Adding to My Flock

Reader Contribution by Laura Damron
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Every spring, for the past few years, I’ve picked up some chicks at the feed store to replace losses and add to my flock. It helps me keep egg production pretty consistent, and quite frankly, the chicks are fun to raise. It also gives me something to focus on in the spring, when the weather isn’t cooperating.

My existing flock of four is comprised of Flo, a Silver-laced Wyandotte who is heading into her third summer. She’s the one who went broody this past summer and drove everyone a little nuts with her less-than-pleasant behaviors. The next oldest bird is Fauna; she’s an Americauna and the last of the Fairy Godmothers (as well as the last named chicken). We also have a Plymouth Barred Rock and another Americauna , who were raised as chicks last year.

Now, if you’re keeping count, that’s just four chickens remaining out of 11 purchased over the previous two  years … the accountant in me says that doesn’t look like a great retention rate – four out of 11 is 36%.

I’m more of a glass half full gal, so let’s break it down by purchase so we can see actual performance:

Group 1: 4 purchased, 1 remains. (25%)

Group 2: 3 purchased, 1 remains. (33%)

Group 3: 4 purchased, 2 remain. (50%)

Three data points are the minimum you need to indicate a trend, so by that rule it looks like I’m getting better at this, every time! That’s a relief.

At the end of March, I picked up six chicks: two Golden Laced Wyandottes, two Welsummers and two Rhode Island Reds – the last two breeds being totally new to me, experience-wise, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re like firsthand. We’re calling them the Brady Bunch, collectively – giving a group name helps narrow down who we’re talking about without getting too personal. If my trend continues, we should see a loss of only one or two of this group. Cross your fingers.

There’s been so much written about how to raise chickens that I’m not going to go into too much detail, but if you have questions, let me know. My setup is pretty straightforward – when they first come home, they live in a large plastic tub in the laundry room. There’s a heat lamp, and having them in close proximity allows me to keep an eye on them to make sure they’re eating and getting along. It’s also an easy room to clean – chicks are DUSTY and really start to make a mess after a while. One of these days, when I build the next coop, it’ll have a room just for brooding with power for the lamp.

After about five weeks, once everyone has feathered out and as long as it’s staying in the high 40s at night, they get moved out to the mini coop. I have that positioned near the main chicken run, so the chicks and the older birds can start getting used to each other, as safely as possible. The chicks haven’t quite figured out the pecking order yet, so they run the risk of getting injured by the big girls if they get too pushy.

In another month or so, we’ll begin the process of integrating the two groups. More on that in another post, though! What about you – do you add chicks each year?

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