Monday, June 6, 2011

Our New Babies

Ed and I decided it was time to increase our family, so we adopted.  We adopted one dozen baby chicks!

I'm a big city girl, born and raised in southern and central California.  I can't even keep my houseplants alive.  Ed, on the other hand, grew up on a farm in upstate New York.  As an adult he joined the air force, traveled extensively, and lived in many different states, earning his income as a master automotive technician.  Just about as far from his farming roots as you can get.

Ed's garden plot behind our house, taken 10 days ago.

Yet now that he has retired and has a small plot of land to call his own, his roots are calling to him.  Slowly but surely the former Carter home is becoming the Reynolds farmstead!  He has decided we need to grow our own vegetables and raise our own chickens.  He spent months preparing a large area in the backyard for a garden, which is now planted and slowly producing tiny green shoots, and he spent weeks remodeling our old woodshed into a chicken coop. 

The Henhouse formerly known as Woodshed.

We ordered our chicks back in early March and expected to have them in about a month.  After a series of setbacks, our babies were finally hatched on May 24, and we were able to select our twelve chicks from the feed store incubator on May 27, when they were just 3 days old.

Dylan (age 13) checks out the selection of chicks, 5 different breeds!

We chose 6 from the Ameraucana breed, then 2 each from three other breeds.

Here's what I've learned about the Ameraucanas:
     "The Ameraucana breed was derived from blue egg laying chickens, but they do not have the breeding problems inherent to Araucanas. In addition, rather than ear tufts, they have muffs and a beard, and are very hardy and sweet with fun personalities. An adult hen weights about 6-7 lbs. They lay medium eggs in shades of blue (about 3 per week), and even have blue (or "slate") legs. Less rare than Araucanas, they are still quite rare and only available through breeders at this time. They should not be confused with Easter Eggers, which can lay blue and green eggs, and do not conform to any breed standard. Ameraucanas come in several varieties, including Black, Blue, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Buff, Silver, Wheaten, and White."  (I have no idea what color ours are!)

Two of the other six chicks are Black Australorps (Ed calls them "black astronauts").  Here's what I found out about them:
     "Australorps are the Australian take on the Orpington breed. They are calm and friendly, and excellent layers of large, light brown eggs (about 5 per week). The Australorp's exceptionally soft, shiny black plumage has hints of green and purple in the sunlight. An adult hen weighs about 7-8 lbs. Peaceful and dignified, sweet and shy, Australorps are an absolutely delightful bird which we highly recommend to anyone who wants a pet chicken that lays dependably."

Both of these breeds are supposed to be hardy enough to withstand our cold winters.  I really need to find out the names of the other two breeds of our final 4 chicks!  I saw the breed names the day we bought them, but I simply can't remember them now.

Six of our chosen fuzzballs in their box for the ride home.

All the chicks in the photo above are Ameraucanas except the two black ones with yellowish head markings.

Our chicks explore their new home.

It's been so much fun watching them over the past 10 days.  They'll be 2 weeks old tomorrow, but they've already grown so much. 

At just 6 days old they began sprouting real feathers in their wings.  By 8 days old they had actual tail feathers poking out of their furry little behinds.  Three days ago they disovered they could fly across the coop, albeit only a few inches above the ground.  Dylan and I had a good giggle when one little gal flew just a few inches before she smashed into the water bottle and got knocked on her feathered bootie! 

Like all toddlers, they enjoy playing games.  Ed has observed a few instances when one chick would grab a wood chip in her beak and run around the coop while the other 11 chased her, thinking she had a big piece of food. 

These final 3 pictures were taken at 3:00 this afternoon.  As you can see, our babies are growing up!  They are no longer round balls of fluff, but instead are beginning to look like the chickens they will grow up to be.  (I think the black one standing alone against the wall with a yellow breast is a Black Australorp.  The very front chick and the 3 lined up behind her are Ameraucanas.)

6 June 2011: Our 13-day-old chicks

One thing I have found is that watching chicks at play is a very relaxing experience.  We go out to check them and refresh their water and food three times a day, and each time it's hard to tear ourselves away.  I could just sit for hours and watch their antics while my blood pressure eases downward.

If you have a minute and a half to watch this video clip, you might find it relaxes you, too!

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