It has been so much fun having little chicks around this year. It has been a couple years since I have gotten chicks in place of laying hens. As a backyard chicken keeper, it is important that I know I have hens and not roosters, or at least have a plan on what to do with a rooster should a pullet be a he and not a she. One of my back up plans was a friend who offered to take in a lone roo, but some another options are to sell the rooster, look to 4H Clubs for members looking for donations to show or processing the bird for food. With my plan set, I took the plunge and got some chicks. We got Light Brahmas and while the feed store called them Ameraucanas, I call them Easter Eggers. The new chicks peeped about in the brooder in my bathroom for a couple of weeks. (You can read about that adventure here.) Now the newly feathered over teenage pullets are in my small dog house coop in the garage.
While the garage offers the young chicks protection and the dog house coop offers a bit more room than the brooder, they still tend to get bored. Like all teenagers, boredom leads to mischief. Ever find your escapee chicks hanging out on your bicycles? My boys had the fun of that experience. After we re-secured the coop I set about coming up with some boredom busters. My favorite so far, has been the play date.
Play date? Sure, why not? The chicks have regular play dates now in the run with my laying hens. The key word here is my laying hens. They are not mingling with other people’s chickens. This is to prevent sickness from entering my yard and upsetting my flock. For the chicks safety, though, I can not just let them go in the run freely. They are still much smaller than my hens and pecking order brutality could be brutal if not fatal on such small chicks. Also, there are predators who would love a chance at a young pullet. So my solution? A good old fashion laundry basket…turned up side down of course with a weight on top. This I place along side the fencing of the covered run. This enables the chicks to see through the sides and yet still scratch about in the dirt and grass while protecting them from harm. The run is enclosed which helps with the predators and keeps them out of the pecking order of the flock until they are a bit bigger. These play dates are supervised. When you are doing yard work, kids are playing outside or just enjoying the newly wonderful weather, is a great opportunity to get your chicks outside.
The young girls took to it right away. They loved to scratch and were instantly picking at grass and scratching about. It surely did not hurt that I add in a sprinkle of meal worms now and then. The hens for the most part, investigate the play pen, but have yet to find the chicks to be all that entertaining. The chicks now get to enjoy some play time scratching about outside of their sheltered dog house coop and the garage pretty regularly. A side bonus of the play date is that the chicks and hens are getting used to seeing, hearing and smelling each other long before we start to integrate the newbies into the coop. If I am lucky, this will also help with the transition when the time comes.
I want to share a short video with you of the chicks in their playpen on their play date. The peeps of happiness is kinda contagious. Chick fever may return…