Meet Our New Chicks!
On Thursday morning, around 6 AM, I received a phone call from the post office that a box of chicks had arrived with my name on it. The pure joy and excitement was alive early in that day, just as the sun rose! This is our second year keeping chickens, our first to order them in the mail, and I already feel so much more at peace than I have in the past months. When we moved to the farm, most of you might remember that we left our flock of six laying hens behind with the new family that moved in. I still sometimes drive by our old house, the Little Homestead, on my way into Kalona and take a peek at the run. The ladies always looks happy and content; that makes me feel at peace. Though I must say for the entire winter I felt a bit inadequate without my regular schedule of chicken chores and time spent with the flock. It was a bit strange to wake up each morning here on the farm and not see Muriel out in the yard pecking around.
I hurriedly filled up the brooder with chick feed and fresh water, sprinkled with some electrolytes and probiotics to boost their systems when the babies arrived. Into the truck I climbed and raced off to the post office. They didn't open for another two hours, but I was happily shuffled into the grab the box. They had been on the road for two days! It seems almost impossible to me, but I had to remind myself that chicks eat what remains of the yolk inside the egg within the days before hatching. They do not need to eat or drink within the first two days of its life. How incredible is that? That is why chicks are able to be shipped in the mail!
I propped the box of peeping babies into the passenger seat of our pick-up. With nervous hesitation and fear as well as utter excitement, I peeped inside to check on everyone. I had ordered 26 chicks, of a fearsome variety. Everyone has been asking which kinds we got, and I shared them on our Instagram(s), but I may as well list them here as well! We got two roosters, an Ameraucana and a Black Australorp. The rest are hens: golden laced wyandottes, silver laced wyandottes, salmon faverolles, delawares, light brahmas, barred rocks, buff orpingtons, black australorps, ameraucanas, and a sapphire gem. I also wanted a few rare breeds like a lavender orpington or a black copper maran. These types of chicks, however, were about $15-$20 each. While that doesn't seem like much, it felt like a hefty price to pay for just one chicken when the others came to about $3 a piece. There was another option, though, which was to let the hatchery pick your rare breeds for only $5. It was a chance, and boy did we take one! I thought that I would at least get one of the kinds that I wanted. Instead, when I peeked into the box of chicks I feared the worst...
One of the chicks had down missing from the back of its head, and there was pinkish-red splotches over all the chicks. I quickly shut the box and closed my eyes, praying that it was simply scalp and not brains sticking out of that poor fluff's head. There wasn't much I could do there and then, so I packed up and drove the few miles down the gravel roads to the farm. In the coop, I opened the box again to inspect. The pink splotches definitely were not blood; I picked up several chicks marked with it and inspected the inside of the box and came to the conclusion that it was spray paint. After reading my packing list, it made sense - the chicks had been vaccinated and the vaccinations were marked in the same pink paint. Phew! But what about the bald chick? I tenderly picked her up to look... Nothing to report except baldness. It did not look like a case of being pecked and pulled, nor was there any blood or injury to cause concern. Then I remembered the chick identification chart I had been perusing the night before. It was a turken. They are chickens born naturally with feather-less necks. Lovely!
Quite possibly the last choice I would have of a rare breed! Turkens, while they are known for being friendly, docile, and sweet are incredibly ugly. I cannot say that makes them bad company. It was too funny. The funnier part was that as we were transferring each chick into the brooder, we learned there were two turkens. Two! A yellow and black speckled one and another that was brown and black speckled. Oi! Of all the choices. There is another rare breed chick running around in the brooder that I have yet to identify. I have no idea which one it is, especially when they all somehow look so different from one another and the similar at the same time. The two chicks I am holding in the photos above are the one Sapphire Gem, which will have a charcoal colored head and blue body feathers, and I believe an Ameraucana... From the chart I have it looks more like a Brown Leghorn to me, but I did not order that breed.
So far everyone is happy and healthy. They slept under the heat lamp for about a half hour before hopping and peeping, exploring and scratching. It felt like home, like peace, to me. Watching them is fascinating. Don't get me wrong - I love our ducks. They are hilarious to watch play outside and in the water! But they are not the same as chickens. They do not like to be near us, they are not curious about food or treats; I can't even get them to come near me to try eating out of my hand! Handling can only get you so far. The chicks are already reassuring me. I stick my hand in the brooder, and while the ducks would run and huddle to one side in a mad dash, the chicks come and peck at me curiously. I think I am a still a huge chicken fan!
When it comes to Tad, this season has already been much easier than the last. We brought our chicks home last spring, and it was all I could do to get him to just calm down while simply looking at them. He was always so overexcited that it was impossible for him to settle down and even see what was in front of him. I chalk that up to being two. This year, we brought them home, and he calmly watched them putz about the brooder. Asking quietly if he could hold one, he tenderly cradled a little Buff Orpington in his hands and gave her kisses. I asked if I could take his photo, and of course he said yes posing proudly! He loves his animals!
We are smitten. I cannot wait to get everyone out of the brooders and into the coop, though I will savor this stage again now that we have it. The chicks are currently living inside of a feed trough in the coop, where the ducks now live permanently. I actually integrated the ducks about a week and a half ago. We brought the Rouens home five weeks ago, the Pekins two weeks after that. They were brooded separately, and then we put them into the coop together with a chicken wire dividing wall. After about 3 days of time together, but separate, we let them integrate. It was really easy compared to what I thought it would be! We will do the same with the chicks once they no longer need the heat lamp.
Have you gotten your chicks yet this year? Are you thinking about getting chickens? Feel free to peruse our blog for other chicken stories, and we also have an e-course on raising backyard chickens. They are the best!