We knew it was coming, but I’m not sure we thought it would feel so soon! Today the chickies left the brooder and are spending the first night in their new coop.
The last six weeks went by in a flash and seems such a short time – how could our tiny peeps be ready to spend the night out on their own already? But when you see how much they’ve grown in that period, it makes sense:
The fact is, despite how massive the hexa-brooder once seemed, it just isn’t enough space for five active adolescent pullets, with all their stretching wings, shaking tail feathers, and spirited displays of dominance. Even with all the fancy improvements (raised feeder, waterer on a pedestal, full size built-in roost, dust bathing pan and various treat apparatus, not to mention the tasteful art), these girls want to get out and explore the world! Efforts to keep them safe at home (extended wall heights, netting roof, more and more binder clip fastenings) mean their deluxe brooder has taken on just the faintest tenor of a prison, and anyone in those conditions would start to feel a little, well, cooped up.
We’ve been letting them out in my office each day for exercise time, but even free run of that whole indoor space simply does not live up to life in the great outdoors. (Not to mention it’s pretty messy.) Where are the bugs, the dirt clods, the flittering butterflies that frighten and delight? A semi-clean hardwood floor is no fun to peck at. Each trip to the backyard it’s harder to confine them in their box at the end of the day.
And so, recognizing that access to the yard is the ultimate goal, the girls and their familiar foodstuffs have been transferred out to the coop for a three-day intensive stay. The hope is that they’ll get used to the coop, come to know it as a safe place—as home—and develop an instinct about heading there at dusk. Then we can start introducing them to the run, teaching them to return to the henhouse at night, and eventually to the yard at large. They’re six weeks now (the average age most sources seem to recommend for the transition) and could be close to twelve weeks (full grown) before they’re able to free range totally unattended.
Here is a peek inside their little house, through the front wired window:
Still a little tight, but in service of the greater good. The food and water will be moved out to the run once that area’s part of their routine, and then the coop will be mainly just for sleeping and laying, and much less crowded.
What you lookin’ at?
Oh, right, nothing, Yes, you may have noticed the Chicken Cam is offline for now, and—sad face!—we’ve decided not to put one inside the coop. The logistics were going to be tricky, but we were going to do it for you anyway! Until we found out that chickens are sensitive to infrared light, which is how these cameras can see in dark conditions. Installing one in a perpetually shady coop would mean that, while everything would seem hunky dory to us hoomins, the poor chickens would perceive themselves as on stage under a spotlight at all times. Big problem, especially when it’s time to sleep! (Also turns out to be a problem for hoomins trying to sleep, since roosters and hens perceive the dawn almost an hour before we do. Cockadoodledoo.)
How did we discover this issue? Well, we accidentally put the chickens on stage of course. The camera’s been working just fine without using infrared at night while we had the red heat lamp on, but as we phased out the lamp in preparation for the outdoor transition, the girls started freaking out at nighttime. As soon as I shut off the overhead room light, they would chirp loudly and flee from the comfy roosting poles to pile over in a corner behind the feeder. We just thought they were nuts or, you know, chickens. What do they know? Weirdos. It took us three nights of wondering before Ben finally “saw the light” in a flash of chicken wisdom and unplugged it. Problem solved! We shall trust in chicken instinct from now on.
Anyway, we’re planning to put up an outdoor chicken cam, but it will take a little time to set up. News on that as it happens!