Friday, August 14, 2015

Like a Cracker Jack Box

My new order of chicks arrived on Tuesday.  I swear, that cheeping, peeping box from McMurray Hatchery is like a Cracker Jack box: you just can't wait to open it, dig to the bottom, and see what your prize is.

For those readers who are unfamiliar with McMurray Hatchery, when you place an order, they always give you the option to receive a free surprise chick with your order.  It's typically a cockerel, but hey, it's a free chicken, right?  So who in their right mind would say no to a free chicken?  And a surprise one at that!  You never know what you're going to find in amongst all your purposely ordered chicks.  Will it have fuzzy legs?  Will it have a pom-pom on it's head?  Will it have stripes? Will it have five toes instead of four? What color will it be?

My April order from McMurray contained a white crested Polish chick as the free surprise.  A cockerel, yes, but he's so adorable with his wild mop of feathers that I think he's going to end up with a name and bump Default out of his spot as the official rooster of this little place here.  (Default, by the way, is named as such because my long time rooster, Animal, passed away last summer, and Default happened to be the only male chick in residence.  I had not planned to keep him after figuring out, at about two months of age, that he was a he and not a she. .  . the feed store had said all their Welsummer chicks were pullets.  But then Animal died, leaving me without a head roo, so Default it was.)

Anyhoo. . . poor Default doesn't know his time at this little place here is numbered.  I'm just waiting for the mop-headed cockerel to learn the ropes (and get well trained in Don't Attack The Humans) by Default before moving Default along.

Well, I found the little mop-head to be so adorable, that when I placed my order for the second set of broilers for 2015--plus a few pullet chicks to boost the laying flock--I purposely ordered a couple of Polish pullet chicks.  Thinking ahead, see. . .  Keep the mop-headed cockerel, get some mop-headed hens, hatch some mop-headed chicks.  Sell said mop-headed chicks, or have DD2 exhibit them at the Fair in 2016 (assuming that the Poultry Shows will not be canceled in 2016 like they were in 2015 due to the avian flu outbreak this past Spring).

I also ordered, in addition to the normal Cornish Cross meat birds, twenty Red Ranger broilers to see how they grow.  And then nearly a handful of Araucana/Americauna pullet chicks, because I really like the bearded green egg layers.  Plus another handful of Silver Laced Wyandottes to give them a try (and keep my 2015 group easily identifiable from my older hens, which will be culled in the coming months).

So, when I got the call from the post office that my chicks were ready to pick up, I couldn't wait to get them home and see what was what in that hatchery box.

First surprise was how full that box was!  Somehow when I was ordering 20 of these and 15 of those (my processor needs a minimum of 30 birds to butcher at once or it isn't worth his time and effort to get out, use, then clean up all his equipment) plus about 10 pullet chicks, I didn't anticipate how many little bodies that actually added up to when you stuffed them in a shipping box.

Then I read the label and found that the hatchery had kindly sent me not just a free surprise chick, but also a free Cornish cross chick and a free Red Ranger chick!  Woo hoo!  Gotta love free chickens!  No wonder that box looked well populated.

K3 helped me unpack the box and introduce the chicks to their home for the next three weeks or so (the brooder, set up again in the garage.)  She really likes petting the chicks, but doesn't care too much for holding them; they are too wiggly.  Which is good, because I don't want her to get too attached to them; most of them will be going to freezer camp in October.

Little white pom-pom head is a Polish chick.

A good cross section of the brooder population currently; the reddish ones are the Red Rangers, the yellow ones are the Cornish cross, the others are pullets.

Do you see the grayish chick near the middle left in the above picture?  That's our surprise chick.  He (I'm assuming it's a cockerel since they usually are) appears to be a coloring called 'blue'.  There aren't very many breeds offered by McMurray that come in blue.  I'm thinking he might possibly be a Blue Andalusian.  In which case he will definitely stay as part of my flock because you just can't order those and be guaranteed to get one that is actually blue rather than black or white with a blue gene.  It's all a toss of the genetic dice, and you don't know which chicks will display the blue coloring until they hatch.  The Blue Andalusians are only order-able as a breed; you can't order just blue ones or just black ones or just white ones.

So not only do I need to come up with a name for my Polish cockerel, I need a name for this blue one too.  And not cull out the Blue Andalusian hen I ordered in 2013 (the batch due for culling as soon as this year's pullets come into lay) who turned out to be have black feathers, not blue ones.

Gotta love McMurray and their Cracker Jack boxes of chicks. :0)

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