Yes indeed.  The Ameraucanas are sixteen days-old today and Ginger and Joanie are ten.  The size difference in those six days is quite obvious, as hopefully the photos will show.  Amazing little beasties they are!  But, before I go on, first things first.  Names!

Chick A, most seem to agree, has markings around her eyes that gives her the look of either a Bandit or a Raccoon.  I couldn’t have agreed more, until a couple of days ago.  As her feathers are coming in she changes day to day; she’s come to look more like a hawk. The mask around her eyes is lightening.  But, I’m not sure it’s wise to use the words chicken and hawk in the same sentence, for obvious reasons.  So, I decided to go with something less physically indentifying, and tried to think of something that made me happy.  A lot of ideas swirled through my little brain, most of which didn’t apply to chickens or girls.  So, in the end, I opted for a tasty treat.  Hazelnut truffles.  Chick A is now and forever Truffle, and Chick B is Hazel. The coloring is perfectly right, too.

Onto developmental tidbits.  Feathers are coming in fast and furious.  Truffle and Hazel have lost almost all of their newborn fluff and are developing beautiful feathers and thusly much larger wings.   With those, they have decided that it’s time to learn to fly, and yes, my friends, chickens do fly.  Not very high, mind you, but they definitely get themselves well off the ground, getting from one end of the brooder to the other with just a single flap of the wings.  Four feet!

Joanie, and especially Ginger, are still much smaller, and their personalities currently match their size.  Joanie doesn’t seem to be intimidated by anyone, confidently moving about, and Ginger is timid, always the first to hide when my hand dips into the box.  Interestingly, Ginger’s feathers are developing much faster than Joanie’s.  Maybe she’s putting all of her energy into those.  She’s definitely eating well enough!

As for intimidation, Truffle McBossypants is most definitely ruling the roost.  She’s the largest of all the birds and she somehow thinks that gives her the right to be in charge.  She is; makes no bones about it.  When she wants to eat or drink you better get out of the way, as wings flap or feet get pecked at, ordering the others to step back and wait in line.  Despite that, when she’s done and the others come to feast, she leaves them alone to eat in peace. She’s also displaying more “grown up” chicken habits now, scratching at the bedding and making cozy little depressions to lie in.  Hazel is not too far behind.  Joanie and Ginger follow, cozying up to keep warm.

Ginger is hiding under Hazel’s wing. You can just see her little beak, peeking out from underneath.


 

Ginger’s pretty wings are coming!


 

Everyone is getting along.


 

Up close and personal with Hazel’s feathers.

I have been remiss. Indeed I have. The last few days have been unusually busy for me, which I suppose is a good thing. You are due an update, and I have one! A big one! Unfortunately, it’s just not written yet. So, in the meantime, I will introduce you to our mascot, drawn for me by my dearest friend, Jo, who lives in a very pretty corner of England. She must be named.  (The chicken, not Jo.) I will take one of your suggestions. :)

Red Letter Day

May 2, 2010

It’s been a busy weekend, full of gardening, chickening, cleaning (argh), and reading.

Friday was the day I had been waiting over a week for, as the Rhode Island Reds finally arrived at Kahoot’s. Nestled in with turkey and duck chicks were a couple of dozen pretty little girls to choose from. I looked for the most active in the group and quickly picked two. Interestingly, all of the chicks, only three days old, had already started to lose their fluff and show some feathers on their wing tips. The Ameraucanas hadn’t started until they were nine days old. Carefully placed in a small box, I brought them home to meet their roommates.

Was I surprised.

Adding the new girls to the brooder made me realize how much the still unnamed Ameraucanas had grown in the six days that we had them. They were at least twice as big, and I immediately worried that the reds were going to be bullied. Boy, was I wrong. Within a few short seconds of being set down, they charged across the box and stood in front of the older chicks, announcing their arrival. It was as if they were saying, “we may be small, but don’t think you’re going to push us around.” The Ameraucanas stood silent, stunned by these little upstarts.

I kept an eye on them for about 15 minutes, watching to be sure blood wouldn’t be shed, and when it was clear that all was well for the time being, I left them to their own devices. By evening, everyone was happily eating and drinking. But, there is no doubt that the reds are aggressive little girls, always pushing the larger chicks away from the food, wanting plenty of elbow, or should I say wing-room to munch.

The new girls were quickly named, even as I still struggle to come up with something for the Ameraucanas. “Ginger” was my first thought, which was quickly followed up by my friend, Maria’s suggestion of “Mary Ann,” but her husband quickly stepped in with “What about the redhead from ‘Mad Men?'” I couldn’t argue with that, as I adore the character of Joan. So, Ginger and Joanie they are.

Meet the feisty redheads…

What’s in a Name?

April 29, 2010

Visual Aide

On your left: Chick A. On the right: what the heck, we’ll call her Chick B.

I was certain on the ride home from Kahoot’s that the girls had named themselves. Chick A was loud and boisterous, poking her little beak and head out of the box I was carrying them in. Chick B didn’t make a sound. This was pretty much the way things went the first day they were in the brooder. Chick A was dubbed “Pokey,” as she seemed to have to have her nose in everything: food, water, pecking at the hay and the walls of the box. She peeped so loudly we could hear her in the house. Chick B, the slightly smaller of the two birds, seemed content to quietly eat and drink, then proceed to flop wherever she could. So, “Pokey” and “Floppy” it was, for about 24 hours. Then, it all changed.

It seemed as though Floppy had finally come out of her transitioning stupor and was wide awake by noon the next day. She decided to make up for lost time. It was quickly apparent that she was the alpha of the two birds, pushing Pokey aside for food, and literally herding her around the brooder. Dominance had been established. Floppy was no push-over. It will be interesting to see what happens when the two new chicks are introduced tomorrow.

So, the temporary names have been tossed out the window and discussions have begun. Suggestions have been given: Tandoori and Cacciatore; and a sweet, almost four year-old of my acquaintance, in England, has decided they are Ruth and Peggy. Decisions, decisions.

The First Arrivals

April 27, 2010

Welcome Home.

I can only guess at the stress of a new father whose wife has gone into premature labor, and the baby’s crib is only half-assembled when the new family arrives home. With all the equipment in bags, a sack of feed in the back of the car, and two little chicks tucked away in a small box, we arrived home to a cold brooder. The chicks were only 3 days-old and needed to be kept at a cozy 95° for the first two weeks. The day was cool. I was not happy.

Mr. CV got to work, setting up the light and laying the bedding in the box, filling the waterer and feeder. I found a small thermometer, coincidentally about the size and shape of an egg, and placed it in the box to check for hot and cold spots. The light was adjusted and secured, and the girls were placed in their new home. With a little direction and coaxing they were soon eating and drinking like champs. And lo, they managed to find the warmest spots and make themselves comfortable and cozy. So far, so good. Whew.

That was of course, until we went to bed. I had no trouble falling asleep, but an hour later I found myself awake and immediately worrying about the chicks. Were they alright? Had they knocked over their water? Had the light fallen into the brooder, crushing them or igniting the bedding? This went on all night, and each time I woke up I trudged downstairs, out the back door and into the garage. And, of course, each time I did so, the girls were perfectly happy either eating or sleeping. Let’s just say that the next day I was a tad slow and kicking myself for being ridiculously fretful.

Tomorrow: Personalities Plus

Singing the Blues

April 26, 2010

The list was made.  Five simple things: a 250 watt infrared light bulb with housing, feed and a feeder, waterer, bedding.  Pay, go home, set up the brooder and get the temperature regulated.

When Mr. CV and I pulled into the parking lot, I immediately noticed it was full. That’s a bit unusual, especially if you know this particular burg, as the large chain pet stores have put at least three Mom and Pop’s out of business.  I was glad to see this, but raised a brow, wondering what might be going on.  The answer was obvious as soon as we walked in the door.

The chick display is immediately inside the entrance to the store.  Smart people at Kahoot’s.  Children and adults were gathered around, looking at the fresh crop of babies that had just arrived that morning.  No problem, I thought to myself.  We’re not here to buy the birds…just equipment and supplies.  Right.  But, as I peered over one small child’s head, I notice a series of notes taped around the brooder box.  “Reserve 12 for Anne.”  “Reserve 8 for Mrs. Greene.”  Reserve, reserve…Paid, paid, paid.

Hmmm…

Choosing to ignore the notes for the time being, we focused on our original task, gathering up everything we needed, except the feed.  One of the staff, Lisa, approached and asked if we needed help, ready and willing to offer anything we needed.  (At this point I have to comment on how refreshing it was to speak with someone who actually knew what they were talking about, rather than some poor kid who got thrown onto the sales floor his first day on the job.)  Of course, the question needed to be asked.  “Ameraucanas,” Lisa answered.  “And, we won’t be getting anymore for several weeks.”  Ameraucanas.  Blue eggs.  Mr. CV only had to take one look at me and it was all over.  Misc. Live Poultry, 2 @ 3.98, was the last item on our sales receipt.

See you tomorrow.

So It Begins

April 25, 2010

Greetings!  Welcome to what I intend to be a long term project, filled with a lot of information, pictures, and learning by both you and me!

I’m a virgin.  Yes, I’ll admit it.  I’ve never done chickens.  Well, except in the oven and on the bar-b-que,  but that’s another blog for another day.  I’ve been vegetable gardening for most of my adult life, and the thought of raising chickens, for eggs and fertilizer, has always been in the back of my mind.  For the past year that little idea has moved its way to the forefront, and circumstances now allow for me to give it a try.  So, here we go!

I’ve spent the last month educating myself on the basics of raising chickens, and I can’t go any further without mentioning My Pet Chicken, which has been my primary go-to source. They gave me the knowledge and tools to be brave enough to take the first steps. Chicken varieties have been chosen, taking into account the extreme heat in my little valley; coop plans have been studied (although the right one has yet to be decided upon), location in the yard picked, and neighbors queried for approval. Yes, I live smack-dab in the middle of a sea of red-tile roofs, and that sort of thing, unfortunately, is necessary.

Yesterday was the day that the plan finally began. My husband (I would call him a saint, but he’d most likely shake his head and walk away), had a full day devoted to getting started. First on the list: building the brooder. I prefer to call it the baby nursery, but of course that wouldn’t be as technical. Ah, what the heck. Lumber was purchased and construction began. Let me warn you that what you are about to see is considered “rustic” by Mr. Chicken  Virgin’s  (Mr. CV)  standards. Nothing fancy here.  Truly, the brooder needn’t be more than a box, large enough to give your chicks two square-feet of room a piece, with high enough sides that they can’t fly out.  But, this one has been reinforced enough that I believe a small elephant could sit on it.

To the pics!!!