A few posts back (Yes, that’s how I keep track of time… it’s sick, I know), I asked for help naming our two new turkeys. Laws-a-mercy are y’all creative! I could have spent hours sifting through baby name websites and never come close to the awesomeness of your suggestions. But we had to narrow it down.
The only trouble: we couldn’t narrow it down. So we bought eight more turkeys. Call it an impulse buy.
I’m guessing that most people don’t think of turkeys when the words “impulse buy” are spoken. Backyard chickens are the gateway poultry of small-scale farming. It starts with just a few chicks and then you find yourself with ducks, guineas, turkeys, and peacocks. Then you are officially an addict. Every feed store’s roadside sign declaring “We have chicks!” calls to you like sirens from a rocky shore. One glance at those darling balls of fluff and you’re a goner. They had you at “peep.”
To escape paying retail but still feed our addiction, we shop online at Ideal Poultry. This company rocks our little country world with excellent prices, terrific staff, easy to use website, and great policies regarding the male chicks that are often unwanted. Many hatcheries kill thousands of male chicks each year because most Americans either don’t know how or are unwilling to castrate male poultry. The females sell and the males are often killed after a few days. Not Ideal Poultry!! They add in the male chicks with small orders so that they keep the other chicks alive in shipping (by providing added warmth). Isn’t that wonderful?
In case you’ve never ordered through a hatchery, I thought it would be wise to give the details:
- Have some idea of which breed you are looking for before you start buying
- Select a breed that works with your region and your needs
- If you are looking for breed characteristics: Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart
- Note the shipping dates for each breed that you are interested in and then decide when you want your order shipped
- A few days before the birds will arrive, call your local post office and let them know about the shipment. Give them your phone numbers and make sure you will be around for the big day
- Get an area ready for the chicks with a brooder, heat lamp, bedding, food (chick starter), waterers, liquid vitamin & electrolytes for chicks, feeder trays (you’ll need a two foot feeder tray for every twenty-five birds)
- Unused troughs, wooden shipping boxes, drained kiddie pools, tough-bins, old aquariums, cages, hutches, and even cardboard boxes are all great to convert into chick pens/brooders
- Make sure fresh food and clean water is in constant supply
- Add three tablespoons of sugar for each gallon of water given to the chicks for the first few days
- Add electrolytes and vitamins to the water, too (You can order liquid chick vitamins from Jeffers)
- Before releasing the chicks into their pen, dip their beaks into the water so that they know where the water is and it encourages them to return for more
- The temperature in the brooder should start at 90 degrees Fahrenheit for newly hatched chicks and decrease by 5 degrees daily
- Chicks distressed from cold or hunger will cheep loudly and insistently
- Comfortable chicks will pursue their normal activities of walking around, pecking at the food, pecking at the sides of the box, drinking water, and sleeping.
- Provide a new box with fresh litter or newspaper every day
- Mix tiny pieces of dark green lettuce, little pieces of grapes or apple, or tiny pieces of bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts in the feed
- Plan to keep the chicks inside for four to six weeks
- When they are about a week or two old, they can be put outside for a while on warm days
- At about four to six weeks the chicks have most of their feathers and can go outside permanently if they have a predator- proof enclosure and a roosting place
Oh yeah… we also ordered twenty-five more chickens. Heaven help us. 🙂