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.

Little women? C plus 13.

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?

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!