Having a barn is more awesome than I could have imagined. I’ve wanted one forever, and this place has a small one. I’m finding it so very useful.
One third of the barn is being dedicated to what I’m calling the brooder barn. I started running the incubator crazy early this year, lured into it by fellow Icelandic chicken breeders who’d also started early. Then we had a crazy long cold spring. I had (okay, have) baby birds in my living room since early April. Insanity! But it was just too cold to put them outside.
But now that it has been vaguely warm (will summer ever arrive?!) I’ve been putting the babies outside as soon as they are about two weeks old. I’ve got a very well secured heat lamp placed pretty high that I turn on if it’s going to go around 40 overnight, but I turn it off during the day and become mean mommy and make them all go outside.
We have a pretty decent sized paddock heavily fortified fence with four foot strong fence lined with four foot one-inch chicken wire. Maggie is hanging out with the babies and seems to be really enjoying it. She and Buffy chased away a huge black bear the other day (!!) and after they did some high-fiving, she immediately wanted back in with her babies. She’s kept pretty busy keeping the hawks and ravens from landing, too. They taunt her and she does it right back, almost daring them to land.
She’s pretty sweet to the babies, though. If a grown bird comes near her food, she will bark and them and make them GO AWAY. If a baby comes near her food, she will very gently nudge them away.
Sometimes, when I’m turning off the light in the barn and shooing all the babies outside, I feel mean when so many of them are so tiny, barely the size of my fist. But then they get outside into the sun and the grass and are giddy with excitement. And my mama chickens out and about with their babies are way meaner than me. If it’s raining, I won’t kick them out of the barn, but my mama hens are out there with their babies, hi ho, hi ho!
I’ve got about 60 juvenile Icelandic chickens, 20 or so Midget White turkey poults, and three goslings that I had to rescue from an inattentive goose in the barn right now. I’ve got about 40 chicks in the living room still waiting to feather out a bit, and I’m picking up a dozen Muscovy ducklings tomorrow that I’ll just put straight out into the barn. I figure that as long as the grass is still over their head, the paddock can take more baby birds.
As they grow out, I’ll cull out the majority of the cockerels before integrating the pullets with the rest of the Icie flock. So far, I just see two boys that I want to keep — a gorgeous red boy and a blue boy, both new colors for me and the results of the new genetics we’ve brought in so far this year. I’ve been putting a hundred eggs into the incubator every week, selling most of them, but keeping twenty or so each week. I’m hoping to keep doing that until it’s too cold to ship. I want to double the size of my flock, at least, and this is a nice way to do it. It’ll be nicer if it warms up enough that I don’t have to start them in my living room!
I’m really enjoying the patterns on many of the pullets as well. I’m seeing colors and patterns that are completely new to me, so much fun.
If you are interested in day-old chicks, let me know. We are selling them for $6 each, plus shipping, and the minimum to ship is 15. I’m also selling some grown out pullets, as soon as I can tell who’s a girl, usually around 6 weeks old, for $12 each.