Ever since I saw the movie The Egg And I years ago, I have wanted to raise chickens. Finally, we live on a farm so my dream has come true. On April 30, 2020, we went to a small feed store close to Rossville to pick up everything we would need to set up for baby chicks. We had called the store earlier in the week and we were told that they would receive a shipment of chicks on May 1. Yay!
When we entered the store, we heard lots of faint peeps. The clerk told us the chicks were just received that day, one day early and if we waited, they would be gone. They had Americaunas, also knows as Easter Eggers because they lay blue eggs, Rhode Island Reds, and Barred Rock chicks. David said we would take eight of each. Then the lady said they also had some guinea chicks. He said we would take two of those. We got a water jug, a feed dish, some feed, a warming light and bulb, and some cedar shavings. They handed me a box of peeping birds. We paid and headed for home, totally unprepared.
Now David's Garden Seeds® Farm has chickens!
I had been reading chick books for weeks, getting ready to raise chicks and I did not even have a place to put these pretty little balls of fluff. We got home and found a not-big-enough cardboard box. I lined the box with cedar, got the water and food ready and put the warming lamp together. Then, one by one, I placed each sweet chick into the box. They were just adorable. We had zero yellow chicks and one white one-one of the guineas. The other guinea has stripes on top of his head that go down his back.
All 26 of them ran from me every time I came near the box. I was in the shed where we kept the box all throughout the day. I had read that we would lose several chicks by the time it was all over. I am happy to report that today is June 3, 2020 and the chicks are five weeks old today, all 26 of them!
When you raise chickens, you find out that they are not very clean. In fact, they poop in their food and water dishes all day long. They also somehow put the cedar shavings into their food and water dishes so that they cannot eat or drink. So all day long, you have to empty them, wash them, and give them new food and water. Then they do it again.
They are drinking city tap water at first and eating chick crumble. They will eat this for the first six months.
Another thing you have to worry about is keeping the chicks warm enough. When chicks first come out of the egg, they have to be kept at 95° Fahrenheit. As the sun goes down in Texas, it gets chilly for them and the chicks huddle up because they are so cold. I had to continually monitor their temperature for the first two weeks, keeping them at 95° for the first week and at 90° for the second week. The third and fourth weeks, we tried to keep them between 80° and 85°.
By the end of the first week, the cardboard box was falling apart
from being wet. I went to Tractor Supply and found a six foot oval stock
tank for $179.00. I bought it and brought it home. I lined it with wood
shavings and transferred all of the chicks, one by one. They were
squawking so loudly, you would have thought I was torturing them by
lifting them out of the cardboard. Then they would get happy when I put
them in the stock tank. They had a lot of room!
By the end of
the second week, the chicks were flying and they had to have wire placed
over the tank to prevent them from flying out. Every time I would lift
the wire to feed or water them, the chicks would try to escape.
By the end of the fourth week, I decided they were sturdy enough with most of their feathers and some really hot Texas heat to be put out in our chicken coop that we had made. It is large enough to walk in with 20 nesting boxes and lots of fun roosting ladders for the chicks.
We got the 26 chickens into the inner part of the chicken coop last Thursday morning. I lined all of the nesting boxes with shaved wood and put a small amount on the floor of the inner coop. They absolutely loved getting out of the brooder and out into a large space. Now they can fly as well.
Tomorrow will be such a fun day to release them into the chicken run of the coop. They will love it. I am so glad I get to raise chickens.
The books I have read and the videos about chickens that I have watched on YouTube claim that if you leave the chicks in the inner part of the coop where the nesting boxes are for one week, then they will walk back in on their own each evening when the sun sets. I hope it is true. I guess I will find out tomorrow evening.
We won't get any eggs until some time in October according to the books. The books say they can start laying small eggs sometime in the fifth month but not to expect any eggs until the sixth month. They lay the most eggs of their lifetime in the first two years which is why a lot of people who raise chickens add some chicks to their flock each years so there is always a steady supply of fresh eggs. The older ones will continue to lay eggs but not as many as during the first two years.
Back in early July, we got a large evaporative cooler for our chickens as this is Texas and the temperature hits 100° F. or more a lot of the time. The chickens love the cool air blowing in their coop. It feels pretty good.
Yes, our chickens are spoiled rotten, but they are just so cute! I find I worry less about them during the day when I am working now that they have air conditioning. Honestly, if you have not experienced a south Texas summer, you may not understand, but it is HOT down here!
The chickens now peck at my boots every morning as I stand there watching them come out and eat. I have wanted to raise chickens for many years so I try to have a bit of time with them each morning. They are fun to watch. The two guineas rule the roost, especially the large one with stripes and polka-dots. I think he might be a boy. He is far bigger than the white guinea and more aggressive. Also, I think one of the Rhode Island Reds is a boy. He stands taller and has a full comb. The chicks were supposed to have been sexed, but not the guineas. Either way, I believe we have two men chicks among us.
Our chickens are almost 11 months old now. I collect between 12 to 24 eggs a day. One of the hens is actually a rooster but he is so handsome that I kept him. I keep calling him a girl so he won't turn mean and attack me. I have heard a lot of horror stories about roosters from folks around here. I have been selling a few eggs. We get such pretty eggs and they taste far better than the white eggs at the grocery store.
We had some pecking problems and finally figured out that it is the two guineas who were pecking feathers off of the chickens. So we let the guineas out of the chicken coop and they hated it. The male guinea spent each day slamming himself against or kicking the wire on the coop to get back in. So we started letting them back in, but not in the same sections that the chickens were in. Our coop was built in three sections and is pretty large, sort of like a large chicken fortress! We added on a large run area for the chickens to spend the day in, playing and enjoying the air conditioning.
While this was going on, we built a guinea coop and we moved the guineas over to it as soon as it was complete. They love it. We let them out to free range but they don't want to be out for long. We leave the door open and they go back in.
This past Friday, I added 12 new babies to the flock. Not really. The new baby chicks are in the galvanized tub in our shed with a brooder. On Monday morning, they were all gathered together and suffocated one so now we have 11. I feel so bad but it got cold that night. If they had stayed under the brooder, they would have been fine but I guess they could not find the brooder in the dark. I have been leaving a light on at night since and they are fine.
We added 11 new baby chicks to the flock in March of 2021. We got three new breeds.
One of our original chicks just disappeared. I think one of the workers let it escape or it was dead and they threw it out without telling me. I hate that our workers go in there but David has them helping. I asked about it but no one claims to know anything.
We lost a few who crashed into a beam in the chicken house. Matt bought some thick foam rubber and attached it to the beam. We have not lost anymore of them to that.
A few more died but we do not know why. These have been separate incidents. We gave our rooster away to one of our team members in the summer.
We found another dead hen one afternoon in the spring but have no idea why. None of the others is sick.
It is now June 22, 2022 and the chickens are doing well in the 100° heat and laying eggs. I did not get any new baby chicks this year but I am sure we will add some next spring. I think it is too late to find any chicks now.
So now the flock consists of 29 hens. The chickens are laying decently in August of 2022. They are enjoying a lot of watermelon to help them stay hydrated in the 100° plus heat that we are still having and have been having since May. We are in an extreme drought so we make it a point to check on the chicken waters throughout the day.
This month, we did find another dead Barred Rock. I think she was just too fat for her own good. We are down to 27 hens. They are not laying well at all because of the shorter days and because of the cold. When you raise chickens, you should be aware that they don't like to lay eggs when they are molting (losing feathers) in the fall, when the days grow short (in the fall), when it is very cold and when it is extremely hot.
We have tried leaving a coop light on all night long but we usually get three to five eggs anyway. Sometimes, we get seven or more but very rarely during the cooler winter months. My plan is to add to our flock substantially this year.
The article below was written today by my husband, David of David's Garden Seeds®. The price of eggs per dozen at Walmart has soared to $5.18 locally, to $7 in El Paso, and to $9 in stores in San Antonio. That is truly ridiculous. The price of feed is expensive these days and supposedly, they had some bird flu up North last year but that is no reason to jack the price of food up for all of us, is it?
With the current rise in egg prices, we have had some city slickers come out to the farm thinking that the eggs are cheaper here. I am not sure why they are thinking like this. Actually it costs a whole lot more for us to produce eggs than what it costs in the stores.
The eggs you buy in the big box stores are mass produced. The eggs that the stores buy come from commercial farms where food, water, egg gathering,
and packing are all automated. The chickens are in cages. Their food is bought on a wholesale basis.
the farm, food and water are given to the chickens by hand, twice a
day. Cleaning out the coop by hand and filling it with fresh wood chips and hay are all done by hand. Gathering the eggs is done by hand. Sometimes we have to actually move the
chicken to get to the egg (they get broody). Our chickens only lay one egg every 26 hours or so, in most
cases. They don't all lay everyday, especially at certain times of the year, from molting to cold weather.
We have to wash the eggs by hand and pack them by hand. Very time consuming. And we have to follow a host of rules as a supplier of eggs in our county. We have to put the date of the harvest on the package, not the "use by date" as the big suppliers do. You really have no idea how old the eggs are at the grocery store. But if you can boil them and peel them, then they are at least two weeks old (in my experience).
have a fairly large area for our chickens. But they have a small room
where they like to roost. We have to open the roost in the morning and
close it at night. We have to pay full retail for our chicken feed and
other goodies for the chickens. We have to pay full retail for our egg
crates, hay, and wood chips.
So if you are planning a trip out to the country to find cheaper eggs, you will not find them. But if you want the freshest, best quality eggs from chickens who are treated well, then go out to the country and buy them. But you will need to wait for several weeks if you plan on boiling them and peeling them without half of the egg sticking to the shell. And, in my opinion, all the hacks to be able to peel a fresh egg, like steaming, or adding baking soda, don't work.
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