Part of our triumphant return to blogging is that we wanted to blog a little about us. About things we liked to do, when we were not being Photoshop ninjas or out doing photo sessions. It gives us a chance to share who we are and what makes us tick.
Usually when I write this blog, I write it as both Crystal and Rachel, but for the At Home portions, we'll just be posting as ourselves. So in the case of today, Hi, I'm Rachel and I'll be your blogger today.
I am not quite sure how all of this started. I think the more kids I've had (and I have 7), the more I have gotten interested in ways to be a little more natural. I've gotten more and more mindful of what we're eating or buying or wearing, etc. I got into cloth diapers for real (I'd dabbled off and on) a little over a year ago. We love to grow our own garden and have fruit trees. But gradually, the desire to have backyard chickens has been sneaking up on me. Yes, I admit I love animals, so the idea of so pretty chickens wandering in the yard appealed to me. And then the lure of multi colored eggs? Yes, please. But the real drive came from the idea that I could know exactly what I was feeding my chickens and I could know that our eggs were nutrient-rich, and also free from lots of junk. Studies have shown that chickens that are able to free-range produce eggs of VASTLY greater nutritional content than those who are not allowed that.
So, about a month ago, we took the leap. I will probably do a few blogs detailing the journey, but this is how we got started and what we have learned (and what others could learn from our mistakes.)
I had been researching chickens for awhile before we went out and got our chicks. I had a vague idea about what needed to be done, but I really just didn't know how it would all play out. But one thing I did know, with so many little kids in our house, I needed to have chickens with good, docile temperaments. There are quite a few that are really sweet, but we walked into IFA that Friday afternoon, determined that we would be leaving with some Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks and at least one Ameracuna. Well, it didn't turn out quite like that. The Amerecuna's were sold out. So we went back the following Monday and picked one up. (Actually...that's not quite true, we discovered that many feed stores sell "Amerecunas" that are really sweet mutt chickens called Easter Eggers. No big deal to me, but good to know!) Why did we want these specific birds? Buff Orpingtons and Barred Rocks are well-known as very sweet chickens that behave almost like pets. And the Amerecuna is also known to get along well with humans AND it lays blue eggs. Yeah, pretty tempting.
So, I got home from the feed store with my chicks, their starter feed, some probiotics and electrolytes for their water, and a heat lamp for their brooder. I got everything set up and stuck the chicks under the heat and gave them their food. They were pretty peppy and ate and drank right away. I did check all of the chicks immediately for what is called "pasting up." Chickens have one way for things to leave their bodies. They lay egg and do...other things...through their vent. As chicks, this can get caked over with droppings and the chick can quickly die if this is not attended to. Two of our chicks had mild pasting up. So I had to clean them up gently with warm water. Chicks have to stay warm. Since they have no feathers, only down, they can chill quickly. So I worked gently and carefully, but quickly and cleaned them up and then blow dried them. I was worried how they would react, but on medium heat and low air, the chicks LOVED the blow drier. They fell asleep immediately. It was great.
Here were the chicks on their first night home. (Minus my Easter Egger, since she didn't get home until a few days later.) I learned quickly that newspaper should NOT be used in the chicks' brooder. It can cause splay leg, so that was changed out for old towels quickly. They seemed much happier with that too.
Here's Lucy, the day she joined us. She's established herself as the head of the pecking order, if you can't tell from her cheeky look here.
Baby chicks brooders (our brooder is just a plastic rubbermaid container) need to stay at 95-100 degrees for the first week. After the first week, you can start slowly dropping the temp by 5 degrees a week. They will need to stay under a heat lamp (especially if it is not warm outside) for about 6 weeks, which is when they will be fully-feathered. It seems amazing, but in just a few weeks, these tiny little balls of fluff were more like teenage chickens. They grow so quickly. We've made sure they have fresh food and water available at all times and they are eating machines.
The kids all got to picks a name. Actually they all suggested many, and I picked my favorites. So we have (starting from the top and going clockwise): Goldie (a Buff Orpington), Lucy (and Easter Egger), Juliet (the Barred Rock on the bottom), Stella (the Barred Rock on the top) and Caramelina (the Buff Orpington looking the wrong way!)
And a final image to make you laugh. The girls think I am their momma hen.