Introduction to Keeping Chickens Part 4 of 5


| 2/5/2013 8:21:37 AM


Tags: raising chickens, setting up your coop and run, feeding the flock, transitioning chicks outside, Tilly's Nest, Melissa Caughey, Melissa Caughey,

 A baby Silkie explores her surroundings 

THE FIRST SIX WEEKS 

I think that you will be utterly amazed at the pace in which these adorable little chickens grow!  Don't blink because you will miss it!  Take the time to enjoy them.  They should start to develop a pecking order.  Every flock has one.  By watching your flock, you will be able to determine things such as; Who eats first?  Who eats last?  Who seems like an outsider?  Who sleeps next to whom?  Who plays together?  Who is the smartest one?  Who is the fastest?  Your answers will help to determine their pecking order.  The idea of a pecking order is hardwired into every chicken from days when they had to survive in the wild.  Each chicken will have a role.  These roles are fought for or settled on depending on how the chickens jockey for position.  There is not much you can do to change it.  Once a true order is established, it should not change.   The only exception to this is if you add or subtract anyone from the flock.  Of note, roosters are not part of the pecking order.  Roosters are separate from the hens in this manner.  If you have more than one rooster, there will be an alpha rooster and the other will be submissive to him.  They may fight now and then and sometimes it is deadly.  The rooster's role is to be a protector of the flock and to fertilize eggs.  If a predator attacks, it is the rooster that will sacrifice himself for the sake of the girls.

If you have a warm sunny day and temperatures outside are not too far off from the brooder's temperature, feel free to let the chicks go into a small enclosure outside.  We put our chicks in the run.  I suggest starting with small increments of 15 minutes.  As they get closer to six weeks of age, they can spend a couple of hours outside depending on the temperature.  When they do go outside, be sure to provide them with shade, food and water at all times.

It is also a great idea to introduce some toys for your chicks.  Growing larger in a tiny space like the brooder can create chicken boredom.  My chicks enjoyed reading the newspaper.  They loved to scratch away the pine shavings to reveal people's faces.  Then they would peck at them for hours.  They also loved it when I put cardboard paper towel rolls in there too.  They would peek through the tubes at each other and try to roost upon them.  Until they got the hang of it, it was like a log rolling contest.  At about 2 weeks, they will also begin to practice roosting.  Chickens should sleep on roosts.  It helps keep them clean and provides them with a feeling of safety.  Try placing some sort of skinny stick just wide enough for the chicks' tiny feet in the brooder.  I found one outside in the woods.  Initially, I placed it about 2 inches off the brooder floor.  As they grow they will need it raised.  This provides exercise and roosting practice for these little chicks.

SETTING UP YOUR PERMANENT COOP AND RUN 




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