Thursday, April 26, 2012

One Week Down!

We’ve made it through the first week and the chicks are thriving in their snazzy new brooder! They’re currently living in a 4ft x 4ft x 2ft wooden box, a step up from their original, rather puny home. They’re growing like crazy, although two are a bit smaller than the rest. I didn’t realize it was possible for such tiny creatures to eat so much. Food is truly the centre of their universe.  They’re still cute and fluffy but their wings are starting to feather out and I can’t wait until they’re ugly. For some reason I’ll feel better about planning to eat them if they aren’t so cute…

I’ve noticed that over the last few days the chicks have become much more nervous. They’re quick to startle and much slower to recover. The first couple of days my dog, Cairo, could stick his head in the box and all the chicks would come running over to check the invader out. If I put my hand in the brooder, they’d all crowd around and try to figure out if it’s edible.

But around day four or five, they turned into, well, chickens. Today, Cairo poked his head over the top of the brooder and the chicks totally lost it and had the avian version of a panic attack. When I reach in to refill their food dishes they scatter.

I know that dogs go through fear periods when they’re young so they can learn what’s safe and what isn’t.  That’s why lots of positive, early experiences are so important for dogs (keyword being POSITIVE). Perhaps chickens go through the same thing? Maybe I need to spend more time getting my chicks accustomed to the things they’ll see when they move out into their pasture pen, so that they aren’t thrown for a loop by their new environment. I want my birds fat, healthy and happy and all the books warn that stressing the birds out can lead to slower weight gain and even death.

That being said, lots of people raise pastured poultry in large groups and there’s no way they spend hours fussing over the birds and introducing them slowly to new things. I imagine the chicks just adjust to a new normal when they head out to the pasture pens. I guess time will tell – only two weeks until they move outside!

Tina's dog, Brandi, says hi to the two-day-old babies.

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