So excited but need help

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Jayecookie, Oct 28, 2017.

  1. Jayecookie

    Jayecookie Songster

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    I am so excited to announce that I finally own chicks... four barred rocks to be exact. They are my favorite bird. I have named them Victoria (because Queen Victoria), Mary (Mary Queen of Scots), Gemini (gypsy theme), and Veronica (Ronnie for short cause I like the name). Do you guys have any tips? What should I feed them? When do I let them on the grass? Full time on the grass? FIRST TIME CHICK MAMMA!
     
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  2. rjohns39

    rjohns39 Addict

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    Hi there. How old are they? There are dozens of different approaches to rearing chickens, so I'll share how I do it. 3 Weeks in the brooder, I feed starter 22%-24%protein for the first 3-4 weeks. After 21 days in the brooder, I move them to pasture in a well protected shelter that I move every few days to fresh grass. I'll feed them an 18%-20% grower until they start laying. Then I'll move them to a high protein layer ~19% and offer oyster shell free choice. Through out their lives I give them grit free choice. In the brooder I'll mix some sand, feed and chick grit on a news paper to get them started with it. I also give them a probiotic in their water while in the brooder.
     
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  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    You will find we all do this differently. As far as I am concerned there is only one rule, do not feed them a high calcium feed until they need it for their egg shells when they are laying. If you look on the tag on the feed bag the calcium level should be somewhere between 0.5 to 1.5 %. If it is between 3.5 to 4.5 % that’s way too much for growing chicks.

    The only other important variable is percent protein, that’s also on the tag. There is often a chart on the bag that tells you when they recommend feeding a certain feed to the chicks. That chart is a safe way to go but a lot of us ignore it and do our own thing. I generally feed a high protein Starter feed, around 20% protein, until they are feathered out, usually around 4 to 5 weeks. When that bag runs out after they are feathered out I switch to a Grower, around 16% protein. That may be after 4 weeks, it may be after 8 weeks, it’s not a big deal.

    Mine stay on that Grower for the rest of their lives. I offer oyster shell on the side so the ones that need extra calcium for egg shells can eat it, the ones that don’t need it don’t eat enough to harm themselves. Others switch to a Layer feed, which should have most of the calcium they need for their egg shells.

    As you can see others do differently. They might start them out on a higher protein feed, they may keep them on a higher protein feed. It’s not that big of a deal, the chickens can handle it. It’s not about how much is in on bite, it’s about how many grams they eat over the entire day, and even then it’s more of an average over a few days’ time. If yours are going to be eating a lot of low-protein grass you may want to use a slightly higher protein feed to sort of balance that out. Same type of thing for calcium. It’s often a good idea to offer a calcium supplement like oyster shell even if you feed a Layer with a high amount of calcium. Don’t mix it with the feed, offer it separately so the ones that want to can eat it and the others can ignore it.

    A broody hen takes her chicks out to eat grass and forage a day or two after they hatch, but she is there to keep them warm if they need it. One of the first thing she does is take then to bare ground so they can peck at the ground. They are eating grit so they can grind up that grass in their gizzards.

    You can take then out to forage as soon as you wish. They can handle cold for longer than many people believe possible but they do have limits. When they get cold they will quit scurrying around, huddle down, and give a heart-rending chirp. It’s time to warm them up. They can be pretty quick so you might want then contained so you can catch them. Putting a wind shield around them so a breeze doesn’t hit them will help them stay warmer too.

    After they are fully feathered, usually 4 to 5 weeks, they shouldn’t need any supplemental heat, especially in Florida. I’ve had chicks just over 5 weeks old go through nights in the mid 20’s Fahrenheit with no heat. Some people in colder climates put their chicks out even younger in colder temperatures but I’m pretty cautious.
     
  4. Patinas

    Patinas Songster

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    Congrats on your new chicks!
    • Feed them Starter/Grower feed to begin with. As @Ridgerunner stated, I too leave mine on starter/grower and then feed oyster shell on the side. Don't offer the oyster shell though until they are close to laying age which is usually around 5 months. When they are very small, you'll need to decide if you want to feed them medicated or non-medicated starter/grower. I started with medicated and then switched to non-medicated since they don't need the medicated after a few weeks.
    • At the point you start giving them anything other than commercial feed, make sure you offer them grit. They make chick grit for chicks and later you can provide larger grit for pullets/hens that can be found at feed stores. Mine don't eat much of the grit I provide because they free range but I still always provide grit to them in a smaller feeder.
    • Always make sure they have plenty of fresh water. I'm amazed at how much water chickens actually drink.
    • Once they have their feathers, you can let them out to forage. I let mine forage but not until later in the day for about 3-4 hours. I do this because I want the bulk of their diet to be the commercial feed and I want to encourage them to lay their eggs in the coop.
    My best advice is start reading about raising chickens. There is tons of info out there and BYC is an awesome resource for learning what to do and not to do. There are many many options out there for raising chickens and over time, you will figure out what works best for you and for your flock. I've learned so much in the 8 months I've had my flock and continue to tweak things as I continue to learn more.
     
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  5. RUNuts

    RUNuts Free Ranging

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    I'll second the comments above.

    Don't stress and enjoy your new hobby. If it becomes work, you will quit soon. Listen to the birds and they will tell you what they need. It will take a little while for them to train you, but just like dogs, you will be able to read them.

    Enjoy, watch and learn. I've gotten into chicken zen and watching them helps me relax, put things into perspective and solve issues or ignore the ones I can't control. I've concluded that life is better with chickens.
     
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  6. chicken4prez

    chicken4prez Crowing

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    Congrats and it looks like everyone has told you what to do.
     
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  7. jolly wattles

    jolly wattles Songster

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    Only 4? You need to go back. You forgot the other 10 or so.
     
  8. RUNuts

    RUNuts Free Ranging

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    Don't scare the new ones away! It takes time before chicken math is engaged. Just like a drug dealer. A little to get them hooked and then they can't get enough.

    Patience. <evil laugh>

    Barred Rocks rock!
     
  9. Jayecookie

    Jayecookie Songster

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    yes well city living
     
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