Keeping up with chicken, Part 2

Good morning,

After a wonderful vacation, we’re back to work. First on the agenda is getting two more coops ready. Back in march we planned our schedule of chick deliveries with the hatchery and then we set that schedule into motion. This month that schedule starts to ramp up as we try to fill the freezer to keep chicken in stock for as long as we can this winter.

On Thursday of this week we received 475 chicks, who will occupy the two new coops we are building. As an interesting aside, we have heard of many folks suffering shipping delays and chick stress due to changes in our postal service. We have been lucky and seen no ill effects. However, we always receive our chicks on Wednesday morning, but this week when there were no chicks at the post office on Wednesday, we began to worry. Then I remembered that Monday was Labor Day, a national holiday and the mail was likely not running:) After a quick phone call with the hatchery, they confirmed that indeed, they had shipped the chicks on Tuesday.

For me the fact that you can ship chicks in the mail is incredible! Our hatchery (Freedom Ranger Hatchery) diligently hatches their chicks on Monday mornings (holiday or no), sorts and boxes the chicks and has them in the mail by the afternoon! These little guys have enough stored up energy in their bodies, leftover from life inside the egg, that they can travel the 36 hours it takes them to get to our farm and they are only just beginning to get hungry and thirsty! Amazingly resilient newborn creatures!

So what happens when there’s a national holiday on Monday and you cannot ship your chicks?! It’s difficult to send food and water with the chicks in the mail…I learned this week that the hatchery sends “gel packs” with the chicks to help them make the trip. Since they hatch on Monday, and are usually safe and warm by Wednesday, they are starting to get hungry and thirsty by Wednesday evening while still en-route! (and it’s about time:) So the hatchery mixes up a “gel” that looks something like green gatorade jello. They staple some plastic dixie cups to the inside of the chick boxes and away they go. Some of the chicks had some green smudges on their faces, but they all arrived safely, without many signs of stress.

With each day they grow and eventually they will be too big for their cozy warm brooder and we will need to have the coops ready for them. Now that we have the metal base frame welded up, what’s next?

The coops are basically a metal hoop-house on a frame we pull with the tractor. Back in April my first research stop was to our friends at Tangleroot Farm who are no strangers to the hoop house. (For those who live within their delivery zone, don’t forget to sign up for their winter CSA, fresh veg delivered right to your door:) Their hoop-houses don’t move very often, but the general construction is the same. As it turns out, you can buy 1 3/8″ top rail (used for chain link fence construction) and bend it into hoops your self! Above you can see the jig I built out of plywood, that determines the radius of the bend, then the series of wood slats that keep the hoop bend in the same plane.

After the hoops are bent and attached in place, we add the door frame, and a combination of purlins and angle bracing to help the coop withstand the wind and weather. To the left in this picture you can see a long roll of rubber. This is “quarry belting” from our local wollastonite quarry. This stuff is heavy and tough! After all, it’s used to move sand and gravel up conveyors. Next week we’ll cut the belting and fasten it to the front and back of the coop to keep chicks in, and vermin out. Then we’ll add the plastic covering, doors and roll up sides!

  • Thank you to all the new customers for giving us a chance and to all the returning customers for continuing to support us.
  • We had some trouble last week with our dry ice delivery and we were not able to ship our orders last week. For customers who ordered last week, you will receive your order this week.
  • Meat customers from years past:
    • We will make our yearly deliveries to the Boston Area, Connecticut shore and Montclair, NJ. However, we are at the mercy of very booked slaughter houses. I am working on solidifying dates and I will then setup a way for folks to order including wholes and halves. Stay tuned for more information and thank you for your patience.

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