(Those who’ve watched Supernatural will appreciate that reference)
Growing up I had a lot of ducks – every summer we’d get little fluffy baby ducks and they were usually only a day or so old, so they’d imprint. If you’ve ever seen videos of little chicks or ducklings following people around like they are their momma, that’s imprinting, so wherever I’d go, they would follow. With gusto, might I add. So much so that at times my tiny self would not realize it before they were under my feet. That’s how my first pet duck met his untimely end, and I was so small at the time I hadn’t learned yet to watch very closely where I was going. Anyway, it was always such a joy to turn around and see those little puff balls trailing behind.
So we got our chickens at the end of September and they were about a week old. Since my past was full of ducks chasing me around, this is the life I was hoping for with the chicks. However, the process of imprinting that these little guys go through has a tiny window of opportunity…and I missed it. They’re about 5 weeks old now and I still feel personally offended when I walk down the hill in our yard and they just ignore me completely. So that’s been a real bummer. We’ve made progress and they do let me pick them up (they protest but at least they let me catch them) and sometimes they let me pet them. But there are a lot of things I’m learning about chickens, and here are my thoughts so far…
- It really seems like they’ve all got Dory syndrome. If they were friendly last night, this morning all memory of who I am has escaped them and they run like I might be there to end their life.
- They develop the ability to fly VERY quickly. We were like 3 weeks in and those little suckers could already fly out of their brooder (more on that brooder in another post).
- Also about flying – they may be able to fly, but their expertise in flying has yet to develop. Imagine a drunken bird trying to fly…and you’ve got a good idea of a typical afternoon in our backyard when they get to stretch their wings while I replace their bedding. All of a sudden it’s like someone has whispered chaos into their brains and they just take off running, jumping and flapping with reckless abandon. They hop into the air, leap-frog over each other, and squawk like lunatics.
- They have no sense of spatial awareness. One minute they’re standing next to each other like civilized creatures and the next they’re stepping on the other’s back or running them over like they’re invisible. This very obviously offends the one they’ve just assaulted, and it’ll squawk in irritation.
- Figuring out if you’ve got hens or roosters is a long, confusing game. There is a way to sex chicks, but it’s not safe for the chicks to try it unless you’re trained to do so. So since we got ours from a friend, we are still waiting to figure out what we’ve got. Thankfully if we end up with a rooster we’re able to bring it back in exchange for one of her hens (get chased by a rooster once and you’ll know why we refuse to have anything but hens).
So there it is – the road so far in life with chickens. We are a week out from being able to move them out of the garage brooder and into their coop, and I am PUMPED, y’all. They’re so cramped in that brooder, but it was also in the 30’s last night, so I really don’t want chicksicles by moving them out too early. At 6 weeks chickens normally have all their big girl feathers, so they can thermoregulate all my themselves, and we are in the midst of week 5!
Stay tuned for pictures of how we set up our brooder and how my wonderful husband built our waterer for them after countless days of pine shaving filled water bowls, soaked shavings, and the general uneasiness of wondering how long ago they knocked it over when I discover them waterless after work.