Category Archives: Free-Range and Organic Poultry Handbook

Day old chicks arrive

On Saturday we collected day old Hubbard chicks and Pekin ducklings (supplied by S&T Poultry). We’ll grow these on for the table. The ducks will produce a fatty Aylesbury type table duck and the Hubbards are a good breed for outdoor (free-range or organic) poultry enterprises. They are hardier than Ross Cobs and tend to range well outdoors.

Steve created a new “cat proof” brooder area for them, making use of some SuperQuilt offcuts for the top. Its excellent insulating properties are ideal for a brooder pen (though rather expensive if you were buying it for the purpose).

Keeping the chicks warm

The day olds start off under a heat lamp. For larger groups, gas brooders are more economical. In this case, we’re using an electric brooder lamp.

You can find detailed information (including temperatures required) for brooding chicks and raising poultry for eggs or the table in Steve’s 130 page Free-Range and Organic Poultry e-handbook, dubbed The Poultry Keeper’s Bible by one reviewer.

How to check the temperature is right

Ideally you keep a thermometer in the brooder pen so you can keep the heat at the required level. Another good indication is the position of the chicks. If they’re crowded into the corners away from the lamp, then it’s too hot. If huddled under the middle of the lamp, then it’s too cold.

What you want is a nice ring doughnut arrangement of chicks under the lamp. That shows you’ve got the temperature about right. The chicks are very vulnerable at this early stage so check on them as often as you can (every few hours if possible).

In this photo they are a bit huddled, as the temperature drops when we open the front flap.

Growing birds for the table

We’ll grow the table birds on for 12 -14 weeks to produce a largish bird. We’re a family of 5, so prefer a 2.5kg to 3kg bird that we will feed us for 2 days.