We have an entry from the local blog Mike & Molly’s House. They have a mini-farm outside of Santa Fe and write about money-saving ideas, gardening, chickens, recycled paper greenhouse production and much more. You can follow them at mikeandmollyshouse.com and come to their classes in April and May.
Chicken Season- GO!
After last years disasterous chicken farming season I was almost ready to give up. With the bees gone I’m not feeling like a very successful mini-farmer. So as an unsuccessful mini-farmer I’m going to follow my typical impulse and try, try again; I’ve decided to raise 200 chickens this year. I ordered them to arrive in batches of 50 last week. They will be coming every 3-6 weeks over the next 6 months.
1 week old Cornish XRock chicks
Part of the problem last year:
1. It’s recommended to keep the chicks in a *brooder from day 1- week 3. I left them in the brooder one week too long. They had plenty of space but because they are already stressed in the high altitude I’m pretty sure it didn’t help. Controlling the dust and keeping things clean becomes real difficult past week 3 in our brooder.
2. I’m raising fast growing Cornish XCross chickens (AKA broilers). It is a breed that is not recommended to raise when you are living over 6,000 ft in altitude…we are over 7,000 ft. They grow so quickly and are so much better tasting that I ‘m going to keep adjusting my growing techniques to allow these chickens to thrive.
3. Last year we had a batch in with the baby ducks. Hindsight is everything. What I didn’t know is ducks get their water everywhere. These chicks are delicate. I believe that the moisture in the air and in the bedding might have led respiratory illness.
Changes this year:
- They will only be kept in the brooder for the allotted 3 weeks.
- I’m adding some vitamins and minerals to their water. It’s called ‘Broiler Booster’ and I get it from Murray McMurray Hatchery
- I will take July and August off- this is the hottest time in Santa Fe. The heat can stress the chickens.
- Mike’s cousin raises pastured chickens commercially (ironically he’s a vegetarian) in Maine. He has had more success then any other chicken farmer I have read about (<5% loss). I’m going to talk to him more and get details how I can make improvements.
A few things you may have not known:
Although you can eat any type of chicken CornishXCross are by far the most popular. If you buy poultry in the store this is the kind of chicken you are getting. Even though there are some 9 billion chickens consumed in the US. The word on the street is that only 4 hatcheries in the US that hatch CornishXCross. I ordered them from a hatchery in Eastern NM but they get them from Iowa.
Raising our own chickens to eat means we can assure they were raised in sunlight and fresh air (which help to control diseases), they are killed quickly and processed cleanly without using harsh chemicals.
Cornish XCross’s are not very attractive nor do they have endearing personalities. I’m just sayin’ it makes butcher day a little easier.
*A brooder is an enclosed area that keeps the chicks warm and away from any drafts. There’s many variations on the theme. We made our walls out of plexi-glass to allow as much natural light in as possible. Some issues with a brooder is ventilation. It’s tough to ventilate when you don’t want to expose them to drafts. To help this we’ve attached a small outside run to the brooder. We start letting them go outside when they are about 10 days old.
Moving upward and onward…
So with my chin up and the brooder cleaned out I will try once again to be the best chicken farmer I can be. On the bright side I don’t have to do much to do better than last year!