Monday, March 23, 2009

Chickens are in the House!

Mama Pond and her chickens: born on the first day of spring and delivered today.

At about 6:30 this morning we awoke to a call from Shelley at our local post office saying our chicks were in and we could get them as soon as they opened at 8 o'clock. The closest comparison to the bleary-eyed excitement I had is when we knew it was the day for each of our children to be born. I got to the post office while my husband got the boys to school. As soon as I opened the post office door, I heard a high "peep-peep" sound and there were the chicks, right up front next to Shelley. The divided box was small enough to keep 38 chickens warm: 10 New Hampshire Reds (of course), plus one extra that they provided; 10 Barred Rocks, plus one extra; 5 Rhode Island Reds; 5 Speckled Sussex; 5 Araucanas.

The chicks were shipped on Friday from Murray McMurray and apparently nature must have designed chicks to withstand three days without food or water. Sadly one died in shipping and, in dropping a light cord in trying to swing the cord over a rafter, I'm afraid I may have injured another (who is hobbling). I hope with some extra care and by making sure she gets to food and water several times a day that she will make it. I now realize why they sent 1 extra for each of the two sets of ten: things happen. We weren't expecting the chickens pre-dawn ("week of March 23" is a bit general but I guess they meant business), hence the light snafu. In other words, be prepared with the heat lamp before you take the chickens out of the box. Had it been colder we would have had to heat the box a bit before acquainting them and probably should have done anyway. Everything else was ready, at least, but that doesn't help the guilt I feel in harming a chick.

They also gave us a special "exotic chick," which is either male or female, and all we can determine right now is that he/she is a lovely silvery gray with an emerging distinctive tuft on his/her head. I think this chick might be a Blue Andalusian judging from a quick photo chick-check on a website, but we won't really know for certain right away. For some reason I immediately wanted to call he/she Alfonzo. When I later looked up the meaning of the name it derives from old German and means "ready for a fight," so perhaps it is a rooster. The naming of the chickens will be fun but I'm not sure how I will tell them all apart, even when they are larger. Perhaps they have their own distinctive characteristics that will help us. [Can you tell I'm a complete novice here?]

We retrofitted an old wooden frame crate with curved cardboard in the corners so the chicks won't bunch and crush each other.

When the chicks were taken out of their shipping box, I immediately put each one's beak in the waterer. I don't know where I read that but it seemed to work. Soon they were scurrying between their feed and water jars.

We also put a screen (not in photo) on top of the box so they can't jump out just yet.

Tonight the chicks are all warm under the heat lamp and are eating and drinking well on a soft bed of cedar shavings (a natural bug deterrent, too, like the cedar clapboarded chicken house). We waited until now to get the chicks because we wanted to make sure the outside temperature wasn't a sustained cold. Fortunately it is not too cold this evening and today was in the upper 70s. Before I came in to finish this blog, my husband said, "I was going to get you a subscription to Backyard Poultry magazine but our chicken house is located in the front yard." Ha, ha. (Or is that "peep, peep?") Either way, I look forward to many years ahead with the hens. With three boisterous male puppies, two boys and a husband (our daughter is 1,100 miles away), I need all the girls I can get around here!


Donna-FFW said...

Hi! Just came to you through foodie blogroll. You have such an intriguing blog. I love all the pictures and I finsd it very interesting. Nice to meet you.

willow said...

This was so much fun! I am having total chick envy! What a beautiful assortment. Can't wait to see more pics as they grow.

Alpha Cook said...

So many chickens! I wish I had a bigger yard.

Suzanne said...

Another little trick you may have already read. Put a touch of vaseline around each chicks vent hole so it doesn't get clogged:-)

Katie said...

Oh, I'm so jealous! The little chicks are so cute. But what a responsibility! Lots of little babies running around . . . cute cute cute babies. Love em!

vi said...

when you change the bedding for the chicks, put pine instead of cedar. there are some toxins in cedar that aren't good for them

when i first got my orpingtons, i named and tamed them all

the roosters went to a farm
right now i am raising a new batch of pullets, we processed the roosters, and i did NOT name these as i currently have the hens i did name, and made pets out of....
who haven't laid an egg in a year.

i can't process the old hens as they are too tame and are my friends but as we don't have much room, i can't have as many layers until the old hens die a natural death

enjoy the chicks
and maybe check out the forums at backyard chicken
nayy but they were very helpful when i first got my chickens


The Hen Pantry said...

The photo of you with your apron on and holding the box of chicks should be on the cover of Murray McMurray Hatchery's catalog it's so cute. Your babies are adorable and it looks like they're going to have a comfortable life.

While we were out of state our neighbor took care of our hens and had some good stories for us when we returned. I'm glad he's a guy who laughs at extra work. A couple of times the hens got out and he had to search for them. One time he collected the 8 eggs then noticed 2 of the hens were missing so he put the eggs in his pockets and went looking. After chasing down and catching the runaways he reached in his pocket only to find scrambled eggs. Yuk. He did laugh though. Nothing like a good neighbor. Today I'm making him bread to say thanks.

I'm sure you're going to have lots of fun with the chicks and your eggs are going to be so good you'll never eat one out again.

Also, I see hubby rototilled. Now you can get busy with the garden. We planted a lettuce mix both in one of the raised beds and in a fenced in area of the chicken yard. We'll let them in to eat every so often and then close it off so the lettuce, hopefully, can regrow. We'll see. The lettuce in the raised bed will be for both us and the hens.

We came through a part of Kentucky on our way home from Texas and I could see how much farther along you are in Spring. It's going to be 50 today and rain. I'd love to get some onions in very soon and peas.

Well, you go girl! I look forward to more of your posts about the garden and the chicks.


Catherine said...

Thank you for all of your posts and the good information! I had no idea about cedar shavings but the vapors are strong. I just assumed that because it is an insect deterrent for mites, etc. that it would make a good bedding. I think when they are older, perhaps, as we do have good ventilation. In the mean time I'll stick with straw or other wood shavings. I read on line a bit and many poultry people use cedar with no problem. But not worth the risk, esp. as I lost three in three days.

But the rest are thriving (35), starting to get their wing feathers and are 1 week old today! (since hatching).

You can be assured of more tales from the chicken house, I'm sure.