Happy Peeps

April 19, 2011

Chicken Sex(ing)

Well, turns out my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend purchased unsexed chicks (not separated by gender); so, not only do we have far too many chickens for our requirements, I found out that he did not purchase all hens. And it became very apparent within the first few weeks that we have more than a few roosters. We cannot have roosters unless we want to start a neighborhood war the likes of the Hatfields and McCoys. So honey-do is going to try to get rid of the roosters to some farmers he knows (keep your fingers crossed, please).

If you purchase your chicks at a farm store the way he/we did, you most likely will get unsexed chicks. You may not even get the breed you think you're getting. It's safer to order them online from an established company such as Murray McMurray Hatchery or mypetchicken.com; you can order the breeds you want and the sex you want. There's an interesting little video on Youtube of "Dirty Jobs'" host Mike Rowe learning about chicken sexing. Chicken sexers work at hatcheries with huge tubs of chicks in front of them all day; they pick the chicks up one at a time, squirt all the poop out of them, and look inside their vent to determine the sex. I'll leave the rest for you to discover when you watch the video. Just make sure you log onto Youtube first--- don't put the words "chick" and "sex" into your Google toolbar and expect to get only websites about chicken sexing and hatcheries.
Since getting rid of the roosters in our bunch will deplete our little farm, we ordered some new chicks (HENS only) online, and this time I was able to pick out the breeds I am interested in: Silver Laced Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, and Buff Chanticler. Go ahead, google them, you know you want to!
 Oh, and I was just kidding about the ex-boyfriend. I think I'll keep him around for a while. He is, after all, the father of our chickens. :)

April 16, 2011

Gotta Vent?

So, one of the first things I learned from the smattering of magazines I went out and purchased on chickens (yes, they publish magazines on raising chicks -- more than one! amazing) is that baby chickens can be a bit fussy to maintain. The premise isn't difficult: feed them a couple times a day (we do first thing in the morning and again after work) and that includes a special mix for baby chicks you can purchase at any farm/feed store like Agway, Tractor Supply, or locally here, Country Max. It also includes plenty of fresh water, and for both of these I purchased specially made feeders designed to keep the chicks from soiling the water and the food -- because they will walk over, on, around, above, under, any which way they can. In this way they are very entertaining and comical to watch. I've spent hours already watching these little gals/guys. But one of the things you have to watch out for is that their "vent" doesn't get clogged up with poop. You basically pick them up and inspect their behinds; the little hole there which spews all that lovely chicken manure (good for your garden) is called a "vent" and if you can't see it because it's crusted up, you have to try to get that cleaned off pronto, or they will get very sick and die. Well, this happened with one of ours and since I had already read about it, I sprang into action. I brought it upstairs and wet a paper towel and just kept moistening and moistening and moistening again....it wouldn't soften. I started picking at it a little and moistening, and picking at it, and moistening, and finally that worked, but it left my poor little chicky with a pink, swollen vent that was visibly throbbing. When I placed him back in the box with the others, they ran around pecking at it like it was some kind of worm on his butt. I felt horrible. Thankfully, they lost interest and he lived to tell about it. So yes, I saved a chicken's life. (No applause necessary; a gift card to Country Max would be nice though.)

April 15, 2011

They were just there one day, in my basement. Well, not exactly. My boyfriend (if you can call him that, we're far too old for such names, but to just say "partner" isn't very clear, and I run the risk of this "chick" blog  masquerading as something it isn't). As I was saying, my 50-something year old live-in partner for life (is that better?) decided to surprise me with a box full of baby chicks and two ducklings a few weeks ago. He sent me to the basement under the guise of getting dinner (what else? chicken) from the freezer. And of course I stumbled upon the live ones at my feet, in their own little avian tanning booth. And fell in love with the little fuzzballs immediately, allergies aside. They were so soft! And cute! And dinosaur-like!  (Really -- examine their legs and beaks closely sometime; you'll feel as if you're looking at something ancient).
It's not as if I had never seen chickens before.....my grandmother grew up on a farm, and created her own hobby farm as an adult, which we would visit annually. Here we came into close contact with all the barnyard animals; if we weren't 'friends' with them by the time we left, we at least had a healthy respect for them.
The chickens held some kind of fascination for me the older I got. I was drawn to, and collected for some time, anything with roosters or chickens on them. It was as close as I would get for years. I had imagined that some day, I would retire to a small farm like my grandmother had done, and have a few hens and a rooster, and a garden.
But 18 chickens??!!  And two ducks??  What was he thinking???  And upon getting them, we had no idea of the sex of these little warm fuzzies.
To be continued....