Well, the girls have grown a bit since we got them at the end of July. I watched them a while before giving them their names. The two "blondes" (White Leghorns) are Babs and Betty. The speckled black and white chicks (Wyandotts) are Milly and Tilly. And the reddish brown one (Ameraucan) is Miss Cleo.
The chickens look bigger every day, but seeing the pictures of them as chicks is amazing. It wasn't that long ago that they were just little balls of fuzz that fit in the palm of my hand. You might remember Miss Cleo as a baby:
They lasted in their little bunny cage for about six weeks before we had to make them a larger home to roam. There are plenty of expensive pre-fab hen houses and chicken coops out there, but we wanted to make something simple that wasn't going to break our piggy bank. I saw a video for a chicken "tractor" and decided that this was the way to go for us. Not only was it light on plans, the materials cost less than $100.
Here's our taller version of the tractor that we built for our backyard chickens:
Several people have asked us about it, so I'm putting together a how-to post right now. It's pretty simple, and I took lots of pictures, because hey... I'm a blogger. That's what I do.
Living La Vida Chicky
As you can see, I have a cover on top for shade. We also have a piece of clear plastic sheeting pulled to the back that we bring over the top on the rare occasions of rain. We moved up to larger feeders and water dispensers, as the girls now need more of both. You can see that they still have the bunny cage to sleep in. We haven't quite gotten around to building an actual coop. Every night, they snuggle up with each other in their first home, But we'll have to get them something a little bigger and covered soon. Running down the length of the inside of the hen house is a large branch that fell off of one of our trees. I put it in there for them to play on. They love hopping up their and flapping their wings. We have two different kinds of hay in there. One is for the main floor area. It's the yellow hay you see at the pumpkin patches this time of year. Then we have the softer hay, Bermuda, that we use for their bedding. It's a few dollars more, but hey... my girls need to be comfy!
One sad note...
We unfortunately lost one of the Ameraucans (the reddish brown ones) in the heat wave. My little Roxy succumbed to the 108 degree weather. I cried for days. She was my favorite. Those little chicks went and "imprinted" on me, which means we bonded. They flap their wings when they see me coming. They let me pick them up and hold them for a little bit. They even follow me around the yard when I let them out for walks.
On the last hot day of a sweltering heat wave, I went down to the hen house to check on the chicks' water level. I saw most of them huddled over in the shade, but little Roxy was laying lifeless at the door. I stood staring at her, hoping she'd move, as the realization that she was gone came over me. I freaked out a little and then started crying. I didn't really think I would respond so emotionally, but I did.
Keeping Backyard Chickens Safe on Hot Days
In case you have backyard chicks and experience a rise in temperatures in your area, here are some tips to keep them happy and safe:
- Keep water in multiple spots in the hen house so that the chicks remember to drink,
- Add ice to the water supply throughout the day. The outside temps will heat that water up very quickly.
- Make sure the chicken coop is properly ventilated and that the chicks have plenty of shade available.
- Watch for panting. That's a sure sign that they are getting hot and they need more cold water.
Chickens have a naturally higher body temperature. A heat wave can be very dangerous for them. I'd hate for you to have to go to check on your chicks and have to find any of them have died.
They're not ready for egg-laying yet, but we should see some eggs around Christmas time. The Wyandotts will produce browns, the Leghorn eggs will be white, and Miss Cleo, our Ameraucan will be laying blue "Easter" eggs. Can't wait!