My favorite bucket of chicken.
I received several questions about the heat lamp situation and how much did I leave it on? Unless you have a momma hen who will take and raise your hatchery chicks - you need to keep them warm. The easiest way is to use a heat lamp and keep the chicks somewhere that retains heat.
When ours are really little we just keep them in a plastic tub.... or a huge produce box that we scored at a local store. They need to be kept at about 90*- 95*. The guidelines in Storey's say to start at 95* and then reduce the heat a little at time. The more they feather in the less heat they need. You can regulate the heat by raising or lowering in the heat lamp.
How do you know if they need less heat? The chicks will try to "get away" from the heat and be in the corners of the brooder box instead of a nice even dispersal pattern.
Winter meats need more heat - even when they get bigger. You can tell if they need more heat because they will pile up together. You do not want this - they could suffocate in the meat pile. (Ew!) You also don't want them to be cold because they will expend energy keeping warm... and not piling on the pounds.
We get our heat lamps - the bulbs and the fixtures from Tractor Supply. But you can order the bulbsor here is another option..... here for the fixtures. We prefer the infrared bulbs because we think it's less stressful for the meats and it seems to discourage them from picking at each other. One of my friends said that they haven't had much luck with the red ones lasting very long... but we find that ours do just fine. Most of them are broken by me inappropriately using a rake long before they burn out.
How long do we keep the heat lamp on? For as long as they need it. Right now the meats are in the garage and have only gone outside once because of the weather. It's just too cold to have the meats roaming around out there. We've turned off the heat lamp several days/nights when it was warm enough but it's been on more than it's been off.
We use the same guidelines now as when they were babies. Are they heaped up? Are they trying to get away from the heat? Are they peeping miserably or are the happily meatin' around?
Of course, there are a million ways to raise meat chickens. Fist fights have happened over the "right" way to grow out meats.... but the only "right" way is what works for you. Pasture? Coop? Hoop house? High-protein, low and slow, "get out there and free range because it's free"? All of these ways work. The key is what works for YOU. Everyone's farm is different - different resources, spaces, pastures. So don't hesitate to try different things to find out what works best for you.
Can you raise meat chickens? YES! Really - it's "doable" and fun and easy. Once you get your set up working for you then you can have a continuous parade of creepy meats that are dying to end up on your table.
You can follow along with our progress this spring.
Part one - meats arrive
Something everyone has to see...actually my stupidest butchering day joke yet.
The last of the meats - proving they don't all die after 8 weeks.
Hopefully this will help you get the confidence to raise winter meats. We think they are easier to raise and butcher in winter. We feel they are easier to warm up then to cool down. To date we've never had any of the winter meats die from lack of heat... but we've had losses when it just gets too hot for the meats to endure.
Happy Thursday everyone!!! Are you thinking about raising winter meats? You can do it!
Editors note: Blah blah blah.... "affiliate links... blah blah blah. Why on earth am I shilling heat lamps!?! Because someone always asks exactly which ones so I'm putting the exact same brands that we are using right now. Easy peasy. Don't want to order them from Amazon? That's just fine. Just ge them at TSC the next time you are there. But not everyone has TSC. But hey - if you need to buy something from Amazon anyway... then give a click! I get a tiny portion of the sale. It can be anything - this book, movies, or last minute Halloween whatevers. Do you need anything Amazon? You can support this blog by just clicking one of these links. Or using the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. It doesn't cost you once cent more but helps me with the "cost" of this blog. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. Thanks!