My husband’s least favorite time of year is whenever Orscheln’s rolls out the “Chick Days” signs. My car can’t find their parking lot fast enough. Every year I’m enticed by those fluffy bodies, tiny beaks and shrill cheeps. We’ve been through our fair share of chickens. From an encounter with a raccoon, to a fox finding his dream dinner, there have been a few tragedies, for certain. From these situations; however, I have always come out a more knowledgeable chicken owner.
|2-month-old hens enjoying the view!|
There’s an abundance of chick-rearing information available online, but quite a bit of it is tailored to more backyard-style chicken raising. The way I raise our chickens is tailored to farm living, where we usually have 20 or more chickens.
|My favorite hen, a 2-month-old Ameraucana, Joyce Agnes.|
|2-week-old chicks making a mess of their food.|
I use a 200-watt heat lamp bulb and a heat lamp I purchased at Orscheln’s. If your chicks are cheeping loudly, they’re too cold, so either move the lamp closer or up your wattage. I made the mistake once of just using a 100-watt bulb and putting the light closer to the chicks, but it just wasn’t enough to keep them warm, and I ended up losing a few. You can indeed measure the temperature for your chicks, but they’re actually quite self-sufficient critters and will regulate their temperature by moving closer to or further away from the light. If you notice all the birds hovering together, they need to be warmer. If they’re away from the light and panting with their mouths open and wings out from their body, they’re too hot.
Lighting and keeping your birds warm isn’t rocket science. Common sense goes a long way when rearing chicks!
Coccidiosis can be a devastating, hard-to-control sickness. If you notice loose, bloody stools in chicks that seem listless, you’re probably dealing with a bout of coccidiosis. Separation from the rest of the flock is a must. My favorite way to deal with coccidiosis is to avoid it in the first place. Keeping waterers clean, making sure food isn’t on the floor mixed in with the poop, and changing the bedding twice a day has proven successful for me. Once my chicks reach about 4 weeks old, I switch them to straw bedding in a larger pen which is easier to keep clean. Overcrowding makes keeping conditions clean significantly harder, so make sure your birds have enough space.
|Chicks (4 weeks old) moved to their “teenage” brooder with straw.|
But with lots of attention and interaction, chicken raising can be an incredibly fun part of life on the farm.