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Just Keeping Them Alive

Rima AustinA few of my closest friends know that for my birthday my oldest daughter, Heather, bought me two baby chicks to start my chicken family. I was ecstatic and fell in love with those two little baby chicks. The first day they would barely show their faces, but by the second day they were walking around and pecking and making those cute little chick noises. Within days they had grown by leaps and bounds. One beautiful sunny day I decided that some sunshine would do them some good.

First baby chicks

What the first baby chicks looked like. (Credit: Taylor-Made Homestead)

I had a portable pen that was covered with chicken wire. On one end of it there was a chicken wire door that could be latched. The door itself was pretty small so I thought that they would not be able to fly out of it and would be content pecking around in the dirt and getting some sunshine. I knew I needed to stay outside with them so I made the decision to mow the yard while the chickens pecked and the dogs ran around and played.

Everything was fine for about the first 15 minutes, the dogs were busy chasing each other and every pet was where they were supposed to be. Then, faster than you can say chicken and dumplings, all hell broke loose. I came around the house on the mower, and I saw my sweet dog Molly staring at me from inside the portable coop. It took a minute for my brain to register what I was looking at and that it was a full-scale red alert.

Molly wants chickens

Molly wanting in to "see" the chickens.

I jumped off the mower and ran over to the destruction zone. I flipped the portable pen over and Molly shot out like a rocket. There were my two precious baby chicks gasping for their last breath. I was distraught. I had a meltdown and started screaming at the dog. Heather came down with her husband when they heard me screaming. The initial conversation went like this:

Heather: “What’s wrong?!”

Me, pointing at the dog that is now hunkering down in the field 50 yards away: “I am trying to KILL that dog but she won’t come to me!”

Heather, saving the day as always when it comes to animal emergencies, took the baby chicks and buried them, and took Molly to keep her safe until I calmed down. The next 48 hours were pretty dim. I blamed myself for not protecting them and tried not to imagine the stress and fear they were going through in their last moments. As always on a farm, however, the show must go on. The following weekend I bought four new chicks. This time I bought pullets so the wait for eggs would not be as long.

Fattie Hattie

Pastel egger chicks

A close up of one of the Buff Orpington pullets and an example of what my "pastel eggers" look like. (Credit: Pinterest/Hobby Farm)

Now, I have four pullets, two hens, a rooster, and, as of this writing, two new, 1-week-old “pastel eggers” that I acquired two days ago to replace the birthday present I lost so tragically. It is funny to think that only one year ago, I knew absolutely nothing about chickens and what it takes to raise them. In just the few weeks that I have had chickens I have already acquired a short list of what it takes to at least keep a chicken alive:

How to Keep a Chicken Alive:

  1. Baby chicks three weeks and younger must be kept warm at all times, and away from dogs.

  2. Grown chickens need to be locked up at night to be protected from predators, and dogs,

  3. Pullets should be separated from the older chickens until they are the same size so as not to be attacked by the adult chickens…and dogs.

So there is my very short list about keeping chickens alive that I have acquired so far. I am sure as time goes on the list will get longer. Notice how the title of the list is called, “How to Keep Chickens Alive” instead of “How to Raise Chickens?” One day I will be among the ranks of the people who have the authority to write about raising chickens. Right now I am totally in love with my chickens and enjoying every minute of making their lives wonderful.

Free range chicks

Buff chicks close up

The new Buff Orpington pullets.

patricia
6/8/2015 9:10:36 AM

Oh yeah. We got our first chickens-11 layers and 17 meat birds just about 4 weeks ago. When I first had them in the bathtub I would let the dogs visit while I was in there. No problem. They grew like crazy in the coop. I separated them a few days ago since the meats were 3 times the layers size. My little Jack/Westie cross would come and sit outside the coop and look in. The bottom where the layers were was surrounded with hardware cloth and at night we lowered covers to keep them warm. Jack loved to dig a little dip in the sand and watch the chicks while he kept cool. (I live in NM) Yesterday, before church, we went out to check on the chicks. We don't have a way for them to get out of the coop yet-the floor is a foot lower than the door. But as we opened the door one of the meats jumped onto the ledge and faster than I could imagine my Jack jumped and grabbed it by the throat and ran off. He didn't get very far. The bird and Jack (who is also white)were a bloody mess. We had to put the chicken out of its misery and were not prepared to butcher and all that so we learned an expensive lesson! Sigh