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Chick Fever February 26, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Yes, it’s that time of year again. That season when I am stricken with The Fever.

I don’t have a stomach bug or that nasty upper respiratory thing going around. No, this has more long-term repercussions. Chick Fever.

We have been unable to keep up with the demand for our eggs, so we have been planning to expand our flock. For months now, I have been perusing hatchery websites, checking out various breeds, comparing prices and so on. I knew I couldn’t order hundreds (though that would tickle me pink!), so I very carefully chose two pullets of this breed, three of that, a cockerel to bring in new bloodlines, a set of birds to raise specifically for meat, etc.

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(I asked the hatchery to identify what breed each chick was. They used different colored markers to differentiate them -note the dots visible on some of their heads. They then put a color code on the invoice so I could tell what breed each color indicated. An order must contain at least 25 chicks so that they can stay warm enough during the trip. Just prior to hatching, a chick absorbs the remaining yolk in the egg which allows it to go up to 3 days without additional food and water. This sustains the chick during shipment).

The order came in early Friday morning. I know they arrived early because the post office called me at 5:38 a.m. to let me know! They were eager for me to come pick them up.

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(Benjamin and Rachel couldn’t wait to help unload the chicks. They lovingly passed me each and every one, complimenting them on their cuteness as they handed them off).

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(Warming up under the heat lamp in their new, but temporary home).

Our box of tiny fuzzballs contained New Hampshires, White Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Delawares, Silver-Gray Dorkings, Buff Brahmas, Blue Cochins, Cuckoo Marans, Welsummers, White Giants, White-Faced Black Spanish, and a Silver-Spangled Spitzhauben. One Spanish had perished during its journey through the mail and one more has since passed away (the one Spitzhauben or a Blue Cochin, I think), but otherwise they are doing well. They will soon outgrow the stock tank brooder we are presently keeping them in.

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(Though we locked him out of the barn, Coco couldn’t help himself when he heard all the “cheeping” of helpless chicks. He scaled the outside wall of the stall and came in under the eaves).

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(After he got in, he regretted it. He was 10 feet up with no way to get down from his 2 inch ledge. At least he tried to look graceful when he fell. We picked him up and tossed him right back out of the barn. He stayed out that time).

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(Cousin Kay came to see the new chicks. Aunt Brenda was afraid she would love them too hard, but she did well with them).

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(Benjamin with his third or fourth “favorite one”).

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Comments»

1. Marci - February 26, 2007

I love to have little ones around when the chicks arrive. My dogs LOVE the chicks. The one dog just trembles with excitement. She will just stare at them or lick them. She never hurts them. We need to get our chicks ordered!!!

2. Grams - February 26, 2007

LOVE the latest additions to your blog!
Precious babies …. ALL
Luv, Grams

3. aunt brenda - February 26, 2007

Thanks for letting us come see the new chicks! We had a great time. Hugs to B & R and especially little bean bag, Lydia.
PS
How is Patches doing since her latest eruption?

4. Christi - March 1, 2007

Aww. I am about to order mine too.
And Lydia is so adorable so cute!

5. Emily - March 4, 2007

Awwww….now I’m feeling nostalgic about the first brood we got last spring. I have a question for you, if you have the time to respond! I’ve just been catching up with your most recent posts and see that you have a couple of turkeys. We still have only chickens and guineas but have a chance to trade some layers for a Narragansett tom. Beautiful bird! Anyway, not having experience with turkeys, I’ve been doing some research online and it seems as though everyone says it’s not a good idea to keep them with the chickens. I don’t think I’d want one if he can’t free range with the rest of the birds. How do you handle that? Also, do they eat the same feed? Thanks!

6. Laura - March 5, 2007

Hi, Emily. I LOVED your guinea posting and I’m looking forward to hearing how they taste!

It sounds like you’ve been doing some research, so I may not be adding to what you already know. I’d be glad to tell you how we handle our turkeys, but I’m not sure that I can say it’s the “right way.”

From what I understand, the main concern with intermixing turkeys and chickens is the transmission of a disease commonly called Blackhead. It is carried by some chickens, though they rarely become fatally ill. Not so with turkeys. There is a pretty high mortality rate among turkeys.

We have never had a problem with any illness among our birds, probably for a number of reasons. First, they are only confined at night, for their safety. Most of the day, they have free roam of our farm. Second, we have never brought mature birds in from other places- this has minimized the flock’s exposure to illness. Third, since our new birds come either as hatching eggs or day-olds, they have time to build immunity by gradual introduction to the mature birds. Most importantly, though, is that God seems to have blessed this endeavor for us thus far. We have fatalities from predators, but still our flock thrives.

I’d love to have a Royal Palm tom to keep Betsy and Martha company, but I would be hesitant to purchase a grown one because of the danger of introducing new germs. It can certainly be done (by quarantining, observing for signs of illness, and gradual introduction- like by penning NEAR the others for a while), but the solitary bird will not be happy alone during that time.

To answer your other questions- yes, our turkeys have been free ranged with the chickens and have done quite well, hustling a good bit of their own food. I’m not sure they know they aren’t just large chickens (especially since they tried to entice a rooster to mate with them). A broody hen hatched them and they’ve run with chicks every since. They have always eaten the same food and roosted on the same poles at night. They just can’t fit in the same laying boxes now.

According to all the books, we “should” be providing a lot more store bought ration than we do, but free-ranging keeps down the feed bill, keeps the tick population in check, and produces the wonderful orange-yolked eggs our customers want. We throw out enough scratch in the morning in their fenced yard to keep them busy for about 10 minutes, release them to forage, and then offer the same amount of scratch in the evening along with lay ration in a hanging feeder. Maybe our egg production would be higher if we were giving more feed, but we are satisfied with what we get for the cost. We only spend about $50 on feed a month, with egg sales paying for that with a bit left over. That is for approx. 50 adult birds and we sell about 2/3 of the eggs we get. The rest go for our own use or to give away to friends, elderly neighbors, etc. We don’t charge enough for our special eggs ($1.50/dozen), but we will probably raise prices for new customers.

Hope that helped some and I’d be glad to tell you anything else about what we have done if you are interested. I’ll be back to read your blog again soon.

7. Emily - March 6, 2007

Thank you, Laura! Your advice makes a lot of sense. I had forgotten that introducing a mature bird into the flock would create some problems….housing, new germs, etc. Now, if the Lord leads us in that direction, getting some turkey chicks would probably be the best route. They’ll have be Narragansett, though. I love the look of those birds! I find it so incredibly amusing that your turkey hens are “romantically” attached to your rooster. Too funny! I haven’t even seen any breeding activity among the guineas. They’re too busy picking on the chickens I guess.

We do buy feed for the chickens but they don’t eat much of it in the warmer weather when they have access to the plants and insects. Now they’re consuming quite a bit. We pay a little over $9 for 50 lbs. and for the chickens and guineas – 26 birds in all – it lasts them about a month I believe. We’re getting 9 eggs a day consistently from the ten hens, despite the cold and shorter daylight hours. I only have one egg customer who buys 5 dozen every 2-3 weeks. The rest I give away and use myself to feed the family.

Just one more question (don’t laugh!): do the turkey hens lay eggs daily?

8. Laura - March 7, 2007

I think the Narragansetts are beautiful, too! They are what I was originally planning to get, but I didn’t find eggs available when we had hens to brood them.

And, I’m not laughing at your turkey egg question- especially since I’m not sure of the answer!

I have noticed Royal Palm eggs available for a lot more months of the year than other breeds. I don’t know if they actually tend to lay for more months or if there are just more people selling that breed of egg. I know my own birds began laying by early February, but I can’t say exactly when or how often, or even if both birds were laying. I found two eggs in the henhouse before the girls started to hide out. By the time I found their brooding nest, there were about 15 or so in it and they had stopped laying to brood them.

I would still like to get Narragansetts some time, but Royal Palms are a good size bird for the average size family’s use. They are smaller than many other breeds- I’m guessing our females weigh about 15 pounds each- so buyers won’t end up with an overabundance of turkey to use up after Thanksgiving. If we can ever get a good sized flock, we’d like to be able to sell them seasonally. We’ll see, though. We’ll have to build a plucker first.

It sounds like your birds are really good foragers and great egg producers! Cost-effective little gals! Ours love scratch but much prefer forage to lay ration. The pickings are still pretty slim right now- no grasshoppers, tomatoes, hostas, (the chickens consider many of the plants their personal salad 😦 ) or other favorites- so they cost more to feed in the winter, too.

I’ve enjoyed comparing notes. I love to hear what others are doing.

9. Sheryl - March 8, 2007

How cute. I will be interested to see how the striped ones look as they get older.

10. Linda - March 20, 2007

Dear chicken-mama Laura,
I was so happy to find an old posting from you that I saved and was able to visit your ‘blog’ again. Your babies are wonderful.. both two legged and those beautiful feathered ones. I loved catching up.. Percy indeed is absolutely magnificent.! We never did turkeys. My grandfather always raised enough for family and neighbors and although I was small, somehow I knew they were much more of a challenge than the chickens he had.

I can almost feel how I felt way back – in Maine with our barn full of assorted 2 and 4 legged creatures. Thanks again for so many memories and may the blessings of the Lord overtake you and yours.
Linda in Florida

11. Meet the Flock, part 5 « The Farm Chronicles of Blessed Acres - June 22, 2007

[…] the Flock, part 5 June 22, 2007 Posted by chickenmama in Farm. trackback The wee babes we received in February are growing up.  They have full feathers and now forage freely with the […]


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