Baby chicks are so skittish but put yourself in their shoes! Your tiny and people hands are huge! And the only things you have been exposed to are other baby chicks, food, water and a floor of pine chips. Now one of those people hands is dropping something new into your world. “What is that? What’s going on? Is that going to hurt me?”
One of our training toys we like to give our chicks when they are about 5 to 6 weeks old is a little perch so they can start getting used to roosting.
We weren’t prepared for how scared this batch of chicks would be when we put the perch in. They ran into the farthest corner away from the perch and started climbing all over each other fighting for the farthest spot. We were afraid all the jumping on top of each other was going to injure someone!
After about 15 minutes they finally calmed down but had collected behind their feeder. Leaving a barrier between then and the evil stick! They eventually moved out from behind the food the next morning, probably out of thirst. They completely avoided the area with the perch but that’s okay for now.
Over time our big chick got brave enough to jump up on the perch which fascinated all the others. Now you’ll find up to 3 chicks using the perch. No more fear here!
Hopefully they will translate this perch to a roost when they finally get into the coop.
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 words you hate to hear when you are on a farm. SNOW IS COMING! The warning came earlier this year so we were caught off guard. You should always do a thorough coop cleaning in the early spring and in the late fall before the snow comes. Last year it was in November.
We’d been talking about all the changes we wanted to make to the coop and agreed that the time to do it was when we did the bi-annual cleaning. Now snow has been predicted in a couple days and we were completely unprepared!
Why changes? Well, let’s see. You probably notice we have no internal wall board. We put up some of that shiny thin insulation between the beams but never put up drywall. We didn’t want to overdo the pocket book for a coop and we definitely didn’t want to insulate more. We found some thin, low cost, pre-primered no VOC plywood to finish the building and reduce the drafts.
We also noticed the ladies would try and jump from the roosts straight across to the nesting boxes a couple feet away or they would struggle trying to find a spot to jump off of the roost that was far enough away from the nesting boxes.They are big, fat and not very graceful when they try to fly so some of them banged themselves up! Not too bright. Moving the roosts and nesting boxes seemed to be in order.
Also, after spending 6 weeks eradicating lice from the coop, a lesson learned from getting somebody’s FREE rooster….(now we know why he was free), cleanliness is a must. The nesting boxes are a nightmare. First we started by covering the wooden floor of each nesting box with shelf liner. We learned quickly that there is a lot of scratching going on in those boxes and the liner wouldn’t stay in the box. We tried hay for nesting material but it was kicked out as well. So we found some nesting pads which were disposable but did not stand up to broken eggs or a good shot of poop. Every now and then the wood in the box was dirty with something nasty and it is so hard to disinfect. I still am not convinced its clean enough, even after a diluted bleach solution spray. We needed an easy clean nesting box! And the poop deck…….what can you say. It didn’t go all the way to the back wall so poop collected there requiring me to pull everything out, crawl under the roost and clean it out.
Finally, winter is the worst time of the year. The ladies don’t leave the coop when it’s snowing or very wet. There are a lot of big hens taking up space in that coop. They tend to get on each other’s nerves which usually means pecking. We need to give them more space.
Hardware Store Run! We got everything we needed to get the job done. Plywood, screws, a tarp, buckets…..yes buckets. You’ll see…….
The girls got kicked out of their coop bright and early and the door was shut for the rest of the day. All the bedding on the floor was shoveled out into the tractor scoop and dropped into the compost. The whole coop was swept and even vacuumed, all the way to the mesh coverings of the peak vents. Everything was moved from the coop, and I mean EVERYTHING! The heating panels off the walls, the nesting boxes and the roosts. Then came the scrubbing. All-natural non-toxic dish soap for general washing, homemade orange peel cleaner for tough spots and a fresh scent, and finally a light spray with a very dilute bleach solution final disinfection.
Now it’s time to put everything back in. Roosting bars now go on the short back wall. The poop deck is no longer a table. A sheet of plywood is covered with a new tarp and put on a ledger rather than table legs. Now we can slide it in and out easier. And the best part?…..The deck is now notched to reach all the way back to the wall! …..Yay!
And for the grand finale………..plastic bucket nesting boxes!……..Whaaaaat? You read it right. Buckets for nesting boxes. An egg can break in there and you can wash that bucket out and return it super clean! Ahhhh…..what a relief. But of course the question is, will the ladies use them? Well that’s a story for another day!
See both Before and After videos on their YouTube Channel:
Evening time has been a little of a challenge in the coop in the winter. The hens all wanted the highest spot in the middle of the flock to stay the warmest. The roosts went higher the closer to the back wall they were and only the highest ranking hens got the prime spots. Top that off with the 2X2 inch wooden sticks that were also at a slight angle and there was a lot of adjusting, squabbling and pecking trying to get ready for bed!
We tore out those tiny annoying roosting bars and put in these long 2X4 boards! Now instead of gripping a small uncomfortable stick they have a nice fat board to put their feet flat down. They can sit down on their toes to keep them toasty warm. Chickens are really not considering flying, perching birds anyway.
Night came and there was far less squawking and flapping, but those girls were still trying to get to the higher bar. My poor hubby had to tear it apart and change it yet again! The final configuration is 2 bars at the same height. There are almost no more arguments now! The only noise I sometimes hear is when one of the hens jumps up into middle of the pack hoping to get a good spot.
One funny side effect of the roosting bar change is they are farther apart from each other now. They were so used to being on top of each other and cuddling together that the first night using the new roosts they were falling over trying to tuck their heads under the bird on the roost next to them! It took them awhile to figure out they weren’t going be sitting as close together!
The last change was the poop decks. Now that we changed the configuration we couldn’t use the custom trays. The new poop deck is just a table underneath. This new design is easy to clean and the girls seem to like hanging out underneath it. It gives them another place to hide.
Take a good look at the roost on the What the Flock YouTube channel:
It’s a late summer evening and I’m sitting there with the windows open for a cool breeze. I started hearing thumping noises coming from the coop. What the heck is going on out there?! I ran outside and opened the coop door. All the chicks just stared at me like a parent who came home early and busted up the party. They all shuffled out their coop door and went outside. I took a look around to see they were up to and noticed……there was poop in the poop deck under the roosts! Yay! The girls were Finally learning how to use the roosting bars.
The next morning when I let them out of the coop I found 3 of them sitting on the roosts! How exciting! I decided to spend the evening video taping them coming in a for the night. They are hysterical! They jump up, they fall off, they have a hard time balancing, they knock their neighbor off and “boom”, back on the floor. Now I know what the thumping is all about! Poor girls! I put more pine shavings down to break their fall.
Now it seems they think any piece of wood is a roost. Good thing I’ve covered up their nesting boxes until they are ready to lay eggs. They’d all be jumping into them, messing them up. Another thing for me to clean! They still have another 2-3 months before they start laying eggs.
One of the places they are jumping on is the chicken wire covered storage cage door! Scared me to death! Surprised me while I was video taping them. I hope that stops soon! Hopefully their smart enough to realize it’s a bad idea.
Ever since the little chickies moved into the big brooder, they have not only been growing longer feathers, they are starting to act more like chickens. No mom around to teach them, they just seem to know what to do.
They started by scratching the ground. Finally! They were wasting so much food! Now, anything that gets knocked out of the feeder is scratched up and eaten.
They started rolling around on the ground. Ahh…..I know this one. They are trying to do a dust bath. But rolling around in their food probably isn’t the best thing for them, is it? So I brought them a dish of dirt and boy did they have fun! I can’t even describe it! You’ll have to check out the video.
The most fun is their need to be standing higher than the others. They are starting to climb up on us as high as they can go. Some of them get real comfortable and nestle down to roost, like the one in the picture. Watch out though, another one wants to take your spot! We’ve had 3 at once trying to get to the top!