Our chicks have come a long way since we got them over a month ago. They are now fully feathered and look like adult chickens. They still have quite a bit of growing to do over the next few month before they will reach their final size. At this point the chicks can almost deal with the weather all on their own. We will still keep them inside for about a week before putting them out with the older chickens. They no longer need to be under a heat lamp, but the nights are still getting cold, that is why we are waiting. The next challenge will be integrating them with our current flock. There will be quite a bit of pecking but the chicks will survive. The older hens will be letting them know where they are in the pecking order, which is sure to be at the bottom. We will discuss integrating new chick in with old hens soon. Stay tuned.
One of our amazing customers just sent me this picture after he filled his raised beds with soil. It is such a great picture I just had to post it. He purchased our small gable roof coop that holds up to four chickens and two of our 4′x8′x18″ raised garden beds. This part of their yard overlooks a lake outside of Seattle, with a stunning view. Please feel free to share your pictures.
As you can see, they have their adult feathers now. There are still a few chick feathers that are sticking around, but they will be gone soon. We let them outside for the first time today. They were only out for about 30 minute, and they were a little curious, scarred and cold. At this age they still definitely need a heat lamp, but they are fine without it for a little while. The adult hens were interested in the chicks, but we kept them away. The old ladies won’t play nice with the new little ones. We will go over integrating new hens into an existing flock in a few weeks when we do it. All in all, the chicks have more than doubled in size since we got them, and they are doing well. It is amazing how much feed they consume considering how small they are. One reminder, be sure you have the heat lamp at a good level above the chicks. You can tell how comfortable they are depending on where they spend most of their time. If all of the chicks are huddled directly below the lamp, they are cold and you should move it closer to them. If they are pushed out along the sides of the brooder (remember, this is a fancy way of saying box) they are too hot and you should raise the heat lamp. Continue making sure they have plenty of food and water, and they will continue to amaze you by how fast they grow.
I have been getting a number of questions recently about what else you need to give your chickens in addition to the feed. There are a number of different things out there from vitamins to oyster shells. The only thing that I give my own chicken besides feed is a little grit. Grit is another word for small rocks. They are usually rough instead of smooth. Chickens don’t have teeth, so to digest food they use ‘grit’ to grind the food up in their gizzard, before they digest it. I normally just spread a handful of grit around the yard and chicken run every few months. At our local chicken store, you can buy a small bag for a few dollars. Many people have questions about supplemental calcium for their chickens. You shouldn’t have to use any vitamins or other products along those lines unless there is a health problem with your chicken. Most feed is already fortified with enough calcium for your chickens. This is part of what separates a layer feed from a grower feed. If you find that the eggs shells are becoming a little thin, or are breaking a little too easily, then I would recommend adding a calcium supplement, otherwise don’t worry about it. The most common calcium supplement is oyster shells, and remember, just like with the grit a little goes a long way. Something else that works well, and I’m sure you have plenty of, are egg shells. Yes, chickens love to eat egg shells. What a great way to recycle. Make sure to smash or crunch up the shells into small pieces before letting the chickens eat them so they wont start a habit of eating their own eggs. I will write about preventing that in another post.
If you have a question, feel free to send us an E-mail, and we will answer it.
As you can tell, chickens grow almost as fast as weeds do, though they are much cuter… At two weeks, ours have already doubled in size from what they were the day we got them. We also see their personalities beginning to show.
At this stage, the main things you should be concerned about are keeping their food and water full and clean, especially since the chicks have no problems with leaving their droppings in either. In terms of feed, the chicks should be fed a starter feed. There are many different types but all should have what the chicks need to thrive, so don’t stress; chicks aren’t picky. Starter feed is normally a crumble unlike later feed which is in a pellet form. I have noticed that the chicks have an easier time eating the smaller pieces of crumble than the bigger pieces. Because of this I refill the feeder every day before it is empty, which adds smaller pieces.
The other major concern is checking their ‘vents’ (chicken word for butt) to make sure it stays clear. Occasionally, manure can get stuck and harden on their vent, blocking their bowels, which will kill them. Just wrap your hand around their body and tip them over to check their bottom. If you do see blockage, just repeatedly dip their butt in warm water to soften the manure and rub it off. It’s not a whole lot of fun, but it doesn’t happen often either.
Just another day where the girls are loving life in the compost pile. Chickens are most likely the best thing for a compost pile. They end up doing most of the composting. You don’t have to worry about separating out your kitchen scraps, just throw it all into your compost. Your chickens will eat what they want to, and avoid the things that are not good for them. Plus the more kitchen scraps they eat, the less feed they will consume, which saves you money.
We just picked up three more chickens this week from Bill at The Eugene Backyard Farmer. If you get a chance stop by and check out Bill’s store, it is great and he is very knowledgeable. As for the chicks, we got a Golden Laced Wyandotte, an Australorp, and an Americana. These are being added to our current flock that includes a Rhode Island Red, a Barred Plymouth Rock, and a Welsummer. Over the next few weeks we will be blogging about the raising of these chickens in hopes that it will help those who are planning on getting chicks in the next few months. Right now they are very small, but they grow like weeds, and will be ready to go outside in about seven weeks. The set-up you need for chicks can be very basic, and is referred to as a ‘Brooder’. We are using a cardboard box and put about two inches of animal bedding in the bottom along with a feeder and waterer. We also covered it with hardware cloth, which keeps the cats out, and the chicks in. Cats could be a problem with the chicks, but once they are fully grown cats leave them alone. The colors in the picture are a result of the heat lamp that they are under. Chicks can’t regulate their body temperature, so they must be under a heat lamp. For more info on raising chicks click here or read our blog over the next two months.
This is really important to remember. During this cold weather snap that we are having you need to make sure your chickens have access to water. This most likely means changing out the water twice a day. When the water freezes your chickens will have no way of being able to drink water. Just like for us, water is vitally important to your chickens health. This needs to be a priority, so don’t forget.
So, you have your coop and girls, but one or more of them won’t lay in the nest area. When hens first start to lay eggs they don’t really know what is happening to them, and as a result the egg just ends up where the chicken is. This is normal when they first start to lay. Your hens will soon become accustom to the ‘feeling’ of getting ready to lay an egg, which will help them anticipate the eggs. Don’t worry too much if this is happening during the first few weeks, it is normal. It is always a good idea to put something that looks like an egg in the nest area where you want them to lay. You can use a hard boiled egg, golf ball, wooden eggs, or just use your imagination. Chicken’s want to lay where other chicken’s lay. When they seen an egg, they instinctivly seek out that spot for themselves. Chickens don’t use the nest area like other birds. They only use it when they are laying an egg, which can take from 5 – 60 minutes depending on the breed and the age of the chicken. This is why you only need one nest box for every 4 – 5 hens. Hen’s not only want to lay where the other hen’s lay, they also want a smaller confined area that is a little dark and tucked away. Make sure your nesting area is like this, add a eggs shaped object, and that should solve the problem.
It’s that time of year again. Chicks are now for sale, and ysome of you have never had chicken so you don’t know what to expect. Your girls will start to lay when they are from 5 – 7 months old. It depends a little on the breed and spacific hen. When they do begin to lay the eggs will be a little small and will come erratic. The eggs will get bigger and will be laid on a more consistent basis after a number of weeks.