Sunday, July 18, 2010

The pecking order has led to The Chicken Shuffle

This year's chicks have been on the move.  They started out in the greenhouse, but the Buckeyes didn't do well in there.  Last year I raised the Campines in the greenhouse, no problem, and they seemed to be able to stand it this year as well.  But I lost four Buckeyes to the heat.

I lay awake worrying about the heat after the fourth death, wondering what to do with them, and at 3 a.m., I got up and moved them to a spare bedroom in the lower level of my house.  I slept soundly the rest of the night.

But they were dirty - the dust they raise is unbelievable.  And the smell, in spite of my best efforts, was not good.

I thought about moving them to my screen porch, but I worried about how I would get them off the porch and into their pen when they got bigger.  Again, a middle of the night brainstorm led to my moving them to the atrium, a little more removed from my living area.

I lost ten chicks in the first 24 hours, thanks to shipping during a holiday week when the mail was moving at a snail's pace.  So the hatchery replaced them, but not until three weeks had passed.  The "pecking order" is no joke.  Big chicks will kill (and eat) little chicks, so I had to isolate the smaller ones.  And one of them was very definitely a runt.  I named her Tiny.  Within a week, she was only half the size of the largest of these later chicks.  They lived in their own box, at the other end of the atrium.

Did I mention the smell?  It was getting to me, and the final straw was finding fleas.  They had to go - but where?

I was standing in the barn and thought, "There is a lot of space in that hay mow."  It's on the ground floor, not a raised mow, so Allen and I set to work and built a 15' x 15' cage with 7' walls.  After Allen left, I put deer netting over the top and put a new, big box inside the pen for the little chicks, including Tiny.

The little ones were very easy to move, but the bigger ones gave me a merry chase, all 33 of them - especially the Campines!  I grabbed and stuffed six at a time into a cat carrier and hauled them to their new digs.  I noticed that the last two loads were nearly all Campines, which just goes to show you which breed is the the most skittish.

I really thought I had everything covered.  Allen and I are going to start on the new pen tomorrow, where they will go when they are ready to start living in the Moop at night, with the big girls and Buster.  Alas, there was a hitch in the plans today.  When I got home from doing some shopping this afternoon, Tiny was laid out, obviously run over by the other chicks, and near death.  I scooped her up and brought her to the atrium, where she is residing in a plastic laundry basket.  She is up and around, but very lonesome.  I've brought her in a couple of times to sit on my lap, and she makes such sweet little whistling sounds.  She is not at all like the Campines.  She is a typical Buckeye - very affectionate and willing to be handled.

However, what am I going to do now?  I tried taking the two biggest of the smaller chicks out of the box to make more room in the box, but the bigger chicks immediately started pecking at them.  In addition, I noticed the bigger chicks were flying into and out of the box where the smaller chicks are living.  So I put deer netting over the top of the box and hoped for the best.  I've been out there several times just to make sure none of them get caught up in the netting, and so far so good.

I am going to take Tiny back out to the barn tonight.  I really don't need another chick in the house.  That would make four separate chicken abodes to take care of.  Too much!

This is not the way to simplify my life.  These chickens may not be more work than the cows, but they are considerably more grief.

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