The day old chicks we were raising outgrew their cage in the house after about 4 weeks. They were ready to move outside to the barn. They didn’t need the heat lamp any more and were ready for more space and fresher air (the house needed to be aired out by that point as well!).
I used an outdoor pet exercise pen and covered the outside with chicken wire to make sure the chicks couldn’t squeeze out between the bars. I added a wooden crate and a cement block inside to give them something to climb and roost on. The floor is covered with pine shavings to help maintain cleanliness and provide the chicks with something to kick through. The roof over the pen was just a scrap of wood from the barn to prevent them from flying out and any other chickens from getting in.
Four week old chicks out in the barn.
Click through for a video and more photos of the baby chicks.
As you may recall, we lost a hen last spring to what was likely a case of egg yolk peritonitis (EYP). EYP is when the egg does not form properly inside the hen and then the yolk can remain inside the hen and cause an internal infection. EYP is almost always fatal.
A few weeks ago, another of our hens, Mindy, was exhibiting similar symptoms. She was somewhat more lethargic than normal and she was also walking upright like a penguin. We recognized the symptoms from our prior experience. We separated her from the flock.
After last time, we had asked around the area and had been given the names of several local vets who are willing to see chickens. We packed her up in a travel dog crate and took her to the vet at their first open slot.
Mindy in a crate ready for transport to the vet.
Not surprisingly, in the waiting room, we were the only one with a chicken instead of a dog or cat.
After meeting with the vet, the situation was not looking great. Mindy’s abdomen was enlarged and somewhat solid to the touch. The vet could not provide a specific diagnosis and there were a number of possibilities, most of them were very likely to be fatal.
Mindy’s only realistic chance was exploratory surgery. The vet could not provide any likelihood for success because there are very few chicken surgeries (the cost of a chicken is so low compared to the cost of surgery that few people ever take chickens to a vet at all, let alone for a surgery). We opted for the surgery.
Her surgery was the next morning. Click through to see how it turned out. Continue reading →
Chickens like to scratch in the dirt, leaf litter and other areas to look for bugs to eat. To help them exercise their natural instincts, we decided to build a sandbox for the chickens near their coop.
Here is a video of the chickens enjoying their sandbox for the first time last fall. You can see them scratching at the surface and then looking for anything that might be edible.
The construction was very simple and cheap. We used 4 logs from downed trees on our property. We just placed them into a rectangle.
Then, for the sand to fill the sandbox, we used excess sand that was kicked up from the drilling rig when it drilled the holes for our geothermal heating system. I used the loader on the tractor to move the sand. It cleaned up the excess sand in the yard and helped the chickens at the same time.
Chickens explore the sandbox.
Occasionally we rake the top layer if the sand becomes too packed. We also throw some seeds or other food on top of the sandbox to re-generate interest in the sand from the chickens.
You may recall that we picked up a couple of new hens from the NY State Fair earlier in the fall. We quarantined them in the chicken tractor for a few weeks to make sure they settled in to the new area and they were healthy.
After a couple of weeks and no signs of illness, we moved the chicken tractor into the field with the main flock so the new hens could see and smell the main flock while safely in the chicken tractor. Many members of the main flock crowded around the chicken tractor to meet the new hens.
The main flock meets the new hens.
Neither the main flock nor the new hens seemed troubled by each other and we were hopeful that the full integration would be successful.
Sometimes you end up buying something unexpectedly. This can occur anywhere, even (maybe especially?) at the NY State Fair – and fried cookie dough, fried oreos, and other atypically fried foods don’t really count as those are now expected at the fair.
One of our neighbors mentioned that they bought a steam mop at the fair a couple of years ago. At this year’s fair, we even saw the steam mop display, but just walked on by.
However, we did end up with an unexpected purchase from a different area of the fair – the poultry building. As the fair was more than half over, there were a number of chickens on display in the poultry building that were listed for sale. We ended up with 2 new black and white Wyandotte hens!
The seller put them into a small wood and wire crate for transport. I actually just carried the crate with the hens in it right out of the fairgrounds. Although no one tried to stop us or verify the purchase, we did get a lot of strange looks from other fair-goers throughout the grounds and especially on the shuttle bus out to the parking lot.
Two hens in a small crate.
The crate was not very large for 2 hens and the hens kept trying to squeeze out of the gap in the top before we got home.
After a few weeks in the chicken tractor (see http://www.luckypennyacres.org/2016/06/26/baby-chicks-venture-outside/), the baby chicks were old enough to merge into the main flock. To help the integration process, we put the chicken tractor inside the main field where the main flock spends most of its time so all of the chickens could see and get used to the cochins before we merged them together.
We first introduced them into the main coop late in the evening when it was already after sunset and all of the chickens were roosting. Chickens are mostly asleep / zoned out while roosting so the older chickens didn’t make a big fuss and we were able to place the young chicks on the roost bars without any issues.
The chicks were also mostly asleep at the time, but the next morning they took the opportunity to explore the coop.
Click through to read more about their integration into the flock.
A close-up of our baby white bantam cochin chicks.
We are currently raising 3 bantam white cochin hens to add to our flock. Bantams are smaller breeds than typical hens – usually about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of a regular hen. White Cochins are a breed of chicken that has fluffy feathers including feathered legs and feet.
Here is a video of the baby chicks shortly after they arrived home:
Click through for more pictures and information about the baby chicks.