Friday, March 21, 2014

Introductions & newbies

My mom was to blame for my introduction into the chicken world when she was given 8 Isa Brown hens.  I never would have thought that I would enjoy these birds quite so much.  They're comical to say the least, and most importantly, they are small, don't eat a lot and can be fed table scraps at our convenience when needed like a pig, but don't take up as much space.  However, mom has lost 2 of her birds, 1 to an unknown predator, and the other to the unusually cold temperatures we've had this last winter, so on February 22, 2014 I ordered 12 new chicks from

I'm not overly fond of the looks in the Isa Browns, they're comical enough, and seem to be fairly sweet tempered.  They do their job as far as laying eggs reliably (approximately 300 eggs in the first year of life) but they aren't supposed to be very good mothers, and being that they are a hybrid created back in the late 70's, they're not "heritage" which means they would burn themselves out fairly quickly (the 2nd season is when you see the egg numbers begin dropping) due to the high (semi-unnatural) egg count they produce.  They also are reportedly prone to becoming "pecky" & bullying the other chickens as they get older.  Ours are still in their first laying cycle, and although I expected a full, messy, molt out of them, it never came.  Nor did they ever stop laying eggs, regardless of the subzero temps we experienced here in Indiana.  I was pleased about that aspect of the breed, but thought perhaps I might as well investigate other breeds that would be more prone to being good mothers, so if I were to get a rooster, my chicks would be more likely to survive. 

Heritage breeds (like I've ordered) can sustain themselves, and produce young, for long periods of time.  Some living for as long as 15-years, although this life span is rare with the average life span being between 8 & 12-years. 

I am extremely excited about this new leg of our chicken adventure to say the least.  I cannot wait for "the babies" to come.  My husband tolerates my new found obsession, although he has also expressed a passing interest in them as well.  His portion of my obsession includes the unusual looking breeds though, not the utility breeds.  My son doesn't really care at this point, but he is an infant so I expect at a later date he'll show an increased interest.

The plan is to house the new babies in a large rubber maid container left over from packing our house up and moving.  It measures approximately 36"x24" with a heat lamp suspended above it by a chain so as to not cause a fire hazard.  I am expecting the following breeds & quantities when my order comes April 21 - 25, hopefully the sooner the better, for their sake as they will be healthier the quicker they come and the sooner I get them into their new home.

If the rubber made tub didn't work, another option would be to use a dog crate, or even a cardboard box as the container for the brooder.  Pretty much anything would work as long as you can contain the birds, suspend your heat lamp, and have easy access to refill their food & water. 

 Another idea to help keep the chicks warm, as well as minimize their stress & anxiety, was posted to the "Fresh Eggs Daily" facebook page today.  I may have to try this, but you take an old feather duster, cut the handle down and suspend it above the ground so the new chicks can "hide" under their "mom's" feathers.  I like this idea.

 For those who are wondering, this is my current order from the poultry company:

1  Buff Orpington
2 Australorp
3 Silver Laced Wyandottes
3 Black Jersey Giant (hen)
1 Black Jersey Giant (Roo)
3 Light Brahma

All of these breeds are supposed to be gentle, with some, like the australorp becoming "broody" every so often.  This term means that the chicken's hormones shift so she believes it is time to raise some offspring.  The human version of this would be "baby fever" or the like. 

Because I have ordered these through the mail, there is the risk that some won't make it.  Sometimes shipments get bashed around a little too roughly, sometimes the chick just isn't strong enough for transport and they simply die from the cooler temps or the stress of being shipped across the country, but I realize the risks and am hoping it all turns out O.K.

Here are some google images of what the breeds look like.

 Buff Orpington - Hen
 Australorp - Hen
 Jersey Giant - Roo
 Jersey Giant - Hen
 Light Brahma - Roo
 Light Brahma - Hen

Silver Lace Wyandotte - Hen

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