Raising chicks sans hen, you keep them very warm with a heat lamp or incandescent bulb. Guidelines are 95 degF the first week and dropping 5 degrees per week until they are fully feathered or you reach nighttime temperatures. (In Seattle, fully feathered definitely comes first.) But Calamity Jane hasn’t read Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.
The chicks are 5 days old. They are very small. Momma takes them out for long walks, even in the cool of morning. Cluck-cluck-cluck – she shows them how to peck. Cluck-cluck-cluck – she shows them how to scratch. Cluck-cluck-cluck – CJ has a dust bath while the chicks peck at things or nap in the sun. When the chicks are too cold or sleepy she leads them all back to the broody nest for serious naptime.
We wonder how they can possibly stay warm enough. Is the 95 deg a daily average? Hourly? When the chicks get cold we notice they do have some behavioural options. One is to cheap loudly. Another is to climb on top of momma and burrow into her feathers – which only works if she is sitting or lying down. When she is standing, they crowd underneath her, burrowing as much of their body as they can into her breast feathers.
Tonight for the first time she led them into the big coop for sleeping. Silly of her, because the chicks can’t possibly make it up to the nest boxes. We gave them a helping hand, then pulled in the dinky ladder from last year’s brood and showed them how to use it, cheering them on. And Scott wanted to buy pullets… Ha! You can’t beat this for adorableness, zen, and entertainment!