I get an email in my inbox: Your chicks have flown the coop. I nervously wait for three days, constantly checking the tracking information with not a single change. Finally the call comes in early (the 6:20 AM kind of early) Wednesday morning and a woman says, "Your babies are here." I can hear them chirping through the phone line and that lump in my throat gets bigger. Who knew little balls of chirping fluff could evoke so much emotion and terror. I've given birth to two humans and have never once been nervous about caring for them. I guess my mothering instincts are good, but chicken on the other hand; I have no idea how to be a chicken. Will I be a good mommy chicken? Do I have to teach them to peck and scratch? I hop in the car and drive to the post office. I am met with another woman with the same look of happy nervous excitement on her face. She is also getting chickens I quickly learn (and she divulged they are in fact legal in our town...whoo hoo!). The post office worker finally brings out two boxes and we can hear the chirping getting louder. Now there are three women all standing around prying open the boxes to take a peek inside.
I rush my three little girls home, snap a few pictures and take a little video. All the while I keep noticing one of the chicks is not able to stand or pick her head up. I didn't have to be a mother hen to understand that something wasn't right. It took a few hours but despite my attempts to nurse her back to health, her little body finally gave up. I was quite surprised at how remarkably calm I was. Here was my first task at hand and I messed it up. But, they are chickens after all and there are lots of things that can go wrong. I scooped her up and quickly performed a little burial in the backyard, my oldest son watching from the window. Then I got right back to the two remaining and made sure they were going to be ok. * I write this after receiving three additional chickens today and after seeing their behavior, I can tell you that my first three were not in good shape when they arrived.
Our first two girls are Red Star chickens. From what I have read the red stars are very good egg layers. They will continue to lay through the winter, when most chickens will take a break. We named them, Sunny and Cara. My oldest son was instantly attracted to Sunny. She is inquisitive, nosy and loves to be close to us. She was the strongest of the three and seems to have risen to the top of the pecking order. Sunny chirped the whole first day home. Anytime I would walk away from the brooder she would chirp louder and louder until I would finally give up and walk back. I have a feeling she is probably going to be more like a pet then the others.
Sunny and Cara really took up most of my week but we were granted some beautiful weather this last weekend. We got a chance to clean up the backyard, throw down some extra wood chips, build and paint a coop, and I even got a chance to set up my garden beds to plant the cooler weather vegetables. We also decided to take a quick walk down by the river and I couldn't help but check out my ramp spot to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be. It took me a while to find them. I was beginning to freak out a bit but finally they appeared. The two pictured below are loner ramps, normally you find them in big clumps. They seemed a little small for my liking so I decided to leave them until this next weekend when we can enjoy them fresh on Easter Sunday.
* Yup...that's a bald eagle. You can find them in New Jersey believe it or not. They live close to our favorite spot on the river.
Coop building was lots of fun. If you are wondering where we got our chickens and the coop, they all came from My Pet Chicken. They allow you to ship a minimum of three chicks at a time and they have everything you could ever need to take care of them. And the place that I go for all my chicken information, recipes and general care is Fresh Eggs Daily. This site is a wealth of information on how to raise your chickens naturally. If you are seriously wanting to do this yourself, check out these two sites and read every bit of information you can. I still have a few finishing touches to make on the coop, but I will definitely share the finished product with you.
Our next three little girls arrived today, in the same fashion as the last bunch. Only I was a little more calm this time around. Maybe?
The reason I decided to order three more chickens is because they like to be in groups. Sunny and Cara seemed a bit lonely on their own and I really did start this adventure for the eggs (and the beautiful compost). Having only two chickens would cut down the egg production on the "homestead". Getting a few more would also help to keep each other company and more importantly warm in the winter. Since I already got two great egg layers I didn't really need three more great egg layers. I have always wanted to get chickens that lay different color eggs and now here was my chance. This time I ordered a breed called Easter Eggers. These girls have the potential to lay eggs that could be pink, green, blue, or brown or even white. There is no way to know what type of egg they will lay, and whatever color comes out will be the same every time. So fingers crossed that these three will lay a variety of different colors. They also won't lay as many eggs as the red stars, but this is actually a redeeming trait at the moment because I'm not ready to get into the commercial egg business just yet.
Oh..and these three are named Luna, Phoebe and Seline. Anyone know where the names come from? I'd be very impressed if you did.
We also tried to dye some eggs today. My oldest hiding in the back there is really into Easter. He told me today that he wants to wait up all night for the Easter Bunny so he can give him a hug. Probably because he was not interested in giving the Easter Bunny at the mall a hug...who would be though, right? I really wanted to try those "Natural" dyes out this year. They did come out really pretty. Unfortunately boys are not so much into pretty. They were quite disappointed that the blue dye didn't work. I think I need to boil the red cabbage a little bit longer next time. Overall, I really liked doing it naturally, but it was hard for the little guys. Each egg had to sit in the dye for a really long period of time. Not like the stuff in the box that works almost instantly. I'm not giving up though because they might enjoy this little science project as they get older, and I would love to experiment with more types of natural dyes.
And finally, how about those hydroponic tomatoes; they are just now starting to ripen. My son pulled the first one off proclaiming, "Look, they are ready!" Now I know you are wondering, "Do they taste as good as a sun ripened summer tomato?" Ehhhh...not quite. But for a homegrown tomato in the middle of a freezing April, they aren't too shabby.