Our three flocks of baby birds – chickens, turkeys, and guinea hens – are now free to roam the farm. Raising baby birds has taken more time than I expected this spring. Feeding, monitoring temperatures, and refreshing bedding kept me busy enough. But the real work was containing the birds. Although day old birds are tiny and fragile, they grow quicker than grass this time of year. Within days I watched them eagerly escape and realized how ill prepared I was in my choice of brooders.
The chicks started in a water tub and quickly graduated to an upside down table and chicken wire contraption. Next they were upgraded to an old shed with a dirt floor and window to the outside. The shed is so old that the door fell off last week, just in time for me to let the chicks out to see the real world. They will join the existing flock in the main coop in a few months.
The poults started in an old coffee table, this one right side up. The most aggressive poult was out in a week. Luckily we had space to put the brooder in the greenhouse, as the greenhouse quickly became the upgraded brooder. Yesterday the poults were transferred to their new shelter in the field and walked on grass for the first time. In a few days the shelter door will be open to a large pasture. I’ll be happy when they no longer need a heat lamp at night and can roll up the 100 foot extension cord for the last time.
The keets were the most skittish and difficult to handle. They started in an old wooden worm bin, which quickly needed a window screen on top to contain them. The wooden box was eventually relocated inside a larger shelter in the forest. The shelter was quickly abandoned by the keets and they now perch nightly on top of my chicken coop, not helping with my goal of distributed manure.
My intent was to house the flocks using as many existing structures and materials I could find. Outside of the new turkey shelter everything else was pre-owned. I sure felt like a rookie as I tried to piece together impromptu solutions. Although their housing was rudimentary, it was sufficient, and I didn’t lose any to dampness, cold, or flight.
My favorite days on the farm are when I let young animals out to roam freely for the first time. They have space and air and fresh plants and bugs to eat, and there is much less clean up for me. I can take a breather and watch them grow.