The chickens have landed

The e-mail from Murray McMurray Hatchery came on Saturday. The chicks are in the mail!

They arrived this morning, as a 7:00 AM call from the local post office informed me. I lined the brooder, filled the waterer, switched on the heat lamp, and was out the door inside five minutes.

“Turn the seat heater on for them,” Kevin called as I drove off. Good idea.

The post office wasn’t open for business, so I had to ring the buzzer. The nice post office lady opened the door, and smiled when she saw me. Baby chicks make everyone’s day.

There were 29 when I got them home, but one of the Araucanas was wobbly and died in the first hour. The remaining 28 seem robust and active, so I’m hoping our casualty count will be limited to just the one.

They’re not all for us. We’re taking ten, and the rest of them go to three of our friends, two of whom are new to chickens.

It was a mere two years ago that we were the ones who were new to chickens, and I remember worrying. I worried that the brooder wasn’t warm enough, or was too warm. I worried that they weren’t eating, or weren’t drinking. Every time one of them took a rest, I worried that she was dead. I worried that we wouldn’t have the coop done in time.

This year, I am blithely unconcerned. Chicken-raising is an activity with a very steep learning curve. You learn way more going from no chickens to some chickens than you ever will going from some chickens to some more chickens.

Having done it once makes doing it again a whole lot easier, but there’s still plenty we don’t know. No matter how much you read, you only learn about diseases and problems when you encounter them. Each flock has its own idiosyncrasies, and your chicken know-how expands accordingly. We won’t make the mistakes we made the first time, but I’m sure we’ll find new mistakes to make.

Lucky for me. If I ever start getting good at what we do, I’ll have nothing to write about.

13 people are having a conversation about “The chickens have landed

  1. Love them! What kinds did you order? This is my first year too… we have barred plymouth rocks, salmon faverolles, and red star hybrids.

  2. I roasted some Araucanas we’d raised a few months back – they’re absolutely delicious!

    Unfortunately we only managed 1 hen and 3 roosters – good for the freezer I guess. The hen is quite a nice bird too, gentle and inquisitive. She’s called “Inverse-spot”, because the Silver Spangled Hamburg hen is named “Spot”.

    But last year we we hatched a bunch more Hamburgs (’cause they’re so preettty), these are all called “Spot” too. We like it confusing.

  3. We have a mixed flock. Barred rock, Rhode Island Red, Araucana, Light Brahma (because they have fuzzy feet), and a couple brown Leghorns so we can name one Foghorn.

    Paula — no new business venture. I think we just got a little carried away.

    Kingsley, you’re like that Dr. Seuss poem about Mrs. McCave, who had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave. But if all your chickens are named “Spot,” what do you call your dog?

    • The dog is named Rosie (or Rosey depending on who you ask). But she’s mostly deaf, and it’s pretty hard to shout “ROW-SEEEY!” Ok, maybe it isn’t. But mostly she’s called “Dog”, as in “OI DOG!”. When I was a kid, we had a pig called Peefa. But I expect everyone has a pig called that at some stage.

  4. Hoosierbuck says:

    Tamar-“Too Many Daves” is my kids’ favorite…Oliver Bolivar Butt. Gets ’em every time. 🙂

  5. Tamar,

    That phrase, “The chicks are in the mail!” is pretty close to the title of a book I enjoy, part of the series of anthologies edited by Esther Friesner. “Chicks in Chain Mail” (includes two favorite stories, “Whoops!” and the opening story, about an unfair and corrupt tax on brass bras.), “The Chick Is In The Mail”, “Chicks and Chained Males”, etc.

    Luck with the flock!

  6. Damn, I want some fuzzies. I am in the process of figuring out a coop, and what types of chickens do well in our weather. We are high desert, so we freeze, and burn. Any input on adjusting for outside temperature changes? Do you have a heat lamp in your coop for the winter? We do not (always) get snow, but we get a horrendous amount of wind and low night temperatures. Summer is a bit easier to handle, despite the heat. And what about the garden? Think my plants will be safe in pots (it is easier to manage water and use less of it)?

  7. There’s a farm not far from here (alas, too far for me to use it as my regular source of eggs) that has traditionally sold its eggs in mixed dozens: 11 brown, and one aracauna. Unsuspecting new customers are sometimes taken aback to find an “Easter egg” in the dozen. 🙂

    Wish I lived farther away from Annoying Meddlesome Neighbors, so I could have a half-dozen chickens. Home-grown are best, and the shells are better for pysanky. But I’m having fun enjoying yours vicariously.

  8. Hoosier – You show me the kid who doesn’t love Oliver Boliver Butt, and I’ll show you … um … my brother.

    Brad – I love a good digression!

    Brooke – Chickens are way hardy, but heat is tougher for them than cold. We don’t have a heat source in the coop, a decision I made after it occurred to me that my Great Uncle Frank, who had a subsistence farm in Minnesota, didn’t even have electricity in his house, let alone his chicken coop, and he would have turned over in his grave if I insisted on heating my chickens.

    We get temps in single digits, and occasionally below zero, and our chickens are fine, except for a frostbitten comb now and then (they recover). I think heat will be your greater challenge, and I’d look for birds that are heat-tolerant. Ask the people in your area which breeds are successful.

    A chicken will eat your plants if given half a chance, so you have to keep either the plants or the chickens confined if you expect to have both your eggs and your lettuce.

    Good luck! I hope you try chickens, and keep me posted.

    Stefka — I do love having home-grown eggs, but I feel compelled to point out that they taste exactly like the store-bought kind. Nobody, when blindfolded, can pick them out of a line-up. But it nevertheless is very nice to eat eggs from your backyard, courtesy of chickens who live a good life.

  9. For the record, I quote Too Many Daves frequently in discussions of variable and method naming conventions. You wouldn’t want to name a variable Oliver Boliver Butt, however.

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