It’s time for the chicks to get out, part II

Well, the chicks were safely moved out to their brooder in the “garage.”  They all made the journey well and did just fine overnight.  We had a bit of consternation trying to get the temp right.  Is it one brooder light or two?  Is it tarp on or off to stop any heat loss?  Do we have enough insulation or too much?  At any rate, they all did just fine.  We did notice that the change of scenery was not pleasing to them (apparently they have less short term memory than a goldfish) since we noticed that there was not a single peep out of them on Saturday.  However, they were all cheeping and moving around happily by Sunday.

But, another learning experience….I noticed when Blueberry and I were out on a walk with Kya, when we came back to put her towards the garage I noticed a funky smell.  I honestly have to say that my first thought was “hey, I didn’t know my neighbor toked up.  I never would have guessed that.”  But then I noticed that the “toke” smell was coming from my garage and since I know that my husband and I do not partake, it had to be either the cats (and seriously-where would they score pot anyway?) or something else…

Well, short story shorter, one of the brooder lights had fallen down and had started to smoke the hay.  Yikes!  Everyone was fine and we were SO blessed that I happened to be walking by and did not just assume that the smell was my neighbor was just smoking a joint on his porch.   However, we had even more learning from that:

1) While the barn cats were completely unable to get into the brooder, they were in fact able to mess with the cord coming out of the brooder, and that was just too much temptation.  Someone messed with it and knocked it around ultimately leading the brooder light coming off the teacup hook that Sheldon had it on, leading to….

2) The Brooder light needs to be securely fashioned so that a bump, lump or swipe of the power cord can’t knock it off.  A teacup hook was probably not the best choice, but sometimes the engineer of the house doesn’t account for outside influences like nosey cats.  And while everyone is getting used to their new surroundings, you should…

3) Check on them often.  Don’t select a spot that is so inconvenient for you to get to that you don’t go out to peek every few hours.  Thank God that I happened to be walking by.  While the smoke detector would have eventually caught the smoke, it would have gotten pretty thick in the brooder before it went off.

4) Alfalfa hay smells like pot.  Yep.  Not exactly a learning because I noticed it the first time I put it down in one of Kya’s spots, but when there is some heat applied, it really smells bad.  Like my college roommate’s boyfriend’s apartment bad.   Oh, and for the record, we don’t actually think my neighbor smokes pot.  I just always assume it’s someone else simply because I can’t stand the smell.   Peeeyeeeeuuu.

 

So, that’s it!  We’re making bread and cheezie weezies today out on Blueberry Acres Farm along with a huge batch of red sauce.  Also working on sources to bring in some additional fill dirt because we’re hitting some rock layers in our garden.  Hope you are having a great day-happy homesteading!

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It’s time for the chicks to get out!

So, we recently received a batch of chicks from Murray McMurry hatchery.  It was a fairly small order as we are hoping to be able to propagate our own brood going forward.  But wait…what about those chickens that you already had you may ask?  Well, that first batch of chickens included one fabulous chicken named Lana who we think is a Plymouth Rock, a couple of Polish (aka Tophats) roosters (do NOT recommend), and a big bunch of Silkies.  We decided to cull the herd and gave the Silkies away.  Who knew these were such beloved pet birds, but we discovered quickly that they were.  No thanks to pets who walk around with poop on their legs.  After we got rid of the Silkies, we noticed that the three remaining roosters were merciless with Lana.  Every time she went out to the yard, it was like a bad 70’s porn all over again.  She stopped wanting to stay in her yard and would roam around by our house just to get a break from these 3 idiots.  As a result, our 3 roosters became 1 rooster a few Sundays ago.  Whew.  All of that to say this…we needed more chickens!

So, enter these cute little babies.  In preparation for our order, Sheldon had built a very nice brooder that they would live in for their first many weeks until they were able to go out into the enclosed on all sides (and top) yard before ultimately moving into one of our chicken coops.  Did we have a learning from that first chick experience?  Oh yeah we did-a bunch!

1) If you are ordering your chicks, perhaps be smarter than us and don’t order them to arrive in January.  Too freaking cold.  Chicks have to be kept at temperatures ranging between 70-95 their first few weeks and this is a hard temp to maintain in a brooder that is outside.  Which brings me to….

2) Determine in advance if your brooder can maintain a 95 degree temperature in all weather.  We found out quickly that ours could not despite solid construction and insulation.  Experienced chicken farmers I’m sure already know this, but us chicken noobs had no idea.  We needed our brooder to be located inside one of our outbuildings where it would be better insulated from the elements.  It’s now inside the building located closest to our house so we can easily access it to check on these demanding little boogers.  If this isn’t an option for you in advance, you’d better have a…

3) Plan B before your chicks arrive.  For us, we were able to quickly transition them to our basement bathroom.  It was far from ideal, but we were able to maintain temperature and conditions easily just giving up the second bathroom in our house.  Not perfect, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  And I don’t think they minded:

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Holy smokes these birds dirty up everything quickly…

There were some things that we did right…um, not much but we did have thermometers that we could keep in there to constantly (and remotely) monitor temperature.  We also made sure that we read up on keeping chicks safe, warm and happy.  It’s not just about opening up the box and randomly dropping in food.  You also need to make sure that you are using bedding that is appropriate to their age (start with newspaper and remove it within first week for leg development), using chick grit (NOT the same as chicken grit) and frequently (oh so frequently) changing out their water because they throw more stuff in that water than our 4-year-old.

So, Sheldon just came back in the house to grab some coffee and eat some breakfast.  Chicks are getting huge and I need them to get the heck out of my bathroom so I can spend 10 hours cleaning it.  Blech.  But, in a few months, we will have a huge bounty of both eggs and bug eaters that will contribute greatly to the overall health and welfare of our family farm…and hopefully we will do the same for them!  Good luck and happy laying!