So... you've studied for years about chickens. How to raise them... What they need... What will kill them... Which breeds are best in your area... Which breeds are best for your needs.
GREAT JOB!!! If you haven't been to sites like this and spent hours obsessing over every article you can get your hands on, then you're not ready to be a momma (or daddy) hen!
I DID do years of tireless research. And my Mom and me worked together to begin building the perfect, Southern, egg laying flock we could get our hands on. Our needs where simple. Enough eggs to provide for a 7 person family. Good color variety, and enough to sell at market. I also wanted small eggs to pickle and sell to a friend of mine who owns a small local bar. The birds needed to be friendly heat tolerant foragers. I also knew that I wanted to breed the leghorns, some brown egg layers, and Easter Eggers (for color variety), as well as a couple bantam breeds.
The plan was going great! We ended up buying locally at the feedstores.
Our Bird tally:
5 Easter Eggers
4 White Leghorn
3 Brown Leghorn
5 Rhode Island Red
6 Buff Orphington
5 Barred Rock
2 Polish Crested
3 Cochin Bantams
1 Golden Seabright
A few spare small-medium chickens
OH! and 3 turkeys we had NOT planned on adding for about 2 years!
Then, we hit some hurdles.
Hurdle 1: Baby chicks are REEEEEEALLY cute! And the stores put the baby chicks right next to the chick supplies. So you gotta walk right past the adorable cheeping little puff balls! (Dirty, rotten, sneaky feedstore managers!) It's like they know! So... you gotta stick to your guns, and put on your blinders! Keep walking!! Cause unless you buy chicks within a week of each other (age wise), and about same size... Every size has to have its own brooder box, and remember, every week their their little temps change. What this amounted to for me was the loss of 2 rooms in my house for 10 weeks. The bath tub and majority of 1 bathroom was taken, as well as my previous office by 3 enormous tubs and 2 large plastic tubs.
Hurdle 2: Don't buy straight or assorted run unless you are prepared to identify roosters, then rehome some of your babies! Unless you have a huge flock and ton of space... roosters start to fight each other and crow as young as 8 weeks! It's better for them, the hens and your sanity to be selective and narrow that down.
Hurdle 3: You read that chicks need regular care. Litter cleaned, water freshened, food upkept. That's an understatement! Let me word this how I wish somebody had worded it for me... CHICKS IS HIGH MAINTENANCE! They need to be checked and cleaned 3x a day... if your lucky. This can take as long as an hour for 3 boxes with 15 birds... each time. That's 3 hours a day. Once they get bigger and are foraging outside it gets better, but don't think cause they're birds you can put them in a box and forget about 'em. Babies is babies.
Hurdle 4: Overprep vrs underprep. It never fails. No matter how much research you do, there is always that one thing you didn't prepare for or something you didn't need afterall.
Here is a list of meds I ended up actually needing for my flock (pre-age-14wks). --->
1) Hen Healer Multi-Purpose Ointment
Used on 2 turkey poults who scratched feet on plastic feeder rim and developed mild case of footpad dermatitis. We bought it last minute, with our spare change ($10) because we discoverered the issue the night before payday when doing evening chores...after store closed.
2) uuuuuhm... that's it.
In a mixed flock you either have to seperate the turkeys or just not give the chicks the coccilliostat med. Turkeys can't have it. So that, which we bought the day we bought the first batch of babies, is in storage until we (God forbid) need it. I'm not saying it was a bad, useless purchase... just we ended up not needing it. I was really worried about vaccines too, but found out they're really unnecessary in my area unless there is something about your flock or area that makes it so. Best bet, check with your local feed store. They should know what's needed locally for you.
Also hen saddles.... you don't need a saddle, apron or dress on every bird, all the time. I bought 25 saddles for my girls and a diaper for 1 cochin roo. Total waste of $100. They cute... but unless I plan on a photoshoot with 25 birds (tempting), I probably would have done fine with having like... 5... on hand.
Other things we DID use, aside from meds:
1) Litter. Lots of it. Pine shreds, low dust
2) Stall deodorizer
3) Soooooooooooooooooo much feed
Side note here -Turkeys need more protein than chicks and we found that they love dog food. They love it when we take Victor brand High Energy 90% protein dog food, grind it up and mixed it into their feed. We keep them seperate, since they are so much bigger than chicks of the same age now, and dont give. chicks the mixed feed.
4) Turkeys need cuddles! Lots of cuddles! Add at least an hour of time per turkey babe to your to-do check list. I am going to try the chic pouch I found on etsy if I get more poults to help control the inevitable mess made by feathered babies.
5) Apple Cider vinegar (1tbs/gal of H2O)
6) Granite based grit (Not Oyster shell for babies)
6) Store bought coops generally suck. Just an opinion. They're a good starter, but unless you are ready to pay for something nice, be ready to fix, and constantly maintain what you get.
7) tubs & heaters (like duh) but hint... red light heating lamps work best. I plan on incorporating a thermostat activated light into system next year.
8) I prefer metal or glass to serve water in because I believe that the plastics are not great for consumption purposes. We try to keep things as ORGANIC as possible. But... that said, glass is heavy and you can't put vinegar in metal. The vinegar acts as Gatorade for chicks in heat. So we are compromising and switching our metal waterers to plastic ones.
Anyhoo... Hope you enjoyed the read! Here's a couple pics of our flock: