Chicken Update

We have a rooster!

A lot has happened in the past week. The girls have grown considerably. Their wing feathers are coming in, and their tail buds are sprouting feathers too. Believe it or not, I think they’ve gotten slightly quieter and significantly less smelly.

We made a trip to a chicken vet last Friday, who prescribed a round of twice daily antibiotics for two weeks to treat the mysterious sneezing, though she acknowledged that it could well be a virus that’s ailing them. It’s hard to tell if the medicine has done the original sneezer, now named Olive, any good. What I can say with certainty is that the other chicks have begun sneezing too, though much less frequently than Olive.

Unfortunately, administering the antibiotics is highly stressful for everyone involved. The chicks hate getting a syringe of peanut-butter-flavored goo down the gullet and have become adept at shaking their little heads back and forth and clamping their beaks shut.  While I hold the bird in one hand and steady its head with the other, Kelly opens the beak and sticks the tip of the syringe past the point where the bird could aspirate the medicine. Yikes! The whole ordeal involves a lot of frantic chirping. When they know they’ve been had, the babies close their eyes, and tremble, and break our hearts.

Real sun and real dirt

The chicks survey the outside world for the first time.

This past weekend, we took the babies outside for the first time and began supplementing their medicated chick feed with fresh greens and bugs. This was at the vet’s suggestion. She informed us that our avian children are at the age where their mother would be showing them the world and introducing them to new foods.

Late Saturday night, Kelly and I went on a garden expedition in search of grubs and greens. We were unable to find the cabbage moth larvae we had hoped to offer them, but we did score several sow bugs, a slug, weedy grass with roots and dirt attached (they adored the dirt!), and a mix of lettuce, spinach, and aphid infested kale.

The babies were uncertain at first what to make of this bounty, but within a few minutes Luma’s curiosity got the best of her. She may be a week younger than the others, but our little Barred Rock has become a fully integrated member of the group. As it turns out, she may also be the most competitive, running frantically around the brooder box to keep her prize bugs away from the other chicks, and snatching choice tidbits out of her sisters’ beaks.

On Sunday, we set up a little round of chicken wire outside in the dirt and leaf litter and let the chicks run around in the sun. Once again, they didn’t know what to do for the first minute or so. They stood in a huddle and blinked up at the sky. It wasn’t long, though, before they started pecking, and scratching, and tearing around after each other.

I’m learning a lot about chicken psychology. For instance, everything is more interesting if another bird already found it. The biggest, fattest, most succulent grub can be sitting three inches away, but the chicks will pass it by repeatedly, until one of them picks it up. From that moment on, they are all hell-bent on stealing it for themselves.

The feeding huddle.

 

Planning the chicken coop

Even with Kelly’s super deluxe, reinforced cardboard box, I’m worried that the chicks may soon outgrow their space. With their new wing feathers, they are making running-hopping-test-flights down the length of the box. They have figured out how to get up on the perch that Kelly installed for them and Luma, in particular, seems to enjoy sitting on it and preening.

I see a coop-making Saturday in our very near future.

2 Responses to Chicken Update

  1. Love the chicken saga! Did I suggest to you Novella Carpenter’s book, Farm City? She has some hilarious chapters on her first brood. I’m jealous, though I can’t imagine doing the “hands-on.” Keep us posted!

    • Thanks, Tricia! I’ll have to check out that book. I’m a bit appalled by how little Kelly and I really know about chickens, so book recommendations are much appreciated.

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