Thursday, April 12, 2012
Raising Baby Chicks
Introducing . . . Our fifteen new black australorp chicks! We have been wanting to get a few more hens for the homestead! After the death of a few of our ladies due to predators, our egg production has gone down a bit. Since we have lots of customers wanting eggs, we decided it was time to invest in a few more. Last week, a friend of ours called wanting to know if we would be interested in fifteen baby chicks. He had purchased twenty-five, but really only wanted ten. Although we have previously purchased pullets (young chickens at least 20-weeks old), we decided we could take on the adventure of raising up the chicks. After raising meat chickens from chicks last year, we had all the equipment and decided it was an adventure worth taking! :) Of course, there have been some differences . . . Let's start with the fact that these little birdies won't grow quite as fast as the meat birds. Also, all of our chicks are hens this time. . . don't ask me how one would discover this- apparently you can squeeze the poop out of them (literally), and these modest little babies reveal everything! So far everything seems to be going great with our little girls! They eat much less than our last batch of chicks, and that means they defecate less. The best part? They smell less! Yea!
So that being said, I thought I would give you a little info on what is needed to raise chickens from baby chicks:
Once you have your brooder, you will need to layer the bottom of it with pine shaving or something similar. When the chicks move in, you will want to make sure you keep this living area clean for the birds. We usually cover any poop with a new layer of shavings each time we check on them (at least twice a day), but eventually you will probably want to clean out the brooder, and give the birds all new shavings. Just use common sense, and make sure the brooder is clean enough to keep away diseases. These little chicks will be more prone to diseases than older chickens. NOTE: We didn't keep our meat chickens in the brooder long enough to have to completely change their litter, so we will just have to see how it goes with these chicks.
Be sure your brooder has enough room for feed, water, and a little space to run around (It is pretty fun to watch them run, especially as they begin getting feathers on their wings!). Once the chicks are about a month old it would be a good idea to give them a little roost. A stick or board about 4 inches off the ground would work great! They will love it!
As for the kind of food to get . . . Baby chicks eat food called "crumbles". This food will provide all of their dietary needs, and you can get it medicated or unmedicated depending on your preference. Even though their diets will primarily consist of this food for the first several weeks, it is always fun to watch a bug fly in the brooder as they all go after the treat! Sometimes Skyler will find a bug and toss it in! Bugs are what they really like! Plus, this is what they get the most off when they start free ranging around our homestead!
Playtime and Bonding
I am not sure that we have really developed this with our little chicks yet, but I bet if you have kiddos around they would love to love on these little babies! After the first couple weeks it would probably be ok to let the kids take a few chicks outside to play. Just be careful of predators - older chickens, family dogs, etc. Also make sure you keep an eye on them as I imagine it would be easy for them to get lost in small spaces. Chickens are a fun loving animal, and even though they may not want to be cuddled they can get attached to you. When people come over they always laugh at how our chickens will come when we call them! (They really just come because we usually have food for them, but that can be our little secret! ;)
So there you have it! All you need to raise up baby chicks! Now, if only raising little Kyria were going to be that simple!