52 Homesteading Skills in One Year: Project #24 and #25: Raising chicks and building a chicken chunnel
I cried. There was blood dripping down the side of my six week old chick. One of her wings was missing.
Sometime during the night a raccoon had reached through the coop’s 1 x 1 inch wire mesh and ripped off her appendage.
I called the vet who confirmed my suspicions. She was lucky to be alive. If this were to happen to a human, an amputation would be performed, but in the case of a chicken, there wasn’t much that could be done – except wait.
Since the other chicks, sensing weakness, were pecking at her, we separated the Buff Orpington from her “friends” and put her in a box with some food and water.
Twenty minutes later she had somehow managed to jump/semi-fly out of the box. To my amazement, I found her happily foraging around the yard. Apparently, she wasn’t going to let only having one wing get her down.
With my dad’s help we sprayed some antiseptic solution on the wound (I held the chicken while he, not wanting to see the damage, closed his eyes and sprayed). I added a little infection fighting garlic to her water and hoped for the best.
Two weeks later and my one winged wonder chick is still alive and now lovingly nicknamed – Tuff Orpington.
We have since learned from this rookie mistake and our coop is now surrounded by much smaller wire netting. Warning – Don’t underestimate the size of a racoon’s paw.
This is just one of several fun challenges we encountered while raising chicks. Here are a few others:
What I wish I would have known about raising chicks
There will be dust – everywhere
I thought it would be a great idea to keep our chickens in a contained area in our dining room. It was lots of fun – at first. That is until they started to make dust. Chicks like to scratch and that creates dust from their food, bedding, feathers, etc. So do yourself a favour and keep your chicks in the garage or any other heated area other than your home.
You’ll fall in love with your chicks
Buyer beware. These tiny, fluffy, balls of cuteness will steal your heart. If you had plans of culling your chickens when they stopped laying, think again. What I’m trying to say here is no one is going to be able to afford my eggs because I’m going to have to factor in the cost of letting these chickens live out their old age on the farm.
Chicks can fly
Within a week our chicks were able to fly to the top of their enclosure. We thought they were so adorable as we enthusiastically applauded their efforts. Until we watched in horror as they turned their fuzzy butts out over their pen and pooped onto our floor.
Flying also led to several chicks losing their balance and falling. Panicked, they would scream for help until I found the poor things and put them back in their enclosure.
It wasn’t long before we placed chicken wire on top of their home.
After reading these tips you’ve probably already figured out that our chicks didn’t stay in our house for very long. In just a few weeks, they were housed in a…..
Raising chicks in a chicken chunnel
How do you control the grass and weeds that grow inbetween your garden beds? You get yourself some chickens and you build a chicken chunnel. You will never see weeds in your paths again.
Chickens love to scratch (it’s basically all they do) and in just one day they cleared out the path in the above picture to bare dirt.
Our chunnels are built using 16 gauge, 1/2 x 1/2 inch wire mesh. It’s sturdy, it’s predator proof, but it’s not permanent. Depending on the amount of chickens you have, it should be moved on a daily basis.
Since the chickens were housed overnight in the chunnel, we cut old wire shelving and stuck them in the ground to prevent predators from digging underneath.
We are still fine tuning our chicken chunnel system. If you are interested in more details, send me a message or a comment below.
Raising chicks was definitely a challenge and like everything we’ve done so far on the farm we made lots of mistakes including one that cost a chick its wing.
But as a beginner homesteader you have to start somewhere and there’s no better way to learn than by actually doing. Fortunately, from each experience we learn to do it better next time. And thank goodness for that.