Notes From a First Time Front Yard Farmer: Adding to the Flock Again

One thing I have noticed as a very small time farmer is that we seem to constantly be adding to our flocks of ducks and chickens.  We get a few more, and I think, “Our flock is complete.  No more having baby chickens or ducks in the house for a couple of years,” and then we get more.  I was thinking the other day about our first chicken flock.  They were finally outside, sleeping in their chicken tractor, and roaming the yard.  It was all good.

Then we had some friends decide they too would raise chickens.  They got some Jersey Giant eggs, and incubated them, and they hatched.  Their farm was on its way, but then they moved, and needed someone to take their chicks.  I didn’t think about it too long, I just said yes, and took them home.

According to Jersey Giants were originally bred by John and Thomas Black in the 1880’s with the intent of replacing the turkey.   They are a good heavy breed, but slower to grow than some before surpassing them in weight and size. Jersey Giants can take up to two years to reach full maturity, and then they can weigh up to 20 lbs.  One thing to consider before getting Jersey Giants is that they have a poor feed/weight conversion, which explains why they aren’t popular as a commercial broiler.  They eat a lot! It is the largest of the dual purpose chickens, and can eventually excel as a meat chicken, and a fairly good laying hen.  Jersey Giants are also known to be fairly docile and have a good disposition.

A picture of full grown Jersey Giants.
A picture of full grown Jersey Giants.

When I brought the chicks home, they were still fairly small.  All six of them easily fit in one brooder.  It was not too long though, before they outgrew their space.  We separated them, and brought in a second brooder.  We hadn’t finished the chicken coop yet, and the chicken tractor was full of our original flock.  My husband got digging, and building, and eventually it was ready.  The Jersey Giants still needed a light, so he constructed a divided coop with a removable wall.  It was a great day when we moved the Jersey Giants outside.

The Jersey Giants had a hanging feeder, and water, and there was a light to keep them warm until they had finished feathering out.  Once we were able to remove their heat source, we slowly started opening the wall.  So far, so good.  Mostly, the chickens ignored each other and acted like there was still a barrier.  After a couple of days I opened the door to the outside, and waited to see what would happened.  What happened was nothing.  The Jersey Giants refused to leave the coop.

I had expected they would venture out and explore the wider world of the chicken run, but they seemed to prefer the indoors.  So, I took out the food and water, thinking they would get hungry and thirsty and go in search of sustenance.  It took them most of the day to work up their courage, but they eventually climbed out, and the other chickens rushed to establish the pecking order.


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