After initially thinking I would not get any chicks this spring, because I thought I might be travelling a lot (among other reasons), I changed my mind. However, I have made a few changes already from what I did last year to make it a little easier and more feasible for me. Learning is a wonderful thing!
First off: raise broilers for meat birds (as opposed to dual-purpose). That way, you can butcher in August--much better use of time and money per bird. Nicer meat. And none of this "having to feed them through the winter" nonsense.
So, we have 50 fluffy yellow little Cornish Giant chicks running around in the brooder. You'd never know they will be ready to butcher in only 8 weeks, would you? (The 25 auburn chicks are Rhode Island Reds. I will keep the hens for layers and butcher all but one of the roosters.)
Secondly: Brood them in the chicken tractor. This idea was thanks to Robin B., my friend and local mentor in all things farming. She's not my only mentor, but I have leaned heavily on her as I have made my fledgling attempts at gardening (she grew up here and knows what grows best) and chicken farming, and we have also swapped ideas on homeschooling and diet. She said that her and her husband have found that if you just cover the chicken tractor with a tarp to keep the draughts out, and make sure the heat lamps keep it warm enough, the chicks do fine, and you don't have to worry about splay-leggedness or other issues that arise when brooding them in small confined spaces in wood chips. (Yay! I don't have to clean a brooder box every three days or listen to chirping, hungry chicks dragging me out of bed in the wee hours of the morning!)
I am also revving up to get my garden in this weekend, or at least most of it. I have been struggling with where to put the flowers I've started. I was going to make a flower bed right in front of the trailer, but now that we're moving the trailer, that's not going to work! So tonight, I looked out across my yard and surveyed the options. My eye espied the pile of straw bales no longer being used to insulate a coop, and I had the inspiration to try straw bale gardening this year! That way, it is only temporary, and I can move my flower bed back in front of the trailer in a year or two (where I'd really like it to be.) I'm so excited, now, and can't wait to get started!
Plus, the high-nitrogen composted chicken manure from the winter will give my new straw bale garden a great start--I was wondering where I was going to use that! :-)
Happy Spring, friends!