I never thought I would be a person to say that. My, oh my, how times have changed. I love listening to these girls run across the yard and scratch around under bushes and through the leaves on the ground. Squiggy the Chicken, in particular, sounds like a ninja when she thinks she’s sneaked up on you. She makes a long, drawn out sound that sounds like, “Juaaaaaannnnn” and then she charges a cat. This is unfortunate, since our concrete guy’s name is Juan, and neither Hank nor I can say his name now without saying it like Squiggy does.
OMG. We are losing our ever-loving farmer minds.
But let’s talk more about chickens!
We received our first shipment of layers this past week: 32 beautiful, fuzzy, tiny chicks.
Little known fact? They come in the mail. That just cracks me up. We chose to go pick them up at the post office, and Hank said that the workers were pretty happy to have a loud, cheeping box go away by 6:30 in the morning. We ordered our batch from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa (good things come from Iowa – name that movie reference), and handpicked our assortment online. We placed our order before we moved and set the delivery to be this past week to give us time to set up their brooder in the little barn. We chose chickens based on egg color and egg size, cold tolerance, ability to free range, and size of chicken. We made a couple of concessions, like the Buff Orpingtons, who like to sit on their eggs and go broody sometimes. We also ordered Ameraucanas, Red Stars, New Hampshires, and Rhode Island Reds. About three of these breeds are also great for meat production, but typically you order males since they average one to two pounds larger than the females per bird. (Males are butchered at maturity around 19-20 weeks; there’s not an opportunity for them to turn all roostery and loud on you.)
I was so incredibly excited on New Chickie Day that I woke up 5 am and watched the clock hands slowly go by until it was time for Hank to run pick them up.
The hatchery sends out a care guide link to help set up your new chicks. It’s super helpful. I felt like I was prepared from having our five girls at our old house for a few weeks and then reading up on them, but there were quite a few quick tips they suggested that were very helpful. The boys and I went to the Farm & Ranch store (good things also happen at the Farm & Ranch store) the day before the chicks came in to pick up three things: a two-foot long feeder, a gallon-sized water system (in lime – always a good accent color), and a powder for their water used in the first few days that is a broad spectrum antibiotic for poultry to control respiratory diseases. They also recommend adding a little sugar to their water for the first few days for extra energy and lining their litter with newspaper so that they learn to eat their feed instead of their litter.
They’re only a couple of days old here, and have traveled about 24 hours. Evidently, they do pretty well for about three days after hatching without food or water because of the nutrients in their yolk sac. So amazing. The first thing to do when you get your chicks is to dip their beak in water and teach them to drink.
Seriously. As much as I love chickens, we have to remember that they are a domesticated livestock. They’d have a hard time surviving without human care and protection.
We’ve only named one. She’s Chipmunk. Do you see her in the photo on the left, below? She has a defined striped back. The hatchery threw in a “rare and exotic breed” chick with our order, and she’s the only one with that distinct marking. We’re just guessing that she’s the freebie.
The pale yellow ones are all named, “Banana.” The rest of them are, “Here Chick.”
So. Stinkin’. Cute.
They have to remain at 90-95 degrees for the first week, and then we lift the heat lamp higher to drop the temp by 5 degrees per week as they start to get their feathers. At around eight-10 weeks, they should be able to go to their outdoor pen and coop and only have a heat lamp at night. You can tell if they’re warm enough if they leave a little space between them and spread out through the brooder. If they’re chilly, they’ll huddle together under the light. If they’re too cold, they’ll pile, and that’s bad (the ones on the bottom of the pile will get squished and suffocate).
We have five bigger girls, about 4-5 months old. Squiggy is from our original flock, and the other four are new to us. Hank picked them up on Craigslist last week, which is a great place to find chickens in our area. With the new city rules that allow chickens in urban areas (you may have five hens, no roosters), I think that some people get chickens and then realize that they don’t really want them. I don’t really know what kind of chickens they are yet, but I’ll figure it out online (unless one of you can help me). We have one whiteish chicken, who I’ve named Whitey Ford (musical reference, anyone?), and three reddish-brown chickens. The new four stay together as they roam around the backyard, and Squiggy, of course, is still our loner and cat chaser.
This bird, who I’m sure I won’t be able to tell apart from the others who look just like her, is now called Nike.
Please tell me you know your art history.
Totally the same.
And fierce like a boss.
I very much heart chickens.