My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

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Marigold
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by Marigold » Mon Feb 24, 2014 1:02 pm

Its good to hear how wel they're doing Eirwen. During that awful weather I was wondering how they were getting on, and especially the ones belonging to the farmer you told us about, who presumably didn't have any alternative shelter for them in all the storms. You were wise not to risk putting them out too soon. At least you didn't need to lie awake at night, listening to the wind howling and wondering how they were getting on!
Yes, from what you say I expect they are White Stars, with Leghorn part-parentage, which will account for their love of flying and also their not being so readily tame as Ambers. All will be revealed when those first eggs appear. Not too long now I expect - how old are they at the moment, I forget.
How far is the field? If it's not very far you can just carry them, one or two at a time of course, and then when they are outside its easy to train them to follow you when you shake a box of mixed corn. They will just all hurry along at your heels like a pack of little dogs, once they realise where the food is coming from. In any case they are unlikely to scatter too far as they are pretty tame by now and their instinct is to stay as a flock, especially out in the big outside world.
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by Eirwen » Tue Feb 25, 2014 2:23 pm

I'm not sure how the chickens around the corner from us fared, I hope they were kept in their coops, but there was an unfortunate incident about a mile down the road from us where a 70 yr old man went to check on his chickens outside on the wednesday when there were hurricane winds up here, and a tree fell on him and killed him :cry: His chickens are fine though.. Poor man. Lots of trees around us came down that day, we had a few of our own come down. We lost electricity for 2 days. I had to get water from our stream for the hens as our water pump works off of electricity! Most school around here were shut also, and I had a day off.

It was really bizarre to watch all the farm animals around us standing in a line by fences, trees, and walls, trying to shelter from those freak winds. I felt very sorry for anyone who had to be outside that day! And yes I was so so glad I didn't have to worry about my chicks!! I was so glad I decided to take your advice!

We are installing the automatic door on our coop today and finishing off the wind shelter, it's not pretty to look at but does the job, and materials are cheap and easily replaceable. Just adding a little roof over the corner today so they will have a relatively dry area to go eat and drink.

Another rainy day today, but meant to be better tomorrow, so might put them out for a trial run tomorrow. They are 13 weeks old, 14 weeks by monday! But one is 3 weeks older than the others, 16 weeks, so I expect she'll be the first to lay! Not sure when they will start laying? The weather is set to be much of the same through next month, hopefully a bit dryer by end of April if long term forecasts are correct, but temps will be the same, so not sure how this will affect age of laying?
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by Marigold » Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:32 pm

Hybrids usually come into lay sooner than purebreds, being bred to become productive ASAP, at around 20-24 weeks old. Purebreds can take longer, often between 24-30 weeks. But the time of year and the light levels is also relevant - Spring pullets like yours will usually lay sooner than ones coming up to the age for laying as the daylight is declining in the Autumn. So maybe the end of April for your little Legbar, and soon after for the others. Their combs will grow and become red as they mature and they will begin to explore the nestboxes. Also they will crouch and spread their wings, hoping your hand coming over them might turn into a cockerel..... It's also possible to tell when lay is imminent by feeling for how many fingers apart the pelvic bones have spread - but the other ways are just as reliable and not so tricky to manage!
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by chrismahon » Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:26 am

Another forum posted the pelvic bone method so I thought I would try it. The pelvic bones referred to are extensions off the pelvis, the ends of which can be seen about 1" below the vent. I made the mistake of picking an Orpington to try and really struggled to find the bones with all the feathers. Anyway I measured two fingers. She isn't laying but shows signs of being ready to, or am I being optimistic as she is 4 and rather fat? These bones are supposed to close up when not laying and open again when they are about to but I have no experience of that. I suppose the amount they open depends on the size of the egg coming? I can see the benefit of this method if you cannot look at the morning and night poo, certainly for batches of pullets coming into lay.

The alternative I use says the same thing. When they are not laying they poo thin strings like a cockerel. As they get closer to laying the poo is in larger lumps and then they start to poo large dollops first thing in the morning. At that point they are just days away from laying. Hope that helps Eirwen.
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by Eirwen » Sat Mar 01, 2014 2:00 am

Thanks Marigold and Chris!
Not sure how confident I'd be trying to measure the pelvic spacing, we'll see, but I will definitely be looking out for their combs/wattle colours and their poop! Will be looking for signs around easter time then, would be great if we got some by then!

My chicks have finally flown the nest and are outside in their coop all grown up now! I still expect to see them in the conservatory, really miss having them around :( But the benefits of not cleaning their poop and dust everyday and seeing them enjoying themselves so much outside makes it worth it!

We ended up putting them in their coop tuesday evening after a trial run outside. We hadn't put a roof on the wind shelter, but the weather was set to be good all week, and it has been, so we may add a small roof later on this weekend. It's only rained once at night since we put them out, and the sun's been out a lot, the hens have even been sunbathing! It's adorable to watch them do that, as soon as the sun's out they flop on their sides and lift a wing, fluffing their feathers out, so cute :) My speckledy even did it whikst perched on my shoulder today, and she leaned her body against my head :)

I did make the mistake of letting them out of their coop too early the first time. They were put in at 6pm and let out at 10am, but I heard that you're supposed to keep them in for 24hrs so that they are programmed to go back there to roost? Which would explain why we had a hard time getting them in wednesday eve! Once we got a few in, with corn as bribe the others soon followed, apart from the blue ranger, she wanted to go and join the others but she just couldn't understand how to get in, the ramp seemed to confuse her, so we cought her, eventually, and put her in our selves!

The next evening went much smoother with all of them lining up to go in to get their corn- apart from a white star who thought she was being clever by flying up (about 6 feet) to roost in the tree.. We got her down easily enough, that time, and the blueranger got the hang of the ramp after I put a log next to it so she could hop up sideways.. We figured out that she couldn't understand you had to start at the bottom of the ramp.. Not the brightest of the bunch!!

This evening was better still, with the exception of the pesky little whitestar who flew up to the tree and hopped up at least 10ft..lucky for us she decided she wanted to join her friends after 10 mins of going alone. I'm hoping after another week they'll go in no probs!

I was amazed at how quickly they figured out how to forage! I saw a whitestar swallow a 2 inch worm today!! They're finding lots of goodies in the leaf litter, and are getting rid of young weed leaves for mr, as well as digging up the grass! The area around their wind shelter where they spent most of their first two days is already visibly browner! Today they ventured out alot more, especially after I went and dragged some big branches from the fallen tree accross the field over into their pen. The seemed to like the extra cover.

Which brings me on to- buzzards! Wednesday I was sitting with my chicks around me sunbathing, when one of the local buzzards came flying right down to us until I stood up and shooed it! It just hovered about 10 meters away, whilst looking me right in the eyes and then turned away. I imediately went and hung up some old cd's around the tree as I've heard they don't like the reflection. And also went and gathered the branches for the extra cover! Not sure what else to do if I want to let my chickens free range? I'm hoping mine are too big for the buzzard, and the smaller whitestars are fast and good flyers, so can get to cover quickly. I had always loved seeing the buzzards soaring and hearing them call, now whenever I hear that eagle like screach it fills me with dread ( ok a bit dramatic but you get the picture)!

One last thing (yes I have spent the past 3 days just being with my chicks lol), they seem to be challanging each other a lot more now, they run up to each other and bump chests then ruffle their neck feathers, quite funny. But the 2 whitestars will take it further and kick each other with both legs, using them like talons ( albeit small ones). I guess they're establishing the pecking order, though they don't actually peck, only groom each other. I can't tell if there's a clear boss yet. No one's gotten hurt apart from the "blackrock", who upon inspection the first morning they were outside had one of the fingers of her little comb damaged. It looks like its been pecked at, badly bruised, just the one little finger :( I've been keeping an eye on it, the bruise hasn't spread or anything, and she hasn't suffered any more pecking.

Ok that's enough of my rambling, I'm now going to find some pics to put up :)
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by Eirwen » Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:02 am

Some pics as promised, sorry for poor quality, have to resize pics for this site.
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Sunbathing
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First one out! Corn as reward :)
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by chrismahon » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:34 am

They all look very happy and healthy Eirwen. We have a buzzard problem here as well. Apparently they can land in a low tree branch and then just dive down onto them as they appear. In the Dordogne we used yellow clothes line strung between trees. Here we are using tripod post arrangements to disrupt any flight paths through the enclosure.
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by chrismahon » Sun Mar 02, 2014 12:36 pm

Sitting in the sun watching ours running about like chicks (they are 4 years old) reminds me that when we first put our chicks out I used garden canes stuck in the ground at 3 foot intervals to stop any predators from landing in the run. In the UK where we were Crows were the problem, being rather more manoeuvrable than Buzzards.
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by Eirwen » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:45 pm

Thanks for those ideas Chris! Will definitelly use some of those.
I'm also happy to report that the chicks go into their coop no problem now every night without the need for corn as a bribe :) which is just as well as I had surgery on my wrist on monday, so wouldn't have been able to go chasing after them! It took me 5 mins to clean their coop out Sunday, sooo much easier than them being in the house! They are also using the treadle feeder now, which I can fill up and will last them the week. Very handy! Also means I'm not feeding the local wild birds, I'm already spending enough on them!!
I have 4 weeks off work now due to the surgery to keep an eye on my hens, well not so much this week, one trip a day to the field is all I can manage right now. At least weather is much nicer now too :)
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Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Post by Marigold » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:57 am

Yes, a good respite from all the rain and wind, and so much easier for you than when they were indoors. I hope your surgery is healing well - the temptation is to do too much too soon, as I know from personal experience. Now waiting for those lovely first eggs!
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