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Our baby chicks are now 8 weeks old! See how they've grown, learn where they were born, their breed, what great layers they are and see their new (unfinished) coop.
8 Week-old Chickens: An Update
Our four chickens are eight weeks old. (For those that missed it, we got 4 baby chicks, in early October).
At first, we kept them in a file-size, cardboard box. A 100-watt lightbulb kept things a toasty 85°F for the fragile tweeters. Gradually, we reduced the wattage down to 40-watts.
Just like human babies, the baby chicks ate a lot, slept a lot (and pooped a lot). The peeped a bunch too. The louder they peeped, the unhappier they were. They became used to people, as we pulled them out and let them bumble around the house (till they pooped, at which time, it was 'back to the box').
We discovered their breed and even where they were born. They've long since outgrown their cardboard box and (soon) will be moving into their new digs.
To get the scoop ... read on ...
Going to the Birds
I'm not sure which astounded us more; how much the tiny chicks ate, how rapidly they grew, or how much waste they generated! It wasn't long before the file box was too small for our fine-feathered tots! Fortunately, we had acquired a large(ish) bird cage, when we bought the property and the 4-week-old brood, was moved into this wire abode.
During this time, they stayed in the house, on the dining room floor. We did this in an effort to keep them warm. There's two things that are bad about keeping chickens in the house: the smell and the noise (they peeped, pecked and squawked an awful lot, during the night).
Oddly, the cat wasn't too interested in the birds. He salivated over them briefly, shortly after they arrived, but not for long. (His interests seem to focus on warm laps, good food and sleeping ... chickens aren't on the list).
Rachel wanted the birds out of the house, but Alex and Scott managed to argue in their defense, so they stayed indoors a couple of weeks longer than Rachel wanted. Eventually (prior to the arrival of overnight guests), the birds were moved into the garage.
Talk about dirty! Yites ... there were little balls of downy fluff everywhere in the dining room. Rachel was happy to get the floor clean, but it took a couple of days for the room to air out so that it didn't smell so 'coop-ish'.
We'd already taken 3 trips to the feed store, to buy bulk bags of 'starter feed'. We never thought 4 tiny chicks could eat through a 40-pound bag, so we'd been buying small, lunch-sized bags of the stuff. After our third "emergency" trip to town for feed, we finally paid for a 40-pound bag. (It comes as either mash, crumbles or pellets.) We opted for crumbles, as the mash gets everywhere and they can't handle the pellets yet, because they're too tiny.
The New Coop
Scott's been working (when he has time, it's not raining, not working on the Internet, watching Alex, catching squirrels or repairing alternators ... i.e., sporadically) on building a new coop. While we did inherit a coop-type building, it's one of the only "dry storage" areas we have, so thought it best to keep it as such.
The new coop is roughly 4-feet by 8-feet and will hold up to 8 birds. The frame is made, wire mesh laid down, roof put on and electrical wiring added (light and heater coil to keep the water from freezing). All that's left is the back side, doors, 2 nesting boxes and a feed/water setup.
In other words, by next summer, our birds should be in their new coop!
One of the big advantages of the new coop (besides allowing us to keep our outbuilding), is that everything (water, egg collection & feeding) can be done from outside the coop. Another feature - the raised mesh floor - means that we don't have clean out very often. Waste just piles up underneath and by the time it needs cleaning, it will be (mostly) fertilizer! (That's the theory, anyway.)
Our birds aren't just any birds! They're well traveled, having been born in Alberta *appropriate "ewe-ing" and "ahh-ing" sounds*.
The breed was a bit of a mystery (our benefactors hadn't relayed the information, nor had we thought to ask). We figured they might be Rhode Island Red, based on their color ... but they weren't a solid red. As their primary feathers grew, they appears mostly red, but with distinct splotches of white or cream.
One night, while Scott was ripping up old cardboard boxes, he happened upon the box, in which we were given the chicks. It had a packing slip, but it only spoke about the care we should provide (would have been nice to have spied that early on). There was, however, a cryptic tag on the side that said "49 Sex-sal-link-brn-pullets-XXX" (couldn't make out the last bit). The key clue, was the return address: Rochester Hatchery, Westlock, AB.
A Internet search revealed the hatchery website, which had "Sex-Sal-Link Browns" (also called DeKalb or ISA Browns) in their product line. (For more information than you can shake a stick at, head to Hendrix Genetics Company, where the breed was developed).
Turns out, we were half right, as an ISA Brown is a hybrid brown-egg layer, which is a mix of Rhode Island Red and Rhode Island White chickens. They're known for high egg production (300 eggs per hen, their first year of laying).
So now we know where our chicks were born, who their parents are, where they're going to live and that we'll get lots of brown eggs! We'll have to take them on a road trip to Alberta, when they're older, for a family reunion.