Have you ever looked out the car window at one of those big white chicken barns and thought, “what is going on in there?” I used to wonder that same thing until three years ago when we became chicken farmers and got our first flock of pullets (young female hens).
All of our chickens are raised humanely and with the utmost care. Our chickens develop in a climate-controlled barn. They are able to grow carefree from the harsh elements and dangerous predators. Our flocks arrive on the same day they hatch and stay with us for 16 weeks. Once they are mature, they will move to a layer house where they will lay fertilized eggs. Those eggs will be hatched in Grand Island, Nebraska, and those chicks will go out to farmers to be raised as layers, producing the eggs we buy at the store. Together with our four children, we provide care daily for the flock. Read on to take a virtual tour of our chicken barn!
Here is our barn.
Yes, it’s COLD outside at this time of the year. But inside the barn, we are warm and getting ready for our seventh flock of pullets and cockerels. A pullet is a female chicken under one year of age, and a cockerel is a male chicken under one year of age.
Inside, there is much to do to prepare for 36,500 hens and 3,500 roosters. Chicks can’t regulate their own body heat for at least the first two weeks of their lives. The barn starts out at 95 degrees and will slowly drop by half a degree every few days. There are eight different thermostats that continually track the temperature, telling us which heaters to turn on and off.
Temperature isn’t the only thing growers, like us, worry about. Chicks are not just adorable, they are curious, too. We place paper under the feed and water lines and they scratch and learn where their food and water are. It is vitally important for them to find water and feed as soon as possible to ensure their gut and immune systems will mature and they don’t fall behind.
Before chicks arrive, we spread new wood shavings and build pens to help divide chicks. This will keep them closer to the feed and water for the first few days.
Chick arrival DAY
I can’t describe how much fun this day is. The chicks are so curious peeking out, looking at their new home. They are soft, cuddly and surprising loud.
We have a lot of family and friends who help us unload chickens. The temperature outside is 12 degrees during this delivery, and it is important for us to bring the chickens gently into the barn and get them settled in.
After the day one excitement is over, our job isn’t done. I continue to check the chickens daily. I take chickens’ temperatures and check bedding (woodchips) temps to be sure the barn system is working correctly and that the chickens have the best environment in which to thrive.
The chickens will continue to grow over the next 16 weeks, and we will continue to adjust feeders, water, lighting and temperature as they grow.
So now you know what goes on inside those big barns. They are a warm home to some comfortable and content chickens, loved by their caregivers.