Since we are buying the house we are currently living in, we decided to finally get my chickens. This is our first time raising chicks, so we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into. A couple of weeks prior, I did my research on how to raise chicks, the best way to build their coop, how they can benefit you (besides the eggs). This whole process has been a big learning experience. There is so much information out there, it is hard to know what to follow. I end goal, you get out what you put in. So, I want all natural organic, pesticide free, antibiotic free, GMO- free eggs.
Our options were a little limited on where we could buy our chicks. In the city of Lakewood, we can have up to 16 birds. I knew right off I didn’t want that many on our 9,000 square feet lot. If we ordered from an online hatchery, I would have to order 25! So my ideal amount would be 6-8 birds. I wanted to account for any losses or possible rooster we might have. So, on February 10th we brought home 10 baby chicks from the local feed store. The breeds I picked out were, 3 Silver Laced Wyandottes, 3 Golden Laced Wyandottes, and 4 Easter Egger/Ameraucana chickens. If I do this again, I will try to find someone to order 25 chicks with and split them, that way I can get varieties that the feed stores don’t carry.
I set up my baby chicks in a 55 gallon plastic storage bin with pine shavings, heat lamp, and food and water. The first couple days they were in our living room. We soon realized that the pine shavings are very dusty when they start scratching around. So they quickly got moved into our spare room that is our sons play room. The chicks being in the house only lasted a week, until we decided to move them into the garage because of the dust and smell. With 10 chicks, they start to smell a little like poopie pine shaving smell, it is not the first smell I want to smell walking into my house.
After the first day or so, I noticed one of the Easter Egger chicks just didn’t look good. It wasn’t as active as the others, slept a lot, and wasn’t interested in treats that I feed to the others. It just stood around under the heat lamp and looked mopey. Her wings were droopy to the point that I thought her wings were broken. But when she did manage to get up and go drink or “eat” she would tighten them back up to her body. So what was wrong with her? I segregated her in a separate box, but she just kept jumping out. Was able to observe her poop which looked normal so that ruled out the chicken disease Coccidiosis. Upon further researching, I couldn’t find anything that matched her symptoms. No sneezing or running nose, no breathing hard or gasping for air. Then I came across the failure to thrive. I started to think this might be the chicks problem. But I wanted to give it every chance possible to survive. I started using a syringe to give her water and food. Placing drop by drop at the end of her beak so she would tilt her head back voluntarily and swallow. I started her off with a molasses and apple cider vinegar mix to hopefully give her a sugar rush and give her some energy to eat. For food, I soaked the chick food in warm water then mixed with, plain Greek yogurt, and hard-boiled egg yolk. She ate a really good portion of this. I continued this for about two days. I was weighing her with my scale to track her weight. We started out at 38 grams. But the time Valentine’s Day came around (4 days after I got the chicks) her weight was down to 32 grams. Which in comparison to her brooder mates that were now in the 50-60 gram range. On V-day evening, I decided that she was just wasting away and her condition had gotten worse. She no longer drank the water I gave her and wouldn’t even make an effort to eat the food I would put on the side of her beak. In fact, when I would put her down by the water to see if she would drink by herself, she attempted to but I noticed when she would tilt her head back to swallow it, it looked like she no longer had the function to swallow. She looked like she was gagging and then start panting/gasping for air. I decided it was time to end her suffering.
So, we were down to 9 now. Then, I noticed one of the Wyandottes wasn’t looking like the rest. The wings that were feathered out were really short, stubby and rounded. Then started to do a little research on how to sex chicks based off their wings. Found that Hens have a double set of primary wing feathers that are fairly long and oval like. But roosters on have shorter and stubbier primary feathers and are usually a lot slower to feather their tail out. I suspect the Wyandotte is going to be a rooster. The older he gets the more he is acting like one too. So in a couple of weeks time I guess we will know for sure. I really want him to be able to go to a home that will let him live out his life as a rooster instead of becoming a chicken dinner. So it looks like, if everything else goes as planned and nothing else happens. We will have 8 egg laying chickens.
We have realized a 55 gallon storage bin is a little small for nine 2 week old chicks that are testing their wings out. So, the chicks semi-permanent home is now a green kiddie pool that the husband did a make shift fencing around it to keep them in. We will have to put wire on top here in a couple of days. Last night I was watching my chicken TV and one of the Wyandottes that likes to cuddle or sit on me almost got over the side wire to me. It is so funny, I have noticed there are chicks that don’t want to have anything to do with you. And then there are the ones that all they want to do is perch or sit on you for a little bit, and if you are lucky, get a cuddle or snuggle in, who falls asleep on you.
Looking into the future with our chicken adventure… Tackling building the coop. The count down to get the chickens out into their coop is ticking, faster and faster.