New to Chickens: The little things the chicken veterans don't (and sometimes do) mention.
"Talk to me like I'm a kindergartener!"
That's what I said to "Tyler" - the sales rep on the other end of the line when I called to ask about what was going on!
You see, I'd ordered six female Rhode Island Reds after weeks of scouring the internet and reading up on everything from how to slaughter to how to tell what kind of critter has gotten to your flock to how to feed them and at what temperature they should be kept.
Then I clicked on "check out" and saw that I would be receiving - not the six I'd ordered - but FIFTEEN chicks! Woah! Wait a minute!
Tyler laughed at me - not in a menacing or judgmental way, but in an amused way.
"Well, to ship the chicks, there needs to be 15 of them in the box, minimum, to keep them alive. Otherwise they would be too cold."
"Ahh! I see! Okay, well then is it too late for me to change my order?"
I updated to ten females and five males. They were scheduled to ship the following week. I was so excited!
Meanwhile, my boyfriend, Gary, and I worked diligently on the new chicken coop. Now that was a chore! I poured over plans and tips and tricks and info until my eyes were crossed. I have to say I was quite proud that by the time I was done researching, I could answer just about any question that my chicken-challenged boyfriend posed.
From my research, I learned three key things to bear in mind when building a coop:
So we built a 8x10 coop - this thing is so sturdy, I think I could live in it. But that's because Gary always builds things to industrial standards (he's an engineer)
One thing I read that stayed with me as I was 'designing' my coop that stood out from other plans was: A slightly slanted floor (our coop floor is on a 1" slant so that when I clean it out, the litter will wash out).
Also, we kept it cheap. The chickens won't complain, I'm told. But I did want to keep it about 27 inches up so to make it easier for ME to reach it and clean it etc. without as much strain on the back.
We also were lucky because we have an existing dog kennel that has not been used for over a decade so it serves as a perfect run!
We are nearly complete with the coop which is a good thing because the chicks arrived this morning from Purely Poultry. Cute as a button, they are!
We readied for their arrival by using a very large (I believe it's one of those four-footers) igloo ice chests that we had in the basement and once used for our boat. It's pretty big. I went to the Goodwill store and bought some old sheets and then wrapped some pine shavings in the sheet and put that in for the bottom because I'd read that they may try to eat the shavings as babies which could kill them. So far, so good.
I put the waterer on one end and the feeder along the edge so that it does not sit under the heat lamp which we had rigged to hit the center of the cooler in case it was too hot.
I got it all ready for them the night before (which I also read was a good idea, so that the box/container/etc. is regulated temperature-wise).
Voila! They were ready to go
Here's something you don't read on the forums:
Baby chicks, well, they sleep weird. I didn't read about this but apparently when they get sleepy, they conk out wherever they stand! I was horrified as I watched a couple of them slowly fall flat as their eyes closed. "OH MY GOD!" I thought. "It's dying!!"
hahah Nope... it was just a sleepy lil' guy! (or girl).
And they also got around pretty quick - I dipped each one's beak into the waterer as I put them in their temporary home for the first time. That was all it took. All of them took to the water and feed very quickly and easily.
They peck at each other! My first instinct was to admonish them, "Hey! Knock that off! Don't pick at your sister! You'll put her eye out!" but then I remembered: Oh...yeah, they're chickens. That's what they do.