Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Chicks Are Here!!

Yesterday, our world changed.  The alarm went off at 5am--which is excruciatingly painful for a late sleeper like me.  I called the post office to see if our "special delivery" had arrived.  No.  Not on the early truck.  After a few more cups of coffee, and a few more hours of waiting with my two boys, the phone rang.  Denver answered on the first half-ring and we got the good news!  Our baby chicks had arrived from My Pet Chicken and were ready to be picked up. 

They peeped all the way home.  In fact we could hear them peeping when we walked into the post office.  When we got them to the kitchen table and cut the tape off of the lid, it was a huge thrill--like a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the upmost importance.  They were here and in our care now (both exciting and intimidating at the same time). 

Luckily, my husband is only a few weeks away from finishing our backyard chicken coop.  Until then, the chicks need special care that can be provided in their brooder box.  It is simply an extra-large metal dog crate that we borrowed from a friend and then lined with cardboard sides about 18 inches up the sides to protect them from drafts (also to prevent the bedding from flying out the sides when they start to kick up things--we've discovered that the kicking up starts early aka Day 2).  The bottom is lined with newspapers and then pine bedding.  If you just put down newspapers, we read that the chicks can get "splayed foot", which prevents them from ever walking correctly and hence, getting picked on and possibly pecked to death by the others.  Basically, newspapers are a giant ice rink for chicks.  The pine bedding is much better and it gives them something soft to lay down in for their naps. 

Chicks have special needs when it comes to food and water.  They need a special feed just for them.  We use Purina Chick Starter Feed.  Plastic feeders are under $5 and provide several openings for them to use at the same time, although they will all fight over the same tiny hole in the beginning (this is where you start to see dominating tendencies in the bossy ones).  A special waterer is also essential.  You can't just put down a bowl of water.  They will knock it over or worse, drown in it.  The plastic one that we borrowed only lets a certain amount of water into the dish at a time. 

A Baby Chick Feeder

We purchased a brooder light kit from the local feed store for $18.  It has a shield and a guard, and a clip for hanging, but you will need to get a red heating bulb seperately.  Again, a "chicken friend" let us borrow hers.  (It is so great to get to know people in the chicken community--they are great at lending to newbies!)  We zip-tied our lamp to a wood plank that we move around as needed.  It will take a day or so to get the right position for your lamp.  We live in Florida, so it can easily get to 95 in the brooder box on our back porch without the aid of the heat lamp.  You don't want to roast your babies!  But at sundown, it becomes necessary to turn on the warmth.  Be sure that you don't have any towels or tarps or anything hanging on your brooder near the lamp, for fire safety reasons.  A simple outdoor thermometer mounted at chick-level in the box helps you keep an eye on the temperature. 
Happily peeping and exploring the new pad
The first thing you need to do before putting them in the brooder, though, is to gently dip their beaks into their water dish and watch for them to swallow.  It's been almost 48 hours since they hatched and they haven't had anything in their bellies.  After they've swallowed, then introduce them to their feeder.  Ours weren't interested at first, but later they returned to the dish once they were settled into the brooder box.  They will grow fast, so that's why we opted for the largest dog crate possible.  We actually had a Rubbermaid container in mind for the first few weeks.  I'm still laughing over that RIDICULOUS idea (which I have to say, was mine).  Good thing my husband thinks rationally.  LOL. the peeps!

Pierogi is a White Crested Black Polish.  She will eventually have one crazy hairdo.

Kate is a New Hampshire Red.  She is the quietest, most low-maintenance chick in the flock (So far--haha)

Chanel ("Nellie") is a beautiful Buff Orpington.  She is by far, the largest chick, but don't tell her that.

Flo is a Speckled Sussex.  She is THE FASTEST CHICK EVER!  Zip! Zip!

This tiny girl is Gypsy.  She is a Silver-Laced Wyandotte.
Lois is a Barred Plymouth Rock.  She will eventually be one of those "zebra striped" chickens! 

Stay tuned for more adventures with The Brooder Box Babes!  We just boarded a crazy, lovely rollercoaster here in the Smith household--where we now have 2 sons and 10 pets.  Whew!


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