The problem with buying baby chicks is that, well, they’re baby chicks.
And the problem with baby chicks is that they’re addicting.
The other problem is that they’re incredibly fertile, especially at a young age. You go to the store and you buy three baby chicks, and then by the time you come home those little sneaks have gone and turned themselves into seven baby chickens.
It’s not my fault. I blame society – all those babies having babies. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Before I delve into introducing the chicks, let me catch everyone up to speed on my current chickens.
At the moment we have three adult chickens.
Tanesha, the Buff Orpington.
She’s… she’s pretty stupid, and that’s really saying something, because chickens aren’t the brightest creatures alive. She’s not just stupid – she’s stupid for a chicken.
She also isn’t the greatest layer – I think she averages about 2 eggs a week, now that she’s passed her prime? Maybe three? She’s been a bad layer from the start – at best she only gave us 4 or so eggs a week.
On the other hand, she’s very sweet, and she’s so big that the other chickens don’t mess with her, so just by being her she keeps the other chickens in line.
My four red hens, Myrtle, Martha, Itchy and Scratchy were all Golden Sexlink chickens – great egg layers (seriously! 7-8 eggs a week, EACH!) who go through chicken menopause early and really decrease their laying production at about 3 or so years old.
Moaning Myrtle and Martha Stewart (this is Myrtle in the picture) were eaten by raccoons about two months ago. It was really horrible and heart wrenching and I miss them AND their eggs – although they were drying up, they were still good for 4 or more eggs week (they used to lay 7 a week, sometimes more). Now that they’re gone, I’ve had to go back to buying storebought eggs, and that’s no fun at all.
That just leaves me with Itchy and Scratchy – who are nice, but not very sweet, and I wasn’t going to mourn them going into someone else’s stew pot…..
Except that Itchy earned herself a reprieve by surviving 5 days trapped under a flower pot.
Seriously. Five days under a flower pot, and she’s still alive. How….?
Back in April I let the chickens out to go peck in the main part of the yard. In a perfect scenario they’d be out all the time, but…. but they poop like Chihuahuas.
Who wants to add “scooping up chicken poop” to their to-do list? Not me – so they live in the outdoor coop.
Still, they get out a couple of times a week to peck at bugs and stretch their legs. On that particular day we let them out in the morning, and by lunchtime Itchy was missing. Poor Itchy is ridiculously low on the pecking order, so it would be odd for her to wander off by herself. Several times a year I had to isolate her form the other chickens, because they would randomly decide to just try to eat her alive.
She’s not exactly the world’s bravest chicken so it was out of character for her to wander off, but I figured she was just scratching for worms in the empty field behind us and would be back soon.
When evening came and she still hadn’t returned, I went on a full on search for her. Unfortunately, she really was nowhere to be found. Had someone seen her and taken her home, thinking she was abandoned? Had a daytime coyote eaten her? A daytime raccoon? A hawk?
I gave up after nearly an hour of searching and locked my remaining two hens in for the night. I held out hope that she’d maybe show up the next morning… but no.
I said goodbye to her in my heart and moved on. It sounds cold, but after having to clean up bloody chunks of Moaning Myrtle, a missing chicken wasn’t very traumatic to me.
So, imagine my surprise when the following Saturday, almost 6 days after she’d disappeared, I flipped over a broken flower pot to throw it in the trash, and out exploded a very bedraggled, hungry chicken.
Have any of you ever reached into a bag of feed and had a mouse jump out? I don’t know about you, but having a mouse suddenly skitter out at me makes me jump, every time, even though I’m not scared of mice.
Flipping over a flower pot and have a chicken explode out at my face, complete with a squawk and a bunch of noisy flapping was a bazillion times worse.
I didn’t just say a bad word – I screamed a cuss word so loud it kind of echoed throughout the neighborhood. Sorry, neighbors. After I stared at her in amazement for a few moments I ran and got her some food and water.
I think what happened is that she jumped up onto the edge of the flower pot and because it was empty (it was broken and I was waiting for space in the trash can to throw it away), it flipped over on her. She survived because the flower pot landed on an old hay bale. We had some heavy rain mid-week, so I think it absorbed some of it? I’m really glad I found her alive – if I’d decided to throw away the pot the following weekend and found a dead chicken underneath, I would have hated myself for a long time.
Any chicken who survived nearly a week under the flower pot deserves a second chance at life, don’t you think?
So, in a couple of weeks, when Tanesha and Scratchy go off to “freezer camp”, Itchy will stay with us.
As for the chicks…. while I loved how well the Golden SexLink laid their eggs and how low-maintenance they were, I didn’t like how quickly they shut down on production right at 3 years old, and I especially didn’t like how much they pecked each other. Supplementing their feed with mealworms and cat food (for protein) helped, but even when they had tons of space, they had a tendency to peck on each other’s feathers.
When the feed store near me got a surprise “whoopsie” order of 300 baby chicks, I decided to go a little hog wild. My requirements for the breeds were: good layers, friendly, bears confinement well, and quiet. (Did you know that some hens need lots of space, or that some breeds are known for being really noisy? I didn’t, before I started my researching.)
On Saturday we all went down to the feed store to pick out some chicks. My mom got caught up in the chicken fever and got two of her own…. which she will pay for and I will take care of. In exchange, she’ll get some of the eggs once they start laying.
I was thrilled when she wanted some, because it meant I would be able to get the two breeds I had really wanted but couldn’t justify: A golden wyandotte (very pretty), and a Light Brahma (they have feathery feet!!!! Did I mention I have a thing for feathery feet???!!!!)
Here are the breeds I chose:
I’ve already apologized on Facebook, but I’ll apologize here, too. If you don’t like photos of baby chicks, you’re probably a psychopath and you should also probably click away now, because it’s about to get all spammy up in here.
Also, before anyone accuses me of being all artsy-fartsy with my black/white photos….
Baby chicks need a heat lamp to survive, and the best heat lamps are red, because they make everything a uniform reddish color (so chicks are less likely to peck each other.).
Color photos are all tinged a really weird red, like I’m setting up some kind of little bitty underage chicken sex shop.
Chicks for sale, and the prices are…. cheep?
So now you know why I take pictures of all the chicks in black and white.
And, because I know you’re all as obsessed with the chicks as I am…. a video of them eating (complete with nametags, introducing them all.)
For the record, I think I’ve spent 3/4 of my waking hours in the bathroom as of late. I can’t help it. I find their sounds, and their silly motions just so soothing.