Remember these cute little gals? In this picture, these girls are only a couple of days old. Chicks change FAST!
Each day as you go out to feed, water and clean out their hutch you will notice that the beginning feathers from the day before are longer (usually wing feathers first!) and there are new little feathers sprouting in different places.Here are the same bunch of girls a couple of weeks later as we are getting ready to move them onto grass….wow! they are starting to look like chickens!
This week, they were moved from their little pen on grass into a huge pen on grass….look at them now!
Chicks are a great homestead project for little ones (as long as they are old enough to understand not to squeeze them to death!) because they change rapidly. My boys were always anxious to do that chore to see how big the feathers were getting, where there were new feathers sprouting, who could begin to fly and who was making “grown-up” sounds.
What do you need to have on hand to raise chicks? Here’s a list of must haves:
Brooder – some sort of pen that keeps them safe from predators (latches on the lid!). We have cats, coons, possums, foxes and more! You want your babies secure! You might also think about “rounding” the corners with card board strips. Chicks tend to crowd in corners when frightened and can easily smother or trample another chick. Rounded corners are safer for all. You can spend a lot of $$$ or you can make one yourself. It needs to have good ventilation!
Clean water at all times (add 1 tsp organic apple cider per quart of water for immune support and to help with digestion) . Change water each day or more often if necessary. You will be surprised at how much water they will drink! Use shallow waterers so that chicks can’t drown in them.
Organic chick crumbles until they are 6 weeks – then change to grower mash. I use the long trays with lids that have oval openings. This helps (doesn’t stop it completely!) keep the chicks from standing in the feed and pooping on everything. Clean it out each time you add fresh food! In an ideal world…this is how the feeder works. Each chick has a hole to eat from….
There’s one in every crowd who doesn’t follow the rules. Can’t you hear it now…”Ethel! Quit pooping in the food bar!”
Red brooder lamp – this keeps the temperature at about 92 degrees but make sure they can get away from the heat if they need to. Once the babies have feathered out, you can begin reducing the heat source by 5 degrees each week until they are 6 weeks old. You can do this by raising the lamp. Be sure to continue to give them enough space to get away from the heat if they need to. I’ve noticed that the smaller chicks tend to stay under the heat longer than the faster growing chicks. It really is important to use a red lamp. If you use a regular white light, the chicks will see any injuries in the flock and will peck each other to death!
Clean shavings – plenty of clean shavings on the floor is necessary for hygiene! Be sure to clean their brooder floor as needed! This will depend on the size of the brooder area and the number of chicks. It’s easy really – you don’t need numbers and schedules….just keep on eye on the amount of poop – and clean it out as necessary!
From the time you get the babies, you will be waiting about 6 months for eggs. It is worth the wait! I remember the first time I cracked open a farm fresh egg from our girls….I didn’t let anyone eat it – the yolk was SO ORANGE I figured there was something wrong with it…yep…total city girl! I made some calls and found out that is what an egg is SUPPOSED to look like. Now those pale yellow eggs that are served in restaurants…nope…can’t eat ’em!
You can get chicks from a local farm store or from a hatchery. Let me know in the comments if your kids are ready for chicks! (Or even the adults in the family!).
Cheri (aka The Mommy Herbalist)