In May of last year, 2012, I purchased a 1 acre property in a rural area of Maryland's Eastern Shore. I grew up in the area and after some travels and studying elsewhere am now working and living here. Both sets of my grandparents were farmer's with one grandfather helping to support the early years of poultry industry in our area and a grandmother who was able to support the personal needs of her children through her small flock on the family dairy farm. I know they would love that I am undertaking this. Having my own "flock" is a fun endeavor that could also be considered an avenue to feel connected with those who make their life here through farming and to stay connected with our family legacy.
After many evenings and weekends of research and consideration, I just ordered my first day old chicks from Stomberg. I have no idea when they will arrive! I probably spent 40 hours researching before purchases were made. At the start of March I attended, along with some fun loving members of the family, a "Cooptastic" event for small flock owners or want to be owners (me). The event was organized to cover a broad spectrum of flock owners from the newbie to the regular commercial oriented small flock owner. It was great! We got some great insight into breeds, animal threats, bio-security practices, and health conditions affecting avians. I know I am walking into this with my eyes wide open and well prepared.
On order are all duel-breed chicks made up of 10 Delaware, 5 Silver-Laced Wyanotte, 5 Speckled Sussex, and 5 Buff Orphington. We are going to try our hand at "processing" starting with a few Delaware Roosters and hens since my partner doesn't mind doing this kind of thing and it was more appealing to him then the egg laying in the end. We also have some interest of both eggs and meat from family members. If we are okay with the effort it takes and the process we'll continue the meat portion. I am also motivated to share our eggs with others looking for an egg source. Several people have expressed interest so far without solicitation.
I did a straight run of Delaware's and Buff Orphington, thinking that if we want we could reproduce those two breeds. We can process whatever roosters we don't want or need. With that in mind we will construct a permanent brooder to accommodate 30 chicks through the first 4 - 6 weeks or until feathers come through. The brooder will be outside in a barn enclosure, built to defend against drafts. I've been doing a lot of research through this website and Google searches to learn what the brooder will need and determine what our particular needs are personally. There has been a lot to choose from. Another great source of detail has been our local/state extension service website. Those resources have provided good, consolidated, info on the recommended amount of sq-ft per bird during the brooding and adult life of the bird, what are the basic needs of a brooder, and recommended practices. My aim is to exceed these minimums and give the birds a decent life.
Short Term Goals:
build brooder - soon!
set up composting "operation" location
Determine site of coop, build coop and an enclosed run
obtain supplies for a larger mobile run (open air fenced in area).
We built a brooder: 3x6x2 with two hinged lids. The chicks arrived this morning and I had just about everything ready. Just had to put down the shavings and the papertowls, set up the water/food. All of that was accomplished in short order. All 25 chicks arrived in good condition and were individually oriented to the water as the came out of their shipping container. It's amazing how many chicks came in the small packaging and how they can travel in the mail like that.
I have determined where I want the fixed coop and run, how I'll set up a larger run fence for them to use. We'll start on it's construction in short order now that the chicks have arrived. They'll be set in the brooder for a while. We didn't construct it to house the chicks through 8 weeks, but rather til there feathers come through. I always have a small separate coop back up area (connected to the back of the existing barn that came with the house). The chicks can be spread to that if they need more space.