As I drove the moving truck out of the neighborhood, Rosie and Winston sat shotgun quietly. I could see the look on their face. They couldn’t believe what we just packed up in this bohemith of a truck. Quite frankly, I couldn’t either. They didn’t say a word – they just both gave me a kiss on the cheek and watched down the road.
Rosie and Winston are my two golden retrievers. Rosie is the senior dog at two years old while Winston, the puppy, is still learning the ropes in her young 14 weeks of age. We just spent the last two days loading nearly 100 baby chicks, six adult chickens, two rabbits and the two aforementioned golden retrievers into the truck. In addition to the animals, of course, came two chicken coops, a rabbit hutch, two dog kennels and two tubs that served as brooders for the newly acquired chicks.
Newly hatched chicks are very resilient yet fragile as the wind at the same time. I had approximately 40 broilers and 60 layers housed in two separate large plastic tubs. To get chicks just a week before a move is not something I recommend at all. My family thought I was crazy but when the opportunity to get the chicks presented itself I wanted to take advantage of it.
I started the chicks in a two feet by three feet tub with the smallest waterer and feeder I could find. They remained on the landing of the stairs for that week prior to our move. Two tubs, two waters, two feeders, two heat lamps, 100 chicks – all in the front door of our home that we were carrying furniture out of.
With the truck loaded - our destination was set. Well sort of set. The farm we were moving to would offer plenty of room for the chicks to roam in time but for now as the farm house needed some repairs we would be staying with family for the next week or so. I guided Noah’s Ark to my parents’ house and promptly set up all the animals in their garage. I could see the worry, concern and astonishment on my mother’s face as the chicks peeped, the rabbits drank, the chickens cackled and the two dogs walked around knocking over golf clubs and everything else that wasn’t fastened down in her garage.
For the next two weeks the chicks got bigger, and the number of tubs increased to accommodate their growth. As I watched them grow, I knew they were going to need a bigger brooder fast. My plan for a wooden, divided brooder that would keep the chicks happy and safe certainly looked better in my mind than the final result. After the last nail was hammered in, I stepped back to take a look and the first thought that crossed my mind was, “It looks like a coffin for an eight feet tall person”. Not exactly what I was looking for but if it kept my chicks safe and got me back in the good graces of my mother, I was all for it. I drilled holes in each end of the brooder for air flow, put two heat lamps in each side for each group of chicks (layers and meat birds) and latched it tight so no predator would be able to pay a visit. It was four or five weeks by now and my chicks were out of the garage.
Week five was similar to a sixteen year old football player getting his appetite. These chicks can put away some food! With the weather warming up to consistent above freezing temps and the buffet these chicks were enjoying, I knew this coffin brooder would only be a temporary solution. By the beginning of week six I knew I needed to act quicker than I originally planned. The chicks were trying to fly out every time I opened the brooder and I promptly loaded them up for greener pastures.
Literally, I was taking them to the greener pastures of our new farm. The house renovations were complete and I had constructed a wire mesh wall that would separate the layers from the future brooding spots in the chicken coop. The coop is approximately 600 square feet giving each layer a lot of room to roam around. Of course, they have access to the pasture on nice days also. The meat birds are enjoying the fresh grass of the pasture as they move around the farm in their newly constructed chicken tractor that my boys and I quickly put together.
Two days ago my family and I were out in the yard and we saw two coyotes running across the West end of the property about 200 yards away from us. I’ve been keeping a close eye on all our chickens but now I tend to look into the coop several times a day just to make sure I haven’t forgotten something that would allow a pesky predator to make a visit.
Looking back over the last several weeks with the newly hatched chicks in the house, then to the garage, then to my coffin coop to finally getting the chicks to the farm, I can honestly say it has all been a positive experience and well worth the work. While it was not the most ideal situation with our move and the temporary locations we moved through, the chicks remained happy and healthy. Attention to detail and closely monitoring the chicks kept me in tune to their needs. This wasn’t the first time we brooded chicks but it certainly was the most unique.
Even during the short time at my parents’ house, the chicks garnered much attention from the neighbors. It was fun to share eggs from our adult chickens with the neighbors and educate them on the joy of having chickens. Brood some chicks today and share the experience with your neighbors!