There’s an age old question that asks which came first? The chicken or the egg? At our farm the chick comes first! We grow our own egg laying hens and the process starts with day old chicks we receive from the hatchery.
(Chicks Arrive From the Hatchery)
The chicks are housed at a completely separate facility, in barns that are similar to our lay barns but with equipment specific to the needs of the young chicks. When we receive them they are less than 24 hours old and require a hot environment. The barn is heated to a temperature of about 34 degrees Celsius for their arrival and is kept at that temperature for about a week after which it is slowly reduced to a temperature of roughly 22 degrees.
(Newly arrived chicks)
The first week is critical for a good start and our brother and his wife who manage the barn spend countless hours checking birds, hand feeding, and making sure the chicks find the water. The housing system is specific to growing chicks and the waterlines, and feed troughs can be adjusted in height as they grow. When the chicks first arrive they are housed in 2 of the 4 tiers of our housing system. This is done for two reasons; it enables us to keep a closer watch on them at a young age, and it provides a larger group size for them when they are young which helps them stay warm.
(Brown and White day old chicks)
When the chicks have reached 4 weeks of age we move half the birds into the other 2 open tiers to give them more space. After this birds are raised in these groups until they are mature and ready to lay at the age of 19 weeks. For the growing period the birds are referred to as pullets, and once they have reached maturity they are referred to as layer hens.
(Chicks are monitored very closely to ensure they get a good start)
General care of the pullet barn is similar to the lay barns. They are checked at least twice daily to ensure birds have access to fresh food and water. Air quality, and temperatures are also monitored closely to make sure they are correct.
In our Pullet barns, specific birds are weighed weekly starting at the age of 5 weeks until they are ready to move at 19 weeks. These weights provide extremely valuable information as they relay to us what our average weight is and if it’s on target for the breed of bird. The weights also tell us how uniform our flock is. If a flock is uniform it means that most of the birds are in a similar weight range; ideally we like to see uniformity of 95% during growth. This information can also tell us if we need to adjust our feed rations to achieve the desired results for our body weight targets.
(8 Week old Pullet)
Once the pullets have reached maturity at 19 weeks of age they are moved to the lay barn where the housing system can better accommodate the collection of the eggs.
A solid foundation of care during the grow period ensures that once mature, these hens will produce high quality local eggs that are available at grocery stores across Saskatchewan!