I’m so excited! Knock on wood, so far my newest experiment in backyard farming is WORKING!
If you follow me on Instagram (and you should, @daddystractor) you’ll already know we received an unusual-looking package in the mail yesterday containing baby chicks! When they arrived we took them downstairs to the brooder and settled them all in with drinks of water and some chick feed.
They come in the mail– how crazy is that!
But then last night I got a little crazy. 😉
We use this cattle feeder as a brooder. It works for the first few weeks anyway!
We ordered 40 chicks this time around. 25 are “pan-fry” chickens I plan to raise to feed my family. The other 15 are assorted bantams, destined to be pets for the kiddos. I said yes to this idea because if you think baby chicks are adorable, well, you have to see a bantam chick. They are a third the size of a regular chick. Need I say more?
They are all so cute, but why is it tiny things are even cuter!!
These bitsy chickens will someday lay tiny eggs, which we don’t really need since my other 28 chickens are laying hens and we currently get almost 2 dozen eggs a day. So they are basically useless as far as livestock go. (But again. So. cute.)
Really they are just here to eat expensive food and take up time and energy.
So I came up with a plan to cut down on the time and energy, if not food.
Two of my laying hens have gone “broody.” This means they keep setting on eggs, trying to hatch chicks. Broody hens aren’t great on a farm because they tend to be more likely to peck and they stop laying new eggs in their attempt to hatch the ones they’re sitting on. Conventional wisdom is to keep a broody hen away from the nesting boxes until she gives up on the idea, OR… get her some chicks to raise!
An experienced mama hen is a pretty amazing animal. She will sit on her eggs for 21 straight days, getting up just once a day to eat and drink for a few minutes.
However, my hens are not experienced mamas.
Actually… they’re not all that bright either.
I gave a mama hen some eggs to see if she could hatch her own (how fun would that be?!) and she couldn’t keep track of which box was hers. She’s been sitting on different eggs for almost 4 weeks.
The nesting boxes are a busy place!
Which makes my plan of putting bantams under these two chickens unreliable at best.
Last night Brett and I slipped the banties under the two hens–you can handle chickens more easily after they’ve gone to bed. This morning I got up early to be out there just after the sun popped up and both mamas were sitting on 15 very quiet chicks.
I created a separate space for the new families in the part of the coop designed for storage, giving each mama a milk crate and straw nest on the floor. (The nesting boxes are on the wall and the babies won’t be able to get in and out to get to food or water.) I was really nervous about having to move everyone so soon after the introductions, but oh my goodness, it’s working! As soon as they saw the chicks in the new nests both mamas moved right in and took charge of their little broods.
So far, so good! Yay!!
Quick, knock on wood!