The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Holy Peeps! We Got Chicks!

May 17th, 2013 · 4 Comments · Posted in farming, Sustainability

Chicks look cozy in their shipping box

Chicks look cozy and content in their shipping box

I didn’t know this was going to happen so soon.

I drove to the Agway in Salem for lumber to build a chicken coop and there in a big galvanized cattle trough were bunches of chicks of different breeds, $2.75 a piece. I didn’t intend to buy any–I was going to order some online after I finished the coop–but the lady at the sales desk practically begged me to take some. I guess they were starting to outgrow their enclosure. Chicks wait for no man.

So I ordered 30 Rhode Island Red pullets along with my lumber and they arrived on the truck the next day, along with watering device, feed tray and heat lamp. I scrounged some two-by-twelve-inch lumber on the property and built the chicks a box in the basement five feet by five feet. Conveniently, there were a couple bales of hay in the old goat shed so I spread a layer of that around for bedding.

I tipped the chicks gently out of the box they arrived in and they immediately began scrambling around their little enclosure before making a bee line for the feed and water.

In case you’re curious, we have not been able to source organic feed yet. We got the stuff right off the shelf, a 50 pound bag of Blue Seal brand feed specially formulated for chicks with extra amino acids (no animal products), vitamins and minerals. It’s also medicated, since young chicks are susceptible to certain diseases. I suppose we’ll just have to transition into our new “sustainable” farm lifestyle. We are, after all, in industrial dairy country. Better farm life through chemistry.

Chicks know how to eat and drink all on their own

Chicks eat and drink all on their own

While we’re working on the coop, we just have to make sure the chicks are well fed and watered. They don’t seem to need any lessons in eating and drinking. And now they’ve started scratching in the hay and pecking at whatever’s down there, just like grownup chickens. Ain’t nature grand?

They do grow fast. This morning I got an unexpected chore when I noticed the chicks flapping their wings as if to fly and getting high enough off their bed to perch on the top edge of the enclosure. Pretty soon they’d be scampering all over the basement, I thought. So I quick cut some two-by-fours, nailed them into a five-foot square and stapled wire mesh to make a lid for the chick pen. They craned their necks and tilted their little heads to see what this new feature was all about.

Most of the time, what seems to make the chicks happiest is just laying around and sleeping under the heat lamp. In fact, you’d think they were all dead, the way they lay there completely splayed out, eyes closed. But then at the least sound they leap to their feet and dart around, watching me warily before rushing to the feed tray.

Little do they know their destiny lies in making eggs for us humans.


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  • Sylvie in Rappahannock

    You better get the “Eggs for Sale” sign ready, Ed. You’ll have 2 or 3 dozens a day once they lay!

    When we got our first chicks, it was hard to buy un-medicated feed. But I figured ours were not in crowded stressed conditions and were unlikely to need it. I also made sure to bring them a shovel full of field grass and “weeds” every day (or lettuce or whatever) so they could get some greenery and do more scratching. It was fun seeing them growing.

  • Ed Bruske

    Thanks for that tip about the greenery, Sylvie. I figure we can deal with the overage of eggs down the road. Either we’ll sell them somehow or give them away. My estimation of chicken numbers was based on how many we need to help maintain our acreage. Next project: figuring out how to put wheels on our coop.

  • Jane

    We love our chickens and we buy 6-8 chicks every year. Plan on losing a few when they go outside. An owl took one. The neighbors dog got a few…we do have 2 roosters even though the feed store said they were all pullets. I share my kitchen scraps with the chickens and the compost bin. I haven’t found any kitchen scrap they wont eat! Good luck

  • Ed Bruske

    I bought our chicks at the feed store, Jane and although they were advertised as pullets they would only assure “95 percent guaranteed,” which seems like a good policy to me. Chicks are difficult to sex with perfect accuracy and I’m actually hoping we might have a rooster or two in there. I am hope to end up with two dozen laying hens, so I bought a few extra. So far, so good. We do have owls and hawks in the area as well as coyotes. We’re hoping our new electric perimeter fence will keep out most of the four-legged predators.