Adventures in Chicken Keeping: Chicks Have Arrived

DAY ONE:

Our four new Rhode Island Red chicks arrived from the hatchery yesterday. My friend Dawn, who is a huge chicken lover, graciously pick up four for me and she took home 102 new chicks for her farm!! I’ve come to realize I can handle about four at a time with our life here on the homestead as it currently is.

Chicks in box at Dawns

 Piles of chicks trying to stay warm in the chick box.

I had the brooder and red light ready and when the call came I turned on the light, upped the house heat and drove over to her farm just 10 minutes away from us to pick them up. Within 15 minutes they were in their new home.

Donna with Rhode Island reds day one 4-20-15

Here I am with one of my new baby chicks.

 My brooder is not unusual; a sterilized plastic bin, with paper towels on the bottom. A red chick light, new thermometer, chicken water, organic chick starter  and a bit of grit on the towels (so they can easily see the food) a bit of grit I put Nutradrench in the water so they got a bit of a head start on vitamins from day one.

Brooder set up

A repurposed microwave stand as base and a sterilized recycle bin as brooder.

They were pretty exhausted from their big day. I dipped their beaks into the waterer so they knew it was therefor them but they were more asleep than awake. I watched them until I was sure they were all drinking and eating and then check in on them every little while. Some were pooping a kind of clear liquid that I assume is the fluid in their body from the liquid matter in the egg shells from before they were born.

Sleepy Girls

Sleepy girls cat-nap on and off in their first hour in their new home.

We also introduced our Lab Sassy, to them while they were peeping heavily when they first got home. She was very interested in their peeping noises and smells. She was exploring all around the converter brooder and spent a lot of time trying to figure out where exactly these peeps were coming from. We let her explore with supervision and told her to “leave it” a few times. So far she has been real good and we did not have to put up the baby gate in the doorway as I thought we might.

I decided not to handle them too much today in order to let them rest, recover and acclimate to their new home. It was a big, big day for them. They were cat-napping and wobbling around and doing well when I went to bed.

It was blessedly uneventful night. I got up at 5 a.m. to check on them and give them fresh water.

DAY TWO:

As I mentioned above I was up at early morning day two. I wanted to make sure they did not run out of water or that it was dirty.  I changed their paper towel litter and gave them fresh food and water. I have two chick waters and I am swapping them out frequently since their water warms up quickly from the 90 degree heat in the brooder.

I went on-line this morning to research what herbs new chicks could have and  at what age. I found a great article written by Susan Burek,  herbalist and owner of Mile High Herb Farm,  called Raising Chicks Naturally.  That same article can be accessed through the Poultry Natural Living Facebook group and then by going to the “files.” I whole-heartily recommend this herb based chicken group for additional learning and this article for anyone with new chicks who wants to do things as holistically as possible.

We are all off to a real good start!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Easy to Make High Protein Chicken Feed Medley

I believe that healthy food is our best medicine and in using garden herbs for chicken health. So when I discovered this easy to make infused oil mixture for extra winter protein and nutrition for my chickens, I was thrilled.

Close up

A healthy and happy chicken has bright eyes, glossy feathers and ample energy.

While I can’t grow everything in my garden I do have a number of herbs that I grow and feed directly to our chickens. But winter feeding of herbs is so much harder.

Drinking out of red waterer

Lots of fresh water daily is also important to a chickens good health.

PLEASE NOTE: The credit for this original infused oil mixture goes solely to Susan Burek of Mile High Herbs, This came as a result of a post she made on the Poultry natural Living found on Facebook. This is my favorite chicken group of all time. https://www.facebook.com/groups/herbalpoultrycare/

Snoozle time

Mid afternoon snuggle down time.

While some of you are in states that are getting warmer, some of us “lucky ones” in the Midwest still have 3 to 5 ft. of snow on the ground!! And while our 10 degree below temperature have waned, it is running around 30 degrees at night. I’ve discovered that our woods holds in the snow and cold longer after it is melted in other more open spaces.

IMG_6327

Snow on the coop and covered run.

 So this means we are still feeding our chickens high caloric and protein feed for a few more weeks to help to keep them warm at night. I’ve tried all kind of feed type and combinations and this is the one I have the best luck with. It is versatile and can be adapted in many ways. I make the infused oil up ahead of time and then add that oil to whatever I am feeding that day.

Freckles close

This is Freckles, a Phoenix/Cochin mix and the top bird of our group.

This also kills two birds with one stone (likely a BAD analogy for chicken lovers!) but it gets the oils of the crushed garlic into the chicken as well as giving them the fuel that they need for cold nights. I feed garlic as a preventative measure to keep my birds as healthy as possible and basil for mucus membrane health and for its antibacterial properties.

Cloves of fresh garlic goes into my chickens food and their water. Some times they ignore it but some of them, like Freckles picks it out tosses it on the ground and then eats it. Freckles is the top chicken in our small flock.

Headingout the door of the enclosed run to the outside

Our girls heading outdoors for a little bit of sunbathing!

STEP 1: Garlic Infused Oil:

  1. Pour about 1 cup to cup and a half of a high-grade of virgin olive oil into clean a canning jar.
  2. Peel, crush and chop up 7 garlic cloves and add the garlic to the jar of oil
  3. I like to add dried oregano leaves but you can add almost any of your chicken healthy herbs that you might have on hand.
  4. Cover with lid and let this mix infuse several days to a week before using. The longer it infused the more it smells of the wonderful wholesome and healthy garlic.

STEP 2: Add Oil Mixture to Your Feed of Choice

I’ve been experimenting with many different combinations this winter but the one my chickens seem to like the best and the one they leave the least amount of waste behind.

Making the Oil and Protein Medley:

  1. I toss two handfuls of black oiled sunflower seeds in an ice cream bucket.
  2. Toss in a half a handful of dried meal worms.
  3. I add a large scoop of fermented organic chicken grower feed
  4. Add a chunk of cut up wheat grass
  5. A splash of apple cider vinegar
  6. Stir and feed

Add this mixture in your feeding bowl or pie plate and watch your girls rush in, cluck, cluck, and go to town!

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty!  The girls today on their roost in the covered run.

You would never know today that these chickens were rescued chickens from a flock that was fed nothing but cracked corn. It’s taken me 7 to 8 months of providing fresh water and carefully selected food but they are now 8 months old and beginning to lay the mostly beautiful brown eggs.

The results of my feeding regime? Happy, healthy and well fed chickens. It is worth the effort!

Small House Chicken Keeper, Donna