The annual routine has begun again. The call a few minutes after seven in the morning. “This is ____ from the post office, your chicks have arrived.” Really no need to point out that the chicks have arrived, I can hear them peeping in the background.
I use cold frames based on an Elliot Coleman design as my brooders. I have added 2×6’s to the frame to give the birds a bit more headroom. My frames are about 4’x7′ (a size that was determined by the aluminum storm windows we had removed during our home renovation). I can fit 100 birds in a cold frame that size as long as I move them to pasture before they are 3 weeks old.
By waiting until this late in the spring, I am quite certain that the nights won’t be too frosty 15 to 20 days from now when I move them out.
This first batch was 100 Freedom Rangers that I mail ordered from Abendroths Hatchery in Waterloo, WI. I hadn’t had any experience with this hatchery but my sister-in-law has had many years of good experience with them. I have ordered Freedom Rangers from Pennsylvania in the past. The birds I got this year are eggs from that hatchery and by ordering them from a hatchery in Wisconsin I have reduced their travel fatique significantly.
Later in the week I will be receiving 50 Silver Cross from Nolls Hatchery in Pennsylvania and 3 weeks from now I have 50 Cornish Cross coming from Sunnyside Hatchery in Beaver Dam, WI. I staggered the delivery dates in order to be able to group the Silver and Cornish Crosses on one butchering date – their growth rates vary that much.
To help the birds settle into their brooder, I provide them with a water solution that is 1 cup of sugar and 3 T. of cider vinegar mixed with 1 gallon of water. This seems to give them a boost of energy right off. They will continue to receive a ‘glug’ of cider in their water throughout their lives. I have read that it helps increase their productivity, most likely by aiding digestion and allowing them to fully benefit from the organic feed they receive.
For the entire time that they are in the brooder, they will be receiving a sprinkle of turmeric on top of their feed each time I replenish it. The turmeric has antibacterial qualities and seems to help reduce problems with coccidia. Last year was the first time that I used turmeric, sugar and cider and my losses were much lower than previous years. Just one chick in each batch of birds instead of 3-5 like I had often experienced before.
I purchase my organic feed from S&S Grains in Arcadia, WI. Bob and Connie offer reasonable/stable prices and are very willing to work with a group of farmers up here (nearly 150 miles away from Arcadia) to cooperatively fill up their delivery truck, thus spreading the shipping costs across a much larger order.
The starter/grower mix they prepare contains: corn, roasted soybeans, wheat, crab meal, fish meal, Fertrell Poultry Nutribalancer, calcium and grit. I do sprinkle a bit more grit on top of the feeders each time I replenish them because I have read that having plenty of grit available can also increase their productivity.
Our little dog Sophie – just one year old – can probably remember the broiler chickens from last year, but the brooding process was over before she joined our household. We’re having a good training opportunity today. She is excited but doing really well. I’m not too nervous that I will turn my back and find she has torn off covers to get at the little peepers. I have high hopes that she will help me to herd the broilers into their pens at night later this summer.
In case you are wondering about her breeding, so were we. We found out she is 1/2 Jindo, 1/4 Schipperke and 1/4 English Springer Spaniel.