All seven of our rescued factory farm chicks are doing great. Little Dixie is still half the size of everyone else and the others take turns keeping her under their wing (literally) to keep her warm and comfort her. She sings all the time and is very happy. One of the chickens that we deemed Burn Victim Barbie, because of how messed up her neck was, looks a bit more like a Ken. His comb is larger than the others. Still too early to tell sexes though. Their feathers are mostly in, even though most of their stomachs are still bare from being plucked and sleeping on deep layers of waste before their rescue.
My farmhouse is beginning to smell like a barn and I decided that two weeks in the guest room was long enough. The chicks are no longer sick and they are growing well. They moved out to the coop with the big girls yesterday.
Every year different acquaintances on social media show off their cute baby chicks. When they move them to the coop with the other chickens, the same devastating tale is told. One story in particular stays with me. A gal I know put the chicks out into the chicken yard and when she returned they were all dead. One was almost decapitated. Bloody, little bodies strewn about. What happened? she thought.
One would not bring home a shelter dog and just throw him into a room with the present house dog and leave, would they? Or cats that don’t know each other? Chickens are smart, they have hierarchy, and protect their own spaces just the same as any animal. They need a getting-to-know-each-other stage.
In the past we would have gotten our chicks in the spring so that at six weeks old it would already be fairly warm outside. These chicks are ten weeks old today but outdoors they still need a heat lamp. It’s just too cold, particularly at night.
Note: to know what temperature your chicks can handle, count backwards 5 degrees from 95 degrees per week. So my chickens can handle 45 degrees.
I set up the portable fencing that was in the guest room (a portable fence is invaluable on a farmstead) and set up a folding table inside as a top to keep the big girls out. I put their food and water inside the square. We attached the heat lamp and kept it low over the fence. Nothing touches the lamp! I am a little fearful of fire. I used an old piece of pallet, some wood, and this and that to cover holes and make the space secure. If it is too hot, they will move to the other side of the sectioned off area, if they are huddled under the lamp, they are cold. You want them comfortably wandering. I can remove the pallet to reach in and water and feed.
In one or two weeks as the weather warms and the other chickens get used to the babies, I will let them out, keeping the pen up so they have a safe space to run to. Eloise can be quite a bitc….ahem…difficult.
It won’t be long though before they are all scratching and bathing in the dirt, soaking up the sun, and scrambling for treats all together. Just use precautions and slowly introduce for a happy chicken household. Now…to get the smell out of the guest room…
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Interesting…it never would have occurred to me that chickens also have a social hierarchy…that you need to gradually ‘introduce’ new chicks/chickens to each other. 😉
I live in NYC (in Queens, where there are actually houses…not just apartment buildings 😉 ) …. and just around the corner is a homeowner who built out a small urban farm…in his backyard…and up on his rooftop. He also has a chicken coop. Me, being a city gal, I don’t have much experience with chickens, but one day when I was visiting his farm, he invited me to go inside the coop and take one of the eggs for myself. ‘Really?’, I asked….’I can just go in and take the egg that I see in there?’ ‘Yup, just go right on in….’
So I took the one precious egg home, and determined that I had to do something very special with it. I decided to make a three-egg omelet. I broke the fresh egg into a bowl, and when I added two other eggs from my fridge, I was struck by how ‘orange’ the new egg was. I have to say though…the omelette didn’t taste that special…perhaps because the older eggs overpowered the fresh egg…. ;-(
Anyway, when I’d initially returned home from my visit to the urban farm, I’d left my Dansko clogs just inside my apartment door. And….uh oh… ‘hey!…what is my (formerly feral/still somewhat wild) cat up to over there?…ah… he probably smells ‘farm’ and strange animal smells on my shoes… oh wait….oh no…oh no, he DIDN’T!!’ Oh yes. Oh yes, he did! 😉 Right inside one of my clogs!
Course, it never occurred to me (being a city gal and all) that there’s a reason why we have that term…. ‘chicken shit’. Of course! Chicken coops contains CHICKEN SHIT on the floor. Who’da thunk?? It never even occurred to me that the soles of my clogs would be left with little presents. I quickly ‘rinsed out’ the inside of the clogs with soapy water, then wiped the insides down with a paper towel soaked in vinegar and lemon. And I had to scrub the bottom sole with a hard-bristled brush to get all the shit off. And I vowed to never step foot in a chicken coop again… at least, not without some ‘farm-only’ shoes!