Happenings around the Urban Homestead-99 Problems, but the Chicks Ain’t One.
The month began with three new arrivals on the Leyshaw Homestead. We’ve been eating a lot of eggs since sheltering at home became the norm. The plan was to get another hen; ONE point of lay hen. There were a few problems with this plan. Problem 1: We decided early on that if we got one hen, we would need to get her a hen friend to keep her company during her quarantine before we introduced her to the Sussex girls. To keep a hen by herself for an extended period of time seemed cruel. So one hen became TWO hens pretty early in the plan. This quickly revealed the second problem in the plan.
Problem 2: Panic buying of poultry has become a thing. That’s right, pullets and hens are the new toilet paper. Wallis Simpson, Margaret, and Lilibet are incredibly sweet girls with a very mild, barely perceivable pecking order. As a loving hen-keeper, I wasn’t about to throw in just any chicky-come-lately. I decided that Orpingtons, with their reputation for being docile and sweet, would be the best candidate for moving in with the Sussex family. Except, I couldn’t find any older hens at all.
After much deliberation, the Fella and I decided we would raise some chicks.
Problem 3 (really more of a conundrum): The Fella was concerned about chick mortality. He expressed to me that he would prefer to get another trio of girls, his logic being that if something happened to one then there would be two more to keep each other company. We also considered the fact that most hatcheries require a minimum of 3 full sized chicks to ship. Three seemed to be the magic number.
We REALLY don’t trust OUR post office to deliver live animals. They tend to misplace packages for days. I’m sure other post offices would not lose a cheeping box of birdies, but our post office is a black hole. We decided that would just go to one of our three favorite poultry purveyors; this led to our next problem.
Problem 4: None of our poultry purveyors could keep chicks in stock. They were selling out within an hour of the chicks being released for purchase. I specifically wanted my Buff Orpingtons. I finally got the inside track from my local independently owned feed store. I was told that the babies would be arriving 6/4 and be made available to the public on 6/5. I was also told to be there before they opened. I was there at 8:30 am, thirty minutes before opening time. I was the fourth person in line. By the time I was handed my box of chicks, there were about a dozen more people behind me waiting for theirs. By all accounts, from every feedstore/hatchery person I’ve talked to, this is unprecedented.
Our brooding set up is a 50 gallon plastic tub. We cut out most of the lid material and sandwiched it and a piece of hardware cloth (18″x32″) between two layers of untreated furring strip. I was able to suspend the feeder from the wire, but the water proved too heavy. We opted for a brooder plate instead of a heat lamp, because I’m not a fan of heat lamps; I’ve heard too many horror stories. We used a piece of rubberized drawer liner to give them a grippy, moisture free floor. As they’ve gotten larger and started pooping more (WAY MORE), I’ve started adding shredded aspen bedding. They are turning 4 weeks old on Friday, which means next week they should be able to start spending part of the time in an outdoor play pen. Currently they are living under the desk in my studio, which is getting stinkier with each passing day.
We have plans for an updated chicken house, but that is a problem for another day.