As you may remember, my husband and I slipped three 3-day-old chicks under our broody Buff Orpington Louise. That was on a Saturday night at about 10 pm.
I got up with the sun on Sunday to make sure everything was hunky dory and saw that Louise was thrilled with her new babies to care for. I had set up one of our nest boxes in the American Coop as a brooder for the new family.
I removed the nest box dividers (a fantastic feature of this coop!) and set up starter feed and a waterer. I figured they would just hang out in the henhouse for the first week or so. Seeing how well everything was going, we went about our day of errands and gardening.
I would compulsively check on them, and they were fine, sometimes underneath momma, sometimes peeking out from under momma, and sometimes out and eating, drinking, exploring a bit.
At about 3 pm, when I went to check, I didn’t see them in the nest box, and there they were, down in the coop run! I don’t know how that happened. I was so surprised to see them all there. I wondered, “Did momma come down and they followed?” or “Did one of the chicks go out exploring, hopping down the ramp and momma and the rest followed?”
I won’t know, but then they ventured further. The babies just outside the coop. Lucy, our Rhode Island Red and the best chicken ever, was sweetly curious about the chicks. Then Wilma, one of our Barred Rocks, came over to the little French Copper Marans, we named Liberty, and grabbed her leg. Liberty squawked and ran over to momma, but mom Louise didn’t protest enough, I thought.
I said, ‘That’s it! It’s too dangerous out here.’ And really, it was. Not as much from my other chickens, although I had my fears, but the fenced in area around our coop was not chick proof. The babies could easily hop out through the wire fencing, but Momma Louise wouldn’t be able to get to them to protect them. With the many raptors in the area, and my dog in the backyard at times, we decided the chicks needed to be in a safe area until they get bigger.
This was all unexpected because like I said, I thought they would just hang out in the henhouse for a week.
So we quickly went into action and set up my dog’s old crate inside our American Coop. Since the baby chicks were so small still they could easily hop through the bars, which they did… a lot.
We got some deer netting we had and cut it around the bottom of the dog crate. Then we put bricks around the perimeter of the crate because it had a slide out tray and I didn’t want to use that on the bottom. I wanted to encourage their instincts to forage and scratch. The bottom of the crate had big enough areas for the chicks to do that.
And now when the rest of the flock is out roaming the fenced in area or in the evening when we let them out to help us garden, I just open up the crate and let momma and the babies out in our American coop to stretch their legs, scratch, dust bathe, the works.
Until the chicks are bigger and can’t slip through the outside fencing, this will be the routine. I just have to make sure everyone laid their eggs, or this past weekend I opened up the back of the henhouse so Hazel could just jump up into the back of the coop to get to the nest box to lay.