After reading everything I could get my hands on, I bought baby chicks from my local feed store. Four Ameracanas and four Black Austrolorps came home with me in a brown cardboard box. Although, we had chickens when I was a kid, I have never raised chicks in a brooder situation before. Lost one of the Ameracans the very first night. This didn’t hurt me as much as loosing one of the Austrolorps would have since I got the Ameracanas mainly to amuse BG. (Ameracanas lay blue eyes, which will be fun for BG, as I am also planning on getting green (Olive Eggers) and chocolate (Copper Maran) layers as well. (Check out a quick google search for egg colors and you’ll understand why I’m doing it. Its going to be fun!)
The first thing I learned is that the feed store where I bought my chicks had it right. Wood shavings cut down on the smell and didn’t need to be changed as often as paper. I also read that the ink in newspaper can be bad for your chicks. As I know for a fact that chickens, along with other birds, are very susceptible to smells, I decided to avoid the newspaper, but paper was all I had for the first day, so I can honestly say… Eww! It stinks. The wood shaving absurd more moisture and drier is less smelly.
The second thing I learned is that chickens are still the same; they are some of the filthiest animals I’ve ever encountered. I’ve never known another animal to make such a mess. They poop everywhere; in their feed, in their water, everywhere! That being said, I cleaned their waterer everyday. Their feed dish less so, but it still got a good scrubbing at least once a week.
The third thing I learned is that while keeping the chicks in the house the first couple of nights was nice for my piece of mind, it did not work for my nose or anyone elses’. Therefore, they moved to the back porch. There was an old water tank that had rusted through in several spots that worked great for a brooder. The holes were small enough that the chicks couldn’t escape and I wasn’t worried about another crawling in because of the kitties. I made a lid out of hardware cloth and some old cabinet doors. Add a brooder light and some wood shavings and wah-laa: chick home. (I also had a thermometer to keep an eye on the temp, so that they didn’t get to cold.)
One of the things that was a problem was that the wood shavings kept getting into the food and water dispenser. One really large broken tray from one of my pots and that problem was solved. Basically, one of the terra-cotta dishes from under my potted plants broke. I used one piece under the feeder and one under the waterer. This lifted them up out of the shaving and kept them much cleaner.
Something else that I did different from what I had read was that I did not trash the food when shavings and poop got into it. I poured it out in a pile in a corner of my brooder. Those little chicks had a high ol’ time scratching and pecking. It was quite entertaining for BG and myself to watch fluffy little chicks trying to learn to scratch and peck.
Alas, the brooder got too small and my young birds were moved yesterday to their new home. Thanks to my uncle and aunt, I now have this hen-house. Having reached the age, when they want to go and do without having to worry about animals, they no longer wanted chickens and the coop has stood empty for quite some time. I was told that I could have it, no charge. (Woohoo!)
Along the way, I lost one of my Ameracanas and picked up two more chicks that are supposed to be Silver-Laced Wyandottes. The total at the moment is 9 pullets. I’ll also be picking up six roosters this Thursday (hopefully). I intend to raise them up, pick the best one and add the others to the freezer. I’ll also be getting some Copper or possibly Cuckoo Marans, Oliver Eggers, and some more Black Austrolorps.
Black Austrolorps are going to be the majority because they make a great dual purpose bird. They are great layers and meat producers, but they also tend to be great sitters. I intent to start raising my own chicks to replace my older birds, but also to put in the freezer. This is why I really wanted a good all around bird. From my research that was the Black Austrolorps. My opinion might change at a later date, but for now we’re going to give it a try.