Author Topic: new to chickens  (Read 6300 times)

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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new to chickens
« on: March 25, 2013, 09:32:59 PM »
We're getting ready for our chicks. We ordered 25 straight run buckeyes, which is a breed known for cold hardiness, decent egg production, and gentle disposition. Day old chicks are now in the mail and should arrive here piping hot on Wednesday or Thursday.

We've set a couple things in motion to get to prepare for the chicks. First we've built a little area inside our monk's den for them to stay for the first 3-4 weeks including a 250 watt red heat lamp (which is doubling as a seed starter for the time being). We essentially just tore a cardboard box apart and turned it into a circular kind of deal...the only real challenge was to get the lamp the right distance off the ground. Ideally we would have just hung it from the ceiling, but our ceiling is quite crumbly so I had trouble getting anything that would hold the weight of the lamp. I wound up wedging some scrap wood into a cinder block, and screwing some eye hooks into the end of it to guide the cord of the lamp.



It is amazing how much care is required for the little ones...they need to be taught to drink water - by dipping each beak in the water; the water needs to be 98 degrees with a little sugar in it; the space below the lamp needs to be 99-100 degrees, but with cooler spaces for the chicks to escape to. There can't be any corners because the chicks will then pile up in the corner and crush each other.

Once the chicks get older, we plan to pasture them with an electric poultry fence - starting in our front yard where they'll have some tree protection from hawks. We've also contracted a fellow in Illinois to build us a  doghouse which we will convert into a the roosting area for our mobile chicken tractor. The same guy has a trailer he made that the chicken coop can sit on so we can drag it around the property.

Finally, we're blessed in that we have a permanent structure for chickens that we can use in the winter, if any of them survive that long - a concrete floor structure that is about 15'x8'.

I'll update with pictures of the chicks in a few days!


nelson96

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2013, 09:41:27 PM »
It sounds like you'll be great chick parents, but I must have always raised some hearty chicks because I've never gone to the steps you have.  I've certainly never trained them to drink . . .  Maybe my kids did all that and didn't tell me.  They live with the damn things. 

Offline Tyronedeblanco

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2013, 09:42:01 PM »
nice, ill be doing this shortly in the next month!!  I'll post as well.

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2013, 04:48:17 PM »
YEAH BABY!

Chicks arrived this morning and are doing well. I'm glad we got things set up last weekend since we got to work out at least a few of the snafus. The chicks were pretty active from the beginning - learning to drink and eat immediately. My daughter (and wife for that matter) were beside themselves with excitement as the chicks came in.

The birds here are happy to be at 100 degrees after 2 days in various USPS trucks and buildings from Missouri to Wisconsin.

Here the birds are roaming around. Note that they are pretty spread out which is a sign of good heat distribution.

If the area under the lamp is too hot they will scatter to outside the light circle, and if it is too cold they will cluster in the middle. I think the distribution indicates they are pretty happy with the temperature. The big red plastic container has chick feed, and the white container on the left has warm sugar/electrolyte water in it. We have a few other saucers out for them - 2 with water and one with egg yolk.

Here is a birds-eye view of the whole situation. I am my father's son which means that I am drawn to puns. A small weakness (peccadillo).


The chicks really require the most care on the first day. Starting tomorrow, there will be much less monitoring and fussing. I'll start raising the lamp - by the end of the week, the area under the lamp will be ~ 90 degrees. Then over the next week I'll probably let them sit at 90, before replacing the 250 W bulb with a regular 100 watt bulb and lowering the lamp down again so that it is about 80-85 degrees under the lamp. By the end of three weeks, I plan to have them at about 75, which is faster than Cackle hatchery recommends, but ok according to my friends who raise birds.

BTW, thumbs up for Cackle hatchery - great looking birds, professional service, and low prices.

I'll add a post on things I'd do differently in a few days, and give some updates on the birds.

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2013, 07:54:25 PM »
Can anybody guess the breed?

Offline Tyronedeblanco

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2013, 01:40:37 AM »
is it neccesary to teach them how to drink??  i thought they knew this by instinct??    Also, is sugar in the water because they were shipped to you or is this normally done for chicks?

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2013, 07:57:11 AM »
I think chickens normally can learn to drink on their own but turkeys and some of the other peafowl do not. We did it just because it was suggested by cackle hatchery, but probably wouldn't do it with this breed again since they seemed to have it pretty well figured out.

They were shipped - USPS for about 51 hours, and so the electrolytes and sugar are to help get them going from that experience. Also the heated water is in response to this. I don't think they'd need it if they were hatched naturally. If they needed all this help in the natural world there wouldn't be any chickens! lol. That being said, survival rates can definitely be increased by taking all of these steps. If you are trying to breed a chicken that could survive with minimal "modern" help then you'd probably just want to let nature take its course.

Of course, as long as we humans are raising them though there is some husbandry involved in animal husbandry. Honestly, I can see either a minimalist approach OR a "take all reasonable cares" approach as both having their merits.

Hope it helps.

Offline Russkie

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2013, 08:19:56 AM »
Congrats on getting chickens! My family has had them for several years, and the chicks are always the most fun part of it

We once had ducklings and chicks at the same time, and the chicks noticed the duckling's long tounges..and proceeded to try to bite them  :)
Good times all around. Another fun thing is hypnotizing them when they get older! if you draw a line in the dirt and curve the end, sort of like an f without the cross piece, the chickens will just stand and stare until they're stimulated some other way

Offline Zip

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2013, 06:55:55 PM »
Nice set up All.  Very well thought out.  You are going to have some happy chicks.  I'm looking forward to your "things I would do differently" post.  We will have to compare notes, because I will definitely make some changes.

Zip

Offline ncjeeper

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2013, 08:09:58 PM »
 :clap:

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2013, 10:03:01 PM »
Arg! We lost a chick tonight :( Not quite sure why except that it had pasty butt. There was some commotion and I went in to see what was going on. Maybe it was unrelated, but there was a chick lying on its side and not getting up when other chicks walked over it. We tried giving it some water but it was barely responsive, and died within a couple of minutes.

I guess we weren't checking carefully enough...just cleaned about 5 of the chicks off with pasty butt - so about 20% of the birds had it.

Offline Tyronedeblanco

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2013, 11:43:11 PM »
Arg! We lost a chick tonight :( Not quite sure why except that it had pasty butt. There was some commotion and I went in to see what was going on. Maybe it was unrelated, but there was a chick lying on its side and not getting up when other chicks walked over it. We tried giving it some water but it was barely responsive, and died within a couple of minutes.

I guess we weren't checking carefully enough...just cleaned about 5 of the chicks off with pasty butt - so about 20% of the birds had it.

 :'(

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2013, 08:27:49 AM »
we usually loose a few. My 11-yo chicken-whisperer son cries and holds them in their last minutes, and then takes them outside for a burial.  this year he has started burying the dead chicks in empty egg shells.  ???  but it helps him deal with it.  He is totally ok with putting them in the compost to help the garden, but he has to do his ritual.  I am glad that he cares so much.  Not glad that he hurts, but that he CAN hurt for a little baby chicken.

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2013, 11:00:33 AM »
Thanks Morning Sunshine for that anecdote. Very touching.

Offline 3hr_farm

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2013, 08:07:27 PM »
It's always rough when one of the little ones doesn't make it.  We've luckily only lost one of the babies over the past few years.  We also got ours from Cackle hatchery.  The first year we ordered from them we were living in Illinois.  The second year, we had moved to Georgia.  When the chicks were to be delivered we got an interesting call from our post lady.  The post lady in Illinois.  Turns out that cackle had used our old address somehow and shipped them to Illinois.  Luckily we lived in a small farm town in Illinois and the grade school took them.  Cackle apologized and quickly shipped us a new order.

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2013, 03:06:30 PM »
Well,

The chicks are 6 days old and doing quite well! They are chasing each other around their enclosure fighting over little pieces of pine chips and the occasional dead fly. I think it is their version of playing. They really are incredibly cute - at night they quiet down and if I am careful I can sneak up to watch them without disturbing them. They lie together in clumps - usually a main clump with little side groups of 3 and 4. One of them usually notices that I'm watching them and gives me the "chicken eye." y'all know what that is don't you?

Their wing feathers are growing out noticeably after just a few days...and man they are active and energetic. We've named one Clydesdale since it scratches with such ferocity and vigor...it can usually scratch out an area that 5 chicks will then peck around in.

Here are some pictures. I put some feed on this paper towel so they're all on it pecking away

Here's a little guy/gal...really didn't want to be held, but notice those wing feathers coming in!



Any guesses on the breed?

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2013, 05:00:18 PM »
Wing feathers coming in like crazy now!. I had no idea they grew out their wings in the first week like this. Chicks are doing really well. 2 of them still have pasty butt - I think I'm going to try to separate those two tonight and give them a special diet of boiled egg and mix some plain yogurt in with their chick feed. I'll report if it works, and more pictures this weekend.

Offline Tyronedeblanco

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2013, 05:39:35 AM »
we bought 5 last week and are loving them!!!  As soon as i get time i will post some pics here on your thread if you dont mind.  So far so good, one of them is very curious / pushy (Fork) with the others.  The names are Berniece, Persephone, Fork, Pizza-man, and Emilea.    So far the kids love them, the dog is very concerened.   :)

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2013, 09:27:29 PM »
That's cool that you named them all. Thanks for posting and please feel free to use this thread!

I think 25 chickens are a bit too many to name them all until they get a bit older. There are definitely a half dozen that stick out in personality, size, and tendencies.

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2013, 09:31:52 PM »
The chicks are doing well. Their pasty butt has cleared up - we gave them some yogurt mixed in with chick feed and sprinkled some pro-biotics on it and gave them some boiled egg yolk.

They have new wings sprouting out of their shoulders.

One big problem we have run into is that they constantly foul and kick wood chips into their water. Each day it seemed to get worse to the point that their water feeder would be completely clogged with wood chips within 2 hours or so. Well...we came up with a solution - we stuck their waterer on a piece of cardboard - simple but effective! After 4 hours only 1 or 2 wood-chips.

We've ordered a 125 watt heat bulb - the 250 watt bulb is overkill at this point.

Notice the tail feather have started to come in nicely on the females. We think that the females and males are pretty well distinguished at this point, but could be totally wrong. We've read that females get tail and wing feathers sooner, and there is definitely a clear difference between the chicks at this point.

Offline ericksonrs

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #20 on: April 04, 2013, 09:55:22 PM »
The cardboard was a good idea...the nipple waterer's are really nice too.  We switched after about 6 months and I would recommend them to anyone. 

Offline Cedar

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2013, 04:58:58 AM »
Can anybody guess the breed?

Buckeyes?

Cedar

Offline Cedar

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #22 on: April 05, 2013, 05:04:09 AM »
Arg! We lost a chick tonight :( Not quite sure why except that it had pasty butt.

I guess we weren't checking carefully enough...just cleaned about 5 of the chicks off with pasty butt - so about 20% of the birds had it.

Generally I pull with a warm wet paper towel the pasty butt debris. It usually means your chicks are getting chilled, too warm or some other stress. I would recommend just feeding the chick starter and water. No sugar water, no egg etc. Check there is no drafts (but it looks like you shouldn't), toss a thermometer in there to see what the actual temp is and don't handle too much.

Cedar

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2013, 08:56:55 AM »
YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!
you got it!

Cedar is the winner.

Offline Tyronedeblanco

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #24 on: April 05, 2013, 01:18:17 PM »
sweet. ill call the wife and have her put cardboard under the water feeder, getting the wood chips out every few hours is annoying!!

Offline AllYouNeedIsLove

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Re: new to chickens
« Reply #25 on: April 18, 2013, 08:02:02 PM »
We think we've got mostly pullets although we aren't sure if we are using the right signs to make a determination. We think we've got 18 hens and 7 cockerels, although that would be a pretty lucky straight run. We think the hens have bigger bushier tails and wing feathers - there are about 7 of the little ones who have noticeably smaller tails - almost no tail at all really. The only thing that is a little confusing to us is that about 4 of 7 of what we think are the cockerels are noticeably smaller than the rest of the birds. There is one small tail who is also quite large and we're pretty confident its a rooster.

Without further ado, here are the latest pictures:


We think the chick with its head down in the feed is a rooster, and the one to his left is a hen.


This is kind of a cool picture - the hen/pullet with her eye closed has a worm that I just stuck in there. The chicken to her left is trying to steal it. The worms caused quite a ruckus that lasted for about 10 minutes.

Decent picture of one of the pullets - notice how developed her wing feathers are getting!

Another picture of a hen.

A hen taking flight off the cinder block.

And finally, the chick in the middle we think is a cockerel, the one on the right is a hen.


It is surprisingly difficult to get a good picture of a chicken, particularly now that they have a roosting house (which I made out of a big dog house). The large cockerel in particular didn't want to be photographed at all.
It is pretty cool how fast the chickens are growing now - the weather is still a little too cold and windy to let them outside but they seem ok to venture out of their warm (70-80degree) roosting house and into the cold cardboard enclosure (45-50 degrees) which is now moved into the garage.