It has been absolutely enthralling watching these little fluff balls grow over this past week. They are nearly double in size and almost have full feather wings. When they first came they were all fluff with no coordination and little to no stamina. They would fall asleep standing up and then topple over. How they got any continuous sleep baffles me. Nine would be asleep and the one awake would get up, charge through everyone in the general direction of food and wake everyone up, and this would continue until I assume all of them would be so tired they just collapsed at generally the same time. They’ve started acting like chickens and less like drunk toddlers.
It was Wednesday morning when Becky texted and told me she was going to go pick them up. I was stuck at the house all morning waiting for the granite people who were supposedly coming to template between the hours of 10 and 3. Thank goodness he came around 10:40 and was gone by 3 so my Godmother (who had come for lunch) and I went to pick them up. They were shipped from Iowa in this little cardboard box with LIVE CHICKENS PLEASE RUSH plastered all over it, all smooshed together to stay warm.
James and I had set up the plastic tote, light, food, water and laid newspaper down as bedding the night before. I read that it was important to have food and water for them after their journey since they surely would be hungry. When I got home I unloaded them one by one into their new home.
For the first few days they don’t actually do very much, we checked on them morning and night but other than that they eat, drink, poop and sleep like regular babies. I did have to monitor them a little closely because some developed “Poopy Butt Syndrome” or Clogged Vents. A pretty self explanatory condition that can be cured with a bit of warm water and a non-squeamish person to pick the dried poop off their butts. We now have a few with little bald spots on their butts where their down got plucked out in the process. I’ve read it can develop because they are too warm OR too cold, so I’m not entirely sure which is correct. The heat is something we weren’t sure about. The plastic tote is large enough that if they were too hot they could escape to a far corner or if too cold they could huddle under the light. They did neither but lined up in a nice little row along the outskirts of the light. The only thing I could guess was that the plastic tote doesn’t let much heat out or air flow so maybe that in between spot was perfect.
For the first couple days they stayed on newspaper only. I read somewhere of a neat trick where when you set up their bedding you lay down a good hearty layer of newspaper (like 10-15 individual sheets), then each day when you change it, all you have to do is take up one layer. Take each corners and fold it in on itself and then toss it in your compost. Barring any catastrophic water spills, it’s a great method. Around the third day I added pine shavings. We didn’t go with the fine, we went with the regular. Becky told me a couple times when she had newborn chicks they think the shavings are food and have choked on it so for the first couple days hold off. The only bad thing I’ve found about the shavings are that they end up clogged in the waterer, so periodically I have to pick them out and clean out the water. You should be cleaning the water everyday but with the shavings clogging the water I feel like I have to do it more. Maybe with a large area there won’t be so many in there. We’ll let you know!
By the end of a week old I can’t even remember how small they used to be. Almost all have 4-5 layers of feathers on their wings and are starting to look more like chickens and less like pom-poms. There’s just one Arucauna who has one very tiny layer of wing feathers, the rest is puffy down. There is also one Rhode Island Red who’s body hasn’t quite filled out. She looks like a tennis ball with a head and legs, while the others have elongated a bit and have oval shaped larger bodies. They’ve started “flying” so we’ve begun to wonder how long we can keep them in the plastic tote. They hop about and with some leverage under their wings they can get a good 7 inches up. One White Leghorn we’ve nicknamed Omlet is quite precocious. She has figured out she can roost ontop of the food and water containers. We worry that at some point she’ll try and clear the sides from there. Stay tuned to see if that actually happens!
I’ve also started them on “real food”. I cut up some oatmeal very finely and have been sprinkling it around once a day. They go crazy and scrabble around to eat it. It’s fun to watch them scratch at the ground like they would in the wild.
Week 1 Chick Care Summary
- The plastic tote has worked well for the first week. Have a heat lamp with red light to give heat but not disturb sleep.
- Lay down multiple layers of newspaper and when the bedding needs changing, just remove the top layer and the layers underneath are ready to go.
- They sell baby chick feeders and waterers to keep them well fed and hydrated (and the small size prevents them from falling asleep and drowning in the water)
- Watch out for “poopy-butt” where they get clogged up, you may have to clean them off a bit.
- Invite many friends over, because this is the cutest they will get!