I got my pullets in the first week in May. The cute little bundles of fluff have quickly morphed into rowdy little crazies! In just a few short weeks, they've come a long way! They'd been given sanctuary in my room, in a foldable 'pen', but started out in a box within the pen, for a cozier atmosphere.
Their first home was a large shipping box, that I placed inside the foldable pen. They were so very tiny, I figured the larger space would be too much, and the box allowed for extra insulation, since they still needed the heat to be around 85.
I used puppy pads for the bottom of the box, as the material is sanitary, absorbant and gives traction for baby chicken feet. Some pros advise against starting the babies out in wood chips, as the young things don't know how to tell it from real food. And they frown on newspaper, as it allows for zero traction, which can cause a problem called 'splay leg', which can cause permanent damage to the growing chick.
We teach our chickens like our children, in the Montessori method of learning through sensory exploration, and they are brilliant chickens! At one end, you see an apple ring, that encourages them to use their eye-beak coordination, and there is some cilantro that lets them learn simple competitive play as they play the "mine-mine" game.
You've seen this in the Nemo movie, where the seagulls are grappling over the fish, chasing each other, as the one in posession hollers, "Mine! Mine!" It's the poultry version of 'Keep Away", I guess you could say!
This little Easter Egger, or Ameraucana, as they are 'professionally' known, has managed to clear the top of the water tower! And that means, it's time to move up to the "big pen"...it's only been a week!
The big pen consists of panels of corrugated plastic held together by plastic rings. The kit came with a feeder, a waterer and a ball for playtime fun! They have yet to grasp the ball concept, but have learned how to take the lid off the food container and how to knock over the water container! My little geniuses!
Now, my floor is a wood floor, so there was no traction there! I had to tape down a base layer of the puppy pads...which ended up being a great idea, for the simple reason that chickens make a helluva mess! I laid a diaper layer over the base layer, so that would be easily removable (after I get the hang of it!) for daily, or sometimes twice daily changings.
I kept the heat lamp at one end of the pen so they could regulate where they wanted to be within the range of temperatures. They never huddled beneath the light to sleep, preferring to snuggle up at the other wall.
This picture is from May 14, with our 11 chicks all in one shot, their first introduction to the big pen! For my first flock, I'd selected four, each, of Ameraucana, Barred Rock Plymouth and Buff Orpington. Ideal Poultry shipped 13; we lost one Buff Orpington and one Plymouth. There is a chance that the 5th Ameraucana is a male, as Ideal will sometimes send a "male for warmth" free. Time will tell. At this point, they're starting to get feathers in on their wings, time to start flight school!
In less than a week, we're growing like crazy! Flight training at 2:30 a.m. has begun, and these chicks never miss a lesson! You think I'm kidding??? No! 2:30...in the morning...wings flapping, birds checking their brakes, birds running into walls...then, birds squawking! It's a ritual, seriously!
This little Buff Orpington is showing off her wings...isn't she a cutie pie! She says, you should see me flap. my. wings. Buff Orpingtons are fluffy chickens...sweet as can be! They're all pretty sweet, actually! The Plymouth will try to act defensively when you try to pet them, but they chill out fairly quickly once they realize you're not going to hurt them.
At this point, May 22, they're becoming like slightly sassy young teens. Thinking they're grown, wanting to party all night...what's a grandma to do??? This 2:30 a.m. flight school is gonna be the end of me! Now, at my age, I wake up several times throughout the night, without their assistance, anyway...I guess they figure if I'm going to be waking up, they should be entertaining me!
Their claws are coming in...I didn't think about this! A chicken's natural instinct is to scratch at the ground. Ya know what happens when you scratch open a puppy pad? It's a mess. So, I covered the indoor pen's padding in a layer of wood shavings, so they could scratch about without digging into the padding. Not only is that stuff probably not the best of nutritional value, there's a wood floor beneath, that's less than a year old, and really doesn't want to get ruined by wet chicken mess. Time to get ready to move to "The Big House".
Fortunately for me, the "Big Houses" are already assembled, at the back part of our yard. They just need to be brought up to where I can get to them easily, and keep an eye out for the chicks. I really wasn't certain how old they'd be at shipment, having never ordered pullets, or even chicks, before. So those were assembled well before the chicks ever arrived.
I've had the coops since TSC had their special in March or was it April? and I bought two. Cos I know one coop won't be enough. Probably should have bought three! Just kidding...not!
For now, one will be enough. We plan on setting up a covered run between the two coops, so they have lots of protected space when we're not out there to supervise. I had to figure out how I wanted to set this up for the babies, who, obviously, can't climb upstairs yet. I took out the drip tray and hung branches from the perches to make lower perches, and set up a third perch between two bricks. The heat lamp is suspended from the highest, sturdiest point, position to be evaluated. Our night temperatures right now are averaging 75, they were complaining about 75 when in my room, and hollered till I turned their heat lamp back on! A few more days, they'll be ok without extra heat.
Here we are checking out the swing side of the new home...what is this strange stuff on the ground??? Grass! Dirt!!! It's Chicken Heaven!
Here we are in the dining area...look! All of our favorites and more!
Our Guardian Owl who watches as we sleep, keeping his eyes open, while our eyes close...who am I kidding??? They thought it was a sleepover...and acted like it, too!
Time to get tucked in!
One last shot, before going in for the night! I set up their old pen as a temporary covered run, for use only under adult supervision. It's aligned with the free range door, which is closed, for now. The breeders recommend a week of home orientation before exploring the outer areas, so they know 'home is home'. It's wobbly right now, and will be reinforced before it is used. I wanted them to get used to seeing it there, so when it's actually time to go out and play there, it won't be a shock. The drip tray (aka poop catcher tray) that I took out for now is leaned against one side to protect from the afternoon sun. They need an awning...stay tuned!
I fell asleep easily, and woke up at midnight. I peeked out my window to see how they were doing, and just like kids at a sleep-over, they were up playing. Thanking the heavens that they were outside doing this playing, I fell asleep easily, once again. The 2:30 and later checks revealed the same...damn, don't they get tired??? Good night, Moon!
About 8:30 this morning, they decided to catch some Z's...this pic is from about 9:30. See how quickly they learn! Little Buff is learning the ramp!
OMG! They've grown so much just overnight! I went out to check them just moments ago, and they seem even bigger! The old pen clean-up wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated, and I learned a lot from the experience! Ready for flock two, the Polish hens!
With this, I'll leave you for today, my friends! Time to go out, water the plants, check the chicks, do some market promo...till later, everyone Steem on!