Thursday, May 15, 2008

Feathered and Warm

Tonight while holding my big Barred Rock rooster chick, Roo (left) I noticed that even though it was chilly, he wasn't shivering and his feet were warm (I took that photo last week). It was then I realized that I was keeping the heat lamp on the chicks for no reason. I took the 250 watt heat bulb out of the reflector and replaced it with a 60 watt incandescent bulb, which I will only use when I need the extra light to see. The chicks are fully feathered now and have proven to me that they can maintain their own body heat. When I hold them, they don't shiver or puff up to stay warm anymore. The temperature in their coop is 55 to 60 degrees at night.

Last week, during a particularly chilly 40-degree night, the outlet the heat lamp was plugged into quit working and needed to be reset. I'm not sure what the actual electrical term is, but if it was a circuit breaker, the term would be "blown". Anyway, the chicks went the entire night without their heat lamp because I was at work and didn't know the light wasn't on. I came home in the morning to find them all alive and well, but I plugged the lamp into a different outlet to turn it back on anyway.

I thought to myself, "You know, they really don't need the lamp anymore. You're doing this for yourself, not them." Today Roo confirmed what my gut was telling me last week.

So that's it--my chicks are now on their own at night. I bet they're sleeping great in their dark, cozy coop, nestled up next to each other the way chickens are supposed to sleep--not awake and partying all night long! They should be worn out from foraging in their large run for most of the day today.

I have three asparagus plants poking through the soil now. We planted 25 a few weeks ago. The boys helped me dig the trench for them, right on the bank of the pond. I was amazed to learn that asparagus needs to be planted very deep. I hope it turns out to be a good location for asparagus plants. They'll never struggle during the summer drought, being so close to a constant source of water. Yet they aren't waterlogged either, since they are above the level of the pond. When we dug the trench, the soil at the bottom of it was nice and moist, but not soggy. Now that I am seeing proof that they survived the transplanting process, my hunch must have been right. Now comes the hard part: waiting till next year to harvest our asparagus crop. I can't cut any this year because they are getting established. What a shame that we won't be able to enjoy that tasty asparagus till next year!

During my almost 39 years on this planet, one thing I've learned is that my gut instincts are never wrong. When instinct tells me that my chicks don't need a heat lamp anymore, or that the asparagus will do really well next to the pond, I know I can trust it.

*Update on Sweet Pea, the little Barred Rock pullet that was pecked 2 weeks ago. She is doing really well and her vent is now covered nicely with feathers, so no more tempting pink skin can be seen. No one picks on her anymore and she has turned into a wonderfully sweet, gentle little girl. She and Betty are my favorites! If I could have only one breed of chickens, I would choose Rocks.


  1. I always tell Hubby not to mess with my "Woman's Intuition" either- I'm always right! (not really, but it's o.k. for him to think that. LOL)
    You take such cute pictures, Amy.

  2. I fought for a long time about the heat lamp for our chickens! My boyfriend tried to convince me that they were fine without it, but I couldn't let my babies have the potential to get cold!!

    I came over from your comment on the Fraker Farm blog. I love finding new farm blogs to read!

  3. Nice post! I was thinking the same thing about the heat lamps this week. I think mine are about ready to go without it too. Maybe I'll turn them off today,(I have two going! one over the floor, and one over the roosting area).

    Thanks for the idea!

  4. Paula, thank you. The subjects are pretty cute, so it makes my job easier! LOL

    J&J, I like finding new farm blogs too. I like reading how others raise their animals and food. And I think chickens are a lot tougher than we give them credit for. Thanks for stopping by!

    Don, you'll know when they're ready. I don't think animals can be managed by any hard rules. They tell us what they need if we just take the time to pay attention.

  5. OH..what a little cuttie...I've been longing for chickens for about 3 years now...still do not have my coup build....waiting on my husband as usual.....I love your coup set up....looks wonderful.

    I will definately be back to visit..I see there is lots for me to learn here.

    take care,

  6. Doreen, thanks for visiting! I checked out your crafts website and love your very unique work. I've never seen anything like it! Do you make chickens?

  7. Hi Amy! I stopped by to visit from Heather's blog at Living a Simple Life. I'm so glad I did.

    We're just beginning our adventure into homesteading and I'm trying to learn as much as I can. I'm looking so forward to reading your previous posts.

    Your chicks are darling! And you have such a lovely coop. I can hardly wait to read more.

    Farmgirl blessings,

  8. It's such a nice feeling to have the babies start taking care of themselves. I feel that way with transplanting seedlings, and I felt that way with turning off the heat lamp for the chicks. I'm not sure I'll feel that way when my daughter ventures out on her own.

    Awesome picture! :)


  9. Lea, thank you! The chicks have been a big learning experience and a lot of fun for the whole family. I plan on keeping chickens for as long as I am able. The hardest part is waiting for them to reach egg laying size!

    I agree, it's wonderful to see them becoming self-sufficient. It may not be easy to let go, but at least we know it's OK to do so.

  10. It is uncanny how my Marans look exactly like your Barred Rocks! HMMMMMMM...

  11. Don, don't panic just yet. I think that you do indeed have Cuckoo Marans. You'll know for sure when the dark brown eggs arrive!

  12. My first visit to your blog and I have enjoyed your writing and content. I raise and enjoy chickens often so it is always a welcome conversation with me.

  13. Always good to see people loving life :) we have some barred rocks this year for the first time and they're beautiful, smart and hardy. We usually have aracaunas but barrde rocks are now on my list of favs.


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