Day 10 and several things are evident – the most important of which is that the time to move out to the coop is looming ever nearer. I am dying to get them out there. The brooder-in-the-bedroom setup is good for about a week, in my opinion. After that, they may still need heat and a confined space, but the coop is the right place for them.
Today I opened the door to the chicky room but stopped to talk to Brian for a moment. As we were speaking, I was looking at the brooder at the Cool-Looking One. At first my only thought was – wow! Thay are getting so big so fast! And I kept talking. Then I stopped, “Holy Cow! She’s ON TOP OF THE WATERER!!” Of course as soon as I said this, she hopped down, but I realized that the reason I could see her and no one else from the doorway where I stood was because she was a foot higher than everyone else, perched atop the waterer. That was it for me. At the top of the waterer, it’s less than six more inches to the top of the brooder and to a new life of freedom in the wide world of the guest room. I do NOT want to play Find-the-Chicky.
The newest changes in their radpidly expanding physiques is the addition of shoulder feathers in most of them. You can see them in the picture of the Marans chick above. Also, the Buff Orpingtons are the first to start down the slippery slope toward the awkward teenager phase. As their tail and shoulder feathers grow in, they are starting to lose their baby fluff more rapidly than the feathers are growing in, and it’s leaving them with some bare-ish-looking spots. It’s the beginning of the end. They will all get larger and less fluffy and adorable from here on out. That’s the downside. The upside is that they should also get bolder and more curious and we should be heading down the road to making friends (I hope).
Anyway, we all have to go through some growing pains and an awkward phase to grow up into our glorious, stunning selves, no?
More Chicken Behavior
They constantly surprise me. Just a few minutes ago I went up to get a few more pictures and one Marans chick was, I believe, attempting to have a dust bath in the shavings. Dust baths are a favorite pasttime of grown-up chickens as it’s a way to keep cool and clean – it kills external parasites, just like on elephants. They scratch a shallow indentation into the ground and roll around and fluff their feathers in order to get a good coating of dust. I honestly don’t think this works very well in wood shavings, but the chick was most definitely doing this. I am hoping that it’s just his/her instincts’ kicking in and it’s not a sign of parasite infestation at this young age! I have no clue, but I’d like to think that they would have had basically no chance to pick any up yet since they’ve been in a cardboard box their entire lives so far. However, this is just one more reason in my mind to get them moved out to the coop.
The sparring and flying and stretching are still gaining popularity and intensity. Yesterday morning, Cool flew in a circle at about the level of the top of the brooder box. This in combination with her perch on top of the waterer has led me to declare her the best flyer at this point. She also might be the prettiest chick in my mind. I say this but I don’t have a good picture of her today. Here is the best (it’s at a funny angle, sorry).
The Marans continue to perplex me. They have now, once again, separated themselves into two distinct groups of three. Group one is larger and more developed – lots of long wing and tail feathers. Group two has no tail feathers yet and only tiny, stunted wing feathers. I have no clue if this means anything.
I am still trying to go by the color thing as everyone online seems to make it sound like it should be so clear. The males should have lots of white in their feathers and be lighter colored/more silvery overall. If this is the case, our babies with the relatively stunted growth may just be the males. Heck if I know. Go here to see a picture of a young male in front of a young female. Se how the light stripes in his feathers seem to be more distinctly white and hers are more grayish, which makes him lighter than her overall? Keeping this in mind, I sit and stare at them for long periods trying to come to a decision. I haven’t gotten very far. Tell me your thoughts.
So, what do you think? Am I on the right track? If anyone who knows anything about chickens and Marans in particular reads this and has any thoughts for me, I’d love to hear them!
At this point, we are starting to think that Mystery chick might be a bantam breed of some sort. Nothing is for certain of course, but he/she is most definitely the smallest in the brooder. She/he is the most avid scratcher as well, and this may be a stretch, but I know that bantams are supposed to generally retain more of their wild instincts – many fly throughout their lives and prefer to sleep in trees rather than the coop and they are really good at foraging for wild food. So, it’s possible. It’s also possible that she’s (he’s) just a lighter breed. Ameraucanas, Marans, and especially Orpingtons are considered heavy breeds, which is one reason that they are all good for both eggs and meat. The best egg-laying breeds are quite skinny-looking because they put much of their energy into egg production, rather than putting on body weight. So, maybe I’ll get a great egg-layer in Mystery chick! No matter what, it’ll be fun. Maybe I’ll get a bantam, maybe I’ll get a light breed egg-layer, or maybe I’ll get a cool-looking rooster (in my opinion all roosters are cool-looking! Quite glorious and manly, usually.)
Ok, so she doesn’t even look smaller in that picture, but I promise she is. I will try to get you a good shot with a reasonable size comparison.
Preparing for The Move
In preparation for the move out to the coop, I have been researching options for protecting against the accidental freezing deaths of my chicks. Until they are fully feathered out (4-8 weeks-old), they need the brooder light to keep them warm. After that, they can handle any weather the Willamette Valley can throw at them. Until then, if the light goes out, it’s bye-bye chickies. I KNOW I’m setting myself up for sleepless nights. But they CAN’T stay in the house any longer. So I’ve got to suck it up and do it.
After LOTS of long, hard thought, I have come up with a plan. I went to Lowes today and bought a second brooder and heat lamp. Then I talked to a nice man there who advised me on my power and extension cord options (he had quite a bit of experience raising baby chicks and ducks and rabbits as well so it was quite handy). Apparently the 250 watt bulbs use “a whole lotta juice,” as the man put it. The reason I got two is so that if something goes wrong with one – the bulb fails for some unknown reason, or it throws a breaker or whatever – we will still have a backup. The trick is to not have them both hooked up to the same breaker so that if it’s tripped, they don’t both go out. So I got this thing called “outage stopper” or something like that (it’s out in the car right now and it’s too cold and I don’t feel like going to get it to give you the proper name. I’ll put it in the next entry) that has it’s own two circuit breakers. It looks like a big surge protector to me. Apparently I plug this thing directly into the wall of the house and then run two extension cords off of it, one on each side, out to the coop and plug a lamp into each. If one “draws too much juice,” it will throw the circuit breaker on the plug thingy, rather than the one in my house, and the other one will keep going. I have also ordered myself an “outage alarm” from Amazon.com. This I plug into the socket nearest my bed and if the power goes out entirely, it goes off like an alarm clock (apparently it’s not that loud so it has to be close to the bed) and wakes me up and also has a flashlight. At this point, I would go out to the coop and do something, though I have no clue what, to keep the babies warm during the outage.
So that’s it. That’s my big plan to safeguard against frozen chickies. I know it’s not 100% foolproof, but it’s the best I can do. After much searching, I also found a temperature monitor meant for greenhouses that has a range of 3000 feet (most only are 100′ ranges, which isn’t far enough) and sounds an alarm anytime the temperature gets higher or lower than the values you set on it. This is very cool, but it’s $300 before tax and shipping and it wouldn’t get here in time for this weekend anyway. So we’re going to hope for the best. Don’t be surprised if, after the move, I write about how I laid awake worrying all night for several nights and kept running out to the shed in the middle of the night to check on them. I honestly hope it doesn’t go that way, but I know me. The first few nights they were here in the house, I was mostly awake, worrying that they were all dying as I laid there. Sad but true. Boy will I be happy when they have all their feathers. Then we’re good to go.