Monday, May 19, 2014

Peepers, Beepers, Quacks, and Honkers

Headcount at this little place here went up last week.  Quite exponentially.  We are now feeding thirty-one more mouths than we were last Monday.

Back in March, I decided to order this year's replacement pullets from the hatchery instead of getting them at the feed store.  In kind of a devil-may-care moment, I decided that I didn't feel like individually choosing and ordering which breeds of layers I wanted and I went with the hatchery special called the "Homesteader's Delight" in which the hatchery sends you 10 brown egg laying pullet chicks of their choice.  I opted to have them arrive during the week of May 12th, when surely the weather would be warm enough to set up the brooder in the garage.

When May 12th (last Monday) rolled around, I got the brooder set up, checked my heat lamps, and washed out the chick waterer and feeder.  Now all I needed was food for the expected newly hatched travelers.

On the 13th, I went to the feed store to purchase chick starter to have on hand for my expected shipment of poultry.  While there, I saw a newly arrived batch of Freedom Ranger broiler chicks, and I decided, on the spot, that I was going to get a dozen of them.  Oh, and then in the next brooder (aka water tank) I spotted some Welsummer chicks.  Welsummers were one of the breeds I considered before opting to let the hatchery choose my 2014 egg layer chicks.  So I told the feed store sales guy to grab me a couple Welsummers and stick them into the box he'd just put my dozen Freedom Ranger chicken nuggets on legs.

Freedom Rangers and Welsummers
(Welsummers have the darker brown feathers with brown stripe on head and back)

Now I had fourteen little chicks in the brooder, which is just a small pen of 2x4's and chicken wire that DS1 made during his high school days. Adding in a second batch would make for cramped quarters before they were feathered out enough to move outdoors. Well, I would just set up our dog crate and use that, plus my extra heat lamp, for the chickies coming by mail.  

Speaking of which. . . I was expecting an email from the hatchery letting me know my order had hatched and was on it's way.  Didn't get an email Tuesday.  Didn't get an email Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, I had the miserable stomach crud of the apocalypse starting about 1:00 A.M.  And wouldn't you know, right about noon, I got a call from the post office saying my chick order had arrived, and could I please come ASAP to pick it up?

Um, no, I could not.  I was in bed, and the furthest I'd made it from bed in the previous 11 hours was to the toilet and back (15 feet?) about ten bazillion times with nasty stuff coming out one end of me or the other.  Getting in the truck and driving to the post office was definitely out of the question.  I wasn't even sure I was still currently alive, or going to be alive, by the time the post office closed that day.

So I did what any sicker than a dog farmer whose husband was out of state on a business trip would do:  I texted my 16yo daughter at school, and told her she had to go to the post office immediately after school ended for the day, and get my chick order!! 

Which actually worked out great, because I'd let her in on a secret a few days earlier.  The Homesteader's Delight I'd ordered was not just 10 randomly chosen brown egg layer chicks.  It was also 2 turkey poults, 2 ducklings, and 2 goslings.  Breeds of the hatchery's choice, of course.  It was more like a surprise package than a poultry order.  DD2 had been asking for years for ducks, so she was more than happy to go retrieve the noisy box of fuzz balls on legs from the post office the very minute school got out that day.

Once home with her package, she set them up in their brooder fashioned out of our dog crate (an extra large dog crate has proved to be a very handy thing to have).  Since then, she has been trying to guess which breeds we have.  

Looks like the hatchery sent us an extra turkey poult, as we have one who looks to be a midget white, and two that are definitely bronze.  The ducks appear to be pekin, but we are not sure of the goslings yet.  They are definitely one of the gray breeds: Chinese, African, or Toulouse.  As for the chicks, as they feather out, we will be able to better tell.  Right now they all appear to be either white or buff types.

an inverted frisbee makes a handy chick feeder in a pinch

For the next few weeks, my garage is alive with peeps (the chicks), beep-beeps (the turkey poults), and the soft little noises of the ducklings and goslings that have not yet deepened into quacks and honks.  Meanwhile, DD2 and I need to get busy constructing a pen and housing for the ducks and geese when they are ready to move outdoors.

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