Train your baby chicks to devour a variety of leafy greens

June 4th, 2009

It’s been more than two weeks since I’ve been fostering the baby chicks for Hillery Gunther. The weather has been thankfully, overcast and cooler than last week.

They are slowly losing their fuzzy down feathers and growing taller and longer. The cochins’ feathers on their shanks are starting to become more pronounced. There are couple of bold australorps leaping onto my forearms. I’m concerned that the cardboard brooder pen won’t keep the stronger australorps in much longer. I’ve even got a footage of them dust bathing in the pine shavings.

I’m slowly introducing them to eat a variety of leafy greens:

I’m sprouting a small tray of wheatgrass for the chicks. I want to supplement their diet in addition to the dry chick starter crumbles. Some baby cochins look at me in judgment, “What?! Another day, another trough of this dry crumbles? Bah! FEED ME GREENS!”

When I offer the chicks something new, I rip off teeny, beak sized pieces. The australorps are usually the first to investigate, to taste, to trample over the more shy cochins for the leafy greens. Go figure.

The chicks create this high-pitched frenzied chatter when I show them the bunch of chayote leaves “Ohh, guys, get some greens. The human’s got this green stuff in her hands. We goota have some fresh enzymes! Hey, get the girls here! Greeeens!”

I’m going to incorporate a variety of different greens around my homestead: broccoli leaves, cabbage greens, chard, spinach, plaintain leaf, tender dandelion leaves, etc. My goal is to make sure they develop different gut bacteria for a variety of plant matter.

Next time, when Hillery brings avocado, I am going to offer a small taste to the babies. I’m sure they’ll go bananas over avocado!

chicks & hens love warmth

May 24th, 2009

Blink. Did you catch the baby chicks growing? I did. They are no longer the mini puffpalls that arrived in the mail on Monday.

I see the beginnings of mini tail feathers on the baby australorps. Their primary wing feathers are growing longer daily. The baby cochins wings do not look any different than day 1.

I blanketed the chick condo with couple inches of triple screened pine shavings. I turned 37 today; oooo, my lower back feels creaky in spite of Friday yoga class. Changing chick’s paper litter twice in one week was too much for my lower back. Ben isn’t here to take care of diaper duty. It’s up to me and I’m taking it easy on my back.

I was lucky to capture two videos of chick & hen basking in the warmth of the brooder and the sunshine. My heart just melts when I see them so relaxed.

Did you catch the “beak smacking” towards then end of the video? They seem content when they do the “beak smacking.”

chick brooder, reclaimed materials (day 3)

May 21st, 2009

I have plenty of ag chores this fine morning. There’s blue sky and bright sunshine in Ahualoa. We’ve been getting days of overcast, wet, rainy days. I prefer the drier weather and I think the adult hens do, too.

  1. DA BABY CHORES: remove the paper towel litter & replace with newspaper litter
  2. scrub out both 1-gallon waterers, add 1 TBS organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV) per gallon
  3. scrub red trough feeder, air-dry
  4. fill galvanized metal feeder, give to chicks under brooder
  5. DA BIG HEN CHORES: fill 2 quarts of dry lay rations for the adult hens
  6. scrub two 5-gal. dirty feed buckets, air dry
  7. scrub one 30-lbs. metal tube feeder, air dry
  8. bring down 5-gal. bucket of Diatomaceous Earth (food grade DE) to hen house

I reclaimed various materials from different locations to build the “Baby Chick Condo 2009.” Building the brooder pen took me about 3 hours over the course of a weekend.

  1. black shade cloth to cover dirt floor (around the homestead)
  2. two-ply cardboard box from a color laser printer (my ex-office)
  3. one-ply cardboard boxes (Costco)
  4. Gorilla brand duct tape, twine (Jim’s toolbox)
  5. clear packing tape (my craft tool box)
  6. four fence posts (from Hillery’s homestead)
  7. paper litter (old newspaper from library, old paper feed sacks)
  8. twine (our homestead)
  9. clothespins (our laundry line)

Materials that I purchased

  1. red plastic trough feeder
  2. two 1-gal waterers
  3. green shade cloth (6′ x 6′)

Hand taming chicks & hens (day 2)

May 20th, 2009

Are you thinking how to make your chickens more human friendly? It’s never too early to start hand taming your chicks. If possible, start from day 1.

I tap the brooder floor or make some noise to get their attention. Then I crush some feed into my palm and offer it to the chicks. I wait patiently and see which brave chick is first to eat. When that one chick is comfortable eating from my palm, other chicks join in a little while afterward. I try to do this every day for about 5 minutes so they’ll associate my hand with food. I continue to do this with my adult flock.

When the chicks get a little older, I plan to bring them small amount of cracked corn or other chick-friendly treats (avocado from Hillery, fresh coconut meat from Vic, grated carrot from our garden or a flat of freshly harvested wheat grass flat from Jim & Ruthie).

Have you tried other methods? I would love to hear your suggestions.

First is a slide show of day 2 chicks. I’m comparing partridge cochins and black australorps from several angles (head closeup, top view and side view).

Next are two videos for you to compare day 2 of the flock of my foster baby chicks (chick starter) and year 3 of my flock of adult hens (organic yellow corn tortilla chips).

First three hours (day 1)

May 18th, 2009

I was ready when the post office clerk called me at 7:37am. Hillery Gunther already left her house, driving to pick me up at my house. We both went to pick up our peeping box of new babies; she’s the future chick mom & I’m the foster mom for the next six weeks.

A little after 8am, still on the post office parking lot, we opened the box: a mass of mahogany brown & black wriggling, loudly complaining baby chicks and sadly, one dead chick. It was the Free Rare Exotic chick that McMurray Hatchery include in every order. I think it was a white Polish chicken with a top hat.

We drove back to my homestead in about 15 minutes. The weather was overcast so I didn’t worry about the heat in the greenhouse. We dipped each chick’s beak in the sugar water and boy, some of the little ones were dehydrated. I scooted them under the warm brooder until we finished dipping all the chicks.

Ruthie, my mother-in-law, buried the dead chick in our compost yard. Om namah shivaya.

Hillery noticed that all of the chicks were quite active. I noticed the Black Australorps already found the organic chick starter crumbles. I need to keep my eye on one of the Australorp. She was stumbling around; her left leg didn’t extend the same length as her right leg. The Partridge cochins seemed a little shy.

I tapped the 1-gallon waterer rapidly to attract the chick’s attention. I was showing them were the water source is. They learn quite fast. Some cochins stepped into the watering lip, so I use my fingers to shoo their lil’ bums out of the water. I don’t want them chilled.

We watched them for quite some time. Both Hillery & I took a lot of photos. The chicks let us know how happy they are by their contented soft peeps. My friend, Nancy Wu, in Vancouver, BC, noted that the chick peeps resembled human baby babble. Some moments there were no peeping at all but the scampering of lil’ bitty feet across the litter floor.

I’ll remove the paper towels in a couple of days. Tonight, I’ll switch to plain water for the chicks; the sugar water will attract the ants.

Picasa online album (15 photos)

The little darlings!

Foster Mom for 25+ new baby chicks

May 18th, 2009

I’m really excited to foster 25+ baby chicks for Hillery Gunther. So excited I can’t sleep. It’s nearly 1:30am.

Last week, I’ve been reviewing two books and one DVD to prepare for the babies:

A Complete Guide to Hatchery Selection, Mail-Order Chicks, Day-Old Chick Care, Brooding, Brooder Plans, Feeding, and Housing

Everything you need to know to raise one chicken or 100. You’ll learn how to choose the right breed, care for chicks and build feeders and shelters.

Learn all about hatching and raising chickens before you make your purchase, or adopt the neighbor’s abandoned birds.  This how-to DVD was more than 7 months in the making, comprising over 2 hours & 50 minutes of valuable guides related to raising chickens today.

The babies are due to arrive early Monday morning on May 18th at the Honokaa Post Office. I will be sitting on pins and needles for a call from them. Their loading dock doors open at 7:30AM. I looked back at my records in 2006 and our current flock (also from McMurray) arrived on February 13th, 2006, a Monday with freak lightning storm.

I’ll be taking on the care of Hillery’s new “peep peeps” for the next six weeks. Hillery placed an order through McMurray Hatchery for a mix of Partridge Cochins and Australorps. She adored one of our Australorp named Barbie (her feathers are super prosh and she’s neatly groomed for a hen). She is so happy that the chicks will get lots of care & attention from me. My goal is to raise human-friendly chickens for Hillery’s coffee farm.

The chick brooder is all set up in the greenhouse. I’ve reclaimed cardboard and taped together an area about 5.5 feet x 5 feet (27.50 sq. ft) for the 25 new darlings. The walls are about 20″ tall, enough to keep the chicks from hightailing it out of the brooder pen. I’ve turned on the 125 watt heat lamp and 75 watt incandescent bulb tonight to warm up the pen.

I was worried that it might get too hot in our greenhouse & overheat the babies, so Jimmy helped me pound 4 bamboo stakes (also about 20″ tall) into the corners of the pen. He then strung some twine around the perimeter of the poles and diagonally through the corners. I can drape a 6 feet x 6 feet green shade cloth over the strings to give the chicks some shade during the hottest part of the day.

Incidentally, Ruthie & Jimmy put in the young tomato & cucumber plant last week. I look forward to my summer sandwich: perfectly toasted sourdough bread from Trader Joe’s, thinly coated with Japanese Kewpie mayo, just frim slices of avocado from our neighbor’s tree complemented with thick, juicy slices of summer tomatoes sprinkled with a little sea salt. Yum!

The dirt floor of the pen is covered from two pieces of black shade cloth, taped together. Then, I opened up the empty bags of the organic chicken feed paper sacks and separated the triple layers. I used the large paper layers to cover the pen and topped it off with paper towels.

Why paper towels?

There’s traction when 3-day old chicks walk on paper towels. Ben asked me to collect all the poopy towels & litter for his long-term compost pile. He’s the compost king around the homestead.

I’ve set up the trough feed with organic chick starter and sprinkled some on the paper towels. In the morning, I’m going to fill the two 1-gallon waterer with 1.5 cups sugar & filtered water for the chicks.

I can’t wait for the new sound of eager, curious chicks peeping & running around the brooding pen!