Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chicks Update

Well now, the BHF chicken flock has had a bit of a setback. I have been thinking about writing about it for two weeks now, for it was two weeks ago that disaster struck.

You can see my post about it in the poultry forum at Homesteading Today here.

The short version is that about 10 days after they arrived, 14 of our 18 Buff Orpington chicks DIED, all at once, in about 15 minutes. The consensus is that they died from stress. The 24 hours before the mayhem was not a very good time for them. They had a 40 degree temperature swing in the brooder, when I expanded their brooder area (by employing an old baby playpen) and lined it with heavy cardboard. The new setup retained heat much better than the thin walls of the plastic tote they started out in. So, when I left the heat lamp at the same setting, and ADDED an additional heat lamp, they got too warm. The temp reading under the lamp was 104 degrees. The temp was lower in areas of the brooder far from the lamp, and the chicks were all gathered in that area.

When the temp was finally corrected and stabilized, the power went out in the middle of the night, and the temp dropped to 65 degrees. Poor little pips.

So that was the first stressor. They seemed ok to me despite this abuse, but I didn't know at the time that you can't really SEE when they are that freaked out, and by the time you do, it is too late.

The second stressor was our cat Magic. He jumped into the new larger brooder setup and grabbed one of the chicks. RG rescued the chick and he seemed to be uninjured. No broken skin. A few wet feathers. We put him back in the brooder.

Then about one hour later, chicks started just falling over dead. Some of them spasmed as they died, and others just sort of went limp. It was horrible.

All this occurred right as we were supposed to be leaving for our weekend in Maine to learn about raising goats. We got off to a late start as we dealt with the dead chicks and waited as long as we could to see if the remaining 3 would make it.

Oh. I just remembered now.. we put the chicks in a bag in the freezer in the garage. I had forgotten about that. I guess we had better do something with them. [ This brings to mind the time that my cocktiel ALVIN died in my apartment in Haverhill, MA in the wintertime; sometime in the late 80s. I carried Alvin's dead body around in the trunk of my Subaru until springtime and then buried him out in the woods one day while on a trail ride. ]

My mood was very dark during Goat School (which I will cover in another post). I wondered how I could raise goats if my touch with chickens is so obviously bad.

The mood has passed, I am happy to report. The three remaining chicks, two males and female are growing very nicely. I wasn't planning to band my chickens, why bother? But I think I will now band these three because they are hearty ones and should be good for the BHF poultry gene pool.

I built a nice wire brooder top for the playpen last weekend and added some old canoe seat frames for them to roost upon. I have also started watering them with a rabbit waterer. The kind that is an upside down bottle with a steel nipple at the end. There is much less waste, and they don't fling bedding & poo into their water this way. They seem to have adapted to it just fine. This is good, because this is how I want to water them when they get into their big outdoor coop. I will make a waterer out of a heated pail with some watering nipples installed in the bottom.

Anyway, as you can see in the picture at the top and those below, the 3 we have left have grown a lot, and are sporting some very nice feathers. The photo at the top is our one hen chick (pullet) and the headshot below is a boy. The boy is starting to grow a little crest. The hen has some nice tailfeathers happening.

The slideshows below are more pictures of the chicks we have now, and the whole flock before the disaster. Of course, if you are looking at this from your job, and your company blocks access as mine does to "Personal Network Storage and Backup" sites, like the Google-Picasa site where I publish my photos, you won't be able to see these slideshows from work. Sorry. I feel for you! (grumble)

Day 21:

Day 8:

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