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Even Roomier Quarters March 29, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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After a few weeks in their second brooder, the rapidly growing chicks were ready to be like the “big chickens” and move to a chicken tractor. The kids and I loaded them in a storage tote making several trips down to their new home.

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This group of chicks exhibits interesting dynamics, different from some we have had in the past. They have spent considerably more time napping and tend to be all chirping loudly at once or all suddenly quiet. There has been some play at facing off with each other, but not much. The pecking order isn’t very obvious yet. The other thing they do, which we’ve never had a problem with before, is pecking out each other’s tail feathers. Not the same victim each time either- many different ones have had their turn. It’s unattractive, but there have been no fatalities from the injuries yet, I’m glad to say.

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The transition to the chicken tractor went well until Tuesday night. I had noticed that the chicks were choosing to sleep under the open portion of the tractor rather than under the tarp. I told Joe that I was concerned about what would happen if it rained during the night. I didn’t think they could see well enough to find their way under the tarp and they had never experienced rain before. I hoped they’d get a trial run during the daytime that may encourage them to sleep under shelter at night.

Unfortunately, their first rain came that night. They had bedded down like a crazy quilt of feathers, one pressed against another. Apparently, when the rain began, they huddled closer and closer, but toward the corner instead of the center. (I knew the danger of “piling in the corners” but not only thought that danger had mostly passed, but wasn’t sure how I’d round off the ends of the chicken tractor- cardboard would fall apart outside). When I went out yesterday morning to move them to fresh pasture and feed them, I found two rather flat chicks in a corner. They had suffocated from the weight of the others. That kind of discovery can really spoil my day.

A 20% loss of chicks before adulthood is considered by many to be “normal.” I’ve never been content with that and have taken great care to avoid such losses. But not all possibilities can be anticipated or avoided. We’ll learn from this and try to figure out a way to prevent it in the future. On the bright side, we still have 47 or so that have thrived thus far.

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