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{life in the brooder}


Zany.  These adorable fluff-balls run around the brooder all day.  Ducking under the hovers to warm themselves under the lights.  Then dashing from the waterer to the feeder and then back again about a hundred times.

They are so fun to watch.  When I’m out helping Farmer Jones, I often find myself wandering over to the brooder to check on the chicks.

There is something about just sitting in the presence of animals that calms the soul.  Simply watching them, being still, letting your mind wander, contemplating other things that are more important than whatever you are currently in a tizzy about; like the gift of life.  You realize that when you have food, water, shelter, and are being fully who you were made to be, there really isn’t much that should make us fret as much as we do.

Currently, one bay of the brooder has some older layers in it.  Another bay has just broiler chicks.  Another bay has broiler chicks and some layer chicks in it.  The last of the four bays, is getting prepped to receive another batch of broiler chicks this week.

Our first batch of layer chicks of the season, got incredibly chilled in transit and we lost over half of our new flock.  It is always heartbreaking when such a simple thing wipes out so many.  It also makes it very challenging to then coordinate your brooder space and  scheduling the exit from the brooder onto pasture.  But as farmers, you have to be able to roll with the punches- even when they keep knocking down on your tush.

The chicks don’t seem to notice and haven’t been phased by their brooder mates.  I found these two wee-ones cuddling under the hover.  Too cute!

93 Comments leave one →
  1. Dawn permalink
    04.17.12 7:38 PM

    We lost half a batch of broiler chicks one year because they were chilled in transit, and we made it worse by not realizing that this was the case, and being a bit casual about keeping the temperature under the hover steady at 95. We had an unexpected cold snap, which didn’t help, and hence we lost a lot of chicks. Lesson learned, that’s for sure, but it hurt that my learning curve came as a result of all those chicks dying. Can you elaborate on your brooder set up? It seems from what you say above that you’ve got 4 hovers going in one space with batches of birds at different stages of growth – do they intermingle? Or kept separate?

    • 04.19.12 2:00 PM

      Dawn, it is always hard to lose an animal; and it is especially hard to lose any great number at one time. I agree that learning curves can be very painful.

      Here is the explanation of our brooder: It is one long building. It is separated into 4 sections/brooder spaces by plywood and chicken wire on top walls. So you can stand at one end of the brooder and see all the way through to the other side. In each brooder we will have around 400-500 birds in each bay for 3-4 weeks (depending on weather conditions). Each bay has 3 hovers in it, we started with 4 in each this year for the first 3 batches to give extra warmth and because we were mixing layers and broilers together in two bays. We keep each week of chicks in their own brooder section, we do not mix them. We put each individual batch of chicks out on pasture together and then butcher that same batch when the time comes. Hope that helps. Let me know if you have more questions.

    • 05.07.12 9:28 AM


    • 05.08.12 7:00 AM

      Oh my gosh those chicks are soo cute! I want to snatch one and take it home!

      Very cute post

  2. 05.07.12 8:29 AM

    What fantastic photos! I’m so sorry about the loss of the babies. The late frost hit a lot of farmer hard. What breeds are represented here? We’ve been considering getting chickens, as it’s now legal in our community.

    • 05.07.12 6:34 PM

      Boy, do I wish I could edit to say “farmers.” I hate making typos.

      • 05.09.12 10:27 AM

        Thanks for visiting! I know what you mean about typos- I do it too often, even though I edit before posting, I still find them later ;)

    • 05.09.12 6:13 PM

      Thank you! In this post, we had broiler chickens- which this year we are raising Cornish Cross- and we had Rhode Island Red layers mixed in. For our layers we have multiple different breeds. I explain it a little bit in this previous post, but mainly we raise heritage breeds- like Barred Rock, Black Australorp, Silver/Golden laced Wyandotte, Americana, etc. Glad to hear that you can legally raise chickens now! Have fun!

  3. 05.07.12 8:34 AM

    These are so adorable! Is it possible that I’m actually seeing personality on their little chick faces? One looks precocious, while another seems reserved…

    Thank you for sharing — and congrats on the babies! :)

    • 05.09.12 6:22 PM

      It’s so totally true! They each have so much personality and it is fun to watch them all grow up :) Thanks for stopping by and saying hi :) All the best to you!

  4. 05.07.12 8:36 AM

    Aww they are so cute! :)

  5. 05.07.12 8:38 AM

    These are just unbelievably cute, and it’s lovely to see them kept in such a good quality environment.

    • 05.09.12 6:45 PM

      I truly appreciate you noticing and saying something about that, Anna! We work really hard at giving our animals the best living & thriving conditions that we can within our means at any given moment. Truly thank you. And thanks for checking out the blog :)

  6. 05.07.12 8:38 AM

    Beautiful shots and thanks for the insight into the farm!

    • 05.09.12 6:46 PM

      You are so welcome! I love sharing our life- the ups, downs, and cow-pies. There is never a dull moment, that’s for sure! Thank you for your kind words.

  7. 05.07.12 8:45 AM

    So adorable! Chicks are very photogenic little creatures, no?

  8. 05.07.12 8:58 AM


  9. 05.07.12 9:04 AM

    Cute things they are – but i think i would worry about them too much

    • 05.09.12 7:15 PM

      They are totally cute! I tended to worry more in the beginning, but as I have gotten to know what they need, their typical characteristics, and what to relatively expect, I worry less. But they are still often on my mind :) All the best to you!

  10. 05.07.12 9:04 AM


  11. 05.07.12 9:08 AM

    Wonderful Topic discussed here !

  12. freeze43 permalink
    05.07.12 9:17 AM

    Got a couple of chicks on a hobby farm. I know this may not be a question you can answer, but do dual purpose (that is, egg and meat chooks) have application in the commercial market? I always think that while they are useful for hobbies or small holdings, larger farms would prefer either great egg layers or great meat birds, and not both.

    • 05.09.12 7:51 PM

      Thanks for stopping by, first of all! Second of all, that is a great question. You are correct, that dual purpose chickens are best for hobby or small farms. This is mainly because the duel purpose chicken {which are typically a layer type chicken} is not always the most appealing as a meat bird for the majority of customers you would be selling to. They are single breasted, usually have dark feathers- therefore darker pin feathers that are sometimes harder to remove- and in general they have an over-all skinny and small look to them. That is why you will see larger farms using both good production egg chickens and good full bodied meat chickens. For us, this is the reason. And we raise all of our chicken types in different ways- depending on their purpose on our farm and how we want them to be used to enhance the pasture and other species we raise. Hope that helps. Let me know if you have other questions :)

  13. 05.07.12 9:21 AM

    so cute

  14. 05.07.12 9:35 AM

    Too cute! Great pictures. :)

  15. permalink
    05.07.12 9:41 AM

    I think they look just perfect and I perfectly understand what you mean … I have often sat in front of my goldfish bowl and watch the fish swim. It is very calming because they look calm.

    • 05.11.12 6:34 PM

      There is something about watching nature- whether it is the weather, animals, plants, or humans. It is soothing to the soul.

  16. 05.07.12 9:49 AM

    They are too adorable :)

  17. 05.07.12 9:53 AM

    very cute!

  18. 05.07.12 10:11 AM

    This makes me regret that chicken sandwich I had last night. :)
    Awesome photo essay! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • 05.11.12 6:44 PM

      Thank you Susie! I really enjoy taking photos {and improving my skills each day} and it means so much to me when others appreciate them too :) And thank you for the congratulations- I was pretty stocked ;)

  19. 05.07.12 10:16 AM

    This is bringing back fond memories of last spring. Good luck and have fun!

  20. 05.07.12 10:49 AM

    awesome pic’s…

  21. 05.07.12 10:54 AM

    I adore this post. It is great to such telling photos of these little chicks. Would love to watch them myself for awhile, but like getting to live vicariously through the lens!

    • 05.11.12 6:46 PM

      Glad you enjoyed it! It is fun to share our life here on the farm and for people to live vicariously through the pictures- hope you continue to enjoy :)

  22. 05.07.12 11:23 AM

    Oh, they’re so cute! Baby chickens are the best.

  23. 05.07.12 11:23 AM

    Really mice to see something positive about chicken farming for once – its not evil, battery cages!

    • 05.11.12 6:48 PM

      I’m glad to hear that it was refreshing for you! When I hear all the negative stuff about how animals are raised on some other farms, it makes me really appreciate the life we are giving our animals here :)

  24. 05.07.12 12:10 PM

    Wow… the sheer numbers raised by “real” farmers never cease to boggle my mind. I’ve got eight chicks – I bought them as hens but one of the two Rhode Island Reds is evidently not a hen, LOL! I was unhappy at first but then figured that a roo might be a good idea and would provide some protection for my gals to free-range some during the day.

    My brooder consists of a 100 gallon rubber tub set down in the garden tub in my master bath. The chicks are about 4 weeks old now and growing like crazy, so we’re discussing coops/tractors/free-range options that are going to have to take shape soon regardless of whether my husband is ready or not, because they’re just not going to fit in my bathtub much longer! I’m thinking 8 is a good number to start with, and plan next year to expand just a little to include broilers… if I don’t wind up attached to the “starter” flock, that is. So far so good, I don’t seem to be much of a bird person, and hope that I never find myself growing emotionally attached to livestock. Give me dogs, cats, and horses any day.

    I like the fact you pasture your flocks. The prime reason I decided to get into chicken farming is because I’m not keen on how most corporate-farm chickens are treated. My thought is, just because an animal is going to provide/become food doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a comfortable life.

    • 05.11.12 6:51 PM

      I love that you are raising your chickens in your bathtub! But you are right, they grow quickly and I’m sure will soon be taking over your bathroom! Hope all goes well with building the chicken coop!

      Similar to you, once I found out how most chickens are raised, I choose to not eat one unless they are our own or I know the farmer :) Best to you and all your farming adventures :)

  25. 05.07.12 12:36 PM

    Cool photos and informative to boot! Thanks for posting.

  26. 05.07.12 4:29 PM

    I’m immediately captivated by your blog name :)
    Going down to our chicken-orchard is one of my favourite parts of the day. Once I’ve thrown the feed around I love watching them going about their chickeny day. They’ve got such personality, and the chicks are just too cute! At the moment we’ve got some guinea fowl keets that were hatched under a broody chicken about 8 weeks ago. They’re great fun to watch, so different from the chickens – flighty & silly, but highly entertaining. Worth a try if you can get some fertile eggs to hatch.

    • 05.09.12 10:11 AM

      Glad you like the blog name ;) It is still very true- that I find myself tromping around in inappropriate footwear around the farm. I love the chickens too- especially to just watch them. They are very fascinating and always seem to put a smile on my face. We’ve never had guinea fowl keets but we have had our very own chicks hatch under a rogue brooder momma and rogue rooster. We haven’t seen any ‘home-grown’ chicks this year, but I’m crossing my fingers we have a couple batches. They are just way to much fun!

  27. 05.07.12 6:21 PM

    Are you a free range chicken farm? Do these chicks see the light of day later in life? What do you think of Polyface Farm’s philosophy?

    • 05.09.12 10:20 AM

      We are a free range chicken, pig, cow, sheep, and bee farm! :) Tyler apprenticed with Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm in 2002-2003. He has been farming with the same model and philosophy he learned from Polyface for 10 years now. I only have 3+ years under my belt and am still learning a ton! We absolutely love the whole Polyface team and bring Joel out every other year to our farm- to visit and to educate about this type of farming. It’s a great time! Keep an eye out here or on Afton Field Farm’s or Polyface Farm’s websites for when we will be having other events together. Thanks for stopping by the blog :)

  28. Alyssa permalink
    05.07.12 6:21 PM

    Great shots and those are cute chicks! :)

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    • 05.09.12 10:24 AM

      Thanks Alyssa! I love taking pictures of the little fur-balls :) There are always great photo opportunities on the farm. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

  29. 05.07.12 6:36 PM

    These chicks are so cute.

  30. 05.07.12 6:58 PM

    So cute.. I always love chicken.. fluffy and yellow with their cute chirping. Thanks for sharing the cuteness…

  31. 05.07.12 7:52 PM

    These little chicks are so cute. the photographs are nicely clicked! I love it! :D

  32. 05.07.12 8:28 PM

    i used to raise chicks until i had to move. after that i went to raising a baby duck. i love raising baby animals. can somebody pleaase visit my site on cooking. im no longer adding to the happiness site but i dont want to delete it.

    • 05.09.12 10:36 AM

      I would like to raise ducks some day. I think it would be fun- and I would love to have fresh duck eggs to bake with! You are right, raising baby animals is fun, they are all so cute and energetic! All the best to you!

  33. 05.07.12 9:36 PM

    I love the wee things of nature. Farm life is good. do you know how to get a hen to set on eggs, or how to figure out which hen is most likely, etc. I’ve been successful once – last year, but not yet this year. I’m frustrated. I have a blog on projects like this and working with nature to do your own thing.

    • 05.09.12 10:40 AM

      You are so correct- farm life is good and the wee things of nature truly do feed the soul! As far as figuring out which hen will sit and which won’t, and how to get her to sit, I’m not too sure. Out of our hundreds of layer chickens, you can tell which chickens are broody. Obviously the larger the selection of hens, the more chances you will have finding one that will brood her eggs. We have found that Americana chickens seem to have more broody tendencies. Look on line though and do some research on which breed of chickens are best known for being good sitters :) All the best to you! Thank you for stopping by the blog!

      • 05.09.12 1:09 PM

        Would you be curious enough to visit my blog abuot the backcountry life of northern Alberta? I love the good life, and simplicity, although it isn’t simply to get all the work and fun things into one day when you’re trying to get self-sufficient!!…. I can use all the help and comments you can afford. Thanks, Sherry.

  34. 05.08.12 1:12 AM

    Great Information, and wonderful pics they’re so cute!

    • 05.09.12 10:43 AM

      Thank you Ronique! Glad you stopped by and enjoyed :) Love your blog! I got so hungry while searching through the food section! Makes me want to go to NYC for lunch today ;)

  35. 05.08.12 3:03 AM

    Beautiful and cute.

  36. John Saddington permalink
    05.08.12 4:42 AM

    Reblogged this on 8BIT.

  37. 05.08.12 5:33 AM

    Being an animal lover I relish nothing more than admiring the beauty of the natural world however always of the stark reminder that I am and will forever be a hypocrite in my own mind vested in turmoil with my instincts to eat meat contrasting with my views on the preservation of animals.
    My peace rests in the reassurance that wildlife and endangered species are my focus for preservation. These images encapsulate both the fragile being of nature solely reliant upon the hand of man.

    • 05.09.12 10:53 AM

      I can completely understand and respect your opinion. At our farm we take great pride in knowing that we are raising animals and taking care of the land in as natural, healthy, humane, and respectful way while being an economically viable business {though the latter never trumps the former} We learned our farming practices from Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm and through educating ourselves by Wendell Berry, Louis Bromfield, and the like. There are many varying opinions of what is ‘right’ for animals; we feel like we are doing the best we can in that. To learn more about what we do {outside of what was talked about in this short, brief post} please visit Afton Field Farm‘s website. I appreciate you stopping by! Thank you for all you do in the preservation of wildlife and endangered species! All the best to you!

  38. Jenny permalink
    05.08.12 9:26 AM

    Oh dear, the chickens are so cute!

  39. 05.08.12 9:44 AM

    The pictures are so cute! They made me feel a little like I was there watching them myself. Sorry you lost so many chicks.

    • 05.09.12 10:57 AM

      Thank you for your kind comments and sympathy over the lost chicks. It never gets easier to lose any animal. Thank you for all you share and your honesty on your blog; I’m sure it’s not easy most days, but keep up the good work of God:)

      • 05.09.12 9:36 PM

        I’ve never had a pet or anything, but I definitely would hate to see an animal die. And thank you for your encouragement; it is a timely gift:)

  40. 05.08.12 9:51 PM

    soooooo cute chicks.thanks for sharing.
    marg swarnabhoomi

  41. 05.15.12 7:55 PM

    Great I like ^^


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