Thursday, October 20, 2016



Chickens are growing

Big news, right?
Well, it has been a while since I posted here and a lot has happened. Yes, the chickens have been getting bigger; the Cornish Cross are insanely huge and the Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rock hens are now officially old enough to be called pullets. 
Their Foster Moms have abandoned them, meaning they are no longer protective of them and instead are making sure they (the hens) are getting the pullets inducted into the flock's 'Pecking order'. The pullets are basically on their own, though chickens really don't need to be taught much. The pullets are finding a pecking order of their own, fussing at and with each other as it should be in the natural order of chickens.

The Cornish Cross are amazing. We purchased them three weeks after the pullets and they caught up in size in just two weeks. At three weeks old, the Cross chicks were taller than the Pullets at 5 weeks. Tomorrow they will be 7 weeks old, and they are weighing in heavier than my puny postage scale will register. I think just over 5 pounds, one or two are over 6. Check the photos for the difference. 

This photo taken the day we got them home. Regular sized peepers. 

This is the small scale and it shows an average weight of 720 grams at 3 weeks. They are growing fast, feather out earlier, and yet still are head aged at just a few days. Their bodies are growing very fast, but in their head they are still just babies. 

This one is the same chicks at just 7 weeks.  These are Crosses of two big and fast growing breeds and are supposed to gain weight and thus get to butcher weight fast. Well, they eat like horses, seriously, all they do is hang about the feeder and lay on their bellies eating. The only thing I can liken this to is the Dr. Seuss story,"A Fish Out of Water". They have had phases where they actually grew out of their feathers.
I am not sure we are going to get more of this breed, though we still need two cycles of grow / butcher before the pullets are egg laying age and producing our own meat birds. They look uncomfortable. They can't seem to walk more than a few feet before they plop down and have to rest. They do grow fast getting to butcher weight 4 weeks faster than any other breeds, but it isn't pretty. When I say that they grow faster than their feathers, I mean that though each of the feathers are growing out, the down fell out before the feathers were full sized and their body mass is such that they look a bit like a man with very thin hair. Lots of space between the individual feathers.  Now at 7 weeks, their feathers have finally caught up and look more like the chickens they are supposed to be. 

We are planning to breed and hatch out our own chicks eventually, but we will not be saving any of these Cross chicks for breeding. we like the colors on the RIR and BR chicks.
Speaking of that, we did get roosters, 2 Barred Rocks. One has since disappeared, leaving one that is getting all the attention. 

This little guy is Lightning. We picked him and his brother up as the twin hurricanes were barreling down on us and the guy at the feed store mentioned the recent Thunder and Lightning we had been getting the last few days (though we get lots of rain, it's not usual to get thunder or lightning here) and the names stuck for the chicks. Thunder was the chick that later went missing, not sure if it was the hens that killed him or rats carried him off, but we went in to the coop one morning and he was gone. Lightning was pecked pretty hard with some bleeding on his neck, but here. We segregated him from the hens and after he was fully recovered we put him back in with the Cornish Cross. They took to him though he was younger and when we got Lightning, twice his size. 
Well, after a couple of weeks, the Cross chicks are taller than the temporary grow out cage we made for them, so we thought it'd be okay for them to mingle they were huge. Big mistake,
Lightning was mauled by a hen. Scalped basically, not sure how he survived. we got the wound cleaned up, antibiotic ointment applied and put him in a small 'hospital' cage that we placed in the coop so he could be with the Cornish 'brothers'. We would have had chicken soup that night if I had known which hen did this. 
His left eye was feared lost, and it looked as though all the skin was missing on his head and neck, but though bloody, the skin was intact and it turns out he is healing fine, eye is working and he is running about. We are NOT going to let him out into the general population yet. In fact,  we got a new home for him. We modified an octagonal dog kennel by adding a plywood 'second story' mid height and are planning a ramp to go from the ground up to the food and water level. 

We are planning on taking this higher still. It is 4 foot at the start of the angled roof line, so we will be adding another 24" in height and one more 'floor' to it. Once Lightning is Rooster sized in a few weeks, this will become our  grow out pen for the meat birds we will be breeding. With the addition of the upper unit, I figure we can easily handle 30 chicks per run in this set up. 

See, lots happening in a short time , but more than I was able to keep up with. Got to go- the Cornish Cross are hungry! 

Next Post: Expansion Plans?