Spring. Finally. It’s the middle of May and the homestead is once again teeming with new life: seedlings, flowers, green grass, the thrum of insect and amphibian lust, and, most importantly, baby chickens.
Despite my son’s waning fascination with trains, these three also have Thomas and Friends namesakes. Molly is the yellow Buff Orpington, who was the first to figure out the roost. She’ll be intelligent, all feather and no fat. Belle is the one with the goth eye liner, a Silver-Laced Wyandotte whom I am told will be the big-boned bully of the flock when she comes of age. Emily is the wee brown lass, a Buttercup, who will be gentle and dim-witted, much like our other beloved lighter-bodied breed, Millie the Araucana. Once they are all laying, we’ll have three beige eggs, one white, one brown, and one green. It should be quite the palette.
Now, if you recall, even with started pullets we ended up with a dude last year, Rosie the Roosterer, so this new Buff Orpington was free from the farm in exchange for their error. However, there is no sex guarantee (is there ever?) with day-olds, so we are sending massive feminine energy into their cardboard box because there is no returning a rooster this time. We have a 90% guarantee of their ladyhood, but there is no real way to determine sex at this stage, especially if they look like this one.
OK, so those are not true likenesses. (Portraits by Nate Wellin of Spelling Dog Gallery)
So we will watch them grow, quickly, and thrive. They have to be kept at about 90° for several weeks, so we have an infrared heat lamp above the box, affixed to a beam so the heat doesn’t come close to the cardboard. Food (Blue Seal’s Home Fresh Starter Medicated Meal) and water are on the floor of the box, which is covered with the same pine shavings with which we line the coop. Nate built the cutest roost for them out of a narrow dowel, and even a ramp leading to it in case they couldn’t figure out how to perch.
They’ll have to be kept inside for about four weeks, and then we should be able to bring them outdoors. It will be summer by then and warm, though they’ll be in that awkward teenage chicken phase of losing baby feathers and growing adult ones, their voices cracking, their hen hormones raging.
Since we can’t immediately integrate the flocks, Nate is going to section off part of the run for them, as well as build another mobile run, like we did with the other three hens. I’m not sure where their coop will be at this point, but it will have to be in the garage as well until they are the same size, or even until they are all laying, and they can share the big coop. Apparently the best method is to just put the three new hens on the roost in the big coop at night, and when they wake up in the morning the three older hens will think the three newbies have always been there. Chickens are that open-minded. Or small-minded…
Anyway, we are loving holding the babies or watching Chicken TV as they fall asleep every ten minutes on their feet, slowly falling face-first into their food or into one another’s tail feathers, or snuggled on top of each other in the corner as the peepers outside sing spring songs to their new mates and life begins anew.