Baby chicks…what were we thinking

Early Sunday morning the post office called me and told me our chicks had arrived. Yup, you read that right. I did say Sunday. I’ve never gotten mail on a Sunday before. So Lee and I sprinted out of bed and rushed over to the post office. While we were waiting, we could hear little chicks scream peeping through the post office walls.

We drove carefully home with the heater going full blast hoping to warm the little guys up. They didn’t care and continued their scream peeping.

Only thing is, we weren’t prepared at all for the chicks. Yeah, I knew they were supposed to come sometime this week. Technically McMurray did list Sunday in the range of dates they might come, but who thinks of mail on a Sunday? So while the chicks were waiting in their box, we erected a high walled cardboard box pen on top of some scaffolding (so our cats couldn’t James Bond their way in). I got the chick feeders bleached out and ready. We searched like crazy until we found the chick heater light. I scrounged up some paper to line the chick pen floor and TaDa…we were in business.

My Hand Of Terror started the process of dipping their beaks into the water before they were released to roam their new fancy box home.

“Whoa! What just happened to me?”

All of the chicks figured out the water and chick feed pretty fast but we soon discovered three problems. One chick had a little bloody scrape by its beak that the others would peck, our scratch corn was mostly too large, and they wouldn’t stop scream peeping. That is when we realized the light we had wasn’t a red heat light. Two years ago when we had our first batch of chicks their 250W infrared light burned out before it should have and we brought it back to the store and exchanged it for a 125W white heat light. It didn’t put out as much heat, but it didn’t matter as those chicks were older at the time. Getting a red heat light would solve the chick pecking problems too. So off we rushed to the only farm store still open.

Once we got the new heat light screwed in it was amazing how fast they all settled in.

On Monday we went to our local farm store and got some chick corn. We had wanted to feed only corn for the first two days, as Plamondon recommends it to help avoid paste butt problems. Since our chicks only had chick starter and their journey was a little rough we ended up getting quite a bit of pasty bottoms on them. The problem has mostly resolved itself by now but a couple of the chicks view my hand as The Hand Of Doom And Butt Rubbing Agony.

Yesterday as we were watching all the chicks do their chick business we both were thinking, “Oh my goodness, what did we do!” There are just so many of them. I’ve counted multiple times and I keep coming up with 27 chicks. I think we were given two free chicks by the hatchery. Either that or I can’t count. If there are no fatalities we are going to have 36 chickens on our place. EEEEEKS!

Most of the chicks we got were straight runs, so we are finally going to have some roosters on our place. What this means is we are going to have to cull some of our old hens and some of the new roosters when they get older. That should be an interesting experience when the time comes.

So…what breeds did I get and why? I decided to go for some smaller breeds this time. Our original chickens are of the egg and meat homestead combo sort. It seemed like a good choice at the time. The thing is, we never ate any of our chickens. We have been using them for their eggs only. Since bigger chickens eat more it would make sense for us to get smaller chickens as they will cost us less in feed. I also wanted chickens that could forage well. So I ended up getting 14 Lakenvelders.

Since the Lakenvelders lay white eggs (and white eggs are boring) I got 8 Araucanas. They aren’t as small as the Lakenvelders, but they are lighter then our current fatty pants Barred Rocks.

Just for fun (I couldn’t help myself) I got two female Golden Polish chicks. They are light in weight, but unfortunately they also lay boring white eggs. They are going to have big poofy bouffant heads and aren’t really foragers (probably because they can’t see anything).

I didn’t want the two Golden Polish chickens to get lonely so I got one female Partridge Cochin. The Cochin is meant to be my setter for the other birds as they are all basically non-setters. She will lay brown eggs.

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21 Responses to Baby chicks…what were we thinking

  1. Jamie says:

    Hahah…that sounds exactly like us! Get a call from the post office that the chicks are here and then scramble like mad to get everything ready!

    • lee says:

      This is our second time with chicks, but it’s funny how all the equipment seems to relocate itself after 2 years.

  2. Ron says:

    Congrats! Baby chicks are a lot of fun!

  3. nice..once again, nice to have dedicated electricity!..A* is a teacher and was thinking of hatching eggs in an incubator at school but we opted to let the broody hen we have sit on her eggs and raise them..I am working on her area and should be done tonight..then we hope to have 5-6 of these little guys ourselves in 2 more weeks! I am converting a doghouse into a ‘henarium’..so we can keep them all seperated. too cute!

    • lee says:

      Yeah, resistance heat is pretty much out when you are off grid. Even in the summer the temperatures probably wouldn’t be consistent enough to brood baby chicks. I guess you guys will have to relying on a broody hen. Most people try to “fix” their broody hens, while you’ll be wishing they are more consistent. 🙂

  4. Nice flock! It never occurred to me that smaller chickens eat less food. You’d think, after owning big giant Buff Orpingtons and RI Reds for a couple of years, I might have reasoned it out.

    What keeps us from getting smaller birds is fear of the cold. It can get down around 0 (F) here in the winter, and our coop is unheated. I’ve always thought the bigger birds were better insulated.

    We’ll get that same call, and do that same drill, some time in early June. We’re getting Ameracaunas, Barred Rocks, Light Brahmas, and a couple more RI Reds.

    Here’s to a steady supply of eggs!

    • lee says:

      I’ve never read anything to suggest that larger chickens handle the cold better. I know large exposed combs can be a problem in cold weather … but it seems if small wild bird handle the winters there then smaller chickens should be okay.

      There’s a modern reprint available of the 1924 book Fresh-Air Poultry Houses, but there also used to be a free 1910-ish book on the same subject available on Google Books. It doesn’t seem to be there now. Anyway, I wonder if it talked about breeds and their temperature hardiness. I do remember the pictures of open-air houses with snow drifts in Pennsylvania winters.

      Yeah, we definitely won’t be running out of eggs at this rate. 🙂

  5. Rae says:

    Lol. Your hand has some unfortunate names. Heehee.

    I am sorta glad you got TONS of chicks, because it makes me feel better about our 22. 🙂

    • lee says:

      I’m also glad it’s not just us. I suspect we’ll end up with about that many when we get done culling out most of the males and the non-layers in our current flock.

  6. Lynn says:

    How is the chick with the scrape by it’s beak? Did you have to separate it to keep others from pecking it? I remember when we got our very first batch of chicks one almost lost a wing from others pecking it. Who knew that so cute little chicks could be cannibals??!!

    I have decided I don’t want anymore chicks this year. We currently have 18 hens & 2 roosters. That’s good for me. Last year we went crazy with chicks. It’s hard to say no to a broody hen sometimes, and chicks are so darn cute, so we’ll see what happens as the summer progresses. We are going to try to raise some guinea keets from eggs, though, so maybe that will fulfill our desire for chicks around here. If the guineas would just stop hiding their eggs from us…

    • lee says:

      Ha ha, yeah, I think your posts about guineas steered us away from getting any. We have a number of neighbors who think our chickens our cute but probably would consider guineas a nuisance. One neighbor recently told us that whenever her mom comes to visit she walks down the road to our garden to watch the chickens.

      The Polish with the beak scrape has healed up just fine. The red-colored infrared light is really good about preventing pecking. It’s like giving all of them little red sunglasses.

  7. Leigh says:

    What fun. I’m surprised the hatchery didn’t contact you to let you know the chicks had been sent. We’re thinking of a breed change too, though probably not till next spring. Dan is really wanting some Buff Orpingtons, and we do eat ours (roosters) so we’ll see.

    • lee says:

      Yes, McMurray sent us an e-mail several days in advance saying that the chicks would arrive between Sunday – Thursday. We just didn’t think you could get mail on Sunday, so we were going to pick up the last of the equipment we needed on Monday. Since then I talked to my neighbor (who used to work for the post office), and he said that somebody has to stay on call if there are any live animals at the post office. He said the feeling about live mail was that you wanted to pass it on as quickly as possible so you weren’t responsible if something went wrong.

      I’d love to have a homogeneous flock so we could breed successive generations, but Robin wants to try every breed … 🙂

  8. Heidi says:

    Awe so adorable, I was just thinking how nice it will be to bring Jonah over to see your critters. Next spring maybe you will get some more chicks….or maybe not with all the babies you just acquired. I think he’ll be interested in them by then!

    • lee says:

      We might have geese next year. We almost got them this year, but Robin “chickened” out at the last minute. I think we’ll be ready next year. Geese are probably almost as cute when little.

  9. Trish says:

    We’ve ordered from Murray McMurray for the last few years and the same thing happened to us the first year- we did not expect to get that call from the post office at 8 am on a Sunday! The scrambling was frantic. This year I was glad to get the call on the Sunday morning, since the last couple years the call has come at 1:30 in the morning (well, in the middle of the night!). We always enjoy the extra chicks they put in the order along with the free rare chick. Good luck with your little birds.

    • lee says:

      Wow! That is early. I had no idea they would call you that early in the morning.

      We still haven’t figured out what the rare chick is. Robin thinks its another one of the varieties we already ordered. Yup, the chicks are a lot of fun to watch. No losses so far.

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