Frigid April weather threatened the lives of 90 baby chicks.
We had agreed to brood 75 rooster chicks for the Rodale Institute. In past years we have brooded a dozen to 25 chicks for our own flock. That was easy. We could brood them in a big cardboard box, and if it was cold we situated the brooder in the basement where the temperature was already warm. A heat lamp easily boosted it to the nearly 100 degrees hatchlings need.
We’d ordered Rodale’s chicks and 15 pullets for us from Hoover’s Hatchery to arrive on April 7. That’s usually an ideal time, as spring’s temperatures rapidly rise. So, by May, chicks can go out into the non-heated coop with only a heat lamp to take the chill off on cool nights.
When temperatures too cool, chicks huddle to stay warm.
Dip the chick’s beak in water so it knows where to drink.
Chicks eat, drink, sleep and poop.
Wind and Cold
This year a cold front brought snow and wind the day before Kelsey Spotts was to deliver the chicks from Hoover’s Hatchery. Because we were brooding 90 chicks, we made a big brooder in the unheated barn. The weather was so cold that even with three heat lamps it was just too cold in the big brooder. With just a day before the babies were to arrive, we had a crisis.
Nature’s Way Is More Simple
Mama hens are the natural way to brood and raise chicks.
For thousands of years, broody hens patiently sat for 21 days on fertile eggs. Then, on that magical day when they hatched, mamas hover over them to keep them toasty warm from their body heat. Even if a cold snap arrived hens keep their babies warm. Today, most chicks lack a mother. A brooder keeps them warm but ……. ours was too cold.
We scrambled. Fortunately, we had scrounged crates from a wood scrap pile outside a business that welcomes people to take and recycle their discarded wood. We used the wood to craft a temporary brooder in our wood stove heated cabin and installed two heat lamps. Presto, the temperature hovered just at the 100 degrees the chicks need.
The next day Kelsey delivered all 90 chicks. They moved right in and immediately started eating, drinking, peeping, and pooping. Now, a week later, the weather hasn’t warmed much, and the chicks remain in the temporary brooder in the cabin. They’re growing and feathers are forming.
Warming Trends and Chick Growth
The forecast next week promises a warming trend. So, as soon as the barn brooder comes up to about 90 degrees the chicks move there. Why 90 instead of 100? When chicks hatch, they need the full warmth but as they age their temperature needs drops by about five degrees a week. So, by the time they are six weeks old, they will be comfortable at a balmy 70 degrees, and that’s a common May temperature. No more need for artificial heat or a brooder.
Hoover’s Hatchery keeps chicks safe….
Handle chicks delicately.
Chicks move around freely.
Rodale will use their chicks for a research project at Etzel’s Sugar Grove Farm. Researchers will learn if chickens foraging in corn can eat enough insect pests to eliminate the need for pesticides, and their poop will fertilize the crop.
Watch for future blogs about the chicken in corn project.
As we entered our driveway a frustrating sight greeted us. We were looking forward to picking the enormous seed heads of sunflower plants towering over the garden. Not this year. While we were gone, a windstorm toppled them a few weeks before they’d ripen.
That’s the way it is with gardening. Sometimes there’s a great success resulting in delicious meals. Then there are flops, like our sunflowers. We found more wind mischief. Several almost ripe pumpkins and squash had broken stems, dooming them to rot instead of ripening.
A Silver LIning
All wasn’t lost. We pitched the sunflower heads, pumpkins, and squash into our chicken run. Enthusiasm erupted as the hens eagerly devoured them. They pecked a hole in the squash and pumpkins, ate all their seeds, and then made quick work of eating the soft interior flesh. Soon all that remained was the tough outer skin of the pumpkin and the sunflower’s now seedless head. These went into the composter.
Chickens love garden debris and vegetables that don’t quite make it to our table. When fall closes down our garden we turn in the chickens. They chow down on bugs, weed seeds, and unripe vegetables. This makes clean-up easier and probably reduces next year’s insect and weed problems. A few days after Halloween our hens love snacking on our shriveling Jack O Lantern. They also relish seeds scooped out of winter squash and most vegetables left in the refrigerator a bit too long.
It was frustrating losing our sunflowers, pumpkins, and squash. Thanks to our industrious hens we were able to put them to good use.
Seeds ready to eat.
Holes pecked in pumpkin.
For the past fifteen months Winding Pathways has been busy with writing features for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and blogs for Hoover’s Hatchery and FB Live monthly events. Catch up with our stories in The Cedar Rapids Gazette online.
Hoover’s Hatchery. Click on Flock Journey to read a variety of stories about all things chickens and other poultry. Or News From the Coop blogs.
Here is a list of the more recent features. Just click on the link and read away!
June 13, 2021. Alaska Recreation.
May 22, 2021. Museums of Quad Cities Area. https://www.thegazette.com/recreation/the-many-museums-of-the-quad-cities/
April 18, 2021. Finding Amelia. https://www.thegazette.com/recreation/an-unexpected-search-for-amelia-earhart/
April 11, 2021. Mississippi river Museum and Dubuque
March 25 , 2021 Cedar Falls_Waterloo. Memorable Museums
March 12, 2021. Time Travel. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/time-traveling-in-iowa-20210312
March 3, 2021 Entering the Battery Age (column)
February 19, 2021. Franconia Sculpture Park. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/recreation/art-walk-in-a-park-20210219
February 2, 2021. Sprint Cars. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/auto-racing/a-sprint-car-education-20210202
January 14, 2021. Embrace the Outdoors. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/embracing-x2014-and-enjoying-x2014-the-cold-outdoors-20210114
December 20, 2020. Walking Cemeteries. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/a-peaceful-outdoor-walking-option-20201221
December 14, 2020 Iowa Meat Lockers: https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/a-meaty-adventure-20201214
Nov 11, 2020 Iowa’s Inland Seas. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/enjoying-iowas-inland-seas-20201111
Oct 11, 2020. Barn Quilts. https://www.thegazette.com/article/barn-quilts-offer-brighten-up-the-countryside/
Sept 27, 2020: New Life to dead Trees. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/dead-trees-give-life-20200927
September 20, 2020: Walk Outside Safely. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/get-outside-and-walk-but-stay-safe-20200920
September 9, 2020: Rebirth Amid the Rubble https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/a-rebirth-among-the-rubble-of-trees-20200906
August 22, 2020: Iowa’s National Parks. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/iowa-national-parks-guide-effigy-hoover-20200822
July 27, 2020: County Parks. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/take-advantage-of-iowas-county-gems-20200727
July 11, 2020: Tenting. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/why-rv-live-isnt-for-these-senior-tent-campers-20200711
June 26, 2020: Bear Sightings in Iowa: https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/outdoors/why-rv-live-isnt-for-these-senior-tent-campers-20200711
April 12, 2020” Walk on Wilder side. https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/recreation/take-a-walk-on-the-wilder-side-20200412
If you missed our first Facebook Live watch this Hoover’s Hatchery video.
We chatted about Chickens and Gardens, Insects and Pests, Keeping Chickens cool in the summer and free from insect bites and predator invasions, and gave some tips on keeping water and feeders “poop” free.
We’re live with Winding Pathways talking with Hoover’s Hatchery about gardening with chickens!
Posted by Hoover’s Hatchery on Thursday, June 15, 2017
Join us next time.