Six weeks ago we decided to get some chicks from the local Gamm Vert store. Since Eaglet the Confused Chicken who started life as a girl and turned into a boy, seems determined to live like a girl we’ve had to resort to buying in new babies. The Other Half wants to make Eaglet into coq au vin but I’ve got used to having him around and have become attached so he’s on a reprieve.
The new babies however are destined for the pot – at least that’s the theory.
When we bought the ten little chicks they were tiny and cute and we had no idea how to bring them up. We had a book and we had the advice of the friendly man who works in Gamm Vert near Montreuil-sur-Mer. He said we should keep them “in the house” until they’re 8 weeks old, he sold us a red lamp, some soft bedding, chick food, water feeder and seed feeder and off we trundled with ten little birds in a box.
We had an old dog cage which Frank Bruno the stray used – he grew so big in a week that it became redundant – so we kept the little birds in that, in our kitchen extension. That first day, they tweeted, hopped about, looked sweet. When I got up in the morning they greeted me with lots more tweets and I thought “this isn’t too bad, we can do this”.
The cats were fascinated by the chicks – or perhaps they just couldn’t believe that I would have such smelly birds in the house. ‘Enry Cooper lay next to the cage all day, occasionally trying to get a paw through to tap them gently. Lou Lou lay on a kitchen chair for hours watching them. Winston refused to come in the door as he didn’t like the red light – he has cat OCD and doesn’t like changes!
I must tell you – baby birds eat, drink, poo, sleep and GROW. That is it. After two weeks the tiny little birds that you could fit three of into a small hand were growing almost as you looked at them. They have voracious appetites. They are poo-ers of extraordinary capacity. And they smell. It suddenly dawned on me that when the man from Gamm Vert said keep them in the house until they’re 8 weeks old, he probably meant the bird house not our house.
At five weeks old they outgrew the dog crate so we set up a dog pen in the kitchen extension to give them more room. At seven weeks old, I could take no more. I know some people do keep them as house pets – you can even buy chicken nappies on line. I’d had enough though of the daily cleaning routine and the feathers everywhere. We’d been putting them out every day for the last few weeks when it was warm in a temporary pen to “harden them off” and get them used to outside life so I hoped they were ready. A new coop was made, fencing put up and off they went to their new home next to the big chicken pen where they continue to eat, drink, poo and grow – they’ve also learned how to climb the ladder into and out of their coop and sleep on a perch with very few lessons!