February 10, 2011

Happy Hatch Day

One year ago today, our chickens were hatching from their eggs. Two days later, we were off to the post office shortly after 5 AM, to pick them up. (Their first post here).

Our chickens, one year ago

It's amazing that we've had them for a full year now. They are so much a part of the homestead that I can't remember what it was like without them.

My flock of 8

We started with 24 chicks, but ended up with a flock of 8, 7 hens and one rooster.

One of our two Ameraucana hens.

And the other
Of those, our most faithful layers have been my two Ameraucanas and my Barred Holland. When I did my initial research, I didn't read a lot of positives about the Ameraucanas. Most folks didn't think they were too friendly, but kept them around for their colored eggs. In fact, these chickens are often referred to as Easter Eggers, which is probably more accurate since a true Ameraucana is rare.

I've really liked mine though. They are inquisitive and always come when they see me. I'm not attributing this to "friendliness," but rather a curiosity as to whether or not I have something to eat. Still, I like it when they run up, cock their heads, and look me in the eye. Then too, the muffs on the sides of their faces give them a whimsical look. What's not to like? Besides laying throughout the winter, they also lay the largest eggs of my four breeds.

One of our 3 Welsummers

I have three Welsummers, which I think are beautifully colored. They are reputed to lay dark brown eggs, though mine haven't laid eggs any darker than the Delaware's. The eggs are distinct though because they are spotted. Even so, I've probably liked the Wellies the least. Of all my chickens, they keep their distance and generally try to avoid getting very near. They were the last to start laying and the earliest to quit with their winter moult. Now, all their feathers have grown back in but they still haven't started to lay again.

Lady Delaware on the right, 2 Wellies on the left

My Delaware quit laying and moulted about the same time as the Wellies. She, however, has begun to lay again. She is the one chicken that comes running anytime I empty a dirty water bucket. She loves to drink the dumped out water and scratch in the mud. She also likes to follow my Barred Holland hen around and snatch whatever Lady B has scratched up.

The one we worry about the most is the Delaware. Being white, she stands out visually. This is a concern because we have hawks. We also have blue jays who imitate hawk cries. Any time Lady Delaware hears one of these, she runs for cover. Smart chicken. Thankfully, we haven't lost a chicken so far.

Our Barred Holland hen, Lady B, on the right

Lady Barred Holland is the smallest of our hens and lays medium white eggs. She's been a very faithful winter layer, though she was one of the later ones to start. In fact she's still laying even though she's begun to moult. She's inquisitive and not shy, though draws the line at any attempt on my part to pet her. Actually none of my chickens likes to be petted, which is okay by me because I don't think of them as pets anyway.

Lord Barred Holland

Last but not least is our faithful rooster. He's turned out to be a real gem.

Lord B on duty

The above photo is how you'll usually see him, ever watchful while the ladies scratch and peck. He's always ready to warn at any loud sound or if something seems amiss. When he squawks the alarm, the hens all run for cover. If he finds some goody the hens will like, he clucks to them and then steps back to keep watch while they enjoy. He likes people too. He's inquisitive but not aggressive. If we're out in the field, he'll come hang out with us. He always comes to inspect whatever outdoor project we have going on. In fact, no matter where we are on the property, we'll see him at the fence, interested in our goings on. He doesn't miss a trick. Poor fellow got some frost bite on his comb though, at least I believe that's what the black is from, on the comb tips. I'm not sure if I could have prevented that.

I confess I wouldn't mind trying another breed or two. Dan likes the look of Buff Orpingtons, and I like to look of the Speckled Sussex. I'm not sure if I would want to try to integrate new chicks into an established flock however.

At long last, the hens have consented to use my nest boxes.

We're getting one to three eggs a day at present. I am hoping one of my hens goes broody this summer so she can hatch a clutch of eggs. I'd love to be able to add a half dozen or so new pullets to the flock every year, to keep annual egg production to where we can always have eggs, either fresh or frozen. Apparently Welsummers and Ameraucanas aren't particularly broody, so that leaves either my Delaware or Barred Holland. I suppose time will tell.

The flock out on the field

Happy Hatch Day © February 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/


Michelle said...

I enjoy reading others' observations about their chickens. Your Easter Eggers have bigger combs than any of mine have had. My coming three-year-old hasn't laid in months but will let us pet her and pick her up (she's my son's favorite); the two new ones (well, all six new pullets) haven't started laying yet. My experience with one Wellsummer has been the same as yours, except that ours did lay dark brown eggs - when she laid. NONE of ours has ever been broody - not that we have a rooster. I'll let you know how our Speckled Sussex do....

-Heidi said...

Leigh, you have such beautiful girls! I really appreciate the descriptions of the breed characteristics... I'm always taking notes on chickens!

Ginger said...

I love Buff Orpingtons and Speckled Sussex, they are two of my favorite breeds. We have a small mixed flock right now, but have buffs, RI reds and Easter Eggers in the brooder right now.

One of our Sussex went broody and she was the most determined, cranky hen I've ever seen. We didn't have a rooster at the time, and we pulled out the eggs daily, but that didn't stop her.

City Sister said...

We have 8 red stars which are great! They lay very well...We also have a white hen (maybe delaware) who is very cranky and 2 barred rocks which are coming around to be very nice...they just needed time, but are great layers and very protective of their "friends."

Tami said...

Lovely birds, Leigh. I'm so jealous. Hmmm, I haven't harrassed (gentle persuasion?) SM in awhile now. I should make him come over and read your post! (grin)

Leigh said...

Michelle, funny but I love reading others' chicken observations too. There is something fascinating about chickens! I am very interested in your Speckled Sussex. Ginger (below) likes them so that's a plus. Too bad about the Wellies. I was imagining an entire flock of them once, but not any more.

Heidi, it is so interesting how the characteristics vary from breed to breed. And choosing only four breeds was an awfully hard decision! I'd love to have a go at all of them eventually. :)

Ginger, thank you for that! I got a mixed flock to see which we liked best, but I'm not ready to give up experimenting, LOL.

City Sister, I've heart the red stars lay really well. Interesting about your Barred Rocks. Another breed to try!

Tami, chickens are so much fun! I can't imagine life without them. Terribly amusing and produce yummy eggs to boot. :) I hope SM can be convinced. Oh! And manure for the compost!

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

You have a very handsome flock. And a very nice Roo to boot. Your right, the homestead just isnt the same with out those funny little characters running around.

Nina said...

My New Hampshire crosses are inquisitive and friendly, but not overly so. It is interesting about your rooster having some frostbite. I'd worried about that with my girls, but so far (touch wood), they seem fine, despite the -21 temps we've had much more often than normal this winter.
I'm also looking for replacements or flock enhancers. Right now, my first choice is only available from a hatchery which is a 6 hour drive away. I'm not sure that spending 12 hours driving in one day is a good use of my resources, in picking up a few new chooks.

Kids and Canning Jars said...

Love all the information and pictures. You have been blessed with safty that alludes us. We have lost 10 hens now in 5 months. We have lost most of them to the hawks. We have been doing more of the cooping thing. But, we love to let them free range and dust bathe. I think the colder weather has made for less hunting for the hawks so our ladies get picked off. We are adding 4 more feet to our enclosed run to give them a little more wiggle room. We have well-summers for the first time too they are only 15 weeks so we will see if they lay be summer. Thank you for the fun update.

katrien said...

What a wonderful report.
I went to talk with the board of health and had the good fortune to talk with the director himself. We had a nice chat and it shouldn't be too difficult to get a permit - though I still want to change that rule, so that for < 6 chickens no permit is needed.
Next week I go to the organic community farm in a neighboring town for a course on backyard chickens. They will also take an order of chicks - though their choices are limited.

Renee Nefe said...

My friend with chickens had one of them get broody when we had a deep freeze. She has no eggs, but she wants them.

weavinfool said...

I have had great luck with putting purchased chicks under broody hens. I pop them under the hen when it gets dark and the next morning she has become a mother hen and protects them, etc.
I have noticed that our hens try to stay in the shade of our trees to scratch. This helps disguise them from the view of the hawks. As the shade moves, so do they. Do you have enough shade cover for them?
We are working on a new coop. Ours burned down in the Great Chicken Disaster. We will be starting over soon.

Leigh said...

Jane, isn't that the truth? It's funny because at one point, in between chicks and egg layers, I wasn't too sure I liked chickens. Of course, at the time we had a lot of young bully roosters. I definitely love chickens now and can see why folks keep them just for pets.

Nina, well, I'm assuming it was frostbite! I didn't heat the coop though, even though our lowest temps were in the teens (outside, even unheated the coop always felt warmer.)

You've got me curious, what's your first choice? I take it the hatchery doesn't ship?

Melissa, I think if I lost that many I'd be doing something different as well. I'm not sure why none of ours have been picked off, but I do know there have been several near snatches.

Katrien, that's great news! You will absolutely love having chickens. So will Amie. I'm finding that 4 layers is keeping us in a little better than a dozen eggs a week, which is good.

Renee, I've been reading that a broody hen can actually starve because she won't leave her nest, even if it's empty! I do hope I get at least one broody hen. Probably don't need two, but I won't worry about that unless it actually happens!

Weavinfool, great idea about the chicks, thank you for that! Occasionally I find chicks for sale around here and I could get the Buff Orps at least.

Yes, we do have plenty of shade and some pretty thick overgrown areas for the chickens to hide. I did see a hawk attempt to snatch one from the brush one time. Fortunately it was a miss.

Danni said...

Happy Birthday, Leigh's chickens!!
What an interesting flock story. I had forgotten that you once had so many.
I've had my chickens for almost 3 years now and have not had a single one (7 different breeds) go broody. I wouldn't have minded raising a few chicks that way, but it doesn't look like it's in the cards for me.

Benita said...

I really love it when you show us the chickens. I remember them as a kid on the farm and really enjoyed the "music" from them.

Good luck on getting new ones this summer. They'll be cute to watch.

Anonymous said...

Great observations. You really pay attention to your flock. We used to have Barred Rocks and they were great layers - then two neighbouring dogs dug under the coop fence one snowy afternoon...

Mr. H. said...

Happy hatch day! Your chickens look so very happy and healthy. The Ameraucana is a bird that I have always wanted to raise, such neat looking creatures...one of these days.:) I have never heard of Welsummers before, I'll have to check them out. You have raised beautiful birds.

Anonymous said...

Happy Hatch Day!!! That was such a great post! I'm learning all I can about farm critters, and this was wonderfully informative for me! I love your rooster watching over the hens! Great photo! :)

Leigh said...

Farmgirl_dk, originally I was hoping for about a dozen hens. Who would have imagined so many would be roos. I'm amazed none of your hens has ever gone broody. I hope I get at least one!

Music! Benita, it's definitely music to my ears!

Evelyn, what a terrible way to lose chickens. I know it must have been devastating.

Mike, Ameraucanas are great. One of the neat things about them (besides multicolored eggs) is that they come in every color and pattern imaginable.

Welsummers do have their following. I am glad to have some in my little flock.

Rain, if you ever get chickens you will absolutely love them. Such a great critter to have around.

Sharon said...

You have quite the chicken family there and that rooster of yours is something special.

We'll get our very first chickens this spring...I'm pretty excited about it.

cyndy said...

So nice to see your chickens all grown up ;-)

You have a lovely flock!

I hope you have setter in there...you will surely know if and when she goes broody.

I have a Black Cochin who is the best setter, but she constantly abandons the nest 2 or 3 days before hatching! Sooo frustrating. I've had some success moving a few of her eggs under my banty (aracuna) if she happens to be setting at the same time. What's a mother to do?

DebbieB said...

Leigh, I didn't realize that your chicks were only 2 days old when you got them! I'm such a city girl, I thought they had less feathers than that when so young. You were certainly blessed when you winnowed your roosters down to one - that "one" is a winner! I checked, but the covenant included in our deed in our subdivision specifically excludes the keeping of fowl. :( I'll have to wait to get chickens until we move out west in a year or two.

In better news, my brother (who lives in a more rural area than I, and has chickens and a big pantry garden) has offered to till a big garden bed for me when he comes to visit at Easter. Yay!

Leigh said...

Sharon, you will love having chickens! The chicks are so cute and chickens really are entertaining as well as making a good contribution.

Cyndy, that is so strange about your black cochin. Sounds like her internal clock is off!

Debbie, that's great news about your garden! It's too bad you'll have to wait on chickens, but at least you checked before having a problem on your hands.

We got our chicks mail order. The hatchery packs them as soon as they're hatched and makes sure they arrive within two days. That's about their limit to go without food and water. They have to be hydrated immediately upon arrival and given chick feed. Of course, not being mother raised, they have to learn things on their own, but most chickens manage pretty well.

We read up on how to pick a rooster. I had 12 to choose from! We got rid of the greedy bullies first, then the scardy cats. The Barred Holland was the only one who was protective and deferential toward the hens. He was Dan's favorite from the start, so it worked out really well.

Toni aka irishlas said...

Chickens are so entertaining! We currently only have three hens left, so, I am looking forward to getting six more in a couple of weeks - Ameraucanas and RIR.

Ah, to hear the little peeps again!

You have a lovley flock.

Anonymous said...

Such beauties! I think it would be fun to go out and pick your own eggs! Hugs!

Scented Leaf said...

After I read your article, I became nostalgic - your girls and hansom rooster remembered me by grandma's chickens. As a kid on the farm I really enjoyed to play with them, and to look after eggs every afternoon... My only problem was with "cock-a-doodle-doo" early in the morning ;-) Lol, but now I'm remember with pleasure even that...