Remember these cute little meat chicks that came into the world just a few short weeks ago? 3 to be exact?
Here they are at 2 weeks old… and I tell ya, at 3 weeks, they ARE HUGE!!! Most are feathered out already!!! I guess when you are pretty much full grown at 7 to 9 weeks, 3 weeks means you are growing fast.
As you can see, 26 chicks in less than 2 weeks is totally filling up this 55 gallon feed tank! Amazing, if you ask me! I was hoping it would be there home for a few more weeks but it was very quickly apparent that, no. No way. We had to change the litter very frequently, almost every day or they would get dirty fast. They are very very messy and really, there only thought seems to be to eat and drink. Very little preening or playing or anything. Just eat and sleep.
I’ve been really having some weird feelings about these little chicken nuggets, as I call them. I totally know they are for food. The girls know it. Everyone seems to think we’re going to be all touchy feely about them and in the end, they will live out the rest of their natural lives on the farm. Ah, no. To be honest, I’m kind of looking forward to them going to finishing camp in a few weeks. They have none of the redeeming and endearing qualities of our fancy hen chicks. They hate to be touched, you can hardly catch them to examine them and they peck and squawk like you’re killing them. Our Bucka Roo 5 chicks, they LOVE to be held. In fact, Maggie takes them one at a time in her room and they walk around and sit on her lap and watch videos with her. And they preen and keep themselves beautiful, and are curious and have personalities. The nuggets, don’t do any of that.
This is a picture at 2 weeks… the chick on the right is one of the nuggets. The chick on the left is Copper, at almost 5 weeks old! What a difference! Copper is a bit hunched down, but you can see they are pretty much the same size, if not bigger than our heritage, home grown birds!
Well, enough was enough, it was clear that they needed more space and especially somewhere that they could spread out a bit as they were already being mean to each other. And it would help us a bit so we didn’t have to totally clean out their coop every day. We were going to build a chicken tractor for them… something that they could be out in the sunshine and green grass but it was apparent that they would be needing more than just that, since they were only 2 weeks old! They needed more shelter. So we figured they would do well in the little coop, without access to the outside just yet. It’s 10 foot by 12 foot, and has a nice new roost and hay and shavings, perfectly warm, with two little doors for breezes in the daytime, but that we could close up at night to keep them nice and warm.
We loaded them up in a cat carrier and oh my gosh… it weighed over 40 pounds already with those 26 chicks in there!!!! We weighed one of the chicks on our postal scale and it was almost a pound and a half!!! 1 pound 5 ounces! They were not too pleased to be put in there but it was only a 5 minute walk out to the coop and we didn’t want to do it in two trips and spook them too much. They were oddly quiet, just not sure about the whole situation.
Of course, once at the coop, no one wanted to come out. We had to gently encourage the little nuggies out of the carrier and into their new home. Maggie is my mistress of hens, and she is always good with the birds, talking sweetly and giving them time to adjust to new changes.
After a little bit, a good feed and learning how to use the big kid waterer, they were settling in nicely. It was really pleasing to see them walking around and testing out the hay and the long rungs of the roost. I really was happy when a few of them started to scratch in the shavings for some feed I sprinkled in there for them! Yeah! They are chickens! We checked on them throughout the day and they were settling in really nicely. That evening, many of them had found little hay puddles to snuggle in, three or four to a little nest spot. A few brave souls were trying to sit on the roost poles! We packed sweet orchard grass hay up under the poles so if they fall, they won’t fall far! The temperature was a perfect 90 degrees in there for them, and we closed up the windows so that it would stay warm for them.
It’s been almost a week now since they went out there and everyone is doing fine. We must be doing something right because we haven’t lost a single chick. No pasty bottoms, no ill or frail chicks. Everyone is doing well. They come over to the door when we come to the coop and chatter like a pack of chicken piranas… ready to eat!!! Haha… I think next week we might let them come out into the yard if they want to. We bought another roll of netting and will be putting that up over the storm damaged area that let the Bantam roos and Einstein out. Sadly, Brent and Einstein have not returned. No sign of bodies or feathers, nothing. I would like to think that somewhere, maybe out in the hedges or the wood lot, is a little cocky bantam rooster and a big gangly teen turkey with little bandana packs on stick, making their way and enjoying life. It’s a nice thought. Probably unrealistic, but hey, it’s something. Josh is fine, he settled in with the ladies of the barn and even Bucka is tolerating the little scrappy flashy boy. I ordered a dozen little bantam chick eggs off Ebay today, so I hope to hatch out some friends for him! We’ll see!
As to the main flock, everyone there is doing great! As you can see, they all come to roost at the barn at night, up on this old ladder we found in the pig barn loft. But with 20 hens and Bucka and Josh, it’s a little crowded. We wanted to build a roost for the little coop and since it was so darn easy, we built one for the big barn as well. We used 2 x 2 poles, 4 feet long as our supporting poles. And we used 1 x 2 furring strips 6 feet long as the cross pieces, the ones they actually roost on. We attached them to the barn walls with hinges from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore shop so that you can move the whole roost up and out of the way for raking or storage. They only cost us $10 for both roosts.
We are so happy to report that the 11 new hens are FINALLY out and free ranging! They love it. It took them awhile to figure out that the big open barn door meant they could follow Bucka and his posse out into the big big yard to wander about. They were terrified to leave for the longest time. But slowly, slowly, they started to come to the doorway and peek out, and then scratch a little right in front of the door if I sprinkled a little cracked corn for them. Now they are all over the place and doing nicely with our original hens. Oh yeah, sure, every so often there is a little spat in the whole pecking order but really, they have plenty of range and no one is getting picked on much. Even Patty Ann, our little bottom of the rung hen girl who had lost all her tail feathers, is growing new ones! Yeah for Patty Ann! She is now firmly right in the middle of the flock and no one is picking on her anymore! She’s a happy little hen for sure. We haven’t named all the new girls, because, well, they all look the same! haha… Except for three of them. There is a white leghorn hen with a big floppy comb that we call Floppy Chicken. She is our only white egg layer. And there is a cream colored Ameraucana that Maggie named Fiona. And there is a very dark colored Ameraucana that we call Cruella. The people we got them from said she was really mean. But we haven’t seen any of that behavior at all. Apparently as part of our big flock, she has curbed that behavior. Still, we had named her Cruella in the car and now we feel that she has been reformed and misunderstood! She’s one of the first to come running when you call for them to get treats!
Will we do more meat chicks? Yes, probably. I’ve had more friends ask to buy some of them when they are finished and though I really don’t want to go into the chicken business full time, I might consider another batch after these are done and finished. I want to see how the whole process goes first before making that decision. I really like the laying hens a lot more. In fact, our plans are to start to specialize in the Marans hens. I have been trying to buy some chicks from a couple of the few breeders in the area and its nearly impossible! They get a clutch hatched and then they are gone! And they are selling them for $10 to $15 a day old chick! Even the hatcheries are selling them for $8 to $10 a chick plus shipping. I can see that if we were to develop a couple good flocks, we would have a nice little income from chicks, pullets and eggs. So I just won two dozen Wheaten and Black Copper Maran eggs from good champion bloodlines. And a dozen Mille’Fluer bantam chick eggs. I like those little banty hens a lot and hope to raise up a little harem for Josh! My neighbors want to start specializing in the Jersey Giants! They are so awesome.. HUGE chickens… roos can weight up to 15 pounds and the hens are easily 12 pounds. That’s almost double the size of most setting hens. We won a dozen of Jersey Giant eggs as well. Its a risk, sure, but even at about $1.50 an egg, if we get even a 50% hatch rate we’ll be far ahead of the single chick rates. And these farmers claim a 80 to 90 percent hatch rate and send extras to insure we get a full dozen to hatch. Should be interesting for sure!
I’m going to borrow neighbor’s incubator and buy the turner insert that goes with it. Since neither of us want to hatch out eggs all the time, I think this is a great way to share it and make it easy! With the turner, you can do about 40 or 50 eggs apparently in the incubator, so I will save up some of my own Maran eggs and hatch them as well. SInce we only have one breeding rooster and now, both blue and cookoo Maran hens, I’ll just save the darkest eggs and fill up the incubator with them! Should be a fun month… watching and waiting for those little babies to hatch! And then after everyone is hatched, we will grow them up a bit and see what we get. We’ll probably sell off the extra roosters for $10 a bird… recoup our eggs costs and then raise up the hens in breeding pairs and start selling hatching eggs and chicks! Pretty cool…