NOTE: I apologize for the delay between the last post and this one. We were moving, and it took some time to get settled and to get our internet up. Thankfully we are back on track! I hope you enjoy the second chapter in our chicken journey!
Two days after moving into our new home, it was time to introduce thirteen feathered friends into theirs.
Choosing where to set up our brooder was the the first important decision. We opted to set up shop in the unfinished portion of our basement. We knew the temperature of this room would remain constant since it has no windows and is underground. This meant we wouldn’t need to worry about over/under heating the girls as the temperature fluctuated throughout the day; the brooder would be at a controlled temperature 24/7. Another pro is that since it’s in the basement, the delicate aroma of chick poo is a good distance away.
We purchased our chicks from a western co-op chain, IFA. We opted to add a bit of variety to our flock, and in addition to purchasing nine Ameraucanas, we bought two Buff Orpingtons, and two Barred Plymouth Rocks. Now, to be honest, I don’t think that several of the chicks are true Ameraucanas, but more on that later.
Keeping the young chicks warm during transporting was an important consideration. The simple solution was to lay a heat pad in a cardboard box, with a towel on top of it.
I had read somewhere that you should also turn the AC off and let the car warm up as you drive. Speaking just from my own experience, I wouldn’t recommend that. We had an issue with one of our chicks getting OVERheated. When we placed her in the brooder, we noticed she was really struggling to walk. We knew it was common for chicks not to make it, but the prospect was still a sad one. Fortunately, she was still expressing interest in water and feed, and after about 30 minutes, she resumed acting normal, and hasn’t had any problems since.
There were no other incidents with moving the chicks in, and it was ridiculously fun watching them get used to their new surroundings. The chicks were between 2 days and 10 days old, and depending on their age, had some behavioral differences. The younger chicks were primarily interested in eating and then finding a cozy spot to sleep, while the older ones were much more excited about exploring every inch of the brooder. Although the larger chicks certainly made it clear they were in charge, We have yet to see any major pecking issues.
As adorable as they were, we exercised a LOT of self restraint while handling the chicks at this delicate stage. Chicks are very susceptible to being over-stressed their first few weeks, especially when there is no mother hen to run back to. We chose to wear gloves, and only handle them in the evening when it was time to clean the brooder. Despite this seemingly limited interaction, the chicks are now quite used to being picked up. And although it isn’t their favorite thing in the world, most of them tolerate it quite well.
The last thing I want to touch on has to do with our cleaning routine for the chicks. It is so important for the health of the chicks to keep the brooder clean and their water and feed fresh. I typically check to make sure the feed and water dispensers are clear of debris at least twice a day, and in the evening, we replace the soiled puppy pads, as well as the aspen shavings we chose to include. Occasionally, someone will have an BM that lands and dries on the kiddie pool. Fortunately it is easy to carry it outside and hose off.
The nightly cleanup routine also gives us an excellent opportunity to have an in depth look at each chick. and make sure there aren’t any health or hygiene issues. For example, sometimes young chicks will have a buildup of feces that blocks their vent, and keeps them from being able to excrete. This is an (understandably) life threatening occurrence, and is something which needs to be checked for daily. Other things to watch for are energy level, feet and leg issues, and growth rate relative to their peers.
We have LOVED raising the chicks and watching them grow through this first stage. In fact, something I’ve gained an appreciation for is just how FAST they grow and develop from day to day! But more on that in our next post. In the mean time, here’s a photo of a cute buff bum to tide you over until then. Enjoy the peep show! (;