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Chicks explore new ground

Outdoor chick brooder

Peering chicksThey don't call them chickens for nothing.

24 hours after I fenced off an outdoor playpen for the chicks, they were still huddled around the doorway, drawing straws to decide who should go first.

I cut off their fresh greens deliveries, but sprinkled some clover on top of the ramp to tempt the chicks closer.  I had expected an Australorp to lead the way, so I was surprised to find that a Marans/Australorp hybrid was the bravest.

Marans/Australorp hybridOnce she hopped down onto the ground a couple of times, of course, everyone else had to follow suit.  And they started grazing like cows!

I don't think of chickens as being able to digest excessive amounts of greenery, but our Australorps continue to prove me wrong.  I think that tender spring growth, especially, is quite digestible even if you only have a single stomach. 

Chicks on pasture

Looks like I'll need to expand that playpen tomorrow or the next day.  Maybe by then, the chicks will be big enough that I can use our usual temporary fencing material and give them more room to play.

Our chicken waterer continues to keep the brooder clean and dry and the chicks healthy.


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Oh fun!! We have 25 Plymouth Bar Rocks. Three weeks old and real gawky teens. They flap around their pen like they are very big and important but as soon as Shadow our black lab puppy rushes up to the fence they go scattering and squawking back to their house! I love watching them!
Comment by Catherine Kerton-Johnson Sun Mar 18 09:24:56 2012

I am SO thankful for your recommendation of "The Small Scale Poultry Flock". It is INCREDIBLE!

The parts on live feeds and breeding were especially fascinating. How do you guys manage your breeding? I am leery of using Old English Game hens (and cocks) because I have young kids, but we are thinking about Silkies, as odd as they sound for a farm!

Comment by Emily Sun Mar 18 11:06:27 2012

Catherine --- They are definitely a joy to watch at this age!

Emily --- I'm so glad you checked the book out! It really is an eye-opener that every permaculture-inspired chicken-keeper should read.

We're still working our way to a good breeding technique, so no real answers here. We started some Cuckoo Marans last year hoping they'd go broody, but no one has committed yet. (Actually, our Australorps are showing more signs, but aren't sitting on the nest overnight yet.) We'll probably try Old English Game hens or Silkies next year if no one steps up to the plate. Meanwhile, we're running the incubator constantly.

I don't think Silkies are that crazy for a farm. I used to read one homesteader's blog who uses Silkies for brooding, and swore by them.

Comment by anna Sun Mar 18 15:32:35 2012

Thank you for your reassurance about Silkies on the farm! I always think of Tori Spelling when I think of them which is sort of discordant with hard-core farming! Ha!

Do you remember which homesteading blog talked about them/grew them?

Do you have any opinions on which hatchery to buy from? Sandhill looks AMAZING but they are $1.50 + more/per chick for Silkies, in addition to the uncertainty of when they ship. Do you think it is worth it?

Comment by Emily Sun Mar 18 17:20:20 2012

Emily --- I can't remember who the blogger was because she's one of the folks in my RSS feed who hasn't posted in over a year. I wish she'd post because I really enjoyed her blog, but it's tough to keep up the momentum. What I do remember is that she ran a small hatchery --- selling chicks locally to her home in the mountains of North Carolina --- and used the silkies to hatch the eggs.

I don't know much about hatcheries, but do know that a surprising number of them aren't real and just drop-ship. That means they're a front page and send your money to a bigger hatchery who does all the breeding and mailing!! It looks like that's not the case with Sandhill, which is a big point in their favor.

The problem with any kind of hatchery is that the first selection process is for chickens that do well in a hatchery, which is a lot like an industrial chicken facility. I wanted chickens who were good on pasture, so I actually bought hatching eggs from little people who just kept a few chickens for breeding stock, but did it on pasture. That's the method I'd choose if I wanted to add more breeding birds to my flock, but it does require a relatively expensive incubator....

Comment by anna Sun Mar 18 19:02:05 2012