Posted by: A Part of the Solution | March 22, 2010

The Chickens are Coming!

We selected a Heritage American breed, the Wyandotte, with a great record for egg laying. No, they don’t lay seven or eight eggs a week like those poor confinement-raised fowl. But they will, one day, give us three or four medium brown eggs a week per bird. And they’re gorgeous birds.

The Wyandotte is a voluptuous bird. It is a bird of curves and swells and rolling topography. And the feathering is amazing. Ours are silver-lace Wyandottes. They’re the foundation of the breed. All other markings on Wyandottes are the result of more intensive selective breeding down the line (like how we arrived at Apricot toy poodles).

They’re essentially white feathered. But each feather is edged with black. So they stand out like a girl in full Goth make-up at a sorority rush. Wyandottes don’t have complicated combs. This allows them comfort in all weather. The fancier combs are cold-sensitive and many chickens will succumb to frost bite sooner than you’d think due to their ‘rose combs’ or ‘folded combs’ or ‘triple combs’.

Like most Heritage breeds, Wyandottes are fairly low-maintenance and generally hardy. They’re also good-natured. This helps when one plans on having visitors to the farm who may wish to help out with the livestock. We don’t want to go scarring some child for life with a bad chicken-handling experience. And some of those fancier breeds have the temperament of varsity cheer-leaders: while they’re gorgeous to look at they’re hell-on-wheels to anyone they perceive as being down the pecking order.

The chicks arrive today, like mail order brides in the Old West. The farm manager and I decided on an unsorted batch of chicks. There will be males and females of their kind in the box we pick up from the post office. We won’t know exactly how many of which for about six weeks–at that point they’ll start doing their gender differentiation thing.

These chickens form an important part of the complex interlocking cycles of being and doing on the farm. We’re counting on them eating bugs when they’re out in the garden in their chicken tractor. And we’re counting on them providing fertilizer at the same time. These are modern chickens in modern days, and we expect ours to multi-task!

Our farm manager spent half of yesterday building a chicken brooder box from scrap plywood and lumber. It’s only three feet by a foot and a half and about twelve inches in height. The chicks will need to crowd together for warmth until they grow real feathers and build up their metabolisms. So this box will be plenty big for twenty-five chicks (in fact, it’s of a size alleged to be large enough to comfortably house fifty day-old chicks up to six weeks of age). We’ve got a heat lamp and a thermometer out with them so that we can closely gauge their condition.

At last, I feel like we’re a real farm. We have livestock. Living creatures with which to interdepend. It’s a great feeling. And the eggs will be tasty too–down the line.

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Responses

  1. How many? I remember looking at Wyandottes when I was mulling over chicken breeds.

    How did you order from, and is it one of the hatcheries that throws in one “special” breed chick in the mix? Sorta like the prize in the box of Cracker Jacks?

    • We got 25, which Dan says was 28 last night when he was checking them for ‘pasting up.’ But one of them looks like s/he is not going to be with us long–the pecking order has this one targeted, no doubt about it. And Yes, there’s a Cracker Jack prize in the batch, though we haven’t quite figures out which one it is just yet. They came in the mail yesterday, first thing. Our Post Mistress call at 7:32 to tell us to come get our chicks.


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