I got the call from Pine Pride Hatchery this last Tuesday (3/27) that my 50 Red Star Ranger chicks were ready to be picked up. I really wasn't expecting them for a few more days so I was a little unprepared. Since I was in the middle of a construction project in the garage, I decided that the brooder box needed to be moved into the shed. This was a good decision in hind sight since it is secure and draft free, no loud noises like power saws, no paint or car fumes, etc. Moving that box by myself however was no small feat. Thank God for the wheels that got it 90% of the way. I added pine shavings, set up the feeder and watering jar, and turned on the heat lamps.
I picked up the chicks from the hatchery mid afternoon and the drive back home was uneventful except for some occasional peeping. My wife helped me put the chicks into the brooder box, one at a time and gently dipping their beaks into the water trough. I have read that this helps them to know where the water is. Of course my wife took about 5 minutes with each chick giving them lots of love and cooing over them. Telling her that we were going to be slaughtering and eating them in 12 weeks didn't seem to matter much to her. Just wait till they are big enough to start making a huge mess and then we will see how cute they are. Anyhow here are a few pictures from day one.
Okay so they are pretty cute now. But I know whats coming soon. Poop, and lots of it.
The chicks are doing well. No dead or sickly chicks, and the temperature must be good cause they aren't bunched up or keeping away from the heat lamps. I cannot believe how active they are, running back and forth from the heat lamp to the food and water. I also put some branches in for them to climb over and to roost on. They are very curious little guys. They love to peck the plastic thermometer (probably because it has a large red indicator) and seem fascinated by it. I am also amazed how at just a couple days old they instinctually act just like my adult hens, preening themselves, scratching the ground, backing up and looking down for something to eat, etc. I could swear that they are bigger too. Most are starting to develop their wing feathers.
This morning I found one dead chick. I expect to lose about 5 chicks so this is no surprise, but what is surprising is that we haven't lost any until today. I think its my fault though because I had to go and monkey with things yesterday. I decided to put the heat lamps on a chain so that I can adjust the height easier than with them sitting on the lid, especially when the lid gets opened. Since they seemed to be doing so well and not staying under the lamps very long, I removed the second lamp. It was a really nice warm day too so I opened the window on the shed. Well last night a storm rolled through and I forgot to shut the window, so they probably got too cold and one of them bought the farm. I put the second heat lamp back up this morning.
LESSON LEARNED: Too hot is better than too cold. If the chicks can move away from the heat lamp, leave them alone.
Also they are going through more food now. This morning the feeder was empty. As soon as I filled it all 49 chicks were going like gangbusters trying to eat. I realized that I need another feeder. I added another small feeder until the frenzy was over. I will be buying another large feeder this afternoon, and I guess I need to check and fill the feeder more than once a day.
The chicks are getting much bigger too. The wing feathers are filling in and now I can see tail feathers starting to come in as well. This big guy is a good example.