Thursday, May 24, 2012

Integrating Chicks – Can’t We All Just Get Along?

With much trepidation, I took both sets of chicks out of their brooders and put them together in one big dog cage brooder.   The Silkies were 5 weeks old and the new girls (Easter Egger, Buff Oprington and Barred Rock) were 2 weeks old.   I put in the Silkie’s sand box that they love and a new sand box for the little girls.  I added the two feeders and two watering stations

From this --

 To this --

I pulled up a chair and sat and watched.  Each group went to a side of the cage and huddled together looking totally stressed out.  This lasted about a ½ hour, nobody moving very far from their team.  Then, little miss sweet Fluffy started pecking up a storm at the news girls feet.  I totally thought she’d be the last to bully.  I put some cut-up apples in the brooder knowing it would distract the Silkies for a bit and the new girls just huddled together in the corner looking totally freaked out.

After the apples were gone, the pecking started right back-up.   Now what the hell do I do?  The new girls were so much smaller than the Silkie’s.  After researching online, I find out the chicks should be the same size before you integrate.  What?  I guess I should of looked into this before integrating.  Keeping up two brooders was not something I wanted to do, plus the new girls were outgrowing their brooder fast, so they were going to have to get along.

Then it dawned on me we had another smaller dog cage.  I took a side to that dog cage and put it down the middle of the big cage.  The big girls were on one side and little girls on the other side.  Whew!  It worked out great because the little ones could fit through the gate and go over and check out what the big girls were up to, but could run back to their side if they needed to get away.  It was driving the Silkie’s mad they couldn’t get to the other side as they were too big.  The first one to go over and check out the Silkies was our Easter Egger, she intently watched one of the Silkies take a dust bath.  My daughter decided to name the Easter Egger “Brave” because she was the first to venture out from the other side.

Goldie sneaking over to steal some of the Silkies food.

I kept them separated for a few days, at that point the little ones were going back and forth pretty freely.  I thought the separating panel could come down.  I took it down and all hell broke loose again.    This time I put it back up but tied it to the top of the cage so the Silkie’s could get back and forth too, but not super easy.  I did this for two more days.  It seemed odd to me they could each go to the other side, but for some reason, they liked that divider there.  Then one night I saw ALL the chicks huddled together sleeping in the Silkie’s sandbox.  I swear I was like a proud momma, I just couldn’t believe it.    After that night I took the separation gate down and they’ve been getting along just great ever since.   They still pretty much sleep in their sand boxes, Silkies on their side and new girls on their side.

If anyone is combing chicks a couple weeks apart, I highly recommend the set up of the larger dog cage with the separation gate between the flocks, it really worked out great.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother Robin & Her Babies - Happy Mother's Day!

We were fortunate enough this spring to have a robin lay her eggs in a nest that happened to be eye level off our deck. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The New Girls - A Rocky Start

We picked up our three new chicks, an Easter Egger (“EE”), Buff Orpington (“BO”) and Barred Rock (“BR”) from Belmont Feed.  Once home we placed them in the small brooder where our Silkies lived for their first two weeks.  Being a novice chicken keeper, I was thinking I’d just separate the Silkies from the new girls for just a couple days, then integrate them.  Now that I had the new chicks, it was definitely going to be more than a couple days before integrating the two flocks.  The Silkie’s were huge compared to the new tiny girls.

3 week old Silkies on left - New chicks on right

So now in our dust filled dining room I had two brooders going, one with our three week old Silkies and the other with our new mixed chicks. 

I was up late cleaning the day after we picked up the new chicks and as I was headed off to bed, I checked on them one last time and noticed something was off.   The BO just didn’t look right.  I had been noticing throughout the day that the EE and BR were snuggling and eating/drinking together, but the BO just seemed on its own, mostly face down sleeping.   She was very unsteady and just could not keep her eyes open.  I do know that chicks fall asleep standing up, but something was wrong.  I pulled up a chair to watch through the little brooder window to observe some more, my sleep would just have to wait. 

After watching more closely, I noticed that in a matter of a day, it looked like the BR and EE had already grown, but not the BO.  I had been checking for pasty butt throughout the day and found all the girls did have a little, the BO did have more than the other two chicks.  Upon checking her again, I noticed her vent (where they poop from) was sticking out a bit.  I’m not certain whether this was my fault from maybe being a little too rough with cleaning or if it happened on its own.  Now in a panic at 12:30 a.m., I boot up the laptop and turn to BYC  for some trusty advice.  I sat for ½ hour just watching to see if she'd poop and she didn’t.   Upon the advice of BYC, I put a Q-tip in Vaseline, then gently inserted into her little vent (she didn't like that).  I put her back into the brooder, meanwhile the EE and BR kept pecking at her face.  They just wouldn’t leave the poor girl alone.    I took the BO out again and filled a little bowl some water with Sav-A-Chick and Probiotics.  She drank a ton, then her eyes literally popped open and she had a small poop.  Hooray!    

 I can’t tell you how excited I was that she perked up, what a relief.   As soon as she finished her water she started chirping and didn’t stop - like 45 minutes of non-stop annoying chirping.  I put her back in the brooder so she wouldn’t get cold and the EE and BR started totally bullying her again.   It was now 2 a.m. I decided this was out of my hands and in the hands of Mother Nature; I did what I could to help her.  Off to bed I went with a nagging feeling that I was going to wake up to a dead chick.  I was sick to my stomach.

I came downstairs early the next morning so I would beat my 6 year old to finding a dead baby chick and low and behold, she was just fine.  I don’t know if it was the Vaseline, the Sav-A-Chick or what, but thankfully she seemed okay.  She’s still a little smaller than the other two, but they now all seem to get along.  I laugh that she’ll probably end up being the biggest, yet for now she’s the most petite.

I do have to tell you that the novelty of getting pooped on has worn off a bit with the family.  Even with using old towels, the chicks always seem to miss the towel and poop on your hand.   These new guys are not getting as much TLC as the Silkies did or as many visitors.   Therefore, I do try to make sure this new batch is used to getting their cheeks pinched and cuddled as much as possible. They really are just so incredibly precious.  This is the cutest they will ever be. 

Meet the new girls.

BO (2 week old)

BR (2 weeks old)

EE (few days old)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chicks in the House

The excitement, the preparation, the unknowing of how will I know how to take care of these little creatures was not that unlike bringing home a new baby, okay maybe not a baby, I guess more realistically a puppy =).    Oh my goodness, these tiny narcoleptic fuzzy butts are adorable.  When they say these chicks grow over night they are not kidding.  At first, I thought there was just no way to tell these four chicks apart, but within a matter of a day or two, they each started talking on their own distinct looks and personalities.

Being that these four Silkies are not sexed, at day 1 we were already guessing who the rooster(s) would be, I hope there aren’t any, but the odds would mean there is probably at least one or two.  We think two!

Lilla already with attitude
Lilla has been the biggest since the first day, she was the only one we could tell apart.  She is always eyeballing everyone, poor little Fluffy just avoids eye contact and scurries away when Lilla tries to show her who is boss.   Look out when it comes to those meal worms, she’s a vulture.  She makes the most noise when out of the brooder.  We have our suspicion that Miss Lilla might actually be a roo.


I swear Sarah started getting her foot feathers before any of her other feathers, it’s hysterical, you see this little tiny chick with these crazy feathered feet.  Sarah is the second largest and so pretty.  Not the friendliest and squawks quite a bit when out of the brooder.  We suspect that Miss Sarah might be a roo.


Super sweet and certainly more petite than Lilla and Sarah.   Snowflake and Fluffy are nearly the same size, but Snowflake has an odd little brown patch next to hear beak.  She doesn’t mind being held at all, but talks quite a bit.

Surfer Girl Fluffy


The most petite of the flock and absolutely beautiful, super sweet disposition as well.  She’s my daughters favorite so she gets the most cuddle and picture time.

The chickens have been handled so much, I really hopes it pays off later.  They are such scaredy cats, the first time I put chopped up strawberries in a little bowl for them it took them ½ hour to figure out it was a delightful treat.  They all ran around like crazy, like oh my gosh, something new is in here, now what do we do.  I wish I would of seen who took the first bite, because after that it was a total ruckus of each chick trying to get the most strawberries.  The most hysterical thing is that they’ll chase each other for what’s in the other chicks beak when there is an entire dish of strawberries at their feet – not the smartest. 

They really are a sweet cohesive group, they all snuggle-up to sleep in the sand, not because they are cold, I think they just take comfort in being snuggled up together.  I’m happy to say that there really hasn’t been any major drama. They really do make me laugh, who would of thought!

They are 1 month old today.  We have a mixed batch of three chicks that are one week old, an Easter Egger, Buff Orpington and a Barred Rock that will be joining them in the big girl brooder shortly.  I’m anxious about that, the Silkies seem to get on so well, I can only imagine the drama of adding the new girls.