Spring on the Homestead

30 new chicks and 3 ducklings, 03-07-2014

30 new chicks and 3 ducklings on 03-07-2014

Well, according to the calendar, it’s Spring. I am not sure I’m buying it though. There are still piles of snow in places, I still have to wear four layers in the house to stay warm, and we are still getting freezing temperatures.

Oh well, I guess that’s Spring in Wisconsin.

On the other hand, I can see the grass, even if it is still brown. And, one of the first signs of Spring for me – we have chicks!

We have had them for a couple of weeks now and they are growing fast! This year, we bought 30 chicks and 3 ducklings. I’m not sure why we got the duckling other than the cuteness factor since we had already decided that ducks are pretty messy to have around, but we have them.

For the record, ducks grow much faster than chickens. So now the ducklings look ginormous and the chicks still look, well, like chicks. You can see the difference in the image below…

The ducklings are now WAY bigger than the chicks in only 2 weeks!

The ducklings are now WAY bigger than the chicks in only 2 weeks!

 Chicken Is Chicken… Sort of

The chicks are Barred Rocks and some sort of red pullets. If you don’t already know, Barred Rocks are a dual purpose breed of chicken. They are good egg layers, which is great because I hope to sell eggs at some point. They are also a good meat breed.

Yes, you can eat any kind of chicken. They all taste like chicken. But those that are considered meat breeds tend to have more meat in less time. Meaning, you don’t have to feed them as much as an egg laying breed to get the same amount of meat. For this reason, it is more practical to have dual purpose chickens on our homestead.

That said, it is even more practical to get some Cornish Cross chicks to raise strictly for meat. They will reach butchering weight by 7 to 8 weeks as opposed to other breeds that take several months. My Barred Rocks, for example, would be about half the size of a 7-8 week Cornish Cross at 12 to 16 weeks old. Obviously, I will need lots more feed to raise the Barred Rocks to butchering size. Fortunately, I only plan to butcher roosters, so the Barred Rocks will primarily be egg layers.

About Feed

Our chickens always get offered chicken scratch as well as some commercial feed and hay. This is all essential in the winter months, but during the rest of the year, we don’t need nearly as much. Our chickens free-range. They roam around the farm and forage for food that is natural for them – bugs, worms, seeds, weeds, grass. This makes for happy, healthy chickens.

I would love to buy organic feed, and maybe some day I will, but the cost is just too much to justify right now. A bag of feed at our local farm store is around $15 for 50 pounds. I have not seen organic feed there, which means I would have to order it. The cheapest I have found is around $20 for a 25 pound bag, plus $17 for shipping. So, you do the math.

And if you know a source for affordable feed, please let me know. 😉

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