Chick Days

| 6/24/2015 2:27:00 PM

Tracy HouptOur latest animal project at Adventure Farm involved moving 19 chicks from a brooding crate in our basement to their more permanent home in the large chicken coop. It’s a transitional step that required some thought, because at 7 weeks old they’re not big enough to fully integrate with the 3-year-old birds that eat and roost in there. The youngsters no longer need a heat lamp, but until they start laying eggs at 16 to 20 weeks, they must be kept separate from our older flock.

For one thing, they shouldn’t eat adult layer feed because it contains too much calcium for their systems. Another reason to go slowly when integrating birds of different ages is the size difference; the older birds would probably brutalize the little ones at this stage of the game. With all this in mind, we decided to move the brooding crate, which is actually a large wire dog crate, into the coop. We positioned the open door of the crate flush with the entrance/exit hole that goes out to the front chicken run. This way the young birds can come and go from this run into the relative safety of their crate.

The older birds use a different hole to access the back chicken run and woods/pasture area for their daily free-ranging activities, yet they can still access their nesting boxes, food and roosts.

The 19 chicks we moved are a mixed flock of Australorps, “Easter Eggers” (the ones that lay blue-green eggs), Silver Spangled Hamburgs (new to us this year), and Dark Brahmas, also new to us, who have eye-catching feathered legs and are reportedly quick to go broody. I’m glad for broody hens, because I’d rather have a mama hen do all the work of raising babies, while I do other things!

We ordered our first batch of chicks three years ago after carefully researching various breeds. We made their first home by taping together two large cardboard boxes. We scattered pine shavings over the bottom, set up the feeder and waterer, and arranged the heat lamp so that the temperature was near 95 at the floor level of the box. Like new parents, we fretted over the temperature and fussed with the whole set-up, not sure we were getting it right.

The next morning as I went down the basement stairs to check on my new babies, I heard no peeping coming from the brooding box. I thought for sure they had all died overnight, killed by our inexperience. Then I peeked over the top of the box, and saw all 25 chicks fast asleep. They were passed out like drunks in the gutter, but I thought it was the cutest thing I’d ever seen!

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