How I am Raising My Chicks

How am I trying to raise my chicks all natural, organic, GMO-free, and antibiotic free?

Why I feel it is important to start my chicks off as natural as possible? What you put into them, you will get out when they start laying. If they start with a healthy immune system and have eaten nothing but natural organic food that is antibiotic free and GMO-free, they will pass the healthy benefits to their eggs. Which you consume and eat as well. So, if you are feeding the crappy and processed food that is loaded with chemicals, you will end up eating the same chemicals and bad stuff that your chickens are. Everything is connected in our food chain, you are what you eat. You eat healthy food, you become healthy.

So where to start? Well since I am new to raising chickens and just recently started, I am not claiming to know everything or a professional chicken raiser. In theory, based off of lots of research and what I am currently doing, only time will tell if what I am doing is good or bad. So far, I have already made a mistake. Best advice I can give you… Know your goals and what you want your end result to be, do your research, and LISTEN to your gut.

In theory, everything born pretty much doesn’t have much of an immune system or digestive gut health. So, how does one go about increasing baby chick’s immune system?  Starting out with a good feed starter. I would recommend the Naturally Free Starter from Scratch and Peck. Initially, when I went to pick up my chicks from the feed store this is what I was going to get. But from much pressure and nah-saying from the store attendant and being a newbie that lacked confidence in my research and newly found knowledge, I was half convinced to get another brand. The store attendant suggested I get the medicated chick starter, which I declined and got Purina® Organic Starter-Grower. Still organic, but it was processed. I ended up kicking myself in the butt and went back and got my Scratch and Peck Chick Start feed. So, now I have two feeds that I need to get rid of. So what I am doing is mixing them, half and half.

After you have your feed you can start to ferment your feed and slowly get your chicks used to eating it. I didn’t have a problem with picky chicks not wanting the fermented food. Mine absolutely devours the fermented food first and then eat the dry mixed food until I give them more fermented food.  Why is fermented food good for your chicks, in short response it provides beneficial enzymes to help digestion, adds beneficial probiotic, and increases the nutrient content from the food, so they need/eat less. For my chicks’ water, the feed store had them on chick/chicken probiotics which I have them on, but just a little bit of that, and I add Apple Cider Vinegar and a little piece of a garlic clove to their water. The first couple days I had them on plain Greek yogurt mixed with hard-boiled egg yolk with some chick feed soaked in water. I did this up until my fermented feed was ready (about 3 days).  I will occasionally give them a little bit of yogurt mixed with dry food, cooked rice, or plain oatmeal. (Honestly, just trying to get rid of the little yogurt cup I bought at the store and don’t want it to go to waste.) When I noticed our sick chick (refer to Beginning Our Chicken Adventure post) I did an oregano tea for their water for 24 hours. Oregano is known to be a natural antibiotic. Looking into the future… Going to get my chicks to eat fresh/dried oregano to their feed.

There is a lot of nah-sayers out there that say not to feed your chicks anything but their special chick starter food. (How B-O-R-I-N-G!!!) So, I look to nature to see what should be done. Honestly, mother Hen has those chicks scratching around in the dirt and the great outdoors pretty much from day one. I think, why not mine? I have been providing them with the best digestive enzymes and probiotic out there. Why not some added beneficial soil microbes and actual bugs and worms? Granted we are still in mid-February where temps haven’t been getting above 50 degrees during the day. But I figure at least 10-20 minute breaks to be actual chickens won’t hurt. (If they start to show signs of stress or too cold they go back inside.) So far, they love it and I haven’t seen any negative effects yet. Another thing that I do is, since it is spring there is an abundance of chickweed in my garden beds. (They don’t call it chickweed for nothing.) It has a high nutritional value, which is high in Vitamin C, GLA an omega-6 fatty acid, vitamin B2, B1, vitamin A, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, selenium and silica. Chickweed is known for its soothing, healing and natural pain relief properties. I give this to my chicks about every other day. I make sure to rip it into small pieces so they aren’t gagging on the long pieces of it, like how you would if you tried to swallow a spaghetti noodle without chewing. With this, once you start feeding them stuff other than their boring old formulated food, you need to be sure to offer free choice, chick grit.

 

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All 9 chicks at two weeks old, being put to work already prepping one of my garden beds. This day was 44 degrees out, but in this bed with the cover, it was significantly warmer. One was trying to take a “dirt” bath that was more like mud and ended up getting too cold so she was moved inside.

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Two week old chicks prepping the gardening bed. They looks so tiny out in the big world. They enjoyed pecking around in the dirt.

Looking into the future… building the coop, and just enjoying the moments of chick-hood.

Beginning Our Chicken Adventure

Since we are buying the house we are currently living in, we decided to finally get my chickens. This is our first time raising chicks, so we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into. A couple of weeks prior, I did my research on how to raise chicks, the best way to build their coop, how they can benefit you (besides the eggs). This whole process has been a big learning experience. There is so much information out there, it is hard to know what to follow. I end goal, you get out what you put in. So, I want all natural organic, pesticide free, antibiotic free, GMO- free eggs.

Our options were a little limited on where we could buy our chicks. In the city of Lakewood, we can have up to 16 birds. I knew right off I didn’t want that many on our 9,000 square feet lot. If we ordered from an online hatchery, I would have to order 25! So my ideal amount would be 6-8 birds. I wanted to account for any losses or possible rooster we might have. So, on February 10th we brought home 10 baby chicks from the local feed store. The breeds I picked out were, 3 Silver Laced Wyandottes, 3 Golden Laced Wyandottes, and 4 Easter Egger/Ameraucana chickens. If I do this again, I will try to find someone to order 25 chicks with and split them, that way I can get varieties that the feed stores don’t carry.

 

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Practicing roosting on their chick roost

I set up my baby chicks in a 55 gallon plastic storage bin with pine shavings, heat lamp, and food and water. The first couple days they were in our living room. We soon realized that the pine shavings are very dusty when they start scratching around. So they quickly got moved into our spare room that is our sons play room. The chicks being in the house only lasted a week, until we decided to move them into the garage because of the dust and smell. With 10 chicks, they start to smell a little like poopie pine shaving smell, it is not the first smell I want to smell walking into my house.

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Little “D” showing grandma his favorite chick. Baby Chicks in their 55 gallon storage bin. About 1 week + 2 Days old.

After the first day or so, I noticed one of the Easter Egger chicks just didn’t look good. It wasn’t as active as the others, slept a lot, and wasn’t interested in treats that I feed to the others. It just stood around under the heat lamp and looked mopey. Her wings were droopy to the point that I thought her wings were broken. But when she did manage to get up and go drink or “eat” she would tighten them back up to her body. So what was wrong with her? I segregated her in a separate box, but she just kept jumping out. Was able to observe her poop which looked normal so that ruled out the chicken disease Coccidiosis. Upon further researching, I couldn’t find anything that matched her symptoms. No sneezing or running nose, no breathing hard or gasping for air. Then I came across the failure to thrive. I started to think this might be the chicks problem. But I wanted to give it every chance possible to survive. I started using a syringe to give her water and food. Placing drop by drop at the end of her beak so she would tilt her head back voluntarily and swallow. I started her off with a molasses and apple cider vinegar mix to hopefully give her a sugar rush and give her some energy to eat. For food, I soaked the chick food in warm water then mixed with, plain Greek yogurt, and hard-boiled egg yolk. She ate a really good portion of this. I continued this for about two days. I was weighing her with my scale to track her weight. We started out at 38 grams. But the time Valentine’s Day came around (4 days after I got the chicks) her weight was down to 32 grams. Which in comparison to her brooder mates that were now in the 50-60 gram range. On V-day evening, I decided that she was just wasting away and her condition had gotten worse. She no longer drank the water I gave her and wouldn’t even make an effort to eat the food I would put on the side of her beak. In fact, when I would put her down by the water to see if she would drink by herself, she attempted to but I noticed when she would tilt her head back to swallow it, it looked like she no longer had the function to swallow. She looked like she was gagging and then start panting/gasping for air. I decided it was time to end her suffering.

So, we were down to 9 now. Then, I noticed one of the Wyandottes wasn’t looking like the rest. The wings that were feathered out were really short, stubby and rounded. Then started to do a little research on how to sex chicks based off their wings. Found that Hens have a double set of primary wing feathers that are fairly long and oval like. But roosters on have shorter and stubbier primary feathers and are usually a lot slower to feather their tail out. I suspect the Wyandotte is going to be a rooster. The older he gets the more he is acting like one too. So in a couple of weeks time I guess we will know for sure. I really want him to be able to go to a home that will let him live out his life as a rooster instead of becoming a chicken dinner. So it looks like, if everything else goes as planned and nothing else happens. We will have 8 egg laying chickens.

We have realized a 55 gallon storage bin is a little small for nine 2 week old chicks that are testing their wings out. So, the chicks semi-permanent home is now a green kiddie pool that the husband did a make shift fencing around it to keep them in. We will have to put wire on top here in a couple of days. Last night I was watching my chicken TV and one of the Wyandottes that likes to cuddle or sit on me almost got over the side wire to me. It is so funny, I have noticed there are chicks that don’t want to have anything to do with you. And then there are the ones that all they want to do is perch or sit on you for a little bit, and if you are lucky, get a cuddle or snuggle in, who falls asleep on you.

 

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Chicks in their kiddie pool. Almost 2 weeks old.

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More space in their kiddie pool. Added a natural branch for more practice

Looking into the future with our chicken adventure… Tackling building the coop. The count down to get the chickens out into their coop is ticking, faster and faster.

Let the Adventures Begin

For a long time now I have been wanting to get on the modern-day homesteading road to sustainability. Grow my own food, preserve my own food, learn how to make every day useful items for around the house. Over the last three years or so, I have slowly been learning new techniques on how to become more sustainable.

What do I think being sustainable means? Not having to rely on the grocery stores, power and water companies, government, and just in general knowing how to take care of my family if one of these system fail. I have come to realize that a lot of people don’t know the basics anymore. Whether it is cooking from scratch or preserving your own food. People rely heavily on getting their products from grocery stores. If you walk down any grocery store  aisle, they have tons of food items that come in boxes or packaging. They are convent, but the down fall is you can’t control how or what it is made with. Take fruit cups; your options are usually loaded with sugar or juice (that still has sugar). What if you wanted a sugar-free option? Sometimes stores have it available, other times not. What if you want 100% organic fruit used, well that come at an additional price. What if you want to customize the flavors in it? Like vanilla pear, or bourbon peach (for adults), or strawberry blueberry fruit mix. You usually can’t buy any of that in the stores. These are some of the reason that I like to preserve food. The customization is endless, and you get to curtail it to your liking. Plus who doesn’t like eating sweet juicy pears in the middle of dead winter?

Growing my own food is very rewarding. It tastes better and you know where it came from and what went into growing that food. Plus you don’t have to spend the money at a grocery store to buy produce, so you are cutting the cost of your grocery bill. If you have a surplus of a certain vegetable you have preserve it so you can eat it during the winter months.

So, this blog is going to be a record for my family’s adventure on becoming more sustainable. Reason why I decided to start now? Well, for the last 3 1/2 years my options have been limited on what I can do at the house we are currently living in because we have been renting. The landlord has been reluctant for us to make any changes and we haven’t wanted to invest a lot of time or money into something that there is a possibility we won’t be staying at for very long. But this is all changing, within the next couple weeks we will be homeowners to the house we have been renting. Since we are just waiting on a closing date, we decided to get started on a few things. Chickens, have been one of those things. We got 10 chicks the second week of February and are currently building their coop. Oh and did I mention that I need to start my garden seeds and start prepping the soil for this coming garden season? While all this is going on we are going to need to start prepping for our second child to come into this world. She is going to be due early June. So let the adventures begin!