We’ve added six new chicks to our flock this week! (Well, they actually are being kept separate from the existing flock, in a dog crate in a spare bedroom of the house, until they get bigger.) We picked up three on Thursday from Scotts Valley Feed: an Ameraucana (the orange one in the photo below – she will lay blue or green eggs), an Ancona (the black one with white markings – she will lay white eggs), and a Barred Rock (the white one with black markings – she will lay brown eggs).
Today we picked up another three (Scotts Valley Feed has fresh batches of chicks, of rotating breeds, coming in every few days): a Welsummer (the orangish one on the right side of the first photo below – she looks a lot like the Ameraucana!), a Cuckoo Maran (one of the black ones below – I can’t really tell her apart from the Ancona yet), and a white Ameraucana (shown in the second picture below – she evidently didn’t want to join the party!) Both the Welsummer and the Cuckoo Maran will lay dark brown (“chocolate”) eggs, and the white Ameraucana should lay blue or green eggs.
The red tint to the above photos is due to the heat lamp hanging several inches above the chicks. When chicks are hatched by their mother, the mother hen will keep them warm, but chicks purchased from a hatchery must be kept artificially warm for several weeks until their true feathers grow out over their down. You can use white heat lamps, but the red is supposed to reduce glare and let them sleep a little easier, as well as hide any blood from the chicks pecking at each other. The sight of blood on one of their fellows usually makes chickens peck even more, drawing even more blood, and eventually they can really do some damage to each other!
These chicks were sexed (the males separated from the females) at the hatchery, so they should all be female. However, the sexers occasionally make mistakes, so there is always the chance that a male chick is in the batch (Ideal Poultry, the company from which Scotts Valley Feed got these chicks, guarantees 90% accuracy). Hopefully none of the chicks we got are males, but it’s certainly a possibility! One of my projects for next year is to raise some meat birds, but if we end up with a rooster this year, I might have to start that project early….