Posts Tagged ‘brooder’

Cleaning day

June 16, 2009

Today was the day to clean out the brooder and the movable coop. I haven’t cleaned out the movable coop at all yet, so it wasn’t pretty. However, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been since the Big Chickens have been free-ranging and pooping elsewhere (though my back porch has seen better, less smelly days!). The part of the movable coop where the Big Chickens roost at night is covered in hardware cloth. So this helps a bit with the mess as some of it falls through. The brooder has the same kind of bottom, with bedding on top. I don’t bother with bedding for the movable coop because the Big Chickens are really only in there at night to roost and for a while in the morning while they wait for us to wake up and let them out.

So anyway, the cleaning involves these steps:

  • Move stuff out of the garage so that I can then move the brooder out of the garage,
  • Enlist Tom’s help (usually Tim, but he is out of town) to move the brooder out of the garage, near the movable coop,
  • Have the kids help get the chicks out of the brooder and into the movable coop,
  • Call Aidan over to fend off the Big Chickens, who are wondering what those little punk ass chicks are doing in THEIR coop,
  • Keep putting chicks into movable coop, while telling Mo to be careful with the chicks and yelling for Aidan to come guard the chicks,
  • Let the Big Roosters go in to check things out, while holding a kid’s sized ho in my hand to shoo them out if necessary,
  • Shoo out Chicken Joe because he pecked at a chick,
  • Hurry up and finish moving chicks so I can clean out the brooder,
  • Used big metal dust pan to clean out brooder and put droppings and bedding into a bucket to take to compost pile,
  • Turn brooder completely over to dump it all out,
  • Start cleaning the movable coop out, while Mo plays with the chicks in the run part of the movable coop,
  • Take a break because the sun finally came out and now it is humid AND hot instead of humid and pleasant,
  • Go back out and move the chicks from the movable coop back to their brooder (minus bedding so they can eat some grass),
  • Clean out the movable coop a little more and then put down fresh bedding (forget what I said earlier, bedding will be good),
  • Put water and feed back in brooder
  • Fill up water dish and feed in movable coop
  • Put brooder back in the garage
  • Fill feed troughs and water for chicks

OK, so that is done for a while. It is by far the worst part of having chickens, but on the whole I’d say it isn’t much worse than cleaning a cat box. The coop cleaning is once or twice a year and nasty, but the cat box is ongoing and easy.


Wanted: Weekend Farmer (in training)

June 15, 2009

Wanted: Weekend Farmer to take care of animals

When: Friday evening through Sunday morning

Where: West Central Illinois

What: Take care of farm animals, including 14 cats, 20 chicks, 6 chickens, and 2 cows.

Details: Animals need food and water in the morning and evening.

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens: The chickens really just need to be let out of their movable coop. Open the screened front flap and prop it up with the piece of wood that was screwed into the frame but came unscrewed. This helps keep the wood from coming unscrewed and helps keep the door from blowing down in the wind. The chickens will rush out and flap their wings and act silly for a few minutes. Make sure to enjoy this part as it’s quite a show. Lula Mae is always the last one out. She’s the pullet with black-tipped feathers near her shoulders (not the technical word, but you know what I’m talking about since you are a weekend farmer being trained by a farmer-in-training). The chickens will range all day long and will put themselves back in their coop. In the evening, you can check their feed and water before you lock them in. Their feed is currently in a Farm King bucket. I will try to put it in a garbage can and label it before we leave.

Chicks: The chicks are pretty easy. They just need feed and water. They have two feeders in the brooder. They think they get special treats in the purple-bottomed one. Please do not let them in on the secret. You will have to check their water. Most likely it will be spilled or totally mucked up with bedding. Either way it will need to be dumped, cleaned out quickly with the hose on the well pump near the house, then filled and placed back in the brooder. Yes it is reddish inside from the iron in the well water. Don’t bother cleaning it as they don’t seem to mind. The silly chicks will most likely knock it over or muck it up before you leave, so you might want to check it again. Their feed is in the brown garbage can closest to the workbench in the garage. I will try to label it before we leave.

Cows: The cows do not need water as they have a big tub with an auto-leveler. Just make sure to leave the handle of the well pump UP so that it will continue to fill up. Their feed is in the garbage can closest to the garage door. There are two buckets in there, to be filled up about 1/4 to 1/2 way. The buckets and the fence tester are in the garbage can with the feed. PLEASE remember to put them back in there as the garage is too messy for me to find them if you put them somewhere else. Proceed to fence while calling cows. I’ve also started to say, “Come on, girls” to get them to come to me that way. If you get here late enough, they will be waiting for you at the fence. Just ignore their puppy dog sad eyes as they are just trying to make you feel guilty for sleeping in. Also feel free to remind them that you are just a weekend farmer filling in for a farmer-in-training. I’m sure they will understand. Repeat in the evening, making sure to check the fence again. If the fence charge seems low, you will need to walk the fence and check for problems. If there are problems, you will have to call Scott the Farmer as fixing the fence is dangerous and you are not getting paid enough to bother with it.

Indoor cats: There are two indoor cats. Only one, Riley, gets soft food. He only gets a half a can, maybe less if he didn’t eat all his food from the previous serving. This is because Cleo does not like soft food, not because we are mean to her. Riley will meow and meow until you feed him. You might want to do this first unless you can ignore his meows. He also is not starving, as will be evidenced by his youthful figure. The cats might need fresh water or more water. More importantly, they need  reassurance that we did not abandon them for the cute outdoor cats and that we will be back soon to worship them.

Outdoor cats: They will act like they are starving, too. Little Gray might actually be very hungry because she is still nursing her litter. Mama Cat will act as if she is starving, too, but she isn’t. She is mean to the other cats, so when you open the soft food cans you might have to push her away from the other cats so she will not attack them. That is, unless the chickens are around, in which case she is meek and humble and lets everyone else eat first. However, then you have to keep the chickens from eating the food so the cats can eat. This is not easy as they are very persistent little buggers. It might be easier to feed the cats before you let the chickens out, but then  you might have to listen to crowing. Maybe you can block it out. Anyway, the cats get between 3 and 4 cans of soft food. It depends on how many show up for breakfast and how hungry they look and how much food the chickens swipe. Use your best judgment. They also get hard food, which is in the pantry to the left as you enter the kitchen. I usually just fill up the empty soft food cans with hard food. Their water is in a ceramic dish near the well pump. This is the water for the chickens and the cats. Just make sure it is full when you fill up the chicks water for the second time.

All of this should only take about 15 minutes each time, depending on which order you do it. If you let the chickens out first, then you will have to stand guard so that the cats can eat. If you feed the cats first, you will still have to stand guard so that Mama Cat doesn’t eat all the food and then you will also have to listen to the roosters crowing to get out. Really, the cows are the easiest as long as you are mindful of the fence. It is electric and from what I hear, it does hurt. I am scared to death of the fence, so I have not gotten shocked as I am very, very careful.

No worries. My aunt and/or cousins are taking care of the cats and chickens. My aunt has way more experience with animals than I do, so she really should be training me. I have to talk to Scott the Farmer, but I am sure he will want to take care of the cows himself, assuming he has time. Boy, having animals makes vacations hard, doesn’t it?

Lots and lots of chickens

June 8, 2009

This chick apparently missed the memo about not roosting on top of the waterer.

Not supposed to roost there, silly!

Not supposed to roost there, silly!

Here are a few more pictures of the 4 week old chicks that I took last week. They are doing well, despite the fact that the bulb in the heat lamp went out sometime last night or this morning. I was totally freaked out, but they are all ok and perked up as soon as I put the new bulb in the lamp. 


Four week old Buff Orpington chicks

4 week old Buff Orpingtons in their brooder

4 week old Buff Orpingtons in their brooder

Here are some of the big chickens enjoying their favorite bush. It provides shade as well as a nice place for dust baths.

Chickens favorite bush

Chickens favorite bush

And finally here is a picture of Swirly. He is a sweety and is my buddy. He has the most beautiful amber colored eyes. He follows me when I feed the cows. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was trying to kill me by tripping me since he weaves in and out of my legs and I really have to watch my step.



Pullets, all of ’em

June 4, 2009

The Buff Orpington chicks are now 4 weeks old. Just as I was thinking that some were getting combs faster than others and I would soon be able to tell which were cockerels and which were pullets, I read this post on Ang.’s blog. When I got them, Ang. said that the store told her they were straight run. However, she had also noticed that one had a mark on its head. I told Ang. that it would be nice if they were all pullets, but I didn’t really think they would be. It turns out that they are all pullets, as Ang. learned last week. This is good because it means lots of eggs and possibly selling some of them next spring. It also means we need a bigger coop than we were planning on. Since we haven’t really started the coop, that’s fine. Tim is going out of town next week so we will have to get busy building the coop after he gets back.

Anyway, I spent the night at my mom’s on Sunday and when I got back on Monday I thought the chicks looked really big. They are getting lots of feathers. When it’s warm enough, we take them outside in the brooder. The bottom of the brooder is hardware cloth, covered with bedding. On Wednesday it was warm and it was time to clean out the brooder, so we put the chicks in the movable coop, cleaned out the brooder, and put them back in it without the bedding so they could eat some grass. When it was time to put them in the garage, we added some bedding. I’m ready to have them outside more, but I don’t think they have quite enough feathers to be out at night, even with a heat lamp.

Now I am contemplating another order for some meat birds, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Maybe this fall will be a better time. If I did get meat birds, I would probably wait until the coop is done and the little chicks and big chickens are all together so that we could use the brooder again. But by then it will be getting hot and I’m not sure I want to deal with chicks in the middle of the summer. I have to think about it and what kind of chicks to get. I don’t really like the idea of the Cornish Cross birds. My reasons for that are probably enough for another post!

Chicken pictures

May 27, 2009

The big chickens have been free ranging and so far, so good. They seem quite happy, they put themselves in their coop at night, and they haven’t gotten eaten or run over. They liked being under the car or truck the first few days, but then that didn’t work out when we had to leave. So they finally found a bush right by the house that is good for resting and dust baths (the bush is on the left side of the top picture). They like to roost on the split rail fence that runs along one side of the house, too. 

Chickens roosting on split rail fence

Chickens roosting on split rail fence

Roosting Hen

Roosting Hen

The little chicks like to roost, too. We put the roost in the same day we got them and some of them started roosting right away, at 1 week old. Here they are at 2 weeks old in the brooder that Tim made. I don’t think there is such a thing as “too early” for a roost for chicks. They will figure out how to roost as soon as there is something to roost on.

2 week old Orpington chicks roosting

2 week old Orpington chicks roosting

Orpington chicks roosting at 2 weeks old

Orpington chicks roosting at 2 weeks old

Here are a few more pictures of the chickens. These are the Buff Orpingtons at 2 weeks old. I tried to get a picture of all of them, but since there are 20 and they move around a lot, this is the best I can do.

Orpington chicks 2 weeks old

Orpington chicks 2 weeks old

Orpington chicks at 2 weeks old

Orpington chicks at 2 weeks old

And here is another picture of the New Hampshire chickens free ranging. In this picture they are in part of the driveway. You can see that we clearly have two roosters. Chicken Joe is the slightly darker rooster who doesn’t have all the black tail feathers. The hen in the forground with the black tail feathers is the one we’ve named Rosalie, I think. It’s really hard to tell them apart, but Rosalie has a ring of black tail feathers, so that looks like her. I’ll post more pictures of the pullets as I take them.

Free ranging chickens

Free ranging chickens

More chicks

May 13, 2009

OK, I know I haven’t posted in days and I have like three posts I’m working on and lots of things to update but no time. 🙂

But today I did pick up 20 more chicks, some of which will be meat birds. We will probably keep all that turn out to be hens, but we’ll see how many we end up with. The new chicks are Buff Orpingtons and already have some feathers on their wings and tails. They are a little over a week old and are in a brooder in the garage.

I will try to post more soon, as tomorrow is the 9 week birthday of our Big Chickens as we are now calling the New Hampshire chicks.

Chicks, now with more feathers

April 2, 2009

We’ve had the chicks for 3 weeks now. I think everyone who has ever had chicks will tell you they grow amazingly fast. This last week they got more feathers where they already had them (wings and tails) and then got some up by the back of the neck. Now some of them are working on feathers on the tops of their heads. You can also see where the combs are starting to grow a bit.

Chicken Joe, the cockerel, had a mark on his head 3 weeks ago. It is still there, but very faint. However, he looks different. He seems bigger, for one thing, but also his feathers look different somehow. I can’t quite figure out how he looks different, but he does and I can figure out who he is every time. Two of the pullets are getting the feathers on their heads. One of these pullets is quite friendly and likes to be handled. She always looks like she wants to get out of the brooder and she doesn’t run away chirping if I put my hand in the brooder as some of the others do.

They are definitely using the roost now. They love to scratch and fling their food everywhere. They get excited when I give them fresh water and they seem to be doing fine with the corn cob bedding. I’ve seen them pecking at each other a bit, but not too much yet. I expect to see more of that this week as they are approaching the age where they will be establishing their pecking order.


March 22, 2009

I’m glad I read so much about chickens before getting them. Now that I have them, I feel like I know what I’m doing. It’s easy for me to figure out what they want and need. I thought I might not be able to do that; I can do it with cats, but I have been around cats my whole life and I really love them so it’s easy to figure out what they need. So I thought maybe chickens would be so new and foreign to me that I would not just Know.

But I do! I could tell they needed more space. If someone asked how I knew, I could come up with some reasons, but mostly it was intuition, as well as all the reading I did for months before getting the chicks.

I was just thinking the other day that they are old enough they would probably like something to roost on. Today they were jumping up to the top of the waterer and feeder. Then Moira and I got one of the chicks out and the little chick just sat on her hand. She looked so happy doing that. I took some pictures and will post them later.

So anyway, it’s definitely time to get them something to roost on. I’ll have to figure something out and put it in the brooder. Today we need to give them fresh bedding anyway, so I’ll figure something out when we do that.