Well, it’s been a little more than two weeks since my first experience with chickens. Fortunately, depending on how you look at it, it will not be my last. I’m sure the chicks I plan on raising as meat birds would not see it that way. However, my wards are sprouting feathers right, left and behind. They look like a cross between teenagers having a bad hair day and vultures. Now that’s a combo for you! Mottled colors are starting to define and actual personalities are coming forth. Personally, I never thought I would say that about a chicken, but they all seem to have their own little quirks, some cute, some not so much (they just can’t seem to keep from getting their dirty little feet in the water).
I have made more trips to the supply store after discovering that they eat a considerable amount and waste a bit seemingly regardless of the type of feeder they have. And then there is the “scratch” need I didn’t get a grasp on. Need a little cracked corn to go with the feed, 4 to 1 ratio please. Our store was offering 3 free chicks with a purchase, so now I have around thirty of the little beasties. These of course, are yet another breed so I will definitely get a good overview of who does what.
A few more “tips” I have acquired;
-buy them when it is warmer, much less fussing with and checking on
-they grow pretty fast, have a bigger location ready or you get to build one
-be able to move the light up and down and/or make sure you have some different bulbs to use to reduce the heat
-getting the temperature right seems to be pretty important
-any extra cardboard laying around, great liners for the bottom and sides, makes great dividers and any store would probably love to donate to your cause if you don’t have any
-sawdust has become bedding and it works pretty well, who knew how much you could get for a byproduct! Depending on how many birds you have, you need to stir and replace it regularly
-not only do car visors make great heat shields in the summer, they keep the heat in too
-I have come to love zip ties
-you can make a water container out of a pie or cake pan and a plastic or metal container when you break the one someone loaned you (opps! gonna be replacing that)
(punch two holes in the container on opposite sides about 3/4″ from the open end of the container, fill it with water, put the pan on top, turn it over and there you go)
-see which ones are aggressive and separate them from the rest, especially if you get different breeds
-spend some time watching them to see what is “normal” and what isn’t (one breed seems to breath faster?)
-are much harder to catch than you would think
-I now have a great visual for the term “pecking order”, ouch!
-don’t name them if they are sick (as my child did hoping that would make it better, didn’t work, lot of tears)
-I have unintentionally become really good at improvising
It was not without some losses along the way. Four of my “cheeps” did not make it and I have no clue why, though the majority did all seem to be of the same breed. Unfortunate as it was, my kids have learned that things die, without cause or reason. This is a life lesson that will prepare them for other life experiences not so simple and is worth the whole adventure. I currently have one that does not feel good, you can tell, but she eats and drinks so we shall see. The others are looking for perches, checking me out as the food source, scratching, pecking, cheeping (especially when caught), love worms and seem to be pretty fond of weeds/grass we toss in.
I have learned a lot, will be thrilled when I can park the car back in the garage/coop, can’t wait to put them in the OUTSIDE coop and am looking forward to the payoff of fresh eggs!