Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quick update

By nightfall on their first day outside the chickens were all  tucked into bed cozy in their hen house. They went in by themselves and went to sleep in a big pile.  Adorable!

Outdoor adventure

Today was a special day for the flock. It was their first day outside!!!

Last night we set up their luxurious outdoor palace (the cute coop I mentioned a few months ago coop photo). We put out a new feeder and a new big water dish in their run. We poured out an area of grit for the hens and created a pile of sand for dust baths (chicken spa in a bag!). This morning we took the old smaller food and water dishes out of the brooder box. We removed the bricks that were acting as stands for those dishes. We apologized to the hens as we lifted the chickens' home to carried it down the stairs and into the wild unknown lands of the big and scary backyard. The gals were all chirping and moving around the brooder box frantically as we made the journey. Their chirps were understandable since their home was literally being lifted and moved around through the house. We set the box down on the ground and moved the chickens one by one into their new home. We placed them into the hen house so they could see that cozy location and we hoped they would also check out their new roost.

A close up of Tara eating at their new food dish with Willow getting in a few bites of food herself in the background.

Of course, the very first thing every chicken did upon being put into the hen house was take a slide down the ramp into the run (the outdoor area that touches the ground). They ran straight to their new food and water dishes and never looked back. We have such hungry and thirsty gals! At four weeks old they are still growing and they eat as much as they can gulp.

The chickens checking out their new spa treatment (an area of sand for dust baths). Henrietta and Merrill are hanging out in the dust. Tara is in the foreground and Willow's tail feathers are visible on the left of the picture.

This morning they were still having trouble using the ramp. They would go up two steps and slide back down. That afternoon when I got home from work Willow and Tara were standing 3/4 of the way up the ramp just relaxing. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any of them in the hen house. I have seen then take shelter under the ramp, which is not exactly the same comfort level as a warm protected hen house.  If they do not go into the house by dusk we will move them into there ourselves and close the little hatch door behind them. Hopefully they will go in of their own choosing since we don't stress them out too much by forcing them into the hen house. Silly chickens, don't you know what is good for you!
Willow and Tara standing toward the top of the ramp leading into the hen house.

Anxious momma hen

Today is the first day for the chickens in their outdoor coop. I am at work right now and all I can think about is going home at the end of the day and running to go check on them. I am one anxious momma hen.

It was raining today. Did the little flock figure out how to use their ramp and hid in the warm and dry hen house during the storm? Or were they still unsteady on the new surface and ended up taking shelter under the ramp? Did they find their new sand pile and take a few sand baths? I am curious as to how their first day outside treated them. Now I really wish I had an outdoor chicken camera set up.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Say hello to Henrietta

It is time to introduce Henrietta, the official hen of She is named by our friend Terry who runs that website (which you should all go check out now). Ok, are you back from checking out his site? I'll wait....  OK, welcome back!

Nostalgic photo of all four chickens back when they were little fluff balls. Henrietta is the furthest back, standing at the food dish. She is looking up and forward at the camera.

Henrietta is one of our two golden laced Wyandottes. She will grow up to have pretty golden feathers that have a black rim/edge. She and her sister Merrill (the other Wyandotte) are the shy set in our mini flock. They don't like to be handled as much as Willow or Tara.

Henrietta just over a week ago (photo taken May 4th). The golden spots on her head are clearly visible and her wing feathers were really starting to form. At the time she was still a mix of fluff and feathers and her tail feather were just starting to emerge.

A few things make Henrietta special. Clearly, she has the most unique name of the four chickens. In terms of looks, she has the golden head patterns/color splotches. She is a very pretty chicken. For personality, I think of her as the one true chicken in the bunch. I am betting she will be the first to lay an egg. She has the most clear instincts of the group. When she was first put into the brooder box she instinctively looked for a mother hen. She would push her head under the chests/wings of the other chicks. Clearly this strategy never worked for her since she was the same size as the other mini chirping fluff balls, but she remained determined to find a mamma hen. She is also the digger/scratcher of the group. Henrietta digs down to the bottom of the box and pecks at the ground. I assume she is looking for worms and bugs. Sadly, she won't find them there but I imagine that she will be the first to find one outside and show the other chickens how to hunt for treats.

Awkward teenage years

The chickens have been growing quickly. They now entered an awkward stage in their growth; I think of it as similar to teenagers when you are trying out your new body/new self but are not fully grown yet. The chickens are at that stage in many ways. They are mostly feathered now, with just a bit of fluff left on their heads. But they are not yet full size and they feathers are not fully formed. The temperature in the brooder box has been slowly decreasing week by week and late this week they should be ready to leave the only word they have known and venture out into the big bright unknown world of the great outdoors AKA the backyard chicken coop.
All four chickens hanging out at the back of their brooder box. Henrietta is trying to stand in the food dish (what a silly bird). Willow is eating. Tara is facing the camera. Merrill is awkwardly standing on a perch.

Willow seems to be very ready to enter this bright new world. Every time I go to clean the brooder box, get them fresh water, or add new food she comes leaping up and lands on the edge of the box. She is ready to leave that room. Henrietta and Merrill still tend to just run to a corner if I open the lid. Tara just wanders around and stands wherever I am working/cleaning in their box. She is always in my way.
Willow standing on the top edge of the brooder box. She has grown a lot! It now takes two hands to firmly hold the chickens. They are no longer little fluff balls. They look more and more like adult chickens every day.  Merrill is visible in the background of the photo standing in front of the food dish. Feathers are now visible on her legs. They grow up so fast! Pardon me, I am having nostalgic thoughts of fluff ball chicks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pardon me, miss, but did you know that your tail feathers are showing?

The little flock has been busy growing since I last updated the blog. They now all know how to use the perches and jump around when someone tries to grab them. Because they are so jumpy we decided to add a roof for their brooder box earlier than we had anticipated. We don't want any loose chicks. They would get cold and lonely out in the big bad world of our guest room.

The brooder box set up. Shows a large plastic container, filled with bedding, food, water, and 4 little chicks. A heat lamp is suspended from a ladder with a chain. The height of the lamp can be adjusted to change the temperature in the brooder box. The simple lid/roof is made up of two scrap pieces of wood with chicken wire stapled on them.

The chicks have been eating a lot, drinking a lot, pooping a lot, and growing noticeably day by day. The largest changes are in the emerging wing and tail feathers and in the larger overall size of the chicks. It was once possible to easily pick up and hold them with a single hand but that is becoming increasingly difficult. We now find ourselves using a second hand to lift the little chirping chicks off the brooder box floor.

Willow being held between two hands. Her black and white barred wing and tail feathers are visible through her chick fluff. They grow up so fast! This photo was taken two days ago.

Merrill being held between two hands. She is a pretty black and golden chick with a distinctive golden stripe above her beak.
A close up photo of Willow taken today. Her black and white barred feather pattern is becoming more evident day by day. She has many more feathers than she did two days ago.