So it was a week of firsts for the littles! So what have we tried?
We started by putting a tray of dirt down expecting them to start dust bathing. It took 3 days for them to get brave enough to get into the tray! Once they got a hang of getting in the tray they decided to eat the dirt rather than dust bathe! After eating half the tray I pulled it out.
Then I shredded up some dandelion leaves and dropped them in. After getting over the fear they tasted them but weren’t impressed.
The next day I walked into something that looked a little like Fight Club! The littles were puffing up their chests, posturing and bouncing off each other! They must have been establishing their pecking order. They start it young!
They had their first brooder cleaning where I had to climb in with them. I thought I would scare the heck out of them but they were actually pretty excited to take a ride on my shoes!
I mentioned we have a laser gun temperature gauge. You shoot the laser light onto the object you want to take the temperature of. At first the littles were afraid of it but pretty soon it was a game of catch! They also seem fascinated with finger movements. Everywhere your finger goes they follow.
We have to clean out this brooder twice a week. On my second trip in I was wearing a hoodie with strings that the littles went wild for!
Finally, a few of the girls got brave enough to jump up on the perch we put in days earlier. Now they are fighting over who gets to use it!
Yep, a lot of firsts this week and this is just the beginning!
I tried to capture most of these on video just for you and have uploaded them on their YouTube channel!
The girls have graduated with their move into the large brooder. They are now known as “the Littles!” So when me or the hubby say…..I’m going to feed the chickens. We don’t have to ask…..which ones?
Remember how I said the littles were going to be more fun when they moved into the big brooder? We have so much fun with their curious antics. They are like babies and puppies. They put their mouths on everything! Unfortunately their mouths are armed with a pointy beak to they peck when they are investigating. Ouch!
Picking them up is fun too. Some like it better than others. Their objective is to stand higher than all the other girls so lifting them up can be very exciting for them?
See how big the chicks are at 4 weeks on their YouTube channel:
The chicks got their wish today! They moved into their new LARGE brooder! They were so excited that one girl actually flew from the small brooder into the new one!
They certainly love their new space. More room to roam. The cage grid floor is gone and they can finally scratch with their feet! Everything is new. One chick even thought a large pine shaving was food! She picked it up in her beak and the other chicks became jealous and started chasing her to try and steal it away! Too funny!
For the quieter chicks this was a little much for them. They were skiddish and peeped really loud if they became scared. That happens every now and then since the brave girls are taking over the space with their antics.
Over the next week I’ll try to video all their new experience because there are going to be a lot of FIRSTS coming up!
Watch the chick fly and the girl run with her wood chip on their YouTube Channel:
Chicks brains are pretty simple really. But as they get older you can see them getting smarter and smarter! When they’re tiny they are just reacting to things around them. Then one day they start to recognize you. They start looking at you….watching you…..and then start to follow every move you make. Some more than others. Don’t listen to people who say chickens are dumb. They are actually very smart! Okay, there are exceptions, just like there are with people.
If you watch the videos on YouTube you will notice there are a few chicks looking at the lid to the brooder looking for a way to get out. When I open the lid to change out food and water there are 2 girls in particular that have jumped up through the opening! Scared me to death! Could be a nasty fall if they fell on the floor! That was the first sign they are ready to leave the small brooder. They are getting bigger so it’s a little more crowded.
The next step brooder is a larger wood one that we built. Since it’s winter we are going to have to set it up inside in our chicken supply storage area. We cover the cement floor with a tarp, then some absorbent paper for animal cages, and then a light layer of pine shavings. We add a couple ceramic heating panels to keep the temperature around 70 degrees. We have a nifty thermometer gun that we use to test temperature. You shoot a laser pointer at the spot you want to know the temperature of. The temperature is a perfect 70 degrees right by the panels!
I can’t wait to move them in!
See how ready the girls are to move on their YouTube Channel:
So you are saying to yourself, “but didn’t you just change the nesting boxes?” and you would be right! Why did we change again? Let me explain.
First and foremost we want to have the best eggs for our customers. That means big, fresh, CLEAN eggs. Clean to us also means easy to clean.
Our first set of nesting boxes were your standard wood filled with hay. The hay became a problem because the girls kept kicking it out so there was nothing to cushion the eggs. Sometimes an egg would break and we had to take time cleaning out the wood box and disinfecting it. We decided wood, which is porous, was not the most sanitary option for the ladies to nest in. We even tried disposable nesting pads. They increased the cleanliness but a broken egg would still soak through.
PLASTIC!!…..Plastic is easy to clean, right? Of course it is! So our next set of nesting boxes were made out of plastic buckets. We used the nesting pads and could easily pull out the bucket and wash it. The hens took to them right away but we quickly ran into a snag. The ladies grew so fast over the winter that they started to have a difficult time turning around in the bucket, stepping on or messing on the eggs. This was not working at all.
After calculating the cost of the nesting pads we decided that buying a fancy nesting box would eventually pay for itself. This high tech looking box has got some great features. The red flaps give the ladies privacy. There are no walls in the box so more hens can use it at a time. There is a washable rubber mat for them to sit on. The mat is at an angle which causes the eggs to roll down into a tray in front. That tray is covered so the chickens can’t get at them.
At first the ladies did not want to use it. They started laying eggs on the ground. I put some nesting pads on top of the rubber mat which got them started. I slowly removed the material and they are now laying clean eggs and not cracking them anymore.
See the ladies checking out the new nesting boxes on their YouTube channel:
For those of you who have been following the ladies, you know that Stewart is the young rooster that we gave to hens for Valentine’s Day last year! Well……he wasn’t as strong as we were hoping.The brutal ladies refused to let him grow a nice flowing tail. Every time he had new pin feathers starting to grow the ladies would literally yank them out of his butt! How humiliating!
He still has an awesome singing voice and loves to share it at all hours of the day and night, to my neighbor’s dismay! Such a funny boy!
Although still not dominant enough to fully earn the ladies respect, he has at least been able to keep them off his hiney! Finally Stewy has a partially filled in long black/green tail! There is still some white fuzz where more feathers should grow from.
So here is a personally written poem to my favorite, be it my only boy:
Stewart, as a leader you fail Such a sad and pointless tail Listen to my plea you hear Keep your girlfriends off your rear!
Get a good look at Stewart’s new tail and hear his beautiful singing voice on the ladies YouTube channel:
We are starting to see the personalities develop in these babies. One chick in particular has a strong instinct to dust bathe like I’ve never seen before. The brooder only has a cage bottom for cleanliness. Poop drops out the bottom and away from the chicks. But the dust bathing instinct is so strong she lays on the floor flopping around even though there is no dirt to bathe in!
First, the chick found the little tray of grit and started flopping around in that. Grit is tiny stones that the chicks eat to help them digest their food. Once the chicks started eating in the outside troughs that little chick decided to drop in front of one of the open windows. The other chicks were not happy that this little girl wanted to take up space by the food to flip flop around on the cage floor! They started to stand on top of her and in some cases even started pecking at her saying “Get Out of My Way!”
She is going to have a ball when I give the girls their first tray of dirt to play with!
You can watch the dust bathing chick on their YouTube Channel:
I can hear them saying “Hey, it’s getting a little crowded in here!!” Unfortunately it’s still cold outside and these little girls need to stay inside for another few weeks. So what can we do to make things better? Let’s let them eat out for a change!
This brooder came with troughs to hang on the outside to save space. There are metal pieces you can adjust to make sure the chicks can stick their heads out but not their entire bodies. We decided to give it a try.
First, we opened up the slides to let them investigate. It took awhile for them to get brave enough to poke their beaks through. Then we added the troughs filled with food. Opening the slides once again, they quickly got to it. They devoured the food like they hadn’t been fed for a week! Little monsters act like we are starving them!
After they filled up they started getting picky about their food. Instead of just eating they started pecking through it and tossing about pieces they didn’t care for. Guess where it landed…..ON THE FLOOR!. What a mess! We are now spending a lot of time vacuuming to avoid attracting mice.
But hey…..they have more room! It won’t last for long. They are growing way too fast. We are going to have to build a bigger brooder soon.
Check out our trough test, feeding the chicks outside the brooder on their YouTube Channel:
The ladies have a habit they learned early on. I have the snack bucket! And when I don’t have the snack bucket, I MIGHT have the snack bucket! In either case they will follow me wherever I go.
I don’t think it would ever be possible for me to lose one of the ladies. Even free-ranging they never lose sight of their source for cracked corn, sunflower seeds and meal worms! When I do have that infamous yellow bucket in my hand I’m like a magnet drawing our girls in any direction I wish to go. It makes you feel powerful!
Even though I have nothing in my hands, watch as the ladies follow every move I make on their YouTube channel:
Look at how big the chicks are after only 3 weeks! Below is a picture taken at 2 weeks. Almost all their downy feathers have fallen off! As you can see they aren’t as stressed out at this age as they were with the big ugly monsters putting their hands in and out of their cage.
They are also eating twice as much as they were at 2 weeks and ditto on the pooping! It’s a little stinky in the basement! But they are so adorable it’s worth tolerating it.
See how tiny and stressed the chicks are at 2 weeks old on their YouTube Channel: