No Chicks for Old Women
o meat chicks that is. I decided to take a year off of raising meat birds, not a decision I take lightly, but it so happens that my chicken mentor still raises really nice birds so I got on his list this year. I will still be starting my replacement pullets in a couple of weeks so I thought this would be a good time for a refresher post on chick tips for pastured poultry.
I really am going to miss handling these meaty guys. They are so cute and solid at this stage. Much calmer too than layer pullets, but I’ll just have to get my Cornish cute fix with photos from the archives.
I think many times people get turned off by these industrial type meat chicks because they really aren’t set up to handle them, or they try to compare these birds to birds of other breeds. I like them because they do exactly what I want; they grow a nice carcass in a short time. I realize I am going against the heirloom grain here, instead of the focusing on the bad things about the Cornish, I like to spend my energy seeing the good in this hybrid breed. I like their efficiency, I could care a whit about making friends with them. I know production is thought to be a four letter word in homesteading circles but sorry, I don’t like wasting money. I often think folks who say they don’t have enough personality compared to a layer are only comparing size, not age. I’ve raised lots of chicks, and I have not seen too many 8 week old chicks of any breed really show any personality, they are just too young at that age. I’m more concerned about filling my freezer than satisfying the beauty contest rules.
Getting your chicks off to a good start is the most important thing, no matter what breed you choose.
♥ A clean, predator proof brooding area. I use a little greenhouse for this purpose – natural light beats artificial, hands down. Plus I’m not worrying about burning down the barn! On many days I do not need to use heat lamps. Who doesn’t want to use less electricity?
♥ Clean bedding refreshed as needed. Not when it gets finally gets offensive to you.
♥ Fresh clean water at all times.
♥ Appropriate feed – high protein chick start mash is best. I add boiled eggs the first few days just to make up for any shortfall in the protein content of the feed.
♥ Adequate feeder space – this is a biggie. You must have enough lineal feeder space so that each chick could be eating at the same time. I like reel feeders best. Small ones for in the brooder at first, and then graduating to the ones with legs for height adjustment as the chicks get larger.
♥ Grit from day one. Grit is the teeth for chickens. They need to fill their gizzards with grit if you expect them to fully utilize their food and be able to assimilate the grass. Grass is vitamins for chickens, and if they can’t properly grind that grass they aren’t really getting their vitamins. I use #1 fine and switch over to #2 about the time the chicks go out on pasture. Just to make sure everyone gets some, I top dress their feed with grit. If you see feed ingredients that are being passed over in your feeders, add grit or ask your feed mill why your grains aren’t cracked???? I see that a lot with the newer “alternative” feed sellers. Good feed is scarcer than hen’s teeth and if you’re paying a premium for feed and getting whole seeds, you’re getting a pig in a poke. Funny how all those old sayings relate back to the days when farming was important and the norm.
♥ Keep separate areas for older mature birds and chicks. Chicks are pretty susceptible to parasites and while sure, it can be done, why risk less feed efficiency to worms. This goes for pasture too, separate areas for different classes really makes more sense in many ways. I want my broiler chicks to get all the fresh range they can, and they leave enough manure for one year with each daily pen move that I don’ t want more chicken manure in the same place, too much of a good thing (high nitrogen chicken manure) is just as bad as not enough.
I’m looking forward to my chicken vacation this summer. It won’t be the same without these guys.