It may be a dreary, rainy day at the Hampshire College Farm, but our spirits are bright because we get to spend the day with 75 baby chickens!
This mix of Black Giants, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and New Hampshire Reds is just the first shipment of a total of 300 chickens that will become the new laying flock for the college. The chicks hatched yesterday and were immediately shipped out from Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio. They arrived at the post office bright and early this morning in a perforated box.
This dramatic expansion of our laying flock is part of Hampshire’s 100% Local Food Challenge and will allow us to provide more than enough eggs to supply the dining hall and and to offer egg shares through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Livestock and Pasture Manager Shannon Nichols worked with student intern Alex McKenzie and Professor of Physiology Cynthia Gill to carefully select breeds that would create a robust and vibrant flock. In choosing a mix of heritage breeds, Hampshire College will be supporting species diversity and will able to provide more educational and research opportunities. Another mixed batch of chicks and a shipment of 200 pullets are scheduled to arrive within a month to complete the flock.
For several days, these new baby chicks will stay nestled in a small wooden coop with heat lamps, warm bedding, and plenty of water and food. Once they “feather out” and get larger, they will move to a larger coop with access to the outside. In 19-23 weeks, the chickens will start laying, at which point they will rotate through pastures under a protective canopy with electric fencing. Not only will the chickens lay thousands of eggs a week, they will also be adding fertility to the fields they graze on which will improve the quality of our soil. Since the chickens will be enjoying a rich and healthy diet of bugs, grass, and vegetable trimmings, the eggs will certainly be exceptionally tasty with gloriously golden yolks! Our practices will exceed the standards for Certified Humane and Cage Free.
Stay tuned for updates as we add more birds to the flock and start to construct the mobile housing units that will provide shelter for the chickens as they graze throughout the summer.