Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘brooder

Let’s Move

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When they started out in the brooder five weeks ago, our chicks had plenty of room. They are now getting a little testy with each other over their lack of space.

It’s time to move to the coop.

We probably would have already moved them, except it’s been so cold and snowy.

Now we are expecting a run of warmer weather and they are going to be movin’ on up.

You can see in the photo that they are sprouting enough feathers to reveal their eventual colors. The Golden Laced Wyandottes are showing that golden lacing nicely. They all have a long way to go before maturing into their wattles and combs.

By that time, we will need to have decided whether to let them roam free or keep them confined to protect them from predators. For a while there we felt okay with last year’s experiment, but with the rash of springtime attacks polishing off the last of that brood, it doesn’t feel quite right to not try something different.

We’ll move on that decision when they start to out-grow the coop in a month or two.

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Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2018 at 6:00 am

New Chicks

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I am happy to report that all chicks arrived safe and healthy, traveling in a box through the US Postal network in freezing temperatures. I am fascinated that this process works, given the despicable condition of a few other packages we have received over the years. Live chicks sent through the mail is a marvel.

Last year when our chicks arrived, I wasn’t around. Yesterday, Cyndie let me get in on the excitement of picking them up out of the shipping box and dipping beaks in the water to get the chicks drinking.

The birds come with a 48-hour guarantee of good health, plus, we received one extra of each of the three breeds. We figure, given their guarantee, it’s cheap for breeders to provide an extra, in advance, to avoid the expense and risk of shipping out a replacement should there be any infant mortality.

As of last night, they all looked to be doing just fine.

That’s not always easy to determine. Chick naps seem to happen at all times, in the middle of any activity. It looks like sleep just sneaks up and swallows them. When they lay down, it often looks like they must be dead, sprawled out with legs askew. Then another chick will stumble over them and the sleepy bird will pick up its head and look around. Sometimes they get up and get back in the action, sometimes they try going right back to sleep.

They will fall asleep while eating, or in the middle of all the other chicks that are flitting about, chirping. Occasionally, one will look like it might drown, getting snoozy head-first in the waterer.

We are happy with our healthy start, and are hoping for more of the same for the duration of time they are in the brooder, and beyond.

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

Brilliant Chickens

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Our chicks are growing up almost as fast as the days of the week that fly by in a blink. Ever since that first day when Cyndie taught them how to find a drink of water in our brooder, they have piled on one new accomplishment after another. Sometimes it is a result of them copying each other, and sometimes it is through our gentle instruction.

In order to raise them to be comfortable with our presence and willing to have us handle them, we spent some extended time picking them up and whispering sweet nothings in their direction yesterday. Cyndie spent much of that visit searching for unique markings that will help identify individuals for naming purposes.

I think we should get to know their personalities better, so they can show us what names they deserve. My idea for using favorite chicken recipes was summarily denied, but I still may succeed in getting one of the yellow ones named Parmesan.

We think that the classical music we have on all night long for them is working well to feed their rapidly growing brains with intricacies and emotional depth. They have demonstrated such quick ability to grasp everything we introduce that we are confident we have the makings of brilliance in this flock.

It’s almost like they knew to perch on that stick I put in the brooder before I even finished setting it in place. Now I am working on finding just the right gnarly branches from our brush piles that I can use to carve little chess pieces. With 10 chicks, I’m debating with myself over the need for more than one board. They obviously learn well enough by observing each other, I think they can get the game down by watching a match played by their brood-mates.

Cyndie is busy creating flash cards with images of ticks, flies, and bugs, as well as piles of manure to be scratched apart in a “green means go” motif. The back sides will have a red theme and include threats like the hawks and eagles overhead, fox, raccoon, coyote, the neighbor’s dogs, and yes, even Delilah.

Our chickens are going to be brilliant.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2017 at 9:09 am

Tail Feathers

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Our chicks were born a week ago yesterday, shipped a week ago today, and arrived to us a week ago tomorrow. In this past week we have gone from knowing nothing about chickens to understanding and nurturing these ten to a successful adjustment where they are thriving in the new home we have provided.

Considering that I was unsure they would all survive the first night with us, we have come a long way in a very short time. During a long visit with the brood last evening, I came to see how each day’s success will make it that much harder to accept that first unfortunate occasion when we lose one (or more) of them to a predator. The longer time we have to connect with them, the greater the loss a death will be.

While Sunday we caught a few first glimpses of what surely must be the beginnings of tail feathers, a day later the new feathers were hard to miss.

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We added a tempting perch in the form of a small branch across the big trough, to give them something to aim for in their rapid transformation into able-bodied chickens.

My new goal is to figure out how to convince Delilah that she must protect these birds from all threats, foreign and domestic, so any predators that find themselves attracted to our turf by the presence of chickens will be dissuaded by the large white teeth of our four-footed shepherd.

I hope she never figures out that these beautiful birds called chickens are the same as the stuff that comes out of the cans of dog food she gets served. We want our birds to keep their tail feathers.

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Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Growing Fast

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Kids grow up so fast, don’t they? Our new babies are almost to the point where we can’t call them new any more. Born on Monday, they are four days old today and have made it through a couple of nights in our barn. Last night, they shared it with the horses, as Cyndie decided to bring the herd in out of the rain.

I got to see the new game of Queen-of-the-Brood they developed after one of them discovered the little ledge available within leaping range. They seem a little too polite about taking turns for it to be a serious competition.

I hope they are starting their training early for how they are going to leap to the roof of the coop if Delilah ever gets loose in the summer months ahead.

Cyndie spent yesterday working on her technique for treating pasty butt syndrome. Since we seem to be violating a few preventative guidelines, like getting our chicks through the mail and using the heat lamp which doesn’t control temperature precisely, it is not surprising that several of our chicks are having issues.

One of the noticeable signs of growth is the rapid appearance of definition in their wings. They’ll need good strong wings to bat Delilah in the face when she tries to get too close.

Actually, the hound is behaving pretty well around them. I don’t think it took her any time at all to recognize that these are creatures that Cyndie is caring for. I expect she will quickly come to realize they are family.

Of course, that won’t save them from her wrath. The horses have been family for a few years, and she still hollers at them like they were outsiders. The other day, Cyndie and I were tending to business in the paddock while Delilah was leashed outside the gate near the hay shed. Cyndie had just stepped in with a couple of bales of hay in the wheelbarrow and Hunter took a sudden interest.

As he purposefully walked toward Cyndie and those bales, Delilah picked up on the energy and immediately responded with a frenetic spurt of her alarm bark. She was definitely trying to back Hunter off and protect Cyndie from a potential threat.

Makes me wish the dog would have grown up and shown more respect for our wishes in as quick a manner as the growth the chickens have sported in just these last two days.

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Written by johnwhays

March 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Hot Chicks

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The call from the Post Office came much earlier than expected yesterday. I’d barely started my day at work when I received a text from Cyndie at 7:18 a.m. indicating she was heading out to pick up our chicks. She told me later that when she walked into the Post Office the immediate sound was of chirping chicks.

She got them home and transferred the tweeting fur balls from their travel box to our water trough brooder, after covering the wood shavings with some paper towels. This will make it easier for them to find the food crumbles we are introducing them to.

They were a pile of chicks at first. Julian informed us the term is, “clutch” of chicks. Since they appear to be clutching each other, it seems most appropriate.

New momma Cyndie picked them up and taught them where to find water, and the first step of imprinting was in the books.

We didn’t plan it, but these birds are truly spring chickens, as they were born on the first day of spring.

In answer to Liz’s questions from yesterday, Cyndie ordered all females. We ordered 9 and received 10 birds. The different breeds are the Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, & Barred Plymouth Rock.

At first, Cyndie felt that one of them looked a little more frail than all the others, and suggested it might require a little extra attention. By the time I got home, they all appeared to be getting along just fine. She couldn’t identify which one had seemed less able.

Earlier in the afternoon, Cyndie brought Delilah into the barn on her leash and tied her some distance away, reporting it as the first introduction and qualifying that it had gone superbly. The dog stayed calm and quiet.

I suggested we bring her right to the brooder trough and let her have a look at the new arrivals. She was happy to have the chance, but didn’t quite understand what to make of it. She could hear them better than see them, as she isn’t tall enough to easily peer down on them over the tub wall. She kept putting her head down to explore around the base of the trough.

After we held her upright to get a clear look down on the chicks, her interest was peaked. From then on, it was almost impossible for her to relax and be quiet after we moved her back out of reach and ignored her while making a health assessment of the birds’ backsides.

Back in the house after dinner, Delilah was annoyingly insistent about being taken for a walk outside again. Cyndie reported that the dog had no interest in walking her usual left turn to the trail in the woods. She made a line for the direction of the barn.

It appears she has a firm focus on the new attractions.

Let the games begin!

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We’re Nesting

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The due date is upon us. Baby chicks are scheduled to ship today and we are preparing for delivery at Wintervale Ranch. Cyndie even bought a stuffed chicken with real feathers that she hoped to use in training Delilah about the soon-to-be-expanding clan we want her to accept as one of our pack. Didn’t really work because she isn’t the least bit interested in it.

We decided to use one of our existing troughs as the brooder, hoping to devise a mount for the heat lamp that will avoid the melting of whatever non-metal material it is.

Over the weekend, I fabricated a mesh cover for it from a roll left over from one of my attempts to protect the trees in the paddock. At first, I thought it was a hassle that it wanted to roll back up and not stay flat, but once I got the dowels attached, that turned out to be a feature, not a bug.

It tends to “grab” the lip of the tub for a nice firm fit.

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I was wrestling with bending the branches I wanted for the radius at each end when I remembered the cuts in the tree stump that Cyndie had photographed, which I recently featured in a post. I made a little slice part way through the branches which facilitated the bend just enough.

You never know from where inspiration might eventually arrive.

We are going to take a shot at raising them in the barn. I’m trying to figure out where I will end up putting a bed out there for Cyndie, since I expect she won’t be able to leave them untended out there for any length of time.

I sure hope these birds will have big appetites for bugs.

If all goes well, I have a feeling we are going to need a bigger coop.

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Written by johnwhays

March 21, 2017 at 6:00 am