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From the Farm: Enjoy Your Very Own Farm Fresh Eggs

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Signs of spring are finally starting to emerge as we draw nearer to the spring equinox later this month. It’s starting to get busy at the farm and our spring planting activities are in full swing. All of our more cold hardy transplants such as collards, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower have been planted on top of the raised plastic rows we created back in the fall. The less cold tolerant plants like lettuce, Swiss chard, and Chinese cabbage will go out in the next couple of weeks.

We were able to get all of our seed potatoes planted this week as well, and now we are playing the waiting game in preparation for spring until we see those tender green shoots break through the soil surface.

It’s always an enjoyable morning when you get to the farm and see the first potato shoots peeking out of the dirt. Needless to say, the first plantings of the spring always help to lift the spirits after a cold, wet winter. But now, let’s quit talking produce and start talking chickens!

Chickens are a great addition to any farm, homestead or backyard to enjoy your own farm fresh eggs each day! And spring is a great time to procure baby chicks to start a flock of your own. There is typically more variety in terms of breeds in the spring and summer months when ordering from hatcheries. If you live in a colder, northern climate, hatcheries may postpone shipping your chicks until temperatures rise in late spring or early summer; however, if you live in an area with milder winters, you can usually get baby chicks starting in mid-late February.

farm fresh eggsWhen ordering in late winter or early spring, there are usually minimums of 15 or more chicks to help the birds maintain warmth during the shipping process. This is likely too many birds for most hobbyists, so it often helps to get a few friends involved to split the order.

One should make the proper preparations for the chicks before they arrive as a chick’s health is relatively fragile for the first couple of weeks. If you don’t have an outdoor coop or brooder to start your chicks in, a cardboard box in your house or garage will work just fine. A little bedding in the form of wood shavings or newspaper and a good heat lamp are also necessary for successfully raising the baby chicks. They will need a warm environment of 90-95 degrees for the first few weeks and that can be reduced gradually until they are ready for the outdoors.

Chick starter feed, a waterer and a little chick grit (to aid in digestion) are also recommended. When starting chicks out in late winter or early spring it is important to account for the bird’s growth when planning space requirements.

While they may be fine in a certain box for the first few weeks, you don’t want them to outgrow the space before they are ready for the outdoors. Until the chicks are fully feathered and have lost all of their downy covering they are susceptible to chills, so it is recommended to wait until full feathering before releasing them into the elements when starting in the spring.

So the takeaways here are: keep them warm, keep them hydrated, keep them fed, and wait until they are fully feathered before acclimating them to outdoor temperatures. Once you have reared them from a chick to a pullet, please remember that like owning any animal, chickens take work and must be cared for and provided with sanitary living conditions. Look after your birds and you will be rewarded with farm fresh eggs in a short 4-6 months!