Saturday, March 28, 2015

The New Brooder House and the Broiler Chicks

Spring is trying to come!  The snow has melted and the pond is ice free.

The hens have created their own private swimming hole.  They have worn away the grass and scratched out a hole.  The runoff has created the 'pond'.  We will be moving them back to the field as soon as possible.  They are trashing the yard, although they are tilling up my garden area in their spare time.  That is very helpful.

We had moved the chicken coop from the old house to the farm.  The guys moved it in sections.  We decided to make it into a brooder house for our young birds.  The chicks came on Thursday March 26th.  So last weekend the men worked hard putting the brooder house together.

While the guys were working, Dallas and the turkeys kept us entertained.  They don't like each other.  When Dallas is tied up, the turkeys come over and try and attack him.  He knows he is not allowed to hurt a bird on the farm.  He keeps his distance and just barks shortly and keeps looking to the house for someone to come out and rescue him, by chasing the turkeys away from his house.  He is the innocent party in this.  HOWEVER, when he is off his rope and the turkeys are out, Dallas runs circles around them.  They try and get him and he just runs around them over and over.  Some of these turkeys are for Easter dinners, so I hope they don't get tough with all this exercise!  LOL

My DH and Paul, up on the roof

The one part of the old coop that didn't get moved was the roof.  The guys had to build a new one from scratch.  We ended up with a metal one.

Once Dallas got bored with the turkey game, the turkeys returned to supervise the work.  They are the most curious birds and can get in the middle of many projects, which isn't always helpful.

The chicks arrived at the post office Thursday afternoon.  I was always taught that mail is sacred and can only be opened by the addressee.  Apparently, there is a different rule when the package contains chicks.  The package was sitting on the counter at the post office making a large chick racket.  Every time someone came into the office, the clerk would open it up and show them the birds.  

Just like this.  They are very cute.  We had set up the brooder the night before and had the food, water and lights on to welcome them.  

Elizabeth unloading the chicks.

The weather turned cold with the arrival of the chicks.  We ended up putting a heater out there also.  Michelle and Elizabeth unloaded the chicks one by one.  We ordered 100 Freedom Ranger chicks and we received 101.  They were all alive and seemed in good health.  They were chirping like crazy.  You could hear them from quite a distance.

Marbles, the cat, came over and tried to break into the brooder house.  I am not sure if he was simply curious or hungry.  We didn't want to chance it, so he was moved along.

One of our two flocks has some broody hens, and all the hens from that flock came tearing over to see when they heard the chicks.  The flock with no broody birds in it, never gave them a second look.  I looked out the door and there were all the hens on the steps of the brooder house.

We built the little brooder inside out of hay bales and boxes stuffed with hay.  We put insulation over the top to hold the heat in.  The building is breezy and it is drafts that kill baby chicks.  We were trying to keep them warm and draft free.  Chicks should be kept in a 90 degree F space the first week.

Elizabeth took a picture of a chick.  
 The chicks  started eating and drinking right away

We have found Freedom Ranger birds to be very hardy, strong and good starters. They take 9-11 weeks to get to 4-6# dressed out size.  But unlike the Cornish Crosses they are very active, and fly well and are happy to get their own food.  We don't even put food out during the day once they are feathered out. All 101 survived the first 48 hours.  That is a time when you frequently lose a couple birds.

The birds have had a real physiological challenge and so far they have survived.  I DON'T recommend this.  I checked on the birds last night and it was very cold in the building, but the chicks in  the brooder seemed OK.  I kept dreaming of chicks all night and seeing very low temps on my iPod all night (in my sleep).  I woke up this morning knowing that we HAD to get those chicks into a warm spot or they wouldn't make it.  My DH threw together a wooden brooder and we set it up in the basement.  Elizabeth and I went out with a warm 'cooler' and loaded the chicks up and brought them in.  I think it was just in time.  There was actually some ice formed in one of their waterers near the edge of their broody pen.  That seemed to indicate that it wasn't really 90 degrees in there.  They had icy little feet when we picked them up.  I felt bad.  Now they are in the basement, in a cozy corner and so far they seem to have survived their irregular care.  Now we know for next time.  I anticipate them only having to be indoors for a week or two.  Then back to the brooder.  It can't keep snowing forever, can it?  Spring has to come!

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