Farm letter: Welcome baby chicks

After much thought, calculation, and preparation, the broiler chicks have arrived. They are a feisty bunch,  with some being so bold that they charge and peck at our fingers.  This is what we want, though. Active birds.  Broilers have a reputation of being lazy and prone to health issues, so we do a lot to encourage activity in our birds.

baby chick cornish x cross

Pretty cute, eh?

In order to keep these birds happy, comfortable, and active, the first consideration is space.  We set up an adaptable brooder that starts out with approximately one third of a square foot of space per chick.  This might sound like cramped quarters, but when they are this small it is plenty.  Plus it helps keep them warm, as there is less space to heat.

In a couple of weeks we will expand the brooder to allow them more room to stretch their legs. Heat will be less of a concern by then, as they develop more feathers, fat, and muscle to maintain their heat independent of their surroundings.

As for HOW we actually keep the birds warm, we go the standard route with a 250 watt brooder lamp that is on 24×7 for the first weeks.  Every week we will be raising the height of the lamp bit by bit to lower the temperatures in the brooder.

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At around 4 weeks the chickens will be fully feathered with bright white plumage and thus they’ll be ready for the great outdoors in their chicken tractors (read about tractors here).  More on that when we get there!

In other chicken news, we got a delivery of supplies for a new and improved chicken coop. After moving our wacky hens from one cobbled together shelter to another, we’ve finally settled on their new location and a design that will keep them safe and comfortable year round.  Will it be built this week? Only time will tell.

ameraucana hens hanging out in the daffodils

It is officially the busy time of year! So much to do!  Let’s shift focus to fruits and vegetables now!

mcintosh apple tree leaves

We scored 3 new apple trees that we will plant this week.  McIntosh and Gravenstein will join our Macoun and Cortland trees and will make things look almost like a mini orchard out there!  Even though all the trees are still very small, the potential for our own apples in these varieties is very exciting.  When selecting any food to grow, our first consideration is how it tastes and cooks, and the varieties of apples we hope to grow is no exception.  Case in point, we chose to get a Gravenstein tree solely because of Jeffrey Steingarten’s recommendation for an optimal apple pie in The Man Who Ate Everything.   When we get to that pie someday, it will be so, so satisfying!

slice of lattice top apple pie
click here for our “apple flavored” apple pie recipe, which skips the cinnamon and focuses the flavor where it should be!

In the garden, our garlic and rhubarb are the only color so far.  The rhubarb is already showing wonderful reds and greens under lush leaves.  Just a matter of time before that first pie of the year!  And the garlic has us very excited.  We’ve never grown it before, so seeing all the shots of pointy green leaves is a thrill.

garlic sprouting

Inside, our seedlings are doing very well, so the garden won’t be so lonely for long!

That’s about it for this week.  Let’s see how much progress we can make out there before the next time we write!  So much fulfilling work to be done!

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