Coming Soon...Baby Chicks!

It's that time of year again! A sure sign of spring is the arrival of baby chicks; and our household is not immune to this excitement. We've ordered 10 baby chicks from our local hatchery and will be picking them up next Sunday. Getting to this point was actually very fun. We perused our chicken catalogs; frankly, the catalogs get so much use in this house, they end up tattered and frayed. We debated over the myriad of breeds available and their individual attributes. Finally we decided on two breeds we had in our original flock that we just loved but didn't make it through the dog and hawk attacks. And we decided on 5 new breeds we've never had before but wanted to try. 

With our new arrivals in mind, we visited our local hardware store yesterday and got a few supplies which I've pictured here. We picked up the standard wood shavings for the brooder and a bag of chick starter feed. We got an extra light for our heat lamp. And, I was really excited to find a poultry thermometer. This one has lines at the desired temperature for the chicks' age, so it really takes the guesswork out of everything. My big splurge was a brand new red egg basket!

So, stay tuned for more on our efforts to get ready and to greet our new arrivals...

Meet the Flock - Our White Leghorns

We've got two wonderful White Leghorns who have proven to be great egg layers and quite the novelty with my daughters and their friends. I know lots of people say Leghorns are flighty and tend to be nervous, but ours are friendly and curious. In fact they are downright docile. Thus, leading to their novelty...I can hold a Leghorn upside down in my hand and then act like it's a hand weight as I lift the Leghorn up and down. It's really a funny trick; the kids love it and the Leghorns don't seem to mind.

Seriously though, Leghorns as a family, originated in the Mediterranean as an egg-laying species. They have a big, floppy comb that gives them a comical look, but it can get frostbite in the winter, so I always cover my Leghorn's combs with petroleum jelly.

Since our Leghorns are white, they stand out while they're grazing so they have been victims of hawks. One was outright killed and the other escaped with only a few feathers lost.

Regardless, our Leghorns are always happy and entertaining.

Check out that floppy comb...

Our leghorns hard at work.

Meet the Flock - Hoppy the Partridge Cochin

Hoppy scratching in the backyard.
I thought you'd like to meet the beautiful and entertaining members of our flock. So my next few posts will be devoted to each variety we have, complete with descriptions and pictures.

Hoppy is our beautiful Partridge Cochin. We got a Cochin because one of my husband's favorite childhood memories was of his pet Cochin, Brumus, who used to ride around on his shoulder.

Hoppy got her name because as a young chicken something happened to her foot/leg. We never could see any obvious problems, but her leg was definitely sore. Hoppy recovered, but has always had a funny hopping gait which is most noticeable when she runs.
Cochins are huge fluff balls with feathered legs and feet and a "bun" of feathers at the base of their tails. They originally came from China in the 1800's and are best known for their show qualities. They can be broody (which means they want to sit on their eggs and hatch them) and usually lay a couple eggs per week.

Hoppy is always friendly and curious, and has the distinction of being the loudest member of our flock. She vocalizes a lot and has a distinctive voice that we all recognize instantly.

The Rest of the Story...

My chickens are currently safe in their coop/run drying off after a morning of roaming our yard and playing in the rain. So, with chicken chores done for the day, I wanted to finish the story of our original 19 chickens and how we came to have only seven.

You already know about the hawk attacks on two. Our flock leader died of unknown causes. The other nine died of an attack by stray dogs. In one way, we were lucky that day. My kids were not in our yard when this happened and neither was our dog. Unfortunately, our flock was busy scratching and pecking throughout the yard. My husband came home and said there was a chicken dead on the drive and I went out to investigate only to find many more bodies strewn everywhere. And, I saw a dog running down our driveway with a chicken in its mouth. We immediately rounded up the remaining chickens and put them in their coop. We treated two chickens who suffered cuts and eventually had to put down one chicken who was unable to use her legs. 

Our Original Flock

I know this all seems horrific and not very fun. But I think its important that backyard chicken owners are aware of the dangers posed by roaming dogs. When we talked with the people at our local feed supply store, they said these types of attacks are common and probably one of the leading causes of chicken deaths. Natural predators like hawks and foxes will often take one or two chickens and leave behind little evidence. But, dogs kill more for the sport leaving carnage in their wake.

Our backyard is fenced and to this day, I'm still not sure how the dogs got through, but once they did, the results were devastating. Since many of us live in neighborhoods, roaming dogs can be one of the biggest threats we face. So, if you've got a flock of backyard chickens, check those fences and always be on the lookout.

Dust Baths @ Dusk

I couldn't resist a few snapshots of the girls enjoying a good dust bath at dusk...

Defending Chickens from Predators

Hawk wings left imprints in the snow along with Leghorn feathers and signs of a scuffle.
The weather yesterday was beautiful with lots of sun and temps in the 50's, so we decided to let our chickens out of their enclosed run into our backyard. That's where our chickens love to be, since they've been raised free-range. Just as I let them out; however, I noticed two red tail hawks circling overhead. (I know I said I'd tell you how we lost chickens and this is one of those stories. We had two chickens taken by hawks last year - an ameracauna and a white leghorn. We also had a near-miss with a white leghorn over the winter. In fact, I've attached a picture of the feather marks (and leghorn feathers) left in the snow by our arial predator.) Aware of the danger, I also didn't want to deny the chickens a great day of foraging. So, I decided to break out our halloween scarecrows and put them in visible spots throughout the yard. This worked really well and I plan to keep moving the scarecrows to fool the hawks further. Wish me luck!

Picking Out LOTS of Baby Chickens

It all started in March/April 2009 when we got 19 chickens. Actually the Easter Bunny brought 4 Silver-Laced Wyandotte chicks and 6 mallard ducklings first. Then my mom took the kids and me to our local supply store. It was love at first sight for us. The girls kept picking up chicks and sticking them in the box. Grandma couldn't say no and I didn't realize how many they had picked until we were done. At that point, I couldn't say no to two excited little girls. So, we drove home with 15 more chicks, taking our total to 19.

At first I worried about what we were going to do with the eggs from 19 chicks, (I had calculated the average number of eggs each chicken would give us per week) but then I decided the only reasonable thing to do would be to sell them. So our saga began….

I should back up and tell you about the immense amount of research I did before we got our chicks. The internet has tons of information from chicken breeds to raising your chicks. Soon, everyone around me was sick of hearing about chicken facts and my husband, who's idea it was to raise chickens, was regretting his idea.

Now, a year-and-a-half later we're down to 7 laying hens (more to come on what happened to the other 12), we're thoroughly in love with "our girls" and we're looking forward to more chicks come spring.

So, be sure to check in often because there's more to come...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...