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!