Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What are you, Chicken?

So...beyond Gavin learning to ride a two-wheeler and Ivy learning to cruise on the Strider bike, Some other cool progressions have been shaping up around here. I've started playing music in a "band" again, actually it's more like a quartet (and and occasionally a sextet)....My friend Andy, his wife, Maureen, Chrissy, and I have established this little bluegrass collective that we call The Grape Pickers. Gavin will sometimes break out his collection of harmonicas and rip a few notes while Ivy goes crazy with a shaker or tambourine (that's the sextet). We have 1 legit gig so far, in late August. More to come on that as it gets closer. In other news...this year, we will be drip irrigating our gardens from collected rainwater, something we've been talking about for a few seasons. Additionally, garden-wise, we are expanding our gardens a bit and starting an informal gardening co-op with two families and a young man from church. We've always harvested more than we use, and have given away bushels of produce to friends, family, and causes. We'll still be able to do that, while adding to it the pleasure of getting to garden along-side some our dearest friends as we work together to bring forth a harvest. This also is something that has been in my head and heart for some time, it was just never the Lord's timing for it...until now.

Now, all of that is big news (at least for us)...but the biggest (and cutest) news of all is that we are now raising chickens!! We got ourselves a nice little collection of Rhode Island Red hens who will be giving us delicious, home-grown, eggs by late Summer. We are so excited about this. Right now they are 1 week old chicks living in a brooder in our home school room.

A quick story about that:

I knew the chicks would be arriving soon, so last week, I picked up all the equipment that I would need: pine shavings, feed and feeder, water fount, heat lamp, thermometer...all I had left to buy was the actual container for the brooder. Now...people use all kinds of home made contraptions as a brooder: kiddie pools, cardboard boxes, Rubbermaid totes...I guess that would be pretty cost effective but...I wanted something that looked kind of slick and "farmy"...I decided to use a galvanized stock tank...the setup looked like this:

Notice at the feeder is Gavin's wind up toy chick....hey, we wanted a visual here...just until the real peepers arrived. 2 days later, our girls were home and now our brooder looked like this:

Pretty much the cutest things in the universe, right?

We got to naming a few of them: Chatty Baby, Little Jerry, Pickle, Marilyn 1, Marilyn 2...i think that's as far as we got. We spent the first few days down there just about all the time. Gavin got really good at handling them. I've read that if your chicks are consistently and lovingly handled early on that they will be more docile as they grow up. Not sure if that's true but...we'll find out, I guess. So after 2 days, we noticed some things. First, baby chicks grow FAST. I mean, these things nearly doubled in size in 48 hours. Second, their wing feathers were starting to come in:

It's unreal watching them grow. It's like watching your kids grow up, only 10 times as fast. Our friends, the Corbett's, came over that night and my buddy Andy says "So, how long before they can hop out of the tank, a week?"


6 days. all honesty, one didn't jump out of the tank but, as I was sitting there watching them scamper around, a few of them COULD have jumped out if they timed their jumps right. That's just about the last thing on earth that I need....I pictured Chrissy calling me at work, kids SCREAMING crying in sorrow in the background, as she tells me that 3 chicks were missing. No way, man.

Well, that night, the brooder looked like this:

After harvesting the screens from the basement windows and laying them across the top of the brooder, I knew that I had made a rookie mistake...I bought a tank that was too shallow. Now, I figured that I could bungee cord some flexible fencing or chicken wire around the thing to build up the sides...but then it would look all ghetto...I knew what I had to do. I took back the 44 gallon stock tank and exchanged it for the 169 gallon stock tank! Tonight...the brooder looks like this:

Now we're talkin'. a full foot deeper, 4 more square feet of running room...I'm able to suspend the feeder (although I did settle on a home-made, ghetto-looking bar made of scrap wood, drywall screws, and some random brackets). I must say...I'm much happier (and so are the girls).

The coop will be ready in a few weeks and by late April, the hens will be ready to move outside. If they keep growing at the rate they are, they ought to be about 75 lbs. each by then. here's some random chick pics:

Ivy learning some "mothering" skills

Gavin learning some "Don't always be a complete spaz" skills (kidding...LOVE this kid).

Nose to beak

oh yeah...

...they also have tail-feathers, now.
*sniff*...they grow up so fast....*sniff*

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