Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Best Layed Plans

It's Saturday, January 18th and I had big plans for the day:  I was going to go to the gym, maybe ride out the South Bank road, make a big batch of sourdough French, and power wash the back porch.

This morning as I was having my coffee, I watched Mr Greenburg after feeding him.  He dutifully ate a bunch of 'salad' and then headed for the nest box. He went in and the little peepers all started their peeping.  He came back out for more chow and to my surprise/horror, Chick #1 climbed up on to the exit hole and stuck his head out.  I have been thinking that we would have to move to the next stage of this business soon, but time sort of got away from me.  The nest box is high up in the flight cage and I am sure that if a chick was to fall, it would end bad,y.  Speaking of time, I checked the calendar and today is Chick #1's birthday, four weeks old! 

At four weeks (according to the books) the chicks start to exercise their wings, and it is a good time to be putting other food in front of them to begin the weening process.  I've heard the little wing beats in the nest box, and I have seen them  nibbling on the pine shavings, but to get this right, they need to come out of the nest box.  So, all those plans I had?  fuggedabowdit. We needed to come up with a new solution, pronto.  Damned if I went this far just to have my chicks go down in a Kamekazi crash.

We had recently bought some small plastic storage tubs, one of these looked like it might come in handy.  My worry with moving the chicks to the ground floor of the  cage is that Mr G occupies the penthouse, and the plumbing system is pretty primative so I was not sure how we would be able to keep the chicks from getting pooped on.

So I thought we might be able to devise a roof of sorts over the chicks to protect them, and also to leave them enough room to get out and stretch, but I was not sure that Mr Greenburg would be smart enough to figure out how to get down to the chicks to feed them.  You could call this a plan, but there are enough 'ifs' in it that it could also be called a prayer.

There is a limit to the amount of worrying that is beneficial, after that it is just production time wasted.  I could see it in my mind, and I had a few ideas of how to bring the various elements together, time to get to work.

As every home handy man knows the first step in any home improvement project is:  A trip to the Big Orange Hardware Store (BOHS).  For me this amounts to a little over an hour round trip, so it is best to have a decent materials list befor you head out.  Oddly, there was not a whole lot I needed for my plan that I didn't already have on hand and even more surprising, they had what I wanted and knew where to find it at the BOHS. 

The fabrication was relatively simple: I used a 24"X24" piece of 1/8th" masonite white coated on one side to craft the over head protection.  I bought three 1/8th inch dia. steel rods which I cut to 18 inches with a little hook bent on each end.  These I put across the cage, 21 inches above the floor. I cut the masonite down to 18X21, leaving a space 18X9 for Kermit to fly down through to get to the chicks on the "first floor".
The little plastic tub needs no modification right now.  The walls are high enough that only Chick #1 can get up to the top.  Later I will cut it down a bit on one side so they can come and go more easily but for now I want them to stay together in their box.  I put an electirc heating element designed for reptiles under the tub.  We had this attached to the underside of the nest box to help keep the chicks warm.  This worked well with the nest box and I am hoping it will keep them warm in this application.

I put a very small feed dish in the tub and put a mx of seed and pellets in it.  I am pleased to say that I have seen two of the chicks pecking around in the dish.  I also put a millet spray in, this too has gotten the attention of all four of the chicks. Perhaps they were paying attention to the chapter in the book on food.
 
I think this is going to work.  Mr G eventually made his way all the way down to the chicks.  He was very cautious but eventually, he was in the tub and feeding the chicks!  He also took a little time out to nosh on the millet spray,
 
and darned if chick #1 didn't come over and peck at it!  Now I don't know if Mr G was just stealing the kid's candy or if he was teaching the chicks how to eat for themselves but it was a poingnient moment.  He went back up to the top of the cage and fed some more and then made the trip back down to feed the chicks a couple more times.  I don't think he likes the new setup much, but there is no doubt that he knows where the chicks are and how to get to them.

This evening the chicks are nosing around the feed dish and millet spray, they are grooming themselves and each other.  I was afriad this might be too much change too fast, and it may turn out to be, but so far it looks like it is going pretty well. 
 
With all the remodel and commotion the chicks did not get much to eat today.  Chick #1 continues to be the slowest gainer.  But as much as he fought tonight's feeding he did get some food down between squawks and he came away one gram heavier for the session. That's good for him.  Chick #2 ate pretty well, I forgot to weigh him so I can't say how well he did.  Chick #3 gobbled, he ended up weighing 35 grams, five more than chick #1.  And Chick #4 was the biggest gainer.  He's always the least fuss, he went from 33 to 36 grams.  They look smaller but both of the younger chicks weigh more than the older chicks. 
 
  
 

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