Monday, 8 February 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 5

The chicks are just about ready to go outside, I think.

Last Friday they managed to get out of their box and walk around the bathroom. I was greeted with a stinking poo covered mess on the bathroom floor as they explored the place. I wanted them to go outside, but then I was going to be away all weekend so I didn't want to risk them going outside. Maybe just one more week in the house. Besides, Mary is still small.

Popped them on the scales today and they had put on a decent amount of weight!

Bubbles has put on 70g this week! I thought that she was a boy, but now I'm not so sure. She and Cacciatore are almost the same size now, and other than her feathers, she hasn't got a comb or any other indications of being a roo. Bubbles eats well out of the hand.

Cacciatore has put on 82g, and continues to be as friendly as ever. I love how she jumps out of the box to greet me and try to climb up my arm. My forearm is forever covered in claw marks.

Little Mary is still trailing the pack, but she is about a week behind now in weight. Last week Cacciatore was 210g. Mary put on 61g this week. She is easy to pick up, and doesn't struggle or flap - if I could say there was a ragdoll chicken, she would be it. She ate out of my hand for the first time yesterday - she still prefers to eat from the takeaway container.

Spot has put on a whopping 93g this week! His comb is a little more pinkish than before, and he is still easily startled when approached suddenly, but when you go over slowly, he's ok with being picked up, though he still is a bit flappy. He eats well out of the hand.

I felt their crop for the first time last week! I felt a funny lump at the base of Cacciatore's neck and thought "Oh, what's that?" and then I felt all the others and they had the same thing. I thought is that the crop? Let me go check. And I googled it, and yes it was the crop, but I did panic at first, when I first felt it in Cacciatore.

I told my mother and she laughed at me. "You're a DOCTOR! With a foundation in science! How can you not know?" she admonished me.

"For goodness sake," I replied. "I know HUMAN anatomy - what human has a crop? Birds and mammals are VERY different!"

We made them a sandpit out of an old tyre (which was free) and filled it up with construction sand. I had read a lot about other additives to the dust bath, including dirt, ashes and Diatomaceous earth (DTE). I even bought some food grade DTE - which are fossilized microscopic diatoms and mostly made of silica. A bit like sand, which is silica. The Chicken Chick said that she doesn't use DTE because of the risk of respiratory problems. Silicosis is a well known medical condition from inhaling dusts in industry, and inhaling all that DTE could be hazardous to my health as well as to the chickens! DTE is supposed to be really good at treating mites and other bugs because it is a dessicant and it scratches and dries out the arthropods' little bodies. Maybe I could use that instead of a chemical mite treatment. I could also feed it to them. The guy at the pet store where I bought it asked me if it was for the chickens or if it was for me - apparently people EAT food grade DTE to get absorbable silica (rather than chow on sand) and say that it helps because "the sharp edges damage the worms, parasites and bacteria in our alimentary tract".

Let's just say, I am extremely skeptical. Firstly, people tell me that DTE is useless once it's wet, and it will be wet once I eat it (so it won't be much of a dessicant). Secondly, it's not going to be rolling around in my guts killing bugs, but mixed in with whatever else I've been eating. Scientifically, silicon is important for joint cartilage and bone formation and maintenance, thus boosting the suggesting that silicon is a nutrient of concern for osteoporosis, and perhaps osteoarthritis. Levels of silicon are high when we are young but dwindle as we age. Perhaps, there might be something there with the cartilage. But the other stuff? I doubt it.

Back to the sandpit. I was hoping the girls would dust themselves, but they didn't. They preferred doing it in the dirt - MAYBE because it was cooler there. Sand does get really hot. They looked very miserable in the sun, panting and laying on the ground looking lethargic, despite drinking water and hiding in the cardboard box I put outside for them. My daughter moved them to the shaded tanbark area which was not fenced and surprisingly they didn't try to run away, they just hung around together and let her feed them and pick them up and move them around. They looked much more lively and I even saw them picking up some rocks for their gizzards.

I've also decided that the coop I got was too small, and bought a bigger one. Time to sell the small one on gumtree!

This was the old one. It looked ok on pictures but in real life it's TINY! It's probably only good enough for 2 maybe 3 bantams, not big heritage chooks like mine.

I've ordered this, and it looks much better for the chooks. More room underneath for them too, so I can put feeders and maybe their dust bath under there. Maybe will have pics of it next week!

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