The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Hatchery chicks, day 1

Box of chicks from a hatchery

What's it like to order 25 chicks from a hatchery?  Well, first you wait, and wait, and wait for the day when the postmistress finally calls you up and announces that your flock has arrived.  Then your honey carries the cheeping box 'o chicks home, and you dump them into their brood box.

Chick drinking out of an automatic chicken waterer

If your experience is like ours, they will be a bit chilled, but spunky, ready to crowd under the heat lamp, pushing against their neighbors to be the first to warm up.  Our box came with a "bonus" chick which was half the size and had a tenth the vigor of his boxmates, and he kicked the bucket in the first five minutes.  On the other hand, the rest of the chicks soon forgot their traumatic journey and settled in to do what chicks do best --- eat, drink, poop, and be merry.

Sleeping chick

Then, in the midst of his play, a chick's head will suddenly nod, and before you know it he's lying prostrate on the ground.  His siblings will jump on his noggin, but he's so sound asleep that he doesn't even stir.  If you're a worrywart like me, you'll be terrified the chick has joined his puny boxmate in the happy hunting grounds, but when you poke him, he'll hop up and go back to the daily grind of pecking, peeping, and scampering.

Chicks eating
I have nothing to compare these chicks to, so I don't know if all varieties are as quick to peck and poke and search for food as our Dark Cornishes.  I tossed in three worms to give them a taste of the wild side, and the wrigglers quickly disappeared down chick gullets.  I hope that's a sign of good foraging habits to come.

Yes, that is our homemade chicken waterer in the second photo.  As our customers reported, chicks can learn to drink from a nipple as soon as they come out of the box!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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They are cuties. I remember when we first got chicks, years back, and when I checked on them every chick was lying prostrate just like the one in your picture, not a sound to be heard. If I had not read about it in a library book, I would have thought they had all expired. And then, after reading about "pasty rears" (I'll let you check that one out :) I one day left a Q-tip in their midst and they started playing relay with it. It was the funniest thing. One would grab it, run for a bit, and then another one would take it and so on. Who needs TV?
Comment by HeatherW Tue Mar 23 09:27:46 2010
About a third of ours seem to have pasty butt. :-/ I'm on the fence about cleaning them --- I tried this morning and it got them all worked up and didn't seem to do much good. I wonder whether I'm stressing them out more by cleaning or leaving them alone. What do you think?
Comment by anna Tue Mar 23 11:17:31 2010
Hmmm, that's a tough one. I only did it because I had read about it and I used a Q-tip moistened in a bit of warm water. It was rather labor-intensive as I recall but not all the chicks needed it. When I did it I don't think they were as young as your chicks. Maybe waiting a bit to see how they do might work to avoid stress. If they are thriving it is probably okay not to do it. I imagine many who raise chickens don't even know about it.
Comment by HeatherW Tue Mar 23 14:13:57 2010
Waiting was Mark's inclination too. Especially since they all seem very healthy and active otherwise. We're keeping a close eye on them, though --- if they start acting funny, we'll get to work. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Mar 23 15:47:02 2010
They do look cute! Ours are now just over a week old, and carrying on like little mini chickens. They even scratch with their feet when feeding! They're better than goldfish for a dose of that "sit and stare" relaxation.
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Tue Mar 23 17:37:10 2010
You'll have to post a round of photos on your blog! Two of ours started scratching today --- I was so enthused. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Mar 23 17:51:44 2010

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