Raising Chicks – Week 3

by Beth

Week 2 was a success, with new flying skills and feathers. Thanks to the feathers, week 3 started with a small identity crisis…

Day 15

They have a lot more feathers and at times seem to sit on top of the heating plate as much as under it. I raise it a notch or more a day and understand why RentACoop plasters “25 adjustable height settings!” all over their heating plate marketing.

Rooster Cogburn’s green, “I’m a rooster” mark from the hatchery has almost disappeared as his down changes to feathers…white feathers. Hmm.

LightCockerelBuffPullet

Chris said he thinks Cogburn may not be the Buff Brahma we ordered. “Buff” is chicken for “light brown.” The Buff Brahma pullets/baby hens are light brown, but Cogburn is turning white with black accents.

One of these chicks is not like the others.

Day 16

After 30 minutes of pre-dawn-insomnia research, I had to concede Cogburn will be white, not brown. It’s not because of a Buff Brahma autosexing trait that he looks different. Whether at the hatchery or the co-op, our order of a Buff Brahma cockerel was fulfilled with a Light Brahma cockerel.

You’d think it wouldn’t take that much research to confirm, but juvenile birds look different than adults, e.g., the black/white Langshan chicks will be jet black hens. Plus, it’s not always easy to find pictures of specific chicks on the internet (one reason I add so many photos to these posts).

Buff vs. Light Brahma is a big aesthetic difference. Instead of a rich, butter-brown rooster who would’ve matched the hens – and our dogs, coincidentally – we’ll have a white rooster with black accents and a green-black tail.

LightBrahmaIllustration.png

Chicken genetics are all over the place, so he could end up with tan shoulders, but he’ll mostly be white. Clearly.

LightBrahmaCockerelSide

It took 10 minutes to journey through the 5 stages of grief for the rooster I thought we had. After arriving at acceptance, I realized I was pumped about having a big, white, fluffy rooster. Chris thinks his coloring will add cool contrast to the flock. We’ll call it a happy accident. And another lesson in being flexible and fluid.

Our main concern is white birds don’t camouflage on our landscape, which was the point of choosing brown and black birds. This could make him even more susceptible to predators, especially raptors. In a year, he should be large enough that most flying predators will avoid him, but we’re planning a few more predator measures across the top of the day-run, Fort Chicken Knox.

When I take the brooder cover off, Cogburn and another of the Brahmas (maybe the one I call Brahma Donna; Brahma pullets are hard to tell apart) fly to the rim to visit. The Langshans, especially the big one, are starting to grow tiny combs in the middle of their foreheads. The Brahma pullets’ tailfeathers are growing like crazy.

LangshanChickComb-BrahmaTails

Leaving the 1/2 bath light on at night has become the norm. They pop out for snacks throughout the night. Growing birds.

Day 17

More pullets are picking up Cogburn’s habit of flapping to sit on the edge of the bin. Luckily, they still fly back into the bin, not to the floor. Most of the chicks can fly now but don’t seem keen on leaving each other.

They had a tray of grass and dirt and a sprig of broccoli on a string hanging from the cover, which they played with like tetherball. I’m still putting apple cider vinegar in the water most days for their immune systems. Chicken-forum people, like wellness people, call it “ACV.”

Tonight, they were peeping weird peeps. The treat tray (to-go container lid) had slipped under the heating plate. They were clearly disturbed by the intrusion, but even after I removed it, they huddled outside the heater. I raised it another notch, and they ran back under and were quiet. We’ve got about an inch left to raise the heater legs. After that, I guess we’ll have to put it on blocks. These are big chicks.

Day 18

Today they had a tray of oregano and cucumber and strawberry cut into tiny cubes. They played with the fruit and ate the oregano. I removed the treat tray after a few minutes after someone pooped in the middle of it. They aren’t into treats yet, which is fine. Some people don’t introduce treats until 4 weeks so the chicks focus on starter feed, which is formulated so specifically that treats shouldn’t be necessary anyway.

Cogburn and the other Brahmas continue to improve their flying skills, while the Langshans continue to be aloof, rarely flying up or out. Cogburn now not only flies to the rim of the bin, he’ll hop on my knee and scale my arm to my shoulder. He’ll roost until I evict him.

CogburnShoulderSelfie

Day 19

Cogburn is growing an adorable pea comb on his forehead. That’s the shape of comb Brahmas have. It’s smaller than the Langshans’ “single” combs.

LightBrahmaCockerelFace

The chicks are benefiting from social distancing. Time that might’ve been spent out is now spent taming birds and improving the brooder, which I cleaned again today.

I used jar lids to provide food and water in the temporary cardboard box, and they were much happier. I’ve been picking them up so often they also weren’t as concerned about being transferred to and from the box. They’re a lot heavier and more feathered than a couple weeks ago, which is satisfying.

We used the cleaning time to continue brooder upgrades. Chris tweaked the PVC feeders by shortening the horizontal sections at the bottom so food can fall more easily. I drilled tether holes for my 2nd attempt at an easy-to-keep-clean nipple waterer. A packet of new side nipples – or “nurples” if you live in this house –  arrived at our doorstep today.

So far, it’s looking good. At this stage, I had another nurple to add and one peccadillo to fix.

ChickenNippleWatererinProgress.jpgThey’re supposed to peck the silver things to make water come out. If it works, it’ll be SO much easier to keep their water clean. The Langshans have mad kicking skills that fill the water tray with chips all day long.

In other news, diplomatic relations between the chicks and Sarah Lee took a step back when Cogburn pecked her on the nose, while Clover and the chicks are doing well.

The Brahmas have started jumping to the floor. Cogburn and another Brahma, possibly Brahma Donna, jumped all over Clover and pecked at her claws, which she seemed to like. We sat with them for a long time as the sun went down. Now that they eat throughout the night, they’re not as hyper at sunset.

Eventually all but one of the Langshans flew to the rim and hopped to my paper-towel-covered lap. The lone Langshan in the bin was angry-cheeping, so I scooped it up. All 7 had a preening session before hopping back into the bin one by one. It was cute.

Interesting fact: the Langshans almost never poop on you. The Brahmas poop any place, any time.

Day 20

When I lifted the lid this morning, Cogburn and another Brahma flew out to the floor and started running around.

Other chicks flapped up to the brooder rim to watch the chaos. As I’d start to put Cogburn back in the bin, he’d skitter up my arm to my shoulder, around my back to my other shoulder. I let him stay there while I put the pullet back in. When I was finally able to untangle Cogburn from my shirt and hair, he flapped from my hand to the floor to my arm to my shoulder…It was a silly scene with shed down floating in the air like snowflakes. After everybody was back under the brooder cover, I did quick research to make sure I haven’t done a bad thing by making these birds so tame.BigChicksinBrooder

While not everybody loves full-grown roosters flying at their heads to land on their shoulders, the consensus is it’s important to tame chickens. Especially for chicken newbies who may not be able to catch and treat sick chickens if they aren’t peaceful around people.

Not that these chicks are always peaceful when I’m around. This morning, they were restless. They seem to be thinking about life outside the brooder. Me, too. It’ll be fun watching them do chicken-bird things in the outdoors.

They have enough feathers to start taking field trips outside soon, but at < 3 weeks old and with temperatures still down to the 40s, it’s too early for them to live outside full-time.

Some people are able to evict chicks faster, but as a beginner, I’ll probably push it off until week 5 or later, depending on the forecast and their feathers. If a chicks gets a chill, its whole system shuts down. Feathers are their insulation and kind of the line between chicks who can successfully live outside and chicks who can’t.

They’re working on growing enough feathers to move outside. Awkward stage!

BrahmaPullet-AwkwardFeathers

Another thing growing is their feet. It’s comical watching them try to balance on the thin rim of the brooder bin with big feet.

LightBrahmaCockerlFeetThe largest feet by far belong to Cogburn, another good sign he’s the only rooster. Fastest growing comb, shortest wings and tail, and the biggest wrinkly feathered hobbit chip-kickers in the brooder.

CockerelFeet

To free up more space for these feet in the brooder, I installed the completed nurple waterer today.

ChickenNippleWaterer-Brooder

Supposedly, chicks take forever to learn these. Not our fearless flock. When I lowered it in, they advanced on the waterer like a gang in West Side Story. Cogburn finally pushed to the front, dressed down the waterer, and pecked a nurple.

It was on. All the chicks jostled to the front to peck at the waterer. For minutes.

I left the old waterer in case there are malfunctions. Predictably, the Brahmas bypass the old tray to peck nurples. This new thing is a toy to them. The Langshans prefer the tray. It’s more peaceful, like them.

Speaking of peaceful, I sat with them after work again, like a chicken meditation hour. They’d just finished a tray of grass + dirt, and between that and the new waterer, they were in a good mood. After the initial flap-fest when the cover came off, 3 Brahmas hopped over to my paper-towel-covered lap, while another Brahma and the big Langshan perched on the side of the bin right next to each other, and everybody fell asleep.

They’ve never fallen asleep outside the bin en masse. Sleepy chicks are super cute. They have just enough feathers to try sleeping with their heads tucked under their wings, but the feathers are too short so their heads keep popping out. The nap lasted at least 10 minutes with almost no peeping.

Day 21

Three weeks old today! The least feathered chick is the also the smallest, the Langshan, BB (Black Beak).

FacetimeChicks

The Langshans have fewer feathers than the Brahmas but are slowly catching up.

Today, I worried the chicks weren’t getting enough water from the new waterer so put the water tray in the bin off and on. The Langshans would run over to the tray right away, making me wonder if they were as successful with the nipples as the Brahmas.

Late in the afternoon, I went to clean the tray and found most of the water jar had emptied into the chips. Wet bedding is as much of a no-no for chicks as dehydration, so after I dug out and replaced gross damp chips, I googled, “are my chicks getting enough water from the nipple things?”

It turns out chickens are drawn to water, especially glistening trays of it.

It makes sense the forage-master Langshans would run to the tray. Meanwhile, nipples are accepted as totally reliable for hydration across all chicken sectors, from industrial to backyard.

I tested the nurples for the 10th time then watched the Langshans to see if they were successful at extracting water. They were. I’ll keep checking on them, but if this waterer seems is a success, it will be worth the initial anxiety.

In other excitement, their new food arrived today. I’ll be mixing it with the co-op starter because it’s both an economical and nutritionally complete, but they were immediately ecstatic about the new feed, which has whole grains (ground into chick-sized crumble). When Clover and I sat with them, I was immediately ecstatic about how much less they pooped. The feed’s promise of less poop apparently isn’t a gimmick.

CloverIsTheirLeader

That’s good because I laughed the first time I saw the price of Scratch and Peck (we receive no benefit from clicks to that link). It’s 4x the price of feed from the co-op. Besides price, the grains aren’t heavy enough to make the feeders work better, and there’s one other negative: it has fish meal.

My study smells like a seafood market. Not cool, but it is a better smell than copious chicken poop. We have to close off the room to contain the dust anyway, and we only have a few more weeks of rooming with these stinkers.

Plus, mama hen Clover doesn’t mind.

Week 3 drew to a close with them partying past their bedtime. The chicks wanted to hang out, but as they grew drowsy, most of them roosted on the rim of the brooder.

Roosting3weekBrahmaLangshanChicks

I put everybody in the bin one by one. They drank, ate, went under the heater, and after jostle-cheeping for a minute were silent.

On to week 4!

 

 

 

 

 

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