Monday, May 26, 2008

Henny Penny - Week One

Well, today is one week exactly since I received a box of chirping little fuzzy butts. I'll be frank - it's been a tough week. I lost a total of four chicks this week - and I assure you it was not from lack of effort or prayer on my part. I woke up all hours of the night to check on them, hand fed them (and in most cases, force fed them), cleaned more pasty butt than I care to remember, and cried over each and every chick that did not make it. It has been emotionally exhausting. The good news is that the remaining 23 are extremely active and happy right now.

Those little chicks are growing like little weeds! Just a few days ago they started scratching. Now THAT is way too cute to watch! Bernie built them a little roost out of sticks from the yard, and they have really enjoyed learning how to get up on a roost and perch until they fall off. Many are starting to get little tail feathers, and wings are starting to fill out. I just can't get over how very quickly these little fuzz balls grow!

Many of you have asked about the little chick that is looking up in the first pictures I posted. I am happy to report that she is doing just fine. She is still my little baby and comes to my hand when I reach into the brooder. She holds a special place in my heart for sure. She ended up in the Chick Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at one point because she was looking just a little too sleepy for my comfort level. But she took a nap and perked right up. I marked her face with a green magic marker and returned her to the rest of the flock. She's still the tiniest of the group, and she's still so dad-gum cute you could just kiss her wings right off her. My girlfriend said she looks like a "Lucy", so I named her Lucy. Here she is, green magic marker and all:


And just look at her tiny little White Faced Black Spanish butt in this picture:


Lordy, that's a cute one there! Here's a picture of another cutey. She also ended up in CICU for acting sleepy. I marked her head red, but you can barely see it now. She's a Golden Penciled Hamburg and really small as well, but she's really active:


And here's a picture of either a Phoenix, or a Silver Leghorn. All of the pictures I could find of both these breeds look very similar as chicks, so I can not yet tell which is which. But they are just adorable little chicks and cute as little buttons:


If you compare the wings and tails of the last two, you can see that Lucy is developing a little slower. But what she lacks in development, she makes up for in spunk and personality. The other White Faced Black Spanish chicks are pretty friendly and curious as well. At this point, I am really impressed with the Spanish chicks. Every chick in the brooder is just adorable, but the Spanish chicks are a little more friendly at this point.

For those of you that have written me to say you are planning to order chicks, here are a couple of things I would have done differently and you may learn from:

1. I would have taken pasty butt a lot more seriously. Pasty butt is caused by poop that ends up hardening around and clogging the vent (anus) of the chick. I had read about it, but had no idea how serious or common it can be. It can kill your chick. I would have checked the vent of each chick as I removed them from the shipping box to put them in the brooder - and I would have inspected each chick for pasty butt every day for the first three or four days. Drop me a personal email if you would like to know how I dealt with pasty butt. It's an "on request" answer as I'm fairly certain the general readership of this blog has no desire to hear those details.
2. I would have devised the CICU a little earlier and started putting chicks in it the minute they looked less active than the others so I could more closely monitor them.
3. I would have spent a lot more time making sure that each and every chick understood how to eat and drink. Believe it or not, knowing what to eat and drink is a learned behavior for chicks that is normally taught to them by Mama Hen. When you order chicks, YOU are Mama Hen!

I'm sure I'll learn a lot more things along the way - and I'm certain most of these will be the hard way. I'll be sure to share these with you. While it's impossible to know everything you need to know about everything concerning chicks before you get them, it's sure nice to at least learn a little from people who've made mistakes along the way so you don't end up making the same ones.

Baby chicks are a little stressful, but they are worth every minute of it. They are so much fun to watch and it's amazing to see how they change daily. Soon my chicks will be headed out to the coop. I'm just dreading that. Bernie suspects I'll sleep in the coop with them the first night. He distinctly remembers waking up a few years ago with a baby goat in our bed that I couldn't stop worrying about. But that's another story for another time.....

Bee Free,


Darrell said...

This makes you a "chick angel"! :) said...

That's sweet! But I'm pretty sure I know about 23 little feathered friends that would not agree. They protest loudly when I have to pick them up to care for them or clean pasty butts - and I'm fairly certain the word "angel" doesn't escape their little beaks ;-)