Friday, April 13, 2012

Moving the chicks outdoors

Chicks in the basement are adorable and I can sit for hours it seems, just watching their fluffy, peeping cuteness.  This lasts for oh, maybe a week.  Then a fine dust begins to settle on my washer and dryer.

By week three everything is coated with a thick layer of dark, dirty dust.  I can't do laundry without wiping down the outside of the machines with each and every load.  I start cussing the chicks openly.

They can't go out into the cold cruel world until they are fully feathered and have a way to insulate themselves from the cold.  Until then, they either need their mother, or in this case, the heat lamp.

A cardboard box provides a draft-free place to sleep under the heat lamp.

But I was losing my already-tenuous hold on my sanity, so out they went, barely four weeks old.  I am not completely heartless, however, and their heat lamp went with them.  They will live in this box another 2 weeks or so, when they will move into the moveable hoop house.

Those roosts look impossibly high today....but will be loaded with chicks in a few more days.

The side walls open up on nice days, and there is plenty of room for all forty chicks.  They can get under the lamp when needed, and get away from if the daytime temperatures soar while I'm at work.

This plywood box, 4x4x8 feet, was my very first coop and has since served as a brooder (place to grow chicks), a house for broody hens with their chicks, and a house for my goat buck when he was not in with the girls.  The last buck, Dorian, started dismantling this box a chunk at a time, so now it is patched and on its last legs....but it will serve its purpose for at least this season.

The chicks are at that scruffy stage, loosing their baby fluff and replacing it with feathers.  They are in their most awkward adolescent stage and looking pretty tattered from their move, just moments before these pictures were taken.  Please excuse their uncombed (snicker) appearance.

Teensy Icelandic chick sitting on the brick.

They are now big enough to start the switch from a standard...and rather difficult to deal with....chicken waterer to a bucket.  I use a 2 gallon pail to give water to my flock, but that is too deep for small ones that would drown if they ended up in the water.  For now, I use this small rubber feed pan and place a brick in it.  If someone ends up in the water, he can quickly climb up onto the brick and get to safety.  As soon as all the chicks are easily able to get out of the water, I'll remove the brick and just use the short pan.

They are no longer getting their soy-free chick starter mix.  They have been switched over to sprouted whole grains and catfood, with a good-sized hunk of grassy sod each day, complete with worms and grubs.  

See the hunk of sod?  They stripped the grass off within an hour and ate it.  Now they are working at scratching up all the roots and dirt, looking for grubs and worms.   It will be gone by morning.

Eating catfood that I soaked in raw goat's milk.

Since this started as  the Icelandic Project,  here is a close-up of a couple of Icelandic chicks.  I love their speckled feather patterns.

It is so interesting to see how their feathers look as they mature.  We have a pretty good idea as to what these chicks will look like as full-grown chickens already, although we are waiting on head and breast feathers on most of them, and combs are yet to develop, although I saw a teensy one today on one of the Icelandics.  The roosters will get more colorful as they become sexually mature, with their beautiful sickle feathers (the classic curved tail feathers of the rooster) and saddle feathers (long, luxurious skinny feathers just before the tail, also typical of roosters.)

And I'm still waiting to see which are the two chicks that hatched from our own flock, from a Light Brahma rooster and a variety of hens.  And the one Maran egg that hatched.  I'm not sure which is which, but one of the mostly black chicks is feather footed.

Over the next few months, we'll also be playing the guessing game as to which are hens and which are roosters....actually, pullets and cockerels, as young chickens are called.

All this staring at poultry has a name here....chicken therapy.  Used in a sentence:  I'm going outside to get some chicken therapy.  Or....Hey, honey, what were you doing out there?  Oh, I was just getting some chicken therapy.  It is rather relaxing.  As long as they are not creating dust in your cellar.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, that poultry dust is pretty invasive. I can't imagine how you've lasted this long, with them so near where you do laundry.

    Ours are now brooded in the cold room, which has easily washed walls and ceiling and floor. But the dust will be mighty thick by the time they go outside at 5 weeks, the first week of June.

    It's much easier to think they are cute longer, when the mess is confined to an easy to clean place. :))