Sunday, May 18, 2014

Happiness Is a Warm Hen House

by Pa Rock
Chicken Rancher

I am having a lot of fun raising my little chickens and turkeys.    They are still less than a month old and making noticeable changes almost daily.  Over the past few weeks they have put on feathers, size and weight, and started developing personalities. 

Little chicks know some things instinctively – as do all babies.  They can walk as soon as they peck their way out of the eggs and dry off a little, and they automatically peck and scratch for food and sip water.  Unlike the robin that recently hatched out a nest of young near the chicken coop, mama hens don’t deliver worms and bugs and drop them in the waiting mouths of their young.

Baby chicks also have some built-in fears.   Loud noises set them to scurrying, and they run for safety whenever the shadow of a bird floats across the floor of their pen.

Three of the little chickens are roosters, and though there is nothing in their appearance yet to differentiate them from the little hens, as they scratch around the pen looking for food and playing keep-away, the little males soon reveal themselves with their propensity to square-off at each other and fight.

Four of the fowl are turkeys.    They are grey and white, where all of the other chicks (except one) are brown.  The turkeys are the most inquisitive of the lot, staying out in the pen and exploring even when inclement weather drives the little chickens into the coop.  Over the past couple days the little turkeys have just started trying to develop their gobbles – really funny!

When the weather began warming, I quit using the heat lamp in the coop at nights, letting the chicks acclimate.  But last week when the cold rains set in, I turned it back on for a couple of nights.  The first evening I did that, the little birds were in the pen all snuggled together trying to stay warm.  When the light went on in the coop, they all rushed over and then began jumping up and into the opening of the coop – two-by-two!

The chicken pen, attached to the coop, is completely enclosed with chicken wire and covered with a tin roof to keep out predators.  The floor is dirt and covered with wood chips, giving the chicks plenty to scratch around in, but with limited hope for finding bugs or worms for snacks.  So they are getting plump eating mostly chick-starter finely ground grain.  I started experimenting by throwing handfuls of various types of yard greenery into the pen.  They will play with anything, but really love to eat clover.  When I throw clumps of clover into the pen, pandemonium ensues!

Next week I will be moving the fat little birds over to an adjoining coop and pen where they will have a large area of grass and weeds to scratch around in.  The larger pen is protected on the sides, but the top is open – giving predators access to the young fowl.  There is also a secure hen house for their evening rest.  The chicks are quick and smart, and they have developed some flying skills.  Hopefully the chickens and turkeys will thrive in their new environment.  Like the baby robins who have recently jumped from their nest and into adulthood, the chicks have to make the leap sometime.

My babies are growing up!

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