Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baby Days!

Chicks came yesterday. I love chick days! We already have some babies here - these are mutt chickens; mixed breed chicks from our own farm. We have given hatching eggs to a local elementary school for the last two years. This year the teacher set 2 dozen eggs in the incubator, turning them carefully every day until hatch day. Nineteen chicks hatched. They are a week old now, and very adorable. I have fun guessing which chick came from which parent.
They are used to being alone, a little flock by themselves. But, with 50 meat birds coming next week, and only 2 stock tanks available to house them in until they get bigger, they had to share their space. I like to keep the meat birds separate from the layers so that there is no confusion.

Chicks come through the mail in boxes, just like a book or a new pair of shoes, except that the chick boxes have holes and make a lot more noise. We order all of our chicks straight run, which means that we get a mix of boys and girls. Some hatcheries call this "as-hatched". You can assume you will get about 50% boys and 50% girls in an order. The girls, if they are layer chicks, grow up to lay eggs. The boys, well, they end up in my freezer mostly. We do keep a couple of roosters for breeding stock and for security. A good rooster can help to cut down on predator loss be alerting the hens to danger or by taking the hit himself when Mr. Coyote comes to call.

This year we ordered our laying birds from Meyer Hatchery. Normally all of our birds come from Sandhill Preservation, so this was a change for me. Meyer does not offer Express shipping, which I prefer - less time in transit means healthier chicks. When the post office posted tracking information was posted, it indicated that the chicks would not arrive until April 21, although they were received by the post office on the 18th. For me that's a bit too long, much too long, and I was VERY worried. Would any of the chicks even make it after four days in transit? Well, yesterday evening the phone rang and a worker from the local postal distribution center called to say that our chicks were here, and he would be delivering them to us. No one has ever delivered chicks before - usually I run to fetch them at 7AM from the local post office. Such service!

The box contained 52 live, healthy, peeping chicks, about twenty five on each side of a cardboard divider.
The chicks on the side are a mix of Welsumers, Ameraucanas and Silkies. Welsumers lay a rich, dark brown egg. Ameraucanas lay the blue and green eggs everyone loves. Silkies, well, they lay teeny itty bitty eggs that are a little silly, but the birds themselves are fluffy and sweet, make excellent mothers, and are prized by Asian cultures as a gourmet meat bird - we will see about that!
The chicks on the left are Buckeyes. Buckeyes are the only American breed developed solely by a woman, and the only pea-combed bird bred in the United States. They are currently listed as "threatened" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. When I ordered them they were "critical", so the good news is that I am not the only person interested in this dual purpose breed!
Ideally we will be able to hatch all of the birds we need in the future, both for meat and eggs, right here on the farm. I spend a lot of time sighing over a certain incubator. (Go look. Isn't it a thing of beauty? Thermostatic controls. Egg turner. SO lovely. A farmer can dream, can't she?) It is important to me that we produce as much of what we eat as possible right here on the farm. Although the chicks do well flying across the country, I'd prefer it if they didn't have to.

This is one of the Silkie chicks. Meg has a Silkie hen named Celia. Celia has been with us for a very long time. She is about 11 years old now, which is very old for a chicken. She is now the oldest hen in the yard. I decided it was time to order some new Silkie babies to take her place.
This little guy is fitting right in already! I love the silkies puffy heads and fluffy feet.

Here is everyone all together; the new kids and the slightly bigger kids. The adjustment went better than I expected.
I think the sheer numbers of new kids made such an impression on the bigger kids that they just sighed and adapted. Seventy baby chicks, all ready to begin their lives here at Ridge Brook Farm! I can't wait to see how they grow!


Anonymous said...

Shades of memory! I can remember when my Mom and Dad used to pick up my Grandmother's chicks around Easter week end and we would deliver them to my Grandmother and she would be just as excited as you. Doubt any were actually "rare" breed but they meant just as much to her. I remember one trip to the nursery and then a storm prevented us getting to the farm for a few days
and my fastiditious Mother had to have baby chicks in the bathtub and we used the sink for cleanliness until the weather broke. Hope these chicks give you as much happiness and contentment as my Grandmother's seemed to give her.

Sharripie said...

They're so cute & fluffy!

Sally M said...

I admire your perseverence in raising much of what you eat! We try, but so far only have the vegetable garden. We aspire to graduate to raising our own eggs and meat chichens. You are such an inspiration. Carry on!

Deb S said...

I love reading about your chickens. I'm a city girl who wishes she could raise chicks of her own.

Judy said...

Thanks for a wonderful post on your chickens!! We've been thinking of getting a couple. We live in the city and we can only have a few, but it sure looks rewarding. I can see why you'd worry about the poor things in the mail. That's a long time to be in a box!

Kathy at Knitting Off The Grid said...

My husband and I have talked about raising chickens but know absolutely nothing about such things! We have coyotes also up here, so it sounds like a rooster would be necessary for us also. I really enjoyed your post. Thanks so much.

chicken brooder said...

Vary cool! How are your birds doing now? out of 2 dosen getting 19 is not bad at all!! you will have fresh eggs every day! I need to order more birds here soon mine are getting to the point where i can eat them :)

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