Those Sneaky Chicks! Confessions From The Coop (TM)

Those Sneaky Chicks! Confessions From The Coop (TM)

Well, it finally happened.


We finally had a chillier than normal (read: in the 60s F), which tells me that soon, the dang mosquitoes will go back in hiding for another 6 months.


I started putting the finishing touches on the duckling coop (they’re WAY happier to be out of that tractor and near a big pool of water for splashing), and in the video, all you see is Larry and I swatting at mosquitoes, LOL!


The video of what we have so far is almost complete – hopefully, it gives you some inspiration. The building, that is – not the mosquito swatting.


We’ve completed most of the repairs on the main run and the duckling run – which means roofs are next!


The duckling run has a high fence, and the wire extends about 1 foot into the floor of the pen to deter predators, so I don’t need to worry about a full roof for them – just a secure shelter where they can sleep and stay safe.


Up next is the shelter – for now, they’ll come into the coop at night, but very soon (meaning, after I buy some 2x4s, lol) there will be a run in for them.


When they’re full grown, we can easily expand the run to accommodate them.


I’m dying to see what their final feathers will look like – the tail feathers are just starting to peek through. I think we might have a couple that feather out black.


Won’t that be fun?


The chicken run definitely needs a roof. The fence is 8 feet high, but the hens can fly 8 feet. And get mauled by roosters, dogs, or whatever critter is passing by.


So, I’ll be getting some simple trusses, then adding chicken wire on the top. Part of it will be open to the sun and part will have a solid roof so they can get out of the rain and sun.


Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?


I’m pretty sure we have predators still running around – I think my next product review will be those predator lights.


Speaking of predators, for 2 days, one of my chicks went missing.


They’re in the coop full time because they’re too big for any of the tractors and too small to free range while we redo the run (yes, for the 3rd time – Dahlia the goat got loose and rubbed against the wire, pretty much tearing it to shreds).


I looked and looked – and by looked, I mean I searched every nook and cranny of that coop. Then I realized the wire we have over one of the doors is loose.


I figured a skunk got him, but the next day I looked again, and he was STILL missing. So, I gave him up for lost.


Then yesterday evening, he reappeared in the coop – there’s no way he left then returned, because that loose wire was easy for a skunk to wiggle in and out of, but not so obvious for a chick to wiggle out and then BACK IN to the coop.


So, I have no idea where this chick was hiding, but clearly, he is far cleverer than I am!


backyard chicken


That’s it for this week! Hope you enjoyed these photos!


Is Chick Grit Necessary?

Is Chick Grit Necessary?

A common question I get is whether chick grit is necessary. And the answer is yes….and no.

It depends on a few factors, namely, whether your feeding your chicks treats, letting them forage, or feeding extra things like herbs.

Like older chickens, grit can help chicks digest their food. In fact, if you’re feeding anything other than chick starter, I’d say you 100% should provide your new mini flock members with chick grit.

Luckily, that’s an easy thing to do. In this article, I show you what your chicks should eat, what supplements can make them healthier, and when chick grit is necessary.

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What is Chick Grit?

Chick grit is tiny rock fragments (naturally occurring rocks – nothing created in a lab) that have been broken down so they’re easier for baby chicks to ingest.

In nature, chicks will pick up rocks outside as they forage with their mothers.

If your chicks were incubated and/or live indoors (we keep our chicks indoors until fully feathered) OR if you feed your chicks anything other than chick starter, chick grit can be the difference between a well-functioning digestive system and one that might prevent your chicks from absorbing nutrients, eventually causing death.

What Should Chicks Eat?

For the full breakdown of what your chicks should eat, click here.

To summarize, your chicks should have 24 hour access to a high quality chick starter. I prefer to go with a commercial brand so I can be sure my chicks are getting the healthiest start possible.

Commercial companies put a lot of effort into making sure their feeds are properly formulated!

You CAN make your own chick starter (and organic chicken feed) however. Just be sure it has at least 18% protein so they grow into healthy backyard chickens.

To make things easier on yourself, however, especially if you’re new to chickens, going with a commercial blend takes out the guesswork. There’s plenty of non-GMO organic options out there.

Is chick grit necessary?


Medicated or Non-Medicated?

In the past, I’ve fed both medicated and non-medicated feed. Both are equally healthy.

The difference between them is that medicated feed contains an additive called amprolium that helps chicks develop a resistance to parasites (coccidia) naturally found in soil.

Yes, amprolium is a drug, and no, it’s not an antibiotic. It’s an anthelmintic, which means it helps prevent parasites.

These parasites can cause coccidiosis – a potentially deadly parasite infection.

It’s completely up to you whether you want to feed medicated or non-medicated start. Both have a place and your decision is individual to your flock.

If my chicks seem to do ok, then I might use non-medicated starter. If I’ve gotten chicks from a hatchery or they seem to have some health issue, then I’ll turn to medicated chick starter so I have one less issue.

To Ferment or Not To Ferment?

You can ferment your chick starter if you want to. Fermenting chicken feed is easy to do, and has a lot of health benefits.

Particularly if you plan to ferment their feed when they turn into adults, it’s a good idea to start young so they get used to the texture.

If you ferment the chick starter for 24 hours, it will have some beneficial bacteria in it and won’t turn moldy in that short of a period of time.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Something I ALWAYS give chicks is apple cider vinegar. I have a tutorial about how to make it yourself right here.

The beneficial bacteria in apple cider vinegar can help your chicks get a great start to life since it helps them establish good, healthy gut flora.

Ever heard of pasty butt? It’s similar to scours in young mammals like pigs, cows, and horses, or diarrhea in humans.  Let unattended, it can cause major health issues, including death, in chicks because their vents get clogged and they can’t defecate easily.

It can happen for a variety of reasons, and one big one is if their guts aren’t quite ready for life in the big world. Apple cider vinegar can help chickens avoid digestive issues and overall be healthier.

We found over the years that it reduces death rates in our chicks. So, it’s always in the first water our chicks get, and they love it.

Simply add it to their waterers and dip their beaks in very gently so they get a drink. I’ve never had a chick not take to it.

Herbs for Chicks

Now, before I begin this section, let me start out by saying that I’m not a fan of feeding chicks much of anything else except starter.

I like to be sure they’re only eating the healthiest food so they grow right and their bodies, feathers, and organs develop correctly.

That being said, I do have numerous readers who feed their chicks herbs so they’re healthier.

If you want to go this direction, then the best thing to do is offer simple, healthy herbs such as oregano or sage.

Oregano has strong antibiotic properties, while sage has properties that can help prevent parasites.

Most herbs for hens are okay, although I would stick with the two above.

Chick Grit

Finally, if you do feed your chicks herbs or allow them to forage outside, be sure to offer chick grit so they can easily digest anything they might ingest.

If they’re foraging and eat bugs or seeds, the chick grit will help them break down the hard shells so they can absorb nutrients from the goodies they’re eating.

You can offer chick grit as a preventative as well. When I offer chick grit, I mix it with their feed to make sure they taste test some. If you offer it separately, they might not understand what it’s about, and ignore it. It’s hard to ignore something in your feed!

This Week in Farm Photos

Finally! An egg!


After many months of being on strike, my red hen finally laid an egg. In reality, I think the low daylight hours effected her, so I added a light to their new coop, followed by a few threats about the stew pot. (Don’t let anyone tell you threats of the pot don’t work because THEY DO.)


Now to check fertility! This is welcome news since the passing of Mrs Leedle means this is my last laying hen for a while. I already have 2 juvenile roosters from the red hen, as well as 13 from Mrs Leedle, and they are very healthy and very (very) fast growing. Definitely genetics I want to keep around! They have nice broad chests which promise good meat. My blue copper marans are very pretty birds but slower growers than my mixed breeds. And now we have eggs to eat!

So far, out of the first hatch I have 5 roosters and 3 pullets. Out of my second hatch, it’s hard to tell, but if my feather sexing is correct, I only have 2 pullets and 6 roosters. I’ve been told to give them away or sell them because of the cost of raising them to slaughter age. There are so many for sale or free on craigslist that I don’t see that being a viable solution. I’ve come up with a sustainable way to manage all these roosters.


When spring comes, I will use them for meat and also insect control. The reason we got chickens in the first place was to control the flies and mosquitos, and they did a great job. It worried me that confining my laying and breeding chickens to the coop would bring back all the bugs. But preserving the flock from predators if equally important. Using the excess roosters to control the bugs is a win/win solution, especially since we plan to electrify the whole property fence. They will require less feed since they will be free ranging, and they get to live the good life scratching for bugs, etc.

What do you do with your excess roosters?