I am attempting a farm that is a conventional traditional farm with a bit of observational permaculture. An important part of this is poultry. All poultry have their pluses and minuses. Chickens eat most bugs, but don’t usually go after the big fat Oregon slugs. I could get ducks for that, but they tend to eat my grass and seedlings. I like turkeys, but they are a little big and scary and I don’t know how to raise them. All of them need a good house to roost in at night. My last chickens died 3 from predators (at dusk even!), 2 from an illness compounded with the cold and the last hen flew the coop and moved in with the neighbors chickens (shes quite a little producer, too!).
Being that I don’t have a good setup yet, and haven’t figured out where to build a sturdy coop I was planning on just getting some broilers and put 6 weeks into them and eat them.
But my mother had different plans. Cute chicks at the farm store for only $2? Why not! I came home one night after work to find my defunct chicken tractor from last year filled with little chicks. And I was about to go on a week long business trip…i can’t let my babies die!
I don’t have a brooder, don’t know how to brood…something about a heat lamp, 95 degrees and no drafts. So I did some research and found out about Ohio Brooders. Basically, a short box with a light bulb that allows the chicks to self regulate their heat needs as they feather out. So I found a scrap piece of plywood, some 1x4s and some scraps for legs, mounted a porcelain base and tee da! had a brooder that wouldn’t be a fire risk for a matter of dollars, small enough to fit in the chicken tractor.
Food is on the outside so they are encouraged to leave the heat. In about 3 weeks these guys feathered out.
Tabitha LOVES watching the chicks. She doesn’t go after them, but can sit for hours just watching. I finally let these guys out to forage a little and called Tabitha over. She ran up and when she realized the chicks were out she stopped dead in her tracks. “BABIES!” She was so careful to not scare them and layed down calmly to watch them. Some maybe shes not a sheep dog but a chicken dog.
So these gals are growing fast, however, they are layers. I wanted meat chickens. So I needed to build another chicken tractor and brooder. Same style. Lightweight tractor so its easy to move. I got them before it was completed so they spent a day and a half in a tub with a heat lamp. Lots of people do this, so i figured for a day it should be fine anyway, it was better for them to be out of breezes, right? The ammonia built up quickly and I found one dead. Almost like it had been crushed.The chicks were having a hard time regulating the heat and i think may have gotten hot and huddled in the corner. Or the ammonia. Something. So I finished the tractor right fast and moved them in.
They took to the brooder quickly. They had ground to scratch, but warmth, too. They seem much happier and healthier in outside with a brooder.
The first few days I let them have the food inside just because i was concerned after loosing one. Then I put it out of the box and they are doing great! I just need to move the tractor to give them clean ground. They seem happy, healthy and energetic. I REALLY recommend this style brooder.
I picked up chicks while on break at work. I brought them into the shop and set them up with a lamp. My boss was okay with it, he understands where I’m coming from.
We had ordered a big lunch of Popeyes chicken the day before. As we opened the box of 60 piece fired chicken I looked in and thought, “Goodness, thats alot of lives taken in those boxes. thats 4 or 5 chickens worth!” In my mind, there was alot of death involved to make that fried chicken meal that no one else thought about. I appreciated those chickens, but was more determined to raise my own and give them good lives while I could.
So one of my co-workers came back from eating the chicken left overs and was complaining there wasn’t any chicken left! My boss and I started giggling. “Erika has some chicken!”
“Yeah, I have some. Though it might be better to wait a bit longer for it…but I got LOTS of chicken.”
Poor guy was so confused until we pointed to the little box of chicks. He had never really seen chicks before and was both facinated and terrified. Most of all he was upset that I was going to kill them one day. “Why don’t you just let them live, give them names and buy your chickens from the store?”
“Because I want them to be raised in a pleasant and happy environment.”
“But its mean to kill them. just get your chicken from the store!”
“Its the same thing. Chickens die to become a chicken at the store.”
“But they are so cute!”
“So are the store chickens.”
“No they arn’t”
“Yes, this is the same breed. Your Popeyes chicken you just at was a cute little chick at one time.”
“But…they shouldn’t be killed. You shouldn’t kill them, I mean. They should be allowed to live until they are grandparents.”
“Dude, these are special meat chickens, they get sick if they live too long.”
“What? no. just let them get old.”
Sigh. This is the part where i had to break it down as simple as possible. “Listen. The mama and dada chicken are two different kinds of chickens and when they are bred together they make a SUPER CHICKEN that grows really fast, but then dies young.”
“Oh. You’ve got super chickens?”
“Yes, so they need to be slaughtered young.”
He still didn’t get it and contended I was being mean. Later I heard him looking at them going “Super Chicken!”