The chicks are growing!
3 weeks ago we took the kids to North 40 and picked out 4 newly hatched chicks (I don’t know exactly how old they were at that point, but they were tiny little fluff balls). A week later Bradley went back and picked up 6 more, so we are now parents to 10 adorable little chicks, and they are growing like weeds. We picked several different varieties, to test out their different temperaments, egg production and dual usage (some are meat and egg poultry). The breakdown is: 2 Buff Orpington, 2 Rhode Island Red, 3 Amereraucana, and 3 Red Barred chicks. Before we decided to get into chickens, I had maybe heard of the Rhode Island Red variety. There are so many types of chickens!
Our babies are currently on a diet of Nutrena chick starter with a healthy dose of dried mealworms as a treat (Scout loves feeding the mealworms to the chicks – she always comments “they’re dead” while nodding her head knowingly). Our first batch of chicks have doubled in size since we got them – one of the Buff Orpingtons is pictured above. I really wanted to hold one of the Rhode Island Reds, as I am amazed at how beautiful their feathers are that are coming in, but she (I hope it’s a she anyway) wasn’t having it. I’ll see if she’s up for some love tomorrow.
One of my biggest concerns with these chickens is all the predators we have out here – coyotes, owls, hawks, I know all present a risk for chickens. But mostly I’m concerned with getting our dog acclimated to them. Bear is a young Catahoula Leopard / Border Collie mix. Border Collies are, as everyone knows, herding animals. And Catahoula Leopards were bred in Louisiana to hunt wild boar. So. My main concern is getting Bear to understand these are our pets, not prey. I had to go through the same process when Bear first came to live with us – he desperately wanted to chase my husband’s two geriatric cats. After a lot of training and positive reinforcement, he now doesn’t even bother to look their way when they come around. The chickens, however, are way more interesting than the cats ever were. They make crazy loud clucking sounds and are starting to stretch their wings and fly (we have got to get the chicken wire on their brooding cage or I’m going to have a house full of chickens very soon). So every day, Bear and I go downstairs together, and I pick one chicken to hold and pet – and Bear gets to practice sitting and waiting while the chicken and I get to know each other. If Bear sits calmly and doesn’t get all up in the chick’s face, he gets a treat, a scratch on the head and a “good boy.” If he gets excitable and tries to put his big schnoz in the chick’s face, he gets sternly told to “leave it” and then we start the process again. So far, he is doing great, and today we graduated to the chicken being placed on the floor to wander about while Bear waited patiently (pics below). I was super nervous, but I kept a very close eye on him and he did very, very well. I’m hoping that having a dog around (who doesn’t eat the chickens) will help keep some of the other predators at bay. I love these little guys and want them to stick around for a while.
It’s all such an adventure – and I love that the kids can share it, too. Emory Scout is particularly smitten with the chicks and loves to hold them, pet their soft little downy heads, and feed them mealworms (“they’re dead”). It is such a joy to watch her enjoy this experience – and so far, my only regret is not doing it sooner. Owning chickens seemed so daunting, but now that we are doing it, it’s actually the easiest animal I’ve ever had. I worry sometimes that I am ignoring them, but honestly they don’t need much except food, warmth, safety – the love we give them seems to annoy them at best and slightly traumatize them at worst so I try to give them their space. But they are adorable and bring so much cheery energy into our home (they’re so little they have to stay inside until their feathers come in and nighttime temps are above 40, which may take a while out here, where winter’s death rattle is still echoing in the trees).