8.28.2013 Chickens New and Old

Yesterday, my new laying flock arrived.  Well, in six months or so it will be my new laying flock.  There’s just something about a brooder full of fluffy, new born chicks.  They’re kind of like a seed collection.  So much promise.

I ordered 25 female chicks from McMurray Hatchery.

5 Pearl White Leghorns – A lightweight white bird that is the standard in the egg factories.  Leghorns have a reputation for being flighty, but so far, they are the boldest of the chicks.  When I go sit with the babies, they are the first ones out of the corner to come over and see me.  They are supposed to lay large white eggs and do it almost daily and nearly year round.

This yellow ball of fluff will grow up to be a lean, white egg laying machine.

This yellow ball of fluff will grow up to be a lean, white egg laying machine.

5 Araucanas – These will be my second round of Araucanas/Easter Eggers.  They lay green or blue eggs.  I had quite a few of these in my original 2010 flock, but most of them were murdered in a dog attack when they were just a few months old.  3 hens survived but as a group they never laid well.  So earlier this month, I brought them into the coop for individual interrogations.  After a week under the lights, two hadn’t lain a single egg and they got sent off to freezer camp.  So I have one remaining and she lays about 4 eggs a week.  She’s also the head enforcer in the flock.  Although, they aren’t prolific in the egg laying department, customers do enjoy the novelty of green eggs, and I like looking at their silly little sideburns.

Araucana or Easter Eggers come in several colors.  My chicks seem to be on the brownish side of the spectrum.  As they grow they develop what I call sideburns.  Makes them look like civil war era generals.

Araucana or Easter Eggers come in several colors. My chicks seem to be on the brownish side of the spectrum. As they grow they develop what I call sideburns. Makes them look like civil war era generals.

5 Australorps – I had a few of these in my original flock too.  None of them made it past the dogs.  I am looking forward to seeing these girls grow up into iridescent black birds.  They are supposed to be big and docile and great layers of big brown eggs.

Looking a little bit like penguins, the Australorps are a little on the shy side.

Looking a little bit like penguins, the Australorps are a little on the shy side.

5 Red Stars – These little girls are supposed to grow up to lay lots of large and jumbo sized brown eggs.  I got an extra one from the hatchery.

Red Stars are also called Red Sex Link, meaning that you can tell their sex simply by their coloring at birth.  In this case, females are ginger colored, males are paler and more yellow.

Red Stars are also called Red Sex Link, meaning that you can tell their sex simply by their coloring at birth. In this case, females are ginger colored, males are paler and more yellow.

5 Cuckoo Marans  – This breed originated in France, looks a bit like a Barred Rock (or a chicken in a houndstooth suit) but lays a very dark, almost chocolate colored, egg.

The Cuckoo Maran chicks look a lot like the Australorps except they all have white spots on their foreheads.

The Cuckoo Maran chicks look a lot like the Australorps except they all have white spots on their foreheads.

1 Extra Mystery Chick – She may be a Silver Penciled Hamburg.  She’s a little smaller than the rest and if I’m right in her breed identification, she’ll be a good layer of medium sized white eggs.  But I suck at chick identification.

Noticeably smaller and more gracile than my other chicks, this little girl may well be a Silver Penciled Hamburg which are described as

Noticeably smaller and more gracile than my other chicks, this little girl may well be a Silver Penciled Hamburg which are described as

So, that’s my new flock.  27 little girls.  And they all made it through the first day on the farm.

Out in the pasture, Thundermuffin is totally tail-less, a full three weeks ahead of last year.  The molt is in full swing.  The egg count is dropping almost daily.  Last week, it was 9 or 10 eggs a day from 31 hens.  This week, 6 seems to be the magic number.

So the chicks will spend the next four weeks in the coop and then I will probably move them out to spend some time with Ophelia, before winter really sets in.  That will give me time to finish my interrogations of the old flock.  My plan is to cull them down to 15 – 18 hens and put them under lights for the winter which ought to encourage them to lay.

When the new flock begins dropping eggs on a regular basis in January or February, the remainder of the old flock, the bulk of which will be into their third season, will go off to freezer camp.  The old gray Araucana and Momma Orpington will probably get a pass.  They are all that’s left from my original flock, so there’s a bit of sentimentality on my part.  Maybe I’ll also keep a Dorking hen or two, to keep Thundermuffin company, and two or three Speckled Sussex hens from this year’s hatch.  Between Thundermuffin, and 0012 and Stupid and Mannerless (now, creatively renamed 0013 or just 13 for short), the new flock will have adequate manly supervision.

That’s my plan.  Wonder how long it will take before it gets derailed.


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