This week on the farm, we got some meat chickens. And boy, we have already learned so many things NOT to do. The hubby bought some Cornish Cross chicks and a few turkeys while I was at work. Honestly, he’s done that a few times – he texts me and says, come outside, I got something for you. One time it was 4 calves, another time it was the Nigerian Dwarf goat that I’ve wanted for years. This time it was two boxes full of sweet, fluffy yellow chicks. 50 of them! And 4 turkeys!
Here is my best advice on how NOT to get started with meat chickens. Update: this is part one of 3 posts on what NOT to do when raising meat chickens. You can see Part 2 and Part 3 here.
Mistake #1 – Putting the meat chickens inside
Since it’s March and still a little cold outside, we put the chicks in the house. My hubby made a box using 2X4’s and Formica board. We put the box on our window seat, and hung the heat lamp above the box. The box was filled with pine shavings and lots and lots of little yellow chicks.
Oh, and then my daughter went and bought 6 ducks too. Like seriously, so cute, but I think they were just about the straw that broke the chickens back, so to speak. With the extra birds we had to put in more waterers. And the ducks did what ducks do. They splashed around and stuck their beaks into the water and just made an all-out mess.
Even with cleaning the shavings out every day, those chicks made the house stink. Really, really bad. And all that manure isn’t good to breathe, anyways. So don’t, just don’t, put them in your house!
Mistake #2 – Not covering the brooder when you have cats
The first night after we got the chicks, we didn’t think to cover the brooder, and one of our mouser cats decided to get in the box. He killed 5 of them. Didn’t eat them, just killed them. The next day we made a chicken wire lid to go over the brooder.
Mistake #3 – Not having a water-safe brooder
While the Formica board box was in theory a good idea, it was definitely not water-safe. Pretty much like cardboard. After a few days, we noticed that box was completely soaked through on the bottom. Like a complete soggy mess. And it caused a little bit of water damage on the window seat. So the box went out and the birds went in 3 Rubbermaid tubs temporarily. Definitely not enough room, but had to work for the evening until we figured something else out.
Mistake #4 – Thinking 2 quart-sized waterers would be enough
When we brought the chicks home, we bought 2 quart-sized waterers with the screw-on bases. These birds seriously drink one of those in about 2 hours! Luckily we had 2 gallon-sized ones that we got with our original 4 hens. We have to fill even those up about twice a day. Who knew these fluffy yellow chicks would drink THAT MUCH WATER??
Mistake #5 – Underestimating how much room growing meat chickens take
The hubby, lord knows though I love him, always underestimates how much room each animal needs. He was pretty much raised with what I would call a barely sufficient mentality. You know, where you just provide enough to get by. I tend to do the opposite, giving my animals more than they need of everything. The hubby’s original Formica board box was only 2’X4′. In retrospect, we should have known that it wouldn’t be big enough. And we bought 50…FIFTY…chicks!
The result – New digs for the chicks!
The hubby and I decided it was time to move the meat chickens out to the barn. Since it has been in the 50’s and 60’s during the day and just barely freezing at night, I was somewhat concerned that they wouldn’t be warm enough. That is the main reason we decided to foolishly put them in the house. The barn is fairly small and we set up an electric heater in it to warm it up.
We didn’t have any lumber to build the frame, so we upcycled some pallets. We cut 4 pallets in half the long way and screwed them together to make a big 4ft X 8ft frame. Then we stapled more of the Formica board to the insides, making a nice, secure box. (The laminated side is facing in this time!) We put it directly on the
concrete floor and nailed it securely to the wall. Over the concrete floor we put a rubber mat with holes all over in it, then pine shavings.
The birds love their new box! As soon as we put them in they were running around, strutting their stuff, and flapping their wings. And of course the ducks were splashing around, thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Hubby and I were pretty pleased with how the new brooder turned out. We gave ourselves a big high-five. I do think we need one more heat lamp, the birds all huddle under the lamp. I’ll keep you posted on how the new chick adventures go. I now have Part 2 and Part 3 posted on the blog. Have you raised meat chickens? Please help me out by commenting helpful tips!