Eviction Order For The Chickens

Finally! We have finished the chicken coop enough so the chickens could move out of the garage and into their new home. We still have to finish a few things, but ultimately the coop is finished enough to ensure the safety of the chickens and provide them protection from the elements.

The chickens are 8 weeks old now, and have been handling the nightly temperatures of mid to low 40s well. I still haven’t let them out into the run during the day while we are both at work. I want them to learn that the coop is where they go for food, water, shelter. I have noticed since we moved them out, they still aren’t quite sure where to go for their water and food. I will have to call them into the run and then only a couple have caught on to go up the temporary ramp to get water. But then again I am planning on moving their food and water out of the inside of the coop anyways. Plus I still need to show them they need to go inside the coop when it is time to roost.

Part of me wants to really keep the rooster we mistakenly got at the feed store. I can see the benefits of keeping him. But city code says no roosters. There is this thing called a “No Crow Rooster Collar” But the Husband thinks even with the collar it will still disturb the neighbors and he doesn’t want to risk it. The benefits that I see him providing is the added protection to the girls. I can already see him starting to protect his backyard. There was a Blue Jay that landed in the yard and he was the point of the spear with 4 other chickens following him by chasing this Blue Jay out of their yard. Then Mr. Husband came home from work (he is a Fed Ex courier) and he came into the back yard carrying a package for “D” and the rooster ran to the gate to investigate this stranger with a hat on that was coming into his yard. Another benefit is that we can replenish our flock when we want too by allowing a hen to raise a couple chicks. Only thing I am truly worried about is it bugging the neighbors and then if he turns out to be overly protective or aggressive and attacks “D”. The neighbor to the right of us hasn’t been all that friendly to start off with. She hated our dog, even though he was the best dog ever that never barked at a thing. You wouldn’t know we even had a dog, he was so quiet. She made it known she didn’t like him and would loudly talk about us getting rid of the dog or how much she hated him. Mr. Husband caught her the other day spying over the fence at the chickens. So I am sure she is cursing the gods over the recent addition to our yard. The neighbors to the left of us don’t live in the house because they are elderly and live in a nursing home. The neighbors to the back of us I am sure don’t care. But it is the neighbor to the right of us I am sure would turn us into the city faster than her fingers could dial the phone if she knew we have a rooster.

I am already super excited about the benefits I am seeing from having the chickens. Our old and neglected garden beds that are filled with weeds and covered in old leaves have been brought back to life and look amazing from all the scratching they have been doing. The awesome part is I haven’t lifted a finger to pull a weed or rake it out! I really should take some before and after pictures of the work they are doing. I just recently convenience Mr. Husband that having chickens work a compost pile is beneficial. Slowly but surely I am spreading all the knowledge I have read to others. I am still trying to convenience my parents about the benefits of putting mulch on garden beds. Cover your soil people or nature will with weeds!  (Granted I haven’t gotten around to doing it, but then again we just became home owners a month ago) I am trying to get on a “chip list” for a local tree cutting service so our house can be a dump spot for a couple truckloads of chips. Then I can start covering my beds with free wood chips! This is a small portion of a conversation that I had with Mr. Husband of why I want to start composting our yard waste, instead of hauling it away. “The biggest take away from composting is that it rebuilds your soil. Today’s world hasn’t been rebuilding their soils, which is why we get soil erosion=landslides/inability to replenish ground water=drought=less drinkable water, nutrient depleted soil=nutrient depleted food=nutrient deficient humans. Why give away/haul away $$$$….Take mom and dad for example, they are ordering 5 yards of compost soil mix. That is $230 + Taxes+ delivery charge. Plus we have chickens meaning….. They do the work (turning the pile, aerating it), their poop adds nutrients to the compost, less we have to feed them in chicken food because of the bugs they find in it.” He is under the impression that a compost pile will stink, well that is only if you add things you aren’t supposed to and it is out of balance between nitrogen and carbon. Compost is supposed to smell like dirt or earth, and it will if it is being managed right. He is also wants it confined in a container. This has a disadvantage because the chickens can’t get to it to turn it and find bugs in it, which means it will be more work on our part having to manually turning it. Granted we will have to pile it back up every once and a while. Plus it will take a lot longer for it to decompose if it isn’t exposed to the elements. I might have to do a journal on it.

Looking ahead…

  • Do the finishing touches to the chicken coop and start a chicken garden around the coop with beneficial herbs and plants for chicken health.
  • Start doing some garden work and block off my garden area I don’t want the chickens in and scratching up.

 

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Almost ready to move the chickens in. Just need to lay down the pine shavings and hang the food and water.

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Almost finished. Just needs a coat of paint.

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The chickens first morning in the coop. They all look to be happy and in good health.

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Some of the chickens enjoying a good dirt bath in the somewhat warm sun. This is one of my neglected garden areas. You can see they have started to work this area along the fence lines. This area tends to be over taken with crab grass, weeds, and bindweed during the summer months. I will be interested in how much the chickens can tame in the coming months. The battle with bind weed has been a three year battle that I am slowly making progress with.

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A Chicken wants to help “D” pick me some dandelion flower so I can make an infused oil with them.

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Mr. Husband, the Fed Ex guy delivering “D” his package and the Rooster has come to see who has come into his yard. You can see to the left the chickens have been working that neglected bed. They have scratched all the leaves out onto the lawn and have been working on the weeds. There is a little bed over by the down spout with the flower pots that they have been working on controlling the weeds, which looks like they have done a good job with.

 

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Building The Chicken Coop

The Chicken Coop…. just those words is like teeth grinding or the high pitched squeal/scream of a three year old that hurts your ears so bad your eyeballs feel like they shrivel and ear drums explode in repercussion.

It has almost taken us a month to get our chicken coop done, could have been done faster if it wasn’t for the fact it has literally rained every day since we started (expect one nice sunny day that I remember vividly). Most of the work has been Mr. Husband spending his weekends working hard on it. A 7 month pregnant lady is limited to the amount of lifting and things that can be accomplished. I have mostly been doing the painting, helping of measuring, or just general supervising. So really, I can’t take any credit for getting this monster built. I have to give my husband mad kudos, Atta boy,  and props for building this huge and amazingly awesome chicken coop.

My initial plan for the coop was, I wanted the coop itself to be 6ft x 6ft, have 2 ft available under the coop, with a total length of 14 ft total for the run (including the 2 ft under the coop). Some people may think this is huge for a back yard chicken flock, I know Mr. Husband did. I wanted a nest box that had enough space for three separate nesting areas. I nest box door that flips down instead of up, so the kiddos can collect eggs. Have the coop/run be tall enough I could walk in. The coop made to support a deep litter system, with a door or flap that flips down that I can easily rake out litter. Vinyl flooring on the coop floor for easy cleaning. Two human doors that open up with windows in each. Good ventilation and windows. A hen door that can be opened by a pulley system. Oh and a roofing system that will eventually allow me to collect rain water from. Sounds like a huge laundry list of things that I want. So far, Mr. Husband has been able to deliver everyone of these and then some! “Happy wife, Happy life” right?!

Before I got the chickens, I did some research first on our city code and regulations for keeping chickens. Looked it up on the City Hall website, and called just to verify. It stated, “Animals in Residential Districts. 1.) A minimum setback of ten (10) feet from all property lines shall be required for all hutches and twenty (20) feet for all pens, coups, aviaries, similar enclosures, and free-range areas. 1.) No more than sixteen (16) poultry, birds or rabbits and similar mammals shall be permitted per acre.” The no more than 16 poultry per acre, was what was throwing me off, which is why I called to verify. We live in the suburbs and most houses in our area have on average, less than .25 acres. So I decided I wanted about 6 chickens.

Now, that I determined how many chickens I wanted, I needed to find out how much space does a chicken really need? Well this has different variables to consider. Like, will I have heavy breeds (Barred Rocks or Buff Orpingtons), or small/light breeds (bantams). So cramming a heavy breed in a 1 square foot area and expect them to be happy, isn’t ideal. (Let’s not get on the subject of living conditions of the chickens in the egg and meat industry) Some other things that need to be factored is, how much outside time will they get? Will I want room to add to my flock at some point?

Based off of multiple sources, it is suggested to have at least 4 square foot of floor space inside the coop per chicken, with at least 10 square foot room in the run per chicken. So, here comes the math… I wanted 6 chickens, 4 sq. ft. per chicken would be 24 sq. ft. total. for the run that would be 60 sq. ft. total. With my coop plans, I would have 36 sq. ft available for the coop and 84 sq. ft. for the run. Plenty of room if I got my 6 chickens. But I didn’t get just 6… shame on me! I initially got 10. I wanted to factor in mortality rate and rooster probability. As of date, 1 mortality and 1 rooster. So, I will be at a total of 8 chickens. With my design I don’t have room for flock growth. But then, I considered over time there would be at least a couple casualties to predators (we have raccoons, hawks, eagles, coyotes, cats and dogs).  Cats have already shown to be a problem, as well as a few bald eagles. So with my 8 projected chickens I will need to have 32 sq ft in the coop and 80 sq. ft in the run. I just squeaked by. Isn’t planning ahead great! Hopefully, my space allocations will provide for some happy chickens. They will get to free range for a couple hours a day and pretty much all day on weekends during the summer. Winter time they might not get as much time to free range.

Next step in the planning process was how do I want it to look? I took inspiration from the Carolina Coops and the Whichita Cabin Coops. We really didn’t draw anything out, we just kind of went with my original plan and told Mr. Husband how I wanted it when he started to build that part of it. Maybe in the future we will put together a Coop tour and how-to, step by step. Mr. Husband doesn’t have much experience or a professional on building or constructing buildings, and this is his first really big project. But I have to say he has truly amazed me in his abilities and made my dreams/plans come true in more than one way. 😉

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Laying out the foundation and making sure it is level. The neighbors cat that has become a problem already with the Chickens. It got squirted with the hose a couple times for “lurking” while the chicks were out.

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About 50% done. The structure is done, three sides are up, the nest box framed, windows are cut out, vinyl flooring installed, and half painted.

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Working on installing the roof. Installed the deep litter clean out flip down door.

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So close, but still far from being done. Most of the hardware cloth is now installed, just need the walk in door for run. The two human doors are installed, but still needs the finishing touches added, the window covers are installed (will be changed to Polycarbonate Sheets or Plexiglass Sheeting) Painting still needs to be finished. The chickens haven’t moved in yet, but hopefully will soon!

6 Week Chicken Update

Can’t believe the Chicks are 6 weeks old! They look like little chickens now. The journey with them has been quick. A blink of my eye and they are already chickens and 6 weeks have gone by.

Some notable moments since my last post when the chicks were 2 weeks old. Their individual personalities are showing. I have a few chickens that are very attached to me. They will be the first to the front of the brooder box “gate” to get their morning/bedtime pets or scratches. Then there is the rooster that I am 95% sure is one. He is still fairly sweet and friendly to me. Will investigate my hand and occasionally want to “cuddle” with me. Then there is one hen or suspected rooster that is the only one out of the 9 that will aggressively peck at my hand and doesn’t want to have a thing to do with me. If I get rid of the rooster or process him, this hen will have the same fate if she doesn’t knock it off. I am not going to have an aggressive hen.

I had to upgrade their food container. My favorite hen got her head stuck and ended up getting all contorted, luckily I was home to help her. Plus, I was getting tired of cleaning out their pine shavings from their food trough that they were scratching in there. Found an old plastic coffee canister, cut 2 inch diameter holes in it, drilled some holes in the top to hang it by. *Lesson Learned for next time, drill the holes higher so I can put more food into it.* I have noticed that when they get to spend a couple hours outside, it cuts their food consumption down.

I also got tired of constantly changing their water container as well.Which I used a 1 qt water base, with a mason jar on it. I changed this to an old vinegar bottle and drilled some holes to install chicken nipples into. These work well, however I don’t like the fact that when they drink, more than is needed comes out causing water spillage. This isn’t good in the pine shavings which gets soaked and then start to smell bad. So I have a little counter clock-wise raking system going on in their pool. Which then, I add fresh shavings under the water. The chicken nipples might work better in the chicken run, once that gets finished, or I might try out the chicken watering cups.

They have become used to getting treats in the morning when I come out to check on them. Lately, If I don’t bring anything out for them, they are a little loud and protests about their unhappiness, until I leave for the morning. I will usually give them leftovers or fix them something special. Most mornings it has been some sprouts, strawberry tops, old smashed berries, scrambled egg, or a handful or two of mixed salad greens. Occasionally, they will get leftover blueberry pancakes, fruit and yogurt that little “D” didn’t eat, leftover meals that has been in the fridge longer than what I feel comfortable eating (green beans, butternut squash, and chicken breast… shhh they don’t know they are cannibals), Butternut squash leftovers after we scraped out the flesh, left over sweet potato, leftover oatmeal, and whatever else I have laying around. If it has been raining outside all day or if I can’t take them outside then I will grab a handful or two of weeds or dead leaves and throw in their pool brooder.

After 6 weeks they are almost out of their chick starter food, so I am going to go ahead and buy their grower feed, which you can switch over at 8 weeks. I am trying to find someone that carries Cluckin’ Good Organic Herbs from Scratch and Peck, Cluck’n Sea Kelp by Treats for Chickens, and Cluckin’ Good Organic 3-Grain Scratch from Scratch and Peck. I have a little bit before they will need this. Might have to order a few things online.

Oh and just this week they have started losing their “chick” feathers and are getting their adult plumage. I didn’t know that they did this. I just thought that when their started growing their feathers that those were their adult feathers. Showed me differently, I was a little concerned that my Silver Laced Wyandottes (SLW) weren’t looking like the traditional SLW. Oh! The three golden laced wyandottes that I supposedly got from the feed store, are just SLW. They messed up some how. Luckly, they were the same prices. So looks like I will have 6 SLW and 3 Easter Eggers (EE).

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Nothing beats a chicken hug. Little “D” was having a rough day and wasn’t wanting any consoling from me. So I asked him if he wants to hug a chicken. This little EE, helped him get out of his slump. 

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Don’t mind the 7 month pregnant belly shot. The chicks were enjoying the first sunny day in what felt like forever. 

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My favorite hen, she is an EE and starting to get her beard/muffs. I also think she is top hen right now.

How I am Raising My Chicks

How am I trying to raise my chicks all natural, organic, GMO-free, and antibiotic free?

Why I feel it is important to start my chicks off as natural as possible? What you put into them, you will get out when they start laying. If they start with a healthy immune system and have eaten nothing but natural organic food that is antibiotic free and GMO-free, they will pass the healthy benefits to their eggs. Which you consume and eat as well. So, if you are feeding the crappy and processed food that is loaded with chemicals, you will end up eating the same chemicals and bad stuff that your chickens are. Everything is connected in our food chain, you are what you eat. You eat healthy food, you become healthy.

So where to start? Well since I am new to raising chickens and just recently started, I am not claiming to know everything or a professional chicken raiser. In theory, based off of lots of research and what I am currently doing, only time will tell if what I am doing is good or bad. So far, I have already made a mistake. Best advice I can give you… Know your goals and what you want your end result to be, do your research, and LISTEN to your gut.

In theory, everything born pretty much doesn’t have much of an immune system or digestive gut health. So, how does one go about increasing baby chick’s immune system?  Starting out with a good feed starter. I would recommend the Naturally Free Starter from Scratch and Peck. Initially, when I went to pick up my chicks from the feed store this is what I was going to get. But from much pressure and nah-saying from the store attendant and being a newbie that lacked confidence in my research and newly found knowledge, I was half convinced to get another brand. The store attendant suggested I get the medicated chick starter, which I declined and got Purina® Organic Starter-Grower. Still organic, but it was processed. I ended up kicking myself in the butt and went back and got my Scratch and Peck Chick Start feed. So, now I have two feeds that I need to get rid of. So what I am doing is mixing them, half and half.

After you have your feed you can start to ferment your feed and slowly get your chicks used to eating it. I didn’t have a problem with picky chicks not wanting the fermented food. Mine absolutely devours the fermented food first and then eat the dry mixed food until I give them more fermented food.  Why is fermented food good for your chicks, in short response it provides beneficial enzymes to help digestion, adds beneficial probiotic, and increases the nutrient content from the food, so they need/eat less. For my chicks’ water, the feed store had them on chick/chicken probiotics which I have them on, but just a little bit of that, and I add Apple Cider Vinegar and a little piece of a garlic clove to their water. The first couple days I had them on plain Greek yogurt mixed with hard-boiled egg yolk with some chick feed soaked in water. I did this up until my fermented feed was ready (about 3 days).  I will occasionally give them a little bit of yogurt mixed with dry food, cooked rice, or plain oatmeal. (Honestly, just trying to get rid of the little yogurt cup I bought at the store and don’t want it to go to waste.) When I noticed our sick chick (refer to Beginning Our Chicken Adventure post) I did an oregano tea for their water for 24 hours. Oregano is known to be a natural antibiotic. Looking into the future… Going to get my chicks to eat fresh/dried oregano to their feed.

There is a lot of nah-sayers out there that say not to feed your chicks anything but their special chick starter food. (How B-O-R-I-N-G!!!) So, I look to nature to see what should be done. Honestly, mother Hen has those chicks scratching around in the dirt and the great outdoors pretty much from day one. I think, why not mine? I have been providing them with the best digestive enzymes and probiotic out there. Why not some added beneficial soil microbes and actual bugs and worms? Granted we are still in mid-February where temps haven’t been getting above 50 degrees during the day. But I figure at least 10-20 minute breaks to be actual chickens won’t hurt. (If they start to show signs of stress or too cold they go back inside.) So far, they love it and I haven’t seen any negative effects yet. Another thing that I do is, since it is spring there is an abundance of chickweed in my garden beds. (They don’t call it chickweed for nothing.) It has a high nutritional value, which is high in Vitamin C, GLA an omega-6 fatty acid, vitamin B2, B1, vitamin A, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, selenium and silica. Chickweed is known for its soothing, healing and natural pain relief properties. I give this to my chicks about every other day. I make sure to rip it into small pieces so they aren’t gagging on the long pieces of it, like how you would if you tried to swallow a spaghetti noodle without chewing. With this, once you start feeding them stuff other than their boring old formulated food, you need to be sure to offer free choice, chick grit.

 

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All 9 chicks at two weeks old, being put to work already prepping one of my garden beds. This day was 44 degrees out, but in this bed with the cover, it was significantly warmer. One was trying to take a “dirt” bath that was more like mud and ended up getting too cold so she was moved inside.

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Two week old chicks prepping the gardening bed. They looks so tiny out in the big world. They enjoyed pecking around in the dirt.

Looking into the future… building the coop, and just enjoying the moments of chick-hood.

Beginning Our Chicken Adventure

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.

 

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Practicing roosting on their chick roost

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.

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Little “D” showing grandma his favorite chick. Baby Chicks in their 55 gallon storage bin. About 1 week + 2 Days old.

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.

 

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Chicks in their kiddie pool. Almost 2 weeks old.

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More space in their kiddie pool. Added a natural branch for more practice

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.