August 8, 2011

Special Delivery

This is how they came to us through the USPS

50 Buff Orpingtons egg layers  |  100 Cornish Cross broilers

Toasty warm under the brooder lamp

First feeding
A week and a half ago, I picked up a very noisy package from the post office: 150 day old baby chicks.

Greg converted one of the barn stalls into a brooder where the chicks will live until they are four weeks old.  After that, the broiler chicks will go into a special 12'x10' pen in the cow pasture.  Every day, this pen will be moved 12 feet to fresh grass. Our broilers will feast on green grass, bugs and other yumminess in the pasture.  They'll receive supplemental, all natural feed to help them grow.  In about 45 days after hatching, we'll transport the chickens to a USDA certified processor who will butcher the chickens for us.  Mid-September, we'll be selling all natural, pasture fed broiler chickens.

Between now and then, there's a lot that happens.  Two to three times a day, we go out and feed the chicks. They eat a lot. I mean a LOT!  They drink lots of water too so we're constantly refilling their waterers.  We pull fresh grass every day so even though they aren't outside, they still get fresh grass and, wow, do they love it!  I spend time simply sitting on a bench in the stall watching them to make sure they are all doing well and  none of them are having problems.  These are some very happy, active, curious chicks.  I love watching them chase each other when one has a special leaf in its mouth. They eat, they drink, they play, they sleep.

Now that they're a week and a half old, they are losing their fluffy baby-chick down and their real feathers are coming in. It's an odd-looking stage for the chicks.  They're growing and gaining weight like champs.  The Cornish Cross are now almost 9 ounces.  The Buff Orpingtons are about 4 1/2 ounces.  This weight difference is normal because the Cornish Cross are fast growing, meat birds.  They are bred to grow quickly.  The Orpingtons are an egg laying breed. They don't need to gain weight and since they're a laying breed we'll butcher the cockerels at around 4 or 5 months of age.  We'll most likely keep the hens to augment our layer flock.

Enjoying some fresh grass

Those are some hungry chicks!

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