In the interests of full disclosure on the ups and downs of chicken keeping, I thought I would write a bit about the routine we've gotten into with the wee ladies. Although I expect things to taper off just a little as they get older, the following is a typical day for us right now.
- 7 a.m.: Good morning sunshines! I refill the chicks feeder, rinse out and refill their waterer, and hold each of the four bigger chicks for a few minutes, checking them over for signs of anything amiss. Once the big girls have had their lovin', I spend some time hand-feeding Fiona. (More about that in a minute.) This usually takes me 10 or 15 minutes.
- Noon-ish: Sweet Husband comes home for lunch most days, checks in on the chicks, and gives Miss Fiona a bit of lunch.
- 5:30 p.m.: Snack time! I get home from work and let the dogs out, then go downstairs and tend to the chicks. Again, I check their feeder and rinse and fill their waterer. I also usually do a little bit of hand-feeding for all of the girls, usually some sort of soft treat like hardboiled egg or yogurt. At first they were completely petrified by this, but little Tori led the way and now they all get really excited when they see human hands. Again, Fiona gets some extra attention.
- Evening: Not every evening, but when it's warm out, I take the chicks outside for playtime. We have a dog "x-pen" set up that keeps them fairly enclosed, and Porterhouse helps me out by circling the pen a few times when any chick gets too brave and decides to think about escape. I honestly think we could make a good little herding dog out of her, if she could resist the urge to bring the chicks back in her mouth.
- Bedtime: One more check on the chicks before I go to sleep. Once again, their waterer gets rinsed and refilled (they're awesome at getting it dirty), and Fiona gets her "fourth meal".
All in all, I would estimate that I'm spending about an hour a day taking care of them, but that's with a lot of dawdling and being enraptured with their cuteness. Without that, the time spent would be....goodness, maybe 15 minutes?
As for little Fiona, she's still considerably smaller than her sisters, and I'm honestly starting to think she may not make it. She will eat and drink on her own with some coaxing (hence the hand-feeding), but she's just so sleepy all the time.
I've tried vitamins. I've tried feeding her egg yolk and yogurt. I've tried putting her in a brooder on her own, which actually made her lose weight. Then I tried putting Tori (the calmest of the bigger girls) in with her to keep her company, but Tori didn't think much of that situation. (Funny story: As soon as I left the room, Tori actually flew out of Fiona's brooder, and was clawing at the mesh top of the main brooder squawking. Although I don't speak chicken, I'm almost positive she was saying, "Let me back in! Let me back in!") So, now Fiona's back in with the big girls.
Fortunately, the other four chicks haven't "gone all Lord of the Flies" (as Sweet Husband puts it) and started pecking her or keeping her from food--they're actually just completely ignoring her, which is very sad in it's own way.
I called the company I ordered the chicks from last night (My Pet Chicken--laugh if you must), for suggestions. Joyce (a lovely, kind woman who missed her calling as a counselor) said she's had chickens bounce back after being "sleepy" for several weeks--basically, "where there's life, there's hope"--so just to keep babying her along as best we can.
I'm a little heartbroken over it, for all my talk about getting extras because of the probability that we would lose one or two...but I'm trying to focus on our four healthy big chicks.
And they are getting big so fast. Most days they're noticeably bigger even between the morning and when I get home from work at night.
They're so funny too. Alanis and Tori like to perch on top of their feeder and waterer and face off at each other. And Norah is such a little bully! I'm glad I chose to name them after singers because it means they have built in last names, e.g. "You quit that right now Norah Jones!" Ingrid is a little shy, but she's going to be really pretty when she gets her feathers, I can already tell.
For pure entertainment value, they're one of the best investments I've made--the eventual eggs are just going to be gravy.