On Sunday I got a text notification that my chicks were on their way. Surprised, I immediately checked their shipping status knowing that they must have been sent out the day before. Normally chicks are shipped Monday and arrive to you on a Tuesday morning. The status said they were in Maine a few towns away. Of course it was Sunday and the USPS doesn't deliver on Sunday, it was hot and I was kind of panicking my poor chicks were suffocating and starving in a tiny little box! With nothing else to do, I just waited. Monday morning just before opening our town post office called to let me know my birds were there and very ready to be picked up! I could hear them peeping in the background so I knew most of them were in good condition. Montana man was heading up town anyway so he said he would get them for me. While he was gone I set up the brooder, in an old truck tool box no less, the only thing we had that was large enough for 40+ chicks without building something!
Again, I had bought an organic chick starter mash with which we had great success with our meat chicks. Typical chick starter from a feed store is medicated and many will try to tell you that without the antibiotics your chicks will most likely die. I had 100% success with organic feed and I thought our chicks were quite robust and lively. If you are raising chicks for meat or eggs and want the finished product to be 'organic' you really do need to start them on organic feed from day one.
When the chicks arrived home we both quickly but gently put them in their brooder an kept an eye for any that were in distress. All were alive thankfully, and soon the peeping sound in the brooder was making my ears ring! I usually teach them to drink as I take each one from the shipping box, but I forgot to tell that to MM and so I ended up teaching about half and the other half seemed to just learn from them. Everyone found the food in a hurry! I thought to look at the box sticker after I noticed our free rare chick (a bantam this time I believe). We were given a free extra Light Brahma male and extra Barred Rock male. So, 43 chicks total, 32 for the freezer in November!
You might notice their water is orange, no we do not have a rust problem! Because of the heat and prolonged time with shipping we got electrolytes for their water to give them a boost. My friend at American Family Now has a post on how they raise chicks and why they choose not to use any water additives. I do agree with her that chicks have survived thousands of years without, yet I find no harm in giving them an initial boost especially after less than ideal shipping period. I would not give additives to chicks hatched and cared for by an actual hen because their stress would likely be much less.
I don't have a light pictured over them in these pictures but I did put one in before I secured them for the night. Our last red heat bulb broke, knowing it wasn't going to be real cold I just replaced it with a regular 120 watt bulb. I might have gone to get another heat bulb but there are so many of them that a mass huddle seems to do the trick and the light is really more of a light 'blanketing' effect for them. Everyone was eating and drinking well this morning and I think this will be a hearty group!
We do have a barn cat and while he has not ever tried to get at our chicks before, we do take precautions against incidents. My brother's dog is a definite problem and because we do not have the brooder in the stall which has a door, we are keeping the garage door at the front of the barn closed all the time right now.
I look forward to watching this colorful bunch grow! I may give away some of our Golden Comets in the fall to someone wanting to start their own small laying flock to keep the laying flock at a reasonable amount for the next year. It may also be advantageous to get rid of my two worst feather pickers who terrorize the rest including my rooster. While I am sure it will get better once they are in a much larger run and coop, it would still be a quick fix if it was still a problem after.
There are several blogs and articles out there on natural chicken keeping (may I just say some love their chickens a little too much!), and I do not feel the need to give a ton detail on mine! I will share our experience with raising heritage breeds for meat and our success or lack there of with having hen hatched chicks in the coming year. Like gardening, chickens take some learning and I am certainly still learning!
Til next time.