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The Flock Begins — The Grow Network Community
In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

- Margaret Atwood

The Flock Begins

We spent a rainy Saturday picking up our little backyard flock from the hatchery. The hens were packed with a warming gel pack with their bedding and handled the 2 1/2 hour return journey well. No overt signs of stress and no pasty butt.

They spent there first seven days on doggie piddle pads. The brooder has a one inch layer of sand in the bottom and we put all the pads in at the same time layered. Morning chores were simplified by just pulling out the soiled pads and exposing the next clean layer. By day seven part of the brooder was exposing the sand layer.

Some things must be innate because the chicks started dust bathing and scratching the minute the sand was exposed. Now they are on sand. They dust bathe, scratch, and eat the grit. It seems to help keep talons and beaks trim. We noticed a social grooming habit. Sometimes one hen will pick at the back of one that is dust bathing. We do clean up with a kitty litter scoop.

It is now three weeks in. We have at least 3 courses of wing feathers, tail feathers, shoulder and back feathers, and chest feathers. The hens spend a lot of time grooming and arranging their plumage. We introduced roost bars that are well used. We put a wire cover over the coop but we still had one escape during clean up chores.

It is still a little cool outside so we are hoping they can stay in the brooder another 2-3 weeks. Next week we will drop the temperature to 70-75 degrees. They are growing so fast space may be the deciding factor.


  • Ruth Ann ReyesRuth Ann Reyes Managing Director TGN Shy of the Chi - Zone 5bPosts: 259 admin

    How fun, Ed! I could watch baby chicks for hours on end!

  • Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 499 admin

    I actually tried something new this year and bought six three- or four-week-old chicks from the neighboring town's feed store. They're golden-laced Wyandottes and were discounted because of their age. I'd been wanting to check the store out for a couple of years, and went in order to see what organic soil amendments they might carry. I hadn't been planning to get chicks this year, but, best-laid plans.... :)

    Anyway, since they were older and already had some decent feathers, I was able to put the brooder out in the coop with a heat source. Win-win, because the brooder is see-through and my hens have already had a couple of weeks to become used to their presence. I started letting the littles out yesterday (under supervision), and the hens mostly ignored them, although I did step in twice because one of the littles had gotten cornered by a hen.

    The chicks have done just fine in the outdoor/coop-sheltered brooder, and I like raising slightly older chicks enough to be willing to consider doing it this way next year, too!

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 1,494 admin

    Congratulations on your little flocks! GLW are very pretty!

    I have had various birds over many years now, but am focusing on Black (and blue) Copper Marans and Black (and blue) Jersey Giants. I currently have 16 in my brooder (mixed with some Blue Wheaten×BCM) in my tiny dining room...yes, a bit smelly at a week old, but they sound so nice. They are starting to feather out nicely. I will need to move them out into a larger brooder in a week as I have more in my incubator. Most of the incubator ones are spoken for...and that is fantastic!

    I have a trade soon as well...4 BCM for a pair of colored guineas (lavender & white). I miss my guineas. ;)

    It has been cold here and I got the hatching bug a little early this year. To give you an idea, we will be barely above freezing on Sunday & Monday, with rain Monday, snow on Sunday!

    I recently sold a few grown birds and have a few more to go. Then I am swapping a few roosters around to do one final incubator hatch. Any others after that will be Silkie hen hatched.

    Our calls have been laying. I have no idea if they will hatch any. Two are new to this egg thing.

    Here are a few pictures.

    1. An "Easter basket" (brooder box) of 7 Blue Wheaten×BCM. My experiment.

    2. The first splash Jersey Giant on a brooder box. I guess he wanted to see me a bit better.

    3. One of my Black Copper Marans

  • JimersonJimerson Super J Pilot Point, TXPosts: 236 admin

    Love the story Ed! I also had one of my pullets managed to escape the brooder while I was busy building their coop. She decided she just wanted a better view of the area and didn't try to run away.. which is lucky because chasing chickens can be a chore!

  • Ed BronnerEd Bronner Posts: 9 ✭✭

    The flock made it inside into the 6th week. Then the brooder was just too small for them. We moved them all out to the coop one evening and kept them shut in for 2 days with food and water. No escapees. They love the hardware cloth vented windows where they like to look out.

    They were not quite sure what to do when we opened the coop door into the run. All the girls piled up at the door stretching their necks for a look around. It took a while for one to actually start down the ladder just to turn around and go back up into the coop. A couple of others tried the ladder also but always retreated back to the coop.

    Eventually there were several crowded on the ladder and in the door way when it happened. Just like the Key Stone Cops one of them bumped the crowd and a couple had to flutter down to the grassy run. The stay was brief and everyone was back in the coop looking out. By days end everyone was out in the run. They seemed to enjoy it so much they were out until sunset. It was after dark before we could count heads and close the coop door for the night.

    The girls seem to be doing well even with overnight temps dropping into the 50s.

    The coop scoot starts tomorrow. We'll move them to fresh lawn before we let them out into the run. Its not Joel Salatin style but it moves. Now we'll start counting how many moves we get before we start back at the beginning. If the farmer gets lazy we may just start another garden bed for next year, chicken scratch meets Stout back in Eden.

    Hope everyone is having fun and learning as much as we are.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 1,494 admin

    That sounds like a fun and entertaining adventure, Ed!

    My chicks were moved outside to a larger brooder with heat at 3 weeks old. They are doing very well, but they are growing so fast that it won't take long for them to outgrow their space. Our temperatures have still been below freezing at night with a -7°C windchill.

    I am bringing my smaller brooder box in today to keep it dry because it *might* rain tomorrow. My next hatch date (of BCM, Jersey Giant, & Blue Wheaten×BCM) is May 13, with lockdown tomorrow. All is looking good at day 17. I have only removed 3 eggs out of 38. I would be very surprised if all hatch, though. We even went through a (thankfully only short lived) power outage. Boy did I pile on the towels! My temp has remained just right through most of this round, but my humidity always dips to 20% at night no matter what I try.

    I am now going to do a 3rd (previously unplanned) hatch. A neighbor had all but 2 guinea fowl taken by a fox (which we believe is now checking our birds out too). He had a bunch of eggs sitting around, so now I will be setting 35+ eggs (and a duck egg or two) to see if any are good, shortly after this hatch...and try my hand at guinea hatching yet again. I have a history of shrink wrapping them. :( I did some asking around and now have specifics on optimal hatching conditions.

    Once they are done, I will start my last hatch of chickens for me and a few other people. So much for only doing 2 hatches this year. After this, hopefully broodies can take over!

  • Ed BronnerEd Bronner Posts: 9 ✭✭

    Laurie, Brrrrr! Best wishes on successful hatches of beautiful chicks.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 1,494 admin


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