Monday, March 16, 2015

Flock's First Weeks

A scroll through my recent photo gallery made me realize I've taken enough photos of my new arrivals to make a scrap book of babies first weeks.  The photo above is day one, the day the stork brought a box of hatching chicks to my door.  I had to help the little guy in the photo above from his shell by running him under a warm tap until the dried on egg shell pieces were unglued from his skin and feathers.  Day one is a hard day.  

I unexpectedly got the chicks five weeks ago, when we were having some of our coldest winter weather, so I fashioned a brooder in the dining room where I could keep them warm, using a card board box, some hiking sticks, a utility light, and some chicken wire.  Having chicks to play with during snow days is great fun, especially for the first few weeks when they are so small and it takes them a few days to dirty their box.  

Three of the chicks were still emerging from their shells, and were far from attractive, but the rest were adorable fluff balls. It's amazing how much difference dried feathers make when it comes to cuteness.  

These pale yellow chicks remind me of Peeps, those yellow marshmellows shaped like chicks that show up at every gas station cash register this time of year.  

In the photo above, you can see what a difference a few weeks makes.  They grew pretty white angel wings first, before they got feathers anywhere else.  I've never had white chickens before.  I always preferred chickens with colorful feathers, but these white chicks have been very fun to have.   

After three weeks they start to get that classic goofy chicken look as they get real feathers on their heads and necks.  From the very beginning they were ferocious eaters, and very pushy with each other, all sticking their heads in the food bowl at the same time and practically standing on each other to get a bite.  

Before the end of week three, I could tell that one of them was definitely a rooster.  He stands taller than the others, is the bravest when I reach in the box to give them food or water, and has a red comb and cheek flaps.  Brandon named him Poncho, and named another of them Lefty.  We can't always figure out which of them is Lefty, but Poncho is his own personality, already.  

I had to put the hiking poles on top of the box to hold up the chicken wire, since Newt spent most of her waking moments lounging on the chicken wire and staring down into the brooder.  I was worried my chickens were going to grow up with strange mental issues due to the constant presence of a predator above their head.  Lately, though, the chicks are big enough and loud enough that she doesn't spend much time watching them.  Their cut little peeps have become demanding loud peeps, and the speed in which they can dirty their wood shavings has increased to the point that we were all very glad that the weather has improved so they don't have to share the heated part of the house with us.  

I made the short film above of Bad Max breaking rules during one of my recent snow days, and when I watched it, I was most interested in the gentle sound of the chicks in the background.  If you ever wanted to know what it sounds like to have eight baby chickens in your dining room, this video captures it pretty well, so turn your sound up.  Our house has certain rules that we must all abide by, including no standing on the tables, and no sippping out of my glass!    

Yesterday, for the first time, the new flock got to go outside to enjoy the sunshine and meet the big chickens.  June seemed concerned that I had eight new chickens.  After all, the yard has only so much grass, and there are already three big chickens sharing it.  Not to worry though, these chicks are intended to be my starter flock for the farm.  

Mrs. Hall didn't give them a second glance, and they showed their respect for her by being completely quite when she approached.  In the first few minutes outside they jumped at every noise, but it took them no time at all to get comfortable and stand in the sun preening their feathers.  These chicks seem less tame than other chicks I've raised in the past, and maybe it's because there are so many of them that they don't get individual attention.  Also, there haven't been any kids around to manhandle them.  It won't be long until they are going to need real chicken coop.  I've drawn up some plans, and scrounged around the farm for some supplies, so I see chicken coop construction in my near future.  If all goes well, these young chickens will be the founders of my future farm flock.  I'm determined to have as many chickens as it takes to have more eggs than we can deal with.  I think I'm off to a good start.   

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