Sunday, March 18, 2012

Just the FAQs ma'am, baby chicks have arrived....

Well the day we have been waiting for finally arrived. Actually it arrived a week ago but once again illness overtook our household making it impossible for me to get excited about anything...even the baby chickens. Annabelle was still recovering from her ear infections when I came down with a fever last Thursday that lasted for almost 5 days.  There's really nothing wittyI can say about fevers or fever-related illness.  It was very unpleasant and I'm glad I'm feeling better.

But on Day 2 of my fever Bryan came home with what looked 3 Happy Meal boxes.  Contained in each of those boxes were 4 baby chickens.  He brought them in the house to show me (because I was too weak to go outside and walk all the way to the chicken coop) and set the boxes on the counter. I was amazed at how loud those baby chickens were, and how unsettling the sound of them pecking the inside of the boxes was.  Bryan took one out to show me but at that point I didn't want to hold one because I was worried they would get too cold, and quite frankly...I was sick and it just seemed like a lot of effort.
Our Chicken coop
Luckily Bryan works well under pressure and while Annabelle and I went to visit Nana (remember? when we were trapped in snowstorm like they were in the book Alive) and poppy a couple weeks ago, Bryan got the coop almost entirely completed and our brooder finished and ready to go.  So our baby chicks had a safe and warm environment to go to since their Happy Meal boxes weren't suitable.

I would like to point out that these were not the baby chicks that we ordered from the hatchery.  These were supplemental chickens because Bryan got very excited and impatient and didn't want to wait for our 3/26 chick delivery.  So if anyone is keeping track, by the end of March we will have at least 37 chickens (remember? the hatchery sends extra chicks just in case a few die in transit, so more chicks are possible).  I think almost 40 chickens is a bit excessive.
Because we were buying off the rack, we did not get a
choice in chicken breed from the retailer. So we have a mix of boys and girls and we most likely have Rhode Island Reds, Red Sex Links (or New Hampshire Reds we are unsure of what we got), and Anconas. I was surprised that as babies, they all pretty much look the same.  About half are yellow and half are a light brown with some patterns are their wings.  Right now it is difficult to tell who the boys are and who the girls are....though it is possible to figure out who is who, I have requested we just wait until they are bigger and can tell with a visual check.

So far the baby chickens are doing very well.  It is more than  a week later and we still have all 12.  I think we have been lucky though because we are having frighteningly unseasonably warm weather in Wisconsin this week and next.  It has been in the high 70's all week. I think baby chickens prefer that to the normal March temperatures we have.  They are getting used to us, more so Bryan than me and are not quite as frightened when we enter the coop now.  I am sure everyone is wondering what my role is in caring for the baby chickens has been. I will answer that question.  It has been minimal.  HOWEVER I am not taking responsibility for my lack of involvement.  Bryan designed the brooder just like he hangs pictures and wall hangings...he did it for a tall person.  I cannot reach the bottom of the brooder, and therefore cannot reach the feeder, the waterer, or the chicks themselves.  We have discussed getting some sort of step stool for me, but we might as well just wait until they're bigger. 
Me, delerious with fever, crushing a baby
chick
Chicken care has been relatively easy (for Bryan)  we check on them in the morning, after work, and before bed to make sure they are warm enough.  Incidentally, the heat lamp is red because it helps prevent cannibalization..something I didn't realize would be a concern.  It has led me to wonder if while they are pecking the bejesus out of one another if they are saying to their friends "Hey, tastes like chicken." 

They are getting big very quickly and are starting to fling all their bedding everywhere.  Thankfully they are in the coop and not in the house.  We feed them chicken starter and ground up oats and cornmeal, which they LOVE.  One of them was eating it out of my hand.  We're trying to get me more accustomed to the chickens, it seems I spook easy (I refer you to my post about the cow that charged Annabelle and I).  I can't help but fear they are going to [eck out my eyes. Truthfully I am also slightly afraid I am going to squish them while I am holding them.  So each day I try to hold them and get them more used to me...and me more used to them.

So now I'm going to take this opportunity to answer some of the chicken questions I have gotten.  Once again I need to provide the disclaimer that I am not attempting to be a chicken expert.  I am answering these chicken questions in the way that I understand them, and in case you haven't figured this out, I am not a scientist.

FAQs I get when I mention we are attempting to raise chickens:

1.  Will you get eggs if you only have girl chickens?
       a:  yes.  we do have boy chickens (aka roosters aka cockerels), but you don't need boys for eggs.
           hens will lay eggs whether there are boys are not.

2.  Will you get baby chickens if you have boys?
      a: WE will not.  The only way you will  get baby chickens is if you allow the hen to sit on the egg
          for 28 (I think) days.  If you collect the eggs every day it doesn't matter if it's fertilized or not. 
          Because we are potentially going to have 37 chickens, we are not interested in breeding any
          more just yet.

3.  What color eggs will you have?
      a: brown.  and that's because we selected breeds that lay brown eggs...except for maybe Anconas. I
          think those might be white. 

4.  Is there a difference between brown and white eggs?
     a:  no.  Fresh eggs have slightly more yellow and more dense yolk, and their flavor may be slightly
          different (in theory better than) than store bought/commercially farmed eggs because we won't 
          be using a hormones or chemicals and our eggs will essentially be organic.

5.  Will you eat the chickens?
     a:  Yes. some of them.  37 chickens make a lot of eggs.  And we will most likely end up with a few
           too many roosters.

6.  Will you (meaning me) help butcher the chickens you eat?
     a:  what do YOU think?  no. probably not.  I would like to be the type of farm wife who is able to
          pluck and slaughter a chicken, but realistically I don't think I have the stomach (or knife skills)
         to do it.  Although I am getting to be quite handy with the .45, and as you may or may not recall
        shooting a chicken with a handgun is an acceptable method of butcher.

7.  Where do they live, eat, sleep, etc?
     a:  right now the chickens are in a brooder that Bryan built. It has their heat source, water, food,
          room to scratch and Bryan also built a little jungle gym for them to roost on and we placed some
          large bricks for them to roost (and poop) on too. It has a lid with wire mesh to keep them
          inside when they get bigger, and there's a thermometer inside so we can monitor the temperature
          inside.
Our brooder...with Annabelle inside testing it out. Because that's
what you do when you have a baby...put her in the brooder.
8.  When will you have eggs?
     a: Late July/Early August.  It depends on the breed but it should be in about 16 weeksish.

9.  Where do the chickens go after they outgrow the brooder?
     a:  the coop.  We had a freestanding building that Bryan turned into a coop.  The building itself
          was in okay condition, Bryan just put in windows (for ventilation and light), added an 
          inside wall to make it easier to keep warm, insulated it and then added some nest boxes and
          perches.  Our chickens will also be outdoors during the day.  Bryan still has to complete 
          their little doggy door, ramp, and fenced in area.  Chickens are creatures of habit and once
          they are used to their little fenced in area (and we are certain Milton will not eat them) 
          hopefully they can just roam free on our property.  They help keep the bug population 
          down.      
Coop in early construction
Nest boxes and perches
 I believe this concludes the question and answer portion of our discussion today.  Feel free to leave comments if you have additional questions. I can try to answer them in my non-scientific, non-official capacity.

Delivery of our next batch of chicks is around March 26.  I'm terrified these 12 chicks are going to attack and terrorize our new baby chicks when they arrive.  Bryan is brainstorming a way to separate the chicks. Originally we didn't think it would be an issue but the chickens are now wild with their flinging and flapping...a bit too rowdy a crowd for new babies.  Speaking of which, it seems Annabelle is too rowdy for our baby chicks as well.  When we pick one up and hold it near her she gets very excited and turns into Baby Huey and tries to snap a wing or neck off.  Now that she has part of a tooth poking out we need to be cautious that she doesn't think it's a McNugget.  Surprisingly Bernie also thought the baby chicks were a midday snack.  Bryan held one out for Bernie to sniff and right away he opened his mouth and tried to eat it.  Perhaps we should stop pulling these chicks out and trying to "introduce" them to our dogs and baby. 

Thanks to Nana, Annabelle has a chicken she cannot murder

1 comment:

  1. Love reading the update. Yayy! So sorry you have been sick. :(

    ReplyDelete