The feeders I received with my “brooder starter kit” worked great for the first couple of weeks. But as the girls have grown I found myself wasting a LOT of feed trying to clean the shavings and poop out of it. For a few days, I just shook out the remains and let them scratch for the food. But I found when I changed out the shavings that most of that just went straight to the bottom.
So I picked up a new feeder last weekend and, so far, it has proven to be a great choice. They do still get poop in the food, mostly because they insist on standing on the feeder. And there are always shavings to clear out. But I’m not having to pour any food out and that makes me very happy!
The brooder is still in the kitchen of the shop apartment. I have access to hot water there as well as electricity. The brooder is on a tile floor and the birds can’t get to the carpet.
I go out at least twice a day to change out the water and check on the birds. I’ve managed to get them outside several times now, but moving them is beginning to be a real challenge.
Last week we spent quite a lot of time in the coop, doing repairs. I wanted the birds out there as well, since we were having some fine weather and it wasn’t too cool for them. With the interior coop renovations at a standstill for now, we’ve moved on to shoring up the areas of concern with the outer coop, which I suppose is more properly called the run.
We’ve learned that the previous owner of our property wasn’t much of a carpenter after all. Most likely, he had a set of plans and a materials list to work from. The idea of this coop is perfect. The framework is all treated lumber, the joints are supported by joist hangers, the central supports are six-by-six posts and the walls are all made of hardware cloth. I don’t know if the hardware cloth goes below ground as it is supposed to, but there is a continuous concrete footer all the way around the perimeter. Most of the construction was done pretty well. But there are warped boards and several have lifted with age and exposure to the heat. And the hardware cloth gaps in several places where it no longer meets the wood.
All of this will need to be corrected to prevent predators from getting to the birds.
It’s been getting increasingly hotter and the humidity has been off the charts. So, working outside presents some challenges. We do have some great shade and take advantage of that when we can. The mini coop sits in the shade, which can be a bit cool for the birds, but works better than putting them in the sun. At least they can get to the upper floor of the mini coop and huddle up when they get cold.
That makes moving them back to the brooder a snap! Just close the door at the end of the ramp and they have nowhere to run.
Except that some of the birds are on to me and know that’s what I want, so they absolutely refuse to go up the ladder.
The last day we worked on the coop, we discovered we would need some supplies and Mike took off for town to grab what we needed before Lowe’s closed. I was busy planting an herb border on one side of the coop. When I finished, I sat down near the mini coop to watch my girls.
By now, all of them understand scratching the ground to expose little delicacies like bugs and worms. The leaves we spread on the coop floor last fall harbor lots of these and the chickens have had a lot of luck adding variety to their diets. Three or four of them also know how to dig out a nice dirty spot for bathing and this is what they were busy at when I sat down. Two had managed to dig holes big enough to fit into and were happy as clams just cuddled into the earth. Overhead, four or five chicks were busily scratching and eating little white worms, calling out in delight each time they discovered something. The rest were huddled upstairs.
I decided this was likely a sign they were too cool and decided to take them back to the brooder.
Thirteen chickens, hereafter referred to as the “good” chickens, availed themselves for easy capture. Three, now known as “those nasty bitches”, did everything in their power to avoid being caught, including trying to fly out the top door while my head was crammed into it!
I transferred the thirteen to the brooder with fresh food and water and went back for the bitches. Lucky for them, two had lost their nerve and were waiting in the upper coop. That last one though…
I started with trying to coax her with food. She was likely full of bugs and worms and not hungry.
I plucked a nice long blade of green grass and wiggled it enticingly before her. She wasn’t in the mood for greens.
I whacked the flat of my hand against the screen and told her to run for it. She shied to one side and turned her back on me.
I found a small stick and attempted to “shoo” her into the other, less open, side of the mini coop. She jumped over my stick and gave me the Polish eye.
By now, I was drenched in sweat and my mood had totally soured. I considered leaving her until she agreed to go upstairs where I could catch her. But I wanted, very much, to be out of jeans and boots and into a swimsuit, parked on a raft in the pool.
I went for a bigger stick. When I got back, she’d changed her mind and was waiting patiently for me to pick her up.
Six of the girls have been named and banded, but I’m waiting on our granddaughters to come out and pick their birds to name, so the majority of them are nameless. They are getting their head feathers and, based on the colors we’ve got, are going to be very pretty birds.
Most know how to fly to the top of the brooder. And they are definitely starting to assign their pecking order. It appears all of the Sussex will be low-roost birds. The Comets, while happy to come forward to have their chests stroked and eat from my hand, are still a bit timid and will likely be middle-of-the-flock birds. One Comet, our “Vee” who is now called Vaisala (after comet 40P, 1939), is the boldest of them but has stopped acting like the mama bird. Surprisingly, the Easter Eggers are the most aggressive and bold of the lot. One in particular, an as yet unnamed and unbanded bird, insists on jumping into my hand any time I reach into the brooder.
I try to pick them all up in turn. I want them to trust that they won’t be harmed and to feel safe being handled. I still feed them by hand, as a treat for me more than anything, which gives me a chance to see the feather development up close and to determine which birds are going to be easily handled.
We stopped using the heat lamp last week after the nighttime temps began to hold above 75°. I turn the kitchen light on each morning and it stays on all day. I turn it off at night and the room goes dark as pitch. Initially, the girls called out in alarm and discomfort, but they now settle in and get totally calm.
I have NO idea what they do after I leave the shop!