Raising Chicks – Week 4

by Beth

In week 3 the chicks grew even hardier and enjoyed more time socializing outside the brooder. In week 4, I spent more time trying to tell them apart, so without further ado, here are official introductions, in current pecking order:

Rooster Cogburn – The only cockerel, as far as we know, and only Light Brahma (by happy accident since we actually ordered a Buff Brahma cockerel). First to try everything. Bossy. Cuddler.

BrahmaRoosterCogburn3weeksinhand2

Miss Eula – Lightest colored of the Buff Brahmas. Relaxed and self-possessed. Formerly called Turtledove because she looked like one. Renamed when she started to emerge as Cogburn’s righthand hen.

BrahmaChicks-sunning-3weeks

Peep – Buff Brahma pullet that’ll slap you 5. She used to do a whole tapdance in your hand but dialed it back. She also used to be the smallest Brahma but has caught up and is now kind of a mean girl. She’s in the foreground, figuring out who to shove next.

2Brahmas-3weeksold

Brahma Donna – A prima donna since day 1, when she would peep an opera until you picked her up. If a Brahma is ever off to the side feeling angsty (that’s if, because the Brahmas are super social), it’s her. On the left, with the dark neck feathers.

DonnaandTurtledove-3weeks

Pinkie – Biggest, most social Langshan, yet calm and quiet. The easiest chick to pick up and the most photographed because she’s always present. As such, she’s the ambassador between Brahmas and Langshans, chicks and dogs, chicks and people. To meet this bird is to like this bird.

LanshanPinkiecomb-3weeks1

Popsicle Sunshine – Awkward, funny Langshan who sits contentedly by herself. Looks like Prickle from Gumby and Friends but with a permanent look of bewilderment. Hangs back from the crowd but not afraid to push Brahmas out of the way for treats. If I ever start drawing a chicken cartoon, she’ll be the main character. She’s in the middle, looking astonished.

3weekperchingchicks-BrahmaLangshan

Black Beak / BeBe – Smallest chick with the least feathers but catching up. Crooked comb. Often with Popsicle. Vocal if she feels lonely. Easiest to photograph because she’s contemplative.

LangshanChickBB-sitting-3weeks

Let’s see if we can tell them apart when they have more feathers and their beaks change color. Some of them may trade names a few times.

They changed a lot just this week, as you’ll see in photos at the bottom of this post.

Day 22

Today I was finally comfortable they were getting all the water they needed from the nurple waterer. Brooder 2.0 is working.

I wanted 3-week pictures so let them out of the brooder at lunch when the light was good. All 7 fly out now, but the flock is polite enough to stay on the ground within a few feet of the brooder.

When I carried chicks to the sofa to photograph, the bubbly Buff Brahmas would regard the camera for a second, then hop down and trot back to the flock. They couldn’t wait to see what everyone else was doing. Of the Buff ladies, I only got a few shots of Peep because she was occupied with slapping 5.

BrahmaPullet-3weeks-side

Where Brahmas are feathered bowling balls, Langshans are tranquil as statues, allowing for sweet macro comb pics:

LanshanPinkiecomb-3weeks

Popsicle-comb-3weekLangshan

LanshanPinkiecomb-3weeks2

And of course a portrait of meditative BeBe.

LangshanChick-BB-3weeks

Then a sunbeam streamed in, and all the birds ran to it to find a spot to preen. They love sunbeams.

BrahmaChicks-sunning-3weeks

When Cogburn isn’t snuggled next to his pullet bestie Eula, he’s chest-bumping and pecking her and the other Brahmas, and they’re pecking him back. This is part of sorting pecking order, which I recently read isn’t supposed to start until 6 weeks. Cogburn is an overachiever. It’s wild they know this behavior even though they’ve never met an adult chicken.

Cogburn still likes being a baby bird in the hand, though.

BrahmaRoosterCogburn3weeksinhand

They were out for so long I put down a water tray and sprinkled food on the ground. However, they all seem to know to fly up to the rim of the brooder and hop back in for sustenance if they need it. Surprisingly smart.

Day 23

If the rain and wind had broken today, I would’ve caved and brought the chicks outside. They have enough feathers to stay warm if it’s sunny. Now that all 7 want to fly out of the bin, it’s work to keep the floor clean and make sure they’re not getting into anything.

When there was no break in the weather by evening, I covered the rug with towels for a late Chicken Meditation Hour in the study.

The Brahmas always fly out first and run in circles. The Langshans follow with more decorum. After everyone calms down, they say hi to Clover and start pecking things. I do a constant count to make sure they’re not underfoot as I walk around cleaning: “3 black, 3 brown, 1 white. 3 black, 3 brown, 1 white.”

RoosterCogburn-floor

I’m realizing they calm down and stop pooping in about 5 minutes. They still rarely leave the space around the bin, so after wiping everything down with vinegar solution for 5 minutes, it’s pretty relaxing to have them out.

Except when Cogburn’s feeling plucky. Tonight, as soon as I put down a tray of feed and grit, he did a wrestler move and landed his giant feet on the edge of the tray, vaulting grains all over the floor.

Hooray, more mess. I didn’t rush to sweep it, already busy cutting a cardboard box into keep-poop-off-the-heater templates as they chickened around with Clover.

CloverandCobgurn

It started thundering, so I swapped now nervous Clover for always relaxed BamBam. The chicks won’t get close to Bam. Most animals are afraid of him for some reason, including Clover and Sarah Lee when we first adopted them, and they’re 4x his size.

While carefully avoiding BamBam, the chicks slowly returned to the food tray. In 10 minutes, they pecked up everything from the tray and the floor. Good chicks!

LightBrahma-BuffBrahma-Langshan

When Bam left, the chicks ran up and fell asleep in a pile in front of me. I put them in the brooder one by one, and they didn’t flap out again. Tuckered out.

Day 24

Another dreary weather day. For entertainment, they had a tray of shredded kale and oregano on a string to rip down.

I had a “duh” moment while pondering letting them out of the bin. Instead of laying towels, I beat the study rug and rolled it to store until the chicks live outside. Our home is actually a barn, and underneath the rug is a sealed concrete floor that’s a snap to clean. It makes it much easier to have 7 chicks running free.

We’ve been making farm videos to send our littlest nephews as they shelter in place. Here’s a video from today’s Chicken Meditation Hour.

You can see all the feed on the floor. Their new pattern is to finish everything on the tray and floor, then settle in for a nap, on me, if I’m available. Here they are perching and preening on my knee.

LangshanChickonleg

Then melting into fat balls of feathers before falling asleep.

ChicksNappingonLeg

This is when they go back to the bin.

Day 25

Another dreary day. This spring hasn’t been sunny at all. It has been busy, but I made time to let the chicks out for exercise.

When they’re out, I always refresh their grit, feed, water, and chips. That way, when I start setting them back in the bin, they’re so occupied with white-gloving the housekeeping they don’t fly out again. I’m not above manipulating a chicken.

BigChicksinBrooder

Day 26

Today they had time out of the bin at lunch. They were relaxed and spent more time roosting on the rim than running around the floor.

Except Cogburn. He was flapping and chest-bumping any pullets who joined him on the floor, especially Eula.

Eula gives it back to him. This video doesn’t demonstrate as heated as it gets, but their pecks appear to be for show, with no blood or angry cheeping. Nobody has had their feathers pecked off.

They only do this posturing outside the bin, and Eula and Cogburn are much more likely to be snuggling next to each other than peck-fighting.

I’m sure I’m missing some big chicken-behavioral-teaching moment.

Day 27

Cogburn’s hackles are coming in! Those are neck feathers. As a Light Brahma, he’ll have a big collar of black & white feathers. As a rooster, his neck feathers will be pointy.

CogburnHackles

All of their head feathers are coming in, as seen on Miss Eula:

Peep-4weekBuffBrahmapullet

The Langshans have catching up to do. They’re very awkward. Still adorable. Oh, BeBe.

BB-3weekLangshanchick

The Langshans’ tailfeathers have finally started growing. Sometimes they carry them in the upright way that gives Langshans their classic, U-shaped profile.

Today, the chicks were restless in the morning, so I let them out while I drank my coffee. They didn’t all want to be on the floor but all at least hopped up to the rim to roost/preen.

LangshansRoostingonBrooder

After weeks of cold, wet weather, there’s sun and heat in the forecast. Their first adventure outside is coming up in a few days. I put apple cider vinegar in their water and am giving oregano and grass with dirt to boost their immune systems.

These are old-timey ways to give these chicks the best chance of staying healthy when they go outside the first time. Soil has pathogens that can be fatal for brooder-raised chicks (the curious can read about why we didn’t end up giving them medicated/preventative feed in our week 1 journal).

I’m anxious about whether I’ve been too hovering and meticulous for them to build up immunity to dirt. People with more experience probably don’t give a second thought to putting chicks outside. There’s nothing for it. The chicks are turning into feathered birds who need to roam. We have medication on the ready if they show signs of being sick.

I let them out of the bin again in the afternoon. The dreary weather seems to make them as lazy as it makes us. For a while, only Cogburn and Eula were on the floor, arguing, while the others preened and watched from the rim. Sarah Lee, our biggest dog, came in. She’s more afraid of the chicks than they are of her. I picked up Pinkie the ambassador for Sarah to meet. They regarded each other politely. Then I gently ushered the bickering Cogburn and Eula to the side so Sarah could escape the study.

They spent their 4-week-birthday eve eating and drinking long after dark and growing more. They calm down around 10:30 these days, many sleeping on top of the plate instead of under it.

Day 28

Four weeks old today, and Cogburn suddenly has pantaloons. Serious puff pants.

Cogburn4weeks

Plus, his comb is turning pink.

LightBrahmaRoo-4wkcomb

We had coffee together again. I tried to take 4-week photos in the morning light, but they wouldn’t take it seriously.

CogburnModeling.JPG

Even the Langshans thought I was crazy for trying to make them sit still.

AwkwardLangshans1

It didn’t get much over 60° today, but the sun was out, so I pulled the bin to the back porch and worked outside with them for a while. They weren’t huddled or running under the heater, so they may be ready for these cooler temps and breezes!

Chicks-sky-firsttime.jpg

Cogburn hopped up on my arm and exited the bin when I reached in at one point. I set him back in. Tomorrow will be much warmer; that’s the day for them to meet the grass. We’ll see how that goes in week 5.

 

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