Yesterday Eugene and I went down to the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area to pick up our first batch of day old chicks at Mt Healthy Hatcheries, where we have bought our chickens for the past 9 years or so.
We got on the road around 10am and traveled down US 127 to the city of Hamilton! (the city is really spelled with an exclamation point-why? I dunno) and than got on RT 4 and travelled to Fairfield and stopped in at Jungle Jim's where we scored big time on discounted fruit and bread. And we saw a really strange item-the fake stick made out of some squishy plastic foam to toss to your dogs for $8.95. The sticks came in a variety of color combinations. What is wrong with a stick made out of tree wood? I guess wooden sticks don't have the RDA of mel-a-mine (and other poisons used to make plastic items) that the modern dog needs.
My dogs chew on raw bones they find in the woods and sticks from real trees. They also take great joy in rolling in dead rodents and the feces from herbivores and birds. They are real dogs and are allowed to act as such. We do ask that they guard the chickens from predators (which they can kill and eat if they wish) and keep the deer out of the garden.
After our JJ's fix we got on the road again and drove to Mt Healthy and picked up the box of chicks. Yes folks chickens come in a box, 50 to a box. We pit the chicks in the van and went home the way we came. We got home around 2:30pm and ate lunch before doing anything with the chicks that we left in the van out of reach of the dogs. Don't feel badly for the chicks as they were packed to go into the USPS system for 2 to 3 days so waiting an additional 2 hours while we ate and got things ready for them ain't nothin'.
it was very windy when we got back and the hoophouse Eugene had put up for the chicks was coming loose because the edges were not dug into the ground they way a big HH for crops is. This is because the hoophouse and the chicken tractor inside will have to be moved in a couple of days and Eugene figured it would be better to weigh down the edges with heavy items such as small boulders, a metal water tank from the 1950's, cinder blocks and anything else that weighs more than 25 pounds. well he had not put enough weight on the plastic and it was beginning to come up so he spent a 1/2 hour hauling more heavy items over to the chicken hoophouse and got it to stay put. While he was doing that I washed out the feeders and waterers they use for the first 10 days or so. Finally we got everything ready-cleaned and filled waters and feeders, a brooder heat lamp in place, the plastic in place, etc.. Now it was time to get the box of peeps and introduce them to their new environment. So with me sitting on the ground in front of the tractor door I gently grabbed a chick, stuck its' beak in water and set it down in the tractor under the heat lamp and repeated this 49 more times until they were all out of the box and running around exploring their new reality. at one point Nate decided he needed to come in the hoophouse and nose a chick or two. After last year we do not trust Nate not to eat a chick. But to his credit, he did back away when told to. Maybe this year he will protect them and not try to eat them (yeah right...)
Soon we realized that we needed to put a fence in the chicken hoophouse as the chicks were finding small openings along the bottom of the hoophouse and trying to escape and the last thing we needed was 50 day old chicks running around the farm in high winds with dogs and other predators around. So Eugene went and got the plastic snow fence and started putting that up inside the hoophouse and immediately the chicks breached that fence, even before he had the thing all the way up. So he pulled the plastic snow fence out of the hoophouse and found the chicken wire fence we have used for tiny chickens in the past. They could not easily get through that, though they did try and did find a few openings at the bottom that we have since closed.
About 2 hours before dusk I found them screaming and cold. The heat lamp had been turned off and they were getting way too cold for comfort so I turned it back on and started placing chicks under it. Some liked the heat and settled in for a nap but others had things to do and places to be and continued to run around. At dusk Eugene tucked them in for the night and the spent an uneventful first night as pastured poultry. When I checked them this morning they were in a heap under the light warm as toast.