Saturday, April 30, 2011

To name or not to name...that is the question

So we are at week #4 of chick ownership and some of the chicks are actually probably pushing 5 weeks old at this point.  Should we begin to name them based upon our gut feelings on who is staying & who is going?  I think so!  Calling these chicks by temporary nicknames just isn't fair to them right?  Why grow up being called one name, only to have your owner pull a complete switch-a-roo?  Ha, ha.  Switch-a-roo...get it?  Roo............rooster...............oh never mind.
The chicks have been spending a fair amount of time outside.  In fact, the Americaunas are now the same size as Lizzy so I think our cat will leave them alone.  The 4 smaller chicks still need supervision.  In fact, we've caught our cat twice stalking the smaller ones and were forced to intervene.  The older chicks (Americaunas) are now living in the left half of the coop while Lizzy (Cornish hen) roosts on the right side.  We had to physically move them in & out every morning/night for several days before they began to get the idea that they could do it without help.  It's very addicting watching their crazy antics as they peruse the yard and take frequent dust bathes.

Let's get to week 4's photos (and new potential names!)
Americauna #1 - It is still questionable whether this chick is a hen or a roo.  While not built like #2, she certainly isn't as heavy bodied as chick #3 either.  As her colorful feathers emerge, her ho-hum gray is becoming quite beautiful.  My son is showing off her shoulder balancing talent this week too.  Let's call her Buffalo Chicken Wings or Buffy for short.  Yeah, I know, my grass needs mowed.

Americana #2 - OK, I'm still convinced this little guy is a roo.  I refuse to name him.  He is great looking though.  I love his colorful collar.  He decided to lay down on the job this week.  I think he's trying to disguise himself as a hen but I'm not buying it.
Americana #3 - She's my strongest hopeful for a hen out of all the chicks.  I'll be quite disappointed if she has me fooled.  Let's name her Chicken Burrito or Rita for short. 
Golden Comet - Chicken Nugget or Nugget for short is slowly but surely becoming more brown.  An egg laying super star in the making?  I sure hope so!  Nothing real special jumps out to me about this chick though.  I think she's content to let her gold nugget eggs do the talking for her.
Mottled Cochin Bantam - Chicken Cordon Bleu or Bleu for short.  This chick hadn't shown much personality either previously but is starting to show her quiet & gentle nature.  She allows me to pet her back without waddling off.  She seems big-bodied and small-headed.  My son thinks she's a HE but I disagree.  Only time will tell.
Partridge Cochin - I'm still calling this fella Party.  I thought last week's photo just made him look goofy but I'm coming to realize he's pretty goofy ALL the time.  He's the most jumpy & difficult to catch of the 4 little chicks.  His long neck & legs plus weird feathering all look very roosterish to me. 

Light Brahma - I think it's time to name this chick.  I'm feeling pretty hopeful that she's a hen and she continues to be one of the most personable chicks.  Let's call her Chicken Enchilada or Chilly for short.  My son thinks she'll be the most beautiful chicken of the bunch and I agree.  She is quite the "talker" though. 
Cornish Hen - I don't want to leave out Lizzy!  No new photos of her this week but she's doing well.  She laid 4 eggs this week.  I had another egg sandwich on Friday and LOVED it!
Stay tuned for next week's update!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lizzy's Surprise

As I may have previously mentioned, we aren't sure how old Lizzy (Cornish hen) is.  She was given to us when we bought 2 of the chicks.  I thought she might be too old to lay eggs but I decided to give her a proper diet and see what happens.  I provided egg layer pellets, whole grain (corn), and oyster shell, each in their own dish.  She is normally always out of the coop and scratching around at the crack of dawn however one morning this week she decided to hang out in the coop longer than normal.  Although laying an egg crossed our minds, we thought it was more likely she was sick.  We were wrong!  In fact, 3 days later we have 2 eggs!  I had my first egg sandwich, courtesy of Lizzy tonight.  They are small, but I think it's Lizzy's way of providing less calories.  Oh, and her favorite plant is the dandelion.  What a smart chicken she is!
Here are week 3's chick pics.
Americauna #1.  As you can see, I'm getting absolutely nowhere in teaching this chick not to look at the camera.  She's not the smartest chick in the shed but she is the best flyer of the bunch.
Americauna #2.  I decided to show you a closeup of this fella's comb this week.  I'm still convinced he's a Roo.  Notice how he stands differently than the next chick?  He looks much more leggy. I think I'll call him Hunchback.
 Americauna #3.  This chick's the biggest.  I'm thinking prime-time egg layer right here! 
 Nugget (Golden Comet).
Cordon Bleu (Mottled Cochin Bantam). 
Party (Partridge Cochin).  I  couldn't resist posting this pic this week.  Not exactly flattering.  He's not actually this geeky looking....usually.
Light Brahma.  
Hoping for some warm weather & photos out in the yard soon.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Growing like weeds

I can hardly believe how quickly these chicks grow!  My son actually spotted one of the Americaunas sitting on the top of the pack-n-play yesterday after school.  They can jump & fly quite well time for plan B.  What is plan B, you ask?  Good question!  I thought the pack-n-play was large enough & high enough to hold them for quite a while but I was wrong. We decided to move the 3 big chicks into the other half of Lizzy's coop last night.  During the day today, they shared the run with Lizzy too.  That meant a quick trip to the store for a 2nd heat lamp so both sets of chicks can stay warm.  Nights are still getting into the 40's and occasionally even the 30's, days are anywhere from 50' to 70's.  The older chicks still seem to value the heat lamp's warmth too much to go without it just yet.
I can say I'm very glad our chicks are in the garage.  I would NOT want to come home from work one day to find the chicks had escaped the box & pooped all over the house.  I have no doubt my wife would have me sleeping in the garage in the pack-n-play with the chicks. Oh, and speaking of sleeping, I love how the chicks still like to stretch out on their sides when they sleep.  They just roll onto their sides & stretch their little legs out.
Time for this week's chick photos.
Americauna #1.  What is it with this chick looking at me when I'm taking photos?  I try to tell her that it's better not to look straight at the camera.  It makes her nose look big.

Americauna #2. We're pretty sure this fella is a rooster. His comb on his head is already larger than the other 2 and he is slightly smaller & slimmer than tho other 2.  Both rooster signs according to my research.

Americauna #3.  This gal is really getting big & seems to be ahead of the other 2 in feathering out.  I like how her chest is changing color with the new feathers.  She was the bully but I've noticed less of that lately.

Nugget (Golden Comet) isn't looking so golden anymore.  Sometimes I have to look twice because she almost looks dirty.  She enjoys hanging out with the big chicks but really isn't quite at their level yet so she will be staying with the little chicks for now.

Lizzy (Cornish hen) obviously isn't growing anymore but I didn't have a "studio" shot of her yet.  She seems to be getting a little more bossy to the chicks however she isn't active enough to really make life miserable for them.  They usually just run to another part of the pen and the conflict is over. No eggs yet. :-(

Cordon Bleu (Mottled Cochin Bantam) is still 1/2 the size of the others. I wasn't sure he/she had changed much but after comparing the photo, Bleu is definitely growing too!

The Partridge Cochin had me laughing the other day.  We had all the chicks out in the run with Lizzy.  She was chasing the chicks until she met up with Partridge.  "Party" confronted her and bluffed her a few times, backing her up every time.  It was comical to see due to the huge size difference.

Light Brahma - saving my favorite for last again.  She is more mellow than the others and seems so tame.  Her & Party (just a temporary name) seem very similar in size and looks except for color.  They both have leg feathering.

Stay tuned for next week's update!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Getting Acquainted

Yesterday afternoon was sunny and moderately warm.  We want ole' Lizzy to get along with her future roommates, a process that I've heard can be difficult, so we moved the chicks into the outside "run" where Lizzy spends her days.  Surprisingly, the energy of the young chicks running about seemed to add some spring to the old gal's step.  We believe that her entire life has been spent in a 3'x3' wire cage so exercise and normal chicken activities just don't seem to come normal to her.  We had to physically move her from the coop to the run & vise versa the first couple days.  Anyway, with the chicks running around, she began to waddle & scratch around the pen, even pausing to flap her wings a few times.  She isn't entirely comfortable with them but she seems to enjoy the company.  She's such a hoot to watch digging & scratching.  She scratches once or twice, then quickly waddles in reverse to take a good look if she has uncovered any delicacies.  I'd say they might all get along!

I found a pack-n-play baby pen in the neighbor's trash...and while I don't generally go around looking for discarded treasures, I couldn't help but think this might be a good new home for the chicks.  They quickly outgrew the first plastic tub.  I then taped 2 cardboard boxes together but the the 3 Ameraucana chicks only used the added space to hold sprint races across the box.  The rest of the chicks huddled (wagering?) in the corners trying not to get run over.  The "big 3" love to leap & flap their wings and I could tell it wouldn't be long before one would escape the box and the glow of the heat lamp.  The play pen is working perfectly and will hopefully house the chicks until they are old enough to be moved in permanently with Lizzy. 

Here are a couple recent observations on emerging personalities.
"Big 3" - These are all beginning to act like roosters.  2 of them have racing stripes down their backs and the 1 with the broader stripe can be downright cruel.  He loves to chase & bully the other chicks.  The other 2 to a lesser extent but they are quite willing to leap & clash mid-air with the him, razor-sharp claws and beaks tearing feathers & chunks of flesh from each other bodies.  Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration there.   Excess energy or characteristic traits....I wish I knew.
Brahma - This little chick probably had the most human handling immediately after being born.  I purchased her out of an Adamstown living room.  She is probably the youngest but while the others dash for the corners when you reach into the pen, she just sits there & barely objects to being held.  I sure hope this chick stays female.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Urban Chickens

It was happening all around me and I didn't even notice.  Chickens are taking over the world!  OK, maybe not quite, but I did notice frequent Craigslist postings for chicken coops.  Then I began to see them sitting at the end of farm lanes, and then sitting at the front of the shed retailer's displays.  Wait!  What was I missing here?  Why are chicken houses so popular all of a sudden? 

I've been wanting a few chickens for many, many years.  I'm just a cowboy at heart stuck living in town.  What chance could I possibly ever have to ask my kids to run out to the chicken coop for some eggs so Dad can make his "Famous Egg Sandwich"?  We do own a horse that is boarded with a friend a few miles down the road.  I had already approached him with the idea that a few chickens might help control the bugs that constantly plague us around the farm.....but there were several road blocks that weren't worth the trouble so I was beginning to give up on the idea.  Then it hit me.  We have one of those long narrow yards typical of homes in town.  Both sides are fenced.  The house sits at one end and the garage at the other.  Hmmm....could I possibly raise a few in the privacy of my own yard?  Was it legal?  Would they stay in the yard?

Well, I'll cut to the chase.  Why else would I be writing a chicken blog?  I decided to give it a shot.  The kids were on board.  My wife...not so much...but that was typical of my frequent hair-brained ideas.  My sons had knocked out a window pane in the garage window so that would be my "door" to the coop.  I built a small coop that hangs on the inside of the window that could semi-comfortably roost 4 chickens and also has 2 nesting boxes.  I then built a long narrow run outside the window.  It is about 12' long and 2' wide.  Not ideal but hopefully only home for the chickens at night.  During the day they could have the run of the yard.  I also found out from a neighbor's son that his Dad was also making a coop.  We are allowed up to 6 hens in town, and no roosters.  Perfect!!

Next up...chicken shopping!  I responded to a Craigslist ad that was trying to find a home for 5 older chickens that were full grown but not laying eggs very regularly anymore.  Turns out it was my first cousin, Colleen's ad.  I didn't even know she had chickens.  She was in the market for new chicks and talked me into going that route also.  Have you ever Google'd chicken breeds?  Ah, this was going to be fun!  So many breeds, personalities, and colors! 

Purchase #1
I bought 6 straight run Ameraucana chicks at the local Tractor Supply.  Straight run means that the chicks' sex has not been determined yet.  Apparently it is possible however it's quite an art to learn how to sex chicks within the first day or 2.  Most breeders to not bother to hire such an individual so the buyer is left to determine the sex on his/her own as the chick ages.  Ameraucana chickens are a medium size breed that lay green & blue eggs.  I sold 3 of them to Colleen and I kept 3.  Maybe buy 1 or 2 more yet?  Ideally I'd like 3 or 4 hens but who knows.  One could be a rooster and need to be removed from the flock.
Here are photos of them from 4/6/11.  I'm guessing they are already probably a week old, maybe slightly more.

Purchase #2
Next addition was 2 Golden Comet chicks from Colleen out of the 6 that she purchased from Tractor Supply.  This breed is known as sex-linked because they are a hybrid variety that the sex can be determined immediately after hatching by the color of the chick.  Pullets (hens) are yellow, cockerels (roosters) are white.  Unfortunately, 1 chick died shortly after we got it home.  I think the poor chick had a very hectic day.  No doubt rushed to the store shortly after hatching, then being purchased & hitting the road again, only to arrive at Colleen's to temporarily warm up under the lamp then get put into a box again to go to my home.  Here is the lone survivor's photo on 4/6/11.  Her wings are beginning to get white with new feathers.
Nugget (Golden Comet)
Purchase #3
Sooo....we have 4, why add more you say?  Well, I ONLY have 2 breeds and there are so many yet to choose from!  And there may be 3 roosters for all I know, right?  Better add a couple more to be safe.  I found these 2 chicks on Craigslist.  This breeder specializes in more of the "pet" type breeds.  He had Mottled Cochin Bantams, Buff Silky Bantams, & Old English Game Bantams.  The OEGB birds are such picture-perfect looking birds but the cochin & silkies are what caught my eye.  They aren't great egg layers but are friendlier and the silky feathering makes flight almost impossible.  I was having to twist Colleen's arm on this one.  She was set on good egg layers so she was reluctant to take a "pet" bird.  I asked for 1 Mottled & 1 Silky but just before we left, the breeder took another look at the Silky and decided he grabbed the wrong chick.  It apparently was a Partridge Cochin which is a very large breed, not exactly known for laying.  I decided to keep it.  He also offered my boys a Cornish hen that was going to be supper soon.  We couldn't turn down the cute little girl and named her Lizzy.
Lizzy (Cornish hen)

Cordon Bleu (Mottled Cochin Bantam) - I know we shouldn't have named him/her yet without knowing her sex but we couldn't resist. She's half the size of the others and so cute.
Partridge Cochin
Purchase #4
I know, I know.  Stop already!  You have a small yard and your legal limit is 6.  You have 7 already!  But while I was responding to Craigslist ads, I happened to commit to 2 or 3 light Brahma chicks. These birds are beautiful and what kind of cowboy can turn down a bucking Brahma bull...errr...hen?  Besides, I might have 5 roosters in my flock.  So, I picked up 3 more chicks of which Colleen took 2.  My flock is finally complete at 8.  2 are confirmed hens and we'll just have to wait and see about the rest.
Light Brahma

Stay tuned!  I hope to bring you regular updates & photos as the flock grows.