Our babies are nearly two weeks old and my, oh my, how they have grown! No longer are they downy little balls of fluff. Each day more and more feathers begin to sprout. Just yesterday they started getting tail feathers. Much to my delight, some of the Araucanas (Easter Egg Chickens - the ones that lay colored eggs) are starting to grow "ear muffs", little tufts of feathers that stick out from the side of their heads. It looks hilarious. And I love it. This little brown gal on the bottom has the best ear muffs so far... it's hard to see in this photo. The black chicks are the Barred Rocks and you can see they are starting to form "bars" of black and white on their wings.
Originally, we had the chicks in a 3'x3' box with sides about 10" high. We had it covered with a piece of plywood on one side and wire mesh on the other. This box was working great until the day I went to go catch one of the chicks and she just about hopped right out of the box! We've got a jumper! When my husband got home, he quickly made a new brooder box. This is how we learn around here - trial and error.
So, here is the new and improved brooder box. My husband reused the same pieces of wood (I just moved the chicks to a plastic storage tub filled with wood shavings, which worked great), but this time, he doubled the height of the box so now it's about 20" high. He also made the box about 4'x4', which is much bigger than it needs to be, but could be handy if we ever raise a large number of chicks. Handles were cut of of the sides for easy lifting and a bottom was added, so we can lift the whole thing up when we're done with it and dump the shavings in the compost pile. All the lumber was salvaged wood from extra large pallets he got from work, so the cost was nothing, except a few screws.
I'm thankful that the sides are higher to protect the chicks from intruders. We've been introducing the dogs to the chicks so they will get used to them, but it still made me nervous. My 3 year old daughter is constantly opening doors and letting the dogs (and the barn cats) into the garage without me being aware, and I was afraid we would have an issue. So far so good. Our other chickens free range in the yard and we have no problems with the dogs and cats bothering them now. Initially, our terrier mix, Gibson (in the photo above) wanted nothing more than to eat the chickens, so I had to keep him on a leash for about a month. But he caught on and now he barely notices them. In fact, I think he's a little afraid of them - chickens will defend themselves and they peck REALLY hard! The barn cats enjoy the company of the chickens and I will often see them lounging around with the ladies. I've even found one of the cats cuddled up next to a chicken in the coop. Whatever. Crazy cats.
In about 4 more weeks, the chicks will be fully feathered and we will be ready to move them outside. We're still not exactly sure where we are going to put them - in the movable coop with the other 10 chickens we have or if we (and when I say "we", I mean "my husband") are going to build a different coop. I suppose we should figure that out... Ah, it'll all work out, right? And if not, you'll hear all about!