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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Brooding chicks.

Allow me to start by saying that the following is not about my first time brooding chicks. It is my third. But it is my first time with bantams. The two sets of layers and heavies were not too traumatic, though we did have a problem with one of the ducklings pulling feathers and killing our two turkeys. Turns out {referring back to one of my homesteading books} the duck had a vitamin deficiency and that dandelion leaves and clovers were the remedy. Or so the books claim. Maybe it is now just a habit, but that duck is still a menace.

Most hens today have had the nesting instinct bred out of them” My father-in-law agrees with that statement and informs us that should invest in some bannies. My husband and I discuss this at great lengths. “Bannies?” “Yes.” {We are wonderful conversationalists} We do have an option, buying an incubator that would be placed in the house. But do we really want them inside where our two-year-old can get to them? He already gets into the fridge and laughs hysterically as he breaks open the eggs on the dog. And then there is the fact that the geese and rooster loathe the child. He has been goosed and spurred {a couple of times were through the fence} yet he still wants to help gather the eggs. I carry the stick of doom when I enter the pen, not only to protect the boy, but also myself. {The roosters are holding some type of grudge against me} The bantam idea seems to be a brilliant one. We can set up a smaller pen for them, move the hatch able eggs over, and our two-year-old can safely help me with them.

Back to the catalog. We decided which ones we want and I go online to order. What’s this? I have an e-mail from the hatchery we order our chicks from. They have more bantams than they can sell and have them on special. I jump on that deal immediately and order the minimum of twenty five chicks, with plans to give a few to a friend.

Three days pass and I receive a phone call from the postoffice. The woman on the line was very concerned and I reassured her that they were fine, and that we would be by shortly. Unfortunately my car was not in working order and I had to call the motorcycle shop that my husband works at. I ask his boss to tell my husband that “the chickens are in.” Apparently the boss found this amusing and asked if it was code for something illegal.

Two hours later my husband arrives with a very large box. Twice the size we were use to getting. I had prepared the brooder {a kiddie pool, heat lamp, feeder and water} in the master bath. Anxiously we open the box. Aaaawwww how cute! We moved them one by one into the brooder, counting one, two three...twenty five...forty...sixty. Sixty bantams! But I had only wanted and paid for twenty five! The hatchery hadn’t been lying when they claimed to have too many bantams in stock. Twelve of the little ones had died in transit, the total they sent us was seventy two birds.

When receiving three days old chicks, you have to check and see if their bowl movements are blocking their vent. I checked them as I placed them into the brooder, wiping off the ones that needed it. That night we fell asleep to the sounds of chirping.

I found two dead the next morning. Were they too cold? I moved the heat lamp lower and checked the thermometer. A few hours later I found another dead and one dying. What was happening?

I look through my homesteading books hoping that they could explain this to me, nothing. What was I doing wrong? I was doing everything that I had done before. I checked the hatchery’s website, nothing. I tried general chicken info on the web, nothing. I removed the chicks from their brooder, washed it and changed the litter. I cleaned out their feeder and waterers. A few hours pass, and more have died. Why can I not save them?

I am not sure how I decided it had something to do with their vents, but I checked and some of them did have blockage. I cleaned them off, and every two hours I would return to clean them again. No one said I would have to wash chicken vents the rest of their lives. No more had died, but we had lost almost half of them, I guess, to my incompetence. My husband came home the next day with four turkeys. Guess what turkeys like to do. You got it, no more cleaning chicks for me.

The day came that the chicks could go outside, and we placed into the nursery. We have adult chickens and water fowl, so it is wise to introduce them slowly. {A word to the fledglings, when building a nursery, make sure it is completely enclosed, no open areas at all. } A few weeks pass, and we are very happy with our 30 + bantams. The turkeys think I am mommy, and watching all of them run through the tall grass was a joy. And now I welcome you to spring time in Kansas.

80+ miles per hour winds hit our home. The shingles on the deck flew about as our trampoline took flight. Too dangerous to go out and check the babies, so I am forced to wait until morning. With the rise of the sun I am out in the flooded field desperately calling for the bantams. I find only nine, and one turkey. The wind had sucked them out of the nursery. My husband and I looked through our fields, finding only three more, dead. It was a horrible day for me. I had grown so attached to our little ones. I broke down and cried. I messed up. I spent the remainder of the day, up past my ankles in mud, shoring up the nursery. I could at least try and save my remaining flock.


MissTree said...

Awww. I remember when that happened a few months ago. Poor little things. It sounds like some homesteading lessons can be really harsh.


alrescate said...

My grandma has raised many a chick in her house but I've never helped. I had no idea you had to clean their vents.

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