The Chicks at 3 weeks old

So another week has passed since I started writing the first post on the chicks and their progress and wow, have the chicks grown since then!  They are starting to get their feathers, and show their true markings.  We know that one of them is a Welsummer (that’s the breed) and this is one of the breeds that you can sex a chick from birth by their markings.  And this chick is definitely a cockerel.

This one is a cockerel. The Welsummer chick.

The other chick, well that remains to be seen.  At the moment the only thing we know is that it is from a blue egg and that means it has to be either an Ameraucana or an Araucana.  Now I had thought that Harriett (HH) was a black Araucana but on investigating the identity of the other chick, I have ascertained that Araucanas don’t have rumps and HH definitely has a rump and tail which makes her a Ameraucana, specifically a silky black Ameraucana.  Now why is this important?  Well there is a chance that the chick is hers and HP’s which would make the chick an Easter Egger as they are known.  The chick is certainly not a Lavender Araucana that it is meant to be!

Just what the chick feed is for!

So, as the chicks have grown in size, they have also grown in confidence and are frequently to be found up on the veranda with mum.  They are also practicing their skills, balance is one of them along with seeing if they can preen and balance on the base bar of a chair!

Food remains a favourite subject and they have taken to all sorts of measures to obtain it.

Head down in the dog bowl of chick starter. The little ginger chick is starting to grow more permanent feathers and they are showing signs of brown now.

They, like all of the chooks, absolutely love porridge oats (rolled oats), so every morning there is a small scattering to be found in their chick starter which they (and all of the others) love.  Luckily, I took the decision that the chick starter we were to have was going to be an unmedicated version, so not one with antibiotics in it.  In theory, if not in practice, you are not meant to eat the eggs of hens who have eaten medicated food or had antibiotics.  Now can someone please explain to me how exactly I am meant to prevent the rest of the flock from eating the chicks food without keeping the chicks and mum totally separate from the rest of the flock and then having to deal with the consequences of trying to integrate the chicks into the flock at a later date?  Also, with the chicks as part of the flock now, the entire flock is on the look out for predators (here other than the very occasional snake (only the second) the main predators are all avian!)

My birthday also saw another major step milestone with the chicks.  Mum took them up to roost with her!  We had no idea that they could ‘fly’ that high yet and tbh, it was a little concerning to say the least.  How were they to get down safely?  More to the point, could mum get down safely.  It had been quite some time since she last roosted and the roost had been altered and the ‘ensuite’ installed since she was last roosting.

Is there something behind me?
Too many sets of legs!
That’s better
So where’s the other one?
This isn’t working mum…
Look, sort it out yourselves
That’s a bit better mum
Roosting just got complicated
The only chook allowed anywhere near mum and the chicks, (Ellie) makes it in. Ellie is bottom of the pecking order, and the most timid of creatures. She is no threat to anyone and mum knows it.
They are all up and in there, somewhere. Nine in total
This could be a long night

Since then, however, she has taken them up to roost every night.  I will concede that we have dropped the height of the roosting perches a touch (OK by about 12 inches but they were a touch high if we are honest).

Mum has continued to be a really great mother, catching all sort of prey for the chicks, though some prizes have been too good for the chicks to get anything other than a lesson on how to catch and kill it.  Not eat it mind you.  Mum is now starting a slow moult and she has a lot of feathers to lose and a lot to replace.  Prey that chicks get to eat include caterpillars, spiders and crickets.  Prey they only get lessons in, and that are prized to the point of fights breaking out with others if they are around, include lizards, newts and mice.  Yep, mice.

At least 3 of our hens will eat the mice that are caught in the mouse traps overnight in the chook house.  The traps are behind a wire mesh that the chicks can’t get to let alone the chickens.  At first I was taking the dead mice for a long morning walk, leaving them at the very top of the track where they would not attract the attention of snakes into the garden or chook house. Usually they are taken by the ravens, magpies, or magpie larks amongst others.  But one morning, I happened to put the trap down on the bench rather than in the bucket and before I knew it, the trap and dead mouse had been snatched by VV2 (Vickie’s replacement, also called Vickie).  It was all I could do to retrieve the trap, let alone the dead mouse and it was clear it was a prize to be kept.  Various other chooks tried to get in on the act, but VV2 was having none of it and the next time I looked, there was no dead mouse to be seen.  At least I know the mice are free range and organic!

A couple of days later and I had another dead mouse, so this time I presented it to mother – she at least is not laying eggs at present and needs the extra food with her moulting and also needing to put weight back on after sitting on eggs for so long.  The chicks got a lesson on killing a dead mouse, it was well and truly killed, then the best parts eaten and a tiny amount allowed to the chicks before that too disappeared without a trace.  This morning there was another dead mouse, (I only get one every couple of days now) and I gave it to mum again.  She duly killed it, ate the best bit and then left the body.  It is, sorry was, way too big for the chicks and the pecking order was followed. With JJ2 sitting in a nesting box, mum not apparently wanting any more of it, it was left to VV2 whom proceeded to eat it.  Now if they can just catch them…

Mum is also exceptionally comical and exceptionally good at catching crickets.  It is wonderfully entertaining watching the chooks chase crickets across the ‘lawn’.  They look demented but they are exceptionally good at catching them so it is probably a really good thing that walking through the garden you send swarms of them jumping away from you!  They do appear to be making a slow indent on the numbers in the actual garden, but in the meadow and the paddocks?  Nah – they still have thousands left to go…

And as for the identity of the little ginger chick?  It still remains a mystery at present.  I am beginning to suspect it is actually a cross between two of our chickens, Harriet, the silkie black Ameraucana and HP who is a cross with at least a Rhode Island Red.  Why the chick is still ginger in colour remains a mystery, but now that feathers are starting to form we are seeing much more in the way of browns and chestnuts coming through in the markings, though the overall colour remains much of the base of HP…

So that pale band just about his legs.  That is what the chick looks like, sorry looked like, this morning until it took an exceptionally thorough dust bath in a newly created flower bed…

And this morning, it was 1½:1½ on the chooks verses 3 lizards that were trapped in the bottom of a bucket.  I know at least 1 lizard escaped but they are prized eating and…

The Chicks at 2 weeks old

I promised an update on the chicks and the chooks.  So here it is.  Yesterday, Christmas Day, they were 2 weeks old.  We still have the two of them and both are growing strong and well. And wow, have they grown.

A reminder on what they looked like!

They were born on Sunday, 11th December 2016.  This is them that day.

The second chick – the Welsummer chick
The first chick born – the ginger chick from the blue egg

One day later and the ginger chick is very shy and it is exceptionally difficult to get any photos of it.

I just love the markings on the ginger chick, but it is making it very difficult to actually identify what it is.
The cockerel Welsummer chick. The fact that the eyeliner make up (the stripe along the eye) and the lack of dark stripe on its head and back mean that it is a male chick.
Mum already trying to show the chicks food. Sadly it is her food rather than theirs but they were soon to learn that the better stuff is the stuff in the other bowl and they only picked out the very smallest grains from mum’s bowl.

There has been one scary moment along the way.  Mum, when the chicks (only 5 days old)  were still in the outer enclosure only and not yet able to get out, came across a brown snake.  These are poisonous, like most things in Australia and hunt mice and other small animals.  The chicks were about the right size to take at the time.  The first thing I knew about it was Mum attacking it and making the most horrendous noises.  I knew instantly something was wrong from the house where I was sitting at the time.  I saw it strike out at mum. Now mum has deformed feet and is quite large and heavy and usually not the fastest of chooks, but she wasn’t bitten.  She was defending her chicks and would do anything to keep them safe.
I literally ran to the kitchen to put on my boots and get outside, grabbing a very long and heavy rake whilst I was at it.  I only wanted to make sure that mum and the chicks were OK, but I also needed to know I wasn’t going to be in danger.  I had no intention of attacking it, only making sure that I was able to enter the chook house unharmed and without being attacked myself.
During the attack, the chicks had run away into the inner enclosure and were effectively trapped there.  By the time I had entered the chook house and made sure that it was clear of the snake by very carefully moving the nesting boxes using the rake – I didn’t care at that point about what happened to the wood shavings, I just wanted to see under them and at the back of them to ensure it was clear and that I wasn’t going to end up trapped as well.
All was clear and I never saw the snake again, but mum was trembling and shaken badly and it took me a while to calm her down.  I stayed with her until she was OK again, showing her that chook house was clear of the snake and allowing her to inspect underneath and behind the nesting boxes.  She eventually went off with the chicks and sat in one of the corners where we have set up the tarp to provide a shaded area in the outer enclosure.

6 days old and a day after the snake attack
They are still so very small.
CC’s crooked toes, most likely caused by an incorrect temperature setting in the incubator (when she was hatched).

Mum (aka CC, or Charmaine), started to bring them out of the outer enclosure when they were just 9 days old.  It scared the living daylights out of me because they were still so very small.  But she took them back down there a couple of times during the day and then the same again the next day.   The house is a long way for a little chick, from the chook house and the safety of the nesting box and inner enclosure, but we had decided that we were taking the approach of letting her get on with it, so I had to trust her.  She found them several places to hide and sat with them under the bamboo away from the rest of the flock.

The Welsummer cockerel chick aged 1 week.
Finally, I managed to get a picture that is in focus and contains mum and both chicks! They are 1 week old here.

Within 3 days of their first outing they have grown so much.  Yesterday saw the first time that they actually managed to get up onto the veranda.  Mum has been trying hard to get them to come up because her food and ‘adult’ food in general is up on the veranda along with fresh water.  Initially they didn’t want to come near to the house at all.  Under the house is a cool but dark place and they were not interested.  But they have slowly lost their fear of it and as a the days have gotten warmer, they have come to appreciate the area under the veranda in particular.

I had taken to putting their chick starter down in a tray along with some water in a small bowl under one of the conifer bushes that are in the garden.  I would have to top up both several times a day, frequently because it had been knocked over but more often because it had been eaten or drunk by the other chooks.  It seems they are rather partial to chick starter despite not eating the soaked pellets that go down to supplement their feed.  The pellets, by the way, are simply the pellets from the current feed that they don’t want to eat dry.  So I let them pick everything else out, and then they get soaked in water (equal volume by well volume) and fed to them and until the chick starter, they used to eat it!

On Christmas Day, the chicks were exactly 2 weeks old and whilst we were sitting on the veranda, mum managed to tease both chicks up onto it.  We weren’t prepared for this and as of yet hadn’t covered over the chooks water container in which the chicks could easily drown.  They didn’t stay long, but just long enough for mum to eat some grain and for the shier of the 2 chicks to make it up the side of the steps!

The Welsummer chick aged 2 weeks and getting some lovely markings now.
A surprise was in store for us on Christmas Day. The chicks finally picked up the courage and strength to get up onto the veranda.
The ginger chick though still prefers to be down. Christmas Day was hot and the water was much needed.
The stump of this tree does however provide a great play ground for the cockerel chick.
We are still unsure on both what sex this chick is and also what breed (or even if it is a cross) this chick is. As you can see, even at 2 weeks old, it is still quite small but is starting to get some lovely pale (silver duckwing?) feathers.