Trying to raise chicks naturally - is this acceptable?


7 Years
Dec 19, 2012
As a rule I don't like to buy expensive store-bought products. I live is southeast alaska and due to limited access, prices are highly inflated. So I am trying to do as much as I can in an "old-fashioned" type of way.
For example, I know that back in the day, farmers didn't use medicated feed that was scientifically formulated and processed. I imagine they probably just gave them grains and let them forage. It might not have provided "optimal" health, but it certainly didn't kill them.... right?
So here is what I am doing with my chicks. I am kind of just playing by ear and changing what doesn't work. Please let me know if any of this is a quick trip to chicken heaven!

I have 16 chicks. - 4 black star, 4 red star, 6 anconas, and 2 australorps - I got them on monday, the 15th.
I made a pallet brooder with large chicken wire sides, top, and bottom.
Everything falls through the chicken wire floor onto a tarp that we can pull out and clean.
I made 2 homemade feeders that are a plastic container with the top cut off, glued to a plastic lid so the food falls down into the lid.
The water is in three easter-egg dying cups, filled with rocks.
I have a shallow baking pan in the middle of the brooder that is filled with wood ash from my fireplace for dust bathing.
I am drying out some soil from my yard in the sun for grit.
Their water is mixed with Quick Chick, and I added a splash of apple cider vinegar.
Every day they get a baby food jar lid of plain yogurt, twice.
They have two toilet-paper roll "treats" hanging in the brooder, made of peanut butter and corn meal.
Their food is mixed in a five gallon bucket. It consists of:

1lb 9oz dry milk
52 oz oatmeal
4.5 lb cornflour
1lb each of lentils, barley, brown rice, and split peas.

We keep a fire going and they are inside near the fire. The house is around 60 at all times, and the brooder is long enough that they can move away from the fire.
At night I have a heating pad that I turn on high for them, and they spread out on it.
I know you are supposed to keep them at 90 and lower it by 5 degrees but my chicks came early and I had to improvise. Most of the time they are running through the brooder, and they almost never huddle. They will line up on the side of the brooder closest to the fire, but that's it. They *line up*, they don't huddle. And this morning they even left the heating pad before the fire was going and just didn't care to be on it.

Anyways, I know this isn't all the absolute most ideal condition, but is there anything going on here that is SURE to actually *kill* a chick?
I have never used a heat lamp on my baby chicks. after i got then from the store they stabed the first few weeks in a large bird cage. when the night lows were in the 50's they got moved outside at about 4 weeks old. it has worked for me and my last two batches of chicks. they aren't as delicate as some people think
My only question is how the chicks don't fall through the holes in the chicken wire floor? I'm guessing you've figured something out....

Sounds okay to me. When you think about how a hen does it, those babies aren't 90-95 degrees 24/7. Okay, for the first few days they are under her much of the time, but after that they're running around at whatever the ambient temp is, going under momma to warm up briefly. Sounds like you have a similar set up.

As to feed, the only think with feeding a non-commercial type feed is the chance of lower production. My Ozark Grandma fed her free range birds only corn, and they didn't die. But her egg production was not what mine is, either. But that's more for when they're older.

Can the chicks eat the larger parts of your feed mix? I'm thinking the lentils and split peas may be a bit large?

That's all that's pinging my brain at the moment. But here's a good rule of thumb: if they start dying, you're doing something wrong. If they live and are active, you're all good!
I also wondered if the holes of the chicken wire were too large - it seems I had forgotten how small chicks are when they arrive! However, when they were first placed in the brooder they adapted quickly and began sprinting across the unsupported wire portions. We had two times that a chick ran too fast and fell and got stuck momentarily, but they were able to right themselves. Now at about a week old they are fluttering across it.
As for the feed, I tried to grind it a little in my food processor and most of it wouldn't. So I sifted to mostly powder on top and gave them that, with the intention of getting the bigger ingredients later. Today I noticed why they are showing a preference for one feeder -it had more pieces of barley in it. They are picking around most of the split peas though.
Thanks for the input. Chicks have such a learning curve, and it really sucks that when you don't know, it typically equates to death. That part of raising chicks I when I was young, I DO remember!

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