Monday, May 13, 2013

Picking up Chicks

If I was a good blogger--or a good/obsessive chicken mom for that matter--I should have been posting every day, because just like with any other baby, baby chicks grow SO FAST and there are SO MANY developmental milestones and little quirks to fuss over.  They're eating out of my hand!  They can balance on the roost!  Their wing feathers are growing in!  They're flying a little!  They're dust-bathing!  They don't like yogurt!  Now they like yogurt!

We got three black australorp chicks almost two weeks ago.  This is what they looked like when we brought them home (they are probably three to five days old here):

Little puffballs!  Left to right that's Jenny, Jill and Barb.  This is what they look like now:

Little dinosaurs!  Photo taken through the lid of the brooder because they now panic if I put my camera in the brooder.  Gotta say, the old Chicken Little story makes a lot more sense now that I have chicks: they act as if the sky is falling whenever there is any small change, like a new waterer, or the addition of a rock to their brooder.  I'm told they'll get braver as they get older.

Chicken books are always suspiciously vague when it comes to brooding chicks.  "Brood them in a cardboard box.  Keep them at 95 the first week and 5 degrees cooler every week after.  Feed them chick starter.  Move them outside when they're fully feathered."  I wasn't really prepared for how easy it was to obsess about everything chick related, or how quickly one falls in love with them.  I am trying to socialize them so that they are okay with getting picked up and so that they grow up to be friendly chickens, so what I am doing now is hand-feeding them a little bit of their favorite treat (yogurt mixed with chick starter; I call it "chicken granola") then picking each one up and holding her for a minute or so.  Right now they run and scream and panic when I try to pick them up, but then once I hold them close to my body they settle right down, so I have high hopes.  Then after I'm done traumatizing them I give them more chicken granola, and they immediately forget their trauma and tuck right in.

I don't have a video or photo of the socializing, but here is a video of me hand-feeding them some plain chick starter, and here is a video of them playing a game of Chase with another favorite treat: lettuce.  One of them will snatch the lettuce from my hand and then run around like mad, and the other two will chase her trying to steal the lettuce leaf.  Jenny is usually one to grab the leaf, and it is rare that Barb or Jill successfully steal it from her.  Jenny is the runt of the flock (she is maybe just a day or two younger than the others) but she is brave and wily.

We got a free coop from a friend of mine, and made a slapdash brooder out of two cardboard boxes, thinking, "Well, this is our starter coop, and how often are we ever going to brood chicks?"  But we are already drawing up some plans to build a bigger/better coop this summer, and we're planning to build a reusable brooder next time we brood chicks, because there will unquestionably be a next time.  We clearly need more chickens.

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