[FONT=georgia,palatino]Our First Batch of Chicks[/FONT]
[FONT=georgia,palatino]I had chickens as a kid, but I didn't really appreciate them then. They weren't pets, and we had a mean rooster a couple of times, and it was mostly just a project that my mom was interested in and we had chores because of. We have lived in our current house on 5.75 acres for 3 1/2 years, and it only really recently occurred to me that we should get a few chickens. I figured if we only had a few it wouldn't be a huge chore, and we could ease our way into chicken ownership. I began researching online and discovered that most people think owning chickens is pretty easy. I talked to my husband about it, and he was skeptical and a bit reluctant at first, but after hearing details he got on board. Well, mostly...
My son and I stopped by the local feed store one day because they had a sign on the front door that said "CHICKS". Of course, who can resist little fluffy peeping balls of fur? We brought 4 home (all supposedly pullets) before we had anything at all set up for them at all. Eek! I didn't even look at what breed of chicks they were. The man at the feed store said that some people use a spare bathtub for a brooder, and it gave me a great idea. We had a spare bathtub in our downstairs bathroom. Hardly anyone ever even used that bathroom, and no one ever used the tub. It sounded perfect to me. We bought all of the necessities (heat lamp, pine shavings, feeder, waterer, starter food, chicken scratch), and set off for home. On the way home, I was really hoping my brother (who lives with us currently) would be there when we got there so he could help me figure out how to set up the heat lamp above the tub. That was really my only concern at that point. LUCKILY, he was there, and we rigged it up pretty well. We used a picture hook (that each hold up to 10 pounds... when this heat lamp MAYBE weighs a pound) on each wall at the ends of the tub, and strung a rope between them. He even used a twist tie to hold the lamp so it could be off to one end of the tub instead of the center, which is what I wanted so the chicks could get out of the heat if they got too hot. I was slightly worried about the rope getting too hot, but I checked on it multiple times and it never did. It worked well for us.
They were so cute when we first got them!
Being in our bathroom, I just figured I would shut the door to keep the cats and the dog out of there. I learned very quickly that that wasn't going to work at all on that very first day when my son shut the door while I was in there. After just a few minutes it got SO HOT. It was like a sauna! I realized we needed to keep the door open for ventilation. But alas, what were we going to do about keeping it cat- and dog-proof?
My brother (again, thankfully he was there!) had the brilliant idea of removing the screen from our sliding door and propping it up against the bathroom door jamb. We secured it again with picture hooks and rope, and put a heavy box in front of it. There weren't going to be any prying kitty paws getting through that!
I called the feed store a few days after bringing them home to ask them what breed they were, and I was told they are Buff Orpingtons. Knowing nothing about chicken breeds, I researched it online, and it sounds like we got a great breed! We wanted something that would be fairly docile and friendly, since this experience is as much for our kids as us (we have a 2 1/2 year old son and a girl due in October). We also wanted a decent number of eggs (especially since our son asks for eggs for nearly every meal). This breed sounds perfect for that!
At less than 2 weeks old (5 days after bringing them home), they were already starting to get their feathers. Also, the size difference between the bigger ones and the littlest one was becoming noticeable. At this time we didn't realize that one of them is a runt, or something. She is STILL tiny and not nearly as feathered as her sisters.
The following week, I made the mistake of taking my son to a park where they have some farm animals to look at. There were different breeds of chicken wandering all over the place, and I thought how cool it was to have a variety. It got me thinking that we could PROBABLY stand to get 2 more chicks. I started researching more online to decide what breed would be good, and where I could get some. I called the local feed store back and they said they had a batch of Light Brahmas. Well wouldn't you know, that was one of the few breeds I had decided would be a great addition to our flock! I immediately drove down there and picked up 2 of the little ladies. I asked the man at the feed store if it would be ok to add them to the same brooder as the Buff Orpingtons, and he said it should be fine. He said we might be surprised by the dynamics. They are only about a week and a half younger, and they are both pretty docile breeds. So, home I went, and introduced the girls to their new sisters.
Notice the BOs huddling in the corner in fear!
They got over their shyness quickly and get along great. As you can see from this pic, we quickly discovered how important it is to raise the water a bit off the floor. They were filling it with shavings by scratching around so much.
We told my son's daycare provider about getting chicks, and she asked if we could bring them into the daycare one day. We thought, why not? They had a Rubbermaid tub set up, so it was pretty easy just packing up the chicks, their feeder, water, and the heat lamp. My son loved having his baby chicks at daycare.
That was the day however that we really started worrying about the very smallest of the BOs. She was so very much smaller than her sisters, and she seemed like she was kind of lethargic and staying away from the rest of the flock. Over the next few days, I kept expecting to find her dead when I would come down to see them in the mornings.
However, she's doing great! She seemed to perk back up after just a couple of days, and she acts like all the other chicks. She eats and drinks and poops like normal. She goes crazy for mealworms and is pretty active. We still don't know what will happen with her, because she is still quite smaller and less feathered, but maybe she'll just always be small.
We started bringing them little treats when we'd come down to visit them. It was amazing how quickly they learned to come running when we'd come down to visit. I am so glad we did that, because they are so friendly and curious about us now that it is really sweet. I actually ordered them some mealworms (which are really gross). They go absolutely ballistic for them, and it's hilarious watching them scamper about with them in their mouths. The little one is the quickest one to grab a mealworm, and boy does she ever run when she gets one in her mouth! I'm glad they have a good association with us now and hopefully it will help keep them docile and friendly toward us.
They all are growing so quickly it's amazing. We finally got one decently warm day and were able to bring them outside for a little fresh air, worm eating, and digging. They loved it and it was so cute having them walk over my feet as I was sitting in the pen with them.
This was a bit of a scary day for us, however. The smallest 3 could just barely squeeze through the gaps in this particular cage, but my husband didn't know that. He ran inside to grab their water off the counter, and in that time span, our dog Lucy grabbed the smallest one (the runt that we were worried about health-wise) in her mouth and started running off with her. Luckily she dropped her when my husband yelled at her, and the chick seems totally fine. This chick is a fighter!
We finally decided on their names. In size order from biggest to smallest, the BOs are Beatrix, Harriet, Penelope, and Clementine (she's our little runt!). The darker of the Light Brahmas is Daphne, and the lighter is Dorothy.
My son liked sitting in there with me. Here he is getting acquainted with Beatrix.
Here the BOs are 4 weeks old and the LBs are 2 1/2 weeks old. Look at how big and feathered they are getting!
Beatrix has the biggest comb, but I still think she's a pullet.
This shows how teeny little Clementine is.
Daphne (L) and Dorothy (R)
It took me a lot of research to figure out what kind of coop we wanted and how big it needed to be. There are a lot of different ideas out there for sure. We don't have much carpentry skill or time, so we decided it best to get one made for us. I found a guy on Craigslist who builds and delivers them, and they looked really great. I was so excited when it finally came!
We had a bit of work we wanted to do to the coop before we were willing to move the chicks out there. We added sand to the ground underneath it, and leveled it out really nicely. We also added a hardware cloth apron around the outside by using screws and washers on the inside of the bottom of the frame and wrapping it under and out. This will prevent any predators from digging underneath (especially our dog). The locks that came on the coop were also pretty insufficient, as we quickly discovered with our son throwing open the doors constantly and crawling around in there. If it's that easy for him, it would surely be easy for a raccoon. Plus, we didn't want to have to worry about my son letting them out when we weren't prepared for it. We added brass locks and used carabiners to keep it shut (rather than padlocks which would be really annoying to deal with). This thing is SOLID now!
We ran an extension cord out there and screwed a heavy duty plant hanger into the ceiling so we could have the heat lamp out there. The Light Brahmas (who are only 3.5 weeks old) and poor little Clementine still aren't fully feathered so they need the warmth. The other BOs, being 5 weeks old and nearly fully feathered, would probably be ok without the heat lamp, but this is just about the coldest spring we've ever had here in the PNW so they probably all need some heat. We also covered the hole leading down into the run, for now, so they can learn where their home is and where they need to come to sleep and eat.
They love it here! They immediately were all craning their necks around to check out their new digs. Their first night out there was great, and they all seemed happy and not too cold in the morning.
We set their food and water up on bricks to keep it clean.
Cha cha cha!
It's funny what little personalities they are developing. I never realized chickens could be so funny and be as unique as they are. Beatrix is the most docile. We can pick her up and she doesn't even try to get away. Dorothy is the most curious, always craning her neck to check me out when I come visit. Penelope is getting really curious too. It's always those two hanging out by me when I come to visit. Harriet tends to hang back a bit more. Clementine could barely care less about us, but she does love the treats. Daphne is fairly curious too but Dorothy is usually the one in my face. They crack us up all the time with their "kerfuffling" as my husband calls it... where they flap and jump toward each other.
I never thought I'd be so excited about chickens in my life! [/FONT]