The DIY Life: Keeping Chickens Series

20 Mar

So we bit the bullet and got some chicks the other day. Golden Laced Wyandottes to be exact. As well as 2 mallard ducks – the hubs said if they had ducks, he was getting them. Here is to hoping that they are a male and female so they can be mates!

But anyways, back to the chicks – and what got us to the point where we wanted some of our own.

I have been on a mission to eat as organically as possible, in the only true way I believe you can know you are eating organic – from your own garden or kitchen. With so many things out there today labeled “organic” it’s become hard to pinpoint what truly is organic. So i’m cutting out the middle man in as many cases as possible and either baking, cooking, or growing it myself.

Now onto eggs – any egg labeled organic happens to be around $2-3 MORE than the regular eggs at the grocery store where I live. “Free Range” can sometimes only mean that the chickens were allowed outside of their coop for an hour per day. Chickens getting an hour of free movement doesn’t really seem like a good justification to charge almost double for eggs. Not to me anyway. It sounds more like prison.

So last year, our friend who keeps chickens was always having a surplus of eggs. Way more than he and his wife could consume. So they started giving us dozens of eggs. The first ones I cracked open to make eggs over easy had me hooked. That dark, sun colored yolk. That clean, yummy taste. I wanted more. I wanted my own chickens.

The hubs and I talked about it for a months. We read about various breeds. We needed cold hardy birds that could survive the winter here,  and birds that were friendly and sweet. We wanted good layers. So we narrowed it down to Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes. Between mid March and Mid April, Tractor Supply has what they call Chick Days – where all the stores carry chicks, ducks, and geese. They never really know what they are gonna get so we called around to all of them within a 40 mile radius. The hubs found Wyandottes at one nearby and we scooped up the last 6. The only problem with these little chicks is that they are a straight run, which means they have not been sexed. On average, it’s a 50/50 ratio. Since we only want hens, we’ll have to figure out what to do with any males once we can tell what’s what.

But for now, it’s just entertaining to watch them kick around the litter, eat, drink, and get into shenanigans with each other.

We are new to chicken keeping, so I have refered to a book (as well as internet sites specializing in chicken care for the backyard keeper!) called: Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock.  I actually won the series of Ashley English books from Kate over at Hip Girls Guide and am so glad I have it as a point of reference. It covers all the basics and more, kind of like an idiots guide to chicken keeping, but told like you were hearing it from a friend. Check out Ashley’s blog over at Small Measure. Lot’s of great reads on getting back to the basics. Because getting back to basics is becoming a big movement. For me, keeping chickens is the next part of my getting back to basics.

Now, i’m planning on doing this as a sort of series. This first part, AKA Phase 1 –  now that i’m done going on and on, is about preparing yourself for keeping chicks (or ducklings if your husband REALLY just has to have them!)

We needed to set up a brooder for the chicks. Since there is no momma for them to snuggle under, the brooder provides them with that nice environment while also keeping them safely confined. Since we only have 6 chicks and 2 mallards, I decided to use a large clear plastic tote. I sanitized it with a bleach/water solution and dried it out. In the bottom, I put about 3 inches of “litter” made out of wood shavings to provide the chicks with soft material to move around on as well as something to catch all their waste.

We also purchased a feeder and waterer for the chicks so they had acess to fresh food and water all day. We change the water daily and swap out the food if it’s been contaminated. Litter is changed daily to keep the chicks in a clean, healthy environment and to keep our house from getting stinky! I placed the tote in one of the upstairs bedrooms so that they can have quiet and be segregated from the rest of the house (and the dog). Originally I had them in the kitchen but was concerned our little pup was going to traumatize them so they have since been relocated. I did this without the dog being around because last night, he was up every 2hrs trying to listen for them and wanting out of the room. Oh what a night. Merr.

Soooo….baby chicks require the use of a heat lamp and temps of 90-95 degrees for their first week. This temp can be decreased by 5 degrees per week. The heat lamp is a red bulb that provides them warmth since they are so small and have no momma for snuggling. I also learned that the reason it is red is because it prevents the chicks from pecking at each other. Well then. Good to know! The room they are in gets alot of sun and light and when it gets dark I can have the light on in the room for the few extra hours they need light without it bothering us as we mill about our house.

So far the chicks and ducklings seem to be thriving. They are eating, drinking, sleeping and exploring. They’ve already started ‘foraging’ even though there is nothing for them to find. so this is great news. Now lets hope that most of them are girls!

Stay tuned for more updates on our journey into the world of chicken keeping!

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5 Responses to “The DIY Life: Keeping Chickens Series”

  1. Yinzerella March 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    My mum says that when she was growing up in Pittsburgh, back in the 50s/60s they would get Easter Chicks every year from the 5&Dime–little chicks dyed different colors, pink, purple etc. They’d set them up in a box on one of the radiators. And then when their feathers started growing out an became chickens…well, then they’d go to the meat guy who would go up and down the alley. Or at least I think that’s what would happen.
    You must have a big yard if you’re doing this. What a great experiment–looking forward to following their growth.

    • seasonedwithsarcasm March 20, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

      They still actually do that around here, but i’m not quite sure where you can get them at! A friend wanted to get one for her daughter and give it to us, but I only want sweet egg laying hens so I said no thanks lol.
      We actually have a little over an acre of land and our back yard is a big flat expanse and I think perfect for chicken keeping. Over the next couple weekends the hubs and I are going to build our coop, most likely beside our existing shed and have a big run for the chickens in between their coop and the shed. I don’t want to rush them out of their chick phase but I cannot wait to spy that first egg and feel victory!

  2. dollydelightly March 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Cute dog.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The DIY Life: Keeping Chickens Series, Part 2 « seasonedwithsarcasm - April 4, 2012

    […] hubs brought home 6 Golden Laced Wyandotte Chicks and 2 Mallard ducklings. (Read the original post here). Two weeks later, the chicks have doubled in size and their feathers are coming in! Right now, […]

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