I LOVE online shopping. With the exception of a brief period of time during high school I have avoided the mall and related places like the plague. (I do still think of my late-90’s-mall-days-with-friends as the best times.) It is truly amazing to be able to go online and shop an almost-infinite number of products from an almost-infinite number of sources and choose what I need and have it shipped to my home. Amazon Prime must have been created by introverts like me. As much as I hate unbridled consumerism, I cannot hide my love for online shopping. My most recent purchase is a marvel of online shopping made possible by a perfect design by nature: internet order chicks! Several internet-based hatcheries exist from which you can place an order for chicks not yet hatched and have them shipped to your local post office for pick-up. What makes this possible is the natural biology of the chick itself – just before hatching the chick draws the yolk into its belly as a final food source. This makes it possible for the chick to go its first couple of days of life without eating/drinking and therefore able to be shipped anywhere close enough to reach in that time. (I do hope in the future we can breed/hatch our own rather than buy elsewhere, but we’re not there yet.)
We are raising broiler chickens to be our main meat source for our family as well as a potential source of income. I ordered them several weeks ago (before we had even closed on the farm!) and they arrived yesterday morning. They do have to be ordered several weeks in advance. As I was attempting the order they were selling out and I ended up sort of scrambling to get the order in quickly and accidently ordered 36 chicks instead of the planned 25-30. Oops! Anyway I marked the arrival date on the calendar and then mostly forgot about them for a few weeks as our closing got delayed and we had a million things to do just to get moved into the house.
So last Friday after having forgotten about them for awhile I realized we only had a few days before the chicks’ arrival and I had nothing done. For the first time it dawned on me that NOT having power in the barn meant I could NOT put the chicks there. Baby chicks need a heat source even in warm weather. They need a brooder/container of some sort with a 250w heat lamp creating an optimal temperature of 90-95 degrees for the first week and approximately 5 degrees less each week until they have feathered out and can be without additional heat. We had discussed having power run to the barn from the power pole not far away. I called the power company and they asked if the barn was wired yet…um…no? I told them I’d call them back. Well the barn isn’t wired, the electrician we have lined up through our contractor has still not been by to start the contracted work, and with “mountain time” being a real thing I can only assume it will be days or weeks after wiring the barn for the power to actually be run. The great idea of brooding chicks in the barn died a quick death, at least for this first batch.
Regardless of not having everything set up as planned, the chicks were scheduled to arrive. Since there was no turning back, I set about the task of “building” the most ridiculous chick brooder in existence on our side porch. 36 chicks need about 18 square feet of space in the brooder and it needs to have heat, protection from rain/drafts, and protection from predators. I *think* I succeeded in creating something that will work for the next few weeks. Hopefully we can get power run to the barn before they need more space. From 4-6 weeks old they will need about twice the amount of space they have now, but they won’t yet be ready to move into the outdoor chicken tractors. I had a couple of different ideas for making the brooder including using a metal cattle trough or large plastic storage bins, but I couldn’t find a trough locally that didn’t cost a fortune and the plastic bins didn’t come in a large enough size for 36 chicks. I could have used a couple of storage bins but that would have necessitated an additional heat lamp and cost more money. So this is my homemade brooder using what I had on hand:
I used Neat Cube Squares that I had previously used to build a cage for our pet rabbit. I connected them using J-Clips since I had them already, but zip ties would have been easy as well. It’s lined on the inside with cardboard from leftover moving boxes and covered with wire shelving I previously used to hold rabbit cages. The heat lamp would be easier to adjust if it was hung, but we clipped it to a table instead. If we end up having to keep this setup longer than another week I’ll try to get TS to put up a hook to hang it. Hopefully this will be temporary. We have the porch wired off so hopefully we will not have any predators get to them. The Guinea Fowl are housed right by the porch and they should sound the alarm if any predators come by. (More about the Guineas later.)
Although these little guys will be food in a few months we are enjoying watching and holding them now. They really are just so cute and it is fun to watch their antics. Also, we ended up with 39 chicks!!! I ordered 36 and knew we’d also be getting a mystery rare breed chick, but we also got 2 extra of the Red Rangers we ordered. I immediately identified our mystery chick as a Turken or Naked Neck. That’s him in the last photo. I didn’t get a good frontal shot of him, but he’s a hideous little thing. Supposedly Naked Necks have awesome personalities as well as being a great meat bird and laying large eggs. If he is actually a HE, we will probably eat him along with the rest. If he is actually a SHE, she will probably be promoted to layer. Time will tell.