The book above was my guidebook through the process of choosing chicken breeds, building the coop with my partner and generally learning all I could before we actually got chickens. It is a terrific book and is available at amazon.com or your local book seller!
With the coop ready, we eagerly await our fluffy new family members. I had ordered four chickens from a local homesteading store for city folks like us. City Folks Farm Shop allowed us to place pre-orders earlier in the winter for staggered pick up throughout the spring. Going through a shop like this allows us to order smaller flocks of more interesting birds from reputable, local organic farms rather than going through a feed store which buys in bulk and treats the birds as disposable commodities.
For our first cohort, I ordered two Buff Orpingtons, One Barred Rock and One Easter Egger. These are birds that will get along well together, are perfectly suited to the backyard environment and provide high quality, uniquely colored eggs.
Before their arrival I had to create a brooder. These one day old chicks will need to live inside the house for four to six weeks while they grow a bit and begin to have feathers. In addition, the day and night time temperatures need to be appropriately high for the birds not to suffer the cold.
I purchased a very large tote with locking lid from a local store. This large space will give our four fuzz balls plenty of room to run around, sleep and grow. In addition I purchased a chick feeder and chick water fount specifically for the small birds. I have a feeder and watering system for the coop, but those are designed for more adult birds. I also purchased a heat lamp. The chicks need to be kept in a warm environment as they are highly susceptible to cold at this young age. For the first week, they must be kept at approximately 95 degrees, the second week can be reduced to 90 degrees…and 5 degrees each week after that until they are to room temperature or to match the outside temperature. I also put the oil radiator back out on the sun porch and slipped a seedling heating mat under the brooder for supplemental night time heat. To monitor the temperature in the brooder, I affixed an adhesive reptile thermometer purchased at a local pet store.
To prepare the tote to be a brooder, I cut a large portion out of the lid and replaced that portion with hardware cloth. I cut the tote with strong tin snips and attached the hardware cloth using nuts, bolts and large enough washers as not to slip through the hardware cloth opening. This will provide ventilation for the birds, allow the heat from the lamp to penetrate, allow us a view to them and keep them protected from our household kitties. We laid a couple of inches of bedding in the bottom right before the chicks arrived and began the preheating process of the brooder. We picked them up two weeks ago and delivered them to their new, temporary, home….they have grown quite a bit in just two weeks!
They will have to be tended twice a day to ensure they are healthy and thriving. In addition we will want to remove waste regularly and check their feeders and water as they are notorious for knocking them over or making a mess in them. To minimize this, we placed a two inch thick board in the brooder and built the bedding up to its level. This creates a level, stable space for the water fountain and feeder.
The weeks will fly past and these little puff balls will grow into teen birds and will be ready to take their place in the backyard homestead.
Happy Gardening…and Chicken Keeping!