Posts Tagged ‘chicks’

I’ve wanted to get chickens for a few years now, but life and its various hardships, large and small, kept getting in the way. Now that I’ve recovered from or settled into most of these, the idea came up again. As I’m in a better financial position than ever before, and I have a very supportive boyfriend who is happy to use power tools, I decided to go for it this time.

Having had eggs from three different local flocks, I will say that there is often little comparison between a store-bought/battery egg and an egg raised on a small or local establishment. The latter generally offers a better, more varied diet with at least some outdoor access/access to forage.  The yolks stand up more firmly and are much deeper golden/orange, and the texture of the overall egg is not as runny. The flavor is also superior, in my opinion, but beyond that, tests have shown that such eggs have a better nutritive value than ‘factory farmed’ eggs (although some larger egg producers, such as Eggland’s Best, are now feeding different diets that help with this. Just be wary, because ‘cage free’ and other such labels on egg cartons often mean nothing about the hens’ diet or whether they were actually allowed outside).

I got my chicks from Mt. Healthy hatchery, which was recommended by an employee of Tractor Supply Company when I was pricing supplies. I would’ve gotten chicks locally, but I specifically wanted some Wyandottes, a breed that seems to be hard to find around here (and is on the ALBC-USA ‘Recovering’ list). The minimum order for Mt. Healthy is 15. Many sites have a minimum of 25, which was too many for me. Others will, using heating packs, ship as few as 3-6 chicks depending on where you live. However, reviews for some of these sites were sometimes poor and I didn’t trust that the chicks would survive. Having made up my mind, I put in for 5 Golden Laced Wyandottes, 5 Silver Laced Wyandottes, and 5 ‘Easter Eggers’, which are basically a mutt breed of chicken that lays colored eggs (pale blue or greenish, usually). They were born on the morning of March 14th.

I got a call from the post office at 7am on the 15th, telling me the chicks had arrived. Upon inspection, all had survived and seemed lively. The shipping box was an adequate size for the number of chicks (not so big that they would be tossed around a lot, and not so small that they’d be smothered) and there was a bedding of straw. The chicks quickly ate/scratched at food, and began to drink on their own after gentle coaxing. After that, they plopped over and started to sleep, or sort of dozed off on their feet. So far, so good.

For my brooder, I splurged a little:

  • – Plastic storage tote on wheels from Walmart (biggest size they had) – $20?
  • – Standard clamp-on heat lamp, with infrared bulb with non-corrosive base (this is because the heat can make it stick in the socket) – $8 + $6 = $14
  • – 1 qt. feeder – $5
  • – 1 qt. waterer – $5
  • – thermometer – $3

but these things, if taken care of, will last for many batches of chicks, so it’s worth it. I was going to brood them in cardboard boxes, but that is dirtier/makes sanitation hard. Right now I am bedding them on pine shavings leftover from a past pet, so I didn’t have to spend any money on that. It’s lined with paper towels for the first few days to help them figure out what the real food is instead of pecking the bedding, and also to help their little legs get traction. As they get bigger, I may need to move them into something larger, like a kiddie pool (but I can probably get/borrow that for free).

The only chick I can tell is definitely an Easter Egger.

The thermometer wasn’t  strictly necessary, because chicks will tell you when they’re cold – they clump together, peep more loudly, and huddle under the heat source. Similarly, when hot they will try to get away from the heat source, and might pant/gape their beaks. When comfortable, they spread out and walk around, eat calmly, nap, etc.

This is the chick I've been calling 'Lunk', as it seems to be bigger (or at least fluffier) than any of the others.

Feed should be placed apart from the water and kept dry, because wet feed can grow harmful pathogens. I am feeding them Manna Pro chick starter crumbles. This feed is medicated with amprolium, an anti-parasitic that works to prevent coccidiosis, a disease that spreads and can sometimes kill baby chicks. Those who want to avoid chemicals/drugs completely may not wish to use this type of feed, but since this is my first batch of chicks, I want to do everything I can to ensure their survival with minimal trouble. After they get older, they will be fed some standard poultry feed but also allowed access to grass/forage.

As they grow, we will be building an outdoor coop for them, which I’ll be sure to update about. Costs will be relatively low and will be in things like screws, hinges, and the sheet of plywood for the floor. Because I live on this old farm, there are a lot of materials just lying around, including the cinderblocks we are using as a base. I am getting free chicken wire from the neighbor, because he had extra from his own chickens. From my dad’s job at a glass cutting/finishing shop, I will be getting discarded windows, 1×4″ lumber for siding, and 2×4″ and 2×6″ lumber for framing. Their glass comes to them in big cases made of the stuff, and those simply need to be ripped apart to be reused. I can also get all the egg cartons I’d ever need from my own workplace, but that’s a few months down the road.

To anyone looking to raise chickens, I would strongly recommend looking around to sources like these for inexpensive or free materials. People have even made chicken coops using pallets as a base. If you can get stuff from a family member who has an ‘advantageous’ job like my father does, work with or live around someone who has chickens, etc. it’s worth asking them where they got theirs or if they have extra. It’s way cheaper to build your own than to buy a pre-made one, but this is especially true if you can find supplies you can repurpose. You can sometimes find cheap or free chicks/chickens themselves, as well as used or extra supplies, on Craigslist or your local Freecycle group (at least if you live in an area like mine). Some towns also have ‘spring cleanups’ where a variety of items are put to the curb, and occasionally you can find materials from peoples’ last remodeling job mixed in with that stuff as well.


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