All seven of our rescued factory farm chicks are doing great. Little Dixie is still half the size of everyone else and the others take turns keeping her under their wing (literally) to keep her warm and comfort her. She sings all the time and is very happy. One of the chickens that we deemed Burn Victim Barbie, because of how messed up her neck was, looks a bit more like a Ken. His comb is larger than the others. Still too early to tell sexes though. Their feathers are mostly in, even though most of their stomachs are still bare from being plucked and sleeping on deep layers of waste before their rescue.
My farmhouse is beginning to smell like a barn and I decided that two weeks in the guest room was long enough. The chicks are no longer sick and they are growing well. They moved out to the coop with the big girls yesterday.
Every year different acquaintances on social media show off their cute baby chicks. When they move them to the coop with the other chickens, the same devastating tale is told. One story in particular stays with me. A gal I know put the chicks out into the chicken yard and when she returned they were all dead. One was almost decapitated. Bloody, little bodies strewn about. What happened? she thought.
One would not bring home a shelter dog and just throw him into a room with the present house dog and leave, would they? Or cats that don’t know each other? Chickens are smart, they have hierarchy, and protect their own spaces just the same as any animal. They need a getting-to-know-each-other stage.
In the past we would have gotten our chicks in the spring so that at six weeks old it would already be fairly warm outside. These chicks are ten weeks old today but outdoors they still need a heat lamp. It’s just too cold, particularly at night.
Note: to know what temperature your chicks can handle, count backwards 5 degrees from 95 degrees per week. So my chickens can handle 45 degrees.
I set up the portable fencing that was in the guest room (a portable fence is invaluable on a farmstead) and set up a folding table inside as a top to keep the big girls out. I put their food and water inside the square. We attached the heat lamp and kept it low over the fence. Nothing touches the lamp! I am a little fearful of fire. I used an old piece of pallet, some wood, and this and that to cover holes and make the space secure. If it is too hot, they will move to the other side of the sectioned off area, if they are huddled under the lamp, they are cold. You want them comfortably wandering. I can remove the pallet to reach in and water and feed.
In one or two weeks as the weather warms and the other chickens get used to the babies, I will let them out, keeping the pen up so they have a safe space to run to. Eloise can be quite a bitc….ahem…difficult.
It won’t be long though before they are all scratching and bathing in the dirt, soaking up the sun, and scrambling for treats all together. Just use precautions and slowly introduce for a happy chicken household. Now…to get the smell out of the guest room…