The Last Broilers of 2012

Well, it’s time.  We recieved our last batch of broilers for the year.  We were on the fence about ordering more birds but the weather cooled off a bit, it finally rained and we are nearly sold out of boneless breast meat.  At the last minute we decided to order 125 chicks.

I called our normal hatchery, Schlecht Hatchery, to see if she could fit me in the 8/15 shipment.  Etta said she had gone to hatching every other week and wouldn’t be able to fill my order until September 5th.  Well, a Sep. 5th ship date means a Nov. 1. butcher date.  I don’t want to butcher chickens in November again…too cold.  I called another supplier, Sun Ray Hatchery (also in Iowa).  They acted like they were waiting for me to call.  No problem at all with my order.

I had very good luck with turkeys from Sun Ray last summer and I have high hopes for their chicks.  At any rate, these are all destined to be cut-up birds, available either Oct. 13th or 20th depending on weather.  Between now and then we have a good supply of whole frozen birds and backs but very few boneless breasts, leg quarters or wings available.  If you are in the market for a whole bird or one hundred whole birds, give us a call.  That means it’s a good time to learn how to cook and use the whole bird.  Look for a new series on cooking the whole bird soon and check back for updates as these little birdies grow.  They will be on pasture in early September.

Before the chicks arrived we went through the normal routine.  We put a layer of well-composted (and quite warm) wood chips down in an even layer.  Then we turned on the heat lamps.  We thought we only needed two lamps but it turned out later we needed three.  No big deal.  We filled the water bucket with 5 gallons of water and 1/4th cup of sugar.  The sugar tip came from Andy Lee in Chicken Tractor.  He actually says 3 Tlbs sugar or honey per quart of water for the first 2 days.  I also filled two feed trays and two bucket lids with feed and nestled them into the bedding so they were level with the ground.  That gives the chicks a place to eat at ground level.  It’s important that they don’t have to reach up to eat and, I think, important they don’t have to jump hurdles as they run around and play.  Tomorrow they will get creek sand on top of their feed but today I just want them to drink, warm up and rest.

The post office called early in the morning but we finished our chores before driving to town.  Everybody looked great.  Julie counted 80 chicks from her crate, I lost count of mine.  There were supposed to be 125.  We’ll count them again as we unload the brooder.

Two by two we loaded them into the brooder.  I don’t know how they know but chicks know how to be chicks.  They went right to work.  Scratching, pecking, running, chasing, even drinking from the watering nipples.  Amazing.

Even more amazing was the packaging label.  Caution!  Step Back!  Dangerous Chickens!  OMG!!!  BIRD FLU!!!!!

More Layer Pullets

Early in the Spring (or late in the Winter) I ordered 250 layer pullets.  Then I got cold feet and sold 175 of them at 8 weeks.  That worked out well in some ways.  It covered my expenses so the 75 or so I kept were basically free but in other ways it didn’t work out so well.  I still don’t have enough birds to meet the demand for my eggs.

So we ordered more pullets.  It took a couple of tries to find a break in the weather and a hatchery that could fill my order on short notice.  I was looking for 100 sex-link pullets, no Whammies.  At the last minute I called Cackle Hatchery to find out what they had left.  They could ship 35 Cinnamon Queen and 5 Red Sex-Link.  Sold.  Then I called Schlecht.  Schlecht closes at 4:30 on Friday.  Etta didn’t answer the phone.  I did get her by email.  She promised 25 Golden Comet pullets.  65 birds.  I can make do with 65 birds.

The Cackle order arrived Wednesday morning but was short by 10 birds.  We are expecting another shipment on Friday.  The Schlecht order arrived early Thursday morning.  They were a little sluggish but looked good and there were 5 extra birds!  A few minutes under the heat lamp and they were ready to go.

I have talked about this before but here’s the setup again.  They are in our 8×8 outdoor brooder.  It is easy to warm, easy to get into and comfortable for the birdies.  We use nipple waterers because they stay clean.  The chicks figure them out almost immediately.

We give them broiler mash in trays for the first few weeks.  I want to get them off to a good start.  After day two they get creek sand to get their gizzards off to a good start.  We try to give them constant access to fresh greens.  Today I dropped in two big handfuls of alfalfa chaff from the hay wagon.  Just like you, chicks need to eat their greens.

These birds will remain in the brooder for 2-3 weeks depending on the weather.  Then we’ll move them out to pasture where the older pullets are and pop them into chicken tractors.  That will give them a chance to grow out without being picked on by the bigger birds but will also give them a chance to socialize with the bigger birds a little bit.  By being on pasture they will get the best possible nutrition and will always leave their manure behind.  Raising them on pasture really makes a bird that can’t be beat in terms of health.  Our future flock, your future eggs.  Healthy birds.