Saturday, May 2, 2009
Here a chick, there a chick...
Well, Chick Day finally arrived on Thursday and, with much anticipation, we headed off to the local MFA (Missouri Farmers Association--not a place for expletives) to pick them up. Ours was the largest box there and we heard the little guys and gals before we even got close. It was a terribly nasty day outside--rain and cool temperatures--so we wasted no time getting them to the car and home.
In their box, they were divided by half. The first picture shows them just before we began to transfer them into the brooder. You can see that we do have a variety of birds, as promised. So far, I think I've been able to distinguish at least five different breeds but I also have NO idea. It is very possible and very likely that my "different" breeds are simply different sexes of the same breed. We'll just have to wait and see. And that's just one of the fun parts!
The next picture shows August helping me with the transfer of each individual chick. My research told me that you should take each chick directly to the waterer, dip its beak into the water and watch as it lift up its beak to take a drink. Although I referred to this, to the boys, as "teaching" the chicks how to drink, it is really more just making sure that every chick has had some water as soon as possible. We received them as day old chicks but they had not had food or drink prior to our receiving them. After we moved about six or so chicks, one of the first in the brooder moseyed over to the waterer on its own, took a drink and then all of the other chicks quickly followed suit. It was pretty neat to watch unfold. August was a great help and very good at his job. Aidan wanted to help but after holding two or three chicks he simply couldn't stand the way their feet felt on his hands. They weren't sharp at all but to my ultra sensitive son, they were just too much. I knew that this is exactly how it would all play out so I was not surprised in the least.
After we got all of the chicks into the brooder, we then proceeded to sit there and just watch. To say that they are cute just doesn't do them justice. They are simply adorable!
I've been trying to put my finger on what it is about these little animals that satisfies me so. I do know that I most definitely feel like the mama hen and I instantly fell in love with every single one of these little chicks. It's incredibly difficult to imagine them in even just a week, when they begin to enter their awkward stage, to put it kindly. As they begin to feather out they take on a less adorable front, the kind of look that only a mother could love. But I am confidant that I am that mama! In just two days, we can already see changes. Many of them are beginning to get some wing feathers, which offers some small clue as to what they will look like eventually. Further, they are less skiddish, kind of, and much more inquisitive. After I enter the brooder area, having called/sung to them of my approaching presence, and have sat myself down close to where they are, they begin to warm up to me and move over to my side, kind of. When they do manage to meander over to me, their eyes seem to be searching my face as I talk to them about what I'm planning on doing or as I ask them what they are up to. I can't help but wonder about what kind of imprinting is going on in their minds as to who I am and what I mean to them. I keep encouraging the boys to talk to them a lot so that they will be very used to and comfortable with them, as well. So far, they have been wonderfully sweet to the chicks, using almost a sing-songy voice with them as they converse.
One major concern I had with the chicks was our recent June bug invasion. About a week before the chicks arrived, we suddenly were overrun with beatles all over our drive way. We have a very large dusk to dawn light on top of our garage (which I HATE and which we normally have turned off because it is just too dang bright. It completely obscures the night sky and it casts this horrible blue green tint on everything. Can you tell that I hate it?). Anyway, a huge number of June bugs recently began flying into the dusk to dawn light, as if committing some kind of pitiful bug suicide. Unfortunately, they weren't entirely successful in their attempts to end it all and would thus go plummeting down to our driveway where they would proceed to writhe and wiggle themselves into an exhausted state of non movement. The next morning, you were never sure if they were dead exactly or just really not excited about facing the fact that they were still alive and now they had to figure out what to do with their lives.
Normally, we simply take out the fuse for the stupid light, since there is no switch for it, and we are all much happier. We would certainly be happier without hundreds of bugs all over our driveway. But, when you take out that fuse, you also remove the power to a couple of key fixtures inside the garage, which we needed for the chicks. So, we have been forced to keep the dad blasted light illuminated. As a result, some of these bugs (okay, a lot) have found their way inside the garage and then, once they see the brooder lamp, have a sort of resurrection moment and begin the whole "I see a light and thus I must fly into it and end it all" crazed thinking that got them there in the first place.
Well, I was afraid that the loud buzzing of their wings (I suppose for dramatic effect?) that occurs when they go plummenting to their end would stress out the little chicks. It's really loud and freaks the heck out of me and I,
a) am a lot bigger than the chicks
b) know what it is that is making the said noise.
The chicks are small and innocent. These bugs could be hawks for all they know.
And, yes, the first time one of these beatles landed in the brooder my, until now, content and quietly chirping, chicks went crazy. All it took was for one to scream, "Help! Murder! Police!" and the rest joined suit and went all crazy themselves. But then, one brave soul stopped, looked at what it was, pecked at it and the next thing he/she knew, a whole gang of chicks was pecking on the poor beatle. Okay, I really didn't think it was a poor beatle. I was rooting for the chicks on this one.
So, what I feared would be a stressful experience for our new little chicks actually turned into a learning moment and became their first lesson in foraging. Nice.
Oh, one other snag. When I got all of our supplies for the chicks, I picked up a ginormous bag of chick starter, as well I should have. What I shouldn't have done was purchase chick starter for TURKEYS! Yes, it wasn't until this morning that I realized my mistake. Yes, day two of having been feeding the said starter to our sweet little CHICKENS. The difference between what I have and what they should have is about 4% of protein. After calling around and asking some folks, it was determined that it was fine and wouldn't hurt any of them to continue to feed them the higher ratio starter. I'm sure it will probably make them grow a little faster, but that's about all it will do. If they start gobbling in a couple of weeks though, I'll let you know.