Today (April 8, 2009) is the start of a series of articles that chronicles the raising of chickens from baby chicks to adult hens.
Every man’s dream, at some point in his life, is to arrive home from work only to be surprised to find a dozen young chicks awaiting him. Well, that happened to me today!
Actually, this wasn’t a total surprise. We had talked about it as a family and had decided we wanted to proceed with it. Raising chickens is a fair amount of work: providing food and water daily, gathering eggs daily, and keeping the coop clean all take time, and we wanted to make sure the kids were committed to the responsibility of having more chickens.
These chicks are baby hens, only three days old. Ten of them are Ameraucanas and two are ISA Browns.
We have raised chickens for the past three years, including some Ameraucanas. We opted to get more Ameraucanas this time because their egg production has been excellent, even after the first year. The same cannot be said for the other chickens we’ve had during the same time. Ameraucanas are also called “Easter Egg Chickens” because their eggs may sometimes have a light blue or light green tint to them. Our Ameraucanas also have not gotten “broody”; occasionally our other chickens get broody. A broody hen wants only to sit on the nest all day, often to the point of not eating or drinking (somewhat analogous to a grumpy teenager).
An ISA Brown chicken is a hybrid, not a true breed, and it is a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Rhode Island White. ISA Brown hens are known for their high egg production. We have not raised ISA Browns before, so this is more or less an experiment.
So, you want to raise chickens?
The most important items you will need initially are a heat lamp, a feeder, and a water dispenser. The heat lamp is necessary to keep the small chicks warm; the feeder is designed to help prevent the young chicks from dropping excrement into their food; and the water dispenser is designed to prevent the chicks from falling in and drowning. Yes, chickens are dumb enough that this can actually happen.
The chicks can live in a medium sized box initially, but we will need to build a coop for them. We really can’t put the new chickens in the same pen and coop with the older chickens; even though the older chickens are friendly and easy going, they would not respond well to the newbies.
The food is a Purina product for young chickens. The food and supplies can be found at hardware stores, though you may have to shop around to find something in your area. In the Southeastern United States, some Ace Hardware stores carry these products.
A couple of additional notes are worth mentioning. I’ve heard that some people will buy “Easter Chicks” for their kids, with no intention of actually keeping the chicks to raise them. Do not do this unless you are prepared with the proper equipment (heat lamp, etc.) and can ensure a good home for them.
Also, I need to point out that to have egg laying hens, you do not need a rooster. You only need a rooster if you intend on having fertilized eggs.
Check your local regulations to determine if chickens are allowed in your area. Many towns do not allow chickens, and some towns allow hens but not roosters.
And finally, I’ll point out (because someone will ask) that we are not going to eat the chickens, only the eggs.
For another article on raising chickens, see the following.
Published in: Pets