Barnyard in the Bathroom

Whew!  Well, it’s been a very eventful couple of weeks.  There’s been crazy weather, craziness in our jobs, lovely houseguests, and much activity in the backyard.  And now, there is an otherworldly red glow beaming from behind the upstairs bathroom door…

The chicks have arrived!  Skipper built a simple brooder (the chicken nursery cage seen here) and the bathroom upstairs was chosen as the best possible spot for the chicks to spend their indoor time.  It’s easy to keep warmer than the rest of the house, it’s easy to clean, and it’s easy to clean up after the chicks in.  When we bought our house, we never thought that having 4 bathrooms would be a good thing.  But now we’re glad of the space!

The local poultry swap that I alluded to in my last post was cancelled because of snow.  But I read online that some of the breeders might show up anyway, so Skipper and I stopped in to see who was there.  There weren’t too many chicks, but there was a couple who had done a big order from McMurray hatchery in the US, and picked up the shipment in Washington, in order to resell chicks here.  I wasn’t interested in hatchery chicks for a variety of reasons, but as we talked, we realized that this might be our chance to get some guaranteed girls.  The hatchery chicks are sexed, and the other chicks we were looking at were not.  Knowing that we would have at least 2 hens to start our flock with proved too tempting to pass up.  And so… 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes became our first new roomies!

After their long journey from Iowa, they were already 2 weeks old when we got them, and have now crossed the 3-week mark.  As you can see from the photo, they have passed the “fuzzy butt” stage of cuteness and are well into the feather changeover that takes chicks into their awkward teenage phase.

The day after acquiring the ladies, I made plans to head further north to Qualicum Beach after work.  A local farmer/breeder had advertised high-quality Buff Orpington and Australorp chicks for sale, and these were the two breeds I most wanted.  The buffs are reportedly the gentlest, friendliest chickens around, and the Australorps are a related breed renowed for their championship egg laying.  Both excellent qualities for us newbies!

After seeing these chicks, I regretted our earlier purchase.  The difference in quality, even to the untrained eye, was obvious.  And the personality difference between the girls who’d done nothing but travel in the first 2 weeks of life and these calm, well-cuddled birds was dramatic.  Of course, I still don’t know if I have any hens in the bunch!

A second complication: the chicks I picked up were 3 days old–considerably smaller than the 2 week old teens.  So we put in a quick barrier down the middle of the coop to keep them separated temporarily.  Today, with the little ones more than a week old, I’m letting them spend the day together.

So here are the true fuzzy butts (warning! poop!):

Hard to get a good picture of these active squirmers! The Buffs are the yellow chicks, and they are living up to their reputation; they don’t seem phased by anything.  The little black and white ones are the Australorps; as adults they are beautiful jet black birds with an iridescent green sheen in the sun.  They are curious, active, alert–they can’t wait to get in the side with the big girls!

There are 4 of each, in the hope that we might end up with 2 females of each breed.  Of course, probability doesn’t work that way, so we’ll see!  We will likely add a few more chicks of another breed in a few weeks to fill out the flock, even though this means adding younger birds to an older flock, which has some challenges.  But once everyone is settled into their pecking order, we hope to have a pretty and diverse flock of 6-8 friendly hens in our eco-system for the next 2-3 years of laying.

In just a few short weeks, though, these birdies will all be ready for their big-kid home: the coop in the backyard that the Skipper has been busily getting organized, and neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow kept him from his task…

The coop now has doors and paint, but I’ll wait for the siding and trim to go on before the final reveal. 🙂 It’s going to be beautiful!  It’s designed for 8 grown hens max, and will have a large, predator-proof run attached a little later.  But there should be plenty of room for 10-15 adolescents while we wait for the boys to distinguish themselves from the girls!  We’re also working on fencing off a larger forage/orchard area for them to enjoy through the summer when they won’t be allowed into the rest of the garden.  We’ll see how things go with the roosters.  If we get a calm one, we might still go down the road of keeping one, otherwise the plan is to give them a good summer and “process” them at 20 weeks or so, unless they start to get rowdy!  We don’t need 8 lb birds; we’re not really in this for the meat.  So if they get sent to “freezer camp” early, so be it.

More pics to come–these kids grow up fast!

9 thoughts on “Barnyard in the Bathroom

  1. Omg they are so CUTE! I love chickens. You could say you have pets. Are you going to name them?

    And don’t tell the Skipper, but he looks awfully cute in his carpenter’s apron.


  2. Thanks YS! They already look so different than in these pics! I wasn’t really thinking names, but as they grow, they are definitely starting to feel like individuals that need names. And I’m starting to make guesses about “who’s a roo?”! I think the SLWyandotte in the photo in the header is going to have to be named Amelia–as in Earhart. She just can’t wait to fly up every time the brooder lid comes off, and she’s always looking for a higher perch.

    And as for the Skipper, don’t worry, I won’t let it go to his head 🙂 .

  3. Great post Toni, I like the header photo.
    Stace, I’ve named the first two Chirp and Dale.
    And no, I won’t let it go to my head!

    1. I’m vetoing Chirp and Dale. I’m pretty sure we have at least 2 roos in the mix–they can be the strippers! 🙂 One of the Australorps has a comb coming up all pointy and his posture screams, “I’m a Roo!” Except I’ve been calling him Dragon cause that’s what he looks like with his comb… And I keep calling all the Buff Orpingtons “Buffy” even though I’m sure there’s one roo in that bunch too. Hee hee!

  4. Hello Toni! How lovely that you stopped by Mucky Boots – I am just thrilled to meet a like-minded soul in my actual neighbourhood, instead of Oregon, or Virginia, or upstate New York!

    Your chicks are gorgeous, and I heartily endorse your decision to go with Buffs and Australorps. Our Australorps were an after thought, and we just love them – they are so calm and although they started laying a bit later than the Buffs, their eggs have been a good size and of good quality right from the start. We got them as slightly older pullets, already completely black, and so when our lone chick hatched last week I was so surprised by its little white bum – he/she couldn’t be more adorable.

    We had our cockerels processed at the facility you mention, and they were just great. We are lucky, aren’t we, to have it in the neighbourhood.

    Good luck with the coop!

    1. Hi Miriam–I must say I’m envious of your large lovely property! I know there are so many like-minded folks in this valley, and it’s always fun to find a new blog. I look forward to following your adventures in the ‘hood!

  5. Baby chicks do grow up fast! Looks like yours have entered the dinosaur stage already. 🙂

    I’m thinking about getting a few more chicks this spring. Almost made an “impulse” purchase of chicks when I went to the feedstore last week, but held off and decided to think about it a bit more.

  6. Sandy–what strength of character you have to resist chicks in the feedstore! 🙂 I think I’ll have to avoid the place when the new babies start arriving, especially when the brooder is sitting empty in a few weeks.. And thanks for the term “dinosaur stage”. I hadn’t head that before, but it describes them perfectly! I keep wanting to call the SLWyandotte “Lucille” cause she reminds me of an old chain-smoking, jazz singing granny right now. I have to remind myself that she might look quite different when she grows up!

  7. Oh so excited for you!! We have only babysat chickens before and planned on getting some before we were forced to leave the farm. I just love your photos, your coop, your handy man and your little nursery in the bathroom. So so happy for you and your move towards fresh eggs, food security and really really cute creatures!

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