Friday, April 27, 2012

So you want to raise chickens, chapter 2, or Birds of a feather

As I went to put up the chickens tonight, the problem with the way we bought our chickens was very evident, too many groups!

The lady at Chickenville sent us home with so many cautions that if they were not closely followed would cause the chickens to die. The end result of any of our negligence would automatically result in death, which caused a bit of concern, that we were investing this much in something so fragile.

Thankfully my friend whom we bought the second group from convinced me they were pretty hardy creatures, that if basic needs are taken care of, will have no problems.

So to recap, these are the chickens we have -

Bought at Chickenville
Piper and Swanlea, Red Sex Links, hatched 2/29/12, bought at 2 weeks old and currently almost 9 weeks old. These two have required a heat lamp until they were old enough to go on top of the dryer in a dog crate and the nights got warmer. They are now in the chicken house in another cage that we bought. These are the babies.

Little Missy, an Ameraucana, is the oldest and consistently lays at least 5 weeks a week. She is about 25 weeks old. Her eggs are blue/green.
GoghGogh, Black Star, is named after Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, and was supposed to be 16 weeks old when we bought her and should be 23 weeks old.
Selena, a Blue Laced Red Wyandote, is also supposed to be 23 weeks old.
Either GoghGogh or Selena have started laying, so we are now getting 2 eggs most days. This group sticks together and have earned the reputation of being the old ladies and when they peck the others, the old biddies. They have lived in the chicken house/used to be shed, the whole time. No special needs or places to stay. Yea!

The last group were all bought when they were 5 weeks old and are currently 12 weeks.

Llama, who is a light Brahma
Dorothy, White Plymouth Rock
Pollo, a Buff Orpington
Stinky Pants, Gold Sex Link
As you can tell we had just about run out of names, I guess. This group started out in the largest dog crate. These are the "teenagers".

Which brings me to the point of this information:

DO NOT BUY CHICKENS OF DIFFERENT AGES WHEN YOU ARE FIRST STARTING!!!! Notice, I says when you are first starting. If you are a seasoned chicken farmer, then you probably have appropriate spaces for everyone and used to this.

The lady at Chickenville tried to explain that the cost difference between the 16 and 18 week olds, compared to the 2 week olds, would quickly be comparable after feeding them until that age.

BUT even more importantly, there are all sorts of phrases that truly originate in the bird world, such as "birds of a feather, flock together" and anything to do with pecking order. These birds do not welcome the young. They are mean and don't mind attacking anyone smaller than themselves.

So at the end of the first week I had chickens in 3 different places, two of which were cages with solid bottoms that had to be cleaned regularly. I won't go into details, but it was just about the nastiest thing I have done in a LONG time.

Thankfully we found someone selling a hamster/gerbil cage. I grabbed it. I needed something larger for the teenagers and when I saw it, realized I could turn it upside down and the wires would be on the bottom, allowing stuff to drop through, rather than accumulate and have to be pulled out. The teenagers were moved into the hamster/gerbil cage and moved to the chicken house/former shop.

The babies remained in the dog crate on the dryer.

After another week or so of that, I consulted all the text I could about introducing new chickens to the flock, because I needed the teenagers out of their cage and into the open area, so I could move the babies to the open bottom cage.

It went much better than I expected. No one felt too threatened and everyone had their own food, I guess. Each night the teenagers would go back into their cage to roost at night until one night I realized they were roosted on top of the cage. I grabbed them and after a lot of squawking, put them in their cage and shut the door.

Annabel and I conferred and agreed that if they wanted to sleep out of the cage, why not! That would free up the hamster/gerbil cage for the babies, which would get them off my dryer, and would move all the chickens out of the house, and would alleviate any more cleaning cages for me! I LOVED that!

So we made the big move and the babies were not convinced they could go without their night light (heat lamp) but I figured if our air conditioner was running at night, it was warm enough for them!

Things were going fine until the morning that I found a baby possum in the cage with the baby chicks.

Not wanting to deal with a baby possum while dressed, ready for work, I decided I would just introduce the babies to the teenagers and the old ladies.
The babies quickly decided they would prefer their chances with the possum rather than be pecked to death by their elders.

Thank goodness for Dad who rescued us by tearing the cage apart which allowed the possum to escape.

I still get chills from that. Oohh, I hate vermin looking creatures of all kinds.

So the babies still live in the hamster/gerbil cage and are hungry all the time, so much so that they don't mind biting the hand that feeds them.

The old ladies continue in their original roost, which used to be a shelf.

The teenagers have progressed from on top of the hamster/gerbil cage to a very precarious place above the old ladies - on the rungs of a metal ladder that is hanging horizontally. It does not look comfortable. Some had trouble maneuvering the flight up to the ladder, because if their feet barely touch the shelf where the old ladies are, they get pecked. So I moved the ladder from some bunk beds and they can now jump up the steps to their roost on the metal ladder.

All except Llama.

Bless her heart. I don't know if she is too heavy or what, but should could not seem to figure out how to get up with the other teenagers tonight. I finally tried picking her up and putting her up there, but she just panicked and flew back down. After watching for a while, she finally flew up on an old door and was eyeballing the shelf with the old ladies. This caught Little Missy's eye and when I shut the door, there seemed to be a stand off going as to who could stay awake longest, so Llama would not have to sleep alone.

Next... is it all chicken feed?

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