Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Start of Our Sustainable Laying and Meat Flock

Light Brahma chick.

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.

Feathered legs on one of the Light Brahmas, one of the reasons they are so cold hearty.

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.

An old screen door makes a good cover for this hodge podge brooder!

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.


  1. Hi Emelia! I admit, I had fallen a few weeks behind on your blog. My readership has been declining over the past few weeks as well, and I suspect we're all (those of us interested in homesteading blogs) are just too busy living life to spend as much time online! lol Enough with excuses. So many thoughts came to me while reading the past several posts.

    Your garden is looking amazing! Your list of baby to-do's looks great - I agree that prioritizing cuddling and toilet paper are essential :) I'm sorry to hear this winter will be rough family-wise. My dad was gone for a week or two at a time when I was little and I remember that being very difficult. While Papa is home every night, during fall-through spring he is often only home during dark hours so I have had to learn how to take care of most of the off-grid aspects of our lifestyle, and I can relate to your concern about taking on added responsibilities, although I won't pretend not to appreciate him being home every night nonetheless! Our prayers will be with you and yours!

    Also, as for revising your goals, I have to say - go girl! I have struggled with revising goals and to-do's according to life's demands, and although it is hard, it is SO important to your health and wellbeing (and that of your family's) to go with the flow sometimes. Papa likes to say that as long as we're doing something productive, it's not so important that we get everything done. We just do what we can do and be happy!

    I've been enjoying your blog, and wish we lived closer together so we could visit more often!

  2. I too wish we lived closer, but I am so glad we have our blogs to stay connected! As for husbands being gone... there are so many different degrees of "solo parenting" and some experience it on a daily basis or just a seasonal basis. I knew you would get it ;-) I am so thankful to be well and strong enough to keep up with everything and be able to at the least fill the freezer with home grown chicken this year, that was a big priority for us. If I get things canned that would be nice too! But, yes, I think every year I realize more that not everything needs to be done RIGHT now. I will be happy if nothing else gets done but the house to be liveable! Can't wait to see you at the party!