All is still going well, and our routine remains the same with them. We empty the brooder of all of the dirty pine shavings, replace with new, fill up water and food. Done.
Except, they have been knocking down their feeder and waterer a lot, so I have ordered a new feeder and waterer off of Amazon so that we can hang it from the ceiling.
I ordered two of these feeders:
This feeder holds 3 pounds of feed, and should last a little longer. The fact that I can hang it up should prevent and spillage of food. I ordered one for the brooder inside and one for the Chicken Paddy Wagon outside.
I also ordered one:
I already have one outside, and I only need one inside. It is only 5 quarts. This seems to be a complaint for many, but I think having a little less water is good. That way, you clean it every time you change it. This should prevent it from getting too yucky.
Also, I’m only raising 10 baby chicks at a time. If I was raising more, I would want larger food and water containers.
I will let you know my impression of these purchases once I use them for a bit.
Our chicks are feathering out nicely. Their feathers are coming in on their wings, and now on their tail.
We also bought 10 “Miscellaneous” chicks. We got 3 black ones, 3 light colored chicks with stripes and 3 orange-brown ones. The orange brown chicks are about 2/3 the size of the other chicks. I have no clue what kind of breeds they are, but they are all clearly different. The size difference is quite obvious in real life, but a little more difficult to capture in a picture.
Raising meat birds is so much fun. I think this is something we will continue doing in the future. I’m excited (kind of) about tasting these guys.
I no longer have to do the daily Pasty Butt check. But I do shovel out the brooder daily, and put in new pine shavings.
We have also removed the heat lamp, since they no longer need it. We are in the beginning of Summer, so the weather is warmer. When removing the heat source, observe the chicks to see if they start huddling together to gather heat, or if they act normally. The types of chicks and the current weather make a huge difference as to the exact time to remove the heater. That’s why it is so important to observe.
And finally, we have to do daily cleaning of the brooder. This means we scoop out most of the (poopy) pine shavings and replace it with fresh pine shavings. I put the used pine shavings around my blueberry bushes. They love the acidity of the pine.
The chicks are quickly feathering out, and I think they will be ready to move to the chicken paddy wagon (outside) next week, or the week after. Again, it’s all about observation.
Here is a the progression of the birds aging:
From Left to Right: 1 Day Old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old
Our meat birds are celebrating their one week birthday. It has been a relatively easy week.
Notice the chicks are starting to feather out. They start this at the tips of their wings.
The how-to’s of their first week of life is pretty easy, and not very time consuming.
What is the daily chores for week old chicks?
I check on the boys (as we ordered cockerels, all male) at least once a day, and usually twice a day.
Once a day I pick up each chick to check for Pasty Butt. Pasty Butt is when the chick’s back end (poo hole?) is clogged with poo. This can actually kill them. So as soon as you find it, take a warm, wet rag, sponge or paper towel and gently clean it.
The bummer about this condition is that if your bird gets pasty butt once, they are likely to get it again. BUT it’s super easy to take care of.
I check to make sure that they have plenty of fresh drinking water and that their food is full.
The chicks eating their feed.
Then, I add in some more pine shavings to keep everything clean and smelling fresh.
Why Pine Shavings?
I like pine shaving over other bedding for the brooder because the high acid of the pine neutralizes the smell. Also, the chicken droppings are high in nitrogen, while wood is high in carbon. This makes the perfect combo for fertilizing your plants when it’s time to clean out the brooder. While the nitrogen in the manure is good for plants, it can be a little too much in the fresh poo and burn the plants.
Be Careful NOT to use:
Cedar Shavings – the oils from this will hurt the chicks lungs. Avoid this throughout the chickens entire life span.
Newspapers – the newspapers create a slippery base. Chicks also have a natural desire to scratch and dig. Please let your chicken express his chicken-ness, and give him something to dig in.
So far, so good.
It’s been amazing to watch these guys grow. They have two or three more weeks in the brooder and then we’ll be moving them out to the chicken paddy wagon.
As a family, we want to make sure we source our meat from local, humane and sustainable resources. Sometimes we aren’t successful, but over 95% of the time we are. We have a great resource for chicken, but we have agrarian dreams and we wanted to raise our own. Okay, mostly, I have agrarian dreams and a very supportive husband.
Our First Batch
So our newest adventure is raising meat birds, particularly chickens. We started our first batch five weeks ago, and we got our second batch of ten chicks last night. We start them in our homemade brooder, where they live for three to four weeks. You can read about this DIY brooder here.
We ordered six cockerels (male chicks) for our first batch. I also picked up two turkey poults at that time, one male and one female, from a different local farmer. This first batch of chicken should be ready to be processed (a nice way to say butchered) in about three weeks time. The turkeys will take about six months and should be ready around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Six chicks and two bronze Turkeys. Another agrarian adventure begins!
I’ve read that we should raise the turkeys away from the chickens, and I’ve read it doesn’t matter. Having the turkeys and chickens together so far seems to working out wonderfully.
Our Second Batch
We ordered 10 chicks for our second batch. That seems like the ideal amount for the Chicken Paddy Wagon. The Chicken Paddy Wagon is a 8 foot by 4 foot shelter that we move daily. This is the Joel Salatin Method. Everyday, we move this enclosure to a new section of grass. We do this so:
We order “broiler” chickens from a local hatchery. They are a mix of large bodied heritage breeds that will have a decent amount of meat in a little bit of time.
We did not choose to use the “Cornish Cross” chickens. Those birds come to full maturity at 6 weeks. If they are not processed by about 8 weeks, they start to die from enlarged hearts, or their legs collapse beneath them from the heavy body weight. These Cornish Crosses get so large their feathers do not cover their body. From what I’ve read, these fraken-chickens are not interested in eating bugs or grass. Essentially, they have lost the “chicken-ness” of being a chicken. This seems highly unnatural to me. And a lot of that extra nutrient which pastured poultry is known for comes from the birds eating bugs and grass.
That being said, I think I will experiment and buy a few Cornish Crosses in the future. I have had a lot of experiments go differently than what I read. My plants and animals have not read the same resources I have. So I would like to see the results given our inputs.
Processing the Birds
We have processed birds here before. We did that last fall when we found that we had 4 roosters, and we ordered all hens. It’s not a great idea to have that many roosters. It’s really rough on the hens, and the roosters can fight with each other. So we had to cull 3 roosters. (Culling is when you process chickens due to excess roosters or if they have lived past their laying prime.)
I am also keeping a running tally of the costs associated with raising meat birds. I saw a whole organic chicken for sale at the grocery store for under $8.00. I’m pretty sure our birds are going to cost more than that. However, organic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Organic is better than conventional, but it stinks compared to pastured. These organic birds that you can buy at a store just eat organic food. They probably still live inside of large over crowed chicken houses with little to no ventilation. The birds are probably not eating any bugs, digging in dirt, or eating any grass or weed seeds.
We are feeding our birds 100% organic feed while they have access to the outdoors during the last half of their life. We want our chickens to be happy and to live healthy lives.
So join me on our journey with meat birds from day one to our table.
Over the Christmas baking season, I had to buy eggs. 17 hens in the coop, and I had to buy eggs. Hmm, that didn’t feel good. I’ve heard advice to put a light on in the coop. It will fool the chickens to think that the days are longer and they will lay more. I have refused to do this. Why? I think there is a reason that chickens do not lay when the days are shorter. I do not want to go against nature.
So between the molting and the shorter days, we were getting anywhere from no to 2 eggs a day for a total of about six eggs a week. We ate a lot of oatmeal during this time.
I think our egg drought is OVER! Our egg collection number have gone as such: 3, 3, 4, 6, 3. WOOOO!!!! We’re back and we’re eating omelets!!
We have some really neat colors coming in, too. We have blue, pink with brown spots, pink with white spots and brown. No white ones to be mentioned yet.
Since my last post, we have had another chicken meet her demise by the talons of a hawk. A hawk swooped through the one opening in our netting and killed another one of the chickens. This time it was a fully grown chicken. Though the hawk didn’t get a chance to enjoy his pilfered meal, due to a panic that set over him. Once he killed our chicken, he realized he couldn’t simply fly away. He spent all of his energy trying to find the exit of the run where he came in. He left the carcass of the chicken on the ground.
After this we added security to our run. We strung old fishing line over the openings. This seems to have worked. We have had no more hawk attacks. Although we still have hawks which come in our yard, and eye up our chickens, we have been hawk-attack-free for 5 days.
Our neighbor, who is an avid-ish bird-watcher stopped by, and the issue of the hawks came up. He informed us that we are in the middle of a massive migration of the Broad-winged hawk. Hawk Mountain, which is about 15 miles from our house, counted 888 hawks in JUST ONE DAY. So, chances are that we are not getting the same hawk time and time again. This explains why we had two chickens killed in one day. Also, this gives me some relief that this is a seasonal problem. I will still be able to have my chickens do my garden clean up for me.
If the hawks wouldn’t be eating my entertainment and egg-suppliers, I would actually be quite excited to be seeing them come through. Perspective is a powerful lens. Yet another lesson learned from our land.
Having chickens makes me look at wildlife a bit differently. Two years ago, I would have been thrilled to have a hawk hanging out in my back yard. It would have been a treat to get to see a bird of prey on a regular basis. And if I got to watch a hawk pluck his breakfast from yard, it would have caused elation. What a neat sight! What a powerful creature.
Here’s the monkey-wrench in my admiration of this powerful bird: we have chickens. Hawks eat chickens. This hawk made meals out of our chickens. This first happened when I was on my way out the door. I saw the hawk leaving our front yard with a chicken in it’s talons. I was a little conflicted, it was neat to see the hawk, but I had a bit more negative emotions about the demise of one of our new 16 chicks. It was one of the Easter Eggers. One less blue egg laying bird.
Being that this was our first fatality with all of our new batch of 16, I took this loss in stride. What I did not take in stride is coming out a few mornings later to see this hawk perched on the outside of the coop causing my girls to cackle in fear. I was able to grab a picture as he flew away.
A few days later, he got another young Easter Egger, and that afternoon he picked off another Easter Egger, right in front of my husband. Now we’d had it.
Before this point, we had the little girls free ranging and the big girls in the coop and run. They shared the coop which was separated by a fence. They were getting used to each other so that when they were fully integrated, the little girls would not be too bullied by the big girls.
We decided to integrate them fully. This was a little earlier than we had first anticipated, but only by about a week. So we took down the divider, and everything went fine. The little girls would have more places to hide and not as much opportunity to be out in the open as they had when they were free ranging. We thought this would make out hawk problem go away. It did not.
Within a few days, this same old stupid stinky hawk (see how my view on the creature has changed) came down and killed my one and only Buff Orpington. I was not happy (I’m still not fully over it). So we covered the pen with netting. There are a few spots that are open, but we have not seen the hawk since we made this enclosure. I’m crossing my fingers that this works. I’m also looking for a solution, so that we can move the girls into our portable fencing so they can do the fall clean up on my garden! I will keep you updated.
Yesterday, I was interviewed by our local newspaper about keeping chickens. This has inspired me to write a post about our chickens:
As of right now, we have ten chickens in total. We had one more pass away due to unknown causes. It was our White Sultan. I talked about her in my “Day Old Chick” post.
At this point all of our girls are laying eggs and we get between six and ten eggs daily. The eggs are a variety of colors, sizes, and surprisingly shapes!
We have three Easter Eggers who provide us with those super cool blue eggs. In the picture below, you can see two of our Easter Eggers. They are the brown ones.
In the next picture you can see one of our two Fayoumis. She is the one with the white head. Fayoumis were bred for hot areas, but both girls survived the winter happily. They are the most wild of our flock and really like a large area to investigate and forage. They are very skittish and stand-offish, but they are fun to watch. They lay small white eggs which are rather round.
Our Dominque is the in picture below. She is very small and docile. She is a heritage breed. This means she has been around for a long time, and was used for meat and eggs. The feathers were also used for stuffing. She provides us with brown eggs which seem to be longer and narrower than most of the other eggs.
We also have either three Jersey Giants (who turned out to be runts) or 3 Black Australorps. I believe the company we bought these birds from sent us the wrong bird twice. These birds are incredibly small for what I have read Jersey Giants to be. Any which way, they are good layers and friendly. They are very curious and not afraid of much. They are always looking for a snack and seem to be the top hens in our coop. They lay brown eggs.
Our Silver-Laced Wyandotte is lovingly named “Psycho”. She was quite nutty as a young chick, but has mellowed in her older age. This bread is also heritage. By keeping these heritage breeds, we help to keep diversity in our livestock. Even though I don’t breed them, keeping them results in a demand, which breeders will fill. If we only used prolific layers or bird that were good for meat, we would be down to two breeds: Leghorns for laying and Cornish Crosses for meat. This is one of the reasons I like to keep a wide array of chickens on our patch.
I enjoy all of the breeds we have, When we add more to our flock we will be adding Easter Eggers for the cool blue eggs (which they lay frequently) and their fun personalities. I will also be adding more heritage breed birds, although I’m not sure which ones.
Lessons learned: I will never by the ornamental chickens. They end up getting picked on by the other birds and it seems their life is not as happy as it could be. I also don’t think we will be getting any more Fayoumis. While I am enjoying them while they are here, their egg production is minimal and they are not as fun as our other four breeds.