Category Archives: Chicks

What I Have Learned About Raising Chickens – Peep, Peep, Peep-Peep

If you walk into the local farm store this time of year you can generally hear them before you see them. Peep, Peep, Peep-peep, peep, peep-peep…………………………………It’s such a precious sound you can’t help but go take a look. If you are not in the market for chicks taking a look might not be a good idea because when you see how cute they are you will certainly want to take one or a dozen home.

Buying chicks from the farm store was actually what my husband planned when he went there on Tuesday. After some debate we decided to replace part of the flock we  lost. Even though the remaining flock is currently giving us between 8 and 12 eggs a day, far more than we need for our own use, most of the hens that remain are between 3 and 5 years old. The main reason we did decide to get more is because for about 6 to 8 weeks during the winter egg production slows down substantially. This past winter we observed that it was primarily our first year layers that were still laying eggs. During that time period they continued to give us enough eggs to meet our needs.  In looking ahead to next winter we decided that getting more chicks now was a good move.

He had to go to two different stores in order to find the breed(s) we wanted.

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Our first choice was Buff Orpingtons. Of the four breeds that we have raised so far these are our favorite. In addition to being a hardy breed, good layers and good foragers, they are docile and friendly.

They can be quite entertaining when we opt for an evening of chicken TV.

We also decided on a second breed that we have never raised before.IMG_3856Black Australorps. This breed is supposed to be much like the Orpington except harder to spell. Just kidding, they supposedly lay more eggs than the Orpington. They certainly are adorable chicks.

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Peep, peep, peep-peep, peep,peep, peep-peep, peep……………………………………

Acting as surrogate parents we got out a galvanized stock tank that works well as a brooder for the first couple of weeks. We used wood shavings for bedding and gave them food and water. I dipped each beak in the water because I was not certain if they had learned to drink yet. We use a heat lamp clamped to the stock tank to keep the chicks warm enough. I also checked each chick’s butt to see if they had poop on it. This is a condition called pasty butt, and if the poop blocks the chicks vent it can cause death. I did find two of the buffs with this condition, so I used a warm wet washcloth to soften the dried poop and remove it.

My husband always likes to make the chicks a little playhouse out of a Silk carton. He cuts a hole in a side so the chicks can go in and out. So far this group seems more fascinated by pecking at it. It’s pretty amazing how much noise those little beaks can make when they are pecking on something hard. It can actually sound like someone knocking on the door. They have started to hop on top of the carton, and I’m sure it won’t be long before the venture inside. It’s surprising how many of them can cuddle up inside that carton.

In about 2 weeks I expect we will see the peepers craning their necks trying to see the world beyond the stock tank. They will also have a lot of their feathers and be discovering their wings. They will be able to get on top of the container that holds their water and attempt to fly out of the brooder. Some might succeed. At this time we will have to move them to what I’ll refer to as our second stage brooder. I don’t have any pictures of this so I will give you an update with pictures when the move occurs.

This Season On Chicken TV

Chicken TV – has become a spring/summer past time for us. That’s what we call the time we spend sitting in our camp chairs near the chicken coop watching the chickens as they peck and scratch and do what chickens do. It’s usually the last half hour or so before the chickens go in for the night. It really can be quite entertaining especially when they are young.

Our Buff Orpingtons are the friendliest of the four breeds that we have and Honey one of our oldest hens will usually sit on my husbands lap. Last year some of buffs that we raised as chicks would also sit on our laps or climb on our shoulders while we sat and watched the group.

This year we have decided not to get attached to the buffs that we are raising since we intend to butcher them before long. We didn’t hold or pet them even when they were  adorable little balls of fluff.

Saturday evening my husband got out my chair and put it near the chicken coop. He then asked for my camera and told me to sit down. I sat in my chair and before long I had chickens on my lap.

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“Close your eyes,” my husband warned me, “they will peck your eyes.”

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So while I sat there with my eyes closed, my husband snapped pictures and counted as each of the young buffs landed on me.

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Within about two minutes I played roost to all 10 young buffs and had become the star of Chicken TV.

My husband knew this was going to happen because he had the same experience the night before when I was not with him.

I don’t mind one or two chickens sitting on me but this was way too much, so he helped me clear them off and the he went about teaching them to use the ramp to get into the coop.  They were just about there but one just couldn’t resist saying a special good night to him.

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Meat The Chicks

or maybe I should say “The Meat Chicks”. The plan for these chicks is to raise them only until they are large enough to butcher. Regardless of the title we have begun introducing the chicks to the farm and the rest of the flock.

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We set up a 12′ x 3′ run, made out of 2 foot chicken wire, near the chicken coop. We left the dog crate inside the run so the chicks could get out of the sun or wind if they need to. We covered the run with netting so the chicks can’t fly out and the other chickens or overhead predators can’t get in. We thought the chicks would go into the crate as darkness comes, this would make it easy to bring them back to the brooder for the overnight hours. We quickly learned there is a flaw in this plan. Even though the chicks spent time in and out of the crate during the day, as darkness approached all of the chicks were outside of the crate. The first night I chuckled as my husband told me that he had to crawl around the pen to catch them all and put them back in the crate. The second night I actually lost our bet when we arrived at their pen to find them all huddled next to the crate. My creative husband, who was willing to try anything so he would not have to crawl around on his hands and knees again chasing chicks, took out his flashlight, turned it on, and put it in the crate. Immediately all 10 chicks went into the crate on their own. That’s when we realized that unlike our older chickens that always return to their coop when darkness comes,    these chicks have never know darkness. The warmth that they require at their young age has always been provided by a heat lamp during the overnight hours.  They were seeking light or maybe afraid of the dark.

“I didn’t know if that would work,” 🙂 my husband said as he carried the crate to the van, but we are thankful that it did as we plan to continue this for a week or so until we feel they are ready to move to the farm permanently.

Old Dog New Chicks

A few days ago, as we prepared to get chicks, my husband brought in the stock tank that we use as a brooder. When Scout saw this he began looking around for the chicks. We had to tell him “not yet, Scout”. We weren’t planning on getting the chicks until the following day. Scout has been down this road before, in fact 4 out of the past five years we have brought home baby chicks and raised them.

The first year I had great concerns about Scout being around the chicks. When we adopted him from the shelter in 2011 we were told he was about 3 years old and part terrier. Nobody knows what kind of terrier but that was not important to us. Over the next several years we found that he definitely had the terrier instinct to hunt and kill small animals and he was quite proficient at it. He could quickly and cleanly dispatch a raccoon, possum, ground hog, cat or baby turkey by just snapping it’s neck. He was about eight years old when we first started raising chickens.

I pretty much left it to my husband to train Scout with the chicks. Dom would hold a chick and let Scout sniff it and nudge it with his nose and he would tell Scout that those were his (Scout’s) babies. “You have to be nice to your babies,” we would say. Scout would become very excited, and want to look into the brooder, whenever he would hear the chicks make a noise, and anytime my husband or I were doing anything with the chicks (feeding, watering, holding or cleaning the brooder) Scout wanted to be involved.

That spring Scout learned that he was not allowed to chase and kill the chickens, unfortunately it was at the expense of one of our hens, but for a dog of his age and breed to learn not to chase chickens, or any other small critter, is a huge success.

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Scout Welcoming Our New Chicks

Nowadays I have no concerns about Scout chasing the chickens. Our free range chickens wander, peck and scratch throughout the farm and we have total confidence that neither Scout nor our other dog, Trooper, will cause them any harm.

 

One of Scout’s nicknames is “Chicken Daddy”, and he loves it when we tell him he is a good  Chicken Daddy. At age 13 (in people years) Scout has slowed down a lot. He does not pay as much attention to the chicks, but he was still very eager to see/sniff them when we brought them home.

The other thing he really enjoys is helping close up the chicken coop at night. When we go into the coop to count chickens and make sure everyone made it back home, Scout will step inside and sniff a couple of chickens to say “good night to his babies”.

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He really is a good chicken daddy.

Coloring Eggs and Chicken Update

Last year we were curious about coloring brown eggs, so we decided to try it. This year, since I decided to make deviled eggs for today, I thought I would color them first and share my results, in case anyone else is curious.

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I used regular food coloring, something I vaguely remember doing as a child, before Paas came out with the egg coloring kits.

The eggs I colored were varying degrees of brown. I follow the directions on the food coloring package – 1 tps. of white vinegar, 20 drops of food coloring and 1/2 cup of boiling water. Since I didn’t have 20 drops of red food coloring I mixed 15 drops of red and 5 drops of blue, which gave me the maroon color. The two on the top left are blue, the two on the top right are green, the two on the bottom left are maroon and the two on the bottom right are yellow. The eggs that were darker brown going into the dye came out in darker shades than the ones that were lighter going in. The answer is:  while brown eggs don’t make pretty, pastel Easter eggs, they indeed can be dyed.

I’ll also add a quick chicken update.

This past Monday as our  Buff Orpington chicks turned 4 weeks old, and are now feathered out,  we moved them to the farm. They seemed to be getting bored in the hutch on the deck and needed room to roam.

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They rode in this crate to the farm.

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The Chicken yard was busy when we got there, but when the big birds realized that we did not bring them treats, most of them went off to find their own goodies.

My husband had added new roost space inside the coop, enough to accommodate 30 chickens. Before bringing out the young ones today  he also penned in an area around the small chicken door to keep the young ones close to the coop.

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The big birds will use the big (people) door for now.

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Some of the big birds were curious.

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Some even came and visited. The big hens gave the little ones an occasional, intimidating, peck, but it was mostly if they got too close to the food (treats).  We had to move the big hens out of the penned area because they could not find the way out on their own. At night my husband put “the group of 8”, as he is fondly calling the young buffs, into the coop where they huddled together in one of the nest boxes. “The Group of 8” spent their fist couple of days mostly inside the coop, and my husband found it necessary to open up the penned in area because the big birds would get in and be trapped there.

Yesterday “The Group of 8” spent the day out on their own. They mostly stayed together and sometimes with the rest of the flock. There has been no signs of aggression from the big birds, but I wouldn’t think there would be from a group who will share their living quarters (food and all) with 20 or more starlings during the winter. “The Group of 8” is now in training for their nighttime routine which includes returning to the coop at night and using the ramp to get inside. I’m sure they will catch on quickly.

After Monday’s move, we decided to make it a full house (coop). Since we only had 24 birds we went to the farm store for 6 more. Again they did not have the breed we were looking for (Buff Orpington) so we decided this time on Barred Rocks.

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Upon adding this “six pack” we comment that our flock is becoming very diverse.

And with that I wish you all a Beautiful and Blessed Easter. Until next time 🙂