About a month and a half ago the farm acquired 80 baby chickens. For the first 5 weeks, we kept them in the garage of the intern house, in a homemade pen made of cardboard. They arrived a few days before I started working here, and since then Gretchen and I have been checking on them at least 4times a day, as a result we have both grown very attached.
Baby Chicken Timeline:
In preparation, before the babies arrived, Gretchen and Justin, built a round pen made of cardboard lined with plastic, in the garage of the intern house. It must be round so weaker chickens are not “cornered.” They then hung two lights from the ceiling with red warming light bulbs, and lined the pen with wood chips. We then waited for their arrival.
Week 1: The babies arrived from the hatchery, and Paige and Justin quickly took them to their new home. The light bulbs are lowered very close to the babies to keep them warm; as they get older the light bulbs are raised, and then one is removed. They must have constant access to food and water, so it was very important that Gretchen and I check on them a few times a day, to keep their feeders full. It was interesting to see as they aged how much food they started eating.
Week 4: By now the chickens are in their awkward adolescent teenage years. Their feathers are molting, and they are starting to get taller. This is also when I realized I could pick them up like a bird, and put them on my shoulder, without them flying off.
By the end of week 4 they were getting more adventurous and trying to escape their pen by flying up to the edge and resting. Eventually we would go to check on them and a few would be outside the pen walking around, but they would never stray to far from the pen because they were scared. As more and more kept flying out we new it was time to move them outside.
Week 5: The big move. By this time they were old enough to be moved outside. So we got their new home ready on the farm, loaded them up in the truck and drove them over. I think it was an exciting experience for everyone, even the chickens who finally saw grass for the first time, but Gretchen and I were sad to see them leave our garage.
It has been almost two weeks since we moved them. Since then Gretchen and I have realized the natural cycle of life when it comes to chickens, and how it is normal to lose a few along the way, which we have. Mostly due to environmental causes, but it is still difficult to grasp.
-chickens can live 6 to 7 years
-they do not start laying eggs until 5 months of age
-laying cycle can last anywhere from 12 to 14 months, in this time span they can lay anywhere from 20 to 22 dozen eggs.
Next time you come to the farm, stop by and say hi to the little girls.