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Friday, June 3, 2011

The Coop's Time Has Come!

I'm up early today, and instead of the usual dreary rain we've been getting, it's dawned bright, clear and beautiful and I have sunshine to enjoy with my coffee.  We have three days of clear, hot weather forecasted, which is a good thing, because last night I decided that I'd better set aside the dining nook and build a chicken coop.

The nook so far.

I keep marveling at how incredibly fast the chicks are growing.  They are two weeks and four days old today, and they barely look like chicks anymore.  Their combs are starting to pop out above their beaks, and their wings are fully feathered; one is sporting the beginnings of tail feathers already.  They're not even three weeks old yet!

Yesterday I had to move them from the big plastic box in which I was brooding them to the bottom half of Rufus's old crate, which is a pretty big dog crate.  This will give them more room, but it's pretty obvious to me that at the rate they're growing, they'll need something bigger soon.  Well I don't have anything bigger, so the coop needs to be built.  And while I was moving them, one got away from me.  She flew to the top of the plastic bin and perched on the edge of the bin, and while I was loudly sucking in air because I couldn't believe what I was seeing, she flew down to the floor.  I hollered to Steve that one was loose and to come help me.  He came and closed the door, and then we corralled her between us until I was able to catch her and deposit her in the holding cell (a big orange Home Depot bucket) until I was ready to move them all to their new quarters.  That was a bit of excitement the recurrence of which I could live without for a very long time.

I am remembering a phone conversation with my mother when I got the chicks to let her know that I did.  I chose New Hampshire Reds because that's the breed with which she grew up during the time that my grandfather owned the chicken ranch.  She seemed concerned that I didn't have the coop built yet.  That's okay, I said blithely; I have sixty days which will be mid-July before I need to move them outside. That's what the book said, so that's what I was counting on.

She could have told me that New Hampshire Reds were indeed bred in New Hampshire, but they were selected out of Rhode Island Reds and bred for early maturity!  So ha ha! The joke's on me!  I need to build a coop!

Getting to be big girls that roost!

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the chickens is much larger than the other three.  Although she doesn't appear to be any larger than the others anymore, she is now sporting a black streak on her head that the other three don't have, but Steve and I have both noticed that what's really different about her is that she's a klutz. She wobbles from side to side when she's walking to the point where she looks like she's going to fall over. I mean, she staggers like a drunk.  She'll even stumble and stagger when she's standing still.  She does tend to wobble when she lies down, and then last night she lay down on her side with one leg tucked under her and the topside leg splayed out, her top side wing stretched out as well, but eventually she righted herself and tucked everything in.  Steve mentioned that he thinks she's defective, and I admitted that I thought the same thing.  Nothing in the Storey's Guide says anything about this behavior.

Does anyone have an idea of what's wrong with my chick?


Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

My chick expertise does not extend to offering even an idea of what's wrong (if anything is). However, if her size and coloring are different, it's possible you got a different breed by mistake. And if that different breed is a meat chicken, it's possible that it has a body that's heavy for its legs, which might make for some staggering.

No idea whether this is a reasonable or incredibly stupid hypothesis. Just an idea.

Paula said...

Although NHR's are supposed to be good dual purpose birds (and I've also read they are primarily meat birds, and also heard that they're great layers), I'm pretty sure that she's not a meat bird per se, because when I got to the store, the girl there was packing up all 100 of the Cornish Crosses they received that morning for a single customer who wanted them (although, I think that was pretty dumb paying full retail when 100 is more than enough to justify an order directly from the hatchery...just sayin'). The chicks I got came in that morning, and two had stripes down the backs and two didn't. One of the stripey ones is the one with the black streak on her head. Also, the other chicks are catching up to her in size, and her body doesn't look any different from the other girls. Just the top knot, and the stagger.

And any idea especially when generated in a vacuum is worth suggesting.

Lisa said...

Hi Paula.
I don't know about the wobbling, however, the one wing spread full out and one leg underneath with the other straight out under the spread out wing is perfectly normal. The chick is stretching. Hens will do this as well but they take it up a notch and do it when walking! When my chicks first did this, I pointed it out to my husband and he replied, "Look! A ballerina!"

As for the wobbling, try contacting someone at the hatchery or feed store. Another avenue would be a local or state poultry association or even the resident chicken expert at your local agricultural extension office.

Toni aka irishlas said...

I don't know about the stumbling, but, it's not unusual for chickens to lay (rest) as you are describing. My husband and I call it the "come hither" look for chickens!

How exciting to start on the coop! I'm sure it will be spectacular! And, I can't wait to see the finished dining nook. It looks great so far.

Have a great weekend!

Paula said...

Lisa, that's a good idea. I guess I'm going to have to get serious about this because she's worrying me.

And thanks for the great faith Toni, but if the coop doesn't fall over and protects the birds from the DR's (damn raccoons), then I'll be happy!

Miriam said...

Kim's the chicken expert and she's away, but I did have a look at her bible - Gail Damerow's "The Chicken Health Book." I know you're a fan of Damerow's other chicken book, which is a wonderful one, but this focuses solely on health issues, and has diagnostic tables based on symptom and age of chicken to help you figure out what might be wrong.

That being said, I had a look for wobbling (which I interpreted as "incoordination" rather than "lameness") and came up with a few possibilities, all of which are classified as "rare" or "very rare", so they're probably not your answer. But here they are in case you want to do a bit of web research: dactylariosis (tremors, circling, incoordination in chicks 1-6 weeks), epidemic tremor (lost coordination, jerky gait, inability to stand, falling over with outstretched wing in 1-3 week old chicks), or encephalomalacia (loss of balance with legs outstretched, flapping wings and falling over, circling, most common but still rare in chicks 2-4 weeks). There were some other possibilities but I eliminated them because you would have noticed other symptoms, too, like watery stools or problems with the skin and feathers.

If you aren't doing so already, please take this all with a grain of salt. Kim has referred to this book frequently, usually imagining worse case scenarios, and it always turned out to be something simple and common. But it's a very thorough resource that you might think about having on hand.

Good luck with the wee chick!

Paula said...

Thanks Miriam.

Rae said...

Wow. I'm waaay behind on my blog list reading, so getting here a little late. I agree with other commenters that the wing/leg thing is just stretching. All of our birds do that.

Dunno about the wobble. How's she doing?

Paula said...

They all stretch- this was different. She's pretty much the same.