Chick-ville...it is a magical place where you don't have to cook, do laundry, be responsible for anything or anyone, you get to hold the remote, actually watch something for a couple of minutes before you change the channel, there is always toilet paper on the roll, and you can spend endless hours watching chick-flicks and reading romance novels.
Not even close.
Chick-ville...it is where I have been living for the last couple of weeks, and it hasn't been fun at all. It is a place where you spend a lot more time reacting to situations than you spend being proactive, and I really have a special kind of hate for that. It is also a place where some very unpleasant things have been happening.
As you know, I have ordered and received 30 baby chicks. We lost one in shipping, so we had 29 babies and they were cute for the first week. Then it all went downhill from there. I have learned some very valuable lessons and I am going to try to relay them in a factual manner without all of the emotion and anguish that I have felt along the way. All of that will come right after this very emotional plea. Do you know that chickens are mean? The more I have observed them the more I feel like they represent the worst in female behavior. If there is something different about one, the others will jump on it. If there is a large group, they tend to behave in a more aggressive manner. They definitely gang up on the ones that are a little different and pick and peck until it is unbearable for them. The more revealing part is that it never fails that the outcasts, the ones that are getting abused, still, even under the worst conditions, will try to be a part of the group. Even if it is a miserable group, they want in. No matter what the cost. If you are a woman who does that, stop. If you know a woman who does that, tell her to stop. If you only feel good about yourself in a group making someone else feel bad, stop. Get away from the group, stand on your own two feet and be yourself, even if it is different. God made us different, and He likes us that way. When you go against that, a part of you dies each time. Stop. You may think that that is a little much for a Post on baby chicks, but these guys have been wearing me out.
The lessons that I have learned:
1. Don't order an assortment of breeds. Some breeds are more aggressive, and this is difficult to manage.
2. Chicks grow a lot faster than you think they will, and they cannot be over crowded or they will hurt each other.
3. Red heat lamp bulbs are better than clear. A darker environment is a little more calming, and they still get the heat they need.
4. Chickens are born instinctively knowing natural behaviors, and in the absence of the environment to do them, they will resort to bad behavior. Essentially they will get bored.
5. Most people that you will talk to about these things will think that you are crazy.
I can't help it. Once I have committed to something, I feel like I have to do my best to manage their livelyhood to the best of my ability. These 29 chicks have tested all my abilities. I have lost two additional chicks in the process, and let me tell you, it is not always the one that you think is the weakest that will go first. I have increased their living space numerous times, and have managed to move them out to the coop finally.
I spent Monday doubling the size of my coop, and I will have pictures of the updates later. It is hard to get shots in that area because the lighting is very poor. I did manage to take my own advice and avoid moving the ladder with any tools on the top of it. I was so focused on that safety tip that I picked up a new one for you.
Public Safety Announcement: No matter how many times you duck under a board, never reach a point that you feel confident that you've got this one. I bet you I ducked under a board 52 times in the matter of several hours of working out there and the last time I ducked under that board, guess what happened? I hit my head so hard that I saw stars, and you know the old cartoons that showed the vibration of the head that had been hit, well, I felt that too. I had to just close my eyes and wait for it to stop before I could even get up. Note that I said it was the last time that I ducked under the board. I decided that one self-inflicted concussion was enough for the day, and wrapped things up.
I have moved them in, and I am trying to stimulate their behavior by giving them hay to scratch around in and I have also built them a roost to hang out on. I try to go out there a few times a day and fluff up their hay or give them fresh hay with a little food sprinkled on top to stimulate their natural tendency to scratch and peck around. I have also built a smaller pen inside that area to house some chicks that have been getting picked on. I have found that if you give them some time alone, they will recover from their abuse and get a little stronger, then they can rejoin the group. We've been calling it the infirmary for lack of a better name. I still have to finish my renovations by building another wall and two doors, I will also build them another roost and then start working on my laying boxes. The more work that I have done, and the more research that I have done, I have learned that there are a lot of things that I can improve upon for my original group of chickens.
This has been more work than I originally thought it would have been, and I do realize that that is a very common reality in my world. I would like to think that I might learn something and change my behavior, but I think we all know that I would just be kidding myself.