Oh, hooray! At long last we’ve got chickens again. Ok, they’re bit small, but they’re growing already.
Patrick got the ball rolling by repurposing this wooden crate that we received a large sculpture in. It’s a perfect size, sturdy, with handles. He used some plastic-coated hardware cloth we found in the garage on the front so we can modulate the temperature as they get older.
We picked them up on Wednesday, when they were a week old. When we got back from our Columbia Gorge trip there was a message waiting from Pistil that they’d gotten the chicks in and did we still want them. Pistils Nursery is a very cool nursery in North Portland that carries chicks and pretty much all the support materials, including organic feed, that you need to do some urban chicken raising. This is such an amazing resource, the more so since we can fairly easily get there with the bike trailer. We’d stopped in earlier in the year to find out when they’d start carrying their spring chicks, and asked them if they’d order black Australorpsthe birds we’d had in Oakland1. They said others had asked about Australorps and they’d see what they could do. Apparently they could get them!
We decided to go right away, and so I quickly manufactured a lid for the mostly complete brooder, and we hitched the trailer to Patrick’s bike and rode up to get the chicks. We brought a cardboard box with newspaper to insulate, and were blessed by a lovely warm afternoon. As extra insurance we brought a hot water bottle and stopped in at Blue Gardenia for chocolate for us and hot water to keep the chicks warm. While at Pistil, we also picked up a 50# bag of chick feed, which should see us through ’til they move to developer mash2.
The chicks experienced their first, and hopefully only, rush hour on the way home. I cannot imagine how such an experience is processed by a little chick’s brain! Once plopped into their new home, they spent a few minutes huddling together and shivering.
Then they responded to biology and started eating and drinking, and doing the cutest little leg stretches. DamnI forgot how sweet they are when they are chicks. Peeping and flapping their little wing stubs.
The morning after we got them four of them required butt-cleaning. When chicks are stressed, young, and fluffy they can accumulate poop on their butts and it can start to prevent them from defecating by blocking their vents3. This outcome is called a “pasted vent” and happened to one of our chicks in Oakland, and she was never quite right after that. So, we do butt watching and washing every morning. One of them has a cut on her belly which we are also watching. Hopefully it will heal cleanly. Thus far no one is pecking at her, and her energy seems fine. This morning, only one needed poop detail.
It’s good to have chicks again. Patrick’s dad and his wife Kathy are coming into town next week, and we’re going to put them to work helping to fence in the chicken run. Spring is comingcan you feel it?!?!
Intrepid chicken fans can find more chick pix here.
1The Australorp is related to the Buff Orpington. Word is they are a variant that developed in Australia from the Buff, which was imported there by the British. They are a “heavy” breed, meaning that they get pretty big, though they are not meat birds, per se. Big birds are good in backyard situations because they tend to be calmer, and to fly less, resulting in fewer truly free ranging birds. Australorps are good, though not industrial-strength, layers, as well as being friendly and quiet.
2We’ll have to see if we use this. We’ve seen it mentioned a number of places, but we didn’t use it with our hens in Oakland. Apparently it’s a good interim feed, with lots of protein, but less calcium, since until they start laying they don’t need as much.
3Um, vent translates to “anus” for all you greenhorns.