I mentioned in my “Beautiful Day” post that I would talk about how I keep chickens – so here it is 🙂
About a year and a half ago, my family was driving home from church, taking the back roads and as we drove along, I saw some items for sale at a homestead not far from ours. After we got home and had lunch, I hopped in the van and headed back to check it out. You just never know what you might find sometimes!
Turned out it was my blessed day and I ended up purchasing, for a very small amount, a homemade brooder – which the nice gentleman would happily deliver to my home, and that was a good thing because it is huge and weighs a lot!
It has legs on it to keep it up off the ground and it stands about 3-1/2 feet tall. It is quite long, about 6′ and as you can see has ventilation, screened windows in the three lids, as well as material covers. It is also wired for heat lamps on the inside! I just lay down some bedding, with watering bottles and feeders for food and my 1 day old chicks play, sleep and live in here until they are 6 weeks old. I keep the brooder in our car port right off the back door of my house, so I have easy access to them.
At first I keep a heat lamp on each end of the brooder. As soon as I see the chicks moving away from the lamps, hanging out more in the center of the brooder, I turn off one lamp which allows them to move closer when they want to warm up, but have the rest of the brooder to hang out in when they don’t need so much warmth. They decide.
I would say the single most important thing I do for keeping healthy chicks besides providing this clean, warm and safe brooder for them is to put vitamin/electrolytes in their water until they are 16 weeks and ready for the coop.
At six weeks I move them outside to their temporary home, that I set up with whatever I happen to have handy around the homestead. Here’s my current temp-coop for my five chicks…
The area I used is under cover of one of our open barns. It is about 6′ x 6′ square. I fenced it in with 4 ‘ wire fencing and put a low roof over half of it. The two pallets serve as a dividing wall between their indoor and outdoor areas, with a small opening between for a door. I put their food and water in the outside area so I can get to it easily and there is a heat lamp under the roofed area that serves as their coop. I also put a long wooden perch in their coop area so they can learn to sleep on it at night – it’s so cute to see them try to balance on it at such a young age.
My plan is that when they are 16 weeks old, they should be big enough to join my established flock. I have read several ways to do this and have also talked to my Uncle Buck about it, as he is a professional chicken raiser. He said if I have a broody hen, I could introduce her to each one of the chicks and see if she will take them under wing – if so she can live with them in their temp-coop and then guide and protect them when it’s time to join the established flock. I did try this, but she was not willing – she wanted to sit on her eggs instead 🙂 Don’t tell her, but the eggs are fake! She loves to keep them warm 🙂
So my next plan is when they turn 16 weeks, put them in the real coop with the existing flock at night (chickens are almost blind at night, and will just hunker down and not care so much about whose who) and then release them all in the morning to free-range the whole property, just for the day. They will all be on new territory with lots of space to run should they get into a little tiff with each other. At night, they will all go back into the coop and the next morning will be allowed in their normal run together. It is supposed to take them three days or so, to re-establish their pecking order naturally. As you can see by the picture below, my established flock is very excited to meet the new babies as they have been listening to them across the garden in their separate coop 🙂