Monday, March 30, 2009

Chickens have arrived!

At 6:30 this morning (on our day off), the Post Office called to say our chicks had arrived! They actually arrived yesterday and spent the night in the Post Office. Bill went out in the dark to the frosty car and brought them home.

They were all huddled together in a lump in their box, but everyone was ok after the journey from Iowa.

We took them out of the box one at a time and dipped their little beaks in water so they would start to drink. Eventually (after tasting the wood chip bedding) they found the food too.

The black ones are Barred Rocks. There should be 8 females and three males. They are an old breed and are good egg layers, as well as good for meat. They also brood and forage well and are cold hardy. So these we are keeping to be our farm chickens.

The yellow ones (there are 15) are Cornish X Rocks. They are meat birds and will turn about half the food they eat into delicious stir fry. Even though all the chicks are 2 days old, the Cornish rocks, or broilers, are nearly twice as big as the Barred Rocks. They are not particularly intelligent birds, and if we wanted to breed them they would be fairly useless. But, because we had to order 25 chicks (so they could keep each other warm during shipping) we have a small brood of these guys. In about 8 weeks they'll be 4 pounds and in the freezer.

While most of the chicks make sweet, soft chirping noises, one broiler has an ear-piercing churp. We have named him Thai Basil.

This lone ugly ducking is Fuzzy Longbottoms. S/He is a bonus rare breed chick, perhaps a Dark Brahmas.

The brooder box is kept at about 95 degrees. Every week we'll make it 5 degrees cooler until it's down to 70. In 3-4 weeks (or when Thai Basil's churping drives us crazy) we'll move the chicks out into the garage and eventually into their coop or the freezer. Until then, Bernie and Sugar will probably be sitting quietly together outside the chicken room door.

Random adorable chicken photos:


  1. Thats exciting - and the chicks are very cute! Did you build your own brooder box?

    Once your coop is built, will you have a fenced in area around it for the chickens, or will they get free roam of your yard during the day? How old are they before they start laying eggs? Are you going to butcher (does that term apply to chickens?) the cornish hens yourself?

  2. They're going to get several levels of containment. They'll have a small run that will be fully enclosed with chicken wire that is directly attached to their coop. At first, they will have access to this all the time, maybe 12-18 ft x 6 ft. They's also have a larger fenced in barnyard that will probably be ~ 3-4,000 sq ft. We may subdivide this area. This should be enough room for them to roam and find all the bugs they want. We'll be down to just ten birds by the time they're ready for that.

    I think the roasters are going to spend most of their lives confined to the garage.

    Eventually, we will fence in the entire field, and then they can roam around at will over about 4.5 acres. I am worried about predators though, so we are building several layers of protection. We have a lot of hawks, owls, raccoons, and coyotes.

    My understanding is that we should start to get eggs at 4-6 months. We'll see.

    Yeah, we are planning on butchering them ourselves. We already have names for the roasters, including:
    Parmesan, Cacciatore, Piccata, Marsala, Thai Basil, Gordon Blu, Kiev, A la King...!

    All plans subject to change of course, as we figure out if we really do know what we're doing. Hopefully we won't have to learn to many lessons the hard way.

    I think it is amazing that you can send 27 chickens through the mail in a box smaller than a shoebox. What a wonderful world!

  3. We didn't build the box. It is a 3'x 3' wooden crate that we found out in the garage.

  4. Interesting that you are naming your future dinners. I agree with Chris, they do look yumm-o!