Above all, try something. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chickens, the Gateway Animal - Part 1

A little over two years ago, Ed decided that he was going to get me some baby chicks for Easter, and promptly spilled the beans to me around the beginning of March. I, being the worry wart, instantly worked myself into a frenzy about knowing not the slightest thing about raising chickens and immediately canvassed the Bozeman Public Library for books about raising poultry.
My favorite two books when in 'The Learning Phase' were the two pictured above, which I ended up purchasing.
It was from these books I learned that during their first 6-8 weeks of life baby chicks need ALOT of warmth. Since summer doesn't really begin in Southwestern Montana until late June (at best), and we were planning to bring home our chicks in early April, we quickly realized we were going to have some fluffy new roommates for a while until the weather outdoors warmed up.
Ed built a small wooden box for the baby chicks to temporarily live inside of while residing in the house. This box is called a Brooder.
Our brooder is about two feet by three feet and eighteen inches tall. It has a removable chicken wire top to keep our nosy furry friends (two enormous dogs) at bay. Above the brooder we hung a standard heat lamp, fixed with a red heating bulb. The red light is a little less harsh for the baby animals and also supposedly controls inter-flock pecking. Inside of the brooder we installed a cheap thermometer to keep tabs on brooder temperature from week to week. Growing baby chicks can withstand a temperature reduction of only five degrees with each passing week, which can be controlled easily by raising the heating lamp just a few inches. Eventually, after the baby birds have replaced all of their cute fuzz with feathers, they are ready to go outside into the 'wild'!
When we finally did bring home a small flock of three-day-old baby chicks from our local feed store, we were so happy to have learned and prepared ourselves as much as we did beforehand. Although it sounds really easy, raising animals for the first time, no matter how small they are, isn't. All animals deserve to be comfortable and happy if they are going to be kept in captivity, and it is your job as a pet owner to make sure that they are. So far, all of our chicks, we have had three rounds of baby chicks so far, have always turned out happy and healthy. It is easy to tell a happy chick by listening to their 'peeping'. The happiest chicks may even keep you up at night with their 'happiness'! So be sure to put your brooder far away from any light sleepers :)
Happy Poultry Raising!
Stay tuned for part two. coop-a-pa-looza! ah yeah!


  1. Shhhh, (as in don't mention it on FB) but we are thinking of adding a backyard mini-coop to our menagerie :) I have been looking at coop plans and we are thinking of turning an old plastic playhouse, that we already have, into a coop. I am keeping my eyes out for a dog run on freecycle, I am sure one will turn up soon.

  2. I added some actual pictures of our brooder in today. The boot is there for perspective. The antler is because at four weeks the baby chicks like to try 'roosting' up a few inches off the floor. Its pretty cute to watch.