Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another chick down. That makes 6. No obvious problem except for the part about being dead.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lost another chick with no obvious problems today. Starting to think it could be dehydration caused by too much heat from the lamps. The chicks aren't making distressed sounds when too warm, they just relocate, to a cooler spot. I think some may get stuck in the heat.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another good night last night. Everyone was still kicking this morning. My last visit to the tractor before writing this I found one guy that had escaped somehow. They are small enough to squeeze through the 1" chicken mesh, but I've got it covered with tarps and packing blankets. Maybe he squeezed through when a strong breeze lifted the tarp. Who knows.

I found him because I heard him screaming from the the house. I'm surprised the cats didn't notice him first. They go down to the tractor with me in the morning. I have to hiss and swipe at yellow cat to keep her back. She's got the message and generally lays own to watch what I'm doing to her fantasy food. I can't wait until the chicks get bigger and alter the cats' view of their station in life.

Yesterday I moved the tractor about 4'. The little guys are poop machines and are getting good at scratching the ground, so I wanted to get them out of their own waste. I made the tractor using some salvaged 2x2s, salvaged roofing tin, and saplings I had to clear out of a field. It is a little too flexible and heavy to move easily. I finally figured out if I climb in and slide it from the center point, I can move it by myself. Unfortunately, as they grow, I'm not sure I'll want to be inside with the chickens as I move the tractor around.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

One more passed today. This one looked to have ben picked open a bit just below the vent. At first I thought it was poo stuck to his down. I cleaned him up a bit and noticed that the mass hanging out went through the skin. I kept an eye on him and since no one was picking at it, I left him in. I checked back often and his energy level went way down. He eventually laid down and didn't get up again.

Last night it got down to 18F, and the little chicks just piled up right outside the focus of the heat lamps and huddled together. I was nervous about their temps, but they kept quiet, so I figure they were happy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Last night I bumped out the plug to the lamps on my way back to the house. It was snowing and getting dark. I didn't notice for about 40 minutes. Thought I screwed them big time as it was snowing and the temp inside the tractor got down to 60F. They were chirping like crazy. Three chicks were freezing, and not very responsive, so once power was on I popped them under the heat lamps and within an hour the perked back up. I found one more that had a pasty butt,that looked like it was going to blow out. This looks like an early version of the guy with his intestines hanging out. He was also pretty unresponsive. I tried watering the vent and keeping him warm. Switched to using peroxide to loosen the clot. I didn't get it cleared out, but cleaned it several times. On my last check I didn't spot him, so he must be mobile, instead of laying down suffering.

Man, I was nervous about that plug all night... kept running out to check on it every 10 minutes, especially as the temps dropped. Everyone survived the night, but one more died in the middle of the day for no apparent reason. It didn't have a dirty bum, so wasn't the one I was worried about last night.

They got visits today from my sister and her kiddos and the woman I'm dating. She stood out there in the freezing cold in a skirt and funky heels, and waited patiently while I cleaned off a few chicky bums. What a trooper.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

new chicks in my life

Just arriving this morning at 7am were 50 new Barred Plymouth Rock chicks. This is a straight run, so I'm not sure how many pullets vs. cockerels there are.

I lost two of them. One just wasn't spunky. He wasn't eating or drinking, or moving around. I kept checking on him and he eventually just petered out on his own. The second I had to put down. His intestine has hanging out of the vent, and other chicks were picking at it. I had to remove him.

Temperature control is my biggest worry. With outside temperatures below freezing, I've covered the chicken tractor and lowered the three heat lamps in side to get at least a few 90F spots for them to warm up in. They squeak in distress when too cold, and it took me all day to figure out the level of noise they make when they are just right temperature wise.

For anyone curious about the brooding conditions; they are being raised in the field in a 4'x12' tractor I made. There are three heat lamps in a 4'x4' section of it, and the whole thing is covered to keep drafts way down. They only use up 1/4 of the tractor at the moment, but I expect as they grow, they will need a second tractor ready in about a month or two.

Outside temps this morning when I put them in the tractor were around 30F, and only getting up to 70F inside. Now, we're running at around 42F outside the tractor and 80F just outside the heat lamp area. Tonight should get down to 20F, so I'm a little concerned about keeping them warm enough, but will be keeping a close watch on them to adjust temps as needed. I've been passing around sugar water to help keep their energy up.