September 25, 2012 — Catawba River District Voices

We have some new feathered friends around our farm now. They aren’t actually new … these chickens are approximately 24 weeks old and are just starting to lay eggs.

When our children were younger, our normal poultry cycle was to buy day-old chicks (also known as pullets) from a local farm store in the spring. There was the annual oohing and ahhing over the cute fuzzy wonders who would be hopping around in a large box at the farm store. We’d figure out which type of chicken we’d want to try out that year. Some chickens are known for being good egg layers, others for having good dispositions.

Our family liked a variety of chickens, but not the ones who liked to brood. No, that’s not a moody chicken, although they often seemed like it. A broody chicken is a hen whose nature is to sit on her eggs to hatch them … 21 days with only occasionally breaks for water and food. After 21 days and multiple turns of each egg, chicks should emerge from beneath her.  Although that sounds fun, you need the right set-up for hatching eggs. There needs to be enough boxes for your regular layers and your brooders. We opted to just stick with buying pullets every year and raising them once they hatched out of their eggs.

Our children always had a blast raising their cute little flock.  So sweet and soft … but then they’d grow and start to peck the hand that fed them. These cute little chicks would turn into unruly teenagers who would stretch their wings and try to fly. Suddenly it wasn’t all that fun raising this flock, and the watering and feeding people had to be reminded to do their chore. Changing the boxes of soiled straw was something to be avoided at all cost.

After 12 weeks the chickens would be transferred into a holding pen for teenagers.  To put a young teenage chick in the hen house with older chickens would be dangerous for the youngsters.  It’s best to transfer them in when they are 20 weeks and are more substantial in size.

Well, now our own “chicks” or children are growing up with less time on their hands to ooh and ahh and even less time to change a stinky mess, so we have opted to let a nearby farmer raise pullets until they are 20 weeks old. We buy them at that time and only have a month or so before the boxes are filling with eggs. No mortality from young chicks and no wild and wooly teenage chicken times. Only mature hens who are ready to do their job of laying eggs.

I guess some parents would love to do the same – skip over those teenage years and slide right into the young adult age children.