Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Best Laid Plans...

Today was supposed to be the day. Our birds are three weeks old and, according to most folks who raise pastured poultry, they should be about ready to move into their pasture pen.

But, alas, it was not meant to be. A couple of things have conspired against us and we’ve had to delay our plans by a few days.

The first problem is the weather. This spring has been unseasonably cold. The Pacific Northwest is soggy at the best of times and this year the rain has come down in buckets. And even now, when the sun is shining, it’s COLD! The wind still has a cutting edge to it and when the sun goes down it sucks the last bit of warmth right out of the air. Once the chicks are feathered out they are able to stand a bit of cold but I don’t think our birds are there yet.

Perhaps if they were hearty and healthy we might chance the weather but they’ve had the sniffles, so we’re not willing to take the risk. Last week, Tina and I heard a couple of chicks sneeze while we were weighing them. The next morning one of them was dead in the brooder and several had discharge from their nostrils. Since we’re not interested in using antibiotics, we whipped up a concoction that homesteader Harvey Ussery uses to get his day old chicks off to a good start. I came across the recipe in his book The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers and figured it might help our birds fight off whatever bug they’ve picked up. It’s a simple recipe – honey, apple cider vinegar and garlic mixed in with their water – and the chicks love it. We also lowered the heat lamps to provide some extra warmth while they recuperate. I don’t know it’s the drink, the added heat or both but we haven’t lost another bird and the chicks appear to be well on the road to recovery. 

The new plan is to move them outside either Saturday or Sunday. Since we only have 21 chicks, if it gets too cold at night it won’t be too much work to move them back inside. We’re going to put the sides on our pasture pen tomorrow and we’ll be ready to roll!

Tina and Mike building the pasture pen.

Just a few more days until the chicks will be out in the field with the rest of the critters!

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