I could probably count on just one hand all of the meat birds we have lost in the past 15 years-until this spring. This year’s round of meat birds seems to have had problems from the day they arrived on our farm, and we seem to be fighting against all odds. Unfortunately, as they traveled up the east coast from their farm in Pennsylvania to our farm in Vermont, they met cold and rainy weather along the way. I suspect that my box of day old chicks found themselves too long in the back of a cold delivery truck before arriving to us. In their first week of life, we lost 15 out of 50 chicks. Every morning we would find several dead birds in the brooder box. We double checked everything, temperature, water, food, and we saw no apparent reason for all of the fatalities. The farm where we purchased the chicks assured me that they left Pennsylvania in top condition as well so they must have been stressed during delivery.
Against All Odds
Upon arrival to our farm, we put the chicks in a brooder where we can regulate the temperature and provide food and water. They stay in this box two to three weeks before moving out to a larger area in our barn. As soon as the outdoor temperatures warm up and the birds’ feathers have grown out, we then move them outdoors on pasture. We use an electric netting to fence off an area for the meat birds to live and rotate their fencing throughout the pastures. Last week we decided to move them outside. Their first day out, the weather was horrible and after hearing the forecast of an inch of cold rain, we moved them back inside the barn. They remained inside the barn all week waiting for the weather to cooperate.
This morning, with a promise of warmer temperatures and sun, we moved the meat birds back to the pasture. We have a portable “chicken tractor” which provides shade and a safe place for them to roost at night. The chicks seemed pleased with their new surroundings and began roaming the field, pecking in the grass. After a few hours, I went out to check on them and found a huge black bird attacking them! It had feasted on two already. That brings our total losses to about 17 or 18! I quickly went out, put them all inside the chicken tractor and closed the door. I did not have time to move them as I had a full schedule already for the day.
Several years ago, we had the same problem with large birds dropping into their fenced area and attacking them. To remedy the problem, we moved the fencing to an area where we have several apple trees. We fenced the trees in with the chickens thereby preventing the birds from dropping down to attack. Tomorrow we will have to move the fencing, move the chicken tractor, and move the meat birds yet again.
Sometimes I get a little cocky-thinking how we have perfected various aspects of our farming. It is always during these times that forces beyond my control raise havoc with us. This always humbles me and puts me back in my place. I am reminded that in deed, I am not in control of all things and I must never take things for granted.