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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.

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