Freedom Rangers in Illinois

Life is Good!

Songster
8 Years
Apr 14, 2011
1,179
222
226
suburbia Chicagoland
28 day update (a few days late, we're actually on day 31).

The first 50# bag of feed lasted 19 days.
The second 50# bag of same feed lasted 13 days. I'm seeing a downward trend here that I'm trying to figure out how to reduce. (Fermented feed experiment here I come! Just need a second clean bucket - somehow my pair of clean buckets got used for a not-clean project (concrete mixing)...never dull!)

Weights: Average of 1#12oz for boys; 1#5oz for girls. Boys have prominent wattles and bright red combs - girls have same size combs, but are pale and somewhat reddish wattles, but not as pronounced. HUGE feet and thick lower legs. Very much enjoying flying and can now get up to a roost plank I installed in their mini-coop (20" off the floor, a 1x4" board). Fun to watch them use those flight muscles, as our Black Java layers didn't really ever fly very much. Feathers fully on legs and mostly under wings, bellies are still a bit bare. And the heads - what a hoot! I've got a whole bunch of mini-Einstein's! Wild, wild looks on these ones!

Moved outdoors into tractor on Thursday (29days old). They're doing great! They're nibbling grass, but not anything like our layers did at same age. I guess they prefer the taste of feed?



The tractor, a PVC structure tall enough for me to stand inside, is secure from predators for them to live in. But there is still some work for me to do in there to 'finish' it completely, hence the lack of images of it yet. However, the gang mobs me at the door! So unless I go in quick just after feeding to work in there, it's nearly impossible to work in there with them in there! I've learned there is a reason farmers wear Wellies - they've unlaced my tennis shoes countless times! Ewww - had to replace those shoelaces, twice no less! And got my wellies out as my new 'chicken shoes'! My layers left my shoelaces alone....go figure!

They are definately personable critters, as individualistic as our Black Javas - but I still refuse to name any of them or become attached. They're simply 'Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Dinner, Dumpling, Stew, Roaster'....etc! My sons did name one, a striped chick, Chipmunk - he's a definate big roo - not sure how my 10yo will handle having him on the table. We've got a few more weeks to work that one through....

As our tractor is multi-purpose, and there will be layers in there next to merge with the existing flock (so they'll live in the tractor until at least 16wks old), we've built it a bit different than if we simply were using it for meaties. The little 'coop' inside the tractor still needs ventilation - right now, I'm leaving the doors open for them to wander at will and it works. But I'd like to get it 'finished' before the layer chicks need it in 6wks (getting 2day old layer chicks on May 20th, 4 weeks until they go outside means they'll go out a few days after these guys hit Camp Kenmore).

Will also need to either build a second tractor (ugh) or a larger fenced area for them to forage inside. 25 in a 8x8 tractor isn't going to last more than 10 days to 2wks...with 3wks to go beyond that! So, we'll put up a 'mini-run' for them to mill about it with the tractor being their nighttime sleeping area. I'm inclined towards the run instead of another construction project!

Our local hawks and falcons have discovered them. Which likely means the racoons and skunks have as well (but I'm just unaware of it). Another reason to keep these under tight wraps until a bit bigger. Thankfully, these chicks listen and obey our layer rooster - who warns when the hawks/falcons are about. They dive for their coop and all fit inside of it whenever he calls danger. It's simply amazing to watch! Took me a while to figure out what was happening, as all of a sudden, a squawk from Roaster (our rooster) and poof, they're all inside the coop! Seriously! Not a peep, not a complaint amongst them as they huddled in safety - dead silence. Then somehow, bam, they're all back out at the feeders, laying in the sun, cheeping, peeping, drinking at the waterers - like nothing happened! Very wild to watch.

However, I don't wish to have any of these end up in a predator's mouth instead of my families! So the planning of the run and such will be undertaken with the same care as for our layer flock. We just finished our perimeter fence today (420 linear feet of field fencing done!), so after finishing the mini-coop ventilation, THEN I can start work on the run for these guys. Mercy, it's a lot more than I anticipated! We'll need more t-posts and a gate latch, have left-over fencing and 4x4 posts - just need more of the energy to do it! But the fall 'batch' will benefit from all this labor now. They'll be well set! Which is good, as harvest time is somewhat more of a challenge than planting time. (Harvest means putting up for the winter too - planting is watering, which thankfully, my sons still enjoying doing for me).

Enjoy the days, for these guys grow so fast!
 

Life is Good!

Songster
8 Years
Apr 14, 2011
1,179
222
226
suburbia Chicagoland
39 day update (sorry folks - have friends from Uganda here, crazy busy!)

No photos this week, two reasons - 1. the chicks are less cooperative and wish to get on the ground to search for MORE FOOD! and 2. it was raining the day I took the camera out.

Weights: Average about 3#, however, they seem to have hit a growth spurt, as today, they're much bigger than on Wedneday.

Feed: up to about 12c of feed a day plus bugs and grass. I'm leaving treats to God to provide, as the bugs have come out big time! Still on bag of feed #3 and have likely another 3days remaining in it.

Water: Adding ACV to their water and it is truly helping with the 'stink' factor. I'm thinking of giving it to my 13yo son to help him! (
)

However, I need to get their second run built next Monday - which will prevent hawks from taking any but allow them to be better dispersed through the grass.

Coyotes are hunting in our property, as we're finding rabbit left-overs strewn about the backyard. So the vigilence to lock everyone up at night is higher.

Growing, getting bigger and definate wattles all around!
 

Life is Good!

Songster
8 Years
Apr 14, 2011
1,179
222
226
suburbia Chicagoland


44 day update:

6 weeks old already. On bag #5 of feed (I think, kind of lost track already). Up to about 6gal of water per day with ACV splashed in there too.

Got their run completed this week, so they now have a 50' x 35' space to play in that's relatively predator proof. It's helped a lot with the stink, as the poo is not as concentrated. However, the flies have picked up around their tractor..need to figure out how to naturally eradicate them (yes, I know they serve a purpose, I'd just rather they not do it around me!).

Weights: averaging 3#4oz. They seem a bit underweight, but not in appearance! Here's a picture taken yesterday of a rooster:



They have about 9 linear feet of plastic gutter and a 3' steel chick feeder - so that way EVERYONE can find a place...even if they're inside the gutter! They really enjoy being able to forage and to find treats on their own all day long. Being able to forage has stopped a lot of the boredom - as I'm not finding them lying around as often. They're doing great! Hard to believe it's just another 3wks until the end. Boy that went quick!
 

Life is Good!

Songster
8 Years
Apr 14, 2011
1,179
222
226
suburbia Chicagoland
7 wk update, 49 days old:

These ones are really starting to fill out! I was getting concerned, as they had slowed in growth - both weight and size. They're workin' on it!

Average weights: pullets - 3.5lbs; cockerals 4.5lbs - again, I mostly have cockerals.




Consuming between 8 and 10cups of feed a day, plus ranging their run. They've spent a lot more time lounging in the sunshine than actually eating this past few days! Although, they're really looking good. I'm hoping the next few days they put on the pounds! I have used 5 bags of feed with them (will finish this bag by Friday) and I have two bags still in storage, so I might have purchased enough. We'll see.

Water consumption is leveled off. I'm refilling their 3gal waterer twice a day and they have a 2gal waterer in their tractor at night, as I'm not able to get them up and out until about 8am and they were very thirsty. This has eliminated that. (Ever see 25chicks fight over space around a 3gal waterer?! Dang, I thought a hockey game was going to break out!) Weather is getting warmer, much much warmer this weekend, so I'll put in their 1gal waterer, their 2gal waterer and their 3gal waterer. Hopefully, that'll keep the thirst at bay during the heat.

I have noticed they haven't eaten as much now that the weather has turned warmer again. A few nights were pretty chilly (down into the low 50's again), and they really ate like mad those nights - I used 14c of feed on the coldest day. So perhaps their feed consumption is tied to external temps? Nothing scientific but my own observations. It'll be 99 here on Sunday, so I'll see what they eat that day. I'm thinking of getting a watermelon or two and refrigerating it for Sunday....they'll appreciate the extra fluids. Although I'll have to fight my kids for the slices for the FR!

The other thing I'm seeing is that the cockerals are fairly quiet. I'm thankful, as the day someone crows, he goes! Keeping my fingers crossed that they'll keep to their cheeps until closer to week 9! There is so much chest-bumping, chasing, rable-rousing and general carrying on - but little in the way of cheeps, peeps or sqwaks! Phew! Again, this is a minor undercover operation. Keeping a low profile is a very happy thing!

Pictures will be forthcoming. Did take a bunch today, but I'd like to get the remainder of the plants in the ground while there is still light. So, I'll post tonight (this is a water break!). (edited to add picture)
 
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Life is Good!

Songster
8 Years
Apr 14, 2011
1,179
222
226
suburbia Chicagoland
8 wk update: 56days old

The larger of the roosters are now weighing about 5 1/2#'s. The hens are averaging 4 1/2#'s. The smaller roosters are about 5#'s. So we're getting closer, but not there yet!

Thanks to an unexpected cool snap, the flies and other bugs are severely limited. For a few days there, it was incredibly, unseasonably hot - and I was thoroughly disgusted by all the flies! Our neighbor's horse manure pile is always full of 'em - obviously, they found our chicken yards to be prime area also. Ewwww.....But between the FR eating them and the cooler air (it's only 49degrees here in northern Illinois today), the population is back under control.

I've not increased their feed too much - still about 10c of feed a day. A 50# bag lasts about 6days. Tolerable, but I need another run to Farm&Fleet. I opened my last bag (Bag #7), so if I get another 2bags, that'll keep me out of trouble. We're planning on the first butcher date of June 10th, to allow the smaller hens and roos to get a bit bigger. The bigger roos might have a date sooner than that.

Cockerals are still quiet - whew! The few that are attempting to crow sound like a trumpet with a mute in it! Funny! Our resident rooster gives them all the evil eye when a FR crows - so perhaps he's keeping the crowd at bay? They share a fence-line, so some pecking has been going on as well through the 1/2" hardware cloth.

Watching them run is so humorous! Since there are about 18roos, they charge up to one another to 'fight' and stare each other down - talk about a waddle! Wow! Some of the smaller ones are still trying to fly - lift is severely limited, and they barely make it 14" off the ground! But they're using muscles and exercising and building their bulk (yum!). Good things are happening at this small farm.
 

Life is Good!

Songster
8 Years
Apr 14, 2011
1,179
222
226
suburbia Chicagoland
9 wk update: 63 days old



Pullets and cockerals seem to be averaging between 6#'s and 7#'s - mostly in-between. There are a few 'little' ones at 5#'s, but just three or four of those. The photo above is our only barred chick - turned out to be a male, he cannot stay, but he's surely pretty!

We've had to switch to 16% feed - we went out of town unexpectedly, and there was a bag of 16% laying around as 'extra' feed and our critter sitter opened that one up instead of the usual feed. The bag is nearly 1/2 gone, so it'll get used up then we'll switch back to the Agrimaster feed, if needed. Still eating about 8-10C of feed/day. I've added scratch as something to do - they're eating about 3c of that a day also.

The big day draws near - we're planning on starting butchering this weekend the larger, more fiesty males. Some of the males have taken to 'following' me around the yard when I'm working in there (feeding, filling waterers, cleaning, etc.) and while they are simply watching me, I'm not exactly comfortable with it either - to be followed by a gaggle of overly-hormonal-male chickens. We'll be doing this in batches of 5 - enough to feel like we've done good work, but not so much that it's overwhelming (or making my carpal tunnel worse!). As we'll be mostly skinning the chickens, just plucking about 9 of the 25, we'll also be able to do the work fairly quickly I think.

I made a mistake of having a band-aid on my leg yesterday. It nearly got ripped off by one of 'em. Ouch! (More ouch on the cut the band-aid was protecting than ouch from the peck). DO NOT DO THIS! You WILL get pecked! (Funny thing is, our Black Java's leave band-aids alone! But these guys are so curious about EVERYTHING....not any one speck goes un-inspected!)

Here's one of our 'heavyweights':


The one thing that strikes me most about the Freedom Rangers is their stance. They have a VERY wide and low stance to their bodies. And while most seem to have 'grown into their feet', meaning their proportions are getting more balanced, they still seem squat to me. Very pretty birds overall - we're very pleased with their grow out rate and feed conversion rate. At this juncture, the cost is about $2/lb - that's feed and bedding. We're not counting in equipment or gear - we'll be repeating this experiment in the fall and can re-use the equipment then. We're already re-using the brooder for some Black Java chicks - and the tractor will house the Black Java flock while our first ever broody hatches her brood a week after all these guys are in Camp Kenmore...so overall, we're very very pleased.
 

gabrielle1976

Crowing
10 Years
Feb 21, 2009
5,561
67
281
Columbia river gorge
Have you thought about keeping a couple hens and a rooster long enough to provide you with a couple dozen fertle eggs so you can have another group without the cost of buying and shipping the chicks?
 

3 NH reds

Songster
8 Years
Dec 5, 2011
610
31
166
Western Mass
Interesting thread, I have 6, one week old Red rangers. They survived a night with no heat ( D*#[email protected] GFI tripped). The lack of heat killed 4 of 6 Turkey chicks. So far they are eating machines and I still leave food out 24-7. I plan to keep a couple of rangers to breed. So far my guess is I have 2 males out of 6 but time will tell.
 
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