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A Journal of: Raising Baby Chicks Naturally!

  1. mymilliefleur
    Read along as I raise a batch of spring chicks!
    Note: I realized that the tittle might be confusing since the term ''raising chicks naturally''
    usually refers to raising chicks the old fashion way with a mother hen. In this case it refers
    to artificially raising incubator chicks with more natural methods.

    I will try to keep this page updated every day or so (hopefully), on my progress raising this batch
    of chicks. Hopefully you will be able to pick up a few tips along the way. :)
    These chicks hatched on 3-(22-23)-15, and are the 9th batch I've done in my incubator so far.
    They are Easter Eggers, EE X Rhode Island Reds, EE X Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, and
    EE X Wheaten Marans.
    A few of the parents:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Day 1: Chicks are moved from the incubator into the brooder, a large rabbit cage, which I
    prefer over a plastic tote, which has closed sides that prevent air flow and doesn't give the
    chicks enough room if the heat lamp gets too hot. We are expecting some chilly weather here,
    so I will keep them inside for a few days before moving them into the big out door brooder.
    The first thing I give them is a starter tea, (Made from chickweed, dandelion, garlic, and a few
    other herbs). This helps to get their immune systems off to a good start. Since the chicks are
    only a day old they aren't really up to eating anything, so I won't give them any feed yet. I also
    gave them some clumps of grass and weeds (with the roots) so they have something healthy
    to peck at.

    Day 2: I gave the chicks some yogurt to help get the digestive systems up to speed and for
    probiotics. I also gave them some fermented feed, I started several days ago. They weren't
    that interested in the feed yet, but they loved the yogurt. I'm also thawing out some liver for
    them, which is high in vitamins and minerals that help make for strong, healthy chicks. It is
    especially good for chicks that have leg problems. I make sure I talk and cluck to them so that
    they become used to my voice. Already they run to the side of the brooder when ever they
    hear me coming. :-D

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    You've got to love those fluffy beards!

    Day 3: The chicks got their first venture outdoors today! I like to mimic broody hens as much
    as possible since they are the the worlds best incubators and brooders. Broody hens usually
    take their chicks off the nest on day 2 or 3 for a few hours. Since they are still very young the
    chicks will only stay out for about 15 or 30 minutes, (depending on the weather) before coming
    back to cluster under the warmth of their mother. I left my chicks out for about 15 minutes.
    When they are ready to go back to the brooder they will start to cluster together. They seemed
    to enjoy pecking around in the grass, and chasing gnats, but loading 21 chicks in and out of a
    box is quite a task.

    Day 4: The chicks weren't too happy about having a brooder cleaned today, but they really
    enjoyed the organ meats I gave them, and commenced chasing each other around the brooder,
    each one thinking the other had something better than they did. I also gave them some violet
    flowers, which are high in vitamins A and C, and many other vitamins and minerals, which they
    enjoyed immensely.

    Day 8: The chicks had a very busy day today. I moved them to the large outdoor brooder where
    they will have much more space. They are really enjoying the warm sunny weather. This afternoon
    our neighbor came over and borrowed 4 chicks (with me going along to chaperon) for an Easter
    photo shoot. I put them in a box where they quietly slept until ready to ''pose'' for the pictures.

    Day 9: The chicks got their first dust bathe today, which they immediately commenced scratching
    in. I also gave them some clumps of grass with the roots for them to peck at. Chicks that have
    dirt to scratch and peck at have a lower chance of getting coccidioses, and have stronger immune
    systems. Dust bathes also provide the chicks with hours of entertainment.

    Day 10: Since it's been above 70F here, I have been turning the heat lamp off during the day.
    Amazingly enough, the chicks spend most of their time in the unheated side of the brooder (my
    brooder is split into two ''rooms'') Even on mornings when the temperature is in the low 50F's
    and 60F's! Observing mother hens and their chicks has convinced me that baby chicks do not
    need as much heat as we are often told. I have seen many a mother hen out scratching with her
    chicks on 20F and 30F degree mornings, and even one hen and her 2 week old chick out eating
    on a 5F degree morning! Don't get me wrong, chicks do need to be kept warm, but they don't
    need to roast under the heat lamp, all the time. Chicks out with a mother hen, would go out and
    scratch for an hour or two, and than come and warm up before going out to eat and scratch again.
    As they get older, the time spent out eating and scratching will increase. Chicks that are kept in
    a heated brooder all the time have far less tolerance to cold temps, and often are poor winter
    layers. Since my birds are kept out on pasture, in open coops all winter, cold tolerant birds are
    very important to me.

    Day 11: The chicks have been enjoying lots of healthy treats lately. One of the easiest ways to
    tame chicks and get them used to you, is with treats. Even the most skittish chicks get brave
    when the treats come out. Here are a few healthy ''treats'' for chicks of all ages:
    Yogurt
    Liver (cooked or raw)
    Violet Flowers (one of my chicks favorites)
    Meal Worms
    Scrambled Eggs
    Chick Weed
    Dandelions
    Kale and Collards
    Cottage Cheese

    Go here for more healthy greens for your flock: Spring Greens for Your Flock (and-you!)

    Day 14: Weather permitting, I have been putting the chicks out in a chicken tractor during the
    day, which the love. The chicks have all their wing feathers now, and many of them are getting
    tail feathers as well.

    Day 18: While putting the chicks back in the brooder today, I took a good look at their combs,
    feathers, legs, etc. I'm pretty sure I have 7 pullets, and 14 roosters. Yes you read that right.
    Most hatches come out roughly 50/50, but not always. This is actually a good thing for me right
    now, since I already have to may pullets, so I'd rather have the cockerels, which will be raised
    for meat.

    Day 21: Chicks are now 3 weeks old, and are no longer needing the heat lamp. Outdoor
    temperatures are between 70F and 40F. I'm hoping to get them out of the brooder and into
    their own chicken tractor as soon as the rainy spell is over, where they will stay until old enough
    to move into net fencing.

    Day 23: Chicks are over three weeks old, and growing very fast, all but one that is. One of the
    chicks is about half the size as the others. It hatched a day late, and has always been weaker
    than the others. Most big time poultry people prefer to cull chicks like this, but I like to give
    them a chance.

    Day 24: Some much over due photos:
    Click to enlarge
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    They are entering the gangly teenage stage!

    Day 26: The chicks have been moved out into a chicken tractor. They are doing very well,
    even though we have had a few cold nights. They are beside themselves to be out on the
    grass, and are scratching to their hearts content.

    Day 28: We have had a bunch of nasty thunderstorms lately. The chicks have done very
    well though, but we had one that was especially bad. I ran out as soon as I could after the
    storm, concerned about the chicks, but they were all fine, though it looked like someone had
    dumped several buckets of water on them. I put them in the brooder for the night, because
    the temperature had dropped off substantially and I was concerned about them getting to
    chilled since they were all ready wet.

    Day 32: Chicks are now over a month old and growing fast. They are friendly and enjoy
    sitting in my lap, and pecking at anything that's shiny. They cheap loudly at night until
    ''mama hen'' (me) puts them to bed at night. They are eating lots of fermented feed and
    free ranging during the day.

    2 Days Old:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    3 1/2 Weeks Old:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    5 Weeks Old:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Stay tuned.

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Comments

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  1. mymilliefleur
    I'll try to get some more posted soon!
  2. Chicken Girl1
    I can't wait for more pictures!
  3. piopio123
    Thanks Milliefleur. We got our chicks 5/1 and I had set the food to ferment the day before(?) So it wasn't as long as yours but it definitely was active and bubbling, then I refrigerated it. I had soaked 3 cups, and they still aren't done with it since Friday (6 chicks with 24 hr access) it expanded a lot. They love it! We took them outside yesterday too, so they have had their first tastes of ants and worms!
  4. piopio123
  5. mymilliefleur
    @piopio123 , There are lots of great articles on fermenting feed, I like this one: http://naturalchickenkeeping.blogspot.com/p/fermented-feed.html I ferment my feed for three days, and save the liquid that a drain off as the ''starter'' for the next batch. You use much less feed when fermenting, and the chickens prefer it over dry feed (in fact, when fed fermented and dry side by side, they won't touch the dry until all the fermented is gone).
  6. piopio123
    Thanks, I would be very interested to read it. However, we are getting the chicks between tomorrow and Saturday, so I may just check out the world wide web, unless you have a quick pointer..I am pretty well versed on fermenting food for myself and my family. Do you soak the feed in water and allow to stand for a day or so? Until it bubbles maybe? And then that's your mash? Thanks in advance.
  7. mymilliefleur
    @piopio123 , I am considering writing an article on how I ferment my feed soon. I'll let you know when I do.
  8. piopio123
    Hi, Your journal is awesome, thanks for posting it! I love to hear chicks are enjoying a diet full of wild edibles and ferments as "treats"! Could you comment on how you ferment their feed? I want to do the same, we are getting 6 chicks by the end of the week. Very eegciting. We will be keeping them indoors with us, unfortunately we don't have an outdoor brooder, but I hope to get them outside in intervals as much as a mama might.
  9. lightchick
    Really good article!
  10. mymilliefleur
    They sure have. :)

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