Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Chickies Are Here!

I've been waiting for their arrival to post about my new venture.....hens. I've been wanting to get some sort of ground dwelling outdoor bird for a while to help keep the tick population down. We live in Connecticut, famous for the discovery of Lyme disease in nearby Lyme, CT. Jay has always boasted of the superior fertilizer created by chickens. For the past year, we've been getting our eggs from the Groton Family Farm where the red and black hens are so curious and cute. Knowing how most animals used for consumption are raised, I felt good about getting our eggs from happy hens who roamed a fenced in pasture. Jay always raved about how much better the farm raised eggs tasted. After talking to one of the vet techs who has chickens at Stonington Veterinary Hospital where I take the other pets and getting encouragement from Jay, I started looking into chickens seriously.

I found Backyard to have a lot of good information about the care and keep of chickens. I researched the various hatcheries as I couldn't find a local feed store that had chicks. Even the one hatchery I found located in Norwalk told me they just have the home office in Connecticut and the chicks all come from Ohio. It turns out most chickens are hatched in Ohio...who knew? Seems to be the central location for shipping but a lot of hatcheries have a minimum of 25 chicks per shipment.

My original goal was to have 3 hens, no roosters (yes they can lay eggs without a rooster). I learned about roosters from experience as a kid when I kept my horse at the neighbor's barn. The Burrell's had several chickens, Guinea hens and one rooster. Not only was I warned that the rooster may try to "flog" (attack) me, I found that they crow all day, not just in the morning. Roosters are beautiful, but loud and not for me.

The Meyer Hatchery could ship as few as 3 chicks, but recommended a larger number so they can better share body warmth. Chicks are shipped out the same day they are hatched because they have 72 hours of yolk stored in their bodies. After that time, shipping gets a lot more complicated because they have to eat so often. Seems cruel to a Maine Coon breeder who won't let her kittens leave before they are 12 weeks old, but hey, they are the experts.

After researching the breeds, I settled on 4 Americaunas, also known as the Easter Hen because of the blue-green colored eggs they lay. The Americauna is a multi-colored bird and supposed to be a friendly hen. I later added 6 Silver Spangled Hamburgs to the shipment because I was getting nervous that they may not all make it. Hamburgs are white with black-tipped feathers and lay white eggs. We wanted the chickens for bug control, eggs, manure and as pretty pets. Jay has been joking about naming them; Roaster, Fryer, Tender, etc. prompting Kelsey to adamently remind him that no chicken killing is allowed. Sorry, I couldn't eat something I named.

As I had to wait over a month for my chicks to be available (yes, there is a waiting list for chickens), I had time to read up on chicken care, gather supplies and plan for their brooder pen. They will stay inside in the brooder (a ferret cage I had in the basement) until they are about 5 weeks old. Then they will go outside to the chicken coop that Jay will build by adapting the fort side of the swingset.

My peeps were set to ship out on their birthday, May 26th. I had alerted the Ledyard Post Office to expect them but by 5 pm on the 27th, no chicks. I had stayed home all day awaiting their call. This morning at 7:00, Linda from the Post Office called to let me know my chicks were here! I plugged in their heat lamp to get it warmed up for them and rushed to the post office (about a 1 mile drive for us). Linda joked about me being a new mom, let me into the back and opened the peeping box to check their condition. All ten were alive and chickie cute.

So they are finally here. As I came in the door carrying my peeping box, I was followed all the way to the basement by a cat entourage. The only name Kelsey has determined so far is Foster, she's the blond Americana. I relate their colors and patterns to dogs and cats so the Hamburgs are the smaller, merle patterned chicks; like on an Australian shephard. Three of the Americaunas look like brown tabby colors. Foster would be a solid cream. I made sure the brooder is cat proof and have tried to explain to the cats that these are not toys. They do like the new entertainment though.

I know my family will now have fresh material for Jay...."Sharon always wanted to live on a farm, Jay."
"Be careful, not only does she love horses, but she always talked about wanting a Jersey cow too and you have the space for it."

Olivia and Kinsey check out the chicks


  1. I used to work with a lady who kept chickens. She kept them in a fenced-in area, but outdoors and she said it was great for getting rid of bugs. The downside was that they attracted every predator in the area. Of course that was in Texas and not Connecticut, so there might be a difference with more people about.

  2. Predators are definitely a concern in Connecticut, especially since we live in a very rural area. Red tail hawks, foxes, coyotes, fisher cats, bobcats, raccoons, possums, owls....all live in the woods surrounding us. The plan is to build a completely enclosed run attached to the coop that is predator-proof and let the chickens roam when we are outside to supervise.