Saturday, May 14, 2011

Catching Up -- Chicks!

First of all, I'd like to apologize for not writing sooner.  Sometimes life just gets too busy to do everything I want to do.  I had intended to post something two weeks ago about the arrival of my chickens.  
So, perhaps you will remember Uncle Dave.  He is our previous landlord before Charlie and I got our house -- if you are newer to this blog, there are plenty of posts from the farm we lived on just after we got married.  We were so lucky to live with such great landlords (we had the 2nd floor in their farmhouse).  Anyway, I knew I wanted to finally try my hand at keeping chickens and Uncle Dave was just the man to help me.  I wanted to try a few specific breeds that they wouldn't have at the Tractor Supply Store (I love that store!!!).  The problem is, you have to order 25 or more chickens at a time, and I didn't want that many.  Uncle Dave said he would order mine and have them shipped when he got his. He waited a bit later in the season than he used to so that he didn't have to use as much fuel in his wood burner to keep his warm.  
I got the call on a Monday morning at 6:30 AM about 2 weeks ago that the chickens would be delivered at 7:30 and to come on over.  I quickly got ready for work and was able to stop by for a little while before working from 9 AM-9 PM (too much overtime happening lately).  I was disappointed that I couldn't take time off of work to take them home with me and get them settled in, but luckily Charlie was able to get them for me instead.  

This photo is of Uncle Dave dipping his chicken's beak into water for the first time so they learn how to drink.  They are shipped together in a box (see the air holes in that box in front of him?) and live off of the embryo they absorbed before hatching.  He has a very large chicken coop as you can see.  This is one room off the back of where his adult chickens are housed.  My chicks were still in the box and I didn't get to see them get dunked before heading off to work.  I'm sad I didn't get to do it myself.

When I got home from work that night, Charlie had the brooder box that Dave so kindly made for me in the dining room.  I didn't want them in the garage so I was going to have them in the basement, but the box was so large that we couldn't get it through the door.  Charlie brought it in through the slider door and that is where it stayed.  I moved the kitchen table a bit and found a plug for the 250 watt red light bulb.  Dave said to put down wood chips, but for the first day to lay newspaper on top of that.  He said sometimes they try to eat the wood chips until they learn what their real food should be.

I got them all settled in with some food and some vitamin water (it is a powder that is mixed into their water that Dave said I should use) and then enjoyed watching them explore the home.  The next evening, I removed the newspaper and they really seem to enjoy the wood shavings better.  It is amazing how quickly the birds start to get little feathers.  The photos above were in their first week here.  The photos below were shot last weekend.

The red coloring on their heads came from the hatchery.  Dave had ordered chicks for someone else as well, so the hatchery marked mine so we could tell them apart.  Dave also said that one of the breeds I had wanted was on back order so they substituted that one with a similar chicken.  I'm totally fine with that, except that I don't know which breed I didn't get and which breed they substituted it with.  Since some of the chicks look a lot alike, I probably won't know until they have their adult feathers.  Oh, and I also ordered 6 chickens, but I found 7 when I got home from work that night.  I know the hatchery always sends Dave an exotic species with his large order, so I'm wondering if he gave that to me.  It could be interesting.

I chose breeds that were winter hardy (small combs - less prone to frostbite), are good egg layers, and don't mind being confined -- because they are going to have to endure long winters together in a small coop.  I'm not really sure if they will all fit in my coop as it is, and Charlie is discussing expanding their living quarters... we'll see.  Anyway, I chose Barred Plymouth Rock, Speckled Sussex, Buff Orpington, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Araucana (not the pure bred kind, but it is the only kind the hatchery offered) and Rhode Island Red.  I don't see any red birds so I think the Rhode Island is the one I didn't get.  Dave thought they replaced it with a Black Australorp.  I actually wanted an Australorp in the first place and regretted not ordering one, so I hope that is what I got.

They are getting so big already!  I have them eating hard boiled egg yolk from my hand -- what a funny feeling having them gently peck your hand.  I mix up a fresh batch of vitamin water every morning and in the evening I get all the wood shavings out of the waterer that they kicked up throughout the day.  I fill their feeder in the morning too, but they seem to prefer the food out of the feeder and all over the pen.  They get chick grit to help them digest food.  Besides that and having the red light on in one corner for warmth, they require very little attention.  This morning was the first time I had to change out their wood shavings and put in fresh ones (my compost pile is gonna love having chickens poop!).
I have so much more that I want to blog about -- but it will have to wait for later.  I need to go to buy some more topsoil/humus today and then get ready to meet some girlfriends for a wedding party (celebrating at a bar in Saginaw -- so much better than a stuffy wedding reception).  It is raining - but hopefully it'll clear up a bit tomorrow so I can get my gardening done.
I hope you like the photos of the baby chicks.  I promise to keep them coming as they grow up.


The Weekend Homesteader said...

You could still have RIRs because the chicks are buff colored. I discovered this when I bought what I was told was a Buff Orpington from the feed store, and she grew to be a RIR.

Shari said...

Really? That is interesting... I guess I really won't know until the grow up then. Thanks for letting me know.