Chick Moving Day
With most of the chicks now between 8 and 10 weeks old, last Saturday was the day to move them from their overcrowded kitchen brooder to 5R Farm. Unfortunately, it was going to be in the mid-80s, and chickens can easily overheat in hot weather. We tried to figure out which chickens were best suited to be packed into close quarters together for the hour long drive to their new home, and then we packed them up in our two pet carriers and a big cardboard box. Just as we were about to load them into the van and drive to the farm, we got a call from our caretaker Chip, letting us know that a logging operation down the road had knocked down a power pole and that the road to the farm was closed while the power company worked on replacing the power pole. The road closure was close enough to the farm that there is no alternate route to get there, so we debated whether to head out and hope that the road would be back open by the time we got there or whether we should unpack the girls and delay the trip until later in the day when the road was certain to be open but the weather would be hotter making the trip more difficult for the girls. We decided to head out to the farm, hoping for the best. Just as we were approaching the split in the road right before the road closure we passed two power company trucks leaving the scene, excellent, our timing was perfect!
When we got to the farm we unloaded the girls into their new coop. Chickens are not known for being the most adventurous creatures, so despite being hot and thirsty it took some coaxing and much calling “here chick, chick, chick” to lure them over to investigate the waterer and feeder. They spent their first day inside the coop so they could get used to their new home. At 10 feet by 12 feet, the coop is 6 times larger than their kitchen brooder. It was not long before they started chasing each other around, sparring, and establishing the pecking order much more enthusiastically than we had observed them do in the kitchen brooder. One of the roosters started chasing the ladies fairly aggressively as well. He’s not too good at catching them yet, but he manages to grab the big black australorps on the wing and hold on tightly while they drag him along behind them as they try to get away squawking loudly all the while.
On day two, we opened the chicken door to the outdoor ultra-secure predator proof covered run. It took lots of encouragement (lettuce and more “here, chick, chick, chick”) to get the chickens to walk down the ramp to the run, but eventually they all came outside to check things out. They spent the whole day outside in the run and appeared to love every minute of it. By late in the day it was clear that they were not going to go back into the coop on their own. I picked them each up and placed them inside the coop and put a few on the roosting bar to demonstrate where they are supposed to sleep and left them for the night. We’ll repeat this training process of putting them in the coop at night and placing them on the roosting bar for a few weeks until they figure out how to put themselves to bed. It’s best for chickens sleep in the coop on the roost because they stay warmer when the nights are cold and it will also keep them cleaner if they poop from on top of the roost bar than in a chicken pile on the floor! It was hard to leave them and come back to Portland at the end of the weekend, but I know they are in good hands while we’re away and we’ll be back to the farm in a few days to see how they’re doing.