Starting the Free Range Chicken Project
When I moved into the tiny house, there were 10 hens and 1 roo owned by my landlord, but the flock dwindled down to 7 chickens after a few weeks. These were free range chickens and were locked up at night. I had been watching Craigslist for pullets with thoughts of replenishing the flock. My grandsons and daughter came to see the tiny house one day, and I thought it would be a nice activity for the boys (city slickers) if we went to Tractor Supply and bought some chicks. So, after an extensive tour of the tiny house and a trip around the homestead to see the baby goats, donkey and the small garden, we took off for Tractor Supply to see about buying some baby chicks.
After arriving, it didn’t take us long to find the chicks and ducks. Tractor Supply had different breeds of chicks set up in a half dozen different water troughs that were serving as corrals to contain the two or three day old chicks. After reading the signs on each one we choose the sex-link chicks. I don’t know what breed of chicks they are but the sign says they are most likely pullets. Not guaranteed, but 90+% will grow up to be hens.
Within minutes, a nice young man picked out a dozen little feathery black balls and put them in a pre-printed carryout box complete with handle. The box had printed instructions on how to handle the first few hours with the chicks and what and how to feed them. He then showed us what feed the chicks were already eating, and we bought that so not to upset the chicks by changing their diet. With the purchase of heat bulbs and a bag of pine shavings, we were soon on our way back to the tiny house to set up our flock of chicks, and sit back and wait for the money to start flowing in from the sale of free-range eggs that are sure to start in a few months. Free range eggs do bring a premium you know, just look on your grocery shelf. That and anything called organic. I guess the chickens are organically powered by the grasshoppers and pill bugs they eat.
Creating a Free Range Chicken Home
To create a free range chicken home in my Tiny Texas House, we followed these steps knowing the chicks were only going to be inside for a few weeks:
- Plastic container – we used a rolling under bed storage container that I already used in my elevated bed storage unit (tutorial and details coming soon). This worked for a week or so, then we had to upgrade to a container with higher sides.
- Fill with pine bedding that we got in the pet section at our local megamart, but you can also get the natural bedding here.
- Attached a heat lamp. Just be careful not to actually rest the lamp portion on the plastic – just the clamp.
- Put in the waterer and feeder – this is a build-it system from Tractor Supply, but they are available on Amazon for those of you without a feed storage nearby.
- Sat back and watched the show!
We turned on the heat lamp and the room took on a glow that at night filled the tiny house. Yep, it stayed on 24 hours a day. That wasn’t bad in the beginning with the cool nights we were having. But as the weeks went on a heat lamp in the tiny house was no longer needed.
The little chicks soon learned to jump on top of the container and it was a long flapping fall to the floor. I went to Wal-Mart and bought a taller container knowing that it would last only a week or two. It would give me time to do something outside for them.
As they grow, I’ll transfer them to an outside chick house to allow them to get used to begin outdoors, then they’ll be released to a pen to acclimate to their surroundings and allow the rest of the flock to get used to them before we release them to free range alongside everyone else.
Time to build a new home for the cheeps.
Here’s a peek at the new home for the chicks…. details coming soon!
Raising these baby chicks has been an enjoyable and painless experience. This is the first baby chicks I’ve raised although I’ve owned laying age in the past. I didn’t write this article as a how to. Only to show that it is doable without a lot of work. Keep their surroundings clean, fresh clean water available and food on hand at all times. Stand back and watch them grow.