I love me some chickens. Last spring we got our very first bunch of new chicks from the feed store, raised them inside our house (because we were in the middle of remodeling), and then moved them out to a coop that I lovingly made from scrap wood. The hens rock (and you can check out an over-view of last year under the Backyard Chickens tab at the top). In August I found my very first egg and it totally sealed my love of backyard chickens. They are so rewarding and make awesome pets. I had 9 hens for the summer and fall and then in October our neighbors dogs killed 6 of them for fun. It was such a hard day... they were our hand raised pets!
So all winter long I've had three hens, an Ameraucana (who lays light green to blue eggs), a Barred Rock (who lays white eggs), and a New Hampshire Red (I think... I don't actually know what she is, but she lays huge dark camo-green eggs with brown speckles). They were great layers all winter long but I still had to buy eggs. We love eggs and eat lots. So now that it's chick season again and we've moved and got settled I thought it was time to get a few more chicks.
There's a high school boy, right here in town, that has taken up chicken breeding/chick selling as a little business. He needed wood for more coops and I had a huge pile of scrap wood at the Shanty. So I traded him 3 loads of wood for 8 chicks. I feel like I got the better end of the deal on this! He hauled off what I felt like was trash and I got chicks. Awesome!
Here they are in all of their chick craziness!
I got three white Leghorn and two barred rocks. These chicks will be great egg layers. And then, just because, I also got three exotic or rare chicken breeds. I got a Golden Polish "Top Hat" which has a crazy feather plume on it's head, a Black Sumatra, and a Modern B.B. Game Hen which looks like a road runner. None of the chicks were sexed before we got them so I have no idea how many are actually hens verses roosters.
I keep them in a box in a little mud room off the kitchen. It's so pleasant to be making dinner and to hear their chick peeping noises at the same time. It's also nice to have them close (opposed to in a garage or something) because it's easy to hear when they are distressed. Their chirping changes to loud and frantic and then I know to check on them. Sometimes they are just picking on each other and other times they've knocked their water over and are getting thirsty.
The chicks that we got this year are really really wild and so very skiddish. I mean, like crazy scared of everything! We would walk by the box and they would flip out. I think it is because they've been handled so little. Chicks from the feed store have been born, packed, shipped, unpacked, and then poked at by every kid who walks by them until you buy them. They have a lot more exposure to people. Mine were born and then I picked them up... wild little things I tell you.
In an effort to tame them a bit and make them more friendly we hold them and pet them a lot. Thomas also had the smart idea of feeding them treats when we get them out to handle them. Our treat of choice is watermelon; it's easy for them to eat and they love it. We take them out of their box one at a time, talk to them softly, and offer them watermelon. I hope they'll be really friendly like our other hens.
Here's the Golden Polish getting a treat, and in between bites she's yelping and hollering her displeasure. Aren't its head feathers hilarious! I can't wait until they come in all of the way.
Not everyone gets as bent out of shape about being held. In fact, the Barred Rocks love it. They are the youngest and we like to play with them together. They even both fell asleep in Thomas' hands one night. If that doesn't make your heart melt...
I don't like them to stay in their box all day, so lots of days I make them a little cage of sorts out of a box and a baby gate in the yard. The weather is super warm, so they don't need a heat lamp or anything, and this gives them access to the ground. They love to peck at things, scratch, and take dust baths. Their chicken nature is really amazing because they just seem to know what to do.
Here is their funny little play yard that I make during the day:
A few times we get them completely out of their box so that they can explore the yard a bit and so that we can play with them. This is a bit trickier and we normally only do it when Thomas is home to help. It's a bit of work to get them caught and back into the box when play time is over; they are fast little buggers.
I'm sure one of the white leg horns is a rooster. Can you see his comb on the far right? It's twice the size and a lot redder than the one on the left.
Yard explores that always stay close to each other:
And here are the kids loving on them:
If you can't tell by their faces, the kids love the chicks. Chicks are a great choice in my opinion because they can be loved on and very kind, but at the same time they aren't needy. If you are busy they sure don't mind if you don't hold them! And then they grow up and produce something delicious that you can eat, without eating the actual pet. If that isn't earning your keep then I don't know what is!
I'll be sure to keep you updated on the chicks and the hens. I still have to figure out what I'm going to do with them. I can't have 11 birds roaming my little yard. I have no idea how to transition new birds in with the old. And I can't wait figure out who is a hen and who is a rooster.
This is such a fun hobby for me and something that I love to tell you all about. Thanks so much for letting me indulge!
Any other chicken loves out there?!