Monday, April 28, 2008
I got chickens yesterday! I went to the flea market in Morganton and found a woman selling all kinds of baby chicks. She gave me a quick rundown on the colorful breeds, and I settled on White Rocks and New Hampshires, only because those babies were three weeks old and stood a better chance of survival with a novice like me.
I'd taken two of my old "Ruff Hause" dog houses to my brother's last week and got him to convert them to little chicken houses based on a design I found online from Mother Earth News. He did a fine job, making a ramp for each one out of some scrap beadboard he had, putting in a divider to make nesting boxes in the rear of each, and a perch in the "livingroom" for nighttime roosting. Adorable.
But my little babies are too young to deal with the cool nights we have here, and by the time I got them home I'd decided they needed to stay in the house for a week or so, at least until this cool rainy spell passes and we have sunny days again. This posed a problem, as I have cats, and I was pretty sure my dogs wouldn't think they were anything other than fresh meat. After all, raw chicken is one of their primary protein sources. This was dinner on the hoof! The cats I decided to leave locked in the sunroom. They are in there every night when Shine comes in anyway, as she thinks they are tasty too. They'll be ok for a few days.
Having bred and showed dogs for years I have quite the collection of crates in various sizes and designs. I set up a "weenie crate" that usually serves as travel crate for one of my dachshunds when I go to visit friends. I added a heated mat that doesn't get over 100 degrees and covered that with pine shavings. A small waterer, bowl for food, and a perch across the front completed it nicely. Then I covered it with a blanket to hold in heat and keep it dark at night.
To protect my new babies from the dogs I stuck that crate inside an Akita sized one by the front door. So they had their own little bedroom inside a protective crate. It worked! Both Akitas and dachshunds checked them out, summoned by the cheeping, and were unable to get to them to sample them. Shine was the most interested, having a very high prey drive evident since puppyhood. Bella climbed up on my back as I lay on the floor watching them and peered over my shoulder from her vantage point. Rusty gave a sniff and wandered off, as did Diva. Babies and I slept well, and this morning I was delighted to see they'd already learned how to use their perch, and had eaten all their food.
I cleaned and filled bowls, scattered additional seed around in the pine bedding for foraging practice, and added some grit to help their digestion. They have a light on during the day and as I type this I can hear them cheeping busily away as they forage and peck.
This is going to be fun I think. I still want some Guineas for fly and bug control in the yard, but will have to wait until I find some locally. The babies will go outside next week into a chicken tractor with one of my new chicken houses inside. I'll post more pics when I make that move.