Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Growing Up Chicks!

Last summer, you may remember we were given a mama chicken and her 7 babies. Well 5 of those babies ended up roosters, so we kept one, one disappeared, and the other 3 were given away to be butchered. The remaining 3 hens are doing well. The mama, Fluffy, lays nice big brown eggs, and the her 2 big chicks lay green eggs because their daddy was an Easter Egger, or Ameracauna.

So this year, we bought 9 chicks to raise. Problem? It is 100% different hand raising chicks than having mama do it for you.
Chicks on the way home.
When a chicken has chicks, she provides protection, helps find food and shows them what to eat, and she provides them warmth. Really, all you have to do is take care of the hen and keep her in a safe place, provide food and water, and she will do the rest.
When you are hand raising chicks, you take the place of the hen. You have to provide a safe place for them to live, food, water, and heat. 
Scared to check out their new home
30 gallon tote
We decided to use a 30 gallon tote for their first home. However, they quickly outgrew that humble abode in less than a week, so we moved them into a 50 gallon tote. For the lid, Sam found a wooden frame with wire cloth stapled to it, it fit okay on both totes, so that's what we used for both. The lid not only kept them safe from our dogs and cat and kept them from flying out (side note: they make look feeble, but they can fly when they want!) but it also provided a safe place for their heat lamp to rest. The heat lamp takes the most important place of the hen, it provides warmth for the babies. They started out huddled underneath it, but as they grew they started sleeping on the edge. Soon I will raise it even farther from the cage, and then remove it altogether.  
New bigger tote, you can also see the heat lamp on the left hand side of the picture
For food we use a chick starter from a local feed store. You can buy medicated or unmedicated, I chose unmedicated because there are a few risks associated with medicated feed, and while there are risks with unmedicated feed, I all but eliminated them by keeping the chicks' brooder clean, warm, and dry and keeping the chicks inside. They eat a lot, way more than I thought they would. The 2 weeks we have had them they have eaten half of a 40 pound bag of feed. The feed bowl gets filled around 5 times a day. I will start giving them treats of kitchen scraps in the next week or so, but I have to get them grit to help digest it first. For water, I chose to use a small chick waterer even though that means filling it 5 times a day or more. But even if I got the bigger one, I would still be filling it or cleaning it that much because they poop or kick bedding or food into the water which can make them sick. Plus who wants to drink the water your sibling poo'd in? The first week I added rocks around the tray of water so they couldn't drown, but I removed them  after they were big, strong and smart enough not to drown themselves.

Food and water set up

When the chicks are about 4-5 weeks old we will move them out to the garage into one of those outdoor play yard for kids. Their heat lamp will move with them because it is still quite cold at nights here. Then once they are big enough, around 16-20 weeks we will slowly introduce them to our established flock. Which I'm sure will be another post, as I've never had to to do that either. I am hoping that since there will be more chicks than old chickens, they will get along quite easily, I don't know, safety in numbers? I hope all goes well. Fluffy, our mama hen is still motherly to her own chicks who are a good 8 months old now, so maybe she will have motherly feelings for the babies. I hope so. 

The chicks are getting so tame from being hand raised and go crazy when they hear my voice. As soon as I go to the brooder they run around like mad waiting for me to refill their food and water. I love it. I hope they stay tame. They are a lot more work than I thought they would be, but they are also a lot of fun to watch. The kids absolutely love them. Landon especially likes to help care for them, he already feeds and collects eggs from our big chickens. Our two little ones love to pet and watch them. They are more than farm animals, they are truly pets with personalities of their own. Tomorrow a few get to journey to Landon's school for show and tell, I can't wait to see the kids' faces seeing the chicks.

This Ameracauana baby is the most curious of the bunch.
Isn't this baby Buff Orpington just the poster girl of chicks?
Once this Barred Rock realized I wasn't bringing food, she would not look at the  camera for anything.

Well, the chicks are peeping for their breakfast. Until next time.

(Like this post? It is number 218 on The Prairie Homestead's Barn Hop, head on over to find other blog posts like this one)

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