Monday, June 27, 2011

Mail Order Chicks

Let me first clarify that the phrase 'mail order chicks' should in no way be confused with 'mail order brides'.  I am referring to the feathered, cheeping chick.  Sorry, boys!  I only call attention to this as I have sons in their twenties, so can just hear the comments they might make!

Last winter I received a hatchery catalog in the mail.  While I have always been intrigued with the thought of cheeping boxes being delivered to my post office, I put the thought of ordering chicks aside.  For a while.  But as winter wore on and I found myself drawn back to the images of so many different breeds of chickens, most of which I had never seen outside the pages of a book or catalog.  By February I had decided that I would just order some of those exotic fowl.  I had lost most of my flock by then and I had a new plan.  To raise young chicks and fix up one of the barns below the house.  The barn the old hens preferred was impossible to make predator proof on my budget, but I figured I could make the smaller one work.
I made lists of the chickens I would order, then amended the lists.  I knew I wanted gentle hens as I love being able to walk amongst the hens as they cluck at my feet.  But these are just the kind of hens that foxes and coyotes love.  Easy pickings.  So then I added a few whose descriptions included phrases like "very alert" and "forages and avoids predators well".  Next the kids got in on the fun and spent time looking through the catalog, each one choosing their favorite.  Final decisions were made and the order was placed for delivery the week of June 27th.

Contents of the smaller box
 Today was the long-awaited day.  It started with a phone call from the post office at 5:51 AM.  I raced off to get the chicks, rush them back home and settled in as quickly as possible.  It is just amazing that those tiny fragile creatures could survive the trip from Iowa to Oregon.  Survive they did and arrived with every single one alive.  They were so happy to join the four little banties in the warm stock tank where they drank, ate, stretched their wings and ran from one end to the other.  They will soon outgrow this setup, but it will keep them safe and warm for several days while they build strength to enter a larger space.

Bearded Belgian d'Uccle Mille Fleur banties
 Unfortunately, I have lost one little Mille Fleur banty and believe it may have been my own fault.  I think I missed him when showing them the water and dipping their beaks to encourage drinking.  He seemed okay when I unpacked them and moved them to the stock tank.  Then again, maybe it was the little guy on the right side of the picture and he wasn't just dozing as I had thought.  In additon, I am having some trouble with all three White Cochins.  They arrived far weaker than the other chicks and I have been hand watering and feeding them throughout the day.  Time will tell if they make it or not.  I will keep doing whatever I can to help them along.

Partridge Cochin chick
These little guys were so lively I had a hard time getting a picture of them.  One immediately jumped out of the basket I was using to contain them for photographing.
Until next time, may all the chicks in your life be strong and healthy!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chicken Nuggets

 Several days ago, mama hen brought her 10 little ones to visit in the yard, which I discovered when I heard a loud "PEEP, PEEP, PEEP" coming through the house.  One of the housecats was bringing me a treasure with the other cat close behind in case he dropped it.  When I went to take the chick from him, though, he changed his mind and no longer wished to share his little nugget with me or anyone else.  After a short chase, I managed to retrieve the poor terrified chick.  Out in the yard there was panic with hen and chicks scattered to all corners.  I managed to scoop up four more babies and found another little one had already been killed.  I penned up the five I had caught with the hope that mama would come back for them and I could then catch her and the remaining four.  She did come close, but was always watching out for me and I could not manage to get the gate to the the outer pen closed before she was back out.  Poor babies cried and cried for mama for two or three days and have just today stopped calling for her, but she thinks the yard is a dangerous place and refuses to come back in.  Yesterday I checked the babies in the morning and found my favorite chick had died overnight.  He appeared healthy and strong, so am not sure what happened, but was sad to lose him as he was a beautiful mahogany color with feathered feet, while the rest are black chicks with some light patches.  He did not happen to be the one the cat brought into the house, either.  That was a black chick and is doing just fine!

They look so tiny in the big tank all alone.

Minnie Mae would like a taste of chicken nuggets, please.

Sorry, Minnie Mae, you are going to have to stick to your cat food!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chick Surprise!

One of my black banties had gone missing and I was sure she had become chicken dinner for some sharp-toothed critter.  I had found her abandoned nest some time back, which is usually an indication that the hen is unable to return.  But, lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to find her alive and well as she clucked lovingly to 10 little ones out in the barn lot!

I am hopeful she can raise this batch of chicks as the Pyrenees cross pups are becoming more and more effective at keeping the predators at bay and protecting their family of chickens, sheep, etc.  On Tuesday, their dad, Chuck, was here to visit and together they killed a raccoon who had been hanging around for quite some time.  This morning the pups brought in the body of a young raccoon they had killed.  While I love watching raccoons and am fascinated by their actions, I lost about 40 chickens last winter, many to raccoons who would climb into the barn rafters and dine as the chickens slept.  The carnage of chicken body parts that had fallen from above was not a pretty sight in the morning.

I just had to include this picture of Snickers goat.  He is not happy with me at all.  Yesterday he got out and helped himself to the roses just beginning to open up their gorgeous blooms in the yard as he is a master gate opener.  He again got out several times today, and in fact, joined me inside the house at one point as I had a back door open.  I looked and looked, but could not figure out where he had gotten out.  While taking pictures of the chicks, I put him in again and set a pan of grain outside the pen.  He still refused to show me where he was getting out until he thought I'd gone back to the house.  From my hiding spot, I watched him slip though a gate that had not been fastened tightly enough when the guys were working cows yesterday.  I refastened the gate and gave him his pan of feed, but he knows a small pan of grain is not equal to the freedom he was tasting.
Until next time, may you savor the freedoms you are able to enjoy!