Tuesday, June 5, 2007

lessons learned raising chicks in the house

chooks and a dane As you can see in the photo, our girls have gotten really big in these five weeks we've had them (for comparison's sake, that's our Great Dane, Argus in the window just behind them). Since the girls are about to move out of the house for good this week (once the rest of our Eglu arrives), I thought it'd be a good time to recap the lessons learned so far:
  • All the books and articles and blogs you read about chicks being prolific poopers are true. If you're going to raise them, be prepared to change the cage each morning and each night to keep some semblance of neatness around the indoor coop.
  • It's the syrup-y squishy poops that stink real bad, so whatever you do, don't accidentally squish one.
  • Singing to your chooks does, indeed, calm them down. I think it even helps them bond to you, too (although time will tell for my birds and me).
  • Whomever suggested using an old aquarium as a temporary brooder must have been talking about at least a 25-gallon aquarium. The 10-gallon aquarium I acquired when they were tiny chicks didn't last more than two weeks before it was simply too small.
  • Do what you can to keep the food bowl off the ground, it'll cut down on the amount of poop they drop in it. Only recently did I buy a feed bowl that hangs on the side of the cage, and it was well worth the $2.29 in terms of saved trips to the trash to toss out the old poopy food and refill with fresh stuff.
  • With two baby chicks, you should only need to buy 10 pounds of chick starter. Any more, and you're likely spending too much on food.
  • Take the chicks out for the equivalent of a walk in the backyard whenever you can. Yes, they'll seem more restless inside the cage post-walk, but seeing them explore your backyard will give you a whole new appreciation for the place you live.
  • Clean water is key, and I think the chicks know it, too. No matter how filthy the food bowl would get, they seemed to take care not to get anything in their water. (Maybe we just lucked out)
  • Finally... watch your chicks grow. It's amazing how big they get and how fast it happens. You literally see them develop overnight. Quite amazing, and very instructive for the children to see how living things grow.
As soon as they move out of the house we enter a new phase around here: what's it mean to be a free-range chicken in Redwood City? And when's the first egg coming (smart bets are on late August).

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