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Verde Valley Good Eats
By Lu Parker, Cottonwood, AZ
Cover the how-to's to backyard poultry, gardening, putting the food by and where to find good eats that are all natural, Verde Valley grown. Tips on preparing all natural food, particularly meats that have not been injected with water or dripping in fat. Pickling, canning, a few recipes here and there and a general discussion on growing and eating it here.
Monday, January 16, 2012

Plan For Your Chicks Now

 Lu Parker

Jan 12, 2012

Start Planning For Chicks Now

And Have Hens and Eggs This Summer

A small backyard flock of 6-8 hens will provide about a half dozen eggs a day. Most hens will start laying by 20 weeks of age. The biggest problems I have seen over the years are impatience and the lack of forward thinking. To be honest, I too am guilty of that some years.

So what do we need to plan for? The two basic life changes for the chick.

First, baby chicks need heat, 90 degrees the first week, gradually dropped by five degrees per week to no supplemental heat by 6 weeks depending upon the chicken breed and of course the weather. Those cute, fluffy down covered chicks cannot produce their own heat and depend entirely upon us to warm them. An infrared heat lamp hung no lower than 18 inches from the floor will heat them nicely. In fact, watch the chicks. If they are crowding away from the lamp or panting, raise the lamp. If they are piling onto each other and or lethargic, lower the lamp a little. Keep them dry and draft free. Chicks need fresh air, but not wind blowing on them. Even a breeze from a leaky door can cause problems. I cover the windows in the brooder with heavy plastic to prevent drafts and I use cardboard set up in a ring around the lamp to make sure the little guys and gals stay warm and draft-free.

So plan on where you are going to house the little chicks for at least a month. A garage or work shed corner will do nicely. I've even raised a small batch of 4 in one of those big plastic storage containers with a 100 watt light bulb in the bathroom. That is not the best situation, but it will work for a few weeks until you can get them outside in a more appropriate space.

Once the chicks are fully feathered, pullets and cockerels, they need to be trained to their permanent home. There are a myriad of coop designs available on the internet. Fresh air, protection from predators, nest boxes for layers, dry ground and protection from the weather are the reasons for a coop or hen house or whatever you want to call it. I've seen chicken Taj Mahals. I have seen small A- frames of recycled roofing metal and old pickup truck caps used. It all depends upon your taste, space and desire.

Chickens love to scratch and will denude your yard of bugs, weed seeds and yes, even you lawn if you don't move them around or only let them out for an hour or two. They won't do much harm to a well established lawn, but depending upon how many, and how long on what size lawn, you could have a dirt pile. Just something to think about. I also give my hens supplemental hay...alfalfa... particularly in the colder months. They love it and it helps produce beautifully deep yellow yolks.

Locally, you can purchase chicks from about Feb through June at Verde Valley Hay Market on 89A in Cottonwood and Olsen's Grain at all of their locations. If you have chicks to sell, email me and I will add you in the next chicken blog! I believe in locally bred, grown and raised.

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