Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chickens through the ages (or days, really days)

We received our current set of teensy, tiny little (and normal sized) chicks on March 25th, 2013. They were about a day old, and I took pictures:

This is a bantam Aurucana chick. See the adorable little cheek puffs and beard? Adorable. 

how is this sideways?

A bit about the chicks we received (numbers here): This one, while I know that it's an Aurucana and a Bantam, might be either a rooster or a hen, we won't know until it either crows or lays an egg. Crowing, because we live on a scant acre in the city and have neighbours we would like to continue having a courteous relationship with, will be a death sentence. So as I look at these little peeps I encourage them to be girls. 

That's the deal with farm animals, the males are largely superfluous eaters that are culled as soon as identified. What we farmers (full scale, urban, hobby or any other type you can think of) are interested in is largely what the females can provide: Babies and the byproducts. For chickens this clearly means eggs. Don't need a rooster for that. Chickens will lay eggs without one. And these girls will. Sorry dudes. That freezer related post will be very sad. 

On to happier thoughts. If (please) this chick is a girl she will lay blue/green eggs. This is why these birds are also sometimes called Easter Eggers (side note: this is not 100% accurate, there are several different breeds that are sort of mashed together, but I'm not a breed expert and have to defer to them for accurate identifiers and for my little inner city backyard flock that is not going to go to shows I don't care all that much). Because it is a bantam chick (they are about 1/4 to 1/3 the size of a normal chicken) her eggs will be smaller as well. So I am in fact looking forward to small, greenish-blue eggs from my tiny chickens.

Here's a size comparison, bantam to normal sized chick, same age:

That right there, by the way is another Aurucana, next to a Black Jersey Giant. They start out normal sized and then just keep growing and growing and growing until they are the largest chicken to be had. These guys lay large brown eggs. 

I completely spaced taking any pictures of the Barred Rocks (also known as Plymouth Rocks, mine are the stripy, black and white kind), so take a moment and try to imagine that black chick you see in the picture above with a little white dot on the top of her head. The Rocks and Giants we have are all girls, so no worries there.

Here's the other kind of bantam we have:

See those fuzzy legs sticking out? This chick (be a girl!) is going to feather out to be a poofy ball of feathers, including the feet. And these guys lay small eggs, too. I think right about September I'll have to do a post about the 9 egg omelette : D

Here's the deal: Having our own chickens is not the cheapest way for us to get eggs on the table. And it's certainly not the easiest. Part of what we are doing here at Pinch Manor is not just about bang for buck, even though that is important, but about quality. I mentioned in an earlier post that by slashing away at our budget and trying to be more self-sufficient we have found a lot of things that we enjoy doing. Having chickens is one of those. They are fun, not all that hard to take care of and provide us with delicious eggs that are better than anything I can buy, along with the firm knowledge that these are happy, pampered, healthy chickens. 

I'll do a post about the how tos and approximate cost of raising these chicks to laying age and an amortization of how many eggs I will have to get out of them before we are in the black for them, but if I am completely honest, I have already gotten enough laughs out of these little fuzzballs to make up for the $45 our electric bill jumped from running the heat lamp for a solid month. They play keep away with each other, they cuddle, they fluff up at each other, they fall over and pretend it didn't happen, they are simply adorable and we don't get that from a box of grocery store eggs. Not to mention that these gals lay eggs that are so much better than what I can buy that we have practically stopped eating eggs since our flock was killed last year.

I'll leave you with a pic of sleepy, day old chicks, basking in the glow of the heat lamp:

Look for more chick pics and info on how to raise them, I am completely overwhelmed by 'teh cute' right now.

Happy Pinching

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