I'm thinking we need a chicken update.
Um, yeah. My last chicken update was May 8, when our newest batch of chicks was just one week old. Now, they are 18 weeks old.
There are a couple of issues with this situation. First, the big girls looooove mash, and if they have access to it, they will eat it. All of it. And second, pretty soon it's going to be cold here, and mash is going to freeze within a matter of minutes. I have potential solutions in mind for both of these issues, but the truth is, I don't know if they're going to work, or if Guac is going to continue to be able to eat on her own. The third issue, for which I don't have a potential solution, is that Guac wears her food. That's not going to be a good situation in the winter (frozen food caked in her feathers seems like a recipe for disaster), and we're not going to be able to continue giving her baths in the winter to clean her up.
Guacamole's crossbeak is just about as bad as it can get at this point*, with the bottom beak pointing about 100° to her right. She's such a sweet little girl, and she follows me around--probably because I usually have the food. Guac doesn't realize she's any different from her sisters, and she attempts to do all the chicken things.
Here's Buttercup. She's such a pretty chicken, and she loves to roost on me and on my chair--Buttercup is the next generation of lap chicken. She's kind of a follower, always concerned with where Charlotte and Guacamole are. I feel like that's a good quality, because if I am carrying Charlotte, Buttercup will follow me.
The chick grow out pen worked out really well for us. I was glad to be able to let the minis grow to be about the size of the big girls before we needed to integrate them, but we needed to move them*, so Tuesday night was their first night in the hen house. I put the minis to bed in the grow out pen, as usual, while the big girls put themselves to bed in the hen house. Then Bubby and I went out when it was fully dark, and with the assistance of a red light, moved the minis onto the roost in the hen house.
In the morning, I heard a loud squawk, followed by emphatic clucking. When I made it out to the coop, the minis were stuck in a corner, and Toasty was clucking at them. I got them unstuck and put them in their exclusion pen (a safe spot, where the opening is too small for any of the bigger chickens to get in. Except the minis are about the same size as Esther, so...) with some food and water.
I only heard one other loud squawk during the day, and every time I went out to check, everyone seemed to be getting along fine. The minis seemed to be dividing their time between the top of the exclusion pen and inside the hen house. Last night, I hung out in the hen house as everyone was getting settled so that I could referee any squabbles, but everybody behaved. And at the time this post was published, everybody was still sleeping, so I can't tell you how the second morning went (will go). But so far, so good.
I hate this part of chicken keeping. I hate that chickens can be so mean to each other. I just want the integration to be over, but in the meantime, I remain vigilant and ready to intervene if necessary.
And that's all for now. I hope you've enjoyed this chicken update.
*Maybe I shouldn't say that, considering how the universe loves to be spiteful, but I honestly don't see how it could get any more out of alignment than it already is. I have heard that crossbeaks can continue to get worse until the chicken is 5-6 months of age, so we're almost there.
**The minis are almost full size, and the grow out pen is only 12 square feet, so it was getting crowded in there. In addition, almost always when I opened the top (which I had to do several times a day so that I could stir more water into Guacamole's food as it dried out), one or more of the girls would jump out. Not a huge issue when Bubby was around to help, but with him starting school and being gone during the day, it was a lot to manage. Those chicks are fast, and are pretty good at not letting themselves get cornered. In any case, the minis needed to move and get comfortable with their new space before anyone started laying eggs, and like I said, Charlotte is getting close. I'm not sure if we'll wait as long next time. Truthfully, one major reason I waited so long this time is because of Guac and her food situation. Anyway, integration needed to happen, and it did, and it seems to be ok.
Bonus (and blurry) pics of my curious minis: