(L to R) Fat Cheeks, Butter, Olivia, and Penny and Tagen in the background.)
In September of 2011, I called my husband from a local feed store and begged him to bring home 8 adorable chickies. He just sighed and said, "Sure honey." (Rarely says 'NO.' to me.) I picked 2 RIR, 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 Americaunas. One of the BO's died before we even got home, and we were left with 7.
Penny and Tagen in their bathtub "crib."
All the chicks spent the first 3 weeks of their life in our bathtub. My children loved hearing their gentle little peeps at night, and checking on them first thing every morning.
When they were a little over a week old, we started letting them have VERY supervised 'free-range' time. I found my new babies to be incredibly entertaining and could watch their silly antics for hours. (Especially when they would scratch in the dirt.) It was hilarious to me to see a one week old chick scratch around in the dirt. They just seemed too little to know how to do that.
'My 2 year old and her Pullet Collection'
We moved them to a brooder in our garage when they were 3 weeks old, and began construction on our dream coop in the middle of the wet, pacific NW winter weather.
My favorite chick, Olivia, ended up being a roo. We changed his name to "Ollie" and since I am in Vancouver city limits, we waited for him to start crowing, hoping he would be quiet enough to not bother the neighbors. PSH!
At 4 months, Ollie began crowing in the middle of the night. A lot. It gave me a lot of midnight anxiety, thinking a neighbor would report me soon enough, and I couldn't stand the thought of getting rid of my Ollie! Sure enough, the county showed up two days later to inform us they'd received a complaint and he had to go. My 8 year old was so sad he cried for a whole day. Ollie was crowing so much by this time, that I brought him inside to keep him quiet while we tried to find him a good home.
My daughter kept him happy while we went about our day and hoped for a response to our Craigslist ad...
...And he spent the remaining time in my unused fireplace...watching the activity, and staying quiet.
Ollie was quickly becoming a very handsome young rooster, and had caught the attention of another neighbor with chickens, who had an Uncle in need of a tough young guy to protect his 25+ hen flock. We reluctantly handed him over, and are relieved that he is doing so well in his new home with his new girls. (We get regular updates.)
While I was trying to take pictures of Ollie for my Craigslist Ad, the ever-curious 'Tagen' had to come see what the big black thing on my eye was.
Since we were now down to 6 hens, I started looking for a few pullets to get us back to our initial 8. A friend got me in contact with a friend of hers that had some Blue Laced Red Wyandottes she was willing to let go. I like a colorful flock, so I went to check them out, and came home with these girls: (+ 1)
These sure didn't look like the BLR I saw in Google images, but what did I know? They were pretty though, so I decided to take them home and ask everyone here at Backyard Chickens for help identifying them. The verdict was: BLR Splash, and the other 2 were Speckled Sussex. We named the 2 SS "Olympia' and 'Columbia' after local attractions my children saw at very young ages (Mt. Olympia and the Columbia River) and pronounced with such cuteness that I liked having a reason to hear it more often. We let my husband name the BLR, and he chose "Annabelle." Go Figure.
All of our hens free range on our 1/2 acre lot, and are fed organic feed and organic corn scratch as well as table scraps and plain yogurt (Their favorite!) I have also started a small mealworm farm so we can raise tasty little treats for them here at home.
Butter's "White Waddles"
Now for pictures of my individual hens!
As I mentioned previously, Columbia was given her name as a way for me to have an excuse to have my sweet little girls voice pronounce it more often. (They say 'Clem-bia"') Columbia was added to the flock shortly before she was 5 months old, along with her sister, Olympia. Columbia is a Speckled Sussex that gives us a medium sized pale oval egg almost every day. She is the first to come running to greet us when she hears the back door slide open...just in case we may be handing out treats.
Larkyn is our 9 month old Barred Rock hen. She is our flock leader since Ollie left us, and isn't the most social bird, as she is too busy 'disciplining' everyone. She is the most willing bird in our flock to eat out of our hands, and come when called by name. Lark (as the kids call her) was given her name because it has been a name I've had on my baby name list for 3 pregnancies which was always been vetoed.
Emma is one of our two Rhode Island Red's. She was one of our original chicks, and one of the most handled. She's a very docile bird that will squat whenever we approach her or attempt to pick her up. She is an egg-cellent (Sorry. Had to do it.) layer and gives us a nice fat brown egg daily. She seems to be a bit of a runt, compared to the other birds, and is probably lowest in the pecking order. Emma was named by my kids after their beloved Aunt Emma. (Who's personalities anything BUT resemble each other.)
Mertz is one of two Americauna hens in our flock. She was given the nickname of "Fat Cheeks" as a chick because of her classic muff...which seemed to be more prominent as a chick than our other Americauna. Mertz gives us a lovely greenish blue egg, with very faint speckling, 5-6 times a week. She was named after a patient of my husband's, who I was reminded of, for some reason, when I watched her in the flock. Mertz (the patient) is a small but very lively, 70-something year-old woman with a large amount of energy and determination. ...and since our hen is the loudest and most adventurous in the flock, but also one of the smallest...I thought the name was fitting.
Taking a picture of Olympia is very similar to taking one of a two year old. It is nearly impossible to get her to look at the camera, or stop pecking at the ground long enough to look up for a face shot. I whistle, click my tongue, stomp my feet, call her, slap the chain link fence behind me....she just pecks away. I sometimes wonder if she's deaf. The only way to get her attention is to throw something past her, like this orange ball. Then she'll look up, like, "Excuse me. What was that for?!"
Then she'll walk over to investigate the ball, and give it a few pecks before going back to her endless scratching.
Olympia is our other Speckled Sussex, which was added to the flock along with Columbia and Annabelle. She mostly minds her own business and seems to lay in her little dust holes in my flowerbeds and daydream, or sunbathe when she's not foraging. What a life.
Penny and Larkyn 'gargling'
Penny is our other Americauna, and to be honest, I often have a hard time telling Penny and Mertz apart. The only differences between them is that Penny has a darker, coppery color in her tail...hence her name....and her 'cheeks' are slightly less puffy than Mertz'. Penny lays green eggs, slightly lighter than Mertz' (shown at the bottom of the page) and was the first of my Americaunas to start laying.
Butter is my only Buff Orpington. I have always thought B.O.'s were such pretty birds and originally brought home 2 chicks, but I didn't hand pick my own babies and was given a sickly one that died before I got it home. So I was down to one. Butter has recently taken up permanent residence in the back corner of our empty rabbit hutch where she has decided to go broody and hatch her clutch of unfertilized eggs. Since she is our first hen to go broody at 9 months, I was fascinated, and wanted to let her sit on some eggs. So we picked up a few from some friends and gave them to her to hatch. She is currently on day 16, and doing a wonderful job of keeping her 4 eggs warm. She doesn't like visitors, of course, and won't even undilate her eyes long enough for a picture. :sigh: "We're leaving now Butter ."
This is Tagen. My incredibly inquisitive hen. She is always poking her beak into everything...the hole I'm digging in the garden, the open back door, the garage, the camera lens.... I often wake up to her poking her little head around the corner of my bedroom window from her spot on top of the BBQ, as if to ask if it's time for her corn scratch. She has been found on more than one occasion to be strolling down the hall inside the house, or walking about the kitchen after a door has been left open. She and her sister, Emma, are our most docile birds. Tagen was also named by my children after one of my best friends who my kids adore. I'm pretty sure Tagen is honored to have had a chicken named after her.
My son, with Tagen (above) and having a cuddle, (below)
We began getting eggs from all our girls (Except the Americaunas) when they were about 24 weeks old. I wasn't aware at the time who layed our first egg, but now that I know who lays what, it appears to have been Tagen, who let it drop right onto the poop tray one night while roosting. I've always imagined her being a bit startled after that first egg hit the deck and thinking, "What the heck was THAT?!" It seemed to catch her off guard since it was found laying amid the droppings....unlike all the other gals who layed their firsts in the nesting boxes like proper young ladies.
I was excited to be getting 5-7 eggs a day when the girls began laying at 6 months, but I was having a hard time waiting for the blue or green eggs my Americaunas were supposed to give me. It took nearly 2 more months for Penny and Mertz to deliver the beautiful eggs I had been waiting for. But it sure was worth the wait! I love the all the various colors in my egg basket. In fact, I was so excited about that first egg, that I found a little glass pedestal at an antique store and use it to proudly display my first green egg in my livingroom. I have plans of adding a Black Copper Maran to the family soon, for a nice dark chocolate egg to add to the mix!
Our coop design and building experience is (partially) documented here, on our coop page.
UPDATE!! (June 29th, 2012)
Butter has chicks!
(Born June 24th at 18 days)
I attempted to candle the 5 eggs I gave my Buff Orpington hen, Butter, on Days 6 and 11 with a homemade flashlight candler. I posted a couple of threads here on BackyardChickens expressing my frustration with myself for getting rid of a developing embryo when I thought it was a bad egg...and then my sadness at discovering that none of the other 4 eggs were fertile. Another member advised me to let the eggs be and wait until at least day 24 for them to hatch on their own. I took his advice, and when I went to feed and check on my hen, Butter, on day 17, I found one of the speckled green Americauna eggs we'd been given by a friend had pipped!
I was so excited, I could hardly handle it. Butter wanted to be alone, of course, but I wanted to go check on the egg every 20 minutes! After one last peek, I made myself leave the house and decide not to bother her again until the next morning. As soon as I woke up I rushed outside with my 3 pajama clad children close behind me and lifted up my clucking hen. There was a beautiful dark gray fluffy baby under her! AND another pipped egg!
Our Barred Rock/Americauna chick!
4 hours was the longest I could keep myself away from the nest after seeing that second pipped egg, and when I went back, she had just hatched. She was still wet and weak, so I peeked only long enough to see that it was a light gray/yellow chick, and let them have a little peace. (Butter was getting more and more irritated, and would start her little wail as soon as she could hear me coming - before she even saw me. Haha.)
After a day or two, I would stand motionless nearby and watch her interacting with the chicks. I'd never seen a hen and her chicks before, and was amazed at how she taught them and 'talked' to them. They were hiding under her when I brought them some chick starter. Butter took a bite, then made this distinct little call and both babies immediately popped out from under her and began pecking at her beak as she held the food for them to eat. The chicks would follow her beak around, and whatever she did, they would do. I noticed she would hold her beak in the food or water without eating so the chicks would notice and begin pecking at it also. They were a little slow to catch on to drinking from the waterer, so she would take a drink then slowly drip it out of her beak so they could catch the drops.
Finally, this little 2 day old caught on. Here she has her very first drink of water.
Butter was still sitting on 2 more eggs, that I was pretty sure wouldn't hatch. They had been the easiest 2 to candle and I could see the yolk floating around the last time I had candled them. Since I was pretty sure she would only get 2 chicks, I decided to try to get her a few more babies and trick her into foster parenting.
I took a trip to Urban Farmer in Portland and brought home the smallest chicks they had...a Salmon Faverolle, Gold Laced Wyandotte, Silver Laced Wyandotte, and a Bufff Brahma. I stuffed them under her a couple nights ago at dusk. She immediately widened her stance and puffed up a bit more with a "Oh! What just happened?!" look on her face, then settled back down. I checked on her the next morning and they were all sleeping quietly under her.
But when I brought them their chick starter and changed their water, Butter called to her babies...then acted alarmed by the two Wyandottes. She would 'notice' them every once-in-awhile and peck at them a bit harshly. Since she obviously did not approve, I moved them back to the brooder and carefully watched her with the other two. She was a little to rough with the Brahma a time or two - so off he went to the brooder as well.
But the little Faverolle she decided she liked. I noticed that the Faverolle acted more like her own chicks and responded to her little noises and stayed right with her beak, as opposed to the others, which just did their own thing. I imagined her thinking, "If you're not going to listen and pay attention, you're outta here!" PECK! Or maybe she just thought it looked like her.
I took her and her babies out to the yard today to explore. Here she is showing her very attentive pupils how to take a dust bath. (in a very small patch of bare earth.) The other hens came running over to take a peek and Butter squealed very loudly at one of my Speckled Sussex that got a little too close. When she squealed, all her chicks dropped to the ground, motionless and flat as pancakes until she called to them again after a minute or so.
I just shoved the other 3 chickies under my broody BLR splash hen who has been sitting on 7 unfertilized eggs for about 2 1/2 weeks. So far so good. I hope she likes them more than Butter. How horrible would it be to be rejected twice by the time you were a week old. Brutal.
I'll update on them soon!