My Experience re: Raising Chicks vs Pullets

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by RRIRMom, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. RRIRMom

    RRIRMom Out Of The Brooder

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    UPDATE:
    Please note the heading as it states My EXPERIENCE regarding raising chicks vs pullets. My intentions was to share my experience, the good and the bad. I understand that everyone has their own experience and would be neat if upon reading my posting to share your own observation and what you have learned. We can all learn from each other. Like all my postings, I love to share what I have learned so others such as myself looking for answer can glean from my mistakes and discoveries. This posting was not intended to ruffle any feathers. Perhaps my writing skills lack the true transference of knowledge of my intentions. So please, when you read the below, understand that I am sharing MY EXPERIENCE.........
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    Below, I thought I would share my experience regarding raising chicks vs. pullets. If I had to do it all over again, I would buy pullets instead of raising chicks (due to my failing health).

    Pros & Cons -- Chicks:

    First, chicks are very inexpensive to buy. At your local feed store, generally there are no limits on how many you can purchase. If you purchase at a hatchery, there is a minimum of 25 and the added cost of Shipping. They may throw in a couple more to cover the possibility of a few chicks dying during transit. I suspect the extras are roos. For me, I purchased mine at two different feed stores. This cost me $5 and $6 each. If I were to buy chicks in the future, I would have bought more than I needed in case a few turned out to be roosters.

    Even though they tell you that the chicks are going to be hens, there are no guarantees. Straight runs means they are probably more roos than hens. I suspect from what I have researched, straight runs are more for people who are raising chickens for meat than for eggs since it doesn't matter what sex they are. Paying extra for sexed chicks increases the chances they will be hens, but again, no guaranty.

    Once you bring home your chicks, it is advised to immediately put them on an antibiotic. I am glad I did, because I did not have any die on me or get the pasty butt syndrome. However, this was an additional $9 cost.

    Chicks are cute and fluffy. The joy of raising them quickly turns into anxiety. You can not leave the home for more than an hour because during that time, the new heating light could go out or the temperature vary too much. The temperature has to be monitored constantly because too cold will quickly make them sick and too hot can kill them. I had two heating lamps where one was a back up in case one failed and two remote temperature gauges to monitor the heated area and the none heated area. NOTE: Never buy a heating light that has a white coating. It releases a toxic gas that will kill your chicks. I bought 40 watt clear light bulb that fit in a desk lamp. Special Red Chick lamps are preferred by those who are raising a lot of chicks. I never had a problem with using a clear bulb because my chicks had plenty of room. A heating area, feed area, and cooling area.

    Every week the temperature has to adjusted. This required monitoring constantly to make sure it was right.

    Their water dish has to be cleaned constantly. No matter how high you place it, they manage to leave droppings in it. Pebbles have to be put in it to prevent them from drowning in it. No matter how small the dish, they fall asleep in an instant. They do sell special chick watering dishes, but you only need it for a couple of weeks. If you are willing to invest in a nipple water dish will prevent this, however, you still have to make sure it contains fresh water daily and they have to be cleaned daily to prevent bacteria slim build up. Slimy or poopy water will make your chicks sick real quick. I used a small dish that had to be cleaned every hour.

    Feed for chicks saves you money if you buy in volume. 25 lb bag of chick feed cost me a dollar per pound. It is better to feed them an organic feed that does not have soy or corn in it. In my research, posters that had their chickens die unexpectedly and had an autopsy performed discovered corn causes fatty livers. When my chicks were about 3 months old, I introduced 1/4 whole grains into the feed. So 25lb of feed for 4 chicks plus supplemented with grains lasted until they were 18 weeks old. Note: Feed can not get wet. A toxic mold can grow in a few hours that can make your chicks sick. If it gets wet, play it safe and throw away.

    Because grains were introduced, I had to purchase grit to help them digest the grains. This again is an added expense and necessary when the chicks are older. Not only do you have to purchase a chick feeder and water dish, but when they reach about 8 weeks old, they are ready for an adult feeder and water container. A twelve pound galvanized hanging feeder cost me $20.00, a corner grit/oyster free feeder was $12.00, and a 5lb bag of grit was about $18.00.

    Bedding. I started out with small pine shavings. If you buy the 11 cubic size large bag will save you money. This cost the same as a small bag. Never use cedar as the fumes are toxic to chicks. However, I only used 1/6th of the bag. I purchased the small pine shavings and I had problem with it. One of the chicks, mixture of droppings and shaving formed a ring around its toe. When I noticed it, I was too ill and thought like before, it would fall off. After two days, feeling better, I noticed it was still there and the toe was red and swollen. I had to soak it in water to get it off as it turned to cement. I did save the toe and felt guilty that I had not taken care of it sooner...but I only had enough energy to clean the box , make sure they had fresh water and food. If I had to do it over, I would have bought the large pine shavings instead or used 30# commercial grade sand. $10 for small pine shavings. $6 for large pine shavings. $10 for 100lbs of 30# Commercial Grade cleaned sand.

    Cleaning. Because the health of my chicks was priority. I purchased disposal gloves ($20) to pick out the droppings in the pine shavings. I cleaned their living quarters 3 to 4 times a day and changed the bedding once a week. I tossed it out on my plants for mulch. At first this was no big deal, but as they grew, it took some time to clean. When they reached 8 weeks old, they were too small to put out side and getting too big for their cage. So a taller, larger cage was needed. Another expense.

    At this time, they were large enough to put outside a few hours during the warmest time of the day. I used a puppy pen and covered the top to prevent any hawks from killing them. Every day I would move it as they would love eating the grass down to the roots. Remember to provide grit if you do the same. A hose down of the area did make it easier, but boy do they leave a lot of droppings for such a short amount of time. Every day before I brought them in, I had to rinse and dry off their feet. While outside was a great time to use cleaning their inside cage. I also had to have a temperature gauge in their outdoor quarters to make sure they were warm enough.

    At about 6 weeks old, these cute chicks are now going through the awkward stage. They look mangy and ugly. So much care has to be given to them and about this time you are counting the days you can put them in an outside cage. Now you notice a few chicks may be a roo instead of a hen, could this time spent on their care be for nothing ran through my mind over and over. Now I am desperately looking at posts to see chicks this age to determine if they are males or females.

    They are now more demanding and their squawks let you know whether or not they are happy.

    The happiest day is when they can finally live in the outside cage. Since they are use to living inside, when the sun starts to set, they tear at your heart as they squawk constantly to come in for the next few days. Finally after an hour or two, they fall asleep getting more comfortable with their cage.

    After reading the forum regarding using sand instead of pine shavings in the cage. I decided to use 30# commercial grade sand for the flooring in a 10' x 5' covered kennel. I found this so much easier to clean than pine shavings. To learn more about sand vs pine shavings can be found in this forum.

    Now, I have to wait until the chicks are about 6 months old before I get any eggs. So cleaning several times a day, providing fresh clean water, and feeding is now a regular routine.

    PULLETS: If I had to do this over again, I would have purchased pullets instead of chicks. For the last 6 months, I could have been enjoying gathering fresh organic eggs. Chicks required so much of my time to ensure their health and needs. I find now that they are 7 months old and are easier to take care of. I clean their cage 3 to 4 times a day with a food strainer (cat litter scoop does not pick up the small pieces). I add food to their feeder once a day and I use a pet replenisher 5 gal water container that I clean every two days when the reserve is 2/3rds empty. I let them have supervised free range several hours every morning where they eat grass, hunt for bugs, and sun bathe. To my surprise, they learned the word "NO" and don't bother my garden plants. They are so sweet and are a joy to have now.

    25lb feed per month for 4 chickens. Oyster Shells once laying eggs $8.00. Treats of Black Oiled Sunflower seeds $1 pound, and 30 oz dried meal worms $30. Probiotic $1 per packet.

    Unfortunately, my health has deteriorated and I can no longer keep my chickens. I wish my family would take over taking care of them, but no one wants that responsibility. This is unfortunate as my goal was to provide my family with fresh organic eggs. If I had to do this over again seeing the work that was involved in raising chicks, I would have purchased pullets instead. Too bad I have more bad days than good days to keep my girls.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2013
  2. Whittni

    Whittni Overrun With Chickens

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    I'm sorry for your condition. Thanks for sharing.
     
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Okay, a different perspective........

    I brood my chicks in the barn in a galvanized trough. I have chick feeder and waterer, as I raise chicks at least once a year. I check on them twice a day. Feed and water once a day. I work all day and couldn't spend that much time on them, nor do I care to. I don't constantly monitor temp, I set the guard on the heat lamp on the expanded metal I cover the trough with. It's the perfect temp. I don't adjust temp week by week. I use pine shavings. When it gets too poopy, I add another layer of shavings. When they're done in the brooder, dump the entire thing on next year's garden.

    I don't use an expensive feeder for oyster shell or grit. It gets tossed on the ground. Chickens were made to eat off the ground.

    $18 for grit? Seriously? I'd love to get in the grit-selling business at those prices.

    I feed my chicks an all-in-one feed, same as every other bird on the place.

    I would never just put chicks on an antibiotic. They aren't sick, they're just born.


    I'm sorry you think raising chicks was so much work. Just wanted to present another way of doing things. I very rarely lose a chick, and it's really no work or stress at all. I'd just hate for a newbie to read this and think chicks have to be this much work.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2013
  4. yinepu

    yinepu Overrun With Chickens

    I have to agree with you...

    around here we don't do anything fancy.. i don't monitor temps or adjust every week.. they have a place to go get warm and a place to get away from the heat.. the little buggers can regulate their own temps well enough without me fussing over them... if I hear chicks making a fuss I'll go check to see if they are too hot or too cold or just hungry... otherwise they are fine..

    nothing fancy for feed and I sure as heck don't medicate them.. as you stated.. they aren't sick so they really don't need it. Sure some people feel the need to dose them with every medication under the sun.. but medicated feeds don't cure illnesses... they just help mask symptoms.. so if it ain't broke I don't try to fix it!

    once mine start feather out they have no more need for heat.. I hatch chicks year round.. so there is a lot of times when we are brooding chicks in the house of various ages.. the sooner the feathered ones can move outside the better it is for them (and a bit less dusting for me)!

    I don't worry about giving them grit (and it's only about 6 bucks here for a 50 pound bag).. once they hit the dirt they can eat all the "grit" they want

    I don't bother to wear gloves to remove every bit of chick poop.. they need a certain amount of mess to get their gut flora established.. so like you we do the deep litter method in the brooders .. it gets cleaned if it starts to smell or gets wet (spilled waterer).. otherwise I don't mess with it... however if you are keeping the brooder dry and adding shavings as needed it really doesn't have much odor at all anyway (if it does then you're doing something wrong)!.. the chick down is more of a hassle to deal with (though IF you keep your dang house clean it's really nothing more to deal with than a little more dusting in that room each day).. I have heard some people claim that you should NEVER brood chicks in your house.. well.. that just tells me they don't want to be bothered with cleaning as much!.. we have had company over who never noticed we had chicks in the house until we mentioned it.. it's just a matter of cleaning when it's needed! (we also have parrots.. so a certain amount of bird dust needs to be cleaned up every day anyway.. lol)..
    as a note (and before everyone gets their panties in a knot)... We would brood out in the shed IF it had power running out to it.. but it doesn't.. and I hate running extension cords across the yard.. so until we have a shed complete with electricity the little buggers will have to deal with being brooded in the house!..


    I hate to say it but there are a lot of people who get a little too paranoid and worry way too much when it comes to raising chicks.. they need to sit back with a nice cup of tea and relax a bit.. chickens have been around for a heck of a long time and are pretty tough critters when you let them be.. so there's no need to constantly worry or fret over every little detail...
     
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I'm so lucky to have a barn with electricity! for one, our house is too small. We have four people and two big black dogs in right at a thousand square feet. Chicks........not happening.

    I brooded baby ducks in the house ones----never ever again! Talk about messy [​IMG] and somehow (I was still pretty new to the brooding thing) they got water all over the walls of the room next to the brooder---brand new house---it was just nasty!
     
  6. pblakneyjr

    pblakneyjr New Egg

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    Thanks for your perspective Donrae. I almost dropped the whole idea of raising chickens and I haven't even started yet!
     
  7. RRIRMom

    RRIRMom Out Of The Brooder

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    Whittni: Thank you for your comment and care.

    donray & yinepu: Thank you for adding your perspective. I guess I should have stated that I live in a residential neighborhood with small lots that allows a few chickens as long as none of the neighbors complain. My soil is hard pan clay--needing a pick to penetrate, so adding 30# Commercial Grade Sand in my 10'x5' covered kennel allows for easy clean up of droppings with a hand held screener (food strainer). Using a kitty litter scoop does not pick up the small pieces they scratch into the sand. It reminds me of the beach.

    If I had desert sand type of soil like my parents, when they were younger, their 50+ chickens had plenty of space and they never had to clean their open area. The chickens scratched into the soil their droppings and being a dry climate, smell was never an issue. Their trees love it and produced the sweetest fruit. I still don't understand how they never lost a single chicken to a coyote or hawk since the chain link fence enclosure was only 4 feet high. They did provide fresh daily water and food. Their coop was cleaned out once a month. The chickens were mostly on their own.

    Same for my grandparents when they were alive, they had owned over 150 acre ranch. Their chickens were left to roam all day and returned to the barn at night with the rest of the animals.

    Living in a residential neighborhood, I decided on the sand method after dealing with pine shavings. Even cleaning several times a day, by the 6th day, it began to reek. Using pine shavings on the floor of the kennel run was not an option as smell would be an issue and it can not be thoroughly cleaned. Several posters such as yourself state every week or so to add another layer of pine shavings or straw on top and is virtually smell free. Sand cost me about $10 per 100 pounds. I used about 600 or 700 lbs. So my cost was about $70. I do not need to replace the sand and there is absolutely no smell or flies. I use a misting system during the heat waves and the sand quickly dries where pine shavings or straw would mold.

    A relative of mine was hired to tear down several chicken buildings that were abandoned for several years. The farmer used the method you mentioned of adding pine shavings/straw layers. He tore them down using heavy equipment and also used the excavator bucket in front. After he cleared out the area and loaded everything into big dump trucks...never touching anything inside, after one week he became deathly ill. He was diagnosed with Histoplasmosis. His doctor explained that pathogens living in chicken droppings are not killed by adding straw or shavings on top of soiled bedding. So even after years of those chicken building being abandoned, it still contained pathogens.

    I use the sand method also to avoid having to deal with removing layers of chicken droppings and straw/shavings. I did not want to deal with using a hazmat disposable coveralls, gloves, and a mask. I dump the dropping I collect daily into a composter. The temperature inside kills all pathogens and turns it into safe fertilizer to use in the garden. I still use gloves and a mask when handling large amounts of composited droppings for that purpose.

    You insinuated that I may be a little anal in taking care of my chickens. Your probably right, I thought that if I can keep them in a clean environment, the eggs I gather should be safer to eat than what I can purchase at the store. Their nesting boxes do have the pine shavings in them. I find it not only provides cushion in preventing egg breakage, but easier to clean should I need to remove any accidental droppings--only happened once, they do keep their nesting boxes clean.

    I also want to note that had I known I was going to have health problems, I would have never taken the responsibility of owning chickens. It seemed shortly after I brought them home, I began to be ill--not related to the chickens according to my doctor. Over the months, it seems I am having more bad days than good and it at a point I have to give them up. I really did try to keep them, but I don't have the strength like I use to. If I could keep them I would, so I have to stop being stubborn and do what is right.

    I hope explaining myself better and you two giving your perspective on raising chicks will give new potential owners a better idea of what to expect and choose which method is better for them.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2013
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    You misunderstood a key thing in your response. When I said I added another layer of shavings each week or so, I was referring solely to the brooder. Not the coop. My coop is deep litter method and I add a bale of shavings perhaps twice a year. This is constantly worked by the chickens, it's not just layer on layer like commercial buildings are. My coops have no odor, except pine.

    I didn't say you were too anal. Please don't put words in my mouth. I do think you're correct, though, that with the level of anxiety you're describing, chicks weren't a good option for you and if your health recovers to the point that birds are again an option for you, you should go with pullets.
     
  9. yinepu

    yinepu Overrun With Chickens

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    Sounds like you and I do almost everything the same!



    RRIRMom I hope that someday you can have your chickens again.. I hope you're able to relax a bit more and enjoy them and not stress so much as well.. They really can be a pleasure to own and should be something to help you chill out with on stressful days (chicken TV comes to mind)... [​IMG]
     
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I almost missed you! You're welcome and [​IMG]
     

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