Thursday, May 22, 2008

My babies are sick

One of my New Hampshire Reds, I've noticed sneezing for the past week. Talk with people that have raised chicks before said that there was nothing to worry about with the sneezing since chicks do that.

Well, two nights ago I noticed that the same chick was half the size of her sister. :( Needless to say, I wasn't too happy when I noticed that it was from emaciation. She, Haley, was always smaller than her sister, but I noticed the other day that it was actually from not putting on weight.

She still eats just fine and drinks water, but I talked with the people that know chicks ( and they informed me that it's from her not getting the nutrients from the food that she needs. I needed to buy [Enfamil] Poly-vi-sol multivitamin drops and give them (3 drops) to her for the next week, 1 drop, 3x a day. The second week, I will need to taper them back and put them on 1-2 drops per day. After that, I will need to mix in Avia Charge 2000 into their water for her as well (purchased from McMurray Hatchery @ 1 lb for $33.50 - yikes!). This will replace the nutrients she isn't getting from the food. She may or may not make it at this point.

As I told them, she does seem to want to fight though. When she gets up, she is very weak so she will topple over sometimes as she walks, but otherwise she seems to be fighting. I told her she has to stay with me, she's strong enough to make it. She seems as if she does have the will to survive though. I am worried about her, but I'm doing everything I can. If she doesn't make it, then at least I know I tried my best.

I had my brother swing by Walgreens and pick up some Poly-vi-sol (he got Tri-vi-sol so he had to go back to exchange it) and just now went in to give her a drop. Well, I smell like baby vitamins right now because it was work to get her to let me put a drop in her beak. As I said, she's till strong and fighting so she wouldn't keep her head still. After I finally got a drop in her beak and she swallowed it, she told me straight out it did not. Taste. Good. She opened her beak and basically was saying, "Oh my god! That tastes awful!" But tough. It's good for her and she'll be getting more before beddie by :)

Now, the other day I asked them what could be wrong with one of my bantams. She has this tendency to topple over and just lay there, legs extended and scream. It's almost like she is having a seizure. It will take her a moment to get her bearings back and she seems to have to force her body to work after one of her episodes. Possibly a neurological thing they tell me. Okay.

Now, this morning, I was watching as one of the bantams laid on the other NHR wing that was out to the side. She wasn't moving and basically was just looking at me like she was unable to move. I opened the cage and made the bantam move - they are little pushy buggers! - and helped Amara up. I noticed that she had lost all strength in her legs. Oh great. On top of the rest?

I looked around online and could only find information about 'spraddle leg.' A condition that basically is where the legs splay out to the side. I couldn't figure out what was going on. Then, it occurred to me that probably all that happened was one of the bantams stepped, or jumped on her wrong and sprained her legs, or something, that made them weaken.

All I know is that I kept holding her up gently, trying to get her to use her legs, trying to support her, because if I didn't, she'd topple over on her face. It was both cute and depressing at the same time. I was horrified to think I'd have to deal with something like this too! Through getting her to slowly try out her legs, supporting her weight, holding her in my hands to rest without being bothered by everyone, as well as her tentatively using her legs, even when it meant crawling, she seems to be doing better. I've got to watch her closely now too though. Every two hours I am going back there and watching them closely. I'm basically feeling spent and not doing well. I'm tired and exhausted. Dizzy and my appetite isn't all there so I have to force it. That's also since I keep going to bed at 10 pm and waking up at 5 am or so. Ever since I've got them it's been around 5 am most days I wake up from them waking up.

Ick. We shall see how she does and if she'll make it. Everybody cross your fingers for me.

I'm contemplating whether or not I should make a separate place for the bantams and NHR now...

On to regular programming ...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Food for the chickens

What is it that I feed the chickens? How do you feed them?

True, that chickens could survive on simply whatever they find out in the yard. Bugs, insects, grass, etc. Or, their favorite appetizer - slugs. Insert a huge icky face here. Blech! I can't even handle watching them eat a slug when they do. I give them to them, then turn my head. But hey, we all have our weird tastes.

Chickens can live and survive on simply whatever they find lying around. But, then again, we humans could live and survive on water and bread. But, I ask you ... What kind of life would that be? Bread and water? Yum. That's about the enthusiasm of chickens with surviving on anything that they find lying around.

But there are benefits to buying premade food, prepackaged foods, and supplements for chickens. Their health is better. Their overall appearance is better. And most importantly - they are more happy. That is, I would say, the most important, and beneficial, to feeding them a wide variety of things.

As any good book would mention, they need plenty of calcium, protein, fat, vitamins,etc. Just like us. The source of which is your choice.

Calcium's most valuable source is purchased ground oyster shell. Another is spinach and brocolli. Depending on your chickens tastes, and such, it may be different for you - google 'Chickens Calcium' for plenty of options. Or simply google 'Calcium food.' Chickens benefit from most foods the same way as we do. Nothing is the same for everyone. I, myself, since oyster shell gets expensive, simply prefer to not only give plenty of greens for calcium, but I pretty much have the ability to feed back their eggs to them quite often. They love it and will start doing a soft chortling sound for you when you give them things they relish and enjoy. Eggs are particularly good at receiving that sound :)

I prefer to cook the eggs before giving them back. I give them them the entire egg. That way, as you crumble up the egg before giving them back, it doesn't resemble as much of their own egg. Myself, I haven't had a problem with egg eating, but it can be quite a hard habit to break I've heard. They break an egg in their nest, purely by accident, then decide it's quite the treat! Then, they will do so from then on most of the time. However, I have had an egg break in the nest and them eat at it while there, but still, they hadn't bothered to continue - which I am extremely lucky for that.

Also, it's a great way to keep track of the calcium that they are receiving I've noticed, by paying close attention to the shell. Most store shells are quite thin and pretty much nothing. However, if you notice that when you break open an organic egg shell than you will see that they shell is quite thick compared to the store ones. This is a great way to keep track of calcium absorption for the chickens. Occasionally I have noticed the shells get thin. Mostly not. It's just a great way to keep track. If they get thin - like the store - you'll know to up the calcium. It's important for egg production - calcium - so if you have egg laying chickens, it is a very important to make sure they get enough. Think of how calcium affects our own bones - as a woman I'm speaking - and how brittle they can become without proper calcium. Same with chickens. As soon as they start laying eggs, they will need to receive proper amounts of calcium options.

Another great way of reducing waste it to simply set aside used egg shells when you use your eggs, let them dry - my girls never approve of wet egg shells! - and add (crumbled) them to whatever you feed the girls, or the cooked eggs and shells.

Please keep in mine that my chickens are pets and they are for egg production. Not meat. A lot of the things that I do for mine need to be ramped up if you choose to raise chickens to eat, or are not concerned about their well-being. This blog is only for people that truly want enjoyable pets and egg-layers. Though, just as everyone has different ways of raising children and any other pets, your ways may be different than my own. I'm sure on some things I do they are lacking, and others are over-kill. But then again, this is a blog to give people ideas. Or, to simply tell them how I raise my chickens. Not someone elses.

Another important feature of chickens is grit. Grit is pretty much anything that they can pick up and fill their crop with. What is a crop? A crop is where the food passes through before it gets digested and moved to the stomach. Chickens don't have teeth. Though they can pinch hard enough to rip skin if they want to! :) My mom just learned that little lesson when she decided to go out and trim some branches by the coop. Lily decided she needed to investigate the bare toes showing and my mom ended up with a nice little cut on her foot. My response, 'You heard me just saying that Lily wanted pick on the bare skin showing in the cut knee area of my jeans and you went in there with flip flops?" hehehe Yes, she - Lily - has attitude. Hence she got the queen of the Underworlds name - Lilith :)

Grit helps the chickens grind up the food that passes through. Grit is basically really small pebbles that they fill their crop with. Think of a grinding stone. That's the way the the grit works for the chickens. For us, we don't need to provide extra grit because our chickens have a dirt ground. They are able to go around and dig up dirt to find plenty of grit naturally. However, if you have a cement floor, or just want the option, you can buy packaged grit. Then, all you need to do is to provide them with that grit in a bowl, or scatter the grit on the ground for them. Typically, it's a good idea to have it accessable to the chickens in a bowl. I just like making life easier for the chickens.

Foods that I feed my chickens are pretty much anything and everything that I eat. However, unless you want your eggs to taste like fish, garlic, onion, or anything else icky as that, then I would suggest making sure your chickens don't have access to those foods. Can you imagine baking a cake with their eggs and imagine tasting a nice delicious piece of fish cake? Or how about having a nice garlic tang to your pies? That would be why it is very undesirable to feed your chickens food of that nature. What you put in does come back out. And in the case of eggs, it comes out to what you put into your body.

Uncooked potato skins aren't good for them either. Though I've heard some chickens like mashed potatoes, mine do not. And when my chickens don't eat something, I try and always make sure it's able to be taken up, otherwise you will end up with rats. And anything else. Though, if you ever watch, you'll notice the wild birds around your yard trying to get in there to nibble the delicious goodies the chickens get and most don't dare get into our coop because the chickens have always stood their ground quite well!

My chickens like anything that I give them with some exceptions. They don't do large pieces of apples. You'd have to shred those. Only because they are so hard. Same with carrots. They like the peels when we peel them for cooking, but if they aren't small enough, the problem with to big of pieces is the fact that the crops can become impacted if things get in there that are simply too big to pass through. I prefer to take that extra moment to chop up all pieces that they might not eat to be smaller. Same with tomato skins. It works to take that extra minute to cut them into smaller pieces so that the chickens eat them. And they do love tomatoes.

As for staple foods, it is really important to feed - in our case we use casserole dishes - the chickens in a bowl, their base food. That is the food that is always available to them. Having all those extras gives variety and additions, but the staple food is most important to them. Some people only feed that food, but we prefer adding variety as well. Chicken scratch, chicken layer pellets, organic pellets, etc., can be purchased from your local feed store. In our case we use Bothell Feed Store. Minus them telling my mom that the babies should be housed in cedar chips, they have been very knowledgable and helpful in all our questions. There are always going to be bad and good advice from those type stores, and anybody, but it's a good idea to research like crazy and go with your gut. Always take everything with a grain of salt, but still learn something from it. Even my info, because as I've said, this is my way. It may not be your way. That's fine. Nobody does everything the same.

The thing with providing all those other treats along with their normal food, is to make sure they are still eating their own foods. I used to do this by never giving them the extra varieties until after noon. Though, now I've learned that it's okay to give them anytime because my chickens will still eat their base food so they can have goodies whenever. But, no matter what I give them it is usually in a plate, bowl, etc. Otherwise if food is left out after they go to bed at night - though it can still happen during the day - then you walways have the possibility of rats and other undesirable creatures coming to feast.

Water. Water is a very important component in their diet. Always make sure that they have access to clean water. I'm not a stickler with their bowl of water. When it's hot I make sure that it stays cool. When it's freezing, I make sure to dump some hot water in once in a while and check to make sure that it doesn't freeze over. I keep it towards the warm side. Not warm, but definitely not cold either. Ice water is no more fun to a chickens throat I'm sure, then it is to ours. Hello brain freeze :) But, as with the food bowl, I simply use a glass casserole dish that we are not using for their water. Once a week I wash it out. Our chickens keep their food and water fairly clean. If it does get excess dirt and leaves, etc., in the bowls then I will clean them up more, but otherwise I only fully clean them once a week. I have many more animals and house cleaning to do during the week. I'm not going to kill myself when I know it won't get dirty and they will be healthy and fine. Stress is not going to make for a happy chicken mommy :)

Our food and water bowls, as I've said, are simply casserole dishes. Clear, plain dishes. I tried the chicken bowls and water bowls that my mom bought when we first got our chickens. They are the basics that you can buy from any place for chicken feeders. But I hated them. I liked the idea of being able to clean them. I am a bit of a clean freak. I didn't like the idea that the feed would sit there for a while and I couldn't get into them and into every crack to clean them. They were bulky and cumbersome. I just hated them. I went through quiet a bit before I chose the casserole dishes. For treats, I have a lot of excess stainless steel bowls from the dogs that I no longer use. I have small, medium and large bowls. They work perfectly to use for the chickens. Chickens love shiny things. They are drawn to the shiny silver bowls.

Chickens I have heard (I always say 'I've heard' because I haven't had nearly the problems I've heard that people have had to deal with, with mine.) like to dump their water, food bowls, etc. They advocate having the feeders/waterers lifted and raised in some way. I have mine sitting on top of two short lengths of 4X4's that have a piece of small plywood on top to make a table. They haven't had too many problems with knocking it down, stepping on them, soiling, anything. I have an opening of 10 inches or so around the entire food and water bowls so that no chicken crowds another. Since they are all girls, if one crowds another, then of course, they will peck each other. Anything to prevent that, I'm all for.

Items they enjoy though are:
Tomatoes, Mac and Cheese, Cheeseburger Macaroni, Lettuce (sometimes), spinach, carrots (shredded), apples (shredded), corn, beans, smashed garbanzo beans (they can't crush them and they are too big otherwise), peas, weeds (as long as no pesticides), grass clippings, fruit (no citrus fruit), peaches, Cheerios, tree leaves (when still green of course), pasta, small (or crushed) cat food, small (or crushed) dog food, wheat bread, on and on.

You'd be surprised at just how much food a chicken can take in!

Next up? How about the weather changes?

Have a question? Just ask :)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Baby Chicks - The Setup I Have, In Detail

Okay, I will show the first setup I had, as well as the one I have right now that is working for me.
Here is the main setup in the beginning - a few days ago at least.

I had to cut this out of another pic I used in the second to last blog. As you can see I only have the 3-in-1 lamp on top in the beginning. That lamp includes a [day] heat lamp and a night heat lamp that simulates the moonlight. I switch to the night light before I turn them off at night because the light is still too bright for the babies to sleep properly. I try to give them as much of a normal time as possible. I use the light outside as my guide. As the sun sets, that is when the lights changed, etc. But, at the same time I need to make sure that the temp stays correct for them.

Also, in the above pic you can see that it is basic. It allows them to have the optimal amount of room in the cage that way. I constantly try to allow them as much room as possible, while at the same time, I try to give them an area for sleep, as well as an area for play. That way, they do not get bored. And they always have something to do.

As you can see above though, when my [day] heat lamp blew out (I don't have the $ to replace it) I enlisted the help of my Sun Glo light bulb for the aquarium. It's a low enough wattage that it won't get too hot, while at the same time it is high enough that in turn, it does provide quite enough heat. You can't see it too well, unless you look, in any of the pics, but I also have a thin towel that I am able to drape over the top to conserve more heat in the tank to be able to heat it more, or less, depending on how the towel is draped over the tank. In the shot above, I actually have it down, I think it was hot that day, so I had to have my window cracked (no draft near them though) on the opposite side of the aquarium that they are in, heater vent closed off, door open, so that it would cool off in my room. It's a virtual sauna in my room otherwise.
This will be the larger size for them. Ignore my ramblings. I'll still be modifying things as I need to and I was just 'thinking' through with words. Half the things I won't be doing. Though, as you can see, I will have an open area so that they are able to go and come from the top to bottom, but I have to modify it so that once up, or down, they are able to stay. They'll need the room to walk up and down, the room to move about, etc. Otherwise, I may just make a large enough top (it will be overhanging) so that I don't need the bottom. However, the top portion will be able to be moved about. That way, it will be able to be put into the main coop so that Lily will slowly be able to get used to them, while they still have a safety zone from her.
This is the aquarium stand I will be using. Pic looks funny because I had to copy and paste two different shots together. Otherwise, the shot wouldn't be close enough.
This stand is an old stand that used to house my dad's old 55 gallon (?) aquarium so it's quite heavy duty and large - heck, it's hard to move around since it's so heavy! He used to breed Angelfish. I still have a few weeks before the babes will need this, and as you see, I have to make sure that they top gets worked on. It has some rust spots from being outside for so long - I've been using it for a flower pot stand. But, I realized that after the chicks are integrated into the main coop, then I will either be able to use it for my parakeet on the warm days, to be outside, or I can use it as a place for flowers. Won't need to modify too much.
The Interior ...
This is the before shot. As you can see. I tried to have the bowl of food simply a bowl of food, but then I had the problem with them thinking that they needed to kick around the food and it would get into the water. So then I had to place a long index card next to food dish. Tucked the end under, taped the edge to the aquarium wall (never had a prob with them picking on it luckily). Worked pretty well. They liked to get water on it, so I did need to replace it though, but it worked! For the time.
The water bowl in this picture, you can see that it has the upside down bowl
employed. They enjoy it, as you can see in previous blogs, they do quite enjoy playing around on it. [rolls eyes] Kids :p
I am using the plastic limb that my brother had for the gecko in his aquarium. It is bendable and durable. It's a reptile designed limb so that it can't be chewed by the chicks, but they sure enjoy pecking at it. Don't do damage - I've watched them - but they find it fun. Keeps them from being bored. Everytime that I clean the cage, I rebend it into a different position so that it's new for them. Their cage gets overhauled - they really enjoy helping me too much! - every two to three days, but I constantly scoop their little poopies every few hours, depending on when it needs it, I go in there, etc., etc., etc. I allow some poopies in there, just so that it's not too clean for them since I think it does them good to have some dirt, but I still try to maintain a clean enviroment so they don't get sick. The limb is also a soft material so it doesn't hurt their feet, while at the same time it's actually pretty hard. Helps them learn to roost. My chicken outside will. not. roost. I don't care what I try, what I use, Lily (her sisters did the same) will. not. roost. Pain! :)
There is also - you can see the colorful thing? - a parakeet toy in it. I hook the center circle around one of the smaller branches on the toy, then they can play with it. They enjoy ringing the bell - Lily has a mirror outside she enjoys looking into - and picking at the litte pieces that are designed to keep the bird entertained by spinning around. They are colorful enough to attract the attention as well. That two, gets moved about as the cage gets cleaned.
Already, I am trying to integrate Lily with the chicks, even though they can't actually get near her - too cold - and same to her, I try to do little things. The feathers that I collected from the house when the chickens molted last year I used in the stuffed toys I gave the chicks to snuggle. They are clean and I know that they ar safe for the chicks since they've been inside and inside this house. Otherwise, I wouldn't have given the feathers to them. When I clean out the cloth diapers, and pillowcase at the bottom of the cage, I place them outside in the house where Lily sleeps, and on top of the stuffed bear I gave her to snuggle at night since her sister passed away. That way, she has their smell close to her. The last time I did that I think she yanked it down to lay upon. Not quite sure. Could've just walked across it and it fell, but it looks like she moved it. I'm pretty sure I heard her the other day respond to their sounds. I heard her starting talking soon after one of them made a loud sound, so I think she responded to them. Which is a good sign.
Continuing on ...
I give them some pine shavings (never cedar - it can cause problems in any small animal; rats, birds, chickens, reptiles, etc.) so that the poopies will stick to it (chickens pee and poop - like any bird - in the same moment, it all turns to one little circular splat! sometimes fun shapes :p) and it makes it easier to clean up. Then, I drop some of their food around. I was worried that they wouldn't understand the concept of eating out of their bowl, but they seem to be going okay with it. But, I do that so that they, again, have something to keep entertained. Outside Lily is constantly walking around and pecking, investigating, etc., so I try constantly to make the same thing for the chicks. They way hens raise their chicks is also how I try to handle the chicks. I pay attention to it, then use as similar of route as possible.
Other side for old version.
Once again, you can see on this side that I have the baby diaper (old cloth kind) on top of the heating pad. There you can see the wire leading up to the control, as well as the temp gauges. The black wire is one temp gauge, the other is the red circle. All wires are safe from harming the babes. I have constant attention and awareness on each item inside the cage. Basically, I am a fantic, worried momma ;) I go to bed worrying that something that hasn't happened in the past week will all of a sudden happen and I will wake up to dead chicks, or when I come back to the room - same thing. Oi!
In the beginning you see, I have only the one small stuffed dog thing with some of the feathers dropped last year shoved into its neck. The babies like grooming the feathers, but they just love climbing all over them and under and sleeping with. More entertainment! :) Everything is a game for them.
New/Current setup ...
'Scuse the water on the wall, they seem to think they need to splash it about :p
Now, as you can see, I've since taken the divider up, they do a good job of keeping it fairly clean now, I've moved around the limb, bent it so that it sits on the ground now, and they think they need to run and get in the shot ;)
Food bowl was made same as water bowl. Smaller upside down bowl in the bigger one. When I do the water, I get the bowl to stay correctly by filling up the smaller one, then as I hold it upright, I place the bigger upside down and on top of the smaller one. Then, when I flip, holding the two together, it creates a vacuum and the small stays stuck on top of the bigger bowl. Then I simply fill it up sightly with clean water. The small bowl stays stuck in place by vacuum suction.
They enjoy their toy :D
Their bed area now has another stuffed animal with more feathers. I'll be eliminating the smaller one since they are getting bigger and need that tiny bit extra room. I have some shavings on there as well, again for cleaning purposes, but also to add a little extra warmth to the bedding area.
As you can see Amara has become a ham. Literally. Look at her pudgy little backside :p I think she enjoys helping momma the most. And help they do. Try and clean the cage! They all start chortling away and are right under my fingers. It takes me long enough just to move them out of my way to move things around :p
Under the baby diaper I also have a washcloth, as well as a cloth under the heating pad. That way it is controlled warmth. They can't get too hot at night, but the heating pad on low allows them to stay warm during the night since that is all they have.
A nice little sandwich. You can see the very first (bottom) white cloth, then the heating pad (hard to see), the red washcloth on top of the pad, then the baby diaper.
Overall, these little bugs are quite active. They frequently take naps that consist of minute bursts. Sometimes 5 minutes. But otherwise, they are up and about all day long. Come bedtime, the bantams, in the beginning, were no problem. They'd go to their little spot and collapse. The New Hampshires in the beginning were scared to death. They'd see the light go off and cry themselves to sleep. Tried loving them, talking to them, then just realized that they needed to figure it out on their own.
And yes, this is my first time that I am raising baby chickens. I've been raising chickens for a year. But please note, I read and read a lot! I spend time, even now, reading up books on my animals. I am constantly learning new things that work, to try. I practice trial and error frequently. One thing I won't do is do something to my animals that I wouldn't want someone do to me. I don't care what it is. Even now, after raising dogs my entire life I learn and read up on them. Even if I've read the same info a thousand times, I'll re-read it. I never stop learning. Simple as that. So yes, as hard as it is raising baby chicks, it's easy in the sense that before, during and after I read anything I can get my hands on. I ask for help constantly. I learn new techiniques, alternative techniques and everything in-between. I advocate that for anyone wanting an animal. Learn everything you can before you get the animal. Makes it so much easier! Tip for the day - anyone considering an Australian Shepherd? They shed! And shed, and shed, and shed, and ...
As always, any questions, just ask in the comments. You'll see an answer in the next blog I do.

What do they eat?

Day Seven or something - Baby Chicks

I'm tired today. Why? Well, certain little individuals believe that I need to wake up at 5 am, instead of the normal 6 am that I wake up at. Not getting my normal sleep is not fun. And certainly not fun for anybody that has to be around me ;) Combine little sleep and having to do this and that all day, plus try to get things done of my own? Woo hoo ... :) Kidding. I'm a new momma and I am constantly called on - what's new?

I was told just last night that my brother wants me to put in his new parking light on the '67 Impala that he and I are restoring. Then my mom says, "No. We are working on the stairs for the deck." Side note: Our deck stairs broke in half at the bottom, needless to say I was the one nearly plummeted a couple feet to the ground. These were the stairs my dad built a looonnnggg time ago, so now they need replacing and my mom and I are re-building new ones. Anyhoo, I told them both, "It's good to know that I have say in what I am doing tomorrow." :D

I'm tired and can't think, where was I? Oh yeh. So ... I said that yesterday I would tell of the new game that the chickens have learned and enjoy.

You can hear me suck in my breath. Why? They discover a nice little wound (god knows where I got it) from the back of my wrist. Chickens are drawn to peck at red/blood. They see an interesting spot on my hand/wrist and they feel that they need to peck it. Granted, Lily, could hurt worse, but imagine poking a needle into an open wound. That would be what I felt while filming :p

And yes, the little chirping you hear I hear right now as I am sitting in the living room. I hear that 24/7. Turn up the volume on the computer and make it ear-splitting almost. [laughing] Now you know what I am used to :) They get louder as they get older. That is their happy chirping. You want hear what they sound like when they want mommas attention? Well, let's ust say it is much more louder and ear-splitting. Though, that is usually only one of the bantams when everyone else is napping that does that sound. However, this morning, Amara decided that she needed my attention and was screaming her little head off. When the bantams scream it's loud, but the New Hampshires are quite loud when they want be.

As if you couldn't get enough, here is another. They think that they need help me with filming so you can see them pick on the camera strap as well as the cap that goes on the lense to the camera.

I said yesterday I would talk about their setup. So let's discuss the setup ...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Day Three thru Six - Baby Chicks

Went out today to clean Lily's house. Went round the yard to gather some slugs, random weeds to rip up into little bits, as well as grass, into a bowl. As you can see. I garnered my little hello from her. Can't really see it as well right now, but yes, at least once a day she decides just for the hell of it, to nip at me and then ...

I end up with a nice little mark to show for it. Sometimes my wrist, sometimes my hand, as you can see. But always something :) Yes, it's her way of giving attention. She is a female after all. She has her moments. If you scratch her neck, she'll purr like a kitten. Okay, maybe not literally purr, but her eyes close and she loves it. Other times? Look at the picture again.

The thing is? I don't actually feel it. And hell, I've been bitten by all my animals, scratched, you name it. I am constantly rough housing (I know you're not supposed to, but like I care?) with my dogs and I've gotten some pretty horrible marks all over my arms from Sabrina (my Australian Shepherd). Trust me, there is a reason why she has proven her worth at teachign her to kill on command. She can inflict some serious damage when she wants. And yet I still rough house :)

But, unless you are really sensitive, I don't think most of the time you'd even know Lily hurt you until you see the mark. Though I know for sure that if she wanted to, she could really hurt you, but because the marks aren't as bad, I know she isn't trying to hurt. Only make a point. If you want take a stab at what that is, go right ahead ...

For some updates. I've since learned how I had to change the food bowl because they would not stop kickng the food out. Grr ...

Same idea as the water bowl. I was also able to take down the middle barrier since they can't kick stuff around anymore.

Works pretty well. They tried to kick the food out and around, but no luck. They kept slipping and finally realized that they can't do it. The bantams enjoy getting one foot in and one foot and out can get some food kicked out and around, but not too much. And it cannot fly all over the place thankfully :)

Had another problem arise two days ago. When I went to turn on the heat lamp, it popped and that was the end of the bulb. Now seeing as how I don't have the money to replace it I needless to say had a moment ... S***! I turned on my Sun Glo light bulb that I was using to start some tomato plants in my room and placed it over the aquarium. I still had the night heat lamp, but I knew that it wouldn't give off as much heat as the other bulb did. But, I knew that the temp was warm from the Sun Glo bulb. It worked. I can regulate the temp by having a towel placed over the top and move it to open more air, or less, to adjust the temp.

Not to mention, I have them in my bedroom. Where else could I have them? No place else. I have them on my dresser - you can see in the pics below with my cat, that I had to move my Tiger face that my brother gave me off the dresser, so that they could fit on the dresser under the window. But anyhoo, they are in my bedroom. My bedroom with the heater on, window closed, door closed, heater vent open, gets HOT! I usually have to have my window cracked, heater vent closed, door open, then it stays a steady 60 degrees which I like. And yes, even in the winter I prefer the window cracked open. Aaahhhh ...

I've since named the New Hampshire Reds

If you can't read it correctly.

Amara is the one on the right. It was also a wolf name and anyone that knows me knows how much I love wolves. Her names stands for 'Immortal' and she is the dark.

Haley is the one on the left. Her name stands for 'Heroine' and she is the light.

Don't mind what they are laying on. It's a digital thermometer. They don't bother it and it's one of two that help me keep track of the temp of where they lay. They are laying atop the heating pad which also has another baby diaper (the old cloth type) on top of it, under them. I have another thermometer (was used for the gecko my brother used to have) in the upper center of the cage to tell me the overall ambient temp.

Posing for the camera.

Helping me clean the cage are my helpers. My Amber (pom mix) and my mom's Shih Tzu Chewbacca (black one). He is such a little boy.


Now why was my door open! What did I find?

Can't see correctly? Let me get you closer.

Now can you see?

Such a gorgeous little face. Haley.

Enjoying being a ham - Amara.



Developing a brown color along it's beak.
Now how do I keep them? And what new thing have they learned that is so much fun? Involves my hands ...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Day Two - Baby Chicks

Yeh, my night wasn't all that great. I woke up in a panic and couldn't really sleep all night. I was afraid that the babies were gonna die and afraid that they had. I pretty much only slept for a few hours at a time. It was pretty bad.

But come morning? Their little heads popped up from behind the little stuffed bear that I gave them to snuggle and were just fine. I turned back on the heat lamp/light to start warming them up more and they were just fine.

Granted, they wanted a lot of my attention so needless to say, I couldn't leave the room without hearing them start screaming.

Well, then comes all day long of making sure that they have enough attention. Making sure that they have enough food. Making sure that they have clean water. The temperature is all good inside.
And of course, on this second day I have found that there food bowl is wrong. They water bowl is good, but I keep having to clean it. They enjoy getting in their food dish and scratching everything around. Not so fun. Oh well. I found another bowl since they can't stay out of the little one, then everything gets promptly dumped out of that one.

Old dog dishes that I bought for my little dog Amber, back before my mom bought her Shih Tzu, Chewbacca. I only needed something small for Ambers food. Now, it works great as a food dish. But as you can see, they don't stay out! They think they need to be in the food - hehehe. Course, I thought they'd do so, but I figure that the bowl will be the correct size so that when they scratch stuff around, it will stay inside the bowl.

Posted a question on one of my favorite sites for chickens called, Backyard Chickens, to ask what breed they are. I will give you a million dollars if you tell me what breed they are. Only kidding of course. I have no million. Though, that seems to be the million dollar question. What are they?
My mom went to pick up new bedding. The store had given her Cedar shavings, which they said were the ones that their babies were in, and that they used. I told my mom that as with the parakeet, and most small animals, the cedar is bad for them. I looked it up to make sure that what I remembered was correct. Yep. It was. So she went and picked up Pine Shavings. Course, the book says that you should wait until after one week to use the shavings, otherwise they might confuse it with food. Yep. Thanks. Hadn't noticed that :p
Once again, she comes into the kitchen with a box. What was in the box going *peep* *peep* ? Can you guess? Here is a hint ...

Two New Hampshire Red Pullets (word refering to female (hen) chickens under a year). And no, that second pic isn't dead. It is it sleeping - oh my god they are so cute when they sleep. They are all fluffy and cute and ... Where was I? Oh yeh ...

Once again, called the feed store to see when their birthday was. April 30, 2008. Two days younger than the bantams.
So now, I had to find a bigger water bowl. Tried jsut upgrading the size, then placing some rocks inside it like the first time. Yeh. Not good. Even more dirty. The New Hampshires (The bright side? They know how to drink out of the bowl :) ) like to climb inside the bowl with their dirty little toes and get stuff in the bowl. Combine that with the bantams kicking the food all over, and into the water bowl, that doesn't work well. Grr...

So, fine. I grabbed some [small] rocks to place around the bowl so they'd have to walk up to get to the water. Hmm ... Still no good. Now, the bantams are pecking at the rocks. Albeit small rocks, still. I am afraid they will damage their still growing beaks. Fine. Took out small rocks. Now what?

I took and placed a smaller bowl inside the other dog bowl, upside down. Yay me! The water is a trough, but they can't drown, nor can they get it so icky by stepping in it. What do they like to do?

They want play at who is going to be Queen of the water! Bow down to me they say! hehehe

As you can see behind them. I had to place a long index card between the two dishes to keep them from kicking the food into the water though. So now when they drink and eat they have a private room. It is folded down slightly at the bottom (about an inch) and shoved under the dish, then the sides have tape on the aquarium to keep it from moving, and keep it upright.

What next?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Day One - Baby Chicks

Okay, so technically this isn't really day one. More like day four. However, I have been busy and only just now I am getting to this, so I am going to try and get a bunch of these done by the current day. So you may see up until day whatever, that the dates are the same :p
Day One - Baby Chicks ...

I was in the kitchen washing dishes when my mom walked in with a box. She had just come from the feed store. She was picking up new chicken scratch for Lily (chicken) outside. She placed a box on the cutting board.
I got out of her way and went to give some attention to my dog, Sabrina. But, then I heard something make a peep from the box that my mom had been carrying around. I walked over to it knowing what I was going to find, opened it and saw this ...

These are two baby Bantam Chickens. I couldn't keep from touching them. Could you? I picked them up, then it happened ...

They fell asleep in my hand when I picked them up. I took advantage and took a bunch of pictures. Called the feed store here in Bothell (Bothell Feed Store) and found out that there birthday is April 28, 2008. Two days old. :)

Okay ... Now wait? Where are they going to be housed? They are going to need somewhere warm. After all they are babies. Oh great. I ran to grab my chicken books and gathered up three of them. I found a page stating that babies at this age would be needing 95 degree temperature (decreased steadily by 5 degrees each week). Steady. Draft free. Clean. Dry. Uh ... Hmm ...

Oh! Of course!

My mom had them in a styrofoam container that was used by a shipping company for shipping my brother's fish that he bought. It was large, but I'm picky. I didn't like it. That, and the fact that I know that chickens eat styrofoam. How? Well, probably because of the fact that we have inside the chicken house outside, used styrofoam insulation. The chickens learned that when they poked holes in it, they could eat it. Hey, why not? Looks good. So they did. Day after day after day. I had to go out there each day every few hours, checking on the styrofoam once I realized that they would try to eat it. I kept having to place tape over the holes so they wouldn't notice. Needless to say, they just made another hole. So each day, in the beginning, they had themselves a nice snack of some styrofoam. Luckily, only lasted a few days overall and never enough to hurt them. I took care of that problem. Ha! Too smart for there own good. Er, except for the eating styrofoam part.

Now what was the epiphany?

A reptile cage! My brother used to have a gecko. He bought a hood for that cage you see above. In this hood was a heat lamp and a night heat lamp. The night one was used to simulate the moonlight while providing heat still for the reptile. That way they didn't have to worry about losing heat. I ran to find my brothers book on geckos and it stated that the temp they needed was 80-90. Night temps just a little lower, but still close to that. Perfect!

I also had my mom's heating pad that when placed on low provides just about that, depending on how much cloth you have on it. Adding more washcloths will lower the temp it provides for the babies. So, combined with the heating lamp, the heating pad and my rooms natural warmth when I keep the windows shut (oh god do I have to?) my room, the aquarium was around 90-100 degrees. It kept fluctuating.

A screened lid on top provided adequate ventilation and the clear glass of the aquarium allows the babies to keep track of where I am. I go and come from my room quite frequently so they get to see me constantly. I'm in and it and around a lot.

K. Now. Book says water bowl cannot be too deep and if it is, provide some rocks. Otherwise babies can drown. Hmm ... Ooo! My graduated glass bowls. Some of them come in mere tablespoon sizes, all the way up to more than 4 quart size. I found a small one, placed a couple rocks in it so they could get the water, but it wasn't deep enough to drown in, while at the same time, the rocks would provide footing in case they did fall in. Good.

Food bowl. Hmm ... Maybe using just a bigger size of the glass bowl would work? Seems to be good. They can get at it just fine. Boy, these guys are small! But, oh so very cute!

So, the cage bottom is the leftover cedar chips from the box they came in. Only used a little though. The bottom layer is a small baby blanket then the heating pad in the corner, then another washcloth or two on top, then their food and water. All set. Should be good to go. They seem to be enjoying their new digs.

But ... I don't like the thought of them by themselves. I would like them to have something to snuggle. I'll find a small toy from the doggie excess toys box and place some of the feathers I've collected off of Lily and the others when they motled (shed old feathers) and shove them up it's neck so it has some feathers. That way, it will seem like a momma chicken, while the feathers might have the other chicken scent on it so that they can get used to the scent of Lily outside (maybe).

Good. They seem to like it. They seem to be going right to bed. I'm hoping that they will sleep through the night all right. It's night, night time, but I can't use the light of the day heat lamp - though it gives the right temp - it is too bright. Can't use the night heat lamp because again, too bright. [crosses fingers] Hopefully just the heating pad with an old cloth diaper surrounding them, as well as this little stuffed dog will do the trick. Hopefully they will stay warm. I know the pad itself - with them laying upon it - will be even warmer, but still ...

What is it like?

What is it like to raise chickens? If you would've asked me over a year and a half ago that question, I would've said, "I have no clue." Different I am sure. But now? I can say it is the same as owning a cat, dog, or any other animal that you can own. I have owned chickens for the past year and a half or so. It's been interesting. It has been fun. There have been moments when the last thing that I wanted was to have to go outside and deal with them, but then again, I am not that type of person. I have the mommy attitude. Had it my entire life. There is nothing better than taking care of someone. So I have still made sure that I went outside and took care of the chickens always. Even when the temp was freezing and they didn't even want to come out of their house. I went out there. Even when I was sick. I went out there. I did that because they needed me to. They are just like any other animal that I own. Any other pet you can have. You should give them attention and love as they deserve. They deserve just as much as any other pet, animal, anything.

Welcome to the life of owning a chicken :) I shall be telling about the things I have done for mine. As well as telling what it is like to raise one from a few days old. Yes, I am in the current process of raising four chicks. The current chicken that I own lost her other sister this past week. She was only around two years old. I found out that she died from a tragic thing called, 'Sudden Chicken Death Syndrome.' Basically it is the same thing as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

I looked outside one day to check on my chickens and they were just fine. The next time I looked out there, I saw the hen laying down. Looked like she laid down, then died. She was in the position that she liked to sleep in. I was sad to see that she passed. But honestly, it wasn't that bad. Why? Because I know that she had the best life she could have had. She was the one that was shy. She was afraid of coming near to people. This past year I worked with her and she came out of her shell shortly before she passed away. I was so happy about that. I am sad that she is gone, but I felt worse for her sister who is now alone after losing another sister to the same thing shortly after I had brought them home over a year ago.

I read somewhere that if you don't properly care for chickens when they are babies, that they could end up developing something wrong. Maybe that is what happened. Maybe something happened after I got them that got them sick. I don't know. What I do know is that they are/were happy and healthy chickens. No problems with them. The two that passed away were not sick when they passed. Not as far as I could see. Unless I wanted to do a necropsy, I wouldn't know for sure. My philosophy is basically this ... I don't believe in artificial means. I don't believe, other than to prevent another from suffering the same fate that there would be a reason to do a necropsy. I can understand other people doing so, but it just isn't something for me. I don't believe in things like that.

I buried the hen in the same area as the current chicken is. Because that was the same area that I buried the first chicken. The lone hen left - Lilith a.k.a. Lily - helped me bury her sister Elysia. The first one that passed away was named Circe. In a way you can say that her sisters are still with her I suppose.

All three Chickens when we first received them and brought them home.
Next we will begin my stories of taking care of the baby chicks as well as Adventure in Chicken ...