Saturday, April 09, 2005

Chick Lit

The issue of the day has been whether to add pine shavings to their bedding. We have three chicken books (OK, we really have four or five, but three primary sources) and they mostly say to keep them on newspaper covered in paper towels for the first few days of their life, then add pine shavings once they've gotten used to eating chicken food and will eat it rather than the pine shavings.

Apparently the newspaper is hard to walk on and can cause leg problems. The paper towels are supposed to provide a little more traction. On the other hand, the pine shavings, if swallowed by baby chicks, can cause them to "paste up," meaning that their little turds get stuck to their butt and they basically become constipated and can die pretty quickly.

Sorry. I should have warned you that the turd talk was coming. But we're almost done now.

So now that the little ones are at least 4 days old, we thought we'd try the pine shavings. It would give them something to scratch around in and prevent these dreaded leg and foot problems. But little Bess, the tiniest (and presumably stupidest) one, got into the shavings and just started eating it as fast as she could. We went back to the books and only one of them said to wait longer before adding shavings. The others suggested starting it within a few days and had lots of photos of happy, healthy chicks on pine shavings.

I said, "Hmmm. I'll go check on the Internet and see what I can find out." By the time I came back down, Scott had covered the shavings with paper towels. Watching Bess eat the potentially constipating shavings was too much for him. Plus he's a little tired of me checking their butts for paste every few minutes. Like all new babies, the status of their poop seems to be a source of endless fascination.

Bought some fresh eggs from the farmers market today, all different colors. They are small eggs from young layers. A preview of things to come.

The chick lit we are relying upon:

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow--comprehensive, geared towards farmers more than backyard hensters, and a little too matter-of-fact about sending underperforming hens to the stewpot for my taste.

Living With Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock by Jay Rossier--also quite comprehensive, more for backyard types, and great photos. Unfortunately, some of those photos are in the "butchering" chapter, which I have to keep clipped closed so I don't accidentally flip through it.

Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces by Barbara Kilarski--much more my speed. Old, non-laying hens are pets, not meat. Great photos of hens and coops.

We also have an old chicken book that one of my favorite writers, E.B. White, provided the introduction for. He was quite a henman and is widely quoted as saying, "I don't know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens."

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