Several of you have emailed me and asked for an update on the peeps, so here it is:
As you may recall, on the dark, tragic seventh day of April, one of my baby chicks was nearly pecked to death by one of our adult hens. It was truly horrifying and while I don't care to relive it, you can.
It's now been about five weeks since the tragic incident. As you can see, Lady Bird (the blonde one, a Buff Orpington) has made a full recovery. If you look closely you'll see a small bald patch remaining on the side of her head, but it's filling in with feathers as we speak. All is well.
That's Ida sitting next to her. They are about half to three-quarters their full adult size at this point (they're 3 months old right now). That's still too small to fend off a seriously angry adult hen. So while they can come out and free range in the backyard, where it's easier to get away from a hen who just feels like pecking at something to show who's boss, I'm still not willing to lock them up together, where they could be more easily cornered.
Which means that they sleep in a makeshift enclosure inside the chicken run–exactly the sort of enclosure I was too lazy to build at first, which is what led to Lady Bird getting pecked.
I'm making do with a wire dog enclosure, some chicken wire, and other assorted odds and ends I had around the house. At this point, we think we'll have to keep them separated until everyone is about the same size, which will be sometime in late summer. Maybe they'll get together sooner, but only after I've seen them spend lots of time together without any blood getting drawn.
The whole experience has really put me off the idea of adding new chicks to the flock. I know farmers do it all the time, but I just don't have the stomach for watching the weak ones get pecked to death, and all this supervised, gradually socialization of the chicks and adults is just really more than I have time for.
If I was going to get new chicks more regularly, or if I had a little more money to throw at the problem, it would have been a smart move to get one of these Lucky Dog kennels, which sell at my feed store for about $200. I could have put it inside the run and had the perfect, sheltered-from-the-rain wire enclosure so that the peeps could be near the adults without being endangered by them.
I know, it seems like total overkill for a couple of baby chicks. But it gives them lots of room to hop around, and if you stuck a couple of roosts in there at various heights, they could hop up and down and be very happy. And because it has a person-sized door (as opposed to my makeshift thing, which has a door meant to accommodate a shih tzu), it would be easier to get in there and clean or do stuff. And the waterproof roof is really nice.
(I should point out that a critter could tunnel under it and get the chicks. If you were putting it inside a run that's already critter-proof, that's not a big deal. But if you were going to put it next to your run, or somewhere else, you'd need to bury hardware cloth underneath it to make absolutely sure nobody could get in, and maybe add a layer of chicken wire around the sides to make sure critters couldn't reach inside.)
And it comes apart easily, so it could be stored, loaned to a neighbor in need of a temporary "chick shelter," or donated to a rescue project.
But I don't have one of those. So our little social experiment continues. There's your update–good luck to those of you who are doing your own chicken-raising this year.