Work To &Thru College

Our Backyard: Chicks, Hens, and Roosters

    In general the raising of chickens was a repetitious family task.  We would feed the chicken in mornings and evenings.  We would gather eggs generally in the evenings. On Saturday mornings we would clean the eggs placing them in cases containing thirty dozen eggs.  Load then in the trunk of the car and take them to the Co-op.  This weekly/daily schedule would be interrupted with exciting major events such as arrival of new chicks. Our lot contained two double chicken coops that were resupplied with chickens on an annual schedule. Every year we would clean out one of our coops in anticipation of a shipment of small yellow fluffy chicks. I really loved this annual event the chicks were so cut but so vulnerable. Little chicks had to be cared for seemingly all day and night every day until they were grown.

To make room for the new chickens, we would sell a coop full of chickens, clean out a coop. On one occasion we rented a neighbors coop so that we would not loose one fourth of our eggs production.  Every thing was cleaned spotless and a cardboard fence was placed around to limit the range of movement of the new chicks. Clean straw was added and the central piece of equipment “The Brooder or high tech mother hen” was the focus of every thing. The brooder (6-8 ft in diameter) was a neat high tech conical device with legs such that the chicks to come and go through a curtain that keep the heat in. The brooder had heater elements and thermo sensors that maintained a temperature ideal for the young chicks. If they got to warm they could move into the cooler areas. It was their substitute for a mother hen. It was the high tech nature of this brooder that impressed me. It had a red light bulb (~1” in diameter) that indicated when the heater element was on - heating and a temperature dial. Other high tech items included a bottle of water inverted over a circular water trough. This neat item replaced the water as the chicks drank from  it. There were feeding troughs that allowed the chicks to eat during the daylight time.

We spent many of our days watching and aiding the young birds. One of the first dangers was crowding. They could clump up and suffocate some of the bottom chicks. We made sure that there were no corners in the cardboard fence. Thus we were watching for bunching up of chicks. We would scatter them around to prevented suffocation. As they got older and more independent the next worry was pecking each other. As they developed feathers there was a tendency to preen and pluck feathers. If a chick started to bleed then every chick would peck at the red spot. Once this started we had to remove the chick and paint it with blue vitriol which did discouraged pecking. If we did not intervene the chicks would peck each other to death. The chickens that we did not save died what I thought was a horrible death. As the chicks grew the card board area increased and soon the brooder was removed. Soon they could fly and we would introduce them to the water trough and the adult feeders. The transitions were all done very carefully with the chicks having both options for a while and then the transition was completed.

    Soon the chick's yellow down was replaced with adult white feathers and they became hens. Now the care for them became more like work and less like fun. They would soon be producing eggs and paying their way.