By Gwen Dawkins
We’ve added some new girls to our family and they are pretty darn cute. I’m starting a new flock for my backyard chicken hobby. This will be my second batch. And, to be honest, I’m excited to start anew. After the last year and a half, bringing new life home feels very good right now. A few months ago, I reluctantly let my remaining three chickens from my previous flock “go for a ride,” with an acquaintance –– no questions asked. As it turns out, chickens only lay for about three years. I’d had mine for a little more than four years –– so they remained pets — just not the cuddly kind. I know from my other friends who raise chickens, introducing new chicks or chickens to an existing flock is tough. Pecking order is real! So I decided to start an entirely new flock.
The new girls are currently about two and a half weeks old, so still in the brooder box phase. Without their mother to keep them warm, chicks need to be kept inside in a heated box for the first three to seven weeks. You can make your own brooder box, but since I’m not in the poultry-breeding business, I’m using an easy-to-find large Rubbermaid bin with a heat lamp clipped to the top. It’s actually pretty easy to start your own flock, and now is a great time to do it if you’ve been fantasizing about backyard chickens. Don’t worry if you don’t have a chicken coop yet, as the baby chicks need to stay inside for the first several weeks. I’ll address coops in a later post, but here’s a nice roundup of some good chicken coops.
There are lots of beginning chicken-keeping kits like this and this one. Be forewarned that because they have a light on 24/7 to keep them warm, the chicks are up jibber-jabbering for much of the night. Aside from the bin, heat lamp, thermometer and food/water containers, you’ll just need wood shavings for the bedding and chick starter food for the first four months. Some starter is medicated, but I’m going with medicated-free.
My little pipsqueaks are already jumping on top of the water and food dispensers, and one made it out of the bin altogether. We’ll add chicken wire to the top of the bin soon.
Have you thought about getting backyard chickens? In addition to hatcheries that ship chicks almost anywhere, many local hardware stores carry chicks in spring. Feed stores usually have a large selection of breeds. From what I understand, since Covid-19 began, interest in chicken keeping is suddenly on the rise. March and April are chick season. Will you join me?