Category Archives: Chicks

Spring Has Sprung and The Chicks are On The Move

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This was what I saw when I looked out the window in the morning last Sunday, April 15. Ice coated the all of the windows on the East side of the house.

IMG_3901 When I looked out the North window I could see that most of the precipitation that had fallen was in the form of sleet and freezing rain. It felt very discouraging since we should be three weeks into spring by now. Thankfully the power was still on. We had prepared for a power outage by bringing extra firewood inside, making sure that there was oil in the oil lamps, checking flashlight batteries and making sure the freezers were full so that foods would stay frozen longer. When the freezers are only partially full of food I freeze blocks of ice in cardboard milk containers to fill the empty space. When warm weather comes, and we are spending days at the farm, we will use these blocks of ice in a cooler at the farm to keep drinks and food cold. Buying bags of ice everyday can get quite expensive.

My husband also added extra weight to the back of the van, for added traction, in anticipation of driving on icy roads.  We use to buy bags of sand every year to keep in the back of the van during winter driving season. Then last year we began taking a different approach – instead of buying bags of sand, that we really didn’t need, we began using things that we did need. Having several bags of chicken feed or a load of firewood in the back of the van can provide that extra traction just as well as sand bags.

Temperatures warmed slightly throughout the day, so even though it continued to rain the ice on the windows melted. We were fortunate that we were not among the 350,000 in South East Michigan that lost power due to this storm.

The rest of the week seemed to be a slow transition into spring. While daytime temperatures were above freezing most days the winds out of the North kept the chill in the air. It wasn’t until Friday that it felt like Spring had arrived. The day was partly sunny and it was comfortable to go outside with just a hooded sweatshirt rather than a heavy coat.

Saturday’s weather along with the rest of the 10 day forecast confirmed it. Spring has Sprung!!! We began doing the spring happy dance yesterday. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I find that garden and leaf rakes, pruning shears and a wheelbarrow make great dance partners when it comes to the spring happy dance, and popular dance moves involve raking last years leaves from the lawn and flower beds, and pruning dead foliage from perennial plants. My husband made a very bold move yesterday as he stored the snow shovel away for the season. He also discovered the very first dandelion of the year. There was only one but I am sure that in a week or so there will be yellow blossoms everywhere.

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The garlic has been slow to emerge but is now about three inches above ground.

The pond is pretty much as full as it gets. Very little of the beach is not under water.

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At this level it is seeping over the edge in a couple of places. This is a good starting point for spring, as we will use the pond for irrigating crops as needed.

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The chicks have moved to their stage-two brooder. They had begun getting their feathers and had become very curious about the world beyond the stock tank brooder. Flying up to the rim of the stock tank had become a fun adventure for them. Here is their new set up.

IMG_3885After assembling the hutch and putting in straw for bedding we use a zip tie to anchor the heat lamp in place.

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We put in food and water and a roost. Then put the chicks in their new home. They can now see the outside, and they can’t fly out of the brooder.

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We cover the hutch with a large piece of canvass. The canvass keeps water out and warmth in. The chicks regulate their body temperature by move closer or farther from the heat lamp as needed. We lift or lower the sides of the canvass as the weather gets warmer or cooler as well.

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Last night it was warm enough to watch a little chicken TV. As the chicks get the rest of their feathers and the temperatures continue to warm we will be transitioning them to stage three – at the farm. I’ll post about that soon.

In the mean time I hope that, if you too have been waiting on spring, your Spring has Sprung. Thanks for reading and have a beautiful day.

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.