Notes from Windward: #69


More Chicks Arrive!

Camille's brooding observations

     We're learning about raising chickens here as a potential source of income for Windward members. A key part of the apprenticeship process involves a person creating the "income quilt" they'll need in order become financially independent within the context of the community. Their "quilt" allows for a person to continue to live at Windward and enjoy the life they desire without having to find an outside job which might involve work they disagree with, that makes them unhappy or prevents them from living at Windward and helping it to prosper and advance.

     Hence: chickens and the need to pass on the knowledge of raising and nurturing them.

     As one of the leads on this operation, this is what I learned:
     Starting at the very beginning, make sure you pick them up from the Post Office immediately, because they are not equipped to feed your baby chicks who have a limited supply of food in their bodies after birth for the journey. Also, we learned to not order different sized species of chick because the small ones get smooshed and die. That was how we lost 7 of the fluffy, yellow Aracauna banty chicks we'd ordered. Sing their carcasses a song of: "You will nourish the plants and soil in the garden." Some Native American peoples do not have a word for grateful in their lexicon because it is implied that you always are. This attitude is necessary.

Oana give a banty chick its first drink

     We keep our young chickens in a brooder facility warmed by a heating bar and a 40 watt light bulb. A curtain of washable denim material divides the inside into a warmer area and a cooler outside compartment. There's a square chick-sized door cut into the denim curtain so that the chicks can move away from the heat when they're getting too warm. Beneath the grated floor lies a tray to catch feces. Newspaper lines the tray. When it is full of droppings cleaning is a simple matter of rolling up the paper and adding it to the compost pile.

week-old Cuckoo Marans chicks

     When it came time to prepare accommodations for our chicks we quickly discovered we did not have all the parts. People had dissembled the brooder in order to use it for other projects aka part of the fence in Duck Palace. It was also frustrating to discover the rusty state of the brooder floor tray. I fixed up the tray by scraping off much of the rust with a wire brush then giving it a coat of Rustoleum paint in order to elongate its life.

our preferred style of chick feeder and waterer

     Now the matter of sustenance: We provide water for the chickens through the capillary action of upturned mason chairs whose base rests in a circular dish. As the chicks drink the basin automatically refills, but no water spills over. We find that a long rectangular plastic box allows more chicks to access the feed than a circular feed trough. I crushed up the chick feed into smaller chick sized pieces for the little guys' first few weeks of life.

     They seem healthy. It sometimes gets a bit hot in Propagation Greenhouse where they live so it is good to check and see if they are panting and hanging out in the cooler end of the room. If they are, then we turn off the light bulb for a spell.


cuckoo Marans

     The way that Windward approaches systems like this is that we first undertake to supply our personal needs and tastes. Then if a member of the crew wants to build on that foundation to create an income stream, that's great. For a variety of reasons, we're focusing on breeds that lay brown eggs, and Cuckoo Marans lay an egg that's said to be an eye catching chocolate-brown. We're looking forward to seeing that for ourselves--to see if your hens can give the Easter bunny and run for his money.

     As with our Rhode Island Reds, we purchased our latest chicks from McMurray Hatchery. We couldn't be more pleased with their quality and service.

     Brown eggs, as a rule, have shells that are twice as thick and have half as many pores. As with all natural systems, there are trade-offs. That thicker shell can make it more difficult for a chick to stay moist enough to be able to hatch, but it also makes the egg less likely to crack or go stale.

     The little yellow chicks that got over run by the larger chicks enroute are banty Araucanas. Araucanas are a breed known for laying blueish-green eggs, and most every child knows that green eggs go with ham.

     Banties are small sized hens known for being aggressive sitters--tradition says that they'll try and hatch a door knob if there's nothing else around to sit on. We keep a mix of ducks and guinnea hens because they're great at keeping bugs out of the garden, but what they're not so good at is sitting a nest. Each year they start a few nests in some hidden place, but they rarely are able to hatch out a clutch. And so we thought we'd bring in some "specialists" to hatch out replacement ducks and guinneas. Unfortunately, all but three of them got crushed by the larger chicks enroute--the next time we order chicks we'll be sure to do a better job of matching sizes.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69