Jo's Chicken Adventure

December 14 2011.
Two months have flown by. The chicks are now 12 weeks old and thriving. We still think that they are all girls. Have not heard any crowing or noticed any roosterish behavior. They're all healthy and active and are starting to establish the pecking order. I haven't quite been able to find out who is the head hen but I think it is one of the australorps. No one is overly bossy towards the others, it's just usually the one that sounds the alarm. They've been quite friendly towards my husband and me. The dominiques jump on your lap for pets and hugs, and if you don't give them attention they'll demand it by pecking at your pants legs. The others will fly up on your lap for mealworms or other treats. The golden laced wyandottes are the most standoffish. They don't like to be picked up or touched and are very fast. Here are some recent pictures:
Enjoying some yogurt:

One of the Brahmas:


Golden Laced Wyandotte:

Black Australorp

Another group picture inside the coop. They like to hang out in the roosting area. The one standing in the middle is one of the welsumers.

October 9 2011
A quick update -- they went into the run today for the first time. It was a super nice October day, with highs in the 70s. They were scared at first. Taking a few steps down the ramp and then scooting back into the coop. But after about 15 minutes the first few Dominiques saw a stinkbug a bit farther away, and before they knew it they were chasing it and each other in the run. After this the Australorps, Welsumers and Wyandottes followed. But the Light Brahmas were very, very scared. Or perhaps they were colder since they still haven't quite caught up in the feathering department. Eventually after about 30 minutes the first LB sticks one leg out on the ramp and retrieved it. After about 45 minutes two were outside, but number three was lying on the doorstep in the sun. Eventually this one also came out. By that time everyone else was getting cold so they were heading back in, and the lone last LB chick explored the run by herself. After a while she also went back in and I closed them up. They were totally zonked out under the heatlamp. So much excitement in only two days. First all of the coop to themselves, and now a whole new universe.
I had also observed that they started taking "dust baths" in the woodshavings so I went and got some playsand and diatomaceous earth. I mixed up a batch in a dishpan and put it in the coop. Well now the Light Brahma's were the first to explore this, within 5 minutes they had figured out that taking a dustbath was like dying and going to heaven. One liked it so much she didn't want to come out and stayed in to spend the night there. I wonder if their denser down makes them more itchy. I see them preening themselves more than the others as well, so perhaps they needed this badly.
I left my camera inside, unfortunately, so no pictures today.

October 8 2011
A whole week makes a lot of difference in a chicks life. They all have grown so much. Their feathers are coming in on all of them now and they are getting more active and flying around in the brooder, to the extent that they kept hitting the hardware cloth on top of the brooder. I was afraid they were going to hurt themselves, or fly into the heat lamp so I decided it was time to give them the run of the entire coop. So, I got some more woodchips, I built a ramp for them to come down from the brooder to the floor and I hung some more half gallon jugs with waterers, under close scrutiny of the chicks who pressed their beaks against the plexiglass to see what I was doing.



As I was spreading the last bit of woodchips I suddenly felt something landing on my head. Unsuspecting it startled me and I jerked my head away. One of the chicks had somehow gotten out of the brooder and couldn't wait to try out the new digs. The problem was that the doors of the coop were open and she flew out.... into the big bad world. I looked for her for two hours and didn't hear her, didn't see her. I had counted the remaining chick and I was missing one of the australorp chicks. Interesting, because these were not normally the ones to be the first to try out new things, they usually hang back until the dominiques have determined that it is ok. I looked and looked and still didn't hear her. In the meantime I had let everyone out of the brooder and after some reluctance they all came down and were happily digging and running around in the much bigger space. Then I gave them some yogurt. Then all of a sudden I saw a third australorp! What the heck? Turned out she had never left the coop. Startled by her boldness and my shaking my head to get rid of whatever was on top of it she had become scared and had hidden in the very darkest corner of the coop she could find, where I couldn't see her.
count my chicks: There are 14!

All's well that ends well!
For their entertainment I also put some branches in the coop. I noticed their tendency to want to roost on the stuffed animals so I figured they'd like some perches. Tomorrow I'm going to add a dustbath.
October 1 2011
Today was "clean bedding day". I changed the bedding entirely as it had become rather yucky. Of course to them it didn't matter, but it did to me. It was easy enough to herd them to one side of the brooder and clean out each side separately. When I was done they were very excited, thinking that I had put down food. Big disappointment ensued. But I did give them a mealworm treat because they'd been so good.
After that, I took a bunch of pictures. It was a wet, cold dreary day so I didn't take them out of the brooder. Hence the pictures were all very red. I compensated them on the puter for that so the colors may appear a little off. What is very apparent in these pictures is that my little friends are feathering out at very different speeds. I think it's breed specific as the variations between the 3 chicks of each breed is much smaller than the variation between breeds. Also - I found out that my wyandottes don't like to be photographed, so that one is a little blurry. Here are the pics:
To start - a group shot in which you can see the differences in development very clearly:

Welsumer -- the most feathers, the longest tail:

Light Brahma -- the least amount of feathers and almost no tail; she looks just like a larger version of the 1 day old chick.

Dominique (kind of in the middle of the variation in feathering with wingfeathers coming through and just a little bit of tail.

Australorp -- these have white stripes on the wingfeathers - interesting because they are supposed to feather out as an all black bird.

Golden Laced Wyandotte -- These are the smallest of them all but are very hyper. Always the first to get to food and the last to leave. I guess it's just a smaller breed than the others. Next to the Brahmas they look tiny.

September 27 2011
No new pictures but a short update. The welsumers are feathering out very quickly. They have a bit of a tail already and their wing pinfeathers are coming in rapidly. I also think, after some research on this site that all three are girls, they have the very showy V on their heads. The australorp's wingfeathers have white tips, which surprised me but on further reading I guess that that is normal and they grow out to be totally black. I am also confident that the three dominiques are girls. The australorps and wyandottes are harder to sex at this point, although the wyandottes though smaller than all of them are feathering in fast, which would indicate female as well. I know it is way too soon to sex reliably but I'm just having fun guessing. I have named the Wyandottes; Lottie and Dottie. Not very original maybe, but it fits them. The Brahmas are the slowest to feather out but I guess from reading on this site that is fairly normal too. The one with the pasty butt I think grew out of that on his own. She still has a tiny bit of poop stuck but it is further down its butt and I don't see anything blocking the vent. All fourteen are active, running around, exploring new foods and pooping to their hearts content.
Todays treat was brussels sprouts leaves but they were very tentative about those and were looking expectantly at me for something more tasty. I also fed them some rabbitfoot clover (blooms and leaves) and they had a ball eating that and chasing each other for it. The leaves of the brussels sprouts were more used for playing than eating. Maybe I should have chopped them down more. They seem to be doing great with the lower temp. At night it goes down to about 86 degrees but in the early morning when I leave for work I do not find them huddled under the lamp. I'd say they are rather more at the edge than directly under it. I think I am gong to switch to a lower voltage soon.
September 25 2011
We had a stinkbug invasion of the coop in the last couple of days. They were everywhere. In the brooder, in their food, in their water (dead), in my hair (yuk!). The chicks seemed to be fascinated by them and at the same time a little afraid. If one landed on the plexiglass door they would peck at it (with the bug being at the outside of the plexiglass), but when I threw one inside they would not approach it but eye it with a lot of caution.
Later this afternoon when I went to check up on them the whole brooder was in turmoil. One of the chicks had a stinkbug in its beak and was running around like crazy, followed by 13 other chicks. The poor bug got passed around in this fashion until he was torn to pieces and eaten. Then it all started again with the next one. I think I can put the meal worms away for a while. They have found a way to feed and enterntain themselves for a long time. And they are taking care of the stink bug invasion at the same time.

September 23 2011
They're still going strong! They've visibly grown since they arrived, sprouting little wingfeathers.

I've spiked their water with Apple Cider Vinegar and they seem to be taking to it, they needed a bit of persuasion at first but I think they like it fine now. I'm also offering chick grit and am giving them very occasional treats for them to scratch up in the bedding. They're having so much fun doing that. It's like they want to dig all the way to Australia. One of the light Brahmas may be developing a pasty butt, so I'm keeping an eye on her. She keeps pecking at her own behind and I can see some poop sticking to it. I may have to take more drastic measures if I don't see her poop.

September 22 2011
I found them this morning all huddled around the stuffed animal in the left back corner. I knew they would like it for comfort. When I changed the paper towels and threw down fresh feed you'd think from they way they attacked the feed that I hadn't fed them for over a week. I swear some of them (most notably the brahma's) have grown an inch since yesterday. They are much more active today, and I put some feed in the trough feeder to get them used to using that in stead of the feed on the paper towels. Once they get the hang of that I will slowly remove the paper towels, maybe one strip every day so as to introduce changes slowly and let them play in the pine shavings. I'm heading out to Southern States to get a plastic water base as I want to give them some ACV and that is a no-no with the galvanized ones (duh, should've thought about that before I bought them).

September 21 2011
They've arrived!! We're down to 14. One was almost dead on arrival and didn't make it. I tried giving it water with electrolytes but it wouldn't drink and I couldn't get anything into it with a syringe. It died shortly after. What surprises me the most with this batch of chicks is that they are not afraid of me at all. When I open the doors to the brooder at least three or more of them will come running towards me. It's very easy to handle them, much easier than I thought.

Here are some pictures just because they're so cuddly right now:
Group shot

Australorp (3)

Dominique (3)

Light Brahma (3)

Welsumer (3)

Golden Laced Wyandotte (2)

They haven't explored the stuffed animals yet, but Im sure that'll come when they are a bit more settled in.

September 20 2011
Chicks have not arrived yet. I am very disappointed but in order to prevent myself calling the postoffice every half hour, I've kept busy by securing more hardware cloth to the bottom of the coop (the part that is outside the run, and putting silicone and trim around the windows. I've also blocked off entry points just under the Ondura roof where critters still could get in. Tomorrow all that is left to do is finish blocking off the roof above the door to the run and putting some firring strips on the outside of the run where there are hardware cloth seams to strengthen those areas. Everything else is done. I'm ready!! Let them come already!
September 19 2011
Just got the email from Meyer. The Chicks Have Shipped!!! I can't wait.
September 18 2011
I should start by admitting that I have never owned any animals but it has long been a dream to have some. So when we were looking for a house we looked at small farms but eventually we ended up on a completely wooded mountain lot on 14 acres. Gorgeous but not very suitable for any larger animals such as sheep or alpacas which I wanted to have. So the idea was born to have chickens. But.. chickens on a mountain top need a lot of protection as we have all imaginable predators here. From Bear to Cougars to the usual smaller stuff. It wouldn't surprise me if we have coyote's too but I have never seen or heard them. So apart from a sturdy coop I also needed a sturdy run. And that 's how fort knox was born. Here are some pictures of the exterior as it is nearing completion.

The run is 20x32 ft as I wanted to be able to leave them out there for most of the day without supervision. It is completely covered with hardware cloth.

The people doors into the coop are not part of the run, and since this picture was taken I have put hardware cloth from the roof of the coop to the ondura roof to prevent anything from entering the run that way.

The inside of the coop has the brooder. The chicks are arriving in the week of 9/19 and will be living in the coop. Here are some pictures of the brooder.
The basis is the poopboard which will eventually be under their roosts. On top of that I put two washing machine pans that will also stay under the roosts when they are grown up. For the brooder I built a frame around the washing machine pans from lumber that we had lying around and some marmoleum scraps from our house.

The two doors that open up were two windows that I made for another project and have plexiglas in them. The right side of the front also has a door which is a frame with hardware cloth and a cover that I can take off if I want them to have a bit more fresh air.

On top of the brooder is hardwarecloth partially covered by piece of tileboard that was a left over from what is on the interior coop walls, and a piece of plexiglass for some more light.
To the right of the brooder is the popdoor:

I covered the floor with a remnant of vinyl that I got for cheap at a carpet store.
Turning 90 degrees to the right again are the people doors:

and turning 90 degrees again are the windows, all covered in hardware cloth:

The nestboxes are underneath the poopshelf and can be accessed from the outside, just as you enter the run.

I had a lot of fun building this. The shed was ready made and measures 7x8ft. It is 5 ft tall at the lowest end and 5'7" at the high end. I had some help from a professional carpenter to put up the structure of the run, so that it would be stable and safe. He did the structural parts, I did all the rest myself.
The chicks should be here in two days. Will post more pictures when they have arrived.