Thursday, February 16, 2012

Moar Fluffeh Behbehs

It's been a couple of years since we've had chicks, so kids aren't the only baby critters here

What? I thought we had a monopoly on this place!
Last year, I was up to my eyeballs in baby goats, and around the time I'd normally order chicks, I just couldn't do any more baby animals.  The year before that, I had gotten a mere half dozen chickens as replacements for the previous year's hen chicks that turned out to be roosters.  Since I let my hens live out their natural lives, I now find myself with quite a few old biddies (the majority of my flock is over four years old- which is old for egg production hens) who don't do all that much in the way of egg laying, and it is time to get some new hens to keep egg production up.

One of the many items on the list o'projects is a mobile chicken house with electric netting that we can move around the property so the hens can eat weeds and fertilize the soil.  Most of the designs I've seen are for a handful of hens, and when you have the amount of weeds we'd like eaten, that just  seems too small.  And we keep getting hung up on finding wheels that can handle the weight load, but that can also swivel and conquer our bumpy terrain- we know if it isn't easy enough to move, we just won't end up moving it much.  Since that isn't yet built, I limited myself to ordering 25 chicks...for now.
It's a new place-- everyone, stick together!
I ordered gold sex-links, which means that the females and males hatch out looking completely different colors.  This comes in handy because otherwise, chicks can only be sexed the day they hatch out, and after that, there is no way to know if you have males or females until the chicks are a couple of months old.  This means feeding and caring for quite a few chickens that may turn out to be a gender you can't use, and that may decide that even though he weighs a mere fraction of what you weigh, he is going to attack you every time you go out into the barnyard or hen house.

The last time I bought 24 "hen" chicks, six of them turned out to be roosters.  Hen chicks cost more than rooster chicks or "straight run" (where you just get a certain number of chicks that haven't been sexed, so you have no idea what ratio of hens to roosters you'll end up with, though somehow everyone I know winds up with like 90% roosters this way), so I was not happy with the 25% fail rate of the hatchery.  Instead of taking my chances with some of the heritage breeds I've gotten in the past, I decided to go for a sure thing- chicks who are unmistakably hens.

Someone brave ventures over to check out the food

Chicks are shipped when they are a day old since they still have a built in food supply-- what is left of the yolk from the egg they developed in is in their abdomen when they hatch, so they don't need an outside food source for a couple of days.

There are at least 20 openings for food, but clearly that one opening has the best food in the whole tray
The peeping that came from their shipping box was incredibly loud for such small bodies.  As we took the chicks out of the box, we dipped each one into water, just in case they were thirsty after their journey.  Most of them didn't seem all that interested in the water, but once Andy scattered some food from their feeders, they excitedly chowed down.

Just like baby goats- the higher, the better
They've got a good start with chick starter, alfalfa leaves, grit, oyster shell, and soon some fresh weeds.

So, you, uh, come here often?

These chickens are wild little things who scatter when I check on them a couple of times a day, but I'm sure they'll calm down and learn that people = food/treats by the time they are ready to join our mature chickens out in the barn yard.  It is surprising just how quickly they grow in their feathers- we already saw little tiny wing feathers starting, and too soon most of the cute chick fuzz will be gone.

Hold still, you have a little something right...there...
But we'll certainly enjoy the fluffehness while it lasts.


dragonfly said...

Hey, Sarah! We just built the shelters pretty lightweight (lots of wire) and handles to lift and move...

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Awww, cute! I think we're skipping chicks this year. I'm surprised you've managed to find the time in the middle of kidding! A while back I was looking at some 19th century coop designs, just for ideas, and came across a couple of portables. Ours portables here are small, as we don't have much flat ground, but this one from a 19th Century poultry journal seemed more substantial for larger flocks on more level terrain:

The wheels would need to be modified though. I think Harbor Freight carries some 10" pneumatic swivel casters (look like wheelbarrow tires, but swivel). Not that you need more projects!

Enjoy the peeps, they never stay fluffeh for long!