Post from 3/6/2008 (Raising Baby Chicks)

I’ve started this thread to keep updates on my newest batch of babies in hopes it may help others to “let go” a little bit.  I raise my chicks as close to natural as possible which means getting them outside in fresh air and sunshine, though it may still be cold, as soon as they are about a week old and letting them free range as soon as possible.  I know many of you don’t agree but this is my fourth batch of chicks and not only have I never lost a chick but my hens don’t fight or feather pick/eat one another, have never had an illness/disease, no egg bound or prolapse issues and I’ve never lost one to predators though I know that while free ranging that is a possibility.

I’m posting a photo journal of the newest chicks – hatched Valentines Day from fertile eggs from DipsyDoodle.   Pictures speak a thousand words and chickens were raised in the open from the dawn of time.  They need to be able to scratch and forage and run and flap their wings and learn to adjust to heat and cold.  So before you call the SPCA on me, take a look and follow them along.  I’ll post updates as they grow.

Moved outside to Chick-N-Hutch. Day temps 70s but warm in sun – night temps 40s-50s.  Have heat lamp for night and cover pen with blanket.

Rex takes his place on guard.

By Day:

By Night:

Rigged up simple run in a sunny area where I can watch them from house – later they will be moved to coop/run area.

First hole – they were fasinated with it and dug/ate for hours

Must be doing something right – look at the size of these big boys at 2 weeks old – and feathering beautifully:


It’s true that mama hens will start taking their babies around the farm, from the very beginning, regardless of weather and that they can get under her when they are cold.  But they only do this for the first week or so – after that they are somewhat feathered and too big to get under mama or they would be carrying her around like a concert mosh-pit. smile  I keep the heat lamp on at night and check on them constantly initially – at 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. to see how they are doing.  If they are directly under light I lower it a little till they are staying just around light beam and not directly in it.  Once I get the height of light adjusted I keep watch but usually don’t have to do anything more than make sure they have a heat lamp source if they want it at night.  All four batches have survived outside night temps of 40s and up with just a heat lamp in pen and no light in daytime sunshine.  Actually the batch of Buff Orps, hatched in August, never saw a light in their lives – it was August in New Orleans.  I was having to put a fan on them in the daytime and finally decided at one week old to let them out of their pen where they were panting and let them start running around large enclosed run.  They began total free ranging at 3 weeks old running with the big girls.

During the day – they actually stay under the pen, in the shade a lot to nap – after running around scratching and acting wild.  The temps are mid 70s but it’s really warm in the sunshine and they nap in the shade so again, going by what they do, if they were cold they would be huddled together in sunniest spot not spread out in shadiest spot.

Like I said, I try to raise them as close to natural as possible.  I haven’t had a broody hen, or a rooster till now but I’m quite sure there are a number of roos in this batch of big beefies so I’m hoping that by next spring I’ll have mama hens doing the work themselves.



Well we had to move the pen inside the garage for the past two days and nights because it decided to snow and ice over here.  I guess winter isn’t going out peacefully.  I kept a heat lamp on the chicks and they were just fine with the garage temp being low 50s. 

Did have a scare the other morning, before moving pen back in garage.  It had stormed the night before so I got up at 1:00 a.m. and went and covered the pen with plastic.  Checked on them again at 3:00 a.m. – heat light still one, chicks running around, blanket and plastic still on pen – rain had stopped.  My husband told me next morning the blanket and plastic had blown off the pen and the pen was sitting there without any cover.  Heat light was still on and guess what….chicks were fine but that scared me so we moved the pen under garage and into laundry room till weather warms up.

Today, however, was pretty and warm again so we hauled the pen back outside and set it up in the little fenced run I had made and let them out.  Boy they catch on fast.  Every one, including my little crippled one, flew out of that pen so fast.  They all spent the day running and scratching the grass in the warm sunshine and napping under the pen in the shade.

At one point today I was sitting out there watching them when Rex suddenly started going crazy and barking and running, while looking up.  I looked up and there were 6 hawks so close to my head, and the pen, that I thought for a moment they were going to swoop down on me.  Rex chased them off and almost ran into a fence because he was so busy barking and looking up and following one as it flew off.

Just before sunset every little chick marched back into hutch and went to sleep – a hard day playing came to an end.

It really is amazing how much instinct they have and how at 3 weeks they act just like the ones that are almost a year old.



Today’s update:

All the BRs are getting so big but I think this one is a black Ameracauna – I call him Mr. Longneck.

All are still staying outside in their Chick-N-Hutch and in their run during the day.  Everyone seems to be having a great time.

My little niece came to visit and had fun calling the big girls and gathering eggs.  All of these hens have free ranged all along and the Buffs have never seen a heat lamp.

Finally I must be nuts cause I’ve got a bator full of Aracauna eggs and duck eggs.

But look what came in at the feed store today and I actually left without them and then went back to get them.  A dozen RIR.

Well’s that’s today’s update from the farm.  It’s residents are quickly increasing in number.



Today’s updates:

Well Mr. Longneck has become quite the chicken specimen and is now called The Eagle – not sure if it’s a girl or boy but it does this wing thing and everyone, including the adults go running.

Isn’t it amazing – 6 weeks old.

I also have some week old mallards that started free ranging around run today with all the other birds including the three week old RIRs and BRs.

Here are the mallards enjoying the watering bins and the younger chicks coming to check out the show:

Not to be idle – I hatched 6 rouens the other night and here they are eating out of my hands:

The “Yard” has become a busy place these days. We are using both picket fenced yards for the younger birds to free range.  The day old roens and Araucanas just got moved to chick-n-hutch inside coop but everyone else gets to be let out each morning and run till dark.  Everyone, including the three week olds come back at dusk and put themselves to bed.  Here’s the group I called the Itty Bitties coming back home and going to their pen to roost – I don’t close the door anymore:

Everyone in The Yard is just one big happy family:



Here are some overall updates.

Pictures of our coop (also 100 years old like the plantation home itself).

The front of coop – we have yet to repair the heavy door that fell off but I use the back door anyway – the one that opens into The Yard. As you can see there is another building right next to it – we aren’t using it for anything yet but I have a suspicion it will soon become a coop as well.  Someone just keeps getting more and more chickens. smile

Back of Coop opening into The Yard

Inside the coop I set up different hutches, kennels, rabbit cages for any babies that I close up at night.

Here are by “Tweenies” (6 weeks old) coming home from The Yard at sunset.  They’re always reluctant to go in coop till dark so they stop at gate and preen.

And here they are roosting on top of hutch they used to use:

The Big Girls go way up to top rafters.  Last night I watched a few of The Tweenies start to go up there and then change their minds.  Tonight one of them was up there roosting with The Big Girls.

Here’s some of the Big Girls out free ranging (fat, healthy, shiny, happy chickens)

Finally, here’s our security system Rex:

Doing internal perimeter check:

Doing reflection check:

On hawk watch.  He chases and barks at hawks.  Everyone runs for cover when Rex barks.  If you could see his eyes in this pic you would see he’s looking up, on watch.

Well that kind of brings everyone up date on our free ranging, nature’s way system here.  If you have any questions, please ask.


beefy wrote:

you got any roos yet Ruth? i swear that one chick looks like a duck when Rex was doing the reflection check.

Looks like a duck – walks like a duck – quacks like a duck – yep, it’s a duck.  There’s 12 ducks in The Yard.  6 mallards bought two weeks ago and 6 rouens hatched a week ago.  For pics see page 1.  In fact they were swimming in that little bin of water till Rex came along and stuck his big schnoz in there and they all scattered.  They haven’t quite gotten used to Big Rex coming along and giving each one the sniff.

Yeah, finally got some roos.   2 BR roos from hatch on valentines day and 2 RIR roos that are 3 weeks old.  May have an Ameracauna roo also just can’t telll yet.

Can’t wait till the roos grow up so the girls can lay fertile eggs and stop going broody on a bunch of blanks.

If you’ve seen my other threads you know I have one broody sitting on fertile peacock eggs.

I got 6 fertile Am. eggs from Dipsey today and put them under Ms. Broody but looks like a Buff Orp just went broody also so tomorrow I’ll risk life and limb and try to take 3 eggs from Ms. Broody and move them under Ms. Broody Too.


Your girls all look the picture of health. smile

(BTW, my middle name is Ruth, my grandmother’s name. The minister at my wedding even read that famous passage from the Book of Ruth at our wedding 32 years ago, so your screen name has special meaning for me)


me too, my grandmother’s name was Ruth. she was my very best friend in the whole wide world. i moved home from college to take care of her until she died. then got on here, and guess who started posting all of the sudden? Ruth. lol.

i plan to name a daughter Ruth if i ever have kids (unlikely)



At 6 weeks the gate to The Yard is opened and they can run amoke and free range all day.  At younger than 6 weeks they have to stay in The Yard but as you can tell it is really two yards joined and is very large.

I’ve debated that question.  When the roos get of age I will probably just let them do whatever with whomever.  I raise them for fun and for eggs so it doesn’t matter to me if I end up with a bunch of mixed breeds.  But I may also separate a few pure breeds temporarily for breeding purposes or if I decide to start selling eggs.  I can easily section off parts of The Yard to separate a pure breed pair.  I also have a huge 100 year old barn, as well as new horse stables, that I could use separate stalls for that purpose.


Hi Beefy and Cyn – I’m touched by the stories of your grandmothers.  Quoting from memory:

“Where you go I will go.  Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”

I named my poor little twisted neck baby chick that had been pronounced dead Ruth because I wanted her to have a strong biblical name.  She needed strength to fight whatever disease/condition she had.  I had to hand feed her, force feeding her initially because she could not move.  I would gently stroke her neck and massage it to get it straight before she could swallow food.  Each feeding I told her “You will live through this and you will be a beautiful, healthy chicken who lays beautiful green eggs.”  She is and she does.

I took this one the other day.  I can’t ever get a pic where she’s not eating.  Guess she needs to make up for lost time.

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