Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
This is a guest post and entry in Round 1 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include:
First Prize: A $300 gift certificate toward any purchase of Featherman Poultry Processing Equipment, including pluckers, knives and more!
Second Prize: A 164' roll of electric poultry netting from Kencove valued at $140!
Third Prize: A large heirloom pack of assorted seeds from Baker Creek (northern or southern region) plus a copy of Jere and Emilee Gettle's recently published book The Heirloom Life Gardener. Valued at $125!
Fourth Prize: A $55 gift certificate good toward any purchase at Lehman's!
Round 1 ends began January 15 and ends March 15 so GET BUSY WRITING and email your entry to us today!
It’s Spring (or will be shortly) and either you want chickens, you want some meat chickens or the breed of chickens you have don’t go broody or are poor mothers. After all, who doesn’t want to watch cute little chicks grow into productive chickens?
Brooding is simple, and there are many hatcheries out there that can help you to get started. We use Cackle Hatchery, Sandhills Preservation, Ideal Hatchery, HOLDERREAD Waterfowl Fowl Farm and Preservation Center, and the old standby (but expensive) McMurray Hatchery especially for their Giant White Turkeys (These broad breasted turkeys are the most popular. Easy to dress because of their white feathers, they also get the biggest. Our Nicholas strain hens reach 25 pounds and the toms as much as 45 pounds) - to be honest, last fall when we butchered, I was looking for the other set of legs, something that big has to have 4 legs to stand on!.
We use a simple Wal-Mart plastic box such as the set-up a the right (30 or large gallon) – with at least the dimensions of 25.5"L X 17.5"W X 15.25"H (usually less than 10 dollars).
Use one 250-watt lamp for 30 ducklings. For a few birds, We use a 50-watt Reflector bulb. NEVER use ordinary light bulbs for brooding. They are meant to produce light and do not have the heating qualities of the heat lamp. Heat lamps are coated with silver to reflect or shoot the heat to the birds. It is this reflection of heat the babies need for survival. Heat lamps provide radiant heat to the birds under them. Since the air isn't heated, room temperature measurement isn't so important. Note the brood lamp is on one side of the brood chamber. This allows them to regulate the temperature they need. They will huddle under the lamp when cold, move part way out or even all the way out if the ambient temperature is warm.
These materials are all collected (usually from “last years’ work); you are ready to order your chicks (goslings, ducks, guineas or turkeys… You can brood goslings and ducks, but guineas, turkeys and chickens should be brooded separately.
We use “spilled or hay left over from a broken bale” hay from the barn for the bottom of the brood chamber. We use a half gallon water (not as nice as shown above… use a ½ gallon mason jar and the “quart size” waterier from you can buy from the feed store, initially the half gallon size metal or plastic feeder. Again, this is on hand before they arrive,
The day before they arrive, we will boil 5 – 7 eggs. After they arrive, we feed the yolks (crumbled) to the chicks (goslings, ducklings, keets, turkey chicks mixed with an equal amount of chick feed - non medicated for all but the chicks… and here, for them too.) When we take them out of the shipping box, and put them into the brooding chamber, each one has it’s beak in the water. The 2nd day we introduce the feeder (full of feed).
We check feed and water at least twice a day (replacing what’s been used). Water fowl, even as babies, are water hogs. We have take them out of the brooder everyday, clean it out, and replace the “spilled” hay bedding. Chicks, turkeys and keets aren't near so messy. It may last 4 or 5 days at first. If the bedding looks dirty or matted down (and wet), replace it.
When they have their pin feathers or causing too much trouble in the brood chamber (and at least 50 degrees at night), we move them to 2 feet by 3 feet by 18 inch cage. We change to a 2 gallon waterier, and an 18 inch feeder. After they are fully feathered we introduce them into the 1/3rdarea of our coop that we can close off by itself. Another 3 weeks, and they can join the rest of the flock free ranging.
If we are brooding (something I keep trying to get away from), we brood goslings first (hardy little things), ducklings (pretty hardy also), chicks, keets and then turkeys. We are trying Silver Winged Dorkings and Cochins this year because they go broody and are good mothers. In 3 years, we’ve only had one Speckled Sussex go broody and be a good mother.
(We have ((had)) buff Orringtons, Light Bahamas, Turkens that are supposed to go broody, and be good mothers… several sat on 10 – 12 eggs, hatched one, and we had a total of 3 chicks live. The Speckled Sussex sat on 13, hatched 12, and raised 9… If I could depend on her to go broody, and throw a broody hen or two, I’d quit brooding!).
Guineas are self sustaining, our ducks are self sustaining as well as the Muscovy ducks… still only have 3 Spanish Black Turkeys (Tom and 2 hens) equal to what we initially was able to brood (but, we’ve eaten Turkey every Thanksgiving, and sold a couple of “extra” Toms). Hopefully, with the addition of the Dorkings and the Cochins they will produce replacements as well as suppers. (and a Rooster to swap to keep the coop genetically healthy.
Now the bad news...it’s March or April when your bought the chicks. It won’t be September before the first pullet (small!) egg… you will get a decent amount of these small eggs, then the winter hits (not the cold but the fewer hours of sunlight) and egg production drops off. The first rooster may start crowing in August. the “extra” roosters should be 6 or 7 months old before they are ready for the skillet, oven or pot. Unless you bought a super meat chicken (example Jumbo Cornish X Rocks). This is the most remarkable meat producing bird we have ever seen. Special matings produce chicks with broad breasts, big thighs, white plumage, and yellow skin. The rapid growth of these chicks is fantastic and the feed efficiency remarkable.
Whether you get these Cornish X Rock chicks for your own pleasure or to raise and sell, you can’t do better. Females have a fine smooth finish when dressed and reach beautiful roasting size. Buying straight run chicks gives you some of each sex so that you can take advantage of the strong points both ways. We think our Cornish X Rock chicks are among the finest meat birds in America. We should know. We fill our family freezers with them every year! Males will dress from 3 to 4 pounds in six to eight weeks and females will take about one and one-half weeks longer to reach the same size)…
Note: We only grow dual purpose (actually triple usage as we use them for insect control also) chickens… so the description for Jumbo Cornish crossed with Rocks is just that. If your brooding Meat (only) chickens, your will be brooding them every year.
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