There are a number of reasons why raising chicks can be a highly rewarding experience. Whether you’re drawn to their bright, quirky personalities that make them ideal for a pet, or if you’re more interested in creating a sustainable source of nutrition for yourself, raising chicks is a simple and easy process that can fit into any type of lifestyle.
Raising Chicks On The Homestead
Baby chicks can be purchased and raised from any stage of development. There are three main options in this sense:
1. The first is to buy the chicks at one day old from a hatchery.
Most farm suppliers will sell baby chicks along with regular animal feed, and they are typically cheaply priced – most farmers will charge between $3-5 per chick. Keep in mind that most farms will do orders for chicks at a maximum of two times per year, so the period of waiting time is something to consider if you are wanting to go this route to acquire your chicks.
2. Another option is to purchase some ready-to-lay pullets at 20 weeks old, just when they are about to start the laying process.
This option is, of course, more expensive than buying the day-old chicks, but it is a much more pragmatic choice if you are needing your eggs quite quickly. Like the day-old chicks, the ready-to-lays can be purchased from a farm supplier at a hatchery.
3. The final option, while sometimes hard to come by, is to purchase a mature laying hen.
This might require that you know someone with a flock who is trying to sell older hens; otherwise, the first two options might be a more sensible choice to begin the process of raising your chicks.
One of the many positive benefits of raising chicks is that they do not require much maintenance, constant monitoring or intense care. Buy the basics for your chicks first, which include chick starter, clean water, and a draft-free brooder pen complete with a brooder lamp that will monitor the interior temperature of your chicks’ home.
The temperature of the brooder will need to start off at 90-95 degrees for the first week of the chicks’ life. A thermometer is helpful to monitor the correct temperature, but you might also observe the chicks’ behavior to ensure that the interior is of the correct warmth. Chicks in a too-hot environment will pant or huddle in corners of the brooder that are farthest away from the light; chicks that are too cold will be clustered underneath the brooder lamp in an attempt to gain some warmth.
The size of the brooder that you select will depend on the number of chicks you are planning to purchase and raise. A general rule of thumb is to allow 2.5 square feet per chick, but the more room possible, the better. The brooder should also start off to be raised 2 inches off of the ground. Once the chicks reach approximately one month, the brooder needs to raised to 4 inches in order to encourage the chicks to start their own roosting process.
It is necessary to keep an eye on how the chicks feather out; once they begin and fully feather, you should reduce the interior temperature by 5 degrees per week until they reach 6 weeks old. At this time, chick feed will also need to be swapped for grower mash. Always make sure that the chicks have plenty of fresh water at all times.
You will be amazed at how quickly your chicks feather out and grow! In just a week, you will notice a stunning transformation where small babies comprised mostly of chick fuzz will grow almost full wings with the beginnings of crests and tail feathers.
It is important that the chicks have a comfortable environment while they are being raised. To do this, spread pine shavings across the floor of their pen along with layers of newspaper to create a cushion for the chicks. Sprinkle plenty of chick feed on the ground for them to eat at their leisure. Make sure to change out the newspaper at least once a day, otherwise the chicks will be walking on an unclean floor.
Cleanliness is of high importance when raising your chicks. The babies are prone to contracting an illness called coccidiosis that arises from walking through and tracking their own excrement in a particularly damp environment. One other important requirement to note is that the brooder lamp should contain a red light bulb as opposed to a white. Using red light will ensure that the chicks do not peck at each other, as it conceals any potential injuries that the chicks might have. If the other chicks see an injured peer, they will have no problem pecking and potentially causing further harm, or even potential death, to the wounded.
Raising baby chicks will increase your healthy lifestyle in a number of ways that you might not have even considered. You will have direct control over what type of product you are consuming, whether you are just enjoying the fresh eggs that your chicks will one day provide, or if you are planning to use their meat once they are raised in full. Baby chicks will also eat your table scraps and convert them into organic fertilizer that will ensure your plants will thrive and grow.
Additionally, you will be surprised at the cutback of insects you find in your yard – the chicks will eat those pesky pests which will allow you to enjoy more days outside to spend time with your chicks. They are cheaply bought, easy to raise, and do not require an extreme amount of attention, making baby chicks an ideal option for either a family pet or an addition to a sustainable way of living. Happy raising!
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