The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

New additions to the flock

Cat-proof brooder

Four day old chick
This has been our chick's home all week.  (The fencing on top is to keep out the cats, who were very interested in their new housemate.)  I've kept the chick in the house mostly because a lone chicken is a lonely chicken, and I wanted to be able to talk to it and keep it company.  The chick and I have really started to bond, which is a bad thing since I don't know whether it's a girl (and will stay in our flock for a couple of years) or a boy (and will grace our table this fall.)

Holding a chick

Ecoglow brooderMeanwhile, I started doing the math and realized we might not have enough eggs this winter if I didn't act fast.  Most chickens start laying when they're six months old, but if they reach the critical age late enough in the year when the light is beginning to fade, the hens will hold off until the spring.  We barely had enough eggs this winter with our current, aging flock, and we definitely need more layers for the winter.  So I decided to take a gamble and buy some local Black Australorp chicks to keep our homegrown chick company and give us some definite eggs this fall.

Sleeping chicks

Rooster through fenceWhy is it a gamble?  After perusing Craigslist across a four state area, the chicks closest to our homegrown chick in age were two days younger.  That sounds like nothing to us, but chickens mature so fast that two days of chickhood is closer to two years of human infancy.  And chickens are mean, picking on smaller and weaker flockmates relentlessly.  There's a chance that our older chick will beat up the new chicks and we'll have to separate them.

We moved our homegrown chick to a fenced off part of the chicken coop Thursday evening, introducing sixteen youngsters at the same time.  The newcomers were a bit chilled from their journey and immediately crawled under their Ecoglow brooder to take a nap, while our homegrown chick went crazy exploring his new habitat.  After a while, a particularly perky Australorp came out to join him, and our chick did peck at the youngster a bit, but not so much that the two couldn't eat at the same food dish.

Black and white chicksIt's too soon to be sure that the newcomers will get along with their older "sibling", and I'll check on the flock several times today to make sure there's no bullying going on.  If all goes well, we'll raise the chicks together until they're old enough to easily sex, then will give our friends five of the pullets to expand their flock.  The cockerels will go in our bellies, and we'll keep a couple of hens to try out this heirloom variety in our pasture.

Our chick is off to a healthy start with clean water from our POOP-free chicken waterer.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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the widdle Austrolorps are soooo cute!
Comment by Jennifer Fri Apr 22 09:28:27 2011

Awesome, you got Australorps!

Mine are getting fairly big now - I think I can identify the boys from the girls, but they're not crowing yet so they still have some time. I'll be keeping one boy and all the girls.

If yours are anything like mine, I think you'll love them for their free-ranging ability. Of all my chooks, the Australorps range the furthest from the pen during the day. I feed them in the morning and leave the pen open for them to free-range, and they often don't even bother with my food. They just head out looking for the good stuff. I find them all over the yard through the day, and they really seem to dig and forage well.

I'm very interested to hear how yours do over the next 6-12 months.

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Fri Apr 22 09:31:05 2011

Jennifer --- I know!!!

Darren --- It was partly on your recommendation that I decided to go for them. I'm already excited by their foraging ability after just a few hours in the coop. Their first night, one came out to run around and found an ant carrying away a piece of chick feed. Granted, he didn't catch the ant, but he tried his darnedest. :-)

Comment by anna Fri Apr 22 09:34:09 2011
Will you try to hatch some more eggs, or are you done with hatching for a while since you have 16 new chickens?
Comment by Heather Fri Apr 22 09:41:46 2011
We're definitely going to hatch another couple of rounds. Last year's 25 broilers were just about enough to make it through the year --- we still have two in the freezer --- so we want to freeze another 25 chickens this year. We also want to completely replace all of the hens in our current flock, preferably with their own children, and add in a couple of broody hens. So, we need to raise at least 30 chickens this year, which could be who knows how many rounds of hatching (depending on our hatch rate.) Also, we're giving away five pullets from this batch, so make that 35 chickens we need to raise this year. We'll be busy!
Comment by anna Fri Apr 22 11:29:08 2011

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