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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Chicks

There are very few things that are cuter than brand new baby chicks. I have been so excited for spring, knowing that the feed store would start getting the baby chicks, turkeys and ducks. This year I got 3 new layers (meaning egg layers). Here is what I got.

Amy, she is an Ameraucana she will lay about 3 blue or green eggs per week.

Power Ranger and Ariel, are Rhode Island Reds, we choose them because they are excellent egg layers, each laying about 5 brown eggs per week.

I told you, there aren't many things cuter!

This is my set up until they are mature enough to join my other chickens outside. We have our chicks a rabbit cage that we found for free on craigslist.org, but a box with tall sides would work just as well. I like the rabbit cage, last year our chicks started to fly before they were ready to be outside we had to find a grate to cover the top of the box to prevent them from getting out.

A source of heat is a must! We invested in a heat lamp this winter to keep our layers laying while it was cold, and now are using it for the chicks. A 100 watt light bulb with a homemade tinfoil cone will work as well.

The chicks will let you know if they are too hot or cold, if they are huddled together right under the lamp. they are too cold. If they are spread out as far from the light as possible, they are are too warm. They should be scratching and running around the entire area, and napping and resting just outside the rim of the light.

I use pine shavings for their bedding, it is inexpensive at the feed store and it is very effective. Dirty bedding will be thrown into the compost bin when it is changed.
Chickens are very messy, as you can see in the picture, they have no qualms about standing (and pooping) in their feed. It is important to make sure they have clean food and water at all times. It is also a good idea to keep their bedding away from the water, last year my chicks would kick all their bedding into their water within minuets of getting fresh water.
Chicks will need commercial starter crumbles. Layers will graduate to layer pellets (high energy feed) Layers will also eat your table scraps - almost all of them - meat, vegetable, pasta, etc. as well as mow your back lawn.

Layers are a long term investment - 2-3 years, but you get eggs everyday after 4 months. For best egg production, I suggest Rhode Island Reds or RI crossbreeds for brown eggs or Whit Leghorns for white eggs. There are also more interesting layers that give various colors of eggs, but the eggs production is not as good.



Brandi Salway said...

I'm not sure if your chicks have had this problem, but mine were eating the shavings and getting sick. (Pasted up is what the books call it) One book suggested changing to 4" strips of newspaper for their bedding instead. Since I changed I haven't had a problem.

Just one thing I've learned along my chicken raising journey.

I also wanted to get your opinion on how long you keep them in the rabbit cage. I think mine are getting restless!

marisa said...

Brandi, I have heard of the problem, but my chicks have never done this. When I first brought them home, I saw them pecking at the shavings and I pushed them over to their food.

I believe you have 5 chicks in your rabbit cage, it is recommended that when they are around 4 weeks old that they each have at least 3/4 sq. feet per bird. So if you don't have that, you could separate 2 in one area 3 in another. Beware, when you put them all back together they will re-establish pecking order. I will be keeping my chicks in the garage until they are 6 weeks old, just because we might get some cold nights.

Sarah said...

that makes me want chicks soooo bad. i just haven't taken the plunge? i don't know if i could pull it off here??

Tracy said...

i was told that it is very hard to determine the sex of the chicks until they are more mature. we would really like 3 hens, but not so much a rooster - is this rumour true? also, where did you purchase yours?

marisa said...

It IS very difficult to determine the sex of hens, 'sexed' chicks are a little more expensive than 'straight run chicks' (meaning unsexed). I purchase my chicks at the local feed store IFA (Intermountain Farmers Association) and they have them separated.

Most hatcheries do not sex the chicks for you, so if you want some hens, I would suggest making some phone calls to see if you can find a local store that sells chicks.

Good luck, keep us updated on your adventure!

Ginni Dee said...

What sweet babies!! I just got 6 Araucana chicks and am picking up 8 more tomorrow (Those will be Buff Orps and Golden Comets). I love watching them, they are so funny!