Posted by Kathy Sproules, Thu, Apr 18, 2019
The grass has finally turned green here in the Midwest. You can almost put those coveralls away until next winter. (Although we really can’t be sure about that until mid-May around here!) Another sure sign of spring is walking into your local tractor supply company and hearing the faint chirping of adorable baby chicks. I know you’ve been tempted to take a few of those sweet chicks home. So, when it comes to raising baby chicks, what do you need, and how does this all work?
This year we have decided to add to our flock. Our coop is big enough for several more and we have really enjoyed the chickens we have. Not only do they supply us and our family and friends with eggs, they entertain us daily. So once again I prepared a brooder for our new arrivals. What is a chicken brooder? It is simply a safe, warm place for the chicks. I use a large plastic storage container that will hold bags of horse feed when the chicks graduate. I attach a heat lamp to the top and use shavings as bedding. Manna Pro® makes a great bedding called Fresh Flakes™ that works well for this. Remember that the chicks need a very warm environment during their first few weeks of life. The recommended temperature is around 90° Fahrenheit. They will also need a small feeder and a waterer. For feed I have always used Manna Pro Medicated Chick Starter. My chicks have always done well with that feed. All of the above is available at your local tractor supply company.
Now that you have their home ready, how do you get them there? My tractor supply company is smart enough to know that little kids can’t keep their hands off the chicks, so they keep them visible but surrounded by a barrier to keep busy hands out. The different breeds will be displayed in different containers and clearly marked. A very nice gentleman helped me by putting my selections in a small box with holes in it that closes so my little treasures can get plenty of air and not escape in the car. Around here we want only girls. Sorry, boys! We are interested only in egg production and do not raise chickens for meat (I prefer the anonymous chickens from the grocery store for that purpose). If you want chickens only for eggs, be sure to get pullets. Those are girls. If the sign says “straight runs,” then you could end up with all boys, all girls or a mix of both. In a few short weeks, you will not be able to believe that you brought them all home in such a small box. They grow fast!
I went to two different tractor supply stores this year, as the first one had mostly the breeds I have already and we wanted to try some different breeds this time. We love the breeds we have, but I just like the look of the different breeds. Different chicken feed stores frequently carry different breeds. This year we added Isa Browns, Golden Comets and sex-linked black chicks. We already have Rhode Island Reds, Leghorn Whites, Buff Orpingtons and Barred Rocks.
The chicks will stay in the brooder until they get too big for it, which will not take long! Then it will be time to introduce them to the rest of the flock. I briefly introduced one of the chicks to the big girls today. Much to my surprise, the big chickens seemed terrified of the little one. As soon as she started heading toward the big girls, they all ran the other way and into the coop. This may be interesting!
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