My, how they’ve grown.

My middle batch of chickens (the older chicks, that I got in the beginning of March) are enjoying their life out in the coop.  They have grown a lot and some have changed quite a bit since I first got them – it’s really remarkable how much feather color and patterns can change.  There is just not a good way to tell what they will look like as adults when you get them, unless you know the exact breed beforehand.  They may change a lot more before they are full grown – they are maybe about half the size of my adult chickens now.  I’ve done an update for their previous “update” pics that I posted in late March, so you can see the changes.  I have one that was orange as a chick, then looked like they would be pale, and now is a dark brown color.   Here are the updated pics to show you how they’ve grown, from 2 days old, to 3 weeks, to 9 weeks:

Here is my little rooster - he keeps trying to crow with my big rooster - they call back and forth. He has a scratchy little crow.
Here is my little rooster – he keeps trying to crow with my adult rooster – they call back and forth.  He sounds pretty funny trying to do his cock-a-doodle-doo -he has a scratchy little crow. His comb is gigantic already, not sure how big it will actually get – hopefully not too big or he’ll be in danger of it getting frostbite in winter.
Here's my little yellow chick that turned into a larger white chicken with black feathers mixed in - still not sure if this is male or female.
Here’s my little yellow chick that turned into a larger white chicken with black feathers mixed in – still not sure if this one  is male or female.
Here is my little feathered leg guy (girl?) I like the coloring this one has - caramel colored with black.
Here is my little feathered leg guy (girl?) I like the coloring this one has – caramel colored with black. She looks a lot less like a tiny vulture now than she did at 3 weeks old.  My suspicion is that this is a hen – I could be wrong, though.
Here's the orange one I spoke about in the paragraph above - she's now a dark brown / reddish chicken.  She's very curious and friendly, where the rest are still pretty flighty.
Here’s the orange one I spoke about in the paragraph above – she’s now a dark brown / reddish chicken. She’s very curious and friendly, where the rest are still pretty flighty.
This one was showing the speckled feathers at three weeks. She did NOT want her picture taken - she tried to hide behind some boards and the other chickens.
This one was showing the speckled feathers at three weeks. Today she did NOT want her picture taken – she tried to hide behind some boards and the other chickens.
Here is my little black chick that turned into a white-headed chicken.  His (her?) comb is very similar to my adult rooster's - like a blob thing on their forehead.  I'm still not sure the sex of this one.
Here is my little black chick that turned into a white-headed chicken. His (her?) comb is very similar to my adult rooster’s – like a blob thing on their forehead. I’m still not sure the sex of this one.

They are definitely growing quickly.  I read that around 10-12 weeks is when their full-on adult feathers come in, and roosters will get their fancy tail feathers around then.  By then I should be able to tell for sure if they are hens or roosters.

Escape artist

My little escape artist
My little escape artist

My newest batch of chicks are now almost 2 weeks old.  They’re doing really well. I change their bedding each day (I use paper towels), and when I do, I move everyone to a different box while I clean up their brooder box.

Earlier this week, when they were just over 1 week old, I had put them into the other box to change the bedding, and suddenly one popped up onto the edge of the box and perched.  I have never seen a chick this young do this. Granted, I have not been raising chickens that long, but this is my third batch of chicks and I didn’t think it was possible for any to get out this early.  It’s a paper-ream box, so it’s a good 10 inches tall.  The chick perched on the edge, and then wandered over to a little plastic drawer that is set up next to the boxes, and then to the floor – he wandered around outside the boxes until I was done setting their brooder box back up.  I started to put the other chicks back – he saw this and jumped back up onto the drawer, and then into the brooder box.  So I didn’t have to put him back at all.

This batch and my last batch were “mixed rare breeds” orders.  This means I am still trying to figure out what kinds of chickens I have – it’s fun to try to figure it out.  I have been hoping for a Black Sumatra, which is one possible kind they could ship with my order.  I was wondering about this one, because I saw pictures of Black Sumatra chicks and they look like little penguins, like this guy. Black & white.  But other breeds’ chicks can look very similar, so it’s really hard to tell at this stage.  Once I found out this one can hop out of the box, I did some reading and found that other people with Sumatras have had them jump out of the brooder at this age, and as adults they can jump 6 feet. They also like to roost in trees.  So it’s very possible that this is a Black Sumatra.  Time will tell.  Below is a series of pictures of one of his escapes this week – some of the pics are not the best because I was taking them quickly as he moved, trying to get the best picture.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

And then we had 26

We now have 26 chickens – I received the new babies today! They were replacements for the dead chicks we received in March. The ten we received today are all alive and doing well. Luckily it was a lot warmer this time for their travel, although we did get an inch of snow this morning.   A couple of the chicks were a tiny bit sluggish this morning but are now eating and drinking ok, and running around with everyone else.

New chicks in their brooder box
New chicks in their brooder box

Here are the new chicks:

This little one has a top-knot, which means it will have a fluffy feathered head.  Most likely some type of Polish chicken.
This little one has a top-knot, which means it will have a fluffy feathered head. Most likely some type of Polish chicken.*
A little small yellow and gray chick - this one was a little sluggish this morning. He's smaller than everyone else.
A little small yellow and gray chick – this one was a little sluggish this morning. He’s a little smaller than everyone else.*
This one is a brown and yellow mixture
This one is a brown and yellow mixture
This one is pale/white with a darker grayish head. Its fuzz seems a tiny bit loner than most of the others. It also has feathered legs
This one is pale/white with a darker grayish head. Its fuzz seems a tiny bit longer than most of the others. It also has feathered legs.
A little orange chick. This one cheeps a lot and very loudly.
A little orange chick. This one cheeps a lot and very loudly.
These two look like twins, they are both brown with feathered legs, like my older feathered leg one from the last batch.
These two look like twins, they are both brown with feathered legs, like my older feathered leg one from the last batch.
This is a Dorking - you can tell by its toes - it has 5 instead of the typical 4.
This is a Dorking – you can tell by its toes – it has 5 instead of the typical 4.
A close up of the Dorking's toes.
A close up of the Dorking’s toes.
This is a brown stripey chick.  It has black stripes down its back.
This is a brown stripey chick. It has black stripes down its back.
Here's a little black and silver chick.
Here’s a little black and silver chick.

I made a brooder box for them out of 3 cardboard boxes that I taped together – smaller than the last brooder, so it will be a lot easier to deal with and to disassemble when they go outside.

They’re all doing great so far.

Here they are all together.
Here they are all together.

* Update 4/24 – The two chicks that had been sluggish when we first got them died. The little yellow one (2nd single-chick picture, above) was gone by Thursday morning, and then the little Polish chick (the top-knot chick, first single-chick picture above) died Thursday afternoon.  I wish I knew what happened, but I think sometimes there is something internal that just doesn’t form correctly.  Everyone else is doing well as of tonight (Friday).

The chickens have left the building!

I have been scrambling to get the chicken coop ready to house my baby chicks, and keep them separate from the adult chickens.  My goal was to get it done by the end of this weekend –  I ended up ahead of schedule, and it was done (enough) by today to put them in.   That leaves me tomorrow (Sunday) to start with the yard work I’ve been wanting to get to.

Our chicken house is an old sauna building, split into two rooms.  The back room is where our adult birds are.  The front room was used for storage until today.  When we originally started working on the sauna to get it chicken-ready, we gutted it down to the wall studs, and then lined the whole thing with plastic. We had some nice plastic tarping that I figured would work as a wind break, since the building is so old. The back room was then lined with plywood & particle board to make actual walls.  We left the front room unfinished until today.

I had a lot of smaller scraps of particle board that my dad had saved for who-knows-what, so that is what I used to wall up the front room.  I did most of the walls, but there are a few that still need the upper portions covered.  We have some other wood that we will cut to use to fill the spaces that are still left, but for now, it is covered enough for the chicks.  We didn’t want them chewing the plastic.  Here are some photos – the sun was glaring into the building so the pictures aren’t that great:

New Chicken room 1
Part of the new chicken room, where most of the bedding is.
The other side of the new chicken room - the door shown here leads to the back room (the adult chicken's part).
The other side of the new chicken room – the door shown here leads to the back room (the adult chicken’s part).

Our plan once everyone is integrated together is to take down the door that separates the two rooms, create a closet space to the side for their food, and make it one giant chicken palace.

I also built a temporary outside run for the chicks, just a little 8×8 (approximately) with some chicken wire.  Here they are enjoying the outside:

The chicks in their new temporary pen
The chicks in their new temporary pen
Another shot of them in their pen - it was late in the day so the sun was messing up my pictures.
Another shot of them in their pen – it was late in the day so the sun was messing up my pictures.

I want to keep them separated from the adults for the next several weeks – I’ve heard 10-12 weeks is a good age to integrate them.  But at least they can see each other outside and hear each other inside the coop, so they’ll be somewhat familiar with each other by the time they are old enough.  Now I just have to figure out how I’ll integrate the new chicks I’m getting sometime this week.  They will be in my spare bedroom like these babies were, but hopefully for not as long.

Today I also ended up giving away one of my adult roosters.  I had two, and my neighbor had asked if we had an extra, since he only had hens.  I was planning on keeping both of them, but they have recently started fighting.  My big orange Buff Orpington had started picking on my Silver Laced Wyandotte, and then they’d fight.  They don’t have spurs (I’m not sure if those develop at some point later?) but they have nubs on their legs where spurs would be if they were to grow.  I traded my Buff Orpington to the neighbor today for some horse manure; He’s going to drop it off sometime in the next few weeks so I can use it in my compost.

My remaining rooster seems pretty happy since he’s not getting picked on anymore:

My silver Laced Wyandotte rooster.
My silver Laced Wyandotte rooster.

Tiny Rooster

My 6 chicks are getting pretty big.  They have been hopping up and perching on the edge of their giant box.  I am starting to plan out how to move them outside.

They are getting big
They are getting big

They are still too young to go with the adults, but they have their feathers in mostly, and it’s getting warmer now.  I have an extra room in the chicken house that I’ve been using for storage – that is now getting cleaned out and we’ll be expanding that this summer to make room for all the newbies.  I think we are going to put the babies in there early, possibly next weekend if we can get it ready in time.  We’ll have to time the letting-out of everyone to keep the big chickens away from the little chickens, but it’s do-able.  I need to also make some kind of small fenced-in area for the babies for awhile, so they have somewhere to go during the day.   I need to get them outside soon because they are getting large and trying to escape the box, and they are making the room they are in very dusty, and also we have new baby chicks coming next week –  AND, because this guy has started crowing:

The black chick with the large comb is now crowing.
The black chick in the middle with the large comb is now crowing.

It’s a very strange sound, because he’s not fully grown. The first time I heard it, last week (when he was only 5 weeks old), I was afraid one of them was hurt – I ran into the room and they were all fine. I sat for a minute to see if they would make the noise again, and he made the noise – it’s not a full on “cock-a-doodle-doo” crow, but more like a hoarse “eee-awww” noise.  It’s pretty cute.   I’d like to get him outside because we are starting to be able to hear his crow across the house.  I hope at least a few of these babies are hens.

Updates – Maple, Mushrooms, and Growing Chickens

Our maple syrup making adventure is over for the year – It’s still prime collection season but we were having trouble cooking it all up inside the house.  We have a propane-gas stove, and propane is not cheap.  Plus I just didn’t like leaving it cooking for so long at a time.  Next year I will need to figure out a way to boil it outside, preferably using some kind of wood burning set up.  The collection bags weren’t the best option either, but they did the job. I ended up using large sticks to weigh them down so they wouldn’t get out of place.  My sister Diane, commenting on my last post, told me about our parents using old milk jugs to collect the sap, which I still don’t remember.  I’m older so I don’t know how she remembers these things better than I do.   So next year, instead of using flimsy sap bags, or expensive buckets, I will use old milk jugs.   For a couple weeks of collecting and boiling, we did pretty well in my opinion.  Considering that the sap to syrup ratio is about 40:1, I think we got enough for this year:

syrup
My syrup in a quart jar

The Mushroom kits I’ve been growing have done somewhat well – It’s possible we just don’t have the moisture in our kitchen that they needed, but I was expecting a little more at one time.  The oyster mushrooms only gave us a few mushrooms for their first flush.  The pom pom blanc, which were supposed to taste like crab meat, were not as good as I hoped.  The mushroom clump doubled in size since my last post, and I wasn’t really sure when I should harvest them – they started to look like the pictures you see online of them – with some little tendrils (kind of like a lion’s mane) – so I thought that was the right time to pick them.  I cooked it up in a little butter, so as to not drown out the flavor, but I was unimpressed.  The shiitake are doing well, here is the large mushroom that is currently growing:

Our Shiitake mushroom.
Our Shiitake mushroom growing out of its log

There are little baby mushrooms on the right side of the log, and in the picture above, I think the white webby-looking stuff on the bottom may be another cap forming – it has a similar appearance to the cap of the large mushroom, but it hasn’t actually popped out of the log yet, so I can’t really be sure.  I’m very excited to eat the shiitake mushrooms, since I know I like them.  The oyster mushrooms were very good too, we just didn’t get a lot.  I have the oyster and pom pom blanc logs drying for now, and in a month or two I will try to start them again – you are supposed to be able to get a few flushes.

Our six little chicks are growing up.  They have changed a whole lot in their three weeks of life.  I’m really excited to see their coloring change – some have changed in unexpected ways. I’m sure they will change a lot more as they grow up too. I’ll have to wait to see what kind of chickens they are (and what gender they are) until they are almost or fully adults.  Here are their updates, along with pictures of when I first got them, so you can see the difference three weeks makes.

blondie
I thought this guy would end up being all white, but he is getting some black in her/his feathers, and also now has a black spot on his beak.
black chick
Here’s our little black chick, starting to get more white in his coloring.
black and white spotted face
This little guy already has a comb, which may mean he’s a rooster. Combs can be deceiving though. He looks like he’s wearing a vest from the front now, and his legs are dark and splotchy – I’m wondering if he’s some kind of Maran (copper maran or other). That is just a wild guess though.
orangie
Our little orange chick – now getting some brown in her feathers.
mask face
Little mask face – now has brown/black speckles in her feathers, so I think she/he will be a speckled chicken. But it’s really too early to tell for sure – they may change a lot before adulthood.
fighter fuzzy boots
Here’s the feather booted, strong-will-to-live chick. As you can see the feathers on her legs are getting really fluffy. I really like how they look. Her coloring is really nice too – she’s getting some black in her feathers, and a small comb is forming.

I’m really enjoying watching them grow.  I will be getting the replacements for their fallen brethren around April 20th, so I will have even more chicks to watch grow up at that point.  Some day my spare bedroom will stop being a chicken nursery.  Until then, this is pretty fun.

Introducing the new chicks

I received my chicks yesterday.  They were shipped on Monday, and the two day journey in freezing temps was not good – the place I ordered from has a 15 chick minimum right now, until the end of March, for a very good reason – it’s meant to help them keep warm on the journey (more chicks = more body heat). They had a heat pack, and there were 16 chicks in my box.  I got a call from the post office on Wednesday, and they said the chicks had arrived, but only 2 were alive.  I ran to the post office, and there were two visibly alive – everyone else looked to be dead.  The postal trucks are not heated at all.

I ran them back to my office, and immediately put a heat lamp on them.  Over the next couple of hours, 6 more of them woke up –  so total of 8 alive, and 8 had died.  I talked to the company I ordered from, and they said to call them back on Friday with the final total, just in case any more didn’t make it.

I brought the 8 survivors home, and they all seemed to be doing well, until late last night.  I noticed one little guy had one eye shut, and his peeping seemed to be weak.  I went to bed, and had a dream that he had died (in my dream he was a little penguin, which I think is because I thought he looked like a penguin – he was a little black and white chick) – I woke up today and sure enough, he had died in the night.  One other little orange guy was acting weak this morning, so I didn’t think he would make it either.  About an hour later, just before leaving for work, I went to check on them and he had died as well.

I now have 6 chicks. They seem to be doing really well, everyone is eating and drinking well, and running around in their giant box.  They are getting along well with Peepers, although that was a little touch and go at first.  Luckily, poor Peepers can’t really move very fast due to his/her crippled legs, so they aren’t in much danger.  They like to run up to her, peck at her feet, and then run away.  (I’ve found myself calling Peepers a “she” lately instead of a “he” although I still have absolutely no idea what she/he is).  One chick kind of nuzzled under her for a bit today.

So anyway, here are the surviving chicks (as of tonight):

fighter
We’ll call this guy “Fighter” – the most strong willed of them all – he was the most awake when the box arrived, walking on top of everyone and pecking them all as if to say “wake up!” He also has fluffy feathered legs.
Little Yellow guy
Little Yellow guy – he is just SO cute.
spotted face
Little spotted “penguin” looking chick – this one has funny diagonal stripes on his face.
orange
Orange guy – this was the other Awake one when the box came.
This one has an orange / brown mask on his eyes, and has a cool brown skunk-like stripe down his back.
This one has an orange / brown mask on his eyes, and has a cool brown skunk-like stripe down his back.
black
Little black chick – this one has a black and white skunk-like stripe down his back.

I’ll have to see about getting the replacements for the losses sent in a month or so, when it’s warmer so that I don’t lose them as well.  For now, these guys are doing well and are a lot of fun to watch.

The chicks in their new home with Peepers.
The chicks in their new home with Peepers. (Taken last night when there were still 8).

The chick corral

My new chicks are due to arrive this coming week.  I’ve been trying to figure out how I will house them together with Peepers.  He is probably about 4x the size that the new chicks will be, and he’s quickly outgrown the small box I originally had him in.  I originally thought about using a giant plastic bin – we have one, but it is somewhere out in the garage I believe, and possibly filled with stuff at the moment. Our garage is kind of a pain to get to in the winter – My dad built it to house his tractor, and didn’t actually put it near the driveway, so we need to trudge through knee deep snow to get to it.  I also was thinking that, since it’s only early March now, I will probably need a bit more space because the chickens will be pretty big by the time it’s warm enough to put them outside with the adults.

I saw some designs online that people had made for indoor brooders.  One person got some large furniture/refrigerator boxes and put them together to make a brooder.  I tried asking our local furniture store for some boxes, but they were out of cardboard (someone had taken all their cardboard away the very day I asked).  So then I asked at our local grocery store, and they had some boxes.  I went and got 8 or 9 large boxes that had been for paper towels and things.

I brought them home and started building them into a large box shape:

Large box shape for brooder
Large box shape for brooder

I then reinforced the sides, and added cardboard on the bottom to make the floor.  The chick corral / brooder is all put together with duck tape.

CAM00877

It comes out to roughly about 4′ x 2.5′  – a decent size, and should keep the chickens happy for awhile as they grow.  I have extra cardboard to make the sides taller later on as needed.  I will probably need this because otherwise I’ll eventually find them perching on the top and hanging out in the room where the brooder is.  When I had my last batch of chicks (my current adult population), by about 2-3 months they were already doing that.  I was worried about them living outside but soon after they started escaping their brooder I knew it was time for them to go to their coop – plus it was summertime.

The brooder is in a carpeted room (my art room which is actually an old bedroom).  I had a large thick plastic tarp that I put underneath the whole brooder just to keep the carpet from getting dirty.  I had to think for awhile on how to do the flooring/bedding for the chickens.  Last time I used newspaper as their bedding with no problem, but I’ve since read that newspaper can get slippery and cause leg problems in developing chicks.   I also had to think about Peepers.  Peepers has a wonky leg – I think it was caused by the temperature fluctuations from the incubator going bad mid-incubation.  That can cause a condition called splay leg in chicks.  I didn’t notice his problem right away, because it was just one leg.  Over the first couple weeks he started pushing one leg out and now it sometimes is almost behind him when he walks.  This can be a fixable condition if caught and fixed within the first few days after hatching, but he was already a few weeks old when I found out what the condition was called and how to fix it.  I tried using a bandage method to “train” the leg to do what it’s supposed to, but it just seemed to hurt him and I didn’t want him falling in his water or anything, so I stopped trying to fix it.  He gets around ok, but he needs a surface with better grip.  I’ve found that really good quality paper towel seems to be ok for him, so that is what I lined the brooder with. Carpet is actually better – I bring him out on the carpet to hang out sometimes, and he gets around fine on that, but chickens poop wherever, whenever, so for the brooder I need something I can take out and replace frequently.

new brooder
Peepers in the new brooder.

I may use some old towels for him if he starts having problems with the paper towels.  That way I can take them out and wash and replace them each day.  The new chicks should have no problem with the paper towels.  I tried some pine shavings with Peepers last week, because I read that those can make a good bedding, but it was very messy and it didn’t seem to give him enough of a grip to get around.  I think as he reaches adulthood he should be fine – he will always be crippled so he wouldn’t be able to get away from a predator, but as long as he’s kept safe he’ll be ok.   I put him in the brooder and he has a new heat lamp I set up in there, and he started making these little cute noises, almost like song bird noises.  I could tell he was very happy in the new box.

Happy Peepers.
Happy Peepers.

Adding chicks (friends for Peepers)

Peepers Feb 13th
Peepers Feb 13th

Our plan was to get a new incubator and hatch some more eggs.  We wanted another batch quickly because I worry about Peepers being all alone.  I was going to save all the eggs from this weekend, buy an incubator this weekend, and start some new eggs tonight.

Thursday night I was washing some eggs, and I realized that the shells have gotten a bit thinner lately, because one broke while I was washing it.  They are usually pretty thick – when you crack them to cook, it takes a couple of hits to crack them.   Thin shells means the hens aren’t getting enough calcium.  We’ve been giving them corn along with their regular layer crumble because  it’s been super cold here lately –  the process of digesting corn helps the chickens stay warm.  It seems like they’re eating more corn and not enough layer food.   I have some oyster shell calcium and am now supplementing them with that to up their calcium intake.

A big problem with thin eggs, in terms of trying to raise chicks from them, is that they aren’t usually very viable.  They are more permeable to bacteria and stuff that aren’t so great for chicks.  I was worried that it may take a while for the eggs to get a little thicker, longer than I wanted to wait to start incubating a batch.

I decided for now to not get an incubator, and instead order some day old chicks.  I ended up ordering 15 chicks, straight run (which means they don’t sex them), and they will come the week of March 2nd.  That’s at least 2 weeks before they would have hatched had we started an incubator tonight.  The place I ordered from, mypetchicken.com, had a cool “Rare Breeds Assortment” which consists of extra chicks from their hatches of rarer breeds.   They have around 30 or so different breeds that may end up in our batch, so it will be a surprise.  They are all good egg laying breeds, and some are even different colored egg layers (blue eggs, dark chocolate eggs, olive eggs).   We will probably end up with some roosters, so we’ll have to figure out what to do with them all eventually, but I think everything will be good.

We are very excited to get our new chicks!