You can’t turn your back on chicks for too long at this stage, because they grow.
At two weeks, the girls are now getting their shoulder feathers, their epaulets, if you will. They grow at different rates, of course; they are individuals. A single hatch can take 48 or even 72 hours, so a chick might have as much as three-day edge on her siblings from the same clutch.
And, then…there are the boys.
There are two ways to buy chicks: straight run, and sexed pullets. With breeds used primarily for egg laying, the vast majority of people want hens, of course, but Nature’s sex distribution is 50/50, nonetheless. She doesn’t care.
“Sexed pullets”, as it sounds, means the boys have been separated out, and you’re getting girls. “Straight run” means you’re getting unsexed chicks, and might get even more boys than girls. Even if you want to keep a roo, and many people don’t, “they” say one roo to ten hens. The math is unkind to male chicks.
I buy sexed pullets, but sexing day-old chicks is more art than science, and mistakes are made. It’s standard to expect an error margin of 10%. So, if one were to buy twelve chicks, as I did last spring, one might expect the likelihood that there’d be a roo among them. Which there was.
In this respect, chickens are much like humans: girls develop faster than boys. At two weeks, I could tell that “Little Red” was not developing as quickly as the others. “She” was small, and much less feathered-in. And she had a disproportionately large comb…
Little Red became Ruby, and then Ruby became Rudy, and then Rudy became Jack, and then Jack became someone else’s, then dinner for a fox. Sniff.
It’s not easy finding a good home for an unwanted roo; there are too many of them and too little roostering to be done. Many, many of them end up at freezer camp.
All this to say, I have my eye on Little SLW. I only have six this spring, and I’m hoping to dodge the 10% bullet. I suppose there will always be the one who is the smallest, and the furthest behind; that doesn’t, necessarily, make her a him. Right?
But it’s not just her size and feather development. She’s much more timid than the other chicks. She sleeps in the food dish, for one:
A girl after my own heart.
And, when everyone else is out exploring the coop, tearing around, she stays in the brooder and cries for her sisters (Jillian…just noticed she’s the Little Heart Girl!):
I’m not concerned yet, but she bears watching.
The other five baby girls are loving the great outdoors. They were tearing around today, getting airborne with their new wing feathers, even when the big girls were in the coop with them. Haley made a move to go after them, but I pulled her aside and explained how this means she won’t be on the bottom of the pecking order any more. She seemed mollified.
In all seriousness, I had to grab a handful of Haley tail feathers to keep her from going right inside the brooder. Whether she was after the chicks or their feed, I didn’t wait to ascertain.
I’m hoping this kind of supervised visitation, as the girls grow, will help to give Heedley’s Hens 1.0 an attitude of shoulder shrugging “ehn”. My hope is that introducing 2.0 to the flock will become a seamless non-issue.
The five bigger babies are showing signs of increasing bravery and curiosity. They now respond to my voice by coming closer, and seem less likely to flee reflexively when I move. I think I might have my first camera diva:
The back of the iPhone be shiny.
I’m also introducing them to the other fauna of our little homestead. Our new cat, Oliver, has been expressing quite an interest. He saw them at play outside the brooder for the first time today:
He was fascinated, it goes without saying. This is not some pampered house cat. He came to us glossy and well fed after living his first year and a half on his own. He is a survivor, and that means he’s a killer. I went through this with Lucius last spring, and I found exposure to the point of boredom to be the way to go.
Oliver did attempt to get into the coop with them right after this shot was taken, at which point he was vociferously corrected. And, no, he doesn’t have access to them when I’m not there supervising.
The little ones now have sole access to the coop in the afternoon, and their new pink gazebo is coming Friday!