Picture day. C3.0 on Day 26.

It seemed as though the rain would never stop and the sun would never shine, but it has and it has. Halleluia! I’ve been looking for a day that wasn’t so very cold to take C3.0 out of the brooder and out from under the heat lamp for updated photos. Spreading and preserving the cute, yes, but also informative; I am impatient to know how many hens I have.

(By the way, it might amuse you to know that, in my head, C3.0 is C3PO.)

The sexing is foregone for many of C3.0 (See? You’re doing it now, too.). I am as certain as I can be without pissing off Mother Nature that I have a minimum of two Blue Copper Marans roos. My beloved Big Blue, the biggest, the fastest, the most precocious, who I had hoped would be a hen, crowed on Day 19, dashing my hopes. That his wattles are now a rather spectacular cherry red is just salt in the wound.

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Ladies and gentlechickens, I give you…Big Blue leRoo. If all continues on its current course, Big Blue leRoo will be my Marans rooster. He hatched first, easiest, healthiest, strongest, and biggest. (Wendy, he might well be #37.) I’d be a fool not to use him as the foundation of my breeding program, modest as it is.

Recall that I am naming the Marans after Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters, and the Ameraucanas after Angel characters…my Marans rooster will be named Spike. As I try not to tempt fate whenever possible, he remains Big Blue leRoo for the foreseeable future. How ’bout them wattles, huh? Here he is, at left, with Blue Roo Two:

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Not hard to see who the alpha is, is it? Big Blue leRoo has already begun to peck at me when I clean the brooder, and, thanks to the invaluable guidance of Justine at Les Farms, I know now to ping him when he does so, and force him to recognise my physical superiority. I am the alpha.

That said, Blue Roo Two will be kept as my backup until the fall, at which time, if all goes according to plan (ha!) he will make a fine Marans rooster in someone else’s flock.

Then there are the blue girls, which is to say, what I hope are the blue girls:

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A dramatic difference in combs and wattles, you’ll agree. Although there is likely a slight age difference, it can’t be more than one day, so I don’t think it’s a factor at this point. I will need a blue rooster and blue hens if I’m ever to breed the elusive splash.

Then there are my two blacks. Both of these chicks required help hatching. Medium Black was born 25 days ago, and Scrappy 24. Medium Black may have needed help getting from the shell, but was completely independent thereafter, and never required my help again. That said, she is significantly smaller than the blues.

Scrappy, as you’ll recall, was very high maintenance. She pipped when I had given up hope of any other hatchings, and needed quite a bit of my help, including an after-hatch bath and and elaborate leg bracing to correct weak toes and an inturned left ankle:

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Here they are today:

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They were the wiggliest of the bunch and this shot is the most in focus of all the shots I took. Scrappy, at left, may be tiny, but she is undaunted. She was the only one of the nine who tried to fly off the 3.5 foot roost on which they were perched. As you can see, she is still behind developmentally, but is now making progress.

I believe both of these blacks to be girls, and await the thoughts of more learned chickeneers.

Which brings us to the Lavender Ameraucana trio. I think I lucked out and got a proper breeding trio, one rooster and two hens. I base this conclusion not on combs and wattles, but on the rate of feathering, as I’m told this is a reliable method of sexing in Ameraucanas. From the outset, two of the LAs feathered in quickly, and one slowly.

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Although the roolet, at center, is blurry in this shot, you can see how his feather development differs from that of the pullets on either side of him. He and the girl to the right were born on the first day, making them 26 days old; the pullet to the left is none other than Light Preemie, who has blossomed.

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Assuming I am right (and that’s always dangerous), I am going ahead and giving them their adult names. The roo will be Angel. The larger, more glamourous hen, at right, will be Cordelia, and the perky, come-up-from-behind hen will be Fred. Yes, Fred. Innit she sweet? In the shot above, you can also get a good look at Cordelia’s beard coming in.

So, there you have it: the kids of C3.0, on Day 26. Coming later this week, the babies of T1.0, and the embryos of C3.1.

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Chicken sitter.

Sounds like a scathing insult (you…..chicken sitter!), but isn’t. In fact, for chickeneers who wonder if they’ll ever vacation again, a trusted chicken sitter can be your very best friend.

This past week, I was chicken sitter for NotHeedleyWendy, owner of Purrfect Pet Sitting. She has 8 10-month-old laying hens, and I’m proud to say that I was the one who infected her with the chickeneering bug.

I thought I’d show you some of the pics I took of her girls while I was looking after them. I dropped in one them once a day, at midday, to give them the awesome treat package their momma had prepared for them to have each day (baby spinach, strawberries, oats, corn, sunflower seeds, and I’m sure I’m missing something), change their water, check on their food, collect eggs, and scoop poop. They were remarkably hospitable.

One can’t discuss Wendy’s chickens without mentioning Sausage. When Wendy and I picked out our chicks on the same day, at the same time, from Chicken Debbie the Oracle of Agway (my 2.0, Wendy’s 1.0), the bank had made an error in our favour.

The Hatchery Who Shall Not Be Named had accidentally included some Gold-Laced Wyandottes, so Wendy and I had the option of taking a gold one in place of one or more of the Silver-Laced Wyandottes we had ordered. Being a monochromatic kind of girl, I declined. Wendy did not, and Sausage is the outcome of that decision:

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In’t she purdy?! In addition to being a gorgeous girl, she has the biggest damned Wynadotte comb I’ve ever seen (seriously…it looks like it’s going to fall off):

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Sausage just loves the chicken butt handshake. That was my first order of business each day.

I also had a lot of attention from this Golden Comet, who is either Gladys or Frances, I’m not sure:

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It was a genuine pleasure to look after Wendy’s girls, and they handled their five-day confinement with grace.

The moral of the story is, cherish your chicken sitter, gentle reader, for, without her, you wouldn’t be able to vacation and almost not get back because of Nemo and have your luggage lost.

Not a girl, not yet a woman.

Is there anything harder than waiting for that first egg?

It can be excruciating, especially the FIRST first egg. Pullets can lay their first eggs anywhere from 15 weeks of age to 26 weeks, or even longer, depending on the breed, the environment (cold and darkness are deterrents to laying), and the individual.

Our FIRST first egg was laid in the run, and I wasn’t looking for it when I found it. The first few eggs can be challenging to find, not because the pullet intends to hide them, but because she doesn’t have full control of her laying yet, much like a toddler during potty training. It can be pretty funny watching a beginner layer make an hysterical dash for the nesting boxes; one can almost see the thought bubble above their heads that says: “I gotta goooooooo!!!!!”

Our FIRST first egg was laid by Alexia, which gobsmacked me. Light Brahmas are famous for their long, slow maturation. I was expecting one of our Production Reds to be first, and then little Alexia popped one out. Her eggs may be our smallest to this day (barring Trixie’s farts), but she will always be the first.

I’m much more relaxed about our SECOND first egg this year; it’s easier to wait when one is reaping gorgeous eggs every day. I feel quite the jaded old hat with all my months of experience. Still, it’s fun to watch 2.0 tiptoe into womanhood, little knowing what lies ahead.

Or do they?

The FIRST first layer of 1.0 had no model whatsoever, and she freaked. Poor Alexia! A day or two before she laid her first egg she paced and panted and cried and jumped on my lap for comfort, a decidedly un-Alexia thing to do. There was nothing I could do to help her.

The other nine girls of 1.0 had Alexia’s example to follow, and 2.0 has 1.0. It can’t be a coincidence that 2.0 is taking a keen interest in all things nesty, just as they approach point of lay (or “POL” as we chickeneers call it).

Until Sunday, I would enter the barn during the day and find 2.0 all sitting on the barn floor around The Annex, as Pip laid. After she left, they’d enter the nest, one by one, to inspect what she had left behind. The thought bubbles, again, write themselves:

“What is that?”
“No idea, dude.”
“I saw it come out her butt.”
“Shut. UP. That’s disgusting.”
‘Do you think that might happen to us?”
“I’m not doing that. No way.”

Sometimes, when I enter the barn, I’ll hear Alexia protesting in The Baby Box, a sound not unlike the screech of a hawk, because one of the Silver Laced Wyandottes is perched on the lip of the box, observing her laying process from eight inches above her. How rude!

Today, however, was the final straw.

Nest trends come and go at Heedley’s Hens, as you know. We are in a Hideaway phase, currently, where everyone who’s anyone lays in The Hideaway. Out of (now) nine laying hens, six lay there. This causes several screaming matches a day, and the arguments are to be expected. Today’s logjam, however, was completely unexpected.

Loud complaining brought me into the barn to find Buffy, perched on the tractor’s basket screaming in the direction of The Hideaway. I turned to find not Haley, as per usual, not Coraline, not even Trixie, but the three bad girls of 2.0, Scarlet, Jezebel and Dalila, all jammed in The Hideaway, checking it out.

Off with you, harlots! Let the Buffster lay her egg in peace! Poor Buffy.

That said, this is all a very good sign that 2.0 is thinking about thinking about laying. They’re sixteen weeks old now, almost as big as the 1.0 girls, and their wattles and combs are getting bigger and redder. They’re nowhere near squatting for me just yet, but the day is coming when they will become my willing slaves. Heh, heh, heh.

And, although no egg will ever be as exciting as the First first egg (except possibly, the FIRST first green egg), I know the SECOND first egg will be cause for great rejoicing.

Stay tuned…

Little women? The sequel.

I’ve been keeping my eye on my littlest chick to see if she is a he. She’s smaller than her sisters, but her feather development is significantly ahead of where Jack’s was at this age, and her comb not as prominent. I am exhaling, cautiously.

She is still the smallest, though, and by quite a bit. She is also a Silver Laced Wyandotte, which makes her one of my “good girls”, and, so, she is the first one to get her name.

She is Gidget. Gidget the Midget. I know, I know; very un-PC of me. I just can’t resist a tasty rhyme.

And if Gidget the Midget should turn out to be a roo? Gidget had a boyfriend in all those movies, right? What was his name again? I googled “Gidget’s boyfriend” this morning.

Moondoggie. His name would be Moondoggie. Which is so awesome, I almost want it to happen.

Almost.