Tuesday, February 21

Starting a Chicken Flock

Saturday February 18, 2012
The Day I Finally Got Chickens

The big day had arrived. Today was the day to go to a farm in Johnstown, Ohio to pick out chicks to start our flock!

I was up by 6am, but I had barely slept the night before. I woke up thinking I should use the old sink base cabinet left over from our bath remodel to keep the new baby chicks in, instead of the small cage my husband Bill and I worked on all evening, converting it into a brooder.
Brooders are used to confine chicks with their feed and water and keep them warm, until they are 6 - 8 weeks old and ready to go outside

I decided I would use the cabinet because it is larger, and I could use old storm windows to cover the top. The old storm windows would not only help keep heat in and keep the cat out, but would also allow me to have a clear view of my chicks.
Bill helped carry the cabinet into the mudroom where I planned to keep the chicks, then we set the storm windows in place and hung the heat lamp.

We went to breakfast at a small diner in West Jefferson, and then made our way to the local Tractor Supply for last minute items.

I've done a lot of reading and web searches to find the breed of chickens I want for our flock.  There are many breeds, and many different purposes for chickens.
  • There are breeds used mainly for showing at fairs and chicken shows.
  • Some chickens are used as mass egg layers, but their meat is not so tasty.
  • Some are raised just for their meat, and are butchered within weeks after getting them.
  • Then there are the dual purpose chickens.
A dual purpose chicken means they are good egg layers and have good tasty meat.  These are the ones we were interested in. Of the dual purpose chicken breeds the ones I was most interested in were:

Plymouth Rock:
Developed in New England in 1829.
This is a hardy chicken.
Can be very tame.
Is a good egg layer and has excellent tasting meat.
Lays brown eggs.

Buff Orphington: 
Originated in England in the 1880's.
Came to the USA in 1890. 
Is hardy, smart, can be tame.
Has good meat and lays brown eggs.

Rhode Island Red: 
Developed in the USA in 1890's.
It's a hardy chicken and is a beautiful deep red color.
It's a great egg layer,
Eggs that are brown to dark brown.

Silver Laced Wyandotte: 
Developed in New York in the 1860's,
This chicken is docile and hardy.
Has a good temperament and are very good mothers.
Lays brown eggs and chicks are very strong.

On my first trip to the Tractor Supply earlier in the week, a clerk led me to items he said I would need:
A feeder, waterier, chick starter feed and antibiotic drops to put in the chicks water for 6 weeks, and a few other items.

A small sampling of my reading material
 I did a lot of research to make sure I knew a little about raising a flock of chickens and was comfortable enough to make decisions about how I was going to raise them.  After lots of reading and re-reading I decided that the antibiotic was not the route I wanted to go with my chicks. Down the road, if one of my chickens become ill, I will look into chicken medicines.

The closest Tractor Supply store to our farm is in New Rome, Ohio, and this trip, lucky for me, a lady named Debbie was working. She helped me more with advice about chickens than anyone has besides my stack of books.  She answered many questions and told us about her chickens.  I could have talked to her for hours, but my baby chicks were waiting for me!

I ended up with a plastic water receptacle, chick starter feed and pine shavings for bedding.
When the chicks are older I will purchase a large galvanized steel water receptacle and feeder, but for now the chicks will eat from a small cake pan.
The small enclosed water receptacle is very important in the first week or so because baby chicks can easily drown in open containers of water. 

On the road once again, we stopped to pick up my daughter Alexis and then headed north: our appointment was at noon.

The farm was like a farm should be, or how I picture it in my head. Pigs, chickens, cows, stacks of firewood, farm fields and a huge dog greeted us as we pulled into the lane.
It had a pond, large vegetable garden area, stacks of straw, sacks of feed and miscellaneous tractors, parts and pieces.

A young Amish man, John came out of the hog pen to help us.  He led Bill, Alexis and I through the barn to the back stairs that led to an upper floor.
Well hundreds anyways.

The little chicks were all inside squared off areas. Each area was covered and had a heat lamp. John asked me what kind of chicks I was interested in. I read off my list, which had each breed name with a photo of an adult chicken and baby chicken and a description.
(Yes, I’m that kind of person)
To his credit, John did not laugh, or snicker or make fun of me. He just took out his list of available chicks and matched our lists up.

John let me look at each baby chick; he had all the ones I wanted. I held each breed, looked each one over and marveled at the miracle of chickens.
Now Bill and I (well Bill) had agreed we would raise 6 little chicks. But if you could have been with us, could have held those fuzzy, soft, furry (their down is like fur) sweet little chicks, making small little chirping noises you would have left with more than 6 chicks too!
Don’t judge me!

I decided I needed, no, must have 3 of each breed.  Do the math, that's not six, that’s 12!

John had boxes with bedding already made up and handed one to me.
As I went back though my list, saying the breed names of the ones I wanted, John would hand me a baby chick, three from each breed and I placed them in the box. 
Bill stood back and watched while Alexis oohed and ahhed over each and every baby chick as they were past into the box. 

When I reached the desired amount we closed the box and headed back down stairs, Bill leading the way, then John, followed by Alexis carrying my box of babies and me last to say goodbye to all the other chicks.

The huge farm dog accompanied us on this whole chick selecting adventure and he especially liked Bill. He was a big old Marmaduke kind of dog and just kept rubbing against Bill for pets and belly rubs, which Bill gave him.
Bill paid John, and we were on our way.The box had a lid, but I had it off most of the way home, and I just kept looking at and holding all the chicks. Alexis leaned over the front seat, and remained in that position most of the way home, also holding the chicks. There was much cooing and kissing to the chicks all around.

 I can’t believe I finally have chickens.

Our flock has begun.


More information on keeping chickens:

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          "A true friend is someone who knows you're a good egg even if you're a little cracked."
"The rooster may crow, but the hen lays the egg"


Anonymous said...

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Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

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