The chicks are 3 weeks old today, and we gave them their second backyard outing, this time for a whole 30 minutes! They loved it, especially being hand-fed worms and bugs by the kids. They discovered that “Capture the Worm” is a much more rewarding game than “Capture the Paper Towel”. Fluffy surprised us by being so assertive, she’s usually the shyest and most reserved. I guess bugs and worms are highly motivating for her. They are getting so many feathers! Cleo still seems to be a bit behind in growing hers, and also seems a little smaller than the rest. She must be a late bloomer. Jonah says, “I’m going to miss their fuzzies, but their feathers are very pretty,” and I agree.
The chicks had their first outing in the backyard today. Only for about 15 minutes, as they need to work up to longer periods of time outside and also grow more feathers before they can really withstand the weather, but it was a fairly warm day, so we gave them a taste of the great outdoors. They were a little bewildered at first, but soon began to enjoy the taste of freedom, and the hidden treasures (worms and slugs) in the grass. They had a little help from Jonah, Mae, & cousin Calum, of course. It was also fun to see their feathers and colors in the sunlight. The boys’ combs are starting to get red!
The chicks are 2 weeks old today so we celebrated with corn and spaghetti noodles. The kids had lots of fun pretending they were worms. Their feathers started popping out on their necks today, and Cleo and Gloria have been competing for my attention by flying to the top of the brooder if I’m holding the other one, so I have to put the first one down to catch her. Gloria especially has been wanting me to hold her lately. I’m getting a soft spot in my heart for that little girl. I’m typing one-handed now so I can cuddle her with my other hand. Reminds me of when my kids were babies and I did everything one handed.
Gloria and Cleo have both flown to the top of the brooder a couple of times during the last 2 days. I wanted to see what they would do if they actually got a chance to stay up there, so I put down some pillows in case of a fall, and got ready to catch them. Gloria took the bait, and really didn’t know what to do once she got perched up there. I rescued her when she started to look off balance, but she didn’t try it again for the rest of the day, even though she had plenty of opportunity. A little too scary after all? All of the chicks are now getting feathers on their backs, especially Fluffy, and the 2 cockerels (boys) are getting distinct combs on their beaks. My daughters friend came over today, and we fed them out of our hands. Cleo couldn’t decide whether to eat out of my hand or ride on it. I also filmed them settling down for a nap together. I think it’s hilarious how they all try to get comfortable and can’t fall asleep until everyone is. Tomorrow they are 2 weeks old! Maybe we’ll give them a special treat to celebrate. Some corn maybe? Or spaghetti noodles? I hear they get excited about that because they think it looks like worms.
The chicks started a spontaneous game of Capture the Flag today. They would tear off pieces of paper towel, then run around with it while the others chased them and tried to take it away. Too funny! I guess they are getting their exercise. I wonder if they are keeping score?
Hold the buffalo sauce, please. Yesterday, Cleo tried to fly the coop! She was about 1 inch short of the top. I had ordered a lid for the brooder and it came yesterday, apparently just in time. Their wings are growing very quickly. Fluffy’s and Gloria’s are the longest and fullest, but Penguin’s are also getting quite long. And they are all starting to get feathers on their shoulders as well. Last night I dreamed about them chirping, and was awakened to loud chirping. It totally freaked me out. When did the get so loud? Did they escape and get upstairs? But when I went to the living room I discovered it was the guinea pigs! They can sometimes chirp like birds, and this sounded just like the chicks, but twice as loud. Crazy!
The chicks are enjoying their new enclosure (or I should say brooder, to sound like I know what I’m doing just a little bit) and we are too! It’s so much easier to keep clean and they are enjoying stretching their little wings and seeing more of the world. Sometimes they still get a little insecure, or bored, or just in need of mama hen time and will gather and start chirping loudly until we come into the room with them. I captured that on video tonight. We’ve also discovered a less startling way to pick them up… chick elevators! If we hold our hand open on the ground near them, they will sometimes walk onto our hands and we can slowly lift them up that way. It requires a little patience, but it’s pretty rewarding as a more peaceful way to pick them up than just grabbing them. Jonah and Mae had a little too much fun with the video camera tonight, but we were laughing so hard, we just had to include that as well. I think Jonah is embarking on a film career.
Today was a big day for the chicks. Their temperature can go down to 90 degrees, they are now considered less susceptible to illnesses, and we moved them into their new enclosure. We thought they would be very excited about all of the extra room, and fascinated by the hay (no more changing paper towels 3-4 times a day!) but we didn’t anticipate that their biggest thrill would be in seeing the outside world from their enclosure. They are so curious about everything, this totally threw them for a loop. They tried flying out of it right away, and squeezing through the bars, but they quickly realized this wouldn’t work (thank goodness). But they spent a lot of time up against the edge just looking at us and looking around, and when we left the room, they would start crying really loudly until we came back! We ended up having to eat dinner in there, just to calm them down and reassure them. It seems like they are getting adjusted, though, and the hay provides a lot of interest, not to mention a softer place to sleep. It’s also clear that they will be much easier to photograph and interact with now that we can get down on their level.
A lot has happened in 4 days, and I’m having way more fun than I thought I would, even more fun than the kids! I wish I could just watch the chick antics all day long! They are definitely getting bigger, growing their wing feathers, becoming more adventurous, and one even started crowing! I couldn’t believe it, since I thought they didn’t do that until 8 weeks old. So I researched it and found out that they sometimes try crowing as early as 4 days old. In the process, I think I also discovered their breeds as well as their sex. We’ll see if I’m right, I hear that you can’t know for sure until they either start laying eggs or crowing for real, but here’s my best guess: The little crower is one of 3 Black Star chickens, and you can tell the boys (cockerels) from the girls (pullets) by the white spots on top of their heads, the girls don’t have them. So I think Toothpick and Penguin are going to be roosters, while Gloria (the other Black Star) is going to be a hen. Our lovely Cleo (named by the elementary class that hatched her) is a Brown Leghorn, Those girl chicks are distinguished by the dark stripe on their heads, which she obviously has. Our beautiful golden Fluffy is a Rhode Island Red (the father of them all is a Rhode Island Red) whose pullets have a little brown spot on their heads, which she does. Also, I’m noticing that the girls are all smaller and more docile. An says that is sexist, but look how they just step right on poor Cleo and push her out of the way when they are settling down to sleep! I’m so excited! It looks like we are going to get our 3 hens, one of each color! Here’s a video mash from day 6, you can see that they really don’t want to stay in their changing box anymore, they keep trying to fly out of it, and I took a video of them eating, and I actually was able to catch Toothpick crowing, as well as a final shot of them sleeping, which always cracks me up, how they just collapse face down whenever they fall asleep, sometimes even in their food.
Mae’s 5th birthday was on Friday, and Childpeace Montessori School’s class had just hatched 2 dozen chickens that needed homes. We practically jumped at the chance to give her such a special birthday present, with very little knowledge of what raising chickens would be like, but with the expectation that it would be a great experience for the kids and hopefully a lot of fun! The city only allows up to 3 hens and no roosters, so we took home 5 little chicks, hoping for at least 2 hens and with the promise that the farm would take the roosters, and we quickly scrambled to find them a suitable container, feeder, waterer and heat lamp (they like their air temperature to be about 95 degrees the first week.) The kids were indeed thrilled, and the chicks couldn’t be cuter! 3 are black, one is light brown, and one is brown striped like a chipmunk.