Tag Archives: pet care

Lesson 376 – View from the top

The babies are testing their wings. As you may know, when you introduce new members to a flock there is always a bit of jostling that needs to happen before everyone can settle down into their assigned positions. Older hens are at the top, young rambunctious (and dare I say at times, obnoxious) youngsters are at the bottom, it’s the same way it’s always been – you can join us at Thanksgiving dinner but you have to eat at the little kids’ table *sigh*.

I had made a secure nursery inside the coop so that the littles would have a safe place to go when the pecking from the elders got to be too much (which initially was all the time). This turned out to be a welcomed haven of safety to which all the babies immediately ran to when they were released from the sleeping quarters each morning. Entire days were spent within the nursery walls. We were careful to make sure that food and water was always available concerned that the babies would never venture away from the safety of the nursery’s protection to where the rest of the flock’s community sustenance was located.

The problem is that our chicks are growing and will at some point need to introduce themselves into the flock. They can’t be protected forever and like it or not, at some point just like a mother Robin does, they will need to be pushed out of the nest. As I started worrying about how this was going to be humanely accomplished, I noticed that the chicks went from spending the day inside the nursery to spending the day on top of the nursery. (we used old wire dog crate pieces – they had holes small enough for chicks to pass under but not for older hens.) From up there they had (dare I say it? ) a bird’s eye view of the flock’s goings on.

View from up on high

The chicks are still safe from the older hens but now they are taking the role of astute observers to the activities around them. The water is located over there, Morgan hides in a corner escaping the wrath of the others, and the lame bird seems to be trying to put some weight on her twisted foot. The babies are watching the political dynamics in the flock and I’m sure they are taking notes.

In the meantime they continue to grow looking more like gawky adolescents than like Easter basket chicks. The time will come soon, when filled with insight as to how the flock operates, they will hop off the top of the nursery ready to play fair game with those who have become their family.

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Lesson 370 – The chicks’ first night in the coop

I’m pretty big on letting your chicks try to fly when the time is ready (have I mentioned that Trevor is away at gymnastics camp for 3 weeks?) Which is why when I saw that the chicks had actually survived the day in the henhouse with the larger hens, I figured, hey, why not let them start roosting in the big house.

I also decided to do this because there is very little activity in a henhouse after the sun goes down. Once a chicken is up on a roost, it tends to stay there for the rest of the night (it’s kind of a survival thing), there is no running around and pecking new little ones when darkness comes. The more the chicks stayed in the chicken coop, they more they would be acknowledged as members of the flock. I figured a night in the henhouse would do everyone a world of good (including the fact that we no longer would have to bring the STINKY nursery back into the house.)

I also wasn’t too worried about the chicks keeping warm at night (we were having slightly cool night- time temps but nothing drastic). Baby chicks sleep like baby puppies – in a pile, one big feathered mess ‘o bird. Continue reading

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Lesson 369 – WWTCD?

It was a beautiful weekend here in New Hampshire. The sun was out but we didn’t have the killer heat we’ve had on previous weekends. It was a good weekend to test the chicken-henhouse waters with the babies.

As you know, all babies grow and chicks in particular grow very quickly. (The meat you are eating from the grocery store is most probably from a bird that was only a few months old.) Our birds had outgrown the first nursery we had set up for them. That meant that we needed to find a bigger deeper tub in which to house them.

We found an old one under the henhouse, filled it with wood chips and transferred the babies into their new home (still located in our mudroom which is right off the foyer.) But guess what? with a deeper tub comes less air circulation and with less air calculation comes some pretty impressive STANK.

I kept thinking WWTCD? (What would the colonialists do?) I mean I don’t think they kept baby birds in their little log cabins for weeks at a time right? They had barns and all chicks were born and raised outdoors. I’m pretty sure the colonists didn’t hang baby toys around the chick nursery (yup, guilty.) All but one of our chicks at 3 weeks old were almost completely feathered (just a little bit of down around the necks left). Alkaia – the littlest – did not have her full feathers but I would always find her under the pile when they all slept so I was sure she could keep herself warm if a cool breeze3 came up. Continue reading

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Lesson 367 – A limping chicken

Welcome to the zoo.

I’ve been saying that for years with the kids but now that we have all these animals I feel that I am finally justified in making that statement to absolutely anyone who walks through our front door. (of course, at times, I’ve also said “Welcome to the insane asylum” but I think I’ll leave that one for another post.)

When you choose to have animals and kids in your life you choose to wear your heart on your sleeve. Last night when we were putting the chickens away we noticed one of our large black hens limping. Her foot was curled under her body and she couldn’t put any weight at all on it.

This is new behavior, we did not have a limping chicken the day before.

Here’s the thing. I’ve looked at her foot, there does not appear to be any infection, there’s nothing stuck in it, and, not being an orthopedist, I can’t tell if there is a break or not. Quite frankly it all looks pretty healthily gnarly to me (seriously, have you ever looked closely at a chicken’s foot?). What I do know is that time will tell. We’ll make sure she is comfortable and will just wait.

I’ve always said that I’ll take care of all of our pets until they are in intractable pain. That’s when it’s time to do something – the BIG something. (don’t even get me started thinking about doing this with Digger – don’t want to start crying.) I’m keeping an eye on this hen, but more than I don’t want her to be in pain, I want to give her a chance. She’s a fighter, this one is, as long as she can get around, I’ll let her get around.

A limp is just a limp, I’ve seen tons of animals handle limps like champions. Why, one of my best high school friends had a three legged dog and that dog led a great life. Animals are resilient, they don’t worry about things like not being able to play tennis anymore due to a bad leg, they just concern themselves with where the next bit of food is coming from.

Chickens don’t whine when they are in pain, they don’t make funny whimpering noises when they are asleep with discomfort (like our ancient dog does *sigh*), chickens just kind of carry on. This hen doesn’t have the use of one foot so she uses only one foot to get around. She’s got mother-blood. When I put the feed out, she hops over to get some food. When I put water in the bucket, she positions herself under the nipples to get a drink. She does what she has to do.

My gut feel? She may be permanently crippled, but I think she’ll be just fine, at least I hope she will be. Know that if she is in pain – if she can’t get her food and water, we’ll be figuring out what to do – the BIG what to do. Until then, though, we’ll all just gingerly carry on.

My poor injured lady

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Lesson 365 – Be free little ones (in a few weeks for sure)

One of the best things about having animals during the summer?

Playtime.

Each day we try to get all of our animals exercised. (and I’m not just talking about swim team for the kids here :-))

Dogs get walked, the rabbit gets to run away from us (again), hens go into the dog pen to scratch for worms and shoots, and the baby chicks get to explore the great outdoors under adult supervision. The kids will take the nursery tub outside and gently lift each chick up and out onto the ground. Away and be free!

At first the chicks don’t know what to do, they stand clustered around each other a bit overwhelemed by the freedom.

I remember a story from a college Psychology class, it told of a nursery school that had a play area in back surrounded by a sturdy white fence. The kids ran and played and (of course) climbed on the fence. Continue reading

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