Experiments in Chick Care

February 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

I show Curious Geoge where 'outside' is

Last year, we got 25 little chickens and raised them in a ‘standard’ way. We fed chick food, and used a fountain waterer. When they were about 6 weeks old, we moved them outside to the barn and then to the chicken tractor. They did perfectly well, but since I have started feeding that first year’s flock with whole grains, I wanted to experiment with making homemade chick feed, using whole and sprouted grains, and stay away from pre-mixed feed altogether.

This year’s batch (another 25 to round out our flock) will eat whole grains from the start. We’ve also been reworking our watering system with self-waterers instead of fountains (which are clumsy and get dirty fast.) I’ve started the chicks with rodent water bottles, which the curious little dumplings found fun to peck at first, and then water came out! The chicks have never got water from anything else. I hope that these two ‘early starts’ will make them healthier overall, more hardy and better at foraging, and also reduce the learning curve, both digestively and water-wise, when they move to the mobile coop.

Here are the chicks enjoying their fresh, clean water from the water bottle

Here is the recipe for the chick feed we mixed up:

10 lb cracked corn

20 lb whole wheat

5 lb barley

5 lb oats

5 lb black oil sunflower seeds

5 lb lentils

2 lb flax seeds

2 lb kelp meal

2 lb crushed crab shell

5 lb millet

.25 lb livestock salt

Supplemented with water laced with apple cider vinegar, a dish of cow’s milk, and scrambled eggs/baked eggshell. Because the grains are whole (and thus large for the little birdies) I also make sure they always have plenty of granite grit available. Sometimes I sprinkle granulated garlic over the whole mix, for extra immunity assistance.

As you might imagine, some of the seeds in the mix are bigger than the chicks’ beaks, so I sprout the mixture as often as I can to both soften the ingredients and break down the size so they have an easier time getting food into their crops. My sprouting method is very easy and un-scientific, but it works. The system is two five-gallon buckets, nested. In the ‘inside’ bucket, I drilled 5 very small holes (about the size of a millet seed.) Then I pour a day’s worth of food into the inside bucket, and cover it with water. The water very slowly drains into the ‘outside’ bucket, allowing the grain to soak for some time. After a day or so, I cover the grain with water again, and let it drain. By then, the wheat has usually begun to sprout. If too much water gathers in the bottom of the outside bucket, I empty it. With that method, the chicks (and the chickens too) get sprouted feed every other day.

And let’s hope that keeps the little guys growing up healthy and strong, ready to lay come June.

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