I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself. I can’t believe that there are chickens at BLD farm again. It’s been over 4 years now since they have been here. It just made sense that they go with my ex-wife when she moved out. She is a home-body and at the time i was gearing up for long periods of being out on the road doing this and that, mostly activism and low-bagging on my friends couches. So she go the flock. At one time there were 130 living out back. I can’t see myself getting back to that many, not just yet anyway.
The last time I ordered chickens in the mail (yes, in the mail) they came from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. Their selection is top notch and their blood lines are strong compared to some of the other hatcheries I’ve ordered from. In the past, my survival rate was over 90%, usually only losing 1 or 2 after the first 48 hours. I wish i could say the same this time, but I’ll get to that.
First things first, I needed a brooder box. Since it was February when i ordered them, and they were scheduled to arrive at the very beginning of March, I knew that they couldn’t start off out in the bar because of at least 2 reasons; 1. it’s too damn cold outside without a hen sitting on them and 2. the barn is trashed. Last time i brooded this early in the year, they were set up in the basement. That wasn’t so good. Mostly because they are so damn amazing to watch, and if they are down there, I would never see them without going down there. I knew that with spring, I would need to put up the sprouting table in the sunroom again so i figured to just double duty the table and build it into a brooder. If you remember, the shop across the street has a giant stack of freshly cut Poplar and Quaking Aspen in it, so I just grabbed a few of them and a couple of saw horses and put them in place of the table i used last year. Funny thing is, over the last 4 years, the sprout table has been different every time. Anyway, while I was over in the shop, I pulled out a bunch of old window sashes that came from somewhere or other and a couple of the pine shelves I’ve been using for most everything else. Needless to say, the mice made a multiplex condo in my window pile. Multiplex + mice= mouse piss!! Scrub scrub scrub. Pretty nasty. After they dried off, the sashes were stood on end and attached to the table with the shelves forming the lid. Long ago (6 years?) I had used 2 of my brooder lamps out in a pig shelter I threw together behind the barn. Pigs being pigs and me being me, the lights got pulled down off of the ceiling of the shed and mashed into the mud by the pigs and then just stowed on a shelf in the barn as is by me. Clean, wash, scrub, disassemble, clean more, reassemble. These are hung from the underside of the pine shelves. Using the thermometer from the front porch, the temperature inside of the brooder with both light going got up to, and slightly beyond, 100* F. That’s fine to dry thing out, but a bit too hot for the baby birds. A quick $100 stop at the farm store and the feeders, waterers, food, and wood shavings are on hand. I set all that up and then it was time to wait. Of course, the Sunday that the birds were born and put in the mail was not only one of the coldest days in months, but, at least out in Iowa, a full on Blizzard. While waiting in line at the Post Office, the woman at the counter told every single person in line that “we have chicks in back” and “someone really needs to get down here and put them under a heat lamp” and “I think at least 4 of them are already dead.” It was all I could do not to shove my way to the front of the line. Once it was finally my turn, I grabbed by box of birds and ran for the car. cranked the heat to max, opened the box and stuck them under the heater vent. I could tell that that more than 4 birds had died as there were a bunch mashed down in one corner with the rest walking on their corpses. Nor what i wanted to see. By the time i got them home and into the brooder, I had counted 10 already dead. By the end of their first 48 hours in the brooder, another 7 died, leaving me with 10 vigorous chicks.
With a little detective work I figured that of those dead, my 2 Sumatras, 6 White Faced Black Spanish, at least 2 of the Black Breasted Modern Game birds and 7 of my Rainbow Layer Selection had gone to the great coop in the sky. McMurray was as distressed to hear of the mortality as I was to find it and they promptly offered to refund or replace my loss. Instead of a refund, I had them replace and i filled out the 25 bird minimum with more of what i had already ordered. The next box gets here this coming Monday, and the weather this weekend looks to be very warm for this time of year. Hopefully they come thru the journey better than the first set.
I mentioned that the barn is trashed. It’s not a huge place, only 17×23′ with a loft. The only animals using the barn for the last almost 5 years are a family of groundhogs that hollowed a section out under the cement floor. I’ve been parking lawn mowers in there too. Mostly it is in pretty much the same state as when the goats and chickens left, only worse. This morning Leah and I went out and hauled everything out that wasn’t nailed down. I disassembled everything that was screwed together while Leah swept down the ceiling and the floor. My issue right now is the floor. When it was left by the previous owners, it was no where near flat and the intervening years have only make things worse. Just yet, I don’t know how I’m going to pull it off, but the place needs a new floor. From the front door sill to the lowest corner is a difference of almost 16″. On average, the difference front to back is about 8″ I figure i can slope the floor some, but I still need to come up with a bunch of fill, whether gravel or dirt or cement, I still need to figure. Cement is the most costly and time consuming option. I should add that getting a cement truck back to the barn is simply not going to happen. Which means everything need moved back there by hand. UGH. What I figure to do is tear out all the preexisting stall walls and lay a whole new floor. I have to rent a jack hammer to bust up the one that is in there now, which I’ll use as a base, then just rent a mixer and go at it. Makes my back ache just thinking about it.