Last night we went to a neighbor's house to pick up some chicks. The opportunity to pick up some new ones simply fell into our laps, and they were free. Since we've been having a run of going down on our chicken numbers, we thought we'd take our neighbors up on their offer. They had heard of our coyote attacks, and hand wanted to help us out.
They let their chickens roam free around their yard as well. They don't have a coop, though. The chickens just find their place among the other animals in their barn. They don't feed them. The chickens simply pick up the scraps that the horses and cows leave behind. They wanted a rooster, and that's where the "problem" started. They got a big, black rooster and named him "Obama." Well, Obama got to work, and now every hen in the place is either sitting on a big nest of eggs somewhere around the farm, or has 11 or 12 little chicks running around underneath the hen. They estimate their chicken count is somewhere over a hundred now, but they're not quite sure. The reproducing is getting kind of crazy, and they were eager to hand us over as many as we wanted. We settled on "10."
Collecting them was a group activity. I stood by our dog kennel with Solveig who was a little unsure of this whole process. Lena donated her crate for the transport of the chicks. Then our neighbors and Knut and the 3 older kids climbed over straw bales, and moved around rakes and tried to catch as many chicks as they could. Actually, with the kids around it didn't take long at all. Our neighbors were impressed with their ability to catch chickens so easily.
The offered to give us a mother hen as well, so that the chicks could run free around our farm as well without much oversight on our part. Knut and I debated about that. I wasn't sure how the mother and our hens would get along, and I worried for the safety of our chicks around our larger hens with no experience with young. Knut said he had no idea what would happen if we just threw a new adult bird and 10 little chicks into the coop.
In the end, we left with no mother hen, and just the 10 chicks. We're keeping them down in the barn, contained in a horses' watering trough. The heat lamp is up, and Silje already checked on their food and water supply this morning.
The chicks are at the "ugly teenage" stage as I call it. Their down is falling off, and feathers are gradually filling in. They're all black, as they're all the daughters of "Obama" although the breed of their mothers are unknown, but my guess is various colors of Americaunas. I'll have to look up a picture of Obama the Rooster on the internet, and see if I can get a good guess at his breed.
I should take some pictures in our dark barn of them under the heating lamp, but I haven't yet. Honestly, they have some work to do. They show signs of "wildness" in my opinion. What I mean by that is I've found that with many of our local friends who have chickens don't handle them a lot, and the birds pick on each other so much. They peck out each other's feathers and get sores.
Do you remember our friend who accidentally gave us 3 of his roosters, and he had 3 of our hens, so after they were a few months old we got around to switching them back? His chicks were handled maybe once a week, and all of them were missing their neck feathers. This was a great animal guy too, and he tried to work on them, but he had an overcrowded coop. We got them all tamed again, except Princess got the brunt of the bullying, and we had to take some extra steps helping her along.
Well, all of these chicks have missing neck feathers. Upon closer examination, Silje said "ew...what's wrong with them?" Now, I am in no way saying that it's abnormal for this to happen, or it's the fault of the owner, because that's not true. This happens all the time, and I would go further and say it happens most of the time when you have a huge group of chickens together. I just like my chickens with all their feathers so we work with them. We hold them a lot, and feed them from our hand as much as we can.
We'll probably have to get out the vinegar again, and douse a few chickens who can't seem to get out from under the bullying. My goal is to get this brood of chicks in tip top shape before we introduce them to the coop girls. Chickens hate seeing any weakness, and will attack it with such hatred. I can't let these little chicks meet the big girls without all their feathers. I'm afraid it would be a disaster.
In the mean time, the barn is the cool place to hang out these days. Those 10 chicks only have to share it with broken snowmobiles, some horse stuff and a lawn mower.
Sorry no pictures yet. I'll get on that...I promise!