February 2010

The Spring Chicks have arrived!!

I just happened to be in the grain store the other day, and they already had the baby chicks in so I snapped up a
dozen. I got six Rhode Island Reds (the darker chicks) and six New Hampshire Reds (the light yellow chicks). I was
definitely planning on getting some more chicks this year and was strategizing on how I was going to acquire them.
Basically, I think buying day old chicks is the most cost effective mechanism to get egg-laying chicks. These cost $2.89
each. Some folks like to buy eggs and then hatch them in an incubator. This is certainly fun and educational, however,
there are some drawbacks. Firstly, there is a good deal of expense and hassle involved in buying an incubator and
managing the hatching process. You can buy fertilized eggs (mail order) for about 4 bucks each (plus shipping), so
there is no savings here. Plus you are always going to get "straight run" meaning that you are going to wind up with
50/50 mix of cockerels and pullets. Not only that but you aren't going to have a 100% hatching rate, so you loose even
more with this method. You can buy nearly fully grown and ready to lay pullets. However, the selection is usually very
limited and these will cost you a bit more (reflecting the cost of 4 months of feed and care). Online, pullets will run you
about 15 bucks a piece plus shipping.

You can also buy day-old chicks online. They are about the same price, and they have a much, much broader selection.
However, there is a minimum order of 25. The reason for this is that during shipping (yes, you ship these in a box via
the post office) they must stay warm. As such, you need to get 25 so they can huddle together to generate body heat. I
really don't need 25 new chickens.. so this pretty much limited me to getting them locally. Now the local grain store
usually only stocks two or three different types at any one time, and they sell out fast. So I snapped these guys up
immediately... even though I wasn't entirely prepared to start raising chicks this early in the year.
So, I got these guys after work one day... so it was absolutely pitch dark when I got home. However, I still needed to
go grab all my chick equipment out of the coop loft as I only had the chicks in a small cardboard box. It was covered
in about three feet of dust... as it had been sitting in the rafters for about a year and a half. So I had to spend about a
half hour cleaning all this up.
Since it is still pretty cold... I decided to keep the chicks in the basement in a small rabbit cage at least
temporarily. The key word here is "temporarily"... because last time I raised chicks in the basement... I
spent the next six months vacuuming up the fine layer of dust that almost immediately began appearing on
absolutely everything down there (including all the rafters and exposed pipes... everything). I definitely do
not recommend trying to raise chicks indoors unless you have some kind of complete enclosure... like a big
aquarium or something.
After about a week, I decided to move the chicks outside to our vacant rabbit hutch. I lined the whole
thing with copious amounts of spent hay for a bedding material/insulation and then also covered the
whole thing with a tarp to help keep the wind out. At this age, they need to be kept at about 90
degrees... and this is somewhat difficult to maintain as outside temperatures are still dipping into the
single digits around here. However, I put a 500 watt heat lamp in the enclosed area of the hutch (as
well as the food and water so it won't freeze) and covered the whole thing with a tarp to keep the wind
out as much as possible. So far, so good. I am still compelled to go check on these guys several times
a day... because if the heater conks out.. they will probably freeze to death very quickly.
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