Friday, October 22, 2004

On chickens from Stephen

The following is an e-mail by Stephen, sent out to a friend:

A few weeks ago I bought all the materials necessary to build the shed which is intended to be the chicken brooder/coop. Everything except the plans, which they didn't have, but which would be available by the weekend. Weekend comes, no plans. They'll be here Monday. Well, I'll be out of town from Monday to Thursday. I'll have to wait until Friday to pick them up, and get started the following weekend.

Next Friday arrives, and so do I. But not the plans. Sorry - we'll get them up here by tomorrow. Saturday - plans arrive. Wrong plans. Found another set of plans in San Antonio - The'll be here by 2:00. Ya, 2:00, and I'm headed back out of town on Monday. Chickens are to arrive Thursday. No way a shed's getting built in a day. So on to plan B. What? There is no plan B?

Plan B becomes to convert a trailer into a brooder. It is a 4' x 8' flatbed trailer which has 4' high walls of plywood. After a severe mental workout, I come up with a design that I think will make this thing work. So I work at it on Sunday and again Wednesday when I've returned from my trip. Almost done by dark on Wednesday.

Patti received a phone call at 7:00am Thursday saying that the chickens had arrived at the post office, and she could pick them up. She drove to the post office, and there were no chickens. No one from the post office had called to tell anyone that there were chickens. What was going on?

Well, eventually someone figured out that perhaps the chickens were sent to our previous address - College Station - which was the billing address. Call College Station post office. Sure enough, that's where they are. Patti returned home, picked up the kids, and headed to College Station.

Three hours later she showed up with 100 chicks. I've made more progress with the brooder/trailer, and there is a space for them to live now.

Patti and Farmer Boy climb into the trailer and start pulling chicks out of the box, dipping their beaks in the water, and moving on to the next. There is one dead chick in the box.

I think that the two of them stayed in the trailer for well over an hour. They had a great time. Patti worried the whole time that something was wrong - not drinking enough, not eating enough, too cold, too hot, too something. But the chicks continue to get more energetic.

Chicks, though, occasionally get poop stuck to their butts. If you don't get it off, the chicks will die from having their digestive tracts blocked up. So I peel off this stuff, but the chick starts to bleed. Long story short, that chick eventually died. Guess I should have left the poop on his butt.

Today Farmer Boy discovered that the chicks like grasshoppers. And in case it isn't clear - they don't like them as friends, they like them as lunch. He had a great time catching grasshoppers (which is a skill he perfected long ago), throwing them into the brooder, and watching the battle ensue. The chicks chase each other around, each trying to steal the delicacy away from each other.

And speaking of that - chicks can move! I thought that they were going to be fairly helpless little things. Not! These guys are strong, fast, and know what they want. They'll fall asleep in the middle of the floor, and others will run right over the top of them. That awakens the sleeper, who usually jumps up and scampers off as if he had been right in the middle of some important business all along.

And that's where we are now. Roughly 100 chickens - we didn't get an exact count when we took them out - mostly alive and healthy, living in a trailer. Now is the big adventure. Build the shed, move them there, and watch them grow.

Meanwhile, I'm about to try to sell some of my cattle. I've got three yearling bulls who are ready to go. I've also got a sick-ish bull (his crank is a bit messed up, if you need to know), and I've got a cow who does not seem to be producing any babies and has an injured foot or leg. So the five of them are going to go. Four will go to the Auction block, and one to the butcher's block.

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