Preparing for the arrival of the chicks was so exciting! It was almost like Christmas. We counted down and with each passing day, our anticipation rose! In our household, it was a family affair. I ordered the chicks in February for a June delivery date. Why did I wait so long? Well, I had a few reasons. I wanted to do more research about their permanent coop and run. I also knew that the chicks would grow very quickly. In fact, at about 6 weeks they look like mini-chickens! I wanted the kids participate in the experience as much as possible, so I waited until summer vacation.
About one week prior to the chicks' arrival, we went to our local Feed Store. We are very lucky to have a terrific store about 10 minutes away that carries all types of livestock products. They also carry Organic Chicken Feed! I am a lucky girl and so are my chickens. I think that one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make is whether you are going to feed your chickens organically or with a traditional non-organic feed. We chose to go organic.
The USDA organic certification was never truly an option for our family. The certification process is extremely rigorous including inspections, soil sampling and documentation. The soil has to have no added chemicals for the past 7 years! It was too much for me with my small backyard flock. So, we decided that we would feed them organically and not worry so much about the rest.
Organic feed contains pure ingredients. They do not contain medications, heavy metals, animal by-products or preservatives. There is also a variety of non-organic feed on the market. My suggestion is to start reading the labels. There are good feeds out there that are non-organic. However, some non-organic feeds contain antibiotics, arsenic, ground up-dead chickens, animal by-products, chicken litter and feather meal. YUCK! It's no wonder that I started to think about my food sources!
The next choice is deciding whether to feed your chicks medicated vs. non-medicated feed. Medicated feed offers baby chicks protection against Coccidiosis. Some hatcheries also vaccinate against Marek's Disease. I highly recommend vaccinating your chickens for Marek's if this is available to you. The hatcheries do not vaccinate the Silkie Bantams. So, half of my flock was vaccinated and the other half was not. I fed them the non-medicated organic chick starter and they all turned out fine. I credit this to paying close attention to keeping the brooder clean and dry. Good hygiene is very important.
Every manufacturer will recommend on the label how long to keep your chickens on a particular type of feed. From chick starter, they will go onto a grower feed, then a layer or broiler feed, depending on your final intentions. Once you decide on the feed, the rest is pretty straight forward.
At the store, you will need to purchase a chick starter feed, a chick feeder, chick waterer, pine shavings, grit, a thermometer and a heat lamp with a 250 watt heat bulb. I recommend purchasing one waterer and one feeder per 6-7 chicks. The rest you can devise from household items and create your brooder. I'll tell you how in my next part of this series.