Well, here is it, 5 weeks and I’m counting the days until my few hold outs who still have noticeable downy feathers to hurry up and lose it. One of the hens has some on her neck yet and a couple of the boys do, as well, but everyone else is pretty much ready for the brooder lamp to go away.
Does ALL the down have to go, or could my hen with little tufts of down on her neck do okay without the lamp? Most of then don’t even sit under it anymore. They all like the boxes of straw now.
Yesterday marked the chick’s 3rd Week-aversary in our care.
We celebrated the occasion by busting our butts all weekend long (in between baseball games and everything else we had going on) to get the not-quite finishing touches on their new coop. DH, Little Dude and I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning up around the outside of the barn where their run is going to be. I guess we’ve decided to put up a small run for about a month or so, until the get acclimated to the outdoors area and then remove the fencing to let them truly be free range.
The clean up is not quite done. It included pulling weeds, removing rock, trash, scrap metal, old boards and broken window glass. There’s a lot to do, but seeing as the chicks are still only 3 weeks oldish and most still have down on their heads yet, we have some time to get the rest of it gone before the run goes up.
However, they are getting too big for our brooder box. Most of the bigger ones have been trying to fly and keep hitting their heads on the chicken wire on top or careening into the brood lamp. Not safe, in my fairly new-at-chickens opinion.
Also, we are expecting a delivery of Rhode Island Red chicks this coming week.
All the research I’ve done, from stalking other chicken blogs to looking on sites like Back Yard Chickens, suggests that since they are under 5 weeks old, I should be able to integrate the babies in with these guys in the brooder box and not wake up the next morning to the site of a massacre. But the above statement that my three-week-old Gold Sexlinks are getting too big for our brooder box and the fact that 17 of them are rowdy little boys, I tend to think that mix them is a bad idea.
Not that any of the Golds seem to be vicious, but they are starting to act more like the chickens they will become and less like helpless little peeps.
And I just don’t want to wake up to a blood bath.
So, after the clean up, DH cut the hole for the door to the future chicken run and build them a ramp to walk down. That was Saturday. Yesterday, he put the door and lock up, so we could lock them up at night and installed a brood lamp in the coop, in one corner. They still have some down so they still need it.
After the door was installed, I picked up all the tools, swept the coop out really good (or as good as I could get it for an old barn) and with the help of My Girl (my daughter, she’s 15 and says she wants nothing to do with the chickens but she really does, if you know what I mean), put straw in the beds and wood chips on the floor.
After the lamp was installed, we were free to move them into their new home. Some of them were totally okay with it. Some of them completely freaked out and got scared. Their toys did not make the trip. We need to figure out where/how to hang them before that. Also, as they get bigger, I want to build them some of these log chicken swings They look neat.
Everyone else thinks I’m spoiling them.
Here’s a look at all our hard work. Hope you enjoy it! Tips/suggestions/comments always welcome. 🙂
Yesterday, my mother and I went grocery shopping and while we were out, I picked up a couple of bird toys for the chicks. We hung them, and as predicted, the first reaction was ‘omg!whatisthis!’ and a stampede to the other side of the brooder.
When I came back later in the afternoon with Little Dude, however, a couple of them had gotten brave enough to approach one of the toys and ring the bell. Then another. It’s fun to watch them being brave and exploring new ideas.
Later that night, I showed DH and he basically thought I was spoiling the chicks, but he also decided to ‘fix’ my perch a little bit. So it got a bit of a rehab.
At breakfast this morning, they were lined up on one side of the re-designed perch, staring at the other side like it was a barrier they couldn’t cross. Then one of them hopped up on the perch. Then to the other side. A couple others followed suit. Some of the smaller ones can fit under the perch like a limbo pole. A few more rang the bell. It’s cute. They peck the bell, it makes noise and they scurry like crazy to the other side.
But at least they’re trying it out. Trying new things. It’s good for them.
Sunday, I was asking about toys or items to keep my little flock happy, entertained and not beating each other up.
They are gold sex links, and we have twenty of them. If I’m reading things correctly (various chicken websites), we have 3 little girls and 17 boys. The boys are starting to think they are chickens and ‘play fighting.’ By that, I mean challenging each other and puffing out their little, still-downy chests. It’s amusing to watch, but I worry about them turning into little bullies without better things to do.
Yesterday at breakfast, I found on of the bigger guys sitting on top of their feeder.
They needed a perch.
So I looked around the barn and found a cut piece of wood left over from where DH finished with the coop and put it in the brooder, leaned slanting in one corner. They freaked out. Totally ran to hide behind their feeder. Chickens, I swear! Little Dude and had a good laugh over the freak out.
This morning’s breakfast, I found this:
I’m king of the world!
Now, how do I get down?
Hey, how’d you get up there?
While I cleaned up their water dish and filled their feeder, I observed three others checking it out. Some of them walked up to it and pecked it repeatedly, even two of my little girls, which pleased me because they have been shy compared to the boys. So I stayed a little longer than usual, picked up a couple to talk to and cuddle, and fed a few of them by hand… and watched more of them experiment with their new perch. Not freaking out any more.
The ‘hand feeding’ thing had a twist or two today, too. Instead of one or two brave little guys tentatively pecking from my hand, I had so many trying to eat the chick starter that I had to refill the palm of my hand (I do have small hands, by the way) three or four times. They swarmed me, pushed slow pokes out of the way, and one of them jumped up on the perch to try and get what I had to offer. Even two of the girls got in on the act. Again, my girls are shy, so I am very pleased.
The best part was that one of the chicks I picked up with cuddle didn’t want me to put him down. Instead of scrambling to get away when I put him back in, he sat on my hand, happy as a clam, and when he didn’t move and didn’t move, I used my other hand to get some feed and held it out to him. He sat there, eating chick starter out of my hand, until was gone. I literally had to put him down, because didn’t want to step off. If someone (Mom, Little Dude) had been with me, I might have gotten a picture of it, but alas! I am usually solo in the mornings.
Well, not entirely solo. The last couple of days, I’ve noticed a barn cat when I come down in the morning. He runs off when I open the door, but I suspect he knows my little ones are there. One of these days, I’m going to catch him on top of the brooder. It’s a good thing we have it secure. There’s chicken wire, window glass and sturdy boards. Cat can’t get through that so easily.