Lehmans.com has pretty much everything for the small homestead (including canning supplies) But more to the point... it has supplies for chickens. Punch "chicken" into the search engine, and go there!
Search their catalog:



Try typing in: chicken feeder. Serious deals for the patient.
The Farm at Morrison Corner
Omlet, the art of keeping chickens!
Very neat chicken housing for a micro flock

Aquiring a Flock of chickens

To start your flock you can either buy grown birds from someone else (older birds they are culling, or excess they don't want), or raise your own batch of chicks. While there is nothing wrong with buying grown birds, chicks are infinately more fun.

Chicks, no kidding, come in a box via the US Postal Service. This box held, with ample room, 26 chicks from the Murray McMurray Hatchery. You can also buy chicks from your local farm store, like Agway, but we've found that there is a limited selection there, and the chicks are expensive. However, the hatcheries require a minimum order of 25 birds (so they keep warm in transit). If you want fewer birds, go to your farm store. The birds in this box are Buff Orphingtons, a "heavy" bird which will produce brown eggs and grow to a generous size for eating. A sort of all-purpose bird, this breed is friendly, gentle, and a lovely gold color when feathered out. They've been bred to be winter-hearty too, which is important to us up here!

When they arrive, chicks are tiny! And they need to be kept warm. Since we raise chicks almost every year, we've gone to the fuss and bother of building a little brooder box for them. The box is 50" long x 27" wide, by 20" tall, and will take about 50 little chicks... at least until they have a bit more mass and can stand a little chilling.

Do not build a box 27" wide unless you have a heated garage!! Big mistake. This thing barely squeeks through a doorway. Go for 25" and add length. And unless you're building to protect your little flock from preditors, it really isn't necessary to made it as heavy as ours is... in fact, all that weight is a liability when you want to shift the thing around.

Chicks do not need such fancy accomidations, and one of these old wash buckets would work just fine too. We used to use a wading pool, which worked very well when we had the space for it. Waterproof, round (so no pileups in corners if they got spooked), and nice and generously sized (from a chick's perspective). But whatever you use, you'll need to be able to put a screen lid on it to protect the chicks from pets and curious children.

A quick word about your new chicks and children. Chicks are, at this age, very, very, fragile. So fragile we do not allow anyone but an adult to handle them for at least 3 weeks. Chicks can catch colds. They can be dropped by accident. They can be squashed by an overly excited toddler. But more to the point, while you can hand tame a chicken, they really don't benefit by being handled. They need to put their energy into growth, not stress.

You should, in theory, be ready when your birds arrive. I never am. I know when they are supposed to be here, but I never seem to be ready when the post office calls and says "come and get 'em!" Trust me. If they have to sit in a box for another hour, it probably isn't going to kill them.

This is our brooder box (in the dining room). If you don't want the box in the house you need a heated garage or shed... or you need to order the birds when the nights are warmer. These arrived May 20th, and it snowed that day!

The box (or pool, or washtub) will need a heat lamp (ours is a shop light), a water font, a feeder, and shavings. Your chicks will start out on Chick Starter Medicated Feed. Yes, a product of evil agribusiness with antibiotics built in. Get over it. Go organic once they're established. We had to buy liquid antibiotics to treat chicks with colds a couple of years ago... expensive and time consuming. Now we start them on a bag of medicated feed, and shift over to an unmedicated growing feed at the end of the first bag.

You'll need a lid if you have pets, and, as you can see, we roll out a blanket cover to trap the heat. Note the old pan on the table... we place it over the light before unrolling the blanket, and check the situation often... try not to start a fire. Chicken flambe is bad.

As you take each chick out of the mailing box, dip its beak into the water so it gets the hint. Very shortly, you'll have a bunch of thirsty chicks tipping their heads back and swallowing water. We've never had them fail to find the food trays, and in a little while you'll hear the tap-tap-tap of chicks pecking at the plastic.

Chickens need grit to grind their food so we go out to our dirt road and find some very, very, fine sand to sprinkle over the food. If you can't find fine sand, it is sold at most ag centers.

The chicks will stay in this box, growing like weeds (you can see them change size day by day!) for a couple of weeks, or until they start to look frankly crowded. The moment it looks like chicks are pecking at each other, they need a bigger home.

They will, however, be much too small to throw outside at this stage. We set up a pen in the garage with shavings on the floor for them to play in. They'll continue to need a heat lamp, and you'll want the sides of their pen to be high enough to discourage them from flitting up and over to explore the rest of the garage!

At this age they are pretty durable and curious. Children love to hold them, and while the chicken might not share the joy, they are at least resigned to the whole experience. They start homing in on bugs at this age, and will scratch and peck at straw, or gobble down any early thinnings from the garden you throw into their pen. You can waste the good part of a morning just watching their antics.

In about 8 weeks (or earlier if your weather is mild) they'll be feathered out and ready to move out into the world.

Want to see an incubator in action? University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County
has an egg cam... and a lot of info on raising chicks from eggs (incubating eggs) Go to Egg Cam!

Moving out into the world.... chicken's next step

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