wait…what about those chickens that you already had you may ask? Well, that first batch of chickens included one fabulous chicken named Lana who we think is a Plymouth Rock, a couple of Polish (aka Tophats) roosters (do NOT recommend), and a big bunch of Silkies. We decided to cull the herd and gave the Silkies away. Who knew these were such beloved pet birds, but we discovered quickly that they were. No thanks to pets who walk around with poop on their legs. After we got rid of the Silkies, we noticed that the three remaining roosters were merciless with Lana. Every time she went out to the yard, it was like a bad 70’s porn all over again. She stopped wanting to stay in her yard and would roam around by our house just to get a break from these 3 idiots. As a result, our 3 roosters became 1 rooster a few Sundays ago. Whew. All of that to say this…we needed more chickens!
So, enter these cute little babies. In preparation for our order, Sheldon had built a very nice brooder that they would live in for their first many weeks until they were able to go out into the enclosed on all sides (and top) yard before ultimately moving into one of our chicken coops. Did we have a learning from that first chick experience? Oh yeah we did-a bunch!
1) If you are ordering your chicks, perhaps be smarter than us and don’t order them to arrive in January. Too freaking cold. Chicks have to be kept at temperatures ranging between 70-95 their first few weeks and this is a hard temp to maintain in a brooder that is outside. Which brings me to….
2) Determine in advance if your brooder can maintain a 95 degree temperature in all weather. We found out quickly that ours could not despite solid construction and insulation. Experienced chicken farmers I’m sure already know this, but us chicken noobs had no idea. We needed our brooder to be located inside one of our outbuildings where it would be better insulated from the elements. It’s now inside the building located closest to our house so we can easily access it to check on these demanding little boogers. If this isn’t an option for you in advance, you’d better have a…
3) Plan B before your chicks arrive. For us, we were able to quickly transition them to our basement bathroom. It was far from ideal, but we were able to maintain temperature and conditions easily just giving up the second bathroom in our house. Not perfect, but it wasn’t the end of the world. And I don’t think they minded:
There were some things that we did right…um, not much but we did have thermometers that we could keep in there to constantly (and remotely) monitor temperature. We also made sure that we read up on keeping chicks safe, warm and happy. It’s not just about opening up the box and randomly dropping in food. You also need to make sure that you are using bedding that is appropriate to their age (start with newspaper and remove it within first week for leg development), using chick grit (NOT the same as chicken grit) and frequently (oh so frequently) changing out their water because they throw more stuff in that water than our 4-year-old.
So, Sheldon just came back in the house to grab some coffee and eat some breakfast. Chicks are getting huge and I need them to get the heck out of my bathroom so I can spend 10 hours cleaning it. Blech. But, in a few months, we will have a huge bounty of both eggs and bug eaters that will contribute greatly to the overall health and welfare of our family farm…and hopefully we will do the same for them! Good luck and happy laying!