Updated: Mar 19
Part of the plan towards self reliance and making a living from the land we are on includes chickens. Laying chickens, for eggs. Not only have we never done this before, we haven't done most farm things before that we will need to do- and that includes building a coop. (Rowan is so gentle and loving with the chickens!)
On January 25, we picked up the first half of our chickens- 45 birds that were Silver Laced Wyandottes, Green Queens, Easter Eggers, and Welsummers. We did the trek to Meyer Hatchery (here in Ohio, because we wanted to pick up the babies, not have them shipped), where we also purchased pine shavings (for substrate), waterers (there is a sea to chicken feeding and watering woes to follow), and something obscenely named "poultry nipples" (Chickens are not mammals! What?!).
As reformed city slickers, we were surprised that 45 day old chicks could fit in a single, double sided box in the backseat of our Honda Civic (yep, we do not have a farming vehicle yet). I had obtained the plastic totes and brooder heat elements already, so we could set them up as soon as we arrived home. We went with Brinsea brooders, which are a heated plate that the chicks could nestle under (like a mama hen) that extend and grow taller as the birds do. They are not a fire hazard like heat lamps, either.
The little plastic waterers were a PITA. Chickens will dirty up these, even with marbles in them (so the little dears don't drown!) They kicked shavings into the drinking portion within minutes of my setting them down, ensuring dehydration! So we quickly made waterers with the nipples. These are great, as long as you remember not to completely seal them at the top (nothings more frustrating than a full bucket of water that the chickens cannot drink from because there is no displacement happening!
Now that the chickens are awkward teens always trying to roost high and flap all over the place, they land on the waterers and sometimes accidentally seal them. So when we check on and feed the chicks, we always check water levels and be sure to "burp them" on one side.
We had some loss, which we have been assured from every farmer we've talked to, every vet, every YouTube video, and every book is normal. It's still sad. The first two chicks died really early, and we discovered their tiny lifeless bodies in the brooder on the first AMs health check and feeding. They died pretty early on, before we even had a cover made for the top of the brooders. We froze them as we plan on burying them when the soil is thawed enough. The last two we got to know, had names, and were loved til the very end. Max Volume (Shown here and so named because she was the loudest of the birds) was put down when she deteriorated from a TBI from learning to fly. Her neck was twisted (but not fractured) and she had more and more seizures in the week we tried to separate her, feed her, and kangaroo care her. She died in my hands at the vet being told she was a good chicken. Runty was a scissor beak, which kept her from getting as much food as she needed. We separated her and tried to find the best way to feed her, but she passed away here at the farm, being held and loved.
Our goal is to give all our animals a great life, and this includes a good death, too. It's hard and a feel so sad, even now as I type this. But I believe all creatures are equal and deserve a decent life. And as caregivers, we are gonna give it to them. It is our duty. (Shown here is Runty, being held by O'bee on her last day.)
Rewind: We set up two brooders with double heat plates at first, expanding to three and finally four, as the birds grew. And boy, did they grow! They are now awkward scruffy "teens" testing the limits and needing more space. So back to this coop- we need to get it built, stat! More to come!