Week 2 with poultry is going very well. We have only lost one bird and it was a turkey poult. I mentioned in a previous post how the poults were the kids’ favorites, so they were heartbroken to come home one day and discover their favorite little buddy, Lightning Poult, was dead. We are clueless as to why Lightning Poult didn’t make it. The kids mentioned (after the fact) that he wasn’t eating and drinking as much as the other two, so we’ll go with that as the cause of death. We plan to order more turkey poults as we’d like to ensure we have at least one female and male to keep as breeding stock, as well as extras for the table.
After about a week of brooding the new chicks in our house, we decided the barn was much more appropriate and made haste to build a duck brooder in our garage and convert part of the old chicken coop into a brooding house for the chicks and poults. Our weather has been unseasonably cold for mid April, and after moving the chicks and poults out to the new brooding house, I woke up that night concerned we just sentenced them to a cold death as temperatures outside dipped below freezing. Of course, we had heat lamps going in the brooder, but all the literature we received with our chick order stressed the importance of heat, especially for the poults. We had just lost Lighting Poult, the kids would be even more sorrowful if I condemned the remaining poults to a freezing death. That morning I walked with trepidation to the brooding house but, upon entering, I found a happy scene of chicks and poults eating, drinking and huddling together for warmth under their heat lamps. I was so relieved and thankful they made it through the night. We’ve learned some valuable lessons so far and we are only 2 weeks in! Number 1: Brooding chicks, ducklings and poults in your house is cute for only about a week. 🙂 Number 2: Wait until mid April to have new chicks shipped when living in unpredictable Minnesota.
Here are the ducks in their new brooder in our garage. They make such a mess with their water! Aren’t they cute, though? They have grown so big already! They aren’t very friendly and tend to not want to be handled too much, which is a bummer for the kids. Maybe if we only got one or two ducklings at a time the ducks would have ended up being more tame. We will still enjoy watching them on our farm. No feathers yet for these ducks.
Look at these chunky broilers! Everyday when I go out to see the chicks, I am amazed at how much our broilers have grown in the hours I’ve been gone.
I can see some slight differences at this point between the JCC and the RB, but not much.
The brown chicks on the right are a couple of our heritage chicks, while the rest of the chicks in this picture are JCC and there is a RB, identified by the brownish wing and darker color. These pictures really show how much larger these broilers are compared to the heritage breeds. Look at those rear-ends!
The broilers spend much more time lying around than the heritage chicks. The exercise requirements of the JCCs in particular are pretty low. Indeed, they have been bred to eat, lie around, and get bigger. We’ve even seen the broilers lounging next to the feeder, belly on the ground, beak in the feed. They can still get excited and start zipping around the brooder house, wings flapping in an attempt to get their oversized rumps off the ground. They don’t get much air though, unlike the heritage chicks.
The broilers will spend one more week in our brooder house. After that, they will be going out on our pasture in movable pens.
Each day we will move their pen to a fresh spot of grass. This will keep the birds clean and healthy, give them a new offering of plants and bugs to forage and simultaneously fertilize and aerate our pasture, improving the quality of the soil. Many people think raising animals causes pollution of waterways and strips plants and soil. It’s common to see a stationary chicken run or cow enclosure total dirt or mud. The problem is how those animals are being managed. With proper management, moving the animals everyday and allowing the land to rest in between grazing, soil is improved which in turn improves the pasture.
I may just start our broiler pen in my future garden area first to help prepare the soil for planting. Putting our broilers out in fresh air, sunshine and on clean green grass everyday means the chicken we consume will be healthier. It also means we don’t need to use the medicated feeds and other interventions needed in putrid, crowded, sunless commercial chicken farms.
I’m so excited to be able to put a chicken on my table knowing exactly how it was raised. We’ll know it was cared for, healthy and lived a happy, sunbathed, soil-scratching and stress-free life on our little farm. Raising chickens on daily fresh pasture, improving soil and bird health, not to mention the nutrient content of the meat itself, is something we’ve dreamed of for a long time.
Healthy food, healthy family.