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!