The day is finally here when our chicks arrive in the mail! After months of planning and daydreaming about their cute little faces, the call comes in from our local post office……. “You have a very chirpy box here for pick up!”
Caring for chicks is not hard as long as you have the right setup, and test before they arrive. With a little planning and daily care you can raise your own chickens from day old chicks. Here are some tricks of the trade.
Decide to keep chicks
Make sure you actually want to keep chickens! This may sound obvious, but make sure you know the full story on what it takes to care for chickens so they will have happy and healthy lives. We spend about an hour in the morning and evening caring for the chicks in the beginning and then as we develop more efficient systems, 30 minutes in the morning and evening. Check out our previous post on raising chickens to make sure you are making a smart decision.
Decide on a breed
We are raising Red Ranger broiler, meat chicken also known as a Freedom Ranger for their excellent foraging capability and unique flavor. We use the Freedom Ranger Hatchery out of Pennsylvania for their price point and lack of local hatcheries. Ideally we’d like to find a local hatchery to cut down on the stress the chicks face in the mail. If you know of one in Michigan or Ohio, let us know! They don’t tell you 10% – 20% will die over time from stress and that’s been a hard pill to swallow.
Build the brooder
Chicks need a warm place to live with easy access to food and water. A brooder allows you to mimic nature like a mother’s wing. Temperatures start off at 95 degrees and drop slowly about 5 degrees per week. We built an Ohio Brooder for its efficiency at keeping heat and because it allows the chicks to self regulate without us having to putter too much.
Provide food and water
Chicks need to start of on a high protein diet when they’re young. This is often referred to chick starter or chick mash. We use a non-gmo feed from our local Dexter mill at 22% protein to get them started. They will then switch down to 20% after three weeks and 18% after another 3-4 weeks. Red Rangers take about 11 weeks to reach full weight. Research your breed to find out what works best.
After 2-3 weeks in the brooder and depending on your climate, you can move your chicks to their coop! Our tractors will be their new homes in about another week.
Have fun and enjoy your chickens!
Our chickens teach us so much everyday and they are fun to watch. It’s not easy, but we are grateful to do this work for you all here at Get Down Farm.