Our first official farm animals and how we are raising them.
Our Spring came early this year. January 4th to be exact, because that is when our baby chicks arrived! My son, Alex, has always wanted chickens since the first time I took him to a farm supply store when he was five or six. He begged me to let him bring baby chicks home, but raising chickens was not even on our radar back then. He waited some twenty years to finally get his wish.
. The box above is how our 16 hens and one rooster arrived from Meyer Hatchery in Polk, Ohio. The baby chicks arrived all cozy, warm, and healthy after their travel through the mail.
We chose to raise Rhode Island Reds because they produce tons of large brown eggs, are cold and heat hardy, and can also be used for meat. They also sent us one extra free hen which they encourage you to use to share their eggs with the homeless. I love that idea.
After looking through the catalog we determined our extra baby chick was a Sicilian Buttercup, so we named her Buttercup.
Me holding Buttercup.
She is the only baby chick we named, mostly because we can’t tell the others apart, and I think she is all of our favorite because she is beautiful and shy. We had all our baby chicks vaccinated for Marek’s Disease (30 cents extra) before they were shipped. Our vet highly recommended this vaccine because this virus can cause rapid death in chickens.
Chicks here are less than one week old.
. The baby chicks original home was just four pieces of plywood with slats cut out of the corners so they slid into each other.
. We clipped plastic on the side and ran it down across the floor and up the other side to make it easy to lift out the wood shavings and clean their home. The four wooden walls can quickly be torn apart and stored flatly until needed again.
The weather was so exceptionally warm on January 5th, we took a couple baby chicks outside to see how they would respond to the sunshine and grass.
They didn’t seem to know what to do and just stood there.
Next we wanted to introduce the baby chicks to our two dogs so hopefully they wouldn’t eat them or see them as toys. Latte, our yellow lab did wonderful with them, even though he is a bird dog. He is a very obedient dog, so we think he will do fine.
Our boxer/beagle rescue dog, Amor, is another story. He is a natural hunter and has already killed one snake, possum and bunny on our property. He’s the one we’re going to have to watch closely.
My husband and son built a chicken tractor to be used as their outdoor mobile home once the grass and bugs come back this Spring.
Here is the finished tractor and the link if you are interested in getting the plans to make your own chicken tractor. Stress-Free Chicken Tractor Plans: As Easy to Follow, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Own Chicken Tractors by John Suscovich. The tractor has two wheels attached on the back end and a rope on the front end. This will help us easily pull it around our garden and pastures to help fertilize the soil.
Nesting boxes will be attached inside the tractor and a tarp placed over the top to give the birds shade. The hens should start producing eggs sometime in June. This tractor (10′ x 6′) can hold up to 25 birds while providing protection from predators while allowing them to forage for food and fertilize the ground.
The above picture is of the nesting boxes which are ready to be attached inside the chicken tractor. The hens should start producing eggs sometime in June.
Baby chicks are just now starting to hit the farm supply stores in our area. But our chicks are two months old now and have already outgrown their first home. We moved the chicken tractor into one car bay and made that their new temporary home.
To get the chickens accustomed to being outside, we began to open up the garage door on sunny warmer days. By the end of March we should be able to start putting them outside.
Getting chickens was my husband and son’s idea. I love to eat chicken eggs, but have never had a desire to raise hens. The chicks are changing quickly and I must admit it has been fun to watch them grow. Being pecked by the chickens was a concern of mine, but I am learning to be brave in small steps. Here I am trying to hold Buttercup at two months old. She has beautiful feathers!
I am getting the hang of it!
The hens and rooster are now out in the chicken coops that were here when we purchased the farm. They have a huge area to roam in. Soon they will be put to work in the chicken tractor fertilizing and eating up the bugs in our garden area.
I’ll leave you with a picture of their fearless protector, our rooster, which my son has named, the Red Ripper. So far he’s still pretty docile and hasn’t got his wake-up call just right.