I ordered 50 chicks this year- hatch day choice. Hatch day choice means that the hatchery chooses what type of chickens to send me, based what they have extras of. They need to hatch enough to fill all their orders for specific breeds, and specific sexes, so the leftovers can be ordered cheaper than if I had requested something in particular. It appears that all but two of my chicks are barred rocks. I've never raised them before, but from what I've read online, it sounds like they will be very nice, hardy, large birds.
I brought them home, April 7th, and took them to the basement where we had set up a nice box and heat lamp for them. In previous years I had left my chicks in the chicken coop, and suffered high losses due to temperature, the older birds picking on them, and drownings in the water dish. About a week ago I got another box and expanded their living quarters. They were starting to get cramped in the starter box.
The last few days they've been hopping out of the box, so it was time to move them out. They are mostly feathered now, with just their little heads still appearing fluffy. Yesterday we moved them out to the coop. They survived their first night, but I think goose was mean to them. They were all huddled in a corner until I let the older hens and goose outside this morning. It was wet and cool, so I'm keeping the little ones inside for now. If the sun comes out I might let them explore the new chicken run this afternoon.
The chicken run is a fenced in area around the coop, about 50' X 25'. One side is the edge of the pasture, the back and other side we made from bits and pieces of chain link fencing that we found around the property. #2 dug & installed the fence posts. I hung chicken wire over the pasture fence, which has the big 6" x 12" holes. I really should add more chicken wire to the chain link fence. The chicks can fit through the chain link right now, and it's not safe for them to wander off on their own.
Our first year here I let the chickens free range, as I had at our old place. We had some very well fed foxes- not so well fed people. I ordered 100 chicks that year, and ended up with 30 in the freezer, and only 6 hens and a rooster to keep. This spring we were down to 4 hens. The winters here are very hard on chickens. I'm hoping to keep 10 hens from this batch, and put the rest in the freezer. If we can keep them safe and away from the foxes, we'll order more for next year.