YAY! I was so excited this morning when I woke up to a new voicemail from the post office saying that the chicks had arrived. The boys and I just couldn’t wait, so we ate a quick breakfast and then drove down to the post office in our pajamas and winter gear. I’m sure we made quite a sight, not to mention the fact that we got there early and my 3 year old had to pee. I hope nobody noticed me coaxing him to pee in the snow on the side of the post office. Teehee.

Anyway, the chicks are looking content in their new home. We got 18 Buff Orpington hens, 1 Buff rooster, 6 straight run (mixed sex) Sumatras, and our free chick looks to be of the Tophat variety. It’s such a goofy looking thing – it looks like a chick with a yellow cotton ball glued to it’s head. One of the Sumatras didn’t make it already, but I’m keeping a close eye on the rest to make sure they’re eating and drinking enough. I’m not sure why the one died, perhaps from the stress of shipping as it happened within an hour of getting the chicks home and into their box.

What’s that? You want to see what they look like? Of course I took pictures! I’m like a proud mama today. And my 3 year old is like a proud little daddy, he’s so concerned about the chickens. As soon as we got home he wanted to help teach them how to drink and eat, and he was very upset when I told him that chicks don’t need toys to play with. He had a whole stack especially for them. Ack, here I am jibberjabbering when all you want to do is look at pictures. Well, here they are!

Our "freebie" chick - note the crazy poof on top!

The little black and white one in front is a Sumatra. The fluffy yellow one behind him is one of the Buffs.

My husband brought home a nice big box from work for them. They seem to like it.

So those are some of the pictures. There’ll be many more to come as these little fuzzballs grow. I thought about taking pictures of my seed-starting venture as well, but at this point it’s kind of boring. Nothing has germinated/sprouted yet, so it’s just a bunch of peat cells with dirt and seeds. My son wanted to plant something too, so I gave him some mystery flower seeds. They were already starting to sprout, but now that they are in damp soil they are just taking off. It is very bad to be jealous that mine haven’t sprouted yet? I’m so eager for spring to get here it’s not even funny. Alas, spring looks to be far off yet. We just keep getting more and more snow, now that winter is almost over. Grr.

For anyone who is curious, here are a couple smaller details of our chick handling process. They are in a box that is about 4’x2′ with no top. The walls are about 1.5′ high, that way the kids can all see in without tipping it. The red heat lamp is hung about 3′ above the chicks. That took a bit of finagling to get the right temperature by adjusting the light. I just kept moving it up or down until the chicks seemed content to spread out. If they huddled under the light it was too far away, so I moved it closer. If they avoided the center of the box then it was too hot for them, so I moved it further up. They’re spread all over now, and the temperature looks like it’s around 95 degrees. I’ll adjust it as needed in the coming weeks. When we first brought the chicks home, the first order of business was teaching them how to drink and eat. I removed one chick at a time from their shipping box, dipped it’s beak in the water, then paused a moment to make sure it understood how to drink. If it didn’t immediatly start dipping it’s own beak I would teach it again. Most of them got it on the first try. Once all of the chicks were in and the water trough (which has small aquarium marbles in it to keep the chicks from drowning themselves) was clearing out, we introduced food to them. The Buffs are natural eaters. They all fell on the food as soon as they saw it, so that part was fairly easy. The Sumatras, on the other hand, were a little wobbly on their feet and didn’t seem to grasp the idea of pecking. Plus, being so much smaller and ganglier than the Buffs, they kept getting plowed over by the bigger birds. So my son and I took turns holding the little ones and getting them to eat out of little plastic cups by themselves. It seemed to work, except for the one that died. The Sumatras are looking a little better now that night has fallen. At first they were all so weak and wobbly I thought for sure none of them would make it through the first few hours. Now they’re pushing right back and shoving their way to the food and water through all of the Buffs. I hope they will be okay tonight. I know I’m going to have trouble sleeping. I’ll be tossing and turning all night, probably sneaking downstairs for a peek every few hours. They’re just so little and dependent right now. I guess the mothering instinct kicks in even for critters.

I’m laughing to myself right now, because that last line just reminded me of a conversation I had with my best friend this morning. She asked how many roosters we have, and I told her that we really didn’t know with the Tophat and Sumatras, since they are all straight run. But, I told her, we only want two. One Sumatra rooster, and the one Buff. Any others will end up in the frying pan. Nice mothering instinct, huh? It would be just our luck if we ended up with all male Sumatras. We’re hoping to be able to breed them, but reproduction won’t take place without at least one hen!

One thing I forgot to mention is the liner of the box they call home now. We are using old rag towels. I will change them out once or twice a day, depending on how messy they become. I know a lot of people use sawdust, kitty litter, torn newspapers, straw, or wood chips, but we chose towels because they are reusable and will help to prevent splayed legs in the chicks. As an added bonus, most of our towels are boring monotone, and have been washed so many times that they don’t have any stray fuzz for the chicks to pick at. Chicks will really try to eat anything, and I’d rather not have them filling their gullet with pieces of straw, sawdust, or fragments of newspaper. I’ll let you all know how it works out, but so far it’s looking like towels are the way to go. When we eventually transfer them to the coop, they’ll have straw. By then, they’ll know what to eat and they’ll be strong on their legs.

That’s it for now! Toodles!