Photo Diary 3 – Day 6 and a Birthday Celebration

I moved the chicks to a bigger brooder box today. They were climbing up their stick roost and trying to fly out of their red plastic recycle bin brooder and it was only a matter of days untill they did.

Teatime in the coop w text collage jpeg

All their familiar things are tucked in their new brooder; their “jungle gym” sticks, their clumps of dirt and grass. Their food and water. I added a small dog size plastic Frisbee filled with grit and they took right to it. They are also now eating fermented chicken feed in a jar lid and loving that.

Sisterly love green blue cup USE

Snuggling sisters.

The chicklet’s now have tail feathers showing. These are rapidly developing birds that are jumping up and flying down already!

We had a third photo shoot today, though a bit of a rushed one I admit. We are celebrating three birthdays today, my son Darron, my granddaughter Brenna and my husband Gene so I’ve been up since 6 a.m. getting our food ready.

Knomes perched cut elightly blury

Is it time for the tea party yet?

I needed to marinate the chicken, prep the green beans, toss the salad, make the potato casserole and the corn bread. The table is set and all that is left to do is make the fresh fruit salsa that will top the chicken.

Gene will grill the chicken while I bake the rest of the items. The weather report has promised a nice warm day and it is already sunny, so this should be a read letter day for sure.

I mean really you want me to do what

Dutch treat!

I’m very excited that my granddaughter will be able to hold the chicks, collect eggs, help grandpa with a few farm chores and generally enjoy the country.

Brennas hands with eggs 2015

Brenna loves to collect eggs.

Brenna full length with her first egg

My darling girl is happy with her first egg. It was still warm when she found it.

Today fast paced photo shoot included more teacups photographs for a special creative project I have had. More about that in a future post.

Give me your profile please

I hope you don’t expect me to do that?

I also put a chick in an egg cup and put an egg in the child’s eggs cup and it turned out, if I may say so, quite adorable.

Tw HORIZ teacups maybe

No way am I ever gonna produce that!

I am happy with the progress these photographs although I still have to photo edit and crop most of them in order to be 100% satisfied.

I have written an article and hope to use these photographs to illustrate it. More about that as the process develops.

Ivy cup cute

I’ll have some spiced cider please.

Small House Homesteader, photographer and chicken keeper, Donna

Adventures in Holistic Chick Raising-Adding Greens

DAY THREE – Highlight of the Day:

1) Today the chicks began to scratch and peck in their brooder. I found out they also like to sleep under the paper towels…whew…for a minute thought I lost one!

2) Sassy responds to the chicks peeps. They peep and she comes running to see what is the matter. That is the cutest mothering thing she has ever done!

3) Today Report: Poop. Sleep. Eat. Poop.

RIR Babies jpeg

If you’ve been following our blog you have read about the new chicks on our homestead. If you have ever had chicks you know just how they consume your time and energy. In fact, they have seemed to take over my life right now!

Chicken adventures day one and two can be seen here…

The RIR chicks spent a lot of time napping and resting today in their brooder box. Once or twice they all began to peep loudly so of course I drop everything go and check on them. Nothing looks off, but their water seems very warm to me so I change it out for the Susan Burek cooled garlic and honey water. They sip it and that seems to be just what they need. The peeping stopped  and peace again reigns in our household.

Based on herbalist Susan Burek’s recommendation I am feeding our new chicks chickweed, dandelion and a few other greens today as well as the fresh minced garlic. It’s only day three and the chicks are already pecking, beginning to scratch and eating greens. This quite blows me away!

I made a Burek tea of garlic and honey and put it in one of the chick waterers. The second waterer has a steeped green tea made from various organic greens like dandelion greens and chickweed.

Chicks Fresh Greens Tea:

Gather dandelion greens, chickweed, comfrey, and wheatgrass greens and place in a quart canning jar.

Boil water and pout over greens. Let cool. Pour into glass chick waterer.

My goal is to acclimate them to the taste of the garlic from day one and for them to get all the nutritional and medicinal benefits of the raw honey and garlic as well. I used raw honey from our local beekeeper and added some chopped organic steeped garlic I bought at the store. I put that in their waterer today. She does this for at least three weeks.

Chicks Raw Garlic and Raw Honey Tea

Smash and mince four cloves of fresh garlic

Fill a quart canning jar with water and boil the water

Add garlic and steep until the water is cooled

Pour into chick waterer

I will continue this tea for at least three weeks. The greens, garlic and raw honey are all immune system boosters.

Morning and night I clean out the brooder box, putting down fresh paper towels. I always add chopped fresh greens and chopped garlic.  I can’t say for sure if they ate any significant amount if either but they are very interested in it. They peck at everything in general and  worked the greens around. I did see a piece of green grass sticking out of a chicks moth when they came to drink. If nothing else they are getting used to the smell, texture and taste. I call this a good first step to eating holistic herbs and live greens.

They are already growing too. They stretch their necks up tall and practice lifting and flapping their wings. They run from one side of the brooder to the other. Their growth is evidenced in their pronounced pin feathers.

I used raw honey from our local beekeeper and added some chopped organic steeped garlic I bought at the store. I put that in their waterer today. She does this for at least three weeks.

I also tried handling the chicks throughout the day too. They are a little skittish right now, and peep and squirm, but I have no doubt that continued handling will help to tame them.

I did some more introductions of the chicks to Sassy too.  I sat on the floor of the laundry room with a chick in my hands. Sassy hears them cheap but can’t quite figure out where they are located.  She thinks they are in the base of the brooder stand and looks for them there. When I hold one in my hand, stroking it, she sits in front of me and watches what I am doing. A couple of times she tried to nose or lick the bird and I quietly said, “Gentle.” I am hoping she gets the idea of what I want. Once she mouthed it but moved back at my command.

Please know that I am not taking credit for these holistic chicken management techniques, this is a Susan Burke developed system. I totally trust her judgment and experience and I am just following her suggestions.

I am getting up twice a night to change out water and give me chick starter feed.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Our Weekend in Photography

Eggs in blue bowl USE

Brown Cochin eggs from our four chickens.

On Saturday Gene worked on the raspberry bed fence project and put up a second gate.

Stapling the fencing USE

Gene stapling the chicken fencing to the bottom of the post.

I experimented with photographing some of our brown Cochin eggs in an antique bowl. I used a piece of fabric I bought at the thrift store when I thought might make a nice seat cover. I feel like I am a bit rusty with my “product photography” and it felt good to practice it again.

Two  Gates

Double fencing on the south end of garden allows for two entry points; one in the vegetable garden and one in the raspberry patch. 

Then our adult daughter Lisa arrived from North Carolina in the afternoon. She is a special education teacher and works in the high school near Charlotte, NC. It is her spring break so she took advantage of that time off of work to come back home to Michigan. We spent our day watching the chickens scratch and peck and chatting and catching up.

On Sunday we did our usual every two weeks trip to the recycle station and then ran Sassy at the SW Michigan’s land Conservancy’s Wau-kee-nau north. We keep a small recycle bin set up in our pole barn and take our recyclable papers, cans, glass to the townships recycle station about every two to three weeks.

Sassy overlooking lake

Sassy overlooks gray and ice filled Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is still partially frozen and dark gray in color. We did see a large flock of Goldeneye ducks in the water  – these birds are very hardy and on their migration south for breeding. This is always a thrill for my husband the waterfowl hunter.

Three Birches USE

The three sisters, birch trees in a meadow.

It’s still pretty cold here in SW Michigan, some nights have been 10 some 30 degrees and day around 40 degrees. During the day we let the chickens out to free range in the almost completed raspberry bed. We are still supervising them as one end remains to be completed.


A wooden bench for resting overlooking the Lake Michigan.

I’ve also been working on and off on stick picking up and lawn raking. I’ve already raked up much of the pine cones from our pine trees. I am just getting a tiny head start on our massive spring clean-up work on the days the weather cooperates.

I’ve been reading a fun new book this week, Chickens in the Garden. I am really enjoying this book not only for its chicken information and its amazing photographs. I know how hard it is to get high quality photographs of moving objects.

Chickens 3 panel no text jpeg

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Easy to Make High Protein Chicken Feed Medley

I believe that healthy food is our best medicine and in using garden herbs for chicken health. So when I discovered this easy to make infused oil mixture for extra winter protein and nutrition for my chickens, I was thrilled.

Close up

A healthy and happy chicken has bright eyes, glossy feathers and ample energy.

While I can’t grow everything in my garden I do have a number of herbs that I grow and feed directly to our chickens. But winter feeding of herbs is so much harder.

Drinking out of red waterer

Lots of fresh water daily is also important to a chickens good health.

PLEASE NOTE: The credit for this original infused oil mixture goes solely to Susan Burek of Mile High Herbs, This came as a result of a post she made on the Poultry natural Living found on Facebook. This is my favorite chicken group of all time.

Snoozle time

Mid afternoon snuggle down time.

While some of you are in states that are getting warmer, some of us “lucky ones” in the Midwest still have 3 to 5 ft. of snow on the ground!! And while our 10 degree below temperature have waned, it is running around 30 degrees at night. I’ve discovered that our woods holds in the snow and cold longer after it is melted in other more open spaces.


Snow on the coop and covered run.

 So this means we are still feeding our chickens high caloric and protein feed for a few more weeks to help to keep them warm at night. I’ve tried all kind of feed type and combinations and this is the one I have the best luck with. It is versatile and can be adapted in many ways. I make the infused oil up ahead of time and then add that oil to whatever I am feeding that day.

Freckles close

This is Freckles, a Phoenix/Cochin mix and the top bird of our group.

This also kills two birds with one stone (likely a BAD analogy for chicken lovers!) but it gets the oils of the crushed garlic into the chicken as well as giving them the fuel that they need for cold nights. I feed garlic as a preventative measure to keep my birds as healthy as possible and basil for mucus membrane health and for its antibacterial properties.

Cloves of fresh garlic goes into my chickens food and their water. Some times they ignore it but some of them, like Freckles picks it out tosses it on the ground and then eats it. Freckles is the top chicken in our small flock.

Headingout the door of the enclosed run to the outside

Our girls heading outdoors for a little bit of sunbathing!

STEP 1: Garlic Infused Oil:

  1. Pour about 1 cup to cup and a half of a high-grade of virgin olive oil into clean a canning jar.
  2. Peel, crush and chop up 7 garlic cloves and add the garlic to the jar of oil
  3. I like to add dried oregano leaves but you can add almost any of your chicken healthy herbs that you might have on hand.
  4. Cover with lid and let this mix infuse several days to a week before using. The longer it infused the more it smells of the wonderful wholesome and healthy garlic.

STEP 2: Add Oil Mixture to Your Feed of Choice

I’ve been experimenting with many different combinations this winter but the one my chickens seem to like the best and the one they leave the least amount of waste behind.

Making the Oil and Protein Medley:

  1. I toss two handfuls of black oiled sunflower seeds in an ice cream bucket.
  2. Toss in a half a handful of dried meal worms.
  3. I add a large scoop of fermented organic chicken grower feed
  4. Add a chunk of cut up wheat grass
  5. A splash of apple cider vinegar
  6. Stir and feed

Add this mixture in your feeding bowl or pie plate and watch your girls rush in, cluck, cluck, and go to town!

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty!  The girls today on their roost in the covered run.

You would never know today that these chickens were rescued chickens from a flock that was fed nothing but cracked corn. It’s taken me 7 to 8 months of providing fresh water and carefully selected food but they are now 8 months old and beginning to lay the mostly beautiful brown eggs.

The results of my feeding regime? Happy, healthy and well fed chickens. It is worth the effort!

Small House Chicken Keeper, Donna

Wood Ash Perfect for Wintertime Chicken Dusting

Hubby brought home big bucket wood fire ashes today from a friend’s house for our well love and well spoiled chickens. They have been unable to dust for a few weeks because we had to close off their dusting area under their coop because they were scraping away at the wood with their beaks and eating it. This was the one area that stayed dry enough to be dusty but I was afraid of wood chip in their throats  – a potential problem.Wood ash close

Gene brought home a buckets worth of wood ash today.

According to This Old House, a cord of wood can produce up to 50 pounds of ash and a number of chicken blogs claim that wood ash is death on mites. Just what we need so thought we’d give it a try.Ash in the dist

Fresh but cooled ashes spread out in the chicken dusting area.

When we built our covered chicken run early this winter, we added a small **sand box** in a shady corner for dust bathing and filled it with sand. Unfortunately we were late in the season to start such a project and by the time we got the temporary tarp on the roof trusses the snow had filled the sand box and the floor of the run. That meant frozen snow and frozen wet sand in the box all winter long. Not your ideal situation for chicken dusting!

Ash in sand box

We also added ashes to the chicken sandbox duster. More next week.

We have a traditional house fireplace but it tends to smoke up the house badly and with my husband’s allergies we do not use it all that often. I was hoping there might be some ashes left over but when I checked on it yesterday it was clean as a whistle. But our friend has an outside wood burner and he burns wood 24/7 so always has plenty of ashes to share. A quick phone call and stop on the way home from work and we have all the ashes we want.

Removing plastic and lathe

Removing the plastic and lathe that closed the dusting area off.

With the temperature warming up this week to the 40’s and 50’s, we were able to shovel the snow out of the bathing area and add the repurposed wood ash.  I dumped a bucket of ash into the sand, and stirred it around to mix it up a little bit but taking care to leave most of the ashes on top for the chickens get the idea this is their new bathing area.

Chickens don’t bath in water like we do. In fact, they get clean by getting dirty. They scratch up a pile of dirt. They lie down on their side, move their legs like they are swimming, peck up some more dirt throwing it around and using their wing force it in their feathers. And it is a very entertaining process to watch.

They dust to keep mites and lice in check while cleaning their feathers to some extent. And sometimes they get really “dirty” doing it.

Dusting is also a social activity for chickens and they all want to do it at once and the closer to each other the better. They pile on top of one another, fighting and squawking for the best spot, pecking and eating the critters that fly out from under their feathers (like a kind of social grooming process) and spending at least 30 minutes or more most days on this goofy but important behavior.

Heading in the dust

Heading into the dusting area and taste testing the new ashes.

Bringing home wood ash is a simple and inexpensive way to help the girls stay happy and healthy….a chicken family that dusts together stays healthy together right?

The girls were in wood ash heaven once again!

Small House chicken keeper, Donna

Odd Chicken Behaviors and Wintertime Boredom Busters

Collage side by side withorange text jpegFor some reason our chickens have a thing, and I mean a real genuine thing about the wood under their chicken coop. They are “chewing it.” Yes, actually chewing the wood.  When I look at the wood I can actually see little beak marks all up and down the 2 X 4. Everyone, even advanced chicken keepers, are pretty baffled about this strange, even-for-a-chicken behavior. It is actually outright weird and chickens can be pretty weird from time to time anyway-sort of the nature of the beast!

Chickens under coop in dusting area

Our Cochin/Phoenix mix chickens under their coop in their favorite hang-out, now out-of-bounds!

You can literally see little vertical beak mark scratches up and down the board where they have scraped something off its surface.  I’ve considered many possibilities of what might be driving a chicken to do this; perhaps they need to sharpen their beaks, there might be bugs in the wood, there could be moss on the wood, maybe this is just winter boredom…. all kinds of possibilities. I can’t see anything on the surface of the wood other than old wood with some paint on parts of it. And it’s the same paint that is on the rest of their coop that they pay no attention to, so I honestly do not think it is that.

Gene hanging eye hook, close jpeg

Gene is putting up an eye hook to hang the “chicken boredom busters” from.

One day I watched them do this odd behavior all morning and then gag or grasp for air  as a result. I began to imagine tiny wood fibers in their throats and became alarmed. I remember thinking to myself this cannot be healthy. So I consulted the Chicken Critters and More Facebook list and while lot of “maybes” were thrown out, everyone pretty much agrees we need to seal this area off to protect the chickens from splinters and whatever else may be on that wood. Sorry girls, this is another one of those “tough love” decisions at work.

Gene hanging cabbage in run jpeg

Gene hanging the head of cabbage from the roof truss in the covered run.

It’s really too bad too because this is the one area where the soil does not freeze and where their mother (now  re-homed) taught them to dust. And they absolutely adore this area because they can scratch up the sandy oil there, eat the roots of the grass found there and I think they feel protected from the elements and we human messing around in their run.

Corn and cabbage hanging from roof truss jpeg

Head of cabbage and ear of corn….sounds almost human doesn’t it; head and ear?

Since we have taken away their favorite “hang-out” (bad chicken momma!!) we hung a head of cabbage and an ear of corn from the roof truss. My thinking is, if we took away their best playground we should give them back some things fun to do in return. We also added a pile of sand in a corner and they were immediately on top of it like King of the Mountain.

Cabbage hanginging alone in run

Cabbage the best boredom buster out there….but will they know to eat it?

I feel really bad to close their play pen off but in the end we covered it up to keep them out for a few months as a form of protection. Maybe we can open it back up in a few weeks and they will have forgotten about the scraping?

Have you ever encountered weird and odd chicken behaviors in your chickens over the year? Please share them….I need to know that there isn’t something awful in the water here that is making them act so coo-coo. Please tell me I am not alone in this weird chicken-ness?

Small House Homestead and chicken keeper, Donna.

Baby Chicks are on Their Way

I just got word that my newest Rhode Island Red chickets are arriving on or about April 20th. Horray!

I am tickled pink to know that at long last I am going to have Rhode Island Reds once again. They were my first chickens and by far my favorites for their hardiness, consistence, rarely go broody and lay the most gorgeous, large brown eggs. They are also heritage chickens and I like to do my part in keeping that lovely breed from going extinct.

Rhodies boost the title of America’s most well-know and popular chicken, though for many years the breed was facing a critical decline in its breeding population. Thanks to the hobby hatcheries and backyard farmers the Rhode island reds is now a popular chickens among small farms and backyards today.

Rhode Island Red Chicks grow to be one of the most productive and useful dual purpose breeds across the country and world today. They have prolific egg production, and they will dress nicely as a table bird. The Rhode Island Red is also one of the most hardy of all dual purpose breeds, and they will thrive in almost any environment they could face in the United States. They have amenable dispositions and are a favorite among 4-H clubs and state fair competitions around the country. Their active disposition, hardy nature, and superb foraging ability helps them thrive in a free range environment as well. Though the breed has become smaller over the last 60 years, they females still weigh over 6 pounds while the males over 8 pounds. The Rhode Island Red Hens are excellent winter egg layers due to their heavier size and hardiness, and they will generally lay between 200-300 per year – perhaps the best dual purpose egg layer in production today. The hens can become broody, though not as frequently as some other breeds like the Buff Orpington. Roosters can become aggressive, and it is generally best not to have more than one rooster for every 8 – 10 hens.

I’m going to be brooding in my laundry room since it faces the south side of the Small House and between the dryer, the freezer and the boiler this room is about the warmest in the house.

Since I only have room for four additional chicks in the coop, I’ll be using a cardboard box until they get big enough to go outside later on in the spring.

The biggest challenge will be Sassy our trained bird dog so we will get out the baby gate and but we will close off the room and hopefully protect the chicks from our sweet but fierce bird chasing dog.

Small House Chicken Keeper, Donna

Walk the Plank!

At long last our chicken coop “gang plank” ladder is now chickie baby friendly!

Chicken door all faces USEjpeg

Gathering their courage our 5-month-old Cochins come out the chicken door and down the ladder.

I have been wanting to get some kind of material down on the chicken ladder (aka gang plank) to help the chickens get in and out the chicken door without slipping and sliding on the slick painted surface. The holiday, our normal workloads and serious construction on the enclosed run area always seemed to take priority.

Plank and coop


Today with our weekly run into town for yoga and groceries we stopped at Tractor Supply to see if they had the horse stall liner material we were considering. I’d asked the members of the on-line Chicken Community what they might suggest and heard a number of great ideas; everything from cutting up an old doormat pieces to trim-able stable liner matt.

Tread on stair after use jpeg


The liner turned out to be way too big of a piece and way too thick to cut down so while we were there the salesperson suggested we try skid guard treads for the stairs. It’s a kind of thick paper with a sand paper like surface that help feet grip. We gave that a try. Gene cut and adhered the tread material and I closed the double door and opened the chicken door and waited.

Skid Grauyrd closs up jpeg

In less than a minute Momma Clover saw that the door was open and out she went! Next came the babies one by one, stumbling, slipping and sliding and pretty much flying out. Well one way –out- was successful Tomorrow we work on teaching them how to go up the ladder and get back in the coop! Every day with chickens is an adventure!

Small House Homesteader and Chicken Keeper, Donna

Enclosure Progress and a Christmas Miracle

Frckels close in leavesWho would have thought that in Michigan we would be outside working on our chicken run the day after Christmas? The weather here in SW Michigan is normally bitter cold in December and we are typically already under several feet of snow by now.

Close Gene measuring USE

The frame is the initial step to building the enclosed run. 

But not this year.  Today was a balmy 48-50 degrees outside and wonderfully sunny. The chickens adore his kind of weather and so do I.

I was able to sit on the ground in their pen, feed them some dried mealworms, play with them and snap some photographs of me feeding them by hand. It was so sunny and warm I was tempted to lie down to take a cat nap but of course I didn’t want to miss anything.

Gene worked more today on building the run enclosure frame. The covered run is connected to the side of our chicken coop and will end up as a simple, wood frame section covered in contractor grade plastic.  It will have a 8 ft. tall corrugated roof to help keep the rain and snow off of it, a 36″ human door and a pop up chicken door.

From north v

The 8 ft. height of the covered run will allow us to walk inside to clean it, shovel in and shovel out.

This fowl-weather run (pun intended!) will give the chickens a bit of shelter from the snow, winds and rain while allowing them to be outside of the coop ranging around and dusting in their own small dust bath box.

From south end of garden

The long view of the chicken coop and run at the southern end of our large fenced-in vegetable garden.

It is a practical addition as opposed to a beautiful one. I will feel more trusting too to let them range alone and not worry about predators or the babies flying up and over the fencing or straw bales as they have a tendency to do.

Cloverground chiks onstump jpeg

The chicklets eating treats from the stump, Momma Cover in front. 

We also were able to hang my two, new, metal chicken signs I received from Gene for Christmas. They came from Bainbridge Farm Goods, Bainbridge Island. They are all I asked for this year and I love them! All of their signs are fully waterproof, UV resistant and mounted on heavy aluminum-think street sign durability and are made in the USA. I received nothing for this mention  – I am just a happy consumer. To see more of their sign art go to

Two chicken signs

 Two new metal signs for my chicken coop.

Another piece of good news to share today. If you follow my blog you may recall that Freckles, one of the Phoenix chicks had injured his wing in the Great Chicken Escape. I was quite worried about him at first. However as the weeks progressed he has perked up, the sparkle has come back into his eyes and today he dusted for the first time since the accident. That is certainly progress! I suspect he was hurting those first few weeks as his tail drooped, he ate but he turned his back to the group and did not participate in their social times like bathing. Today that changed.

Freckles eyes open

Freckles during his rehab period dozing in the sun.

His wing still sits a bit lower and is a tad bit crooked when he is flying in and out of the coop but he can now make it on his own without my help. So this new step of dusting with his family tells me his wing is not hurting him anymore.

Frckels close in leaves

Freckles this week, much perkier and almost back to normal.

I am grateful that Freckles is getting stronger again and feeling more like his old self as evidenced by his participating in this important social activity with his brood.

I am relieved too by this sweet evidence of our small Christmas miracle!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Raising and Taming Late Fall Baby Chicks

At times chickens can present many challenges. Like most animals we can’t ask them what wrong we can only intuit based on our previous experiences.

I find that sick and injured chickens are probably the most challenging of situations followed by rescuing late season baby chicks, with their momma.

Two balck chiks pecking

Two of the Cochin/Phoenix rooster babies pecking at a snack on the log.

I fell into raising five, 2-week-old rescued Cochin/Phoenix chicks with the momma when my husband’s co-worker needed to find a home for them. We had just finished building our new coop and run and thought when we were invited to come and pick up some chicks, we thought were getting 8 to 9 month old spring born chicks. But that turned out to not be the case. When we got to his friend’s house he had a Cochin momma hen and her five, two week old Cochin/Phoenix chicks already in a box ready to go home with us. Opps!

I have raised day old chicks in a brooder previously so I initially though, just how much harder could raising these chicks be?

Come on guys free food here!

Momma Clover and all five of her babies play around my legs.

I found out it was a bit more taxing than I had bargained for. In my Internet search I had some trouble finding information on raising late season chicks. There seems to be a lot of information about picking out a brooder, what temperature to keep babies at, what to feed them and so on but I found nothing about raising fall born chicks with their mother. And LATE fall chicks to boot. I soon realized that I was going to need some help.

Two dark birds from rear cute

Two babies having a conversation in the sunshine.

STEP 01: How to Help Acclimate Chicks to Their New Home:

We picked our chickens up late in the day so we could put them into the coop almost at dusk. We slid them into the coop in the same box we picked them up in and left the top open and cut a good size opening so they could get out if necessary.  I checked them at first light the next morning to make sure everyone was okay. I quietly put out their food and water left them alone to get us to the new pen. So far so good.

STEP 02: Don’t Expect Too Much From Chicks for a Few Weeks:

While I watched them carefully, and I fed them well, I pretty much left them alone socially at first. I knew that it can be stressful to move chickens and I wanted them to have an opportunity to learn about their new home, and me, with the least amount of stress possible. I kept our dog, Sassy, inside when I was outside with the chickens for the first three weeks and then introduced them very slowly.

Sassy watching chickens

Sassy meeting the chickens for the first time.

STEP 03: Expect to Teach Them More Than You Might Imagine:

While these chicks followed their mother everywhere and did whatever she did, I did not expect to have to teach these chicks how to eat from a chicken feeder or drink from a waterer, but I did. It turned out that in their former home this brood had lived in a structure that sat right on the ground, spent their days free ranging and eating only cracked corn thrown onto the ground or whatever they could scrounge at the ground level.  I bought a galvanized chicken feeder and starter food for growing chicks and converted them to it a step at a time. As a result they began to grow quickly and they began to feather out as like they should be. Momma hen was a different story though. She was not quite flexible enough to try new foods like kitchen scraps, sunflowers seeds, scratch bird feed, and cut up apples or most anything I tried throwing onto the ground. I wanted both to give them some variety and to be assured that the babies would be more adventuresome in their eating patterns. To this day Momma Clover really only wants cracked corn and meal worms! Boring!

After a few weeks, I felt that the babies has adapted to their new location, coop and us. They were eating out of the feeder and drinking out of the waterer and now it was time to begin to teach them how to get in and out of the coop. I also learned that if I wanted to introduce a new form of food, Mung Bean sprouts for example, it was best to do that early in the morning when they were the hungriest.

It took Momma Clover about three months to act as if she was comfortable with us.

Clover where did those worms come from

Feeding the chickens mealworms.

STEP 04: Getting the Lay of the Land:

While our coop was newly built and ready to go these chicks had no idea how to enter or exit a coop that stood off the ground. The strongest and biggest three that grew their feathers the earliest, learned how to fly in and out of the coop first. For several weeks I needed to pick up the two smallest one and assist them into getting in and out of the coop. I discovered too that the chicken ladder we had made was a bit too steep for babies and even though we had added wooden cross bars they were too far apart for babies to manage.

In our case both sides of the coop have double doors and both open up and lock. This large opening provided a “user friendly” way for the babies to fly in and out. It was a bit non-conventional but it worked!

VERT coop side doors open USE

The “Chicken Chalet” with double doors open before the sand litter was put in.

The babies came to us fairly wild and having not been handled at all. My desire was that the babies would do more than tolerate me and in fact eventually allow me to stroke them. I also hope they would will trust me as a kind provider and let me hold them at some point. I began to offer them small amounts of mealworms from my hand. It took a few days but after a while they were eating out of my hands, as the saying goes.

STEP 05: Continue the Gentling and Taming Process:

At about four months the babies were comfortable eating from my hand and jumping up on my legs to get their treats.  At this point I started stroking them while feeding them and using two fingers softly touching them on their breast front area just to get them use to the humans touch. This is a very slow and very gently process that took quite a bit of time but I kept it up. At this point they allowed me to pick them up. They didn’t like it, screeching loudly when I picked them up but they allowed it.

STEP 06: Getting Babies to Come When Called:

I used a two-part method to get the babies to respond to me and to come when called.  I gently talked to them as I approached the coop letting them know it was me and to associate me with the soft spoken voice they heard. Then I began calling “Chick Chick Chick” when I was bringing them food. That way they began to associate me with a food reward.  Then I began to draw them into the garden part of our run by opening the gate, tossing down some treats while calling them to come forward. Before long they were coming when called and I could move them from their run in and out of the garden at will. So when food in one area is limited I can call them into another area where the grass is fresher.

Taming takes time and effort but can be accomplished with patience and conditioning.

Good morning world!

Clover peeking out of the chicken coop.

STEP 06: Consider an Enclosed Run, if You Can Swing it:

Baby chicks like to fly and hop. Must be the raging hormones! Our Cochin babies liked to fly out of their fenced in pen so we added a covered area to one end of the chicken run. We selected the shadiest section and the portion where their chicken door exited. Not only did this contain the babies and give me more piece of mind, it provided them a place of safety, it gave them protection from the wind, the snow and the rain.

Like most work with animals the amount of time and energy we put into them shows up in their behaviors and attitudes. Its a lot of work, but the benefits are worth it, I think.

Small House Homesteader, Donna