firebyrd: (Default)
So after mulling and musing the other day, I went and grabbed the chicken-formerly-known-as-the-black-one. Definitely a much bigger, redder comb than the ameracauna hens, but as I was really paying attention, I finally realized that it was an entirely different kind of comb (yeah, there are different kinds, who knew?). I haven't really paid much attention since they were tiny, at which point they were all nubs and not really obvious what type. Ameracaunas have a pea comb (I misremembered when I called them walnut in my last post) and cochins have a single comb (like with the phoenixes, the kind of comb you think of when you think of a rooster). The black one's comb? Clearly a single comb at this point. And the tail? Extremely fluffy, which when they were younger seemed like it was growing longer, but at this point is clearly a cochin thing (they're very fluffy birds).

At this point, I decided to find some pictures of cochins. When the bird's feet turned yellow and started growing some feathers, the lady at preschool and I started hypothesizing it might be an ameracauna/bantam cochin hybrid, as the farm she got the eggs from had both (and in fact, she bought eggs of both). Additionally, as the other chickens of the same age have grown, the black one has stayed noticeably smaller. I'd briefly seen cochins when the preschool lady brought one of hers in, but I honestly couldn't remember what they looked like, so I hit the interwebs. Sure enough. The hens have a small size single comb, tiny wattles, and fluffy tail. None of them look anything like the black one in coloring, but the coloring is clearly that of an ameracauna, as the rooster and one of the other ameracauna hens look much the same, just with varying amounts of black and white.

So I guess I have eight hens (good thing I didn't pick up more chicks from the preschool lady). I'm extremely curious now what color eggs the black one is going to lay. She came in a greenish-blue ameracauna egg, but that's presumably because of the hen that laid her. So is she going to lay brown cochin eggs or be what's called an easter egger, an ameracauna hybrid that lays the colorful eggs despite the mixed heritage? Hopefully I'll be able to figure it out since her eggs are almost certainly going to be smaller.

The kids don't seem to have a particular favorite at this point, but I have to say I'm relieved to not have to eat the one they were so fond of as a chick.
firebyrd: (Default)
The phoenix is doing really well. Last night, all four chicks somehow climbed out of the box inside the brooder. Since they were going in and out as they pleased and all seemed to be getting along, I went ahead and just removed it. In addition to climbing, it's visibly more active now, walking and running around and just acting far more like a normal chick. Because the part of the injury that actually bled was around the toenail, I'm watching that to see if it falls off, but so far things are looking really good.

Unfortunately, the silkie died sometime in the past few hours. Its feather development was the least progressed of the new batch of chicks, so I'm assuming it was very young, probably only around a week old. Given that as well as the lack of any signs of disease, I suspect some sort of congenital problem.

I was going to just throw it away, but then was inspired to get the kids involved. I asked Enoch if he wanted to bury it instead, which he agreed to. I had picked up some strawberry plants at the farm store that I hadn't planted yet, so I told them we could plant one with the chick to remember it by. Everything was fine and the kids had fun "helping" dig the hole. Then, after the chick was in the ground and the strawberry planted over top, Enoch became agitated. "But what if the bugs get it!" he said. When I explained that the bugs were going to eat the chick, his face crumpled and tears started oozing down his cheeks. After some hugs and explanation of decomposition, he calmed down. He must be starting to get some inkling of what death really means. This is the first time he's reacted badly to any discussion related to it.
firebyrd: (Default)
Eric spent most of the day working on the chicken coop so we can get the chicks outside. They've outgrown their brooder and then some. Alas, he didn't quite get it done enough to make the transfer, but hopefully Monday morning we can get them out there, as the biggest thing that needs to get done to let them be out is getting the lid on the nest boxes.

As it wasn't clear whether he would get done or not today, I went to the store to get a food container for the coop as I hadn't previously done so. Chick season is apparently in full swing now, as they had tons more than when I'd been there last. I was browsing through the various breeds available out of curiosity when I saw a worker poking at a chick. When she caught my glance, she said, "Oh, don't worry, he isn't sick, he's just hurt. He'll be fine."

Wait a minute...he's /just/ hurt? I mean, they must go through hundreds, if not thousands of chicks, but that seems like a pretty cavalier attitude to me. This chick was just collapsed on the floor of the cage, eyes closed, shuddering in what seemed likely to be pain. She made a further remark about how he'd gotten his foot stuck in the wire on the floor of the cage and went off to do something. Looking closer, I could see he even had fresh blood on one of his toes. She came back a couple of minutes later and noticed the blood too, so moved him into a different cage, but one that still had chicks. You know, more of the animals that so commonly pecks its fellows to death that it's extremely common to cut the tips of their beaks off.

I'd been wrestling with my conscience for a few minutes, and at this point, I told her that I'd just take him. She was surprised and a bit dubious, but when I insisted, she went all enthusiastic about how he was going to be fine. Then she moved in for the kill and convinced me to take a silkie chick that was all by itself. They're not good layers, but I felt bad for it and it is a breed I really like, so I let myself be suckered. The hurt chick is a golden phoenix, and to finish things off I got a dominique pullet and a silver wyandotte pullet (who turned out to be the last one, so she probably would have suckered me into taking it if I hadn't wanted to in the first place).

I was possibly going to get some more chicks from the lady at preschool, so this wasn't completely out of the blue, but I wasn't quite ready for more tiny chicks until the big ones are outside, so I had to kludge another brooder together. Given the phoenix's injured status, I wasn't sure whether it should be with the others and so put it in a box inside the brooder, but the other three have somehow managed to all climb inside it. They're surprisingly agile for how tiny they are (and that's another amazing thing, to see the comparison between the old chicks and the new-they grow so fast!). Hopefully the little thing will be okay. Its right leg is mostly just a big bruise. It's sitting up a bit more now, so that's a hopeful sign, but I'll have to keep a close eye for both bullying and pasty butt. I think it'd probably have died to pasty butt at the store even if the other chicks hadn't killed it because it's clearly not going to be moving much for a while and they don't bother to check them. I know they have tons of chicks to deal with, but it seems like they could have a separate container to put checked ones into and just go through them a cage at a time once every day or two.

My dad says he has a friend with chickens, so he's going to see if she can take the black one if he is in fact a cockerel. I think she's one of his neighbors up in the valley, where a great deal, if not most, of the land is zoned for agriculture, so here's hoping she's both able and willing to take a mutt rooster. The phoenix and the silkie are both from straight runs, so there's a 50% chance those are cockerels too, but hopefully they'd be easier to find homes for with phoenixes being less common and silkies being such great pets.

Chickens

Mar. 22nd, 2012 04:38 pm
firebyrd: (Default)
I was speaking to the lady from preschool again and it turns out the person she got the eggs from bred not just Ameraucanas, but also Cochins...a breed with yellow, feathered feet. So at this point, we think the black one is probably a hybrid with those yellow feet and one line of feathers on them. I'm back from not caring to really, really hoping he's not a boy. He just managed to greatly endear himself to me.

They're mostly feathered at this point and it's really nice out anyway, so they're going to be going outside as soon as the coop gets built, hopefully on Saturday. The kids have been playing outside yesterday and today and loving it, so I thought I'd try taking a chick out and seeing how it did. I took one of the friendlier ones out with Bea earlier, and it hung around a bit before running like crazy for some bushes and trying to hide. I managed to grab it before it ventured too deep into some wild roses and all was well.

After getting Enoch from preschool, though, all of a sudden Bea didn't want to go outside, and when I made her, she threw a fit. So to try to calm her down, I grabbed the black chick to take outside to amuse her. He certainly succeeded in cheering her up, but he just hung with me and Enoch. After a bit, I started moving away from him a bit at a time to see what he would do. After I got five or six feet away, he started exploring for perhaps thirty seconds...and then flew over to me and landed on my shoulder. It was quite clearly deliberate that he was coming to be with /me/. He then pooped all over me, but after almost twenty years with parrots (not to mention almost five with kids), that's hardly a new experience for me.

Must not get attached, must not get attached, must not get attached...

Chickens

Mar. 20th, 2012 02:54 pm
firebyrd: (Default)
Thanks a bunch for the replies on my last post!

The chicks continue to grow like crazy. They've got enough feathers now that I turned off the heat lamp yesterday. Their bellies are rather bare and they still have down on their heads, but otherwise, they've got real feathers now. They've also gotten huge. Takes two hands to hold them securely now.

Unfortunately, the black one the kids like so much is almost certainly a cockerel. I was talking to the lady from preschool about him, and when I mentioned his very different behavior, she broke in to insist that didn't mean anything. But when I went on to mention his much bigger, more developed comb, extremely distinct at just two weeks old, she had to admit I was probably right. His legs have also gone bright yellow, extremely different from the greenish tint of the others'. My brain is telling me that's also a good sign of maleness, though I'm not sure where I'm coming up with that from. Since it is so different from every other chick, though, I suspect my brain is right. I mostly feel bad for the kids' sake. What seemed like a friendly, outgoing personality in a two day old chick has actually proven to be pretty wild. The others settle down pretty well when being held, but he freaks like he's being killed.

The lady from preschool came up with all sorts of schemes to get him neutered so I could keep him. Um, no. Aside from the personality issues and the difficulties in finding someone to actually do something like that safely (you can buy kits to do it yourself, which is horrific to even think about), I'm not going to spend hundreds of dollars to neuter a $2.50 chicken that's going to live maybe 10 years max. I also don't want to waste the space and feed on a completely useless bird when I could instead use it for a laying hen. I can't say how practical I can manage to be in a few years when the hens get too old to lay, but at this point, I've deliberately worked to not get attached so I can do the practical thing.

I honestly think the others are probably hens. None of them have a comb as big or the yellow legs. Now that their feathers are in most of the way, the Americaunas are easily distinguishable, which is nice. We've got a dark brown one, a reddish brown one, and black and white ones with differing emphases on the black or white. The sussexes still look pretty identical, though. We'll see if anything on their belly feathers helps as those come in, but I have a suspicion that they're going to become Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum just because I won't be able to tell which is which anyway.

October 2012

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