As of today, Friday, the baby chicks will be five weeks old. The last time we posted the birds were just a few days old. A little bit of food for thought. Sometimes things just don't work out the way you plan. After getting
the baby birds out of the house and into their temporary quarters, I developed an upper respiratory infection, or that's what the doctor called it anyway. But a side affect of that was, I could not tolerate any form of dust, which includes chicken dust. So, we had a problem and we needed a solution. I needed an industrial grade dust mask. I looked up a farm supply, a company called Gempler's, and ordered a couple of masks that are made for ammonia, but also come with a dust mask attachment. The chickens are scared to death of me. I'm not sure my cats will ever come back home, but my dog still loves me.
Okay, back to the chickens. The birds stayed in their temporary quarters a little longer than we had planned. They were well fed and watered, but when we moved them to their permanent quarters, the first hour or so they didn't walk like normal chickens. The reason being their height was constricted in their temporary quarters after they got so tall. But after a couple of hours they stretched their legs were fine.
Their diet. We started off with medicated chick starter, it's a crumble type product. After two weeks on the chick starter we went to regular laying crumbles. It's the same size feed, it's just made for bigger birds. This is what some people feed their birds on a daily basis. Now we switched to an all-purpose feed that we also give our goats. This is what we are feeding our adult chickens now, too. The change from chick starter, to laying crumbles, to the all-purpose blend we did very gradually. There is one difference between what we feed the goats and the chickens, we don't add alfalfa to the chicken blend. And here is that blend:
- 6 parts rolled oats
- 4 parts sweet feed
- 1 part sunflower seed
- 1 part wheat bran
- And for the goats, 1 part alfalfa pellet
Water. For about the first week we also added a vitamin electrolyte solution to their drinking water. This just helps the birds get a good start in life. Now they are drinking regular water.
With time we've also changed what they eat and drink out of. Now I know the baby chicks feel really special because they are eating and drinking off the same dishes that the big birds eat and drink out of.
In the growing process, we lost a couple of baby birds. We had one die from a crusted vent. We had a couple die for unknown reasons. We had one bird that had a deformed beak, and he was put down. You ever notice when you have to put something down it's a he? Funny how that works, isn't it?
Housing. Before we could get the baby birds to their permanent housing we had to do some chicken home improvement. This has only been waiting about four years to get it done, and it took us probably three hours to do it. But now the big birds and the little birds are separate.
Don't think that a little bird can't find a hole or a weak spot in your chicken fencing. The first day we put all of the baby birds in their new home, the next morning probably half of them were someplace other than where they were put the day before. I don't understand. But they can find a weak spot in your fencing. I guess it's basic animal behavior, to always want to be someplace other than where you are. You know, the grass is always greener on the other side type concept? If we hadn't caught the escaped babies early in the morning before sunrise, then the adult birds would probably have pecked them to death. But that didn't happen and we are thankful. Once a bird develops a pecking problem, there is no way to stop that behavior. Well, there is a way to stop that behavior, but you have to stop the bird, permanently.
|Adult birds checking out the new babies|
Next on the agenda, believe it or not, is separating the young roosters from the young hens. I will pick out the two roosters I like the best, and at the age of 12 weeks, we will butcher all but two males. So, for the next few weeks, it's just feed, water, look for problems, make sure everybody is healthy and happy. It's fun to watch the birds grow as they start to take on their adult colors and shapes, because pretty soon, 12 weeks will be here.
A little review here. We have about 46 to 50 baby birds. Half of those came from Murray McMurray Hatchery, and the other half of the birds I hatched. Now for the simplicity of math, I'm going to say we have 48 baby birds. If they're half and half male and female, then I will have 24 females and 24 males. So, that means I will be butchering 22 young males. Also, if I have 48 birds and 24 came from the hatchery, that means 24 of them I hatched. Of that 24, half of them came from friends of ours. So, that means 12 of the baby birds are pure Easter Egg chicken. The 12 from my friends, the rooster was an Easter Egg, but the hens are an assortment of heavy breeds, like Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, and some other heavy breeds. The 24 from the hatchery are Black Australorps. I am new to Black Australorps, this will be my first time with them. They are a dual purpose, heavy breed.
So, we're at five weeks, at 12 weeks we butcher the males. At five to six months they start laying and at one year we hatch their babies. Unless something comes along, the next time we talk chickens, should be in six to seven weeks. If you hatched some birds this year or you ordered some, please let me know how it's going. Email or comment would be appreciated. Just to let you know ahead of time, this year instead of freezing the males we butcher, we're going to can the meat instead. We've done this on a smaller scale before. That's the plan anyway.
We'll talk more later. Frank