Monday, April 25, 2011

Meet Tara

While I can tell our four chicks apart, I imagine they just look like dark colored balls of fluff to everyone else. As their momma I feel a need to remedy that situation. How can people not recognize my little chicklets? So in this post I will describe Tara in some more detail and I will do so with her other feathered friends soon.
Tara. A mostly black fluff young chick with white spots under her eyes, a white tail end, and white fluff and feathers at the bottom of her wings.

Tara will one day grow up to be a bantam Barred Plymouth Rock hen. Basically, she will be a smaller chicken (1/3-1/2 the size of a standard chicken) with pretty black and white almost striped pattern on her feathers

Tara is our explorer. She is the trail blazer of the four chicklets. She was the first to use the larger water dish, the first to eat the food, the first to try to fly (which was a completely failure and resulted in falling flat on her chest and beak), and the first to successfully use a perch. When we initially brought Tara home she was recognizable as the black and white fluffy chick with the white spots under her eyes. She now also has a beautiful set of white feather at the lowest part of her wings. She is growing quickly, with feathers replacing fluff at an astonishing rate.

Tara standing on her perch. The few white feathers on her wings are visible here.  The other three chicks are in the background eating and Merrill is stretching one of her legs as she leans down for a snack.

Their first weekend

Our chicks are 7 days old. They grow up so fast!

This weekend was a series of first events for our baby chicks:
  • the removal of a top layer of newspaper meant the first time on bedding and also meant a lack of reading materials for the little peeps
  • the start of feather growth mixed with very adventurous chicks meant the first awkward failed attempts at flight (no one thought to explain to them that chickens are not meant to fly across their brooder box)
  • a fake branch added to the brooder box resulted the first failed attempts at standing on a perch -- basically they would jump up and then immediately awkwardly fall off
  • one day after the perch installation was the first SUCCESSFUL extended rest on a roost/perch
The four chicks on their new brooder floor of aspen shavings. Henrietta is in the process of digging a hole down to the newspaper and is getting shavings into her grit and is even tossing them up onto Willow.  This digging is serious business!

Henrietta, Merrill, Willow and Tara met several new people this weekend. They were clearly not as excited about these meetings as the humans were. People: Oh my goodness! Look at the fluffy adorable chicks!! Can I pet them? Can I hold them? So cute!!! The chicks: Not more of these tall creatures... Seriously? Why do they all keep picking us up? I will peep at you if you touch me. We were comfy right here and we don't want to move. I'll peep. I'll do it!! You think I am not serious? PEEP CHIRP CHIRP PEEP PEEP.

Extra human attention also meant time for extra treats. Overall the chicks enjoyed their finely chopped up hard boiled egg. Unfortunately, one of them decided that it was a fun thing to stand in rather than a food item. It was not intended as a toy, but at least that meant the treat was not ignored. Sadly, not all the moments with human visitors are pleasant. The four chicks were blissfully oblivious to the scary moment when one of my parents left the door to their room wide open. That mistake was just asking for one (or all three) of our house cats to wander in and meet the baby chicks and I cannot imagine that animal introduction ending happily. I quickly closed the door as soon as I realized that it had been left open and no animals were harmed in what will now be called "the incident".
Henrietta standing in her treat of chopped up hard boiled egg. Tara is attempting to eat some of it, but Henrietta's rear end is firmly blocking the way. Willow is pointedly uninterested (she refused to even look at the egg!)  while Merrill was pretty meh about the whole situation. Merrill was more interested in water than in a food treat.

This weekend was the chicks first time on a floor of aspen shavings rather than newspaper which meant that Henrietta's favorite activity was scratching in those shavings in search of food. I assume she is looking for bugs or worms. I don't know how to explain to her that all she will find is a layer of newspaper under those shavings. Perhaps I am wrong and she is actively trying to uncover the paper. She might miss reading the fake headlines from The Onion newspaper. Perhaps the other chicks tell horrible jokes and she is looking for something amusing. But from my point of view she is just kicking shavings into her water dish, her food dish, and her bowl of rock grit. I am constantly taking soggy shavings out of their water and redistributing their floor cover. Why does this momma have to clean up after the mess left by those little peeps? Can't they just learn to clean up after themselves? Every time I go in to fix things, Henrietta comes over and digs another spot down to the newspaper layer. Who will win this war? Who will be more stubborn? Will there be a flat layer of shavings on the bottom of the brooder box or will there always be spots of newspaper showing? (for the record, I vote for Henrietta)

Tara standing firmly on her perch as two of the other chicks stand in the background.

So now it is onto week 2 for our little chicks. Hopefully they will stay healthy, happy, and adorable! They are soon going to enter an awkward half fluff/half feather stage. I will be missing these fluffy little peep days soon.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

First full day

Our little chicks have now spent their first full day in their new home. After the initial loud peeps and chirps of the first few hours they calmed down and accepted their brooder box. The girls became calm, quiet and made contended sounds instead of stressed out chirps. They just needed some fresh food, water, and a warm place to call home.
The 4 baby chicks as found first thing in the morning. They were sitting together warm and cozy in front of their water dish.

Much to their dismay I woke them up this morning when I entered the room. Darn you momma hen! We were napping, why did you wake us up? *chirp chirp* Henrietta, Merrill, and Tara quickly ran over to the water dish for a long drink. Willow, the most stubborn of the little chicks refused to get up from her nap.

Henrietta, Merrill, and Tara all drinking from the water dish as Willow sits back with her eyes closed. Why, oh why, are we interrupting her nap time with these mean photos?
All 4 chicks at the water dish. Tara is attempting to stretch out a leg (it is morning after all and she had just woken up, it is the perfect time for some morning stretches) but Henrietta is shoving through the pack to get to the water dish. Poor Tara fell after Henrietta pushed her way to the water.

After a nice long drink, the chicks awkwardly walked over to the breakfast table for some yummy organic chick starter. I promise, it tastes better than it sounds. At least it must because the little fluff balls love it! They eat it, they kick it out onto the newspaper, they pick at it there, and they even scratch in it. Willow eventually joined them but only after she had about 3 more minutes in the warm glow of her heat lamp. The early bird catches the worm, but since she doesn't need to hunt for her food she was in no rush to make it to the breakfast table.
Henrietta, Merrill, and Tara eating out of the temporary feeder. It is a little cardboard box lid filled with their yummy organic breakfast. Tara was picking out the corn pieces and attempting to gobble them all up before anyone else found them first.

After a long drink and yummy meal the chicks spent the rest of today learning how to stay steady on their wobbly new feet. They are much better than they were last night and have been running around the brooder box. Sadly, much of the running has been away from their momma hen. The 2 barred plymouth rock girls (Willow and Tara) are relatively affectionate. They like being pet and handled. The same cannot be said for the 2 golden laced wyandottes (Henrietta and Merrill). They still run away when a person's hand is in the brooder box. We are hoping that they will become more accepting as the days go on. Within the next few days we will bring some treats for the little peepers in hopes of teaching them that human hands are good and are not there only to lift them up into the air and check on their health condition. This momma hen wants to make sure they are healthy but she also wants them to be happy little chicks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Welcome the new peepers

Say hello to -->
Willow, Tara, Merrill, and Henrietta (whose full name is Henrietta the Official Hen of thanks to a friend of ours).

Close up of all 4 baby chicks in their brooder box. The 2 barred plymouth rock which are black with white spots are on the left (Willow and Tara) and the golden laced wyandottes which are black with golden spots are on the right (Henrietta and Merrill).
Henrietta was the first to understand the concept of water. We dipped each of their beaks into the water but she was the first to go and drink on her own. She is also the first of the hens to use the temporary water dish as a bath. 
Henrietta taking a bath in the temporary water dish (an overturned tupperware lid) as the other chicks watch her.

We currently have the main water dish and a smaller temporary set up of an overturned tupperware lid for filled with water. The chicks were having trouble staying steady on their feet and found the overturned lid easier to drink out of than the larger dish. Once they stop being quite so clumsy that will be removed.

Our cats are rather confused by all the peeps and chirps coming from the closed off guest room that is housing the brooder box. Hopefully they will not try running in there one of the times that we enter the room. The baby chicks are not cat toys.

In case you were wondering, the chicks are currently living on The Onion newspaper. We want our chicks well read and enjoying the fun parts of life.

Delivery date (maybe)

The baby chicks were scheduled and guaranteed to arrive by noon today. At noon there was no word of the baby chick arrival at the post office. That is when I started to worry and so far it has been a stressful experience for me. After several hours of phone calls, including ones out of state, the chicks were finally located... sort of. Right now they are in the state and within a 100 mile radius of their new home. Hopefully they will get here tonight and we will be able to bring the chicks home with us. The post office has several notes saying to call me the moment they arrive and I believe every person at that post office now knows about me and my live animal delivery. I imagine they will go home tonight and tell their friends and family the story of an anxious woman calling them frantically trying to locate her 4 "lost" baby chickens. Will they be delivered today as expected? I am not sure, but I am hopeful.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Garden work

This weekend greeted us with beautiful weather. We are expecting severe thunderstorms tonight but all day Saturday was gorgeous and so far this morning it has been sunny, warm, and wonderfully spring like. So that means it is the perfect time for some garden work!

My flame orange/red garden shoes on their cedar spike rests.

Our vegetable garden is a 4 foot by 8 foot raised bed. From that relatively small space we harvest a huge array of fresh produce in summer. Our fresh herbs have been living alone in another part of the yard in pots for years and years. But they will no longer feel alone and separated in their pots. They called for their freedom from tiny pots and we listened!
A 4 foot by 4 foot raised garden bed eagerly awaiting herbs.

Because we love our raised vegetable bed, we now built a 4 foot by 4 foot raised bed for our herbs. Our basil, cilantro, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, dill, and chives will find a new home this spring in their own happy raised bed. Sadly, the mint stands alone. It will remain in a pot so it does not spread and take over the whole raised bed. Poor sad mint :-(