Saturday, April 26, 2014

Chick update

It has been a few weeks now since we brought our chicks home from the feedstore. They are already looking more like chickens and less like cute chicks. 

They were small enough for the brooder set up for about 2 weeks. But those Buff Orpingtons are giants and we had to move them out faster than we expected. To accommodate their need for more space we decided to build their hen house a bit early. My fantastic hubs found the plans online and built the plywood house you see below. It was pretty simple and only used a sheet of plywood so it was very inexpensive. 

While the chicks still needed heat we kept it in the garage with the hen door closed. The heat lamp clamped on the the side easily and gave them much more space but still kept them cozy. When they could be away from the heat we moved the box outside and took the floor off. This let them start scratching and start getting used the the weather. We moved it daily in our home orchard so they always had fresh grass - and we didn't have to clean anything.

Then this morning we put together a temporary yard for them so they can start going outside and getting used to the dogs. The younger dog really needs to get used to the chickens. This yard we put up with materials we had around the house. With the warmer weather arriving, they need more space yet again. 

Note- dogs love the chase and kill chickens. Usually once they start killing chickens, they don't stop. It is fun for the dog. The difference between a dog killing a chicken and a predator (like wild animal) is that the dog will leave the dead chicken but other animals will eat it. So if you find a dead (and mangled) chicken, odds are a dog got it. Once you find one you need to act quickly to predator/dog proof the pen or you will keep finding dead chickens.

There are several reasons why this is just a temporary pen.
1- after a week or two there would be no more grass left. That is fine but we would prefer to have them move around and help mow the orchard grass.
2- this pen would need to be taller or have a top. Chickens can't fly well or far but they can get up high to roost. Within a few weeks the chickens will be about to escape this top. You can trim their wing feathers to prevent this. It works very well but you would then need a taller pen to keep predators out.

Remember the leghorn (the Prius chicken)? Check out how big she is and notice that she is the brave one venturing outside already. She is actually one of the smaller of the chickens by weight, but a very efficient gal.
These other chickens are too chicken to go outside. The two yellows are the Buffs and in the middle is one of the Barred Rocks. They were not cooperating for pictures. 

We have to fill up their 1 gallon water can daily and have used about 25 lbs of feed already. They are not totally adjusted to the toddler yet, which is part of the goal of this pen too. The kiddo really likes inspecting them: looking at their eyes and feet and feathers.

Eventually we will use the house to attach to a mobile pen to move around our little orchard. The orchard will provide shade, grass and bugs. The chickens will leave behind fertilizer and hopefully help control the grass and bugs. And of course we will get eggs. 

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