I love raising chickens. Growing up learning the process first hand with my parents and my great-grandmother (Mimi), I have such wonderful memories from all of those days. I remember watching my Mimi’s eggs in the incubator and spending hours watching and holding the little chicks once they hatched. We fed and watered, collected eggs, spent lazy days sitting in the shade of our favorite tree while having conversations with all the hens.
It was such a wonderfully rewarding way to grow up. I learned so much about responsibility and love for the animals that God gave us that I never wandered away from this way of life. My children have been raised with the same lifestyle and the philosophy of life that it instills.
We typically order our baby chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery. I’ve ordered from others as well, but I have found them to be very reliable. You can order just a few or a bunch, whatever your facilities and time will allow.
Preparing for Raising Chickens
This spring we ordered another 100. They ship them via USPS and the local post office usually calls me bright and early to come get them! When you first get your babies, there are a few things that you have to do to give them a good start.
I had already determined where I would house them, this time, while they were young and had that area prepared and ready with heat lamps, feeders and waterers. This year I decided to brood them in a corner of my greenhouse until they were ready to move into the chicken coop.
When I first open the package, I pull them out, one by one, counting as I go and I dip their little beaks directly into the water so that they know where to find it. When they arrive, they are definitely thirsty!
When you order your chicks, you have some options. For instance, you can have them vaccinated. You can also order a supplement to add to their water to help them get off to a good start. I personally do not do vaccinations as everything that I do on my farmstead is organic and I prefer to stay that way.
Seeing to their needs
One you have put all of your chicks into their brooder, you put out their feed as well as chick grit. Grit is very important because chickens do not have teeth. The grit helps their bodies to grind up and digest the food so that they can get all of the necessary nutrients from it.
From that point, your job is simply to keep them in food and water and make sure that the area is warm. I use two heat lamps hanging above them in the brooder. Watching and adjusting the distance of the lamp from the chicks is important. Tip: if they spread out away from it, staying on the perimeter of the light, it’s too close; if they huddle up right under it, it’s probably too far away. You know that it’s just right when they are comfortable just walking around in their brooder.
Raising Chickens for your specific purposes
I love to encourage people in raising chickens but I always try to persuade them to have a goal in mind. Your mindset when you begin this journey is important. If you are looking to raise hens for eggs then that’s great but you need to plan for that prospect. You will have to provide a safe environment in which they can live, nesting boxes for them to sit and you may need a rooster. If you are planning on raising chickens for meat production then be prepared and ready to butcher them.
We all get attached to the animals that we care for on a daily basis. Having the right mindset from the beginning will go a long way toward making your job easier. My kids know that we raise both meat and egg birds. They know full well that we will, ever so often, butcher and prepare our meat birds to eat. Understand that this is how we feed ourselves makes the process easier.
I would certainly love to hear any tips and tricks that you fellow chicken farmers have! And of course, I’m always willing to answer any questions! You can read about other parts of raising chickens in my post about wing clipping. My next post will be about the actual butchering of the chickens so be sure and come back for more!