It's Spring and time for the chicks to be basking under their heat lamps. We're ordering heritage layers this year from another local farmer. Why heritage? People buy heritage birds for many different reasons including their personalities, sizes, looks and traits such as broodiness. We're getting heritage birds that are hardy to our climate and who actively forage for a large part of their food. The ability to feed themselves is one thing we love about turkeys too, they'll spend a good portion of their day roaming around and eating bugs and grass and what other tasty morsels they come across.
To get ready for our fine feathered friends we have a bale of pine shavings on hand, chick starter crumbles (food), heat lamps with extra bulbs (always have an extra bulb on hand because you don't want to have it pop on a Sunday evening when the stores are closed), and suitable dishes. Having a draft free pen or box for them is important too because you must be able to maintain a temperature of at least 80 degrees, and maybe a few degrees warmer for the first couple of weeks. I've always found that their behaviour is the best indicator of happiness. If they're huddled under the heat lamp, then they're too cold. If they are around the edges, lying out flat or panting then too warm. But if they're happily eating, drinking and sleeping all over the place they are happy. Watching your chicks is the easiest way to tell. Mounting your heat lamp with a chain is an easy way to adjust the temperature also because you can just raise or lower it by a notch or two until the chicks are happy. Providing a stable temperature room for your brooder with good ventilation is also important. Some places like the garage can get much cooler at night than you think.
Chicks are less temperature sensitive than turkeys. It's always been my opinion that turkey poults are just looking for a way to die, especially in the first 2 weeks. Once you can get them past that then they're fantastic to raise, particularly the hardy heritage breeds. I can't wait to get turkeys again.
One tip for all chicks and poults is to use feeders that are on a small stand. Make sure they can still reach the food and water easily, but by placing them up out of the shavings a little you'll keep the water cleaner and avoid having shavings fill up the dishes. Chicks are very messy little things, especially as they grow, so try to raise them in an area that's well ventilated and that you don't mind getting covered in the inevitable chick dust, a fine mix of shaving, poop and feather particles that are not nice to breathe in. That's why raising them outside once the weather is warmed is such a good idea.
I'm off to go check on all the animals. Hope the nice weather forecast for today holds true. We're plowing on Thursday this week and fencing on Friday and Saturday so it's going to be a fun week!
Oh, if you are moving to Greenwood and looking for a lovely family home, I know of 2 exceptional houses that just went on the market. One is here in the subdivision where we currently live and the other is a gorgeous 4 bdrm on Acker Court in Kingston, close to the schools. It's gorgeous and because of a late posting notice (they found out last week) it's just hitting the market now, priced about $25k less than similar homes. It's gorgeous inside, trust me I've been in there a lot :) I'll link to it ASAP.