Cheep Cheep!5:19 PM
This past weekend, there was a buzz of excitement at my house because the chicks were due to arrive March 18th!
Well, to be perfectly honest, most of the excitement was felt by me and the kids. Kyle is still wondering where in the world all this chicken mania came from and how his wife caught it. I know, it surprises me too. To some extent. Another part of me, the part of me that loves home birthing, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, cloth diapers, plant-based diet and being as natural as possible, that part obviously finds much in common with the idea of raising chickens for fresh eggs. Not to mention the experience of having and keeping chickens and how that will educate and entertain us as a family!
Since we are getting chicks and our coop is not yet built, we needed to make sure our brooder area was all set up before our babies arrived. We ordered our chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa, and their website is amazing for giving you the perfect information to prepare for your coming chicks. In addition to that, I had done lots of my own research, and I know some of you will chuckle, but I own a few books on chicken keeping.
Our brooder area is going to reside in our basement. I had planned to use a big cardboard box (you can see it in the background - I pulled it out of a Walgreen's dumpster), but a good friend of mine had already raised chickens from chicks before and had a bunch of useful equipment, such as this amazing metal feed trough which makes a perfect brooder box. She also loaned me the heat lamp.
I had the row feeder and a gallon waterer and had purchased several bags of pine shavings for their litter.
The first step was getting the light situated. For the first week, the temp in the brooder box needs to be 95 degrees, so you have to work with getting that temperature by raising and lowering the lamp. You also put down the pine shavings about an inch or two thick and for the first day, cover it with newspapers. You don't want the babies getting confused about what's food and what's not. You sprinkle food on the newspapers and then, on the second day, when you remove the newspapers, they have already discovered the food bin and don't try to eat the shavings.
The kids were super excited and kept asking me tons of questions.
Here's me rigging up the thermometer on the side of the tub to keep an eye on the temperature. Each week, we can raise the lamp a little and raise the temperature in the brooder by 5 degrees. Gradually, when the temp gets to about 75 degrees, they won't need additional heat. You may notice that the light in the box is red - chicks do better with red light. It cuts down on their pecking/picking of each other and is more soothing to them. We use a 250 watt red Pyrex bulb.
Here us in our basement setting things up.
Everyone, even Dorien, was very involved.
It occurs to me that everyone in the pictures is wearing green because these pictures were taken on Sunday! St. Patrick's Day! I got a text from the hatchery while at church that said the chicks had been shipped! Which meant they had also just hatched! The babies we would receive would literally be 1 day old.
Fact: Right before they hatch, chicks absorb the yolk in the egg and it sustains them for up to 3 days. But they still need lots of water when they arrive.
Monday morning, dark and early, at 5:13 am, I got a call from our local US Post Office station that my box of chicks had arrived. I was a little groggy when I answered the phone and said I'd be in in a few hours. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure they didn't expect me to come right then? As soon as we all woke up, we rushed around getting ready and zoomed off to the Post Office.
I stood at the desk like a beaming mom and said I was there to pick up my chicks. I could hear them peeping in the back room and it made my heart glad! They handed me over a box that was smaller than I was thinking, and I cracked the lid to see a bunch of tightly packed little cheepers. Nothing more than balls of fuzz and noise!
Prior to April, the minimum order you can make from Murray is 25 chicks. So, I split this order with my brother Josh and my neighbor, Josh. I planned to keep 10, my brother Josh intended to keep 10 and my neighbor Josh was going to take any we didn't want. I had ordered a variety of chickens, whereas Josh my brother only wanted Rhode Island Reds - he is concerned mostly with egg laying and less about variety.
I wanted a mix of breeds as well as good layers, so my order consisted of 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Black Australorps, 2 Auracanas, 2 Light Brahmas, 1 free rare breed chick (no idea which one that is out of our bunch, either) and the rest were Rhode Island Reds.
To distinguish the different chicks, a few had marker spots on them. And there was a guide on my packing slip to which breed was which. The yellow one in the above picture with a spot of red on her head is an Auracana and her fellow breed mix is in the bottom right corner with a dark stripe on her back. Interestingly, they look nothing alike. They're supposed to lay eggs in Easter egg colors. Very exciting.
The Rhode Island reds all look reddish in tint.
This is one of the Auracanas and a Black Australorp, I think.
The two yellow chicks with blue markings on their heads are Buff Orpingtons.
It has provided us with HOURS of entertainment watching these little ones. Not to mention checking the temp to make sure they aren't too cold. And checking their bottoms for pasting up - when poop dries on their bottoms. You have to work it off with warm, wet paper towels so they can poop or they'll die! I also have two that have been pecked a little and are missing some feathers. I had to borrow some black grease from my brother Zach to smear on them so others won't bother them. And there has been lots and lots of hand-washing.
Our brooder is no longer this full. We have distributed 10 to my brother and 6 to my neighbor, leaving us with 11. Murray ended up sending us an extra, free Rhode Island Red and I have 1 more than I intended, but in case we lost one, I thought it would be good to be on the safe side.
Now, the next phase begins - coop construction. This is where the rubber hits the road. Kyle and I have zero construction skills, but fortunately we have brothers who do and who have the tools we can borrow! I'll keep you posted, but for now, let me say that this has been a very exciting week around our place!!