V, May 2014
My girl has been wanting chicks for quite a while, but I’ve put it off for various reasons: we were living on a boat…our apartment lease didn’t allow for pets…we were living in an unheated addition in our house…there’s no space. Well, I’ve run out of good reasons, so we started preparing for chickens this month. It became our homeschooling project of sorts.
First, we made a “Raising Baby Chicks” list with the help of backyardchickens.com, a list of important things to get. Then we took the list to our next-door neighbor, Kedrin, who got chickens last summer and is what I call a Chicken Enthusiast. I added a few things to the list based on her recommendations.
We decided to get our chicks from our local hardware store, Aubuchon, so I picked up a flyer with the scheduled dates and breeds of chicks.
I looked up each of the non-Bantam breeds at mcmurrayhatchery.com and some other websites. Then V and I put together an information sheet on each breed. The kids helped pick the photos to print and V drew some representations of egg color and size for each breed.
We talked a lot about the breeds we wanted over the next several weeks. Although we are allowed six hens, we couldn’t get one of each breed, as V wanted, because the breeds came in cohorts and we didn’t want some to be too much bigger than the others. So we had to make some compromises. Meanwhile I gathered all our supplies.
Getting the first batch.
After a spontaneous roadtrip, we came back and assembled the brooder and heat lamp that night. The next morning we went to Aubuchons, but there was a line in front of us and when it was our turn the lady told us the Rhode Island Reds were out, the last ones were reserved. Tig stood dumbfounded and the kids looked sad. Somehow the lady took pity on us and slipped us one.
We came home with four chicks: one Rhode Island Red, one Golden Polish, and two Araucanas (we pooled our order with a friend, because the minimum order is six chicks).
My friend Victor requested chick pics, so here they are:
Rhode Island Red and Araucana.
Rhode Island Red, sometimes V calls her Rhodie.
Araucana chick, less than one week old.
Same Araucana chick, O likes to give kisses.
Golden Polish chick named Parsnip.
V was tickled by the description from mypetchicken.com: “They are tame but their behavior can be a bit wacky since their crest limits their vision.” That sold her on the breed.
The ensuing drama.
The kids were so excited when we got the chicks home. They wanted to hold them all the time.
But not all was sweetness and light. [Cue foreboding music.]
Within a couple of days, V noticed one of the Araucanas was pecking the others’ eyes. Not just pecking them, grabbing and pulling. It was disturbing, above and beyond the usual establishment of pecking order. I did some googling and read a few threads about this problem. Apparently, some chickens display this stress behavior and sometimes separating the chick helps. So I set up a “chick jail”, with a mesh side so that she can still see and hear the others but can’t get at them. I’m also looking at some suggestions to increase the protein in her diet, adding salt to her water and keeping her occupied.
Unfortunately, she’s now called the “bad Araucana”–or as I say under my breath, sociopath. I’m hoping her behavior resolves in the next week or two, or she’ll have to go.