Saturday, April 24, 2010

We're Growing Up

As I'm putting new eggs in the incubator in preparation for a new hatch I thought you might like a gander at how the chicks have grown.
Hopefully the Black Australorp rooster has done his job since I'm needing the small chicken coop for the baby chicks and I wish to can the 3 mean ole roosters (literally). I'm not spending a summer with three small children and 3 mean roosters. Funny thing is the Buff Orpington who was nice in the small coop became a terror in the large coop attacking me frequently. The mean Black Australorp rooster in the small coop hasn't given me a moments problem in the large coop. That's why I'm saying, I hope he did his job and was aggressive enough to have his way with the ladies. Since the eggs are going into the incubator in a few weeks we'll find out. Cross your fingers.
I need the coop the 2 roosters now reside in. It's the one Kirk built for me for Christmas for my baby chicks. It's portable though heavy since Kirk insisted it be made of metal. "I'm not going to build another one for a long time.", was his excuse. I know it's because he prefers to work with metal and not wood. It's sturdy alright but a real tug of war for me to pull around. The wood that it replaced was nice and comparibly light. The small coop is designs so we can fit it in the back of our pickup and transport it from the corrals to our backyard where we set up a light inside the coop part for heat at night when the chicks are small. When the chicks have all their feathers is when they graduate to the small coop. Really it was too small for the roosters but I had no choice this year and this year that will be remided. I've part of the materials for another medium sized coop which I will build this summer. When the small wood coop that the metal one replaced was out in the backyard one spring a Prairie Falcon spied the chicks inside. It swooped down and landed a short distance from the run then moved forward in the same hesitating manner as a cat does when stalking its prey. Then when it pounced, it's tallons grabbing a hold of the chicken wire as it reached for a baby chick. Facinated, I watched the process from the kitchen window just above the little coop knowing the falcon couldn't get to the chicks.
You can see that the chicks now have their wing feathers and many are sprouting up down their backs so it won't be long before they are covered in adult like feathers.
I kind of miss this cuddly cute stage especially since the chicks are at a real nervous stage. It must be instinct for they aren't like this when they are younger and a month from now but they scatter and squack at the least commotion. This Black Australorp is stretching, a sure sign of good health, and they do this often when they are growing. You can see this chick has far more feathers than the Buff Orpington because they are a fast maturing breed of chicken. This means the hens are usually the first to start laying in our coop.
It's at this stage that they become far more aggressive too. Thinking they are pretty hot stuff, they fly across the cages crashing into the others as they try out their new wing feathers. Yup, those quiet little chicks are a thing of the past. The pecking order has also started with mock fights particularly amongst the males.
How can I tell. Experience more than anything for I could check their vents to look for the sex organs but the developement of the combs is a good indicator. The males grow much earlier and faster than the females. Pea comb fowl are harder to tell than the floppy large combs of other breeds. Yup, those pea combs can fool you. That happened to me last summer. Brought a white hen, I mean rooster home to the backyard and low and behold that hen began to crow early one morning at 4:30. He lived until 4:45. We live in town you know and I'd thrown a few young hens in the garden to rid of grasshoppers. I brought along the misfit, a pea comb, a thick neck, strange bodied chicken I hadn't definitely hadn't ordered from the hatchery but it hitched a ride anyway. I never did figure out what kind of chicken it was. Okay, yes, a rooster but I mean what breed it was. I hadn't ordered any white chickens so at first I thought they made a mistake and threw in a white Wyadotte. I had my freebie that the hatchery always throws in. It was a Polish chicken with a top hat. A male of course. They never give you a hen. They also threw in a couple extra males of the breeds I'd ordered roosters in. Males being a lot harder to sale than females in egg laying breeds. Anyway, last year was the year the hen crowed.
Hopefully, in a week or week and a half the chicks will have all their feathers. It's getting a might crowded in their cages. I did not expect so many eggs to hatch, 33 out of 35 is awesome. The cages weren't meant for quite so many little bodies. They'll be okay, it's just for a short time and then they'll have room to roam. When they leave the cages, I'll have just enough time to clean everything up good for the next hatch. Then I'm done. No more hatcing. Butchering chickens is not my favorite thing, especially since I have to do it myself. Kirk will do wild game, beef, lambs, pigs, but NOT chickens. They stink. Not that the other animals don't but their is something extra smelly about chickens.

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