It has been an exciting week here at Colockum Hillside Farm! This week we received 100 1-day old chicks that will join our flock of laying hens when they are old enough. We order our chicks from reputable hatcheries, and the chicks are shipped to us via the US Postal service by express delivery. I am always amazed at how well these babies do traveling at such a young age! Shortly after the eggs hatch, the hatcheries pack the babies up into ventilated boxes that are specifically sized so that the chicks’ collective body heat keeps them warm until they can reach their destination and be put into a toasty brooder box. The day the chicks arrive, the awesome folks at our local Ellensburg Post Office call us (at 5:30 AM!) to let us know that the chicks are here.
When the chicks arrive at our farm, I take the chicks out of the shipping container one by one and tap their beaks against the watering spout to teach them where they can get a drink. They usually figure out the feeder by themselves, and chicks copy other chicks, so they seem to teach each other where to eat and drink.
Our farm is an off-grid farm, so we cannot use electric heaters in our brooder boxes. Instead, we have custom built insulated brooder boxes, and we use lidded 5-gallon buckets of hot water to keep the interior of the boxes nice and toasty. I refresh the hot water in the buckets 3 times each day, and use a blanket over the top of the brooder box to make adjustments to the temperature inside. Very gradually, over the course of 3-4 weeks, we will allow the temperature in the brooders to get cooler until the chicks are able to survive outside temperatures. At that point, we will put the chicks outside on pasture. It is amazing to see how quickly they take to grazing and foraging!
This year, we are expanding our flock with some Amerucaunas (the blue and green egg layers), some Welsummers (the dark brown and speckled egg layers), some Leghorns (white egg layers), and a new breed to us, Golden Comets, who lay light brown eggs. They should all start laying eggs sometime in August – so please tell your friends! We will be needing several more customers by the end of the summer.
Our turkey breeding project is successfully underway as well. We currently have a breeding flock of Midget White Turkeys with two males and three females. On March 11, we put 15 turkey eggs that we hoped were fertile into our incubator. Yesterday, 3 baby turkeys hatched, and as I write, 2 more are pecking at the shell of their eggs, trying to break out. This is our first attempt at trying to hatch our own eggs, and we are so excited that ANY of the eggs successfully hatched. The turkey poults are going into the brooder box with the chicks for now. The chicks are being great teachers, showing them the ropes of where to eat and drink.
Next week, we will be sending our incubator with another batch of turkey eggs to the Ellensburg Developmental Preschool. Watching chicks hatch is a magical experience, and we are so pleased to be able share it with these special needs kiddos. We plan one more hatch after the preschool has finished borrowing our incubator.