We received our chicks this morning! I decided to get the brown egg layer assortment this year. I'm not exactly sure what's what and who's who, but my children have already named a few of our soon-to-be hens! I did notice that two of them are the Turkens, with the bald neck and head...............my thoughts exactly;)
If you are a little bit hesitant on taking that first step in starting down the chicken road, let me reassure you, it is very simple to raise these little gals! If you have not noticed already, I keep things as simple as possible. Only when there is a problem will I tweak the situation, and so far, our 8 years of chick raising has been somewhat successful!
A friend of mine told me that if she knew how easy it was to raise chickens, she would have done it a long time ago. She's about right!
Last year, we hatched our own out, some with an incubator, some with the broody hens. It is such a delight watching the chicks work their way out of the shell in the incubator and observing mother hen taking care of her newly hatched chicks. But, unfortunately, most of those hatched were roosters:( Needless to say, we bought 25 hen chicks through Murray McMurray. We have always had great success with this company.
Before we receive the chicks, we make sure everything is set up. These little fluff balls are hungry and thirsty and probably feel a little bit chilled when they arrive through the mail. You can either get a big cardboard box, plastic swimming pool, wooden box or any other container that will be big enough for them to live in for awhile. We put hay down and sprinkle some pine shavings on top for a nice, clean bed.
Then we add the feeder and waterer along with a heat lamp and that's about all you need! Notice the dented heat lamp below. Not pleasing to the eye, but hey, it works, right? You don't want to put the lamp too close to the chicks. We have ours about 2 1/2 feet from the bottom. Eventually, this will need to be raised higher. If it is freezing weather outside, it might need to be lowered.
Watch your chicks. If they start panting, that is a dead giveaway that they are too hot. If they are all scrunched to one corner away from the lamp, you might want to move the lamp up a little. If they are all crowded underneath the lamp and packed tightly together, lower it slightly as this is a sign that they are still cold.
We always put little rocks in the waterer as pictured below. This keeps them from drowning or getting too wet which could result in death due to being too chilled.
We start them out with medicated chick starter for layers. I don't like to keep them on this for too long. Usually 3-4 weeks is long enough. During the third week, we begin to mix their food with regular, non medicated food to get them used to it.
You want your chicks to be scattered about, chirping happily and pecking at whatever little morsel they can find. I always sprinkle some food on the floor for them so that they start pecking and eating quickly. It's amazing how fast they can find the water and food!
Raising chicks is a great starter for those who want to become more self sustainable by raising their own food. If goats, cows and pigs seem a little overwhelming to you, let me reassure you that chickens won't step on your toe and bring tears to your eyes. They don't kick or knock you over when you are feeding them. They don't look down at you or eye to eye. The one drawback that my kids have noticed though......they can't ride them!
Did you know you can use certain essential oils on chickens and other farm animals? Find out more here!