Posts Tagged With: chicks

Free-Range Chicks

The story of our free-range baby chick project.  Like most everything else in life, our chick project hasn’t been going quite as planned.  To recap I brought home three Buff Orpington chicks a few weeks ago, not because we needed more laying hens, but because my kids love them so much.

The difference between three chicks as pets and 25 laying birds is that my kiddos loved on those same three birds constantly.  And funny enough, those birds have gotten quite attached to my kids!

Which has lead to the problem of the free-range chicks.


The story of our free-range baby chick project.  We had chicks on our laps during movies, while playing games, and even during school.  And since this is not my idea of a “teacher’s pet,” it was time to move those girls outside!

 Free range baby chicksThey are more attached to Brett and Anna than ever now, since outside is an intimidating place.  I’m watching them through the window as I’m typing and the kids are trying to get a chick to stay in one place (no idea…) and the little bird is having none of it.  She is right there by their feet at all times.

So not as planned, but pretty great anyhow.

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

6 of the Cutest Chicks Ever!

So our project is still working and you’ve got to see these pictures!

So.  Stinking. Adorable!!!

Baby chick with Mama hen

Gives new meaning to “Mom’s Taxi Service.” BTW, this chick does this all the time!!

Baby chicks under a mama hen!

So warm and cozy under here!

Baby chicks under mama hen


Baby chicks under mama hens

This pic makes me laugh; it’s such a “big” chicken face for such a little girl!

Baby chicks underneath mama hens

The mamas spread out their wings for the babies to huddle under– these two hens have been working together to make one big mama blanket!!

Baby Bantam chick

At two weeks old these banties are still so tiny!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Oh My Goodness, It’s Working!

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.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

They come in the mail– how crazy is that!

But then last night I got a little crazy. 😉

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

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?

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks

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.

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks!

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.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks!

So far, so good! Yay!!

Quick, knock on wood!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring Growth

The farm at springtime  {}

“Baby” chicks, almost grown!

The farm at springtime  {}

Red Delicious apples

The farm at springtime  {}

Abundant spring rains have been good for my roses!

The farm at springtime  {}

Hoping to harvest a couple of peaches.

The farm at springtime  {}

Beans coming up through the rye grass

The farm at springtime  {}

Last night’s beautiful sunset!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Baby Chick Theme Unit

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but Monday morning I realized we needed to started getting ready for our baby chicks, and hey! why not learn about chicks for school too?!  So that morning I scrambled about for a few minutes (thanks Google and Pinterest!) and came up with this baby chick theme unit!

The best resource I found was this one from Missouri Farm Bureau.  It is an online Egg to Chick Web Quest which shows pictures of chicks developing in the egg!  It also had a chart to fill out, which Brett loved doing since we printed pics from one of their links instead of drawing.  He loves glue, drawing– not so much.

baby chick theme unit worksheet

The Web Quest also provided an egg to print and label, which Brett did with a bit of help.

Baby Chick theme unit worksheet baby chick theme unit worksheet

Sorry about that last photo.  Please excuse the mom in me…

We also made chick cookies.

baby chick theme unit

We discussed “habitat” and what a baby chick needed to survive.  We set up a real brooder, but you could easily make a “brooder” in a shoebox!

Caring for Baby chicks, day 1

We watched many YouTube videos of chicks, chicks hatching, eggs incubating, and whatever else YouTube provided.  Seriously though, who videos some of this stuff?  You can watch OUR chick video we made last year– it really is stupendous 😉

I found this pic on Pinterest with no valid link, so if it belongs to you let me know and I’ll give credit where credit is due :-).  We haven’t made ours yet; hopefully we’ll get it done today!

Baby chick theme unit life cycle

This baby chick craft from Rockabye Butterfly also looks like fun, but alas, Brett isn’t into art and doesn’t want to make crafts.  But I’ll post it cause I really want to make one!

baby chick theme unit craft

We also wrote in our journal, checked out chick books from the library, colored a Little Red Hen page, and welcomed real baby chicks!  So overall the thrown together baby chick theme unit turned out to be one of Brett’s favorites.  Go figure, right?!

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Caring for Baby Chicks, Day 1

Caring for baby chicks, day 1

The baby chicks are here!  (Obviously!) Wednesday we spent several hours setting up the cattle feeder we are using for a brooder this year.  We lined the bottom with paper towels and pine shavings, cleaned up our waterer, and most importantly, set up the heat lamp.  It took several tries to get the brooder to stay at a comfy 98 degrees; we had to adjust the lamp, let it set for  while, check the temp and try again, but we were ready this morning when the call came from the post master!  Daddy pulled on his coveralls and braved a path to town through the snow that came down in buckets yesterday.  He came back with this!

Baby Chicks, Day 1

Caring for Baby chicks, day 1


Oh my!  I had forgotten how tiny they are!  I wasn’t able to get the bantams I wanted, but when I saw these it was hard to imagine a smaller chick.  They are just SO little!!!

Well, anyway, the first order of business was to get them warm and teach them to drink!  Just after Daddy left for the post office the kiddos and I turned on the brooders lamp.  Then we heated water to about 90-100 degrees as well.  Since the chicks are SO TINY (did I mention that?) the water they drink can actually change their body temperature enough to make them sick or even die.  But first they have to be shown how to drink!  It’s quite simple, actually.  You hold the chick like a baseball,


then dunk its little beak into the waterer.

Caring for baby chicks, day 1

They were so thirsty!  Usually our chicks come in 24 hours, but this year it took 48 (snow storm?) so I was surprised to see how they went after the water.  Poor things!  I should add that I am very pleased someone obviously took care of my chickies as they were traveling in the horrible weather.  All arrived alive and seem healthy!  So if you work for the post office, Thanks!

When everyone had water I added a paper towel with a small amount of chick starter feed.  They went after this with a vengeance as well!

Caring for Baby Chicks, day 1

And then the really difficult part.  If anybody asks we were observing them to make sure they were comfortable and everyone was eating and drinking, but really we were just having so much fun watching the funny things they do!  My favorite is when one of them is running around, eating or drinking or whatever, and then decides she is tired.  They pretty much just fall down where they are, head out, sometimes wings out, and fall asleep!  They also scratch and peck just like the big birds do, but its hilarious to watch these itty, bitty girls trying it out!

Caring for baby chicks, day 1

I didn’t let the kids hold them today, too much stress for day 1!  Finally they got tired of “observing” so we shut the door and left the chicks in peace.  The cheeps have died down and I imagine they are all snoozing in the warmth with full tummies :-).

Caring for Baby chicks, day 1

Sleep tight little girls!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Off the Farm Fun

Whew!  What a great weekend!  We just got back from one of our favorite farm family events, the Missouri Farm Bureau Young Farm and Rancher conference.  Its held in south Missouri at a resort on the Lake of the Ozarks, with classes for mom and dad, pool and activities for the kids, AND… moving stairs.  Or electric stairs.  Call them what you’d like, just as long as you let the kids go up them.  And down them.  And up them.  And down them…  It was the highlight of their week.  Maybe their year.

For the last few years Brian and I have served on the committee in charge of putting the conference together.  But we retired from that position in December and this year we just got to ENJOY!  It was lots of fun, especially the part about going up the escalator attending with our close friends!   We came home with too many great ideas, bit of popcorn in with the dirty laundry, and even a 1st place ribbon from the children’s tractor pull!

Young Farmer and Rancher

Brett in the tractor pull at YF&R

tractor pull 2

Tractor pull 3

He worked really hard and didn’t give up, even though he didn’t understand why the tractor was so hard to pedal.  Brett wasn’t alone in this confusion.  My favorite moment (maybe of the entire weekend) was a little boy in the four year old division who grew frustrated and complained loudly that the John Deere tractor wasn’t working right.  They needed to go home and get his International tractor, which worked much better!  Go Big Red! And just to even things out a bit, here’s Anna viewing one of the many babies who attended the conference.Young Farmer and Rancher

Babies are almost as much fun as escalators.

I hope to go through our stuff today and prepare a post with the lessons and activities the Promotion and Education department did with the kiddos.  Brett had a blast, so you know it was great stuff!  Coming soon!


In other news, our baby chicks should arrive this week.  They ship Wednesday, so I’m hoping Thursday but certainly by Friday anyhow.  I’ll be posting pics as soon as I get them settled.  Love this part!!



Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

You Can Raise Your Own Fresh Eggs

What you need to know if you are thinking about raising your own fresh eggs

I’ve wanted to raise my own farm-fresh eggs for years now, but the hens on our farm (and the delicious eggs we get from them!) are a relatively new addition.  Why?  Because I was not sure about actually keeping chickens!  Would I have time?  Would I get tired of them?  Would it be worth I?  So if you’ve ever wondered if you could raise your own fresh eggs, read on!

Photo of farm fresh chicken eggsAs it turns out, I LOVE having chickens!  Odd as it seemed at first, they are fun.  AND they provide wholesome food you can feel good about feeding your family :-).  Totally worth it!  Plus raising chicks was an amazing learning experience for my kids.  Still on the fence?  Let’s talk logistics!

To begin I’d say that having chickens is about as much work as having a dog.  Of course, if you are like my sister who spends hours each day with her spoiled well-loved golden retrievers, then chickens will be way less work!  Daily they will need food and fresh water.  You will check for eggs and scan to see that all is well.  You may open their door in the morning and shut it again at night.  Pretty doable really.

My best tip for quick care is to purchase two watering containers so you can fill one up in the house before you head out and bring the empty back in for next time.

Weekly I clean the coop a bit.  I use the deep litter method, meaning that by adding clean bedding over the soiled stuff, the decomposing straw adds heat to the coop.  How cool is that?!  Not everyone likes this method, so if cleaning out the coop is your thing, go for it.

Seasonally you will have other chores.  The down-side to deep litter is clearing it out in the spring and fall.  I winter-proofed my coop for cold weather and I don’t have electricity so when temps are below freezing I supply the girls with water often.  In the summer I fill a plastic pool for them.  Some people spend lots of time babying their hens– me, not so much!You can raise your own eggs

(Warning: once you have the chickens you will inevitably spend more time just watching them.  They. are. hilarious.)

The biggest investment in time and money is setting up.  If you can afford a pre-made chicken coop, that’s the route I’d take.  I spent a LOT of time making a cheap coop because I wasn’t sure of the whole thing just yet.  My project was more than I expected because I needed to rethink the design to thwart predators.  Still, it was fine for starting.

In the beginning you’ll also need to acquire and set up feeders, water dishes, bedding, feed, grit, calcium, scratch grains, and nesting boxes if they aren’t included in the coop.  Now that my flock is established all I really do is stop by the farm store once every couple of months and get a few bags of feed.

If you chose chicks instead of full grown hens there will also be several weeks of taking care of the fragile babies!  You can order chicks online and they come in the mail for you to pick up at the post office.  They need somewhat intensive care for a few weeks, but they are SO cute you won’t mind ;-).  Setting up a brooder in the house cuts down on work too.  Unless you have to send all your time guarding your chicks from the kids that is…

I’m hoping this break-down of the time and effort it takes assures you that you CAN raise your own fresh eggs.  Start by getting a how-to book from the library, or try this guide from Orscheln’s Farm and Home store.  After that the internet provides all the info you’ll ever want to wade through.  Or leave me a comment or question and I’ll be sure to answer!

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Organizing your New Year’s Resolutions into goals you can actually DO!

Its time!  The New Year is almost here and many of us, farmers, bankers, or candle stick makers, are planning our New Year’s resolutions.  And in about 45 days all that planning will account for nothing since most of us won’t stick with the  goals we’ve made for more than six weeks.  So today I’m going to show you a way to organize your New Year’s resolutions into goals you can actually do!

First, forget about your goals being for the “new year.”  These are goals for your life!  Sure, start today, but being flexible with your resolutions helps you to overcome setbacks.  Instead of waiting for next January when everything heads south, just pick a date and start again.

Second, break down your goals into steps.  “Get Healthy” is a great idea, but how are you going to do it?  Will you diet? Exercise?  Cleanse?  Take vitamins?

Third, get out your calendar.  I like the cheapie month-in-view from Wal-Mart, but chose what works for you and your life.  Cell phone, pocket calendar, desktop, kitchen calendar, whatever!  Then assign the steps to your goals to each month.

For example:

Organizing Your New Year's Resolutions into goals you can actually DO!  Going to keep them this year!

In the “notes” section of each month I wrote down a reminder of the steps to take towards my goal that month.  I divided my goals into various areas of my life, such as financial, spiritual, homeschool, etc.  My January goal for the farm is to research and pick out my new chicks and garden seeds.  For February I plan to build covers for my current garden boxes to protect the seeds from the chickens we already have and research and pick out a breed of sheep and guard dog.  In March I’ll build trellises for the garden boxes  and create pens for the sheep and dog, hopefully to be added to the farm soon after.  In April I’ll need a more permanent chicken coop and in May I want to purchase and set up rain barrels for both the animals and the garden.  All of these steps are aiming at my big goal of “Raise More of Our Own Food.”

In the next few weeks I’ll also take you through the steps we use to organize our life, farm, homeschool, and other obligations, so stay tuned, but in the mean time I’d love to hear your ideas for New Year’s Resolutions you can actually do!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Picture This: Chickens Growing up on the Farm

If you didn’t see the chicks when they arrived in April, check them out here.

If you did see the chicks when they arrived in April you should still check them out here.  They were really cute after all.

And here is a photographic update of those same baby chicks!

Picture of chickens growing up on the farm

Pictures of chickens growing up on the farm

Photo of farm fresh chicken eggs

Picture of chickens growing up on the farm

Photo of chickens growing up on the farm

The chickens began laying eggs at the end of August.  We gather 3-4 per day now, although you might be able to tell from the picture they are still on the small side.  They should get bigger as the hens get older.

Another interesting tidbit to note: one of our hens is actually a rooster.  (You can order all girls, or hens, but sometimes it happens!)  In the photo directly above you can see a white bird with black tail feathers.  That’s him.  We call him “McChicken” because he is the biggest scaredy of them all, but just watch him protect those girls when he hears one of them cry out.  McChicken turns into a valiant knight and defends the women of his flock!

They are so much fun to watch and one of the funniest things they do happens when we open their coop in the mornings.  Those chickens literally run out of the pen and into the corn field like school kids at recess time!  A video of this hilarious experience is coming soon, so stay tuned!

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