The Chick Panacea

One day, about a month ago, I was in a really bad mood.  I don’t remember exactly what had happened to put me in such a mood, but there it was and it was driving my behavior as only bad moods can.  I was snappy and short-tempered and something had to give.

So I bought eight baby chicks.

And then I felt much better.

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I mean…really

To be clear, I’m normally more of a hatcher than a buyer, but these were extreme circumstances and a quick-fix was in order.

Besides, there was a giant tub of chirping little fuzzy chicken nuggets right in front of me.

I mean, really, what’s a girl to do?

The thing about chicks is that the chirping, hopping, adorable phase is relatively short-lived and they quickly outgrow their containers.  Before long, the house smells of chick pee and everything is covered in the dust they’ve kicked up and it’s time to pack their things and send them off into the wide world.

Because I have a Chicken Hatching Problem that is dangerously close to needing the intervention of a 12-step program, we have a fairly solid system in place for moving chicks along the path to Chickens safely and efficiently.

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Chicken Chamber – Phase I

We start them out in a large container indoors.  This is really a giant metal trough, but it works beautifully to house up to two dozen chicks for the first few weeks of life.  We cover the top with chicken wire to prevent Escape by Being Briefly Airborne (although we have discovered the occasional deserter roaming around the living room waiting to be eaten by dogs).

Once the weather is warm enough, the chicks have started to feather enough, and the dust level has become intolerable enough, we move the entire situation outside.

Chicks develop feathers on their wings before their bodies.  Looking at a chick with full wing feathers might trick you into thinking that the chick is fully feathered.  It is worth lifting the wing to have a look-see at what’s happening underneath.  This is important because they really need the warmth and protection of the body feathers to handle colder temperatures, rain, and wind.  Also, it is pretty funny to lift the feathered wing to see the half-nudie little chick body underneath… so there’s that.

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Very Fancy Chicken Tractor

If they are feathery and the sun is out, we transfer them during daylight hours to our Very Fancy chicken tractor.

Here, they can learn to scratch and peck while safely protected from the bullies that are the rest of the flock.  Chickens might just be the biggest bullies in the animal kingdom.  Their inherent jerkiness is not to be underestimated.

The chicken tractor is a great stop-gap measure, but the chicks will certainly outgrow this as well.  So, the next stage is moving them into Separated Coop Space.

When our population exceeded 50 chickens last summer, we knew something had to give.  We built a second coop alongside the original coop and that worked well for managing roosting space and personality differences.  As the summer moved into fall and the chickens were increasingly being plucked out of the woods by foxes and hawks, we found ourselves back down to a one-coop number of birds.

This has proved useful of late.

The Auxiliary Coop

The Auxiliary Coop… because we’re THAT sophisticated

The previously empty second coop has now been turned into a sort of staging area for not-ready-for-the-big-time chicks.

We fenced off a small part of the grassy area and gave them low roosts inside.  We still have the heat lamp set up over the roosts at night in an effort to burn the whole thing down keep them warm until overnight temps are more pleasant.

The chicks seems to be enjoying their newfound space and freedom.  We won’t integrate them into Gen Pop until they are about 3/4 the size of a fully-grown chicken.  This gives them a fighting chance when dealing with the aforementioned bullying situation.

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The next generation

And, most importantly, this move will get them out of the way for the next generation.

Hi.  My name is Laura and I’m a chicken hatcher.

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About applewoodfarm

Restaurateur, farmer, bartender, beekeeper, friend, wife, mother, dog lover, cat tolerater, chicken hypnotizer, blogger, and sometime yogi
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3 Responses to The Chick Panacea

  1. Mom says:

    Hi Laura, Welcome

  2. Bill says:

    I guess we’re more like those parents who teach their children to swim by throwing them into a pool and hoping survival instincts kick in. We used to start our chicks out in one of those little kiddie wading pools, which we’d keep in our basement. It never took long before one would learn to hop over the edge of the pool, after which it would do that distressed chirp as loud as you can thing (usually at about 1 a.m.) until I’d go down there and put it back in the pool. That process would repeat every couple of hours, timed evidently to coincide with my entering into the REM sleep stage.

    Now we just put them in a barn stall till they’re feathered out then move them straight to the main coop. No gradual easing in–just sink or swim. But honestly we’ve never had any trouble with that. They keep their distance from the rest of the flock for quite a while.

    We lost so many chickens to hawks last year that we ended up with an extra coop too. Now I’m using it as a maternity ward. We have a mama sitting on a clutch in there now that is due to hatch on May 9.

    We have more chickens that we need and lately more eggs than we can eat or sell. But nevertheless we have more chicks on the way.

    Hi, my name is Bill and I’m one too.

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