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Friday, March 24, 2017

My How They've Grown

Chickies that were "Day Olds" in Feb 2016 and July 2016. All grown up and producing 12-18 eggs a day. Too many predators to let them free range while I'm at work, but they do get an hour or more before work, and longer periods during the weekend.  At least as good as therapy!

(Somehow, the video moniker doesn't always display; however, these are videos.) 

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 And, of course, video of the current batch of babies. I've been bad about posting lately.  In fact, work and work have been pretty all consuming.  But, getting to a better place.  They will be outside on the grass tomorrow before the storm rolls in.  They are definitely  enjoying flying these days.  Going to build them a larger play pen for outside so they can really get some exercise.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 11 - More Photos

Been under the weather, and barely able to keep my own life together, but here are more photos from Saturday, 3/11.  Aren't we cute?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Day 11 - The Little Chickie Photo Op Teaser

Just a teaser today.  Heated my little mini-green house up to 90*F and took a bunch of photos on Sunday (by bunch, I mean hundreds).  They were quite happy at 90*F.  I was sweltering.  Click on the picture to see larger versions of the photos.

What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Eggs from my big girls. Probably from our Buff Rocks.

Showing our attitude.  Am I a Dominique or a Barred Rock?
You can't see my feet, but judging by my feet color, I might be a Dominique.

We've got a secret!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Day 10 - Some real flying

Some real flying going on these days.  And more eating and more pooping, but so far, no more Pasty Butt.  Reducing temps.  Range is from 80 - 98*F so they can choose their temp.  They tend to sleep in the warmer areas of the stock tank, and run around in the cooler areas.  They tend to run around at the same time, eating, and flittering, and making noise.  Then a few will decide it's nap time.  Someone else will see that there are two snuggling down, and then will run over to join.  Then someone else will come running and run on top of everyone and generally unsettle the whole little flock.  Eventually everyone snuggles up with their friends and takes a nap.

Here, they are clearly not in the nap mode!

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I am cutting grass, dandelion leaves and flowers, lemon balm, oregano, and clover into tiny bits and sprinkling it and chickie grit on top of their food a few times a day now.  Not too much of any one thing (don't want to induce PB!) - just so they get a taste for such things.

Summer babies would already have experienced grass (ok, weeds) by this time - but, eh, tornado warnings and then snow?  Yeah, they'll be staying in their little stock tank world for now...

Spent a lot of time outside early this morning (like at sunrise - had a full day in by 9 am) before the snow flurries.  Here are some scenes from our micro-mini farm life from earlier this month.

Wing clipping - Silver Laced Wyandotte - I didn't clip enough of the flight feather tips - this
girl could still fly.  I had to take another inch off before she stopped going over a 6 ft fence.
From earlier in the year - he used to be able to crawl through the steps
and is confused why he no longer fits.

Have a Happy Chickie Day!

Day 9 - Tiny Tail Feathers

Tail feathers are appearing, wing feathers are almost completely in for most of the little ones, and flying is a thing now.  If the weather will cooperate, they will go outside for 15 minutes or so a few times this weekend.  Since my son and I put in a mobile chicken fence system, the big girls have not been hanging out around the house.  Sun, rain, snow should have helped cleanse that area of most chickie pathogens.  Babies will get to play where chickies or chickens have not recently hung out.

See all that beautiful Tennessee rock.  Electric fence and step-in posts? Yeah, not here.  Big girls and one of my roos hanging out.  3 - 2x4x8's create 2 posts.  This is NOT predator-proof, and my girls' who still like to fly have their wings clipped.  I already had 100 feet of this wire fencing, so I used it - it's only 4 ft tall - but if I had to buy the fencing, I probably would go higher.  Even with clipped feathers on one wing, most of the girls could clear a 4 foot fence if they really wanted to.  Their run has 6 foot fencing and the Brown Leghorns go over it with ease if I don't keep their wing clipped.

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Food consumption has doubled.  Water needs to be changed more frequently now because they kick pine shavings in it.  I hand wash the waterers every day - and once a week they get sanitized.  If I need to go minimalist on a day that I have to work an extra long shift, I can get chickie care done in 20 minutes - 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 in the evening.  But if I want to enjoy taking care of babies, it's more like 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 in the evening, and a few minutes to play with them every few hours.

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Little chickies are growing up on Nature's Best Organic Chick Starter.  I love my local Tractor Supply.  Babies will have eaten nearly two 40 lb bags by the time they go to their new homes.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

(No Day 7) Day Eight - Flutter-byes

Posing for the paparazzi after Pasty Butt inspections this morning.  About 20% has a little bit of the butt this morning, but nothing alarming.  This is probably the last bit of it that we'll see.

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Will be lowering temps on the thermostat tomorrow. Will be set to turn off at 90*F and back on at 85*F. So far the girls have eaten about 10 pounds of chickie food and about 1 cup of chickie grit. They've used 50 or so paper towels and about 1/10th of a bale of pine shavings. They go through about 1/2 gallon of water a day. Used pine shavings and paper towels will be added to the next compost pile to become part of the garden that will help feed my husband and I, and my resident hens. The hens, in turn, will produce more compost materials, and food for our doggies and for us. Right now I am giving away about 5 dozen eggs a week at work and still have too many eggs. But then, that's what happens when you have 20 something little biddies!

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No chickies were baked during the setting up and testing of the thermostat and remote temperature sensors!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day Six - Showing Off Pretty Wing Feathers

Babies are totally used to me reaching down and working around them, picking them up, and such. They aren't happy when I actually lift them out of the brooder - I think being away from the flock, colder air, and no walls is still pretty alarming. That will change as they associate being picked up with going outside into a little mini-chickie low tunnel greenhouse that has a lot more space where they can actually fly.

Still having some trouble keeping the temperature adjusted to the best heat - still getting on the warm side right under the heat lamp.  The hottest area gets over 100*F, and the coolest area gets as cool as about 80*F.  The chicks don't worry much, though - the stock tank is big enough that they can choose if they want to be in a warm spot or a cooler spot.  If they are huddled together, they are too cold, if they stand around with their wings spread and panting, they are too hot.  If they are running around like a pack of kindergartners, then the temps are just right. 

Day Five - Doubled in Size

Babies have nearly doubled in size.  Introducing baby chickie grit - just a little sprinkle - in anticipation of chopped up fresh dandilion and clover tomorrow.  Sunday looks like sun & 50*F or so.  May be warm enough to let them play in the little chickie mini-hoop house with some supplemental heat. Crossing my fingers.

And, another Pasty Butt Free day.  Could we be done with Pasty Butt for this group of young ladies?  One can hope!

Had the food and water removed for less than 10 minutes to clean the waterer and put down some fresh bedding.  You would have thought they didn't eat for days with the way they attacked the food when I set it down.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day Four - Fluffy Butts and Popcorn

Seems like I spend a lot of time thinking about Pasty Butts and Fluffy Butts, and the condition of chickie rear ends!  But, in my experience, it is the first indicator that a chick may be in trouble, health wise.  So I am happy to report that all butts were fluffy during inspection today!

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It is amazing to me that by day four, the baby "flight feathers" are already so developed. That's where a lot of the protein in baby (and grownup) food goes - into making feathers. In the next few days the chickies will start going into what is sometimes called "the popcorn stage."  During that stage, when a chickie is startled, it jumps - pops - straight up, feathers all aflutter.  They can pop 2 feet or higher.  I am surmising that this is because four day old chicks are starting to range away from their moms and predators find them quite tasty!  Popping up into a predator's face might startle the predator just enough to allow a chick a quick escape.  And indeed, that is how they try and escape from the brooder, too! 

Click on today's video to watch fluffy butts running around on "fine" pine shavings.  For those of you who hang out at Tractor Supply, it's the stuff in the yellow bales.  $5 a bale on sale, and that will keep two dozen or so babies in clean quarters for about 4 weeks.  Longer if the weather is better and babies can run around on grass and clover for a period of time each day.  Winter babies don't get as much outside time as summer babies, so by the end of this week, I will be finely chopping clover, grass, and lettuce for them.  Of course, with the introduction of grownup food, I'll need to add chickie grit to their diet.  Chickens don't have teeth - they use rough rocks (or in this case, sharp sand) in their gizzard to grind up food.  Processed chickie food turns to mash when they drink water, so no grit needed for that.

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Waterers are on plastic tray lids covered in paper towels. Going to have to start changing the water out a lot more frequently as the little chickies learn to kick and scratch pine shavings everywhere. I suppose I could leave them on paper towels longer, but they do love kicking and scratching around. Maybe it strengthens their little legs? Anyway, by day four, the whole bottom of the brooder is covered in about an inch of pine shavings. For the next few days, unless there is a spilt water issue, I'll be layering another layer of paper towels and another inch of pine shavings each day. Then next weekend we'll do a full clean out, again. If Pasty Butt returns in force, we will clean and sanitize sooner. Side note: Used pine shavings and paper towels will get composted and become end of season garden additions.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Day 3 - Adendum - Cleaning Pasty Butt Chicks

[Warning: Turd and chickie butt photos below]

Not sure why it happens, but my experience is
  • Winter Babies are more susceptible
  •  Usually starts showing up on Day 3
  • If a chick is going to get it, they will usually get it by the end of Week 1
  • By Week 2, it's usually gone
  • Most of the time, a chick will only need one or two cleanings
  • Sometimes a particular chickie has a more long term issue, but is still usually cleared up by Week 2
  • Chickie grit may help reduce the incidents, but I haven't kept good enough records to say that this is conclusively so
  • Chickie electrolytes may help the chickies through the stress of butt cleaning (and shipping and other traumas), but I have had near perfect results of chickies making it to adulthood with and without it
Post cleaning, when put back on it's feet, besides an indignant shake and feather flap, one of the first things that the chickie will do is make a giant (for a chickie) turd.  Pasty Butt really can kill babies by not allowing the waste to leave the body.


The objective is to keep the chick wet and distressed the least amount of time, so prep work is important.
  • Run heater in the bathroom and bring the temp up to 95*F or so
  • Put some pretty warm water in a bowl
  • Tear up large paper towels into fourths and smaller ones in half
  • Some people use Q-tips in place of or in addition to; I don't use them "in place of" because it takes too long.  I don't use "in addition to" because I find that mostly I just knock them on the floor
  • Have some kitchen towels or clean shop rags available to dry off chickies
  • Put sheets of paper towels in the bottom of a box that just barely allows for one and a half times the number of chicks you plan to work on
Identifying Who Needs Butt Cleaning
  • Instead of trying to figure out who needs cleaning and potentially picking up many chicks more than once, I put them all in a box in the brooder (so everyone stays warm), and then remove anyone who is a fluffy butt.
  • Pasty Butts go into the smaller box and are whisked away into the pre-heated bathroom
  • I usually note what breed and how many had Pasty Butt on any given day
[I am right handed; you may wish to reverse the hands if you are left handed.]
  • Make a C with your left hand - you are going to pick up the chick so the their butt is showing through the  C and their head is pointing towards the floor.  You want to fold the legs and wings against the body like how they are when they are sitting on the ground. 
  • Grasp tight enough that the wings and legs cannot flap, but soft enough that they aren't crushed (well, duh).  A firm grip will keep them from struggling.  If they are wiggling, you may be gripping too gently.
  • Turn hand upside down and dunk butt into water.  Hold in the very warm water for 10-15 to 20 seconds, depending how big and hard the stuck on chickie poo is.  
  • Remove chickie's butt from water, pat dry with a paper towel piece
  • Dampen a paper towel piece and use to remove the poo
  • Be careful not to rip the skin or damage the little butt hole, but also make sure to clean well so the next time the chickie poos, it doesn't get caught on left over pieces.  
  • Some chickies will require a second dunking
  • If more than two dunkings of the chickie but in nearly hot water are needed, I let the chickie warm up, dry off, and take an hour or two break.  Usually even if there is still crud on it, they will be able to relieve themself.
  • When clean, I pat dry with a dish cloth, and return to their Pasty Butt flock-mates in their little box
  • Former Pasty Butts are usually pooping like crazy at this point, so if I have more than 2 or 3 Pasty Butts, I check and add a fresh layer of paper towels in their box as needed.
Post Cleaning Care
  • I semi-close the lid of the box or drape a clean dish towel over the top after the last one.  This dims the lighting and usually puts everyone to sleep or at least calms them down.  
  • I keep them in the warm bathroom until they are dry
  • When I return them to the brooder, I set them down one at a time, right in front of the waterer - they are often thirsty and will drink a lot of water at this point
Pasty Butt

Clean Butt

Day 3 - Flight Feathers & Pasty Butt right on schedule

Look, Ma, we're getting tiny wing feathers! Aren't I cute?

I've got a fluffy butt - no bathing for me!

And, the first case of Pasty-Butt right on schedule.  Mama's warming up the bathroom to 95*F and it will be butt cleaning time soon.  We won't like it, but that's how it goes if we want to have fluffy butts!  Babies raised later in the year seem to have less of this kind of problem - but if one wants eggs by late summer, now's the time to be growing up babies!

Little Polish girl on the left looks like she has a ruff around her neck and a fuzzy hat on.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Chickies Day Two

Day Two: Still on paper towels. Temps a little low in the photo because I had just opened up the top to add a new layer of paper towels and to bring fresh, warm water. My experience shows that cold water and temps too cool contribute to pasty butt. I start pasty butt watch on day 3 or 4 as that is when they actually start having some real food in their guts. At this age, they get stuck in the feeders meant for chicks, so I open feed and also put some around on the towels so that shy ones that don't want to compete around the central feeder will also get fed. In a day or two, they will start doubling their food intake and it'll be time to put out the real feeders. I'll stop sprinkling food around, too, as they will start scratching and producing enough of a mess. Right now a new layer of paper towels is added 2 -3 times a day as their chickie poo is not very moist. Tomorrow they will get completely cleaned out, and pine shavings will go down, but with paper towels on 2/3s of it. They are getting less freaked out over hands dropping out of the sky.

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They are already starting to get their tiny wing feathers!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 Chickie Babies Arrived today

Babies arrived today. Picked them up in the wee hours. They'll stay 4 - 6 weeks or so (depending on the weather) and then they will be off to new homes. Love the baby chickie stage!
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Photo above was taken at the post office to verify that everyone made it from Iowa alive and kicking. They were a bit freaked out by the "sky" suddenly opening up on them.

Day One Tips - paper towels work better than pine shavings on day one. Food is easily distinguished from paper towels, and footing is more sure. Also, pine shavings get kicked into the water, and at this stage, little chickies can't easily get to water if I put the waterer on a plate. These metal waterers have seen several generations of babies. And, being metal, they can be run trough the sanitizing setting on the dishwasher at the beginning of each season (or when they get especially icky or we've got a round of pasty-butt).

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Babies are from McMurray Hatchery.  I have ordered from them 4 times over the last several years and have never been disappointed.