growing your own organic food, raising livestock, & country living
Beginning to acclimate the chickens-- to the dog, to the outdoors, and to each other.
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We have two sets of chickens now-- 9 chickens that are 6 weeks old, and the other 8 are 4 weeks old. The size difference shows how fast chickens grow! They are now all happily in the brooder box together-- we had separated the two sets until the young hens were about 3 weeks old so that the older hens wouldn't bully them. The chicks were separated by a wooden barrier, and the young chicks had their own separate heat lamp. When we planned to bring them together, Eddie removed half the wood barrier and replaced it with some chicken wire before removing the barrier completely. The chicks were able to see each other and peek through the fence (which they did) for about 3 days before the barrier went up completely. We pulled the barrier overnight-- apparently it will keep them from bullying each other too much. The next day we planned to be at home in case we needed to run some interference.
We didn't really have to, though, thankfully! Some of the hens are more feisty than others-- in fact, the roosters seem pretty chill compared to one hen in particular, who still likes to peck at other hens. Ironically it is a silkie, and she is picking on hens twice her size!
So, in a nutshell, we've integrated the two sets of chicks and they are now happily in a brooder box (32 inches wide x 72 inches long-- we needed to be able to fit the brooder box out the door) with one heat lamp at 70 degrees in our basement. We have a leftover window screen covering the top. You'll need it sooner than you think-- just read my adventures from week 3! The box is surprisingly clean and doesn't smell-- but, we do change out the water every day twice a day and clean out the shavings every week. The shavings make great compost, so they go into our compost bin!
April in Maine means schizophrenic weather. One day it will be 55 degrees, the next we'll seen 3 inches of snow. On days where the temperature reaches almost 70, it is time to acclimate the chickens (the older ones) to life outside as we are close to introducing them to their coop. The hubby closed in the garden for the year with 5 foot tall fencing, so this was a great place to put the chickens for some acclimation. We also wanted to introduce the dog to the chickens as they run around the yard.
The dog did great-- he is truly a gentle giant. He is a pyrenees mix, so I think it is actually part of his breed that he is a livestock guardian. When we first brought the chicks home, we made sure he sniff each one of them. He was already super gentle. In fact, so gentle that he'd whine every time we'd let him sniff the brooder box and the hens, almost as if to say "those guys need to be outside so that I can protect them!"
So, outside time with the chickens was pretty straightforward. We brought out our 9 older chickens, let the dog go into the garden and sniff them, and all was good. He got pecked a few times but aside from that was happy to sniff around and make sure they were all taken care of. I don't think we did anything special in training him to be docile around the chickens aside from always letting him sniff them and get up close to them as they were growing, at least once a week. The hens and rooster we took out were funny-- our garden is still muddy and not green, so the hens didn't know quite what to do with their feet. It took them a few minutes to figure out that they should walk around and peck at the ground! There was one silkie that wasn't having any of it, and just kind of sat there. We'll keep an eye on her! Otherwise after a few minutes the hens were happily following the rooster around.