The last week has been a joyful blur as we added some new feathery friends to our growing flock. Having dabbled in ducks for the past year we decided to give chicken rearing a go and although they both have feathers these new friends couldn’t be more different.
We began our chicken journey with a group of 4 Barred Plymouth Rocks hens (turns out they were 2 hens and two roos!). Barred Plymouth Rock chickens are a beloved breed of poultry that have been around for hundreds of years. Known for their striped black and white feathers, these chickens are known to be both hardy and docile – making them a great choice for both beginner and experienced flock-keepers alike. They are also excellent layers, with some hens laying up to 300 eggs per year in typical conditions! After these 4 had settled in nicely we thought it was time to try our hand at raising baby chicks.
If you’re a new flock-keeper like us, there are some important things you need to know. First, understanding the basics of chicken care is essential for the health and wellbeing of your new flock. This includes proper nutrition and hygiene, learning how to identify different illnesses, getting familiar with common predators in your area, and knowing about the effects of weather on chickens. For us here in Qualicum Beach we have mink, racoons, rodents and of course bears and cougars who can pose a risk to our flock. Our weather here on Vancouver Island can be quite cold and wet in the fall and winter (who are we kidding, the spring as well) so ensuring that we have a dry coop that is free of drafts is essential.
Second, To ensure your baby chicks feel comfortable, it’s important to set up a cozy home for them. Before heading out into the coop with the big girls, chicks need to hang out in their brooder for 6-ish weeks. Inside the brooder box, install a red heat lamp to keep the temperature around 35 Celsius during their first week. Young chicks cannot regulate their own temperature yet, so a warm environment is vital. Additionally, using a red lamp will help camouflage any potential injuries from the young chicks’ eyes – as they would be more likely to peck at anything that may look injured. We have another post on the correct temperature settings for both ducks and chickens in different environments.
Third, it’s essential to give your chicks enough space as they start growing. Overcrowding can lead to stress and illness, so make sure they have plenty of room in their brooder box or henhouse as they get older.
Fourth, regular cleaning is key when it comes to keeping baby chicks healthy – replace the bedding frequently and do spot checks for signs of infestation or disease. The little chickees can sometimes get excrement stuck to their feet that must be removed several times a day to prevent injury. When selecting bedding it is important not to introduce them right away to wood shavings as they can mistake these for food and can cause injury.
Lastly, remember that young chickens can sometimes be frightened by loud noises or sudden movements – always handle them with patience and care. Reaching over them can cause them stress so gently placing your hand into the brooder to allow for them to get comfortable before picking them up is the quickest way to win them over.
We are excited for these hens to start producing eggs later this summer but in the meantime, our ducks have been busy making eggs for the Spider Lake community – you can scoop up our eggs here and have them ready for on farm pick up.
We hope this post has has been helpful for you! Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you can be the first to hear about changes or additions to our flock.