Posted May 11, 2013
We began our Chicken Adventure with 25 pullets (female chicks) of 7 varieties. Having done a LOT of research though various sites we determined that it was important to have the right supplies, so we began our descent upon a local Supply Store. Here's what I recommended for anyone new to chicks:
1. Heat lamp and back up bulb.
2. Feed and water dishes. For 25 pullets we bought 2 one quart water bottles and 1 feed trough.
3. Chick Starter Feed. (cheaper to buy the bigger bag because you WILL use it anyway, they get your wallet on the smaller bags)
4. Electrolytes (which you could also use some of the sports drinks diluted that are on the market).
5. Bedding – we started with a pine chip bedding that we picked up a HUGE compressed package that felt like it weighted about 50#’s for super cheap, around 5 dollars I think.
6. An empty box, they love to huddle together and this was great for them.
7. We purchased a 16 gallon huge metal pan to keep them initially contained. The info that we got from the associate was not as accurate and we really could have saved the $17 for this metal pan. Thankfully it came in handy with the ducks. If you are only going to have chicken please save your money and skip this step.
8. Just add chickens. All in all the initial setup cost us about $100.00. Since we were required to buy 25 as a minimum and we are “right now” people, we picked them up immediately. For the record it is highly recommended to have these items set up 24 hrs ahead of time to make sure the heat is stabilized. Since we were putting the chicks into a spare shower that was in a heat stable bathroom we were confident that they would be just fine.
For the first few days they were in the pan that we bought. They started to show signs of jumping so I went onto just putting them into the shower directly. I taped the drain up to prevent any of the shaving/chips from falling into the drain. I then put down the wood chips (which hind sight I would have added a layer of newspaper between the two for easier clean up) and positioned their box in there for easy access, but away from the walls enough that they could completely walk around. (Keep in mind that this shower is about 30? x 30?). Next we put in the water bowl and feeder tray and added the girls to their new temporary habitat. I also added a platform for their water since they kept getting their bedding into the water. Their feeder was changed and cleaned once a day and their watering bottle was cleaned out approx 3 times a day on the messy days!
Since the beginning of this adventure we have successfully built a run out of pallets donated by a wonderful friend. We turned the mini barn into a chicken coop and we will be putting in the 6 nesting boxes. (It is recommended to have 1 nesting box per 4 of 5 Hens) Chickens have been extremely easy to raise from babies and to this day I have not lost one, even adding 6 that someone realized they could not keep in their neighborhood. Some chickens will lay eggs in 20 weeks which will be within the next 6 weeks for us. After doing more research it appears that I will have brown layers with the exception of my Australorp who will lay green eggs but only time will tell. They are currently on layer feed as recommended by our feed supplier and between the 29 hens they go though 7 pounds a day. I also throw scratch down in the run to encourage natural scratch and offer them scraps and fresh lettuce as they become available. We do offer them fresh water daily which they go though approximately 2 gallons of. Once a week they get oyster shells to help their digestion process and we also provide them with electrolytes once a week. The one thing that has surprised me the most about these hens is their ability to jump. Our chicken run is made out of vertical 48” pallets and they are constantly roosting on there.
I will allow the hens to lay for 3 years before turning them into meat birds. We will use the Whizbang process for plucking and process the meat ourselves. I remember one of the first things someone said to me when I was buying the pullets, “These do not make good pets!” My response was, “That's good because I think they are dinner!” From the research I have completed the hens will lay one egg 5 days a week. According to the Indiana Egg Department at Purdue University we do not have to have permit to sell eggs from our property however we cannot take them off of our property to sell without a retailers license and permit. For those who think that I will be swimming in eggs since I am looking at approximately 145 eggs a week, well I think your right. I know I will never get rich selling eggs I just hope to make enough to pay for their feed. Chickens are great to watch for relaxation and entertainment, great for providing eggs and meat, and ultimately good for a renewable source of food. For the record, chickens are the easiest pets to own. They require daily if not 2 times a day attention. They need fresh food and water every day, their coops and runs have to be cleaned very regularly to prevent mice and flies and they need to be monitored in the event of an mite/lice infestation or predators lurking.