On My Plate: Chicken Show-and-Tell

It has been a busy week at our homestead! On Friday we brought home two of our baby chicks. Allow me to introduce you to Patsy and Edi (Edina)*.

Aren’t they beautiful?! They’re a golden honey color with thick cinnamon stripes down their backs. They’re even starting to get their feathers, a mix of bright white with hints of blue.

Care is critical for chicks, especially the first six weeks or so. Food, health and homesteading are a big deal for these critters. Currently the chicks are living in a repurposed fish tank we borrowed from a friend. The hubs cleaned it out and got it all ready for our gals.

The bottom is fitted with newspaper and topped with soft pine shavings. Chicks need a warm environment, so we’re using heat lamps to keep their tank between 85-90 degrees. Patsy and Edi are currently on “starter” feed since they’re just starting out in the world. At about 16-weeks of age when they’re outside and getting ready to start laying eggs, we’ll switch them over to “layer” feed. There are subtle differences between the food, the two biggest differences being that the starter feed is medicated so that their tiny immune system is aided with low doses of medicine to protect them against disease, and the protein count is a little higher right now since they’re in their growing phase. When we switch them over to layer feed the protein count will go down a little and they won’t be on medicine anymore. And get this – the water we give them is tap water, but we add electrolytes! We add just a teeny tiny bit to give them essential vitamins and nutrients. The funny part is that even just a little bit turns the water yellowish, so we’ve been joking that it looks like the girls are downing Mountain Dew.

Here’s something you might not know – chickens don’t have teeth. In order for their body to process food, they also eat grit (little rocks) to help their gizzard break down the food. Think of all the money they’re going to save on dental work.

As of today these chicks are just two weeks old but they’re already getting big! They eat and drink a lot, helping them to grow and build up their immunity.  We’ve had a lot people stop by to meet the girls, which has been so much fun. My niece and nephew were in total awe of the chickens. The only thing cuter than a chick is watching a toddler’s eyes light up when they see a baby animal for the first time.

People raise chickens for several reasons: meat, eggs, and even just as pets. We’re personally raising them just for the eggs. I don’t eat poultry (it just tastes weird to me!) and raising birds for meat versus eggs requires a different diet (one that is much higher in protein).

If you’re interested in raising your own chickens, be sure to visit this really awesome website and forum called backyardchickens.com. They have tips, helpful info and even coop designs! It’s a great resource for both amateurs and pros. I’ll have more updates and info on the girls in upcoming weeks. It’s a learning process for both The Hubs and me since we’ve never kept chickens before, so you’re going to learn right along with us!

Oh and as soon as our other two chicks hatch we’ll introduce them to Patsy and Edi and finally have our full flock! Stay tuned…

Food: Want to read about something really cool? Check out this article on what a group of local college students are doing to bring farm fresh food to St. Louis restaurants. This is a fantastic and amazing idea!

Health: St. Louis seems to be synonymous with seasonal allergies. Perhaps it’s because we’re right on the Mississippi River, or maybe it’s because of our crazy ever-changing climate, but either way lots of folks around here deal with major allergies. So to combat the problem at hand, some friends and I have been eating a teaspoon of local honey each day – and guess what – it’s working! Local honey contains local allergens, so think of it like a vaccine; by giving your body the local allergens it helps you build up immunity. Plus, it’s delicious. If you don’t want to down a teaspoon of honey, mix it in with your tea or drizzle it over some fruit. Give it a try and see if it works for you!

Homestead: Since this week is all about showing and telling, take a look at our first backyard cherries! These beauties started showing on our Bing cherry tree about a week ago. Obviously they’re not edible in this state, but they are in good shape and growing nicely, so even if the fruit isn’t ready to be eaten this season, they most likely will next season!

* If you’re wondering about their namesakes, these gals have been named after two of my favorite characters from the hit BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous.


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