Spring Time is Chick Time

     Happy Spring Ya’ll!! Yey it’s here it’s here.  Now while we all know we can still have winter turn around and say “ha gotcha” nonetheless I look forward to this…actually I look forward to summer way more, but I settle for spring in between 🙂

But with spring comes baby chicks, ducklings, goslings and all those fuzzy little babies.  Truth be told, any time of the year is that time, but even I will admit that as the temps begin to warm to me it’s a little easier.  While starting little chickies out any time is fun, something so fresh and warm feeling comes about in spring time making it that much more fun.

So now that you’ve decided on getting some chickens (and be forewarned…they are addicting and well 4 becomes 8=15=25=40=????? No that’s not a messed up math equation…its uh…simple chicken math!! But hey who’s counting anyway right!  But once you’ve decided to go this route, you need to consider what you need when you bring these littles home and not just thinking about the now but the later as well.  When they’re bigger and need to go outside.

New chickie babes need a tub or box or something that can be used as a brooder and make sure it’s high enough because in about two weeks those littles will be flapping their wings and trust me they can fly!  Always seems all my chicks turn out to be flyers fast!  They need heat whether with a heat lamp with a red bulb (to help keep day/night schedule and ease stress) or heat plate, chick feed either medicated or non medicated, feeder, waterer and electrolyte powder and bedding.  The latter can be pine shavings bedding, heating pellets, or even newspaper. These are must-haves to start.

     Now at five weeks later it’s time to start thinking about these little fuzzy butts going out into the real world…to their coop.  My suggestion is to have all this in place so that by the time they’re ready to go out it’s a smooth easy transformation for them and you!  Our first time around we had to work with weather and wound up getting the coop and run done just as they were about to go out!  Literally we finished the coop and out they went all in the same day. The more time you can give yourself the better!  The coop is a priority.

Your coop has to have a few specifics first being size.  I say go big, plan on adding to your flock and having the room for them.  Consider the size of the birds, flock and if they’ll have access to free ranging. Typically if your chickens will be able to free range during the day about two square feet of interior coop space per chicken is the rule of thumb. If not free ranging, then four square feet per chicken. Decide on the height, do you want to be able to walk into the coop or just be able to reach in easily for cleanings etc. I prefer to walk into the coop, just find it easier. I enjoy gathering the eggs from the nest boxes, tucking them all in at night and adding fun stuff to the coop.  Our one coop was given to us and is not stand up height, this is something I plan to remedy and raise up, but in the meantime it does work.  Trial and error sometimes on the homestead ya know.  Ventilation is key, there must be adequate ventilation but NOT drafts. Ventilation allows stale air to be replaced with fresh air and keeps condensation from building up (which can lead to the birds being cold in winter).  Ventilation should be higher than the highest roosting bar.

 Roosts can be tree branches or 2×4’s place 4″side up so the chickens can sit flat without their feet curling.  Nest boxes are a must!  Plan on one nest box for every three chickens.  They have their favorites trust me!  Every day I have a cackling hen line…Between two coops I have 14 boxes and currently 22 layers and every day I have certain nest boxes filled or as I say “in production” and there’s at least two or three hens pacing the roosting bars yelling at one-another to hurry up, it’s quite amusing!  Nest boxes can be so many things, baskets, five-gallon pails on their sides secured to the wall so they don’t turn or tip, crates…so many things you can use. Just make sure it’s at least about 12″ for the hen to get in and out comfortably.  In our one coop, I used smaller plastic tote boxes and then took the lids and secured them to the coop wall standing up, making individual walls between each box.  And then of course I added nest box curtains because well, the girls like their privacy (More of all this to come in another post).  

Your coop can have a window or not, but it does need easy access for you and access for the chickens in the form of full size doors or smaller doors.  It’s a good idea to have any access ways able to be secured against predators.  In ours both have large doors for human access and then a “pop door” for the birds to let themselves in or out.  Automatic door openers are available if you want to add them.  Myself, I have manual and can leave them open in summer since they open into their predator proof runs.  In deep cold I can close them and they also have draft drapes.  If the coop is raised up high, you’ll need a chicken walk for them to get up into the coop and if you have ducks sharing the coop, a ramp is necessary. A run should be attached to any coop so they have access to in and out as they want.  This is where predator proofing is huge!

So now that you have an idea of what’s needed to start with chickens, go on out and get some! They are tons of fun and the eggs cannot be beat!  I started out “wanting” four and walked out with six, I’m now up to 23 chickens and one duck and have seven more littles being shipped to me in two weeks. Yep…starting all over…for the third time.  But they’re so much fun and I find it all quite rewarding!

Until next time…keep smiling, it makes people wonder what you’re up to and have an outstanding day! Cindy

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