Chicks 2012

Sirus, Hope & Chicks

Baby chicks arrived! 152 fluffy feathered balls of delight. The dogs, Hope and all of us were excited to see them. The dogs want to pick the chicks up and hold them. This involves rolling them around inside their mouths given the chance. Even though they would then set it back down I discourage this as I don’t think the chicks like that ride. So the dogs put up with enthusiastic sniffing of fluff balls. Remus in particular is quite protective, telling the other dogs to “Be gentle” and “No Touch!”

Usually we get chicks in the much colder weather of winter so they’ll be ready to lay come summer but this year I did it in June, the easy months. We have two lights on for heat but are only using them at night since it is so warm now. They’re in a greenhouse section. When we first get the chicks we dip their beaks in the water and set them down by the waterer. You’ll notice the rocks in the waterer dish – this is to prevent chicks from drowning. The boxes they come in make good draft baffles within the stall. Key is keeping the existing hens and roosters out of the chick are as the older birds have a tendency to kill chicks that are not their own. Once the chicks are bigger they’ll have a creep out to the pastures and ease into mixing.

This year we got New Hampshire Reds, Red Star and Blue Andalusian hens to add to our existing flocks out in the field who perform organic pest control duties as well as breaking up manure patties and providing eggs to supplement the diet of weaner pigs.

Outdoors: 77°F/57°F Sunny, 1/2″ Rain at Night
Tiny Cottage: 73°F/67°F

Daily Spark: A cow does not expect me to go hungry.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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17 Responses to Chicks 2012

  1. Ah chickens. Good for so much on the farm. They make poop, they reaarange poop, they sort poop, they find bugs and worms in other animals poops and then they taste FANTASTIC when eaten. Who else can do that ? Oh yeah…pigs

    LOVE hopes boots!

    • Susan Lea says:

      I LOVE your comment, Donna! I would love to quote you on my blog some time, if you’re okay with that. Complete credit given, of course, and a link to this post.

      You made me laugh out loud, but it’s so true! Most people who eat meat would probably DIE if they knew what an important part poop plays in the diets of the animals they’re eating! For that matter, I can think of some people who would die at the thought of how important poop is in the fruits and vegetables they’re eating!

      As always, Walter, your dogs are amazing. I know your kids work hard, but they are having experiences that enrich their lives SO much.

  2. becky3086 says:

    Wow, that is a lot of chickens! You don’t use them for anything else? I just can’t imagine needing that many unless I was going to eat some of them.

    • They forage over a fairly large area and are a part of our sustainable organic managed rotational grazing on pasture system. There’s a mouthful. Having so many birds means they produce a lot of eggs which is great for protein for weaner pigs as well as dogs. Some of the poultry will get eaten. Every once in a while someone buys adult hens for egg laying, although that isn’t something I advertise, more of an occasional thing that someone might get when getting piglets.

  3. Jessy says:

    Could you comment on feeding eggs to your weaner pigs? Do you cook them first? I heard that feeding “food scraps” to animals you are going to sell for meat is illegal. Is this true?

    • We cook the eggs as it double’s the available protein. Eggs are high in protein and an excellent source of food for weaner pigs.

      On the food scraps, if you’re selling pork then it is important to check with your state regulations. The USDA has a web page that give the information and a map of the state rules. In a few states it is illegal to feed meat scraps at all. In most states it is fine to feed meat scraps as long as they are cooked. Feeding pre-consumer vegetables, fruit, eggs, dairy and such are not ‘food scraps’ or ‘garbage’ so those are fine in all states as far as I know. Note the ‘pre-consumer’ wording there. Don’t feed human plate scrapings such as from a cafeteria, etc as those may have human diseases that could be given to the pigs and then back to the humans.

      Additionally, I would not suggest taking post-consumer wastes at all from restaurants and cafeterias because you will get broken glass, silverware and other nasty stuff in the compost – people aren’t good about separating things. If the pigs are being raised for home consumption you can feed them what ever you like in all states as far as I know. We avoid all post-consumer wastes and only feed pre-consumer foods, e.g., whey, cheese, etc in addition to the pasture and hay. This helps ensure the safety of both our customers and our herds.

  4. brett fox says:

    Do you feed your chikens any grain? Just wondering what the cost advantage is by feeding eggs and not having to by pig feed. Also during winter time are all your animals brought back to the homstead? I know myself that winter watering can be dificult. Great web site by the way it nice to follow your journey as im on mine.

    • We tend to feed the new chicks grain for a few weeks, especially if they’re starting out in the cold weather. Then they quickly graduate from that to hunting insects in the pastures as well as eating some forages (e.g., clover, grass, etc.) During the winter we feed meat scraps to the chickens which replaces the insects they get during the warm months. Only occasionally have we resorted to purchased grain for the flocks in winter. This keeps the cost of producing the eggs down to basically the cost of the chick, in the case of those chicks that are bought – some are hatched here on our farm.

      During the winter the animals are centered in winter paddocks in the six or so acres around the house. This makes it easier to get food and water to them, check on them, etc. Taking care of the animals is much more work in the winter. The warm months are the golden months. But I would not want to live without winter because it serves to kill off the nasty things like alligators, ticks, politicians and other parasites. No, that wasn’t a political joke. I just don’t like having alligators in my ponds. :)

  5. Diane N. says:

    Fabulous! Chickens. I hope to see more as they grow up.

  6. Alexandra says:

    I just found your site and I am enthralled! I love the idea of keeping animals on pasture with no (or very little) additional input, especially grain. We just got our very first chicks ever and are learning as we go. I wonder if you could answer a couple of questions for me: Would it be possible to keep purely-pastured chickens without having other animals? It seems like yours get a lot of their nutrition from poking around in the pig and sheep dung. I saw in a comment on a different post that you recommend not feeding the chickens at all in order to get them to forage for themselves. I would be very nervous doing this! Any words of wisdom that would ease my worry?

  7. Jeanine Hasenkopf says:

    This is my first year with chickens and I am hoping to increase to a few pigs maybe a couple of goats (have one 11 year old pet boy now ) or sheep. I want them to be free ranging, we have a small coop they sleep in but are out all day. I still feed them unmedicated starter grower right now in the evening when they go to coop. They are 12 weeks old now and I was told that in a couple of weeks I need to move them to layer to get them to lay eggs. I was hoping to stop feeding and let them get what they need in the yard but not sure what is in layer to make them lay? I am also not sure what to feed them through the winter because we will be snow covered. At least we usually are :) Is it realistic to think they can just free range and what should I feed in the winter? Is hay good enough? They have that in their coop but don’t seem to eat it.
    I live in upstate New York near the souther VT border so we have many more months of cold them production.

    • We don’t buy or feed our hens any commercial feed during the warm months. They get plenty of food off of pasture in the form of plants, earth worms, mice and most of all insects. They lay about 0.8 eggs per day over the year. In the winter we do need to either feed them either a commercial layer pellet or meat plus oyster shells to continue getting eggs. Winter also requires a light on a timer to simulate the brighter seasons. This way in the winter they still lay although somewhat less. They will eat some hay in the winter as well as kitchen scraps but the hay alone won’t be enough to keep them laying. Note that some hays are better than others, e.g., percent legumes like clover, stem, seed, etc.

  8. Leona says:

    Hi Walter
    Thank you so much for the info. What do you feed your chicks? This has been a struggle for us with not using any commerial feed to get the right balance, they sometimes seem stunted in growth.
    This concept of no or little grain is a new idea for me, I’ve never heard it before. We live in Canada with winter temp., wind chill getting as low as -35C sometimes. Using less grain would be nice.
    Thanks Leona

    • Our weather is like yours so you know what it is like here living up on the snow pack almost half the year.

      In the warm months we don’t feed the chickens or chicks. They gather all their own food from the fields.

      In the winter we’re up on snow pack so the forages, earthworms and insects are not available. The chickens eat some hay and scavenge around the pigs but we must feed them meat or layer to get them to have enough resources to lay eggs. We tend to use the meat rather than the commercial layer feed simply because we have plenty of meat scraps from slaughter each week. Sometimes they’ll get a little bit of bread but that isn’t a large amount of their diet. Whey is another thing they get as that is something we have readily available. They also need a light if we want them to lay.

      In the winter when we have batches of newly hatched chicks we feed them a commercial chicks starter feed. Eventually the the chicks are big enough to eat meat as well as the whey and we fade out the commercial grain feed. The meat is key.

      I have thought of growing earthworms and crickets for them in the winter. I’ve raised both on a fairly good scale before for tropical fish and reptiles. I think those or other invertebrates might be a viable winter food but I haven’t had time to try that yet for the chickens. For us the meat is so easily available that I haven’t had a big push to do otherwise.

  9. Laura Dille says:

    Walter I would love to see a post sometime on how you cook all those eggs in bulk and then feed them to the pigs & dogs. I imagine its a production!

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