I don’t know about you fellers, but to me, one of the things that spring brings to mind is hatching chicks, newborn lambs and little babies on the farm. We are getting that lovely rush of warm winds and a few really nice days here and there. Yesterday hit 62 degrees! Oh, it was glorious! (Pictures to follow… another post!)
But the best part? We’ve got chicks hatching! And will be ordering chicks as well! That means spring to me.
This cute little gal was one of the group just born. Her name is Windy. She’s a little half Marans chick. We believe she is a daughter of either Silver or Rooben, from the little coop. We tried to keep all the eggs straight, but well, this one, we couldn’t remember if it came from the free range flock or from the little coop. Regardless, all our roos are Marans roosters, so she’s a halfie. We adore our home grown chicks. They just are so nice, imprinted on humans from the beginning so that as they grow, they are calm around us and we can handle them easily. I still get a kick out of the fact that I can walk into the little coop and pick up just about any of the chickens in there, even the roosters. Now Turkey Girl is another story, but she came from a cramped pen of 20 birds as a young adult, so she’s not quite as fond of us two-leggers.
Doesn’t every farm dining room look like ours? I think it’s fine. We hardly use the table as a real dining room anyway. Just got out of the habit with all the years without a formal dining room. Since it’s right in the middle of our house, it’s a great place for the babies to be for a few weeks until they feather out nicely and can move outside to the big girl brooder. They are just little peeps right now and need to be watched over. And talked to, learn about our world and our sounds, smells and activities. I think it’s important for them. And being right in the middle of the house, we can keep a good eye on them all the time. When we’re walking through, we stop and check on the little dickens. I think it’s sweet when they stop their little chick antics and look up at you and seem to acknowledge the smiling faces that baby talk to them and say hello.
Durn it… the kitties have gone broody…
These two, our old kitties, they do love chick time. They like warming their tushies on the incubator top. I try to discourage it, because I don’t want them bumping the very delicate temperature gauge. But however, if given the chance, they will be there, helping to hatch the little chicks. Hey, a heartbeat is a heartbeat. They say the little eggs know the heartbeats of their other hatchling mates and their mamma, so I suppose having a kitty heartbeat as a mamma is better than none! I wonder if that is why a lot of our homegrown chickens don’t mind the cats and kittens. Hmmmm.
It’s been a kind of rough week so far for me, particularly. Being pretty sick on Monday has given me a few days of feeling off kilter. Slowly starting to feel a little more human, forcing myself to get back into regular eating to make things a little smoother. It’s always kind of rough when you get your system disrupted, and then getting back on track has to be a little more effort than just laying there and withering away! (g) I think that applies to all sorts of systems and routines, not just personal ones.
I have to say that I’m looking forward to this new year on the homestead with such excitement and anticipation that it’s hard to sleep at nights. Last year was just such a flurry of change, excitement and challenges, it was hard to find a rhythm to our lives. Every day was an adventure. Still is, but thankfully, it’s finally starting to get a little routine to it. I don’t have to remind my children about chores, in fact, for the most part, they don’t even seem to think of them as chores. It’s just part of their day. I’m looking forward to taking over some of my chores that Maggie has been helping me with, mostly the hoof stock care. The bitter cold does not agree with me some days and she’s been a blessing for sure. Both my girls have matured so much this year… I’m so thrilled. In good ways, not the no fun grown up ways… they get seem to be “getting it”. Slowly… I’ve been noticing that they do things without being asked… and that just thrills me so much. And they are getting their two cents in, adding their opinions to plans and ideas. Even coming up with their own! I love it. I’m so excited about Maggie’s woodworking/sign business plans and her egg and turkey plans. We are going to the livestock auction this weekend to sell a few birds and hopefully get some turkey poults for her new venture. We didn’t go last weekend because it was just SO cold and windy, raining, no fun to stand around for hours in that. Jessy is working on some fun photography projects and that makes me happy. She’s a wonderful photographer and I want her to really develop that…
I think these little guys are so adorable, especially when they sleep at night. They all just sort of conk out, each trying hard to stay awake but finally just falling over and snoozing. Little Windy is the one on the bottom to the left, with her little wings and foot out. Maggie says it’s like being at a slumber party… just about the time they all quiet down, one has to peep and wake them all up again! Finally, they just get so groggy, they flop over and lay in any manner of silly chick poses. It’s adorable.
We’re trying to determine the sex of this bunch of little peeps with two methods. One, you lay the chick in the hollow of your hand on it’s back. As soon as the little peep calms down, the hens will pull their feet up close to their body and the roos will stretch their legs outward. Sure, probably not a 100% but we have been noticing that they are consistent in this behavior from day to day… those that tuck, always tuck and so on.
The other thing we are doing is feather sexing. The new wing feathers of very young chicks are different. There are two rows of wing feathers that come in within the first couple days of life, and on the roosters, these feathers grow at the same rate. So when you look at a little wing spread out, the row of wing feathers will all be the same length. However in the girls, one set grows faster, so the wing feathers will be varied… one up and one down and so on. The cool thing, is that the feather sexing seems to support the feet tuck determinations pretty spot on! We might be on to something. Of course, we don’t mind either way, but it is nice to be able to tell potential chick buyers that we might be able to find hens for them. So many city ordinances prohibit roosters that it’s sad to have to be able to sort them out because our roosters are lovely and friendly! But they do crow…
This is little Stormy… she is the first true full blooded Marans chick to be born here with feathered shanks! She is a daughter of either Martha or Mabel, the two elderly fancy hens that I bought last fall. I suspect she will be a Blue Copper Maran like their daddy Bucka Roo. That is so cool. I hope she is a girl… she tested with the back method as a little hen, but she was just hatched and doesn’t have her wing feathers yet. My hope is that she is a girl so that she will lay us lots of lovely little feather shanked egg babies in the future! Only the future will tell.
We have about 8 more eggs that we’re waiting on, and although they are getting a little late, a day now, I still like to give them at least 5 or 6 days to make sure before we declare them duds. We’ve had pretty good hatch rates this go around, much better than the late fall attempt. We hatched out 6 Jersey Giant chicks for our neighbors and have hatched 6 of our own so far. All are doing pretty good. We have one little girl with some funny toes, and I think I’m going to have to splint them… something new for me but hopefully will help her to grow up good and strong, without a lame gait. It’s fairly common with some chicks to get these funny little crooked toes but a little intervention will help them grow nice and straight!