We wanted to share some tips and our what went into our choosing Barred Rocks for our first flock.
Once home, we opened one side of the box at a time. And checked for any distressed or deceased chicks. Fortunately, we did not find any of those conditions. We did notice 2 which concerned me a bit. Their activity level did not match the rest of their flock mates.
The first thing to do is gently pick them up, supporting their whole body and you want to examine their vent or rear end. You are looking for matted poop, which could indicate sickness.
You then want to gently place the tip of their beaks into their water. We have been told that this not only allows them to rehydrate after 24 hours in a shipping box, but that they will then associate that vessel with their water source. After they have had a drink, you then introduce them with their feeder whether it is one of the tray or gravity fed bottle types.
One they have had a drink and eaten a morsel or two, you can then release them into a brooder box. While it is certainly warm enough to introduce them directly outdoors here, I have not yet finished the coop. This is coyote country and we see them daily, that's why we have 3 dogs outside by the sheep pens.
We have set up a self ballasted, mercury vapor heat lamp in the brooder to provide a source of heat. You can determine the proper temperature of your brooder when the chicks are fairly dispersed throughout the brooder. If they are all huddled together under the heat lamp, it's a pretty safe bet that the chicks are cold. If they are spread out along the perimeter of the brooder away from the heat source, they are probably too warm.
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Our Choice of Breed
This is going to open a can of worms. Everyone who keeps chickens, ducks, dogs, sheep, cattle, horses has their own favorite breed for whatever they are looking for in an animal.
This is not meant as bashing or picking on anyone elses choice of bird(s). We all have our own preferences. We did not want a hybrid breed that will reach a mature, processing size in 10 or 11 weeks that can't support it's own weight or has heart/lung issues because the internal organs didn't grow as fast as the rest of it. We also did not want a hybrid egg layer that only gets to 3 or 4 pounds body weight at maturity. That wouldn't be enough to provide a meal for us. Yes, we made the decision, at least for now, that once they stop producing a steady supply of eggs we are going to process and eat them. That may change as we see their personalities and get used to them, but for now that's our plan
That left us with a heritage breed. True, we like the plumage coloring and the hackle feathers make great fly fishing lures, but they handle warmer climates pretty well, they average 280-300 eggs a year starting around 22 weeks of age. The Barred Rocks also are supposed to have a very gentle disposition, though we believe that disposition is more a result of interaction with the chicken than because of a particular breed. I will say though that after the first 15 minutes with them, I was hooked and so was my girlfriend. The chicks willingly climbed into our hands and just sat there very content.
We'll keep you posted on!!