Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baby Chicks

Week One

So week one begins on Monday, March 29 at 5am central time.  This is when they hatched.  They arrived here at my house at 8:30am Tuesday, March 30th.  All healthy and active.  They aren't very noisy.  I haven't had any trouble with them though I had to wash the behind on one just now, noon on Wednesday the 31st.  I'm really tired this afternoon because I stayed awake after 4am today.  Probably the excitement.  I also spoke to a lady about the Buckeye Chicken.  She just hatched some and I would like a few. this basically explains why.  Her farm is not far from here.

3 days old

So far the chicks have been really easy to care for and are a lot of fun to watch.  The water is the biggest thing right now.  Keeping it clean.  They fall asleep in the evening making a circle around the warming lamp and they don't wake up until the sun is well up.  Of course there always seems to be the odd few that get kicks out of running on top of everyone else and waking them up.  But they quickly fall asleep again until all of them are sleeping.  Their wing feathers are growing longer.  I just witnessed a little sparring, chest bumping play.  Kind of like teenage boys.  This picture is what they look like now at 3 days old.  The wing feathers
are getting longer.  I put a couple of old boards in the nest for them and they love to show off on it.  This little chick is doing leg stretches.

4 days old

Yesterday I bought 5 little Buckeye chicks.  They are two days older than the White Plymouth Rock that I have.  So altogether now I have 30 chicks.  They are all doing great.  Every once in a while I have to clean off a pasted butt, but I think that is normal. 
The two extra days seem to make a difference to the amount of wing feathers.  One of them even has a few tail feathers.
It was a warm day yesterday.  It got up to 78 F.  I opened the windows on the front porch in the afternoon.  When it was time to go to Chloe's ballet class the sun was shining in the brooder and the thermometer was up above 100 F so I unplugged the heat lamp. 

Week Two

Chicks are getting bigger now and growing feathers fast.  I have to get larger feeder and waterer for them this week.
This is the new feeder.  It is actually supposed to be hanging but it is working fine for now and holds a lot more feed.  They are also spilling less.  They loved it right away and began eating from it.
This is the new waterer.  They don't have any problem with it but I did have to leave the old one in there overnight since it took longer for them to all begin drinking out of it.  It still gets pretty dirty but I am gradually raising it.  It isn't as dirty as the little one was. 
Some of the chicks are getting pretty tall.  Seems like they aren't all growing at the same rate.  I took some pictures but they aren't very good since the chicks don't stand still for very long.
This shows quite a lot of wing feathers even some at the top of the wing, shoulders.  Tail feather are beginning to fill in.
This picture really shows some shoulder feathers coming in.
This little chick does not seem to be maturing as quickly as the others although there doesn't seem to be any difference in there behavior, which is quite lively.  Maybe this will be a little hen.  Who knows?  Will just wait and see.
I raised the waterer again, hopefully it stays a little cleaner.  I think they will be able to reach it.  I saw one place where the chicks had to reach pretty high to drink and they still did it, so I'm thinking it's not too high but the black container I put under it might alarm them a little to start with.
They can reach it.  Good deal.  They still manage to get wood chips in it.  Silly birds.  Oh well, it's not as bad as finding poop in the water.  I better not be finding poop.
So this is how poop gets into the food.  Clever.
Scratching for spilled food.  A natural talent.  I really should take a video of this.  It is pretty cool to watch.
This is what the feathering on the Buckeyes are looking like.  They are a couple days older than the White Plymouth Rocks and it shows in the amount of feathers coming in.  Notice the rich brown and the black.
This one has much less black than the others.  It is lighter overall and a little smaller.  Maybe this will be my hen.  Just guessing.

Two weeks old into the third week
This is how poop gets into the feeder.  The top of the feeder is 12 inches from the floor.  That includes the box under it.  I was getting a little bit worried so I measured to the top of the chicken wire surrounding the whole brooder and it was about 17 inches.  I was sure they couldn't jump that high.  Then one of them flew to the top of the chicken wire and perched there.  I was right there so I picked it up and put it back in the brooder.  So now what?  I gave them a handful of grass to distract them and give them something else to think about.  It did work for awhile.  There was a gap between the cardboard and the chicken wire so we used tape to close the gap.  I don't want them getting caught between.  Now I'm checking the whole room for stray chickens when I go out there.  I keep trying to count them but always come up with more than 30 because they are so hard to count.  So how am I going to know if one is missing?  I really can't have chicks running loose in this room, to start with it's a storage room and my studio, not to mention completely unsafe to the chicks and they would starve and die of thirst and get chilled away from the heat.  At first I told Mark that he would have until the end of April to build a coop, but now I just upped the date to next weekend.  Really hard on him since this is his busiest time of year at work.  He was making plans to build a chicken palace, but now I think he's convinced himself to just build a suitable and safe but inexpensive quickly built coop.  With electricity of course.  They do still need the heat lamp.
They love the sunlight shining into the brooder.  I seriously thought they were broilers, and I was reading up about broilers and what to expect.  I think that's because most of them will end up being broiled, or baked or roasted or stewed.  Silly me.  These aren't broilers.  These are heritage chickens hatched with the call of the range beating in their breasts.  They know there has to be more than this.  They know there is grass and bugs and herbs outside somewhere and they want it.  They simply can't wait.  They fly.  They run for cover when you lift your arm up, already watching out for hawks.  They scratch and bury themselves in the shavings.  They are definitely not broilers.  They are HERITAGE CHICKENS.

Motley  looking bunch.

But oh, so beautiful and full of life.

Here is Shelby keeping watch.

I just found one of my chicks had fallen into the feeder.  I took the cover off and let them have the food exposed for them to walk around on while I made a cardboard flap for the feeder.
I did make a cardboard flap but I ended up completely removing the top part of the feeder.  It didn't work properly, probably because I put it together wrong and it was awkward and irritating.
This is what they do.  They sit on the wire and look around.  So far nobody has actually left the brooder.
 They look like they are going to fall out but so far they haven't .  They just turn around and jump down.  Pretty clever.  Today is Chicken Coop building day.  I will have to get new supplies for it.  I'm excited.  I will start a new page because it will be a new era in the chicks lives and on our tiny farm.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Waiting for my Chickens to Arrive

I am starting this blog to document my experience with having chickens. We have about an acre behind the house, should be enough for several chickens. I also plant a garden in the spring with my husband Mark. He wasn't too excited about the chickens at first, but the closer we get to their arrival date the more excited he is getting.

So far I have the brooder starter kit and the electronet fence. I have been doing so much research on chickens and what we need to do. We have a front porch which we are cleaning up and will prepare it for our new babies.
They are arriving on the 31st of March. We plan to have the brooder kit set up a week early and test the heat lamp to make sure we have it right. We still have to get feed.

22 Days to baby chicks

Today I learned from the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy that baby chicks actually need a starter feed with about 28% protein. Nobody that I know makes such a high protein chick starter but the starter feeds for turkeys and game fowl are much higher in protein than for chickens. They recommend using one of those.

21 Days to baby chicks

Here is a picture of the type of chickens I ordered.
Today I received two books in the mail.  I skipped all my morning activities, threw myself down on my bed next to my little girl, who is sick today, and began reading.  The first one is a book by Robert Plamondon, called "Success With Baby Chicks".  Extremely useful information and very detailed.  The other book is by Prince T. Woods, M.D. called "Fresh-Air Poultry Houses".  Both books are published by Norton Creek Press and are available at a great place to find almost any book you would ever need.  I have also been reading through all the material pertaining to chickens on The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website, .
I started a binder for keeping all the information I print out and other that I jot onto paper together in one place.  I am keeping track of expenses on a computer spread sheet categorized by permanent costs, set up like the coop, electric fence, waterers and feeders etc., and yearly like, baby chicks, feed etc.

20 days to new baby chicks

I visited a website today, , watched numerous video clips and did some reading.  Linked to Mother Earth News, an online source for earth friendly enthusiasts.  Saved a link to where I found lots of interesting information.

On Fred's website I watched a video story about a family who grow 6,000 lbs of food a year on 1/10 of an acre.  wow that was very interesting.  And yes, they also had some chickens.

19 days to new baby chicks

The excitement is mounting.  Spring is almost here.  I will have to start a new blog for my gardening experience.  I have been researching a lot about gardening too.  Sustainability, new favorite word.  Chickens really do have a lot to do with that subject so it all ties together.

17 days to baby chicks

don't get too excited or you'll be sick by the time they get here and you'll need to be quite well to get them off to a good start.

15 days to my new baby chicks

14 days to my new baby chicks

Yesterday Chloe and I went to Landmark.  I had never been there before.  I loved it.  The staff was awesome, friendly and helpful.  We bought feed for the chicks.  I decided on turkey starter which is medicated because it has much more protein than chick starter.  I also got a bale of pine shavings for their bedding.  We bought seeds and buckets and an extra heat lamp for backup.  In case something happens to the other one.  I asked about diatamaceous earth, they didn't have it, and they didn't really know what it was but they said they would order it for me.  If I can't find it around here I will have to order it online and that will be very expensive.

13 days to new baby chicks

All of a sudden I'm finding myself enjoying anything to do with chickens.  Last night PBS or Thinktv (not sure which-I was drinking wine and I was tired) had a show about chickens, it was an hour long and I totally enjoyed it.

12 days to new baby chicks

10 days now

Worked on the area for the chicks yesterday, it was a beautiful day.  Mark decided to put chicken wire around the outside of it.  It makes sense.  He was thinking about as they get bigger and maybe push the draft guard, this way they won't be able to.

 Dad's in the chick pen.

8 days now until baby chicks arrive

Yesterday I called the post office.  The guy who answered said he would call me the minute my chicks arrive.  He said he does it all the time and was used to doing that as long as the instructions were on the box.  The place I ordered from (Randall Burkey) asked for two phone numbers.  Home and cell.  So I feel good about it.

7 days to new baby chicks

Found two new chickeny websites today.  and also a link on little red hen farm to a ton of chicken resources.  Little red hen had a price list $3.00lb for a dressed chicken and $3.00 doz for eggs.  Interesting.  They also have a prepaid BOC - bulk order club.

6 days to new baby chicks

today I found a couple more interesting chickeny websites, and very cool.

5 days now

and snow covers the ground.  It's still march so it isn't really a surprise.

Only 2 days now.

No more snow and temperatures rising.  Good deal.  I had a hard time staying in bed this morning so I got up early.  "With visions of baby chicks going through my head"  more realistically - what still needs to be done.  Mark was going to finish his project yesterday, but he didn't.  He has put chicken wire around the board which I'm planning to house my chicks.  It is a good idea as it will keep them from falling off.  It needs to be tacked all the was around.  I know I could do it but I am not since I felt that he really wants to be the one to do it.  I had wanted to get it set up and test the heat lamp.  But it still sits there undone.  Now I'm getting nervous.  If he doesn't do it tonight then that's what I will be doing tomorrow.

I got a call from the post office this morning.

Baby chicks are here.

All healthy and chirping.  No pasty up butts.  Started drinking and scratching immediately.  They are only 1 day old and only traveled for less than that.  I am really impressed with my hatchery.  Randall Burkey Co.

I expected them tomorrow, I don't know why.  But when we got the call I got so excited.  I was on only my second cup of coffee.  Mark said, "you better get dressed, that was the post office."  I ran upstairs, my clothes were downstairs, oh well.  I brushed teeth and hair etc.  Then, all of a sudden I couldn't think how to get to the post office.  So I looked it up in the phone book, thank goodness for those things.  Then I had to defrost my car windows and back out between two vehicles.  Very difficult under the circumstances.  The roads weren't bad and I had green lights almost all the way.  I went to the
back door where the trucks pick up their mail loads for the day. I was pointed to a set of swinging
doors through which I met a postal worker really happy to see me.  I waited not more than a couple of minutes.  She handed me a small noisy box.  "We've been keeping them warm for you." she said.  "Oh thank you so much" I said.  I turned around and headed for the car.  All the way talking to the chicks.  "It's momma," I said.  "I'm your momma, I'm going to take care of you and make sure you have everything you need and more."  The chirping continued until I turned on the heat.  I had placed them on the floor in the front passenger side.  There were still little chirps but not nearly as loud as before.  I hope they felt safe finally being with their mom.  I talked to them all the way home.

This is the little box they traveled in.  All the way from Texas.  I couldn't believe they were all in that tiny space.  But they are so tiny and being all huddled together in a small space is what keeps them warm.  They weren't hungry yet because they had just hatched and their little tummy's were still full of egg yolk.

They are hungry now.  First thing out of the box they started pooping.  Mark put large sheets of cardboard down for them.  I gave them some warm water with a little sugar in it and dipped there beaks into it as I took them out of the box.  Then I filled the feeder and placed it near the warmth but not too close.  Then I sprinkled feed all over the cardboard.  They immediately began scratching and pecking at the feed.  Some of them ate it right out of the feeder.  I placed their little straw mat that they had traveled on under the lamp so they could feel at home when they wanted to warm up.  After I was sure that they were eating I put some shavings around the edges.  They thought maybe I was giving them some food, so they ran over to check it out but soon left it alone for the scratch on the cardboard.  After another little while I put some shavings on little piles of poop.