The Five Chicks that Started it All....
When we decided to get chickens, my first thought was to order chicks from Mypetchicken.com. We only wanted three. But the friendly neighbor we had gotten our doves from kept backyard chickens, too, so I decided to ask him for advice.
What a wonderful idea that turned out to be! Michael was raising chicks himself that spring. He was trying to breed a rooster quiet enough for suburban backyard, pairing a small Serama rooster with his assorted bantam hens. Michael asked if we'd like to raise some of his day old chicks? Yes!!! So he offered to give us the chicks from his next hatch: Spot, his d'Uccle hen, was sitting on a clutch of five eggs due to hatch in about two weeks.
He emailed one morning not long after that to tell us of a mishap. Spot had been scared off her clutch and before Michael noticed and resettled her, her eggs had cooled. He warned us that that we'd just have to wait and see if any chicks had survived. Only one chick out of the clutch hatched. So we brought it home, named it Billina (crossing our fingers about its gender), and proceeded to lavish her with our sole and undivided attention for two weeks until Michael had another clutch hatch. Here she is, all grown up:
Billina, the chick who lived....named after the talking hen in the Wizard of Oz books She's half Serama, half d'Uccle. From her d'Uccle mother, she gets a feather beard (instead of wattles) and just a few feathers on her feet.
Two weeks after Billina joined our family, one of Michael's Old English Game bantam hens hatched out a clutch. We brought home four more chicks to join Billina. These four were part Serama, part Old English Game bantams.
formerly known as Dotty
There was Dotty, named after my husband's favorite aunt. Dotty started growing a big comb and crowing, so Dotty had to be renamed Buckbeak (Beaky for short). Could we keep him? Roosters aren't legal where we live, and we had planned to give any cockerels back to Michael. But we had gotten attached to Beaky, so we decided to cross our fingers and become chicken outlaws...maybe we could mange to keep him? In the fall when the whole flock came down with fowl pox, Beaky developed the dangerous "wet pox" form, but we nursed him through his illness. He was so smart that he learned to open his beak to accept his twice daily antibiotic treatment.
Handsome, smart, friendly with humans and kind to his hens. Beaky had it all...as well as a pretty good volume crow that got us in trouble when he started really finding his voice in the spring after his first year. A neighbor complained...and Beaky had to go to a new home. We still miss him.
Martha grew into our largest hen, queen of the pecking order. That's Martha on the far right:
Martha and her sidekick, Pokey (to the left of her in the picture above) gave poor, gentle Billina a very hard time in the fall when they all became mature hens. Martha had a vindictive streak. She would chase poor Billina all around the yard, not content with Billina's submissiveness.
When we had to rehome Beaky, we decided to send a hen along with him to make his rehoming easier. Martha's bullying of Billina made her the hen we chose.
This is Pokey. She was the second largest hen before Martha departed, and ascended to the top job upon Martha's departure. Content with a peck or two to keep subordinates in line, she does not have Martha's mean streak.
The smallest of our hens is Chicklet, and she was the lowest on the pecking order. Here's Chicklet (in front) sharing a nestbox with Martha:
We need more chickens!
After regretfully giving away Beaky and Martha, we had only three chickens remaining. Not enough! So we decided to let our three hens go broody on some of their own eggs (fertilized by Beaky before he left), plus some pure d'Uccle hatching eggs we got from a breeder in Alvaredo. Soon we had...gulp...14 chicks!
Pokey and six chicks fathered by Beaky with our own hens
Chicklet and five d'Uccle
chicks from hatching eggs
Billina and one of her three chicks fathered by Beaky with our own hens
Of these 14 chicks, 7 turned out to be little cockerels, so we had to rehome them. We kept six pullets. From Pokey's clutch, here is Hermione and Ginger.
Ginger (named after the character in the movie, Chicken Run)
Hermione has tiny feathers on her feet which means she must be part d'Uccle, and thus Billina's offspring. She's the largest of the 2010 spring chicks.
Hermione (named after the character in the Harry Potter novels)From Chicklet's clutch, here are Flash and (Wrong Way) Scooter. They are our full d'Uccle chickens.
Flash (she's fast.....)
"Wrong Way" Scooter Scooter always seems to head the wrong way when I'm herding the chickens from pen to pen, and she also has a silly looking "cow lick" feather sticking up the wrong way on the back of her neck. The full d'Uccles are goofy looking and really funny.
From Billina's clutch, here are Glinda and Ozma:
Glinda (named after the character in the Wizard of Oz books)
Ozma (named after another character in the Wizard of Oz books)
Glinda has a beard instead of wattles, which means she is Billina's true daughter (part d'Uccle). Even though Glinda and Ozma are almost a full week younger than Hermione and Glinda, they are the first two of the 2010 pullets to start laying.
Long Live the (New) Queen!
After Martha's departure, Pokey was briefly the top hen. But when all three hens went broody and finished raising their broods and then rejoined each other, a nearly bloodless coup put Billina (!) in the top spot, Chicklet as No. 2 and the former queen reduced to third place. Billina is a benevolent monarch, so the flock is at peace.
The Boys We Had to Give Away.
Fowler, Nugget and Rocky were from Pokey's clutch. At four weeks old, Rocky was already squeaking out crows and chasing his sisters around trying to mate with them. Fowler was Rocky's side kick and backed him up when he tussled with the other chicks. Nugget and Fowler have feathered feet, which mean they are Billina's offspring (part d'Uccle).
Fowler (named for the character in the movie, Chicken Run)
Rocky (named for the character in the movie, Chicken Run)
Chicken Nugget (just a joke! He's much too small and too cute to eat)
Of the five d'Uccles hatched out by Chicklet, two definitely looked like cockerels and a third one was likely, so we rehomed all three.
Lightning and Zippy (fast, very fast)
Of the three chicks in Billina's clutch, only one turned out to be a cockerel, Lucky. It was very hard to part with him. On the day of his hatch, he was left behind in the nest (twice). I happened to be there when Billina led two already hatched chicks off the nest. I noticed two eggs left behind and thought they must be nonviable eggs. But when I went to remove them from the box, I noticed one had pipped. So I resettled Billina with her chicks back in the box and went away. I came back in about an hour to find Billina off the nest again, but the pipped egg had hatched. The chick was not even dry. I tried to resettled Billina back in the box but this time she simply wouldn't stay.
So my daughter and I took turns holding the chick we named (hopefully) Lucky in our hands all afternoon. We noticed its legs were very weak and I started worrying about spraddle leg. We are lucky to have a very good chicken vet nearby, Dr. Ahumada of A&B Animal Clinic, so we rushed Lucky over to the vet for a quick check. Nope, not spraddle leg, just weak from being so young. We slipped Lucky back under Billina that night as she settled in with her two other chicks, and by morning, Lucky was fine! He grew into a strong, lively little guy.
Lucky (saved from a certain death twice on his birthday, now enjoying the perks of being head rooster)Lucky, Nugget and Squirt (a young pullet from Pokey's clutch) went to the same family in Fort Worth that had adopted Beaky and Martha. We are told that Lucky is now the top rooster in their flock, romancing the hens. So he really is living up to his name.