Week 3; Trials and Tribulations

I don’t think that I’ve written about how I have lost three chicks. It’s rather an important tidbit to know before you read the rest of this post. One died due to pasty butt in the brooder box, before I even gave them to Georgia. That wasn’t all that surprising due to the nature of bantams and shipping and how unusually cold it was the beginning of May 2011. It got even colder, almost down to freezing and I lost a white Silkie chick. Then just this week some sort of trauma took the life of what I think was a white Cochin, while I was at work. then on Thursday, I came home from work to find my grey Silkie in the water bowl. After a few hours of care, she went back to the coop and seemed no worse for the experience.   I was beginning to feel like nothing would go right with this batch of chicks. I started with 6 and wound up with 3, straight run bantams. My chances for a female were getting kinda low.

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So there I was at the feed store this morning, going about my business, when I had to wait for Joel to finish with another customer. To kill time I wandered over to the brooder. Only to find that there were still Silkie chicks from the same hatch as mine! Uh oh!! I don’t need any more chickens my mind said. And my heart said, “but they are just so cute! And besides, you’ve only got a 50% chance of having a female Silkie now that you lost the white one.”

You can probably guess what happened next. I opened up the brooder to see better. And then I reached in and took out a white and a black Silkie chick. By the time I got home I was getting concerned.  What was I going to do if either Georgia or the chicks didn’t take to each other? The chicks are three weeks old, for heavens sake!! I said to myself, “I know enough people with chicks that I can find a home for them, if it doesn’t work out with Georgia.”

Upon unloading the chicks from the car, I went straight to the coop. Holding the chicks in my hands, I made them squawk a bit as I got close to Georgia to see her reaction. She had been very upset when I both took the grey Silkie out of the water bowl squawking and when I had brought that chick back squawking. I didn’t know what to expect. At all.

I was profoundly grateful when Georgia came right up to me and made the “what’s wrong with my chicks” noise. I put the chicks on the ground and they just stood there stunned. Lil G though, would have non of that. She started trying to make them move over with the other chicks. The new chicks didn’t understand Georgia’s language. They had never been outside, or heard adult birds or cicadas. They had never smelled the cornucopia of the outdoors or seen sunshine. I wasn’t prepared for that.

These chicks had been in a sealed box for two days after they hatched. Then they spent three weeks in a 3 foot by 3 foot by 6 in high metal cage which was full of dozens of other chicks. All vying for the same food and water and safe place to hide in a place that had no safety and no hiding places. Luckily the resilience of youth and instinct kicked in. Slowly. First the black Silkie turned to lil G. She wanted to follow, but she didn’t know how to walk on uneven solid ground (three weeks of walking on wire will do that to you). Her body would lean forward, but her feet didn’t move. After a few dozen lean forwards she got her feet working in the right direction and went after the brood.

The white silkie chick though was still stunned. She didn’t move for at least 8 or 9 minutes. The adult birds didn’t seem to mind her being in the way. When food isn’t involved they don’t seem to even notice the chicks. I left the chick exposed and alone to go into the coop and dismantle the area I had made for the chicks & Georgia to get away from the big girls. I brought out the feeder full of chick starter, the small  one quart water and the chicken wire. I used the length of poultry netting to block off a portion of the run from the adult birds. I left it 2 or 3 inches from the ground so that Lil G and her chicks could go under it. After it was all assembled I put the food and water inside, away from the big girls and their voracious appetites. Then I used the leftovers from my breakfast to lure Georgia into the area. After they were all in, I took the little white Silkie and placed her inside too. By this time she had begun to respond to external stimuli, but wasn’t really following Georgia’s lead.

I checked back about an hour later to find all was well.

I went back out about 5 pm. Upon opening the run door, I was almost trampled by the big girls wanting to get into the grass in the yard. Surprisingly Lil g wanted out too. So even though I didn’t know where my serial killer cat was, I let her take the chicks into the yard. The new Silkies were reluctant at first but after a little help from me, they took right to it. And both managed to keep up with mama!

You can check out a short video of it here.

I just went out to make sure everyone was going to bed and found the white Silkie in the run bedded down alone, while Georgia and the other 4 chicks were in their special ground floor nesting box.  Snatching up the white Silkie as the big girls cam charging into the run, I took her into the coop and put her under Georgia (so that she might get the hint). It could get as low as 68 degrees tonight, which is a bit cold for 3 week old chicks. I’m not sure how Silkies differ in their temperature needs so I’m just going to hope that they all fare the night well.

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