Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chick trials: Some early lessons learned about how to keep your chicks alive...

I've been the official owner of chickens for a solid 4 and 1/2 days.  This doesn't even come close to making me an expert on them, but in that action-packed little window of time I've learned a few things that may be useful for those of you taking a similar journey into insanity... For those of you who think chickens are evil, filthy, dinosaur descendants with even lower IQ's than their entirely extinct ancestors, you are absolutely correct, but this may be a post that you just want to look at the pictures, and skip the meaty content...

So, here are my first 2 early lessons learned in the school of hard knock chicken farming:
1.  You don't have to move the heat lamp very much to make a major difference in the comfort, and discomfort, of your chicks.  I thought it would be a good idea to separate the meat and egg birds, so I split them into 2 boxes with the heat lamp hanging over both boxes equally.  The 6 little egg birds seemed to like the idea just fine.  The 10 meat birds didn't like it so much, and all piled on top of one another right under where the light was hitting.  Just in case you were wondering what would happen if 9 of your brothers and sisters all piled on top of you and went to sleep for the afternoon... you will die.

From the book, The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals
I'll spare you the graphic photo of the actual
condition, and replace it with this one of
ridiculously cute chicks instead.  If you want
greater detail of what the condition looks like,
picture crusty poo stuck to the butt of a
chicken.  It's that simple.  If you're feeling
mega-brave, you can Google the condition,
but I'm giving you a good and proper warning
that there are some Urban Dictionary entries that
are going to come up in you search results...
2.  If you notice that poo is getting stuck on a chick's butt, then it's time for a chicky spa intervention.  Chicken shit looks like diarrhea.  So I was totally oblivious to the fact that it was possible to be more watery and nasty than "normal."  It is, and it gives them something that's charmingly referred to as "Sticky Butt," or also "Pasty Butt."  Thankfully, I'm a total geek, and poured over as many books and websites as I could find about chickens before I got them.  So I was able to realize that 2 of my egg chicks had this, and not just poor restroom etiquette.  It's super important that you fix this totally gross condition for them, or their pooper will get all backed up and they'll die.  And in case you're interested in the details of how that all went down, I'll happily torture you with them (because I wish someone else had done this for me):
2a.  Get a container that you're not going to be sorry to throw away when you're done.  No one's going to want to eat out of your cereal bowls if they find out you've been soaking off chicken shit in them.  We used one of our large 32oz yogurt containers that was otherwise headed for the recycling bin, and cut the top off of it (to make it wide enough for a baby chicken tub, but shallow enough that if we dropped the chick, it couldn't sink far enough to drown)
2b.  Fill you mini spa tub with warm water, and set your chick's bum in.  Let it soak for a minute or so.
2c.  Using a warm wet paper towel, gently wipe the crusty poo bits away.  If they're not budging, soak again.  You don't want to pull at them because they can take skin away with them when they tear off.
2d.  When things look spick-and-span, dab any soaking wet parts with a dry towel, and plop your chick back in it's box under the heat lamp.
2e.  Prevent from happening again by adding some smashed up oatmeal bits to their food.  Thanks to some awesome forums on the Backyard Chickens site for this tid-bit of advice.    
2f.  Thank your husband for some quality time spent together wiping off chicken bums with you.

If anyone else out there has dealt with either of these issues, I'd love to hear about your trials, tribulations, and suggestions.  I'm a big fan of learning from other peoples' knocks...

Thanks for stopping by,

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