The Mountain Flock

By Hayduke27, Apr 16, 2013 | Updated: Jul 12, 2013 | | |
  1. Hayduke27
    DAY 1:

    I have wanted chickens for quite some time now, and just this spring finally had the epiphany that I might finally be old enough to undertake this project. I am a huge fan of watching all birds, and have always enjoyed putting bird feeders out to bring the wild birds into the yard. I've never been one to keep a songbird in a cage, but chickens make so much sense! If you provide them with a happy, healthy life, they will give you back happiness and healthy food. The idea seems so simple at first.

    I live in a place that has a moderate climate in the summer, with temperatures rarely getting as high as 90 degrees. However, our winters are quite harsh, and temperatures can get to -30 F and lower. We can also have weeks of temperatures below 0 F, and months below 32 F. Plans are in the works to have the coop winterized for minimal use of electric power. More on this to come. Needless to say, some serious thought is being put into this matter, and much reading is being done on BYC.

    I found a friend who was willing to take the leap with me, we got our brooders together and plugged in, and set out to buy chicks! We have a farmer within driving distance, and selected our chicks by hand. I had never heard of "chicken math" before I visited BYC, but I think I am starting to understand. We set out to buy 8 chickens and 3 ducks, and came home with 19 chickens total, 6 for her coop and 12 for mine (plus the one extra the farmer threw in for free. I can't remember what kind it is, and it is a straight run. This little one will be an adventure...).

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    The chicks have moved into their new homes and are doing nicely. This photo is taken from my brooder.

    Adventures in Raising Chicks (a.k.a.- Learning Things the Hard Way)-

    -When you read the helpful information in BYC telling you how to hang your heat lamps, don't try and take a short cut (ie-cheap rope strung over a hook vs. a nice chain hanging from the hook) just to save a little time because you are so darn excited. This is a good way to have a heat lamp fall right into your brooder.

    -As it turns out, heat lamps are quite hot, and when the bulb is exposed to pretty much anything cooler than itself, it will eplode into billions of pieces. Luckily, this lesson was learned before the chicks were in the brooder.

    -Chicks are very cute and some love to be held. Just because they love to be held doesn't stop them from pooping on you. Twice. Right before you leave for work.

    -Chicks are also very squirmy. Though it may seem a little mean to hold them a little more firmly when placing them back in the brooder, it's better than them jumping right out of your hand and taking a few bumps on the way down. I have a little girl who seems to be walking off her sore leg like a champion, my fingers are still crossed she stays as spunky as she is at the moment.

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    The final count comes to 3 Light Brahmas, 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Black Sex Links, 2 Cuckoo Morans, 1 Easter Egger, 1 Golden Seabrite, 1 Mille Fleur, and the mystery bird, who I just refer to as "The Rooster" (I am really hoping it turns out to be a hen, otherwise it may be adoption or soup for this little one). It's exciting to be taking the first steps in raising these cool birds. More updates to come.

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    WEEK 1:

    Ok, so I know this may be jumping the gun a little, but I decided to give the little buggers a couple of mealworms this morning. First I gave them some sand that I took the precaution of rinsing first. They went crazy playing and pecking in the sand. I then took 2 mealworms, one at a time, pinched the heads off (I've read the heads are not good for chicks), and offered them to the chicks. The first brave soul to venture to my hand and grab the worm from it would then squeak and squeak and run circles all around the brooder, getting everybody to chase her. Very funny. As they get older, I will be a sucker for giving them treats!

    I took a few pictures of my mystery chick (a.k.a.-The Rooster). I was told it looks a bit like a Bantam, possibly an Old English, and it does seem like that's the pen from which it was pulled. Anyway, still hoping The Rooster is a hen.


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    2 WEEKS:

    Outdoor adventure! Most of my chicks are right about 2 weeks old, minus one or two that look to be a little older. Yesterday we had great weather, and I decided it was time to let everybody out for a rumble in the dirt and grass. I made myself an open-top-and-bottom box, and found a nice place in the yard to place it. I then transported the entire flock up and let them into the box. Their first impression of the outdoors was that it was very very bright (they live in a basement under the red heat lamp at the moment). They also noticed that there were a ton of other birds chirping. After about 5-10 minutes, they settled in, and began the pech and scratch routine. I dug a few worms out of the garden and added them to the box, leading to more antics in the form of chase and tug-o-war. A few of the chicks discovered the loose dirt, and after some work scratching and making some dust, they began to take dust baths. One of them was getting so enthusiastic, laying on her side while kicking and closing her eyes, then just laying still in the sun, that I had to poke her to make sure she was not having a seizure. All was well, and it was spasms of pure pleasure. Others joined it, and soon I had a dozen dirty chicks. I took them back inside after about 90 minutes, and everyone immeditely went to sleep. Tired chicks! Here are a couple of pics.

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    3 WEEKS:

    The chicks are doing awsome! It's amazing how fast they are chainging. They get more feathers every day, their feet are getting much larger, and their combs are all forming. They outgrew the cardboard box outdoor enclosure after only 1 day, and it has been replaced with a small pen. The pen withstood the ultimate test yesterday when the neighbor dog got loose and came running over looking to catch a bird. He couldn't get through the pen, and aside from some serious adrenaline pumping, the chicks were fine. 20 minutes later, they came out of hiding to eat a hard boiled egg.

    Some of the chickens are becoming more assertive. I see them push each other out of the way at the feeding bin, and if the chicken won't move, they'll jump on it's head. I also have seen some chicken fights when they go outside in the afternoons. Two of them will stretch out, as tall as they can possibly be, and size each other up. If nobody backs down, they will do some chest butting and kicking until one runs away. So far, "The Rooster" (which I am now really hoping is a brown leghorn hen) is the dominant bird, and she is a peacekeeper, enforcing the rule of "No Fighting" at all times. Nobody can stand up to her, but she's actually more of a caretaker than an aggressor. The cuckoo marans are the other two who are vying for top spot.

    Here are a few recent shots of the flock in their new temporary pen:

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    The Rooster:

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    Better go check on them!
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    It's update time. It's been a long while since I wrote on my chicks. They are about 13 or so weeks old, and I now have a yard full of chickens instead of a pen full of chicks. The run and coop are finished, but nowadays the chickens pretty much are allowed free reign of the yard. There have been no escape attempts, but there have been a couple of accidental wanderings when I had the gate open. No harm done, and the chickens are learning their boundaries.

    Two of the chicks turned into roosters. The biggest is a Welsummer I just call The Rooster. The other is the Golden Sebrite, I call him Poopsie. Both are very vocal, and I live downtown. I was very worried about the noise at first. However, after talking with my neighbors about it, and making sure to keep the chickens inside the coop until 7:30 or so, all is going well and I don't yet have the need to cull the roosters. I think that's just great, because I really enjoy them. The future may still bring some chicken stew, only time will tell...

    The hens are all growing up happy and healthy. All the chickens eat tons of greens from the yard all day, along with some fruit treats I give them on occasion. They have found all of the shady areas, and there is now a daily routine, moving from one shady area to the next to dust bathe and graze. There have been no eggs laid yet, but I expect in the next month or so I'll get some.

    The summer heat is pretty intense, but at least we don't deal with temperatures much over 90 degrees. I have begun planning for the winter months, which will be the most trying times for the chickies due to our arctic temps. I have not fully decided the whole winter plan, but at least there's still plenty of time.

    So far, so good! The chickens are happy, and they bring me ours of happiness and entertainment. What a cool adventure it's been!

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  1. Hayduke27
    I had a moment when I thought about rushing into the house to try and retrieve the camera, but thought better of it, knowing full well that I needed to see how this played out with my own eyes (I guess this is why we have no good pictures of UFO's). A minute passed... The rooster stood... Drumroll please................


    No egg. I repeat, he did not lay an egg. However, he made some highly impressive nests in there! The hens are going to have it easy when it comes time for them to lay. For now, I guess I'll just let the rooster continue to play house in the boxes.
  2. Hayduke27
    It's been a long time since I posted any updates, and some are sorely due. Here is a story I posted elsewhere this morning:
    So I just spent a chunk of my morning reading about how long it takes hens to lay their first egg, signs too look for showing they are getting close, etc. As a first time chicken owner, and as many of you know, waiting for that first egg is very exciting. My chickens are 18 weeks old, and I finally built their nesting boxes last weekend.

    I put straw into the nesting boxes for the nest material, and just sort of scattered it in each one. Yesterday I had noticed that several had been made into nest shapes. How exciting, thought I!

    After reading all about egg laying this morning, I thought to myself, "I really should go take a look around the yard for eggs that might be MIA." (I've heard sometimes that first egg doesn't make it in the nest box) When I walked into my yard, I quickly realized there were no roosters. They usually make their presence known very quickly. I looked around the yard, in the garage (I had left the door open), no roosters. Then I took a peek into the coop. Oh, if only I'd had my camera!! (How many times have you thought that when witnessing spontaneous chicken antics??)

    There, in the nesting box, was my big Welsummer rooster, carefully making a nest. Looking on were a hen and the little bantam rooster. When the Welly spotted me watching him, he squatted down into the nest, and I swore he was going to lay an egg right there in front of me.
  3. Hayduke27
    Thanks! It's been great fun so far!
  4. BantamFan4Life
    Congratulations on starting your chicken venture!

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