Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Chicks

About three weeks ago, we got our first batch of new chicks. This first batch is smaller than we were expecting, but we think it's a good thing for us as we can now get experience brooding chicks for the first time with a smaller number of them.

For this first batch, we got three breeds; Chantecler, Sussex and Ameraucana.

We're keeping them in this little chicken coop on the farm. We gave it a very thorough cleaning and heated it up before introducing the chicks to their new home. The ground isn't covered by snow anymore either.

At first, we built a little cardboard brooder for the chicks so it would be easier for us to keep their livivng area warm. We use red heat lamps in the brooder to keep them warm. When we first got the chicks, we had to keep their brooder at 33C, and we have to decrease the temperature by a few degrees each week until they have all of their feathers. If we don't ge the temperature right, we can seriously hurt their development as they grow.

We are also being extra careful about how we raise these chicks because we are raising them without any medicated feed. Many chicken keepers raise their chicks for the first couple of months on a feed that is medicated to prevent a disease called Coccidiosis, which damages the intestinal tract of a chicken, weakens it and makes it susceptible to other diseases as well. It is a very serious disease in large concentrated chicken operations. We chose not to premedicate for a number of reasons, including our desire to be as organic as possible and our belief that premedicated feeds cause harm over the long run. The way these feeds work is they prevent the chick from developing vitamin B1 in its body properly, tarving out the Coccidiosis from their bodies. The lack of this vitamin also makes the chicks weak themselves. Of course, if they get sick we will certainly treat them as the need it.

By keeping their coop warm, clean and dry and making sure they have fresh food and water every day, we are raising them in a way that keeps them healthy and lets them develop a natural resistance to disease.

Now, after three weeks, our chicks have their wing and tail feathers and have gotten so much bigger than they were when we got them. They are really healthy and active, flying and running around in their little coop. It's been really fun raising our chickens from day one this time.

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