We have been talking about having chickens at the orange grove for a long time and a couple of years ago Ray even built a fenced-in area to house any poultry we might acquire. A few months back, Liz and Ron discovered a partially broken chicken coop placed in front of a nearby house for trash pick-up and they promptly loaded it into their truck. Ron repaired the coop and, a couple of weeks ago, moved it into the fenced-in area so that any future chickens would be protected from the coyotes and raccoons that roam at night. In other words, preparation for chickens has been in process over the past couple of years.
A few days ago, Liz and Ron took the plunge and bought six baby chicks from Wachter’s Hay and Grain, a local feed store in Ojai. According to Liz, Wachter’s offers a “a baby chick starter kit,” which includes wood chips, a heat lamp, a feeder, a waterer, food, electrolytes and probiotics. The heat lamp has a red bulb, which not only keeps the chicks warm but also allows them to sleep (which apparently is not the case with a white bulb). They got the chicks home, set up the coop and then spent the night hoping none of their new acquisitions died since temperatures were in the 40s. The people at Wachter’s had assured Liz and Ron that as long as that lamp was on, the chicks would be fine, which was true since they made it through that night and are growing quickly every day. What Wachter’s apparently failed to mention was a condition called, Pasty Butt, which Liz learned about from our niece Karri, who raises chickens in Utah.
Liz texted Karri for some general chicken-raising advice when pasty butt came up. Apparently, baby chicks often get a build-up of “paste” on their little butts, which can keep them from properly pooping. Karri told Liz that she needed to pick up every chick and check to make sure they were pasty butt free. As it turned out, one of the chicks did, in fact, have the malady and Liz and Ron had to move into the second phase of chicken ownership – chicken hygiene. This included getting a bowl of warm water, placing the chick, butt down, in it and then gently removing any residual “paste” from the chick’s rear-end. I must admit to absolute ignorance of this rather unsavory aspect of chicken ownership. I hope this only involves baby chicks and not full-grown hens and roosters! Ron and Liz exercised due diligence and cleaned their baby chick. Apparently, they are continuing to monitor that chick’s progress as well as checking other little chicken butts daily to make sure there are not other pasty situations.
Pasty Butt, notwithstanding, we are all very excited to welcome chickens to our land. The idea of fresh eggs from our very own chickens is something that has been a dream for quite a while. Thank you, Liz and Ron, for jumping in and getting everything rolling. And, of course, thanks for that extra “duty” you are performing to ensure the health of these babies.