Chick Rearing

We rear our own laying birds from day old chicks as we believe this produces a stronger, hardier bird adapted to any disease burden we may have on our land.

We brood the chicks under gas brooders for about 3 – 4 weeks depending on the time of year. Depending on the weather, we like to let our chicks out at 5 days old as at this age they get inquisitive and really benefit by having extra space to explore and scratch around in. Their first week outdoors is limited to a shelter pen where they have access to grass but are sheltered from the elements.

The lamps are on so they go back indoors if they feel chilly or damp and we are constantly on hand to help train them to go in and our their houses. Once they are fully familiar with running in and out of their houses we allow them into a larger area which is fenced off with chicken wire and covered with bird netting to protect them from overhead predators. Once they are off the heat we give them access to extra housing and open up the paddock so they are free to roam and explore. Generally this is 5 – 6 weeks old but depends on time of year. We have always marvelled how chicks as young as 2 – 3 weeks old can wander off and always find their way back! If they can’t find their peers their cheep is loud and indignant enough to inform the nearest village!

Once the chicks are off the heat we basically ensure they are well fed and watered, have enough space and are growing well. The young hens (pullets) start to lay at 18 weeks and we like to get them into their laying houses at 14 – 16 weeks old to give them a chance to get used to their new house. Moving hens is very stressful for them so we try to keep any movement to a minimum so we brood and rear in the same sheds so we move the pullets only once – at point of lay.