Raising chickens with children is such a wondrous experience. Not only are we blessed with nutrient-rich, organic eggs, when the hens start laying at five months old, but the the whole journey of watching them grow, tending to them, holding them as day old chicks until adulthood is an incredible learning and fulfilling experience.
Raising chickens is relatively easy, so worthwhile, and a fun venture for all ages.
We always start out with day old chicks from a hatchery, or our local feed store, because we want to be assured of females. Hatching your own chicks, you take what you get.
A couple of the specialized breeds we got this year are:
who have feathered feet.
The chicks arrive via the postal service in a cardboard box with holes (Note the box in the picture). We get the phone call and go pick them up at the post office.
Once back home, we put them in a brooder, which can be as fancy or as plain as you want. We believe in using what we have so that's what we did. Basically, it's a container that is clean and draft free and that a warming light can be shined into it.
We used a clear plastic container (80 or 90 qt) and set it on our window seat and moved a stool close by to attach the warming light. If the box was taller, we could clip it to the edge of the box, but this worked just fine. I like the clear box because no matter where you are in the room, you can see them and what they are doing.
During the first month, it is best to line the box with newspaper and then paper towels on top . It makes for a very easy clean up, to just fold up the paper towels, toss out (or compost!) and lay fresh ones down. It is too soon for pine shavings ( never ever cedar, even when older!) as they may eat the shavings.
An inexpensive chick feeder and a waterer can be purchased at your local feed store or farm supply, or ordered from a hatchery as well as chick food.
Once you fill the waterer, take one chick at a time and dip its beak into the water so he will know how to drink.
The chicks tend to stay right under the light unless they are eating or drinking. If they are piled in a big mountain on top of one another then they might be too cold and you need to lower the lamp. If you notice they are all spread out and even move far away from the lamp then they are too hot and you need to raise the lamp. Keep it at a happy medium by watching the chicks. They will always still huddle together.
As our chicks grew, they needed more space so my son used his soldering iron to make an opening in two of the plastic bins and we used cardboard and duct tape to connect them together.
It was sweet to see the chicks hop over the *bridge*.We keep them on the window seat to get light from the windows but also so they are easily accessible to watch and hold and delight in.
It doesn't take long before the children are quite adept at handling the chicks . They feel confident and proud.
They learn to be ever so gentle as they investigate . . .
checking out the feet
and the wings
and to watch and see if it will jump back into the box
So much to do and see, even the littlest children are in awe.
Each day the chicks are growing, and it doesn't take long before they learn to jump up to the side of the box to see more of the world.
and then of course, one learns from another and then you have some *chick chat* going on :)
and it should come as no surprise,when one day, you see one out of the box!
That is when you know it is time to make a cover for the brooder or move them to bigger quarters, preferably outside in a coop.
Stay tuned for more of this summer's journey with chicks.