We ordered 100 chickens. They are on their way to us via USPS. Before I go any further, let me back up and explain how we got to this point. We had originally wanted to start with a few chickens for a pesticide-free bug control in our vineyard. The eggs were going to just be a bonus. We started our chicken adventure with a cheapish incubator from Amazon and an assortment of chicken eggs from a hatchery online store. We set up our incubator and put the eggs in, then all we had to do was wait.
Our First Batch of Baby Chicks
Our first hatch was scheduled the week of Thanksgiving 2018. The first hatch did not go well. (I’ll go into more detail in my incubation trials post) We ended up with only two chickens making it through the hatching process. To fix our small flock problem, we ordered ten already hatched chicks to make up for our loss.
A couple of days later the chicks we ordered showed up at the post office. They were a few days younger than our two we already had, but their sizes wouldn’t be a whole lot different.
We kept the twelve chicks in a glass aquarium on our kitchen counter. They quickly outgrew that setup within weeks. Since we were in the middle of winter, we set up a cage in our garage for them to finish feathering out. In the meantime, Tim got busy designing and putting together our first coop v1.0.
A month later the chicks then made their move into their new coop, outside in our backyard. It was still winter so most days were too cold for them to be outside. We continued to use a brooder inside the coop to keep the newly feathered out chicks warm.
We fit our coops with an automatic door. The door opens when the first light of sunrise hits it, and closes a couple minutes after sunset. As soon as the chickens were old enough to brave the cold weather, we switched the coop door on to give them the option to go outside. The hens started laying a few eggs for us, so foraging in the yard would be a good thing.
Springtime began to show, the grass started to turn green, and the early flower bulbs started to poke up through the ground. The twelve chickens then started their attack on our yard. They ate anything that came up. They even dug up fall planted seeds in garden that were planted in the fall. We tried planting our garden and sectioning it off from them, but they got through and ate all of that too. It was time for them to move out to the farm!
We had recently planted our first one-third acre of vineyard, so we had something to work a fence around. The chickens went into their coop in our backyard one night, and the next morning when the door opened they were out at the farm. They made their move and fit right in at the farm. Over a hundred acres of pasture for them to roam and forage as they please.
As we were transitioning our chickens from city life we decided we should try again with incubating eggs ourselves. We figured out our incubator was the problem with the last hatch so we replaced it with a different one. Then we purchased a straight run chicken assortment from the same hatchery as before. The eggs got here and we started incubating.
Our Second Batch of Baby Chicks
Twenty-eight days later we hatched twenty-four random breed chickens. Again we put them in a glass aquarium, but they outgrew it much faster than the first twelve. During the second incubation, Tim had designed and built coop v2.0. So we skipped keeping them in our garage or our backyard. These chicks went straight to the farm into coop v2.0. We had one of our original hens go broody so we put her in with the chicks as well. The door was kept closed for a couple weeks until the chickens were grown enough to fend for themselves. We then drug the coop over to the vineyard and turned on the automatic door.
The chickens that we had introduced at this point had all taken really well to free-range life. We lost a couple to predation, but all in all the chickens were a win. The eggs were also really enjoyable. We started to grow a small customer base for local free-range eggs.
After we hatched out the last batch of chickens we thought we would try our hand at turkeys. So we got ahold of some turkey eggs and started incubating them. (This experience also gets its own post). The turkeys hatched, grew and were added to the flock out at the farm.
Around this time the flies were getting bad so we researched ways to combat them. Ducks seemed to be a good no pesticide option. (The ducks will also get their own post) We got some duck eggs and got the incubator back out. In preparation for ducklings, we decided the glass aquarium was not going to cut it anymore. So Tim made a trip to Tractor Supply for a 2×6 stock tank. He arrived home that night with a stock tank, and ten chicks! I guess tractor supply was having a sale…so we set up our new tank brooder and gave the chicks their new home. Eventually, the ducks hatched and were also added into our new brooder tank.
Our flock was growing! Things were going well, and our customer base for free-range eggs was also growing. Growing past the point of us being able to keep any of our eggs for ourselves! Something needed to be done, our flock needed to grow to be able to deal with our customers and to leave some for us to enjoy as well.
So We Ordered 100 Chickens
So we bought one hundred chicks. A one hundred count, rainbow egg layer assortment. Hoping to be able to reliably service our growing customer base AND ourselves! We sure do love ourselves a bright orange yolk, fresh farm egg. So early spring 2020 we should have plenty of pasture-raised fresh farm eggs to go around.