Raising Chicks In the House


My new chicks have arrived! It’s a batch of up and coming layers–Brown Leghorns, Silver-Spangled Hamburgs, New Hampshire Reds, White Rocks, and Speckled Sussex. Just a few of each. It’s fall, so that means it’s too chilly to keep chicks in the barn unless I use a heat lamp. My barn is 100+ years old. Old wood and lots of hay around in there. I don’t feel comfortable using a heat lamp in the barn, so I’m keeping them in the house.

Chicks need five things to thrive:

1. Food.
2. Water.
3. Warmth.
4. Clean environment.
5. Enough space so they’re not over-crowded.

(6. A little love doesn’t hurt either!)

I’m using large plastic tubs. I drilled holes in the top for ventilation. (Sometimes I take the top off completely, depends on where the cat and pup are at the time, and if I’m available to supervise.)
I have two of them right now, and I’m cleaning them out twice a day–I just switch them to the other tub, back and forth. I took these pictures right after I put them in the tub. Afterward it occurred to me to put towels on the floor under the tubs, so I have the towels down now. I was concerned the floor would be cold.

I like using clear tubs because it’s sort of like a chick aquarium.
Buttercup likes it, too.
And so does Precious.

As they grow, I’ll end up splitting them into two groups in separate tubs, and probably even to a third tub before they’re feathered out enough to move to the chicken house.
The Brown Leghorns and Silver-Spangled Hamburgs will lay white eggs, while the rest of them will lay brown ones. The young Araucanas that are now in the chicken house will lay blue and green eggs. I’m looking forward to a colorful assortment of eggs in the spring!

Comments 10 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Tips For Training the New Milk Cow


Cows are not innovative trailblazers motivated to leap tall building or climb mountains, risking life and limb and stability to conquer new lands or reinvent the wheel. They’re steady, solid, dependable, stable backbones of family farming, born to graze here in the morning, graze there in the afternoon, chew their cuds in between, and vote for Charlie Brown every four years because they know it will work out eventually. They’re patient like that.
Cows love routine, so training a new milk cow is all about developing and maintaining a routine as they learn their new job in the milking parlor. At two and a half years old, Blossom has graduated from heifer to cow with the birth of her beautiful new baby boy.
She joins Glory Bee and Moon Pie, my other two dairy cows, as the newest milker on the farm.
I’ve had Blossom in the milking parlor a few times before. I always like to have an up-and-coming milker in the headlock ahead of time, but there’s nothing like the real deal, when they actually start being milked. There’s so much for them to learn!

Think about it. They have to learn to come into the barn when called. How to enter the milking parlor. How to put their head in the headlock. How to stand properly while being milked and tolerate the intrusion upon their udder. How to back up to get out of the milk stand. (I’ve found this last one is the most difficult part for most new milk cows, at least in my experience. Cows don’t naturally back up out in the field very often–it’s just not something they normally need to do. They want to turn around in the milk stand, which is impossible, so they have to accept that backing up is their only option.) And then, inexplicably, after you wanted them to come into the barn quite insistently, now they have to learn that what you want next is for them to efficiently punch the time clock and head out.

Blossom is the third milker I’ve trained from scratch (meaning they were never milked before I milked them). My first cow, Beulah Petunia, came from a dairy. She was a professional cow. She taught me a lot more than I taught her. My milkers since then have been brand new milkers, first fresheners. I spoiled my first milk cow, Glory Bee. (Bad idea. I still love her, but she doesn’t behave well in the milk stand.) That was the last cow I spoiled. Don’t get me wrong–I’m always kind to my milk cows. But I don’t spoil them with extra helpings anymore, for example. If a cow thinks bad behavior in the milk stand will get her extra helpings, well, what can you expect after that? Blossom gets her ration, and nowhere in her universe of thought is the possibility that more is available. I do, however, take any extra time in the stand to pet her, remove burrs, fly spray her, and generally get her used to being touched.

This is a famous quote from W.D. Hoard, founder of Hoard’s Dairyman Magazine and the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm.

A Note to the Help

The rule to be observed in this stable at all times, toward the cattle, young and old, is that of patience and kindness. A man’s usefulness in a herd ceases when he loses his temper and bestows rough usage. Remember this is a home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a Mother should be treated. The giving of milk is a function of Motherhood; rough treatment lessons the flow. That injures me as well as the cow. Always keep this in mind when dealing with my cattle.

I keep this little treatise on my refrigerator to always remind myself to be patient with the Mothers in the barn. A big part of training a new milk cow involves training yourself, especially in the early days when a new milker is still learning the ropes. Cows are patient, so we should be patient, too.

After patience, routine is of primary importance. On small family farms, we may not be milking at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. twice a day as occurs in commercial dairies, but we still need to develop and maintain a routine so the cow knows what to expect. The cow will behave better with a stable routine, and it makes your job as the milk maid easier when the cow is happy. Happy cow = happy farmer.

Normally, I milk once a day, so my routine with Blossom is to separate her from the baby in the early evening time. Baby goes in the alleyway in the barn, where he spends the night with his new best friends, the goats. Mommy is just outside the barn, so they can hear each other moo and bawl. Blossom bawled herself hoarse the first night. (Oh, to be serenaded all night long by a bawling cow! She’s not sleeping, and neither will you!) But she calmed down after that. She knows where baby is, and knows when she’ll see him again. (Routine!) It took a few days for her to calm down, of course. And it took a few days also for baby to learn his routine, too.

I milk Blossom in the morning. First, the goats are let out of the barn for the day (after milking) then baby goes to a stall by himself for a few minutes. He needs out of the way before I bring his mommy into the barn. He balked at first, but now he jumps right into the stall for me. I bring Blossom in, get her set up in her headlock in the milking parlor with her feed, then I go back to let the baby out. At that point, I open the back barn door and the baby can hang around at the door of the milking parlor waiting for mommy or he can go on out to the field to wait for her there. At first, he would wait at the milking parlor door.
After the first few days, he started mostly going on out to the barn yard to play until mommy shows up. (Routine!) He knows mommy will show up when she gets off work here in a minute, no need to wait desperately at the door.

When milking is finished, Blossom is released from the headlock. She heads out of the milking parlor and on out to the barn yard to spend the day with baby. Then the routine starts all over again later in the day when baby goes back to the barn to prepare mommy for milking the next morning.

That’s my routine, what works for me. What works in any individual situation is different, but whatever routine you set up with your cows, stick with it. The cows will love you for it, and your life will be so much better.

Blossom is my first milker trained with my new milking equipment. I think it’s a testament to the comfort of the equipment that she has never made so much as a single objection or kick. She’s been a very good, quiet, calm milker in the stand from the first day.
Good equipment that’s comfortable for the cow and efficient for the farmer is important in developing a steady routine that works for the health of your cow and the ease of your job in milking her.
In this video, you’ll see Blossom on her first day on the job in the milking parlor. You’ll see her hesitance as she learns how to come into the barn, and you’ll also see how calm she was the very first time she was hooked up to my new milking machine. Along with, of course, some cute mother-child reunion time afterward.

My new milking machine comes from Hamby Dairy Supply, and you can find the specific machine I’m using here. It is an ideal system for a family milk cow.

Just ask Blossom!
She’d agree, but she has her mouth full!

Comments Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

  1. img_8610

    September 28, 2016 - A Boy for Blossom

    I was running water for the cows yesterday morning after milking–which is a lengthy process with big tubs and dry weather that has the cows trying to drink the water even while you’re filling the tubs–and kinda zoning out from boredom while making sure the cows weren’t knocking the hose out of the tubs, when I noticed a tan-colored calf wobbling in the midst of the big cows. I thought, vaguely, I hope Gingersnap … Continued…

  1. img_8538

    September 22, 2016 - Let Sleeping Pigs

    Let sleeping pigs….

    ….make friends with the chickens….

    ….show off their bums….

    ….and look ridiculously cute because when the pigs wake up, they root around the yard, turn over every stone (literally, like in a rocked wall garden), and generally tear everything up.

    So. An effort was made to block their escape path, which … Continued…

  1. diagram_edited-1

    September 16, 2016 - Why Milking Machines Suck, and Should

    My friend Jerry dropped by the farm one day and I showed him my new milking machines. He’s interested in mechanical things, so I showed him how they all go together–the inflations and lines and so on, describing how they’re attached to the cow or goat, and bringing out my old Surge milking machine also to compare the machines. I explained that the Surge was the first milking machine that brought it all together … Continued…

  1. IMG_8415

    July 12, 2016 - The Easy Way to Milk Goats

    In the days following the recent massive flooding in West Virginia, I was milking goats the hard way, by hand with a flashlight in the barn. To call that process challenging would be tantamount to calling the rain we had here on June 22 a light sprinkle. Boy, did I ever miss my goat bucket milker! But, without power (the generator was being used to run fridges and freezers at the house) … Continued…

  1. IMG_8319

    June 20, 2016 - The Birds and the Bees and Glory Bee

    Traffic pileup outside the hay stall in the back barnyard.

    Babies in the way! Here comes one!

    Gingersnap, Moon Pie’s baby.

    How many different ways can I embarrass my cows? That’s Blossom, with her girly unders exposed to the world, AND she’s peeing. AND–does that look like she has … Continued…

  1. IMG_8265

    June 7, 2016 - Calf Update

    I haven’t updated about Dumplin because….there’s been nothing to update about Dumplin. She was with the bull last summer during the same period of time as Glory Bee and Moon Pie, who both delivered calves in April. Obviously, the bull wasn’t shooting blanks and he hit them up right off the bat. He was here for three months, so the mystery continued–Dumplin could still deliver in June.

    But, the mystery is now solved! … Continued…

Daily Farm

If you would like to help support the overhead costs of this website, you may donate. Thank you!

Sign up for the
Chickens in the Road Newsletter

The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

Today on Chickens in the Road

Join the Community in the Forum

Search This Blog


July 2019
« Nov    

Out My Window

Walton, WV
Weather from OpenWeatherMap

I Love Your Comments

I Have a Cow

And she's ornery. Read my barnyard stories!

Entire Contents © Copyright 2004-2019 Chickens in the Road, Inc.
Text and photographs may not be published, broadcast, redistributed or aggregated without express permission. Thank you.

Privacy Policy, Disclosure, Disclaimer, and Terms of Use