Well, they're here. We ordered chicks and, to our surprise, they arrived on Sunday, April 6th. We had been told it would be the 6th, 7th, or 8th, but didn't think it would be Sunday the 6th. Ok, lesson learned: somewhere, mail runs EVERY DAY!! :)
All the chicks arrived alive and in good condition. We ordered from McMurray Hatchery, and split the order with a lady and her sister. One of her chick's looked a little lethargic, but we couldn't be certain if something was wrong or if it was just tired (after all, they were only hatched on 4.4 at 7:34 pm - they're newborns!). I wish them luck.
We have 13 chicks: 2 Partridge Cochin females, 2 Dark Brahma females (for eggs), 2 Buff Orpington females (for eggs), 4 female Speckled Sussex females (for meat, maybe keep 1 for breeding), Speckled Sussex males (for meat, though we're hoping to find a home for one so we can breed him with our female) & then the one "mystery bird" that McMurray includes for free, one of their exotic breeds - we think it may be a Silver Wyandotte or a Silver Pencil Rock, but we'll see. Speckled Sussexes were a very popular table bird in England over 100 years ago, so this is why we chose it as our meat bird. We really wanted all heirloom breeds.
So far, they're doing well. Shannon really likes them and has been very sweet with them. On the way home from the post office, when we still had all 27 birds who were peeping like crazy, Shannon was saying the following things: "Don't worry baby chicks, we're getting you home," and "The baby chicks want to watch 'Ice Age' with us and then play on the floor" -- wouldn't THAT have made for an interesting YOU TUBE video!?!? ha ha ha!! He also fed them this morning when he got up, without my knowledge or consent, but no harm done, and had to say goodnight to them before he went to bed. Tristan likes them, but seems to forget about them quickly. He likes being picked up to see them, will walk in there to check them out, but mostly so far he seems to delight in the ability to get into all sorts of mischief while I am busy trying to care for them. Which, once Shannon saw me making sure their butt's weren't gunked up with poo he now lets me know, MANY TIMES OVER, that they're pooping in their crate and need their butts wiped. Do we have a gene or something that gives us a pre-disposition to potty humor??
Either way, there is no going back now. Our neighbors don't yet know they're actually here. The chicken tractor is pretty much finished, but they can't go out there for another 22 days, and even then not full-time, just to learn to forage.
I'm eager to have chicken back on the menu here, though I don't plan to axe all the Sussexes ASAP. I'm eager to have fresh eggs of course. I'm anxious to see how well this goes over with the neighbors. We'll see.
No matter what though, it is the next step towards being more self-sufficient. We've also begun planting some things in the garden. Another growing season is upon us: always a busy time of year, and yet so full of hope and promise. We've gotten a new cherry tree, ordered new types of seeds: plants we haven't tried growing yet. It is very exciting and yet scary too. We're brewing all-grain beer now too, Justin (with Shannon's help) has been re-building our compost piles, we've begun making and using our own soap, and we've gotten another 25 lbs of freshly ground flour from Wade's Mill.
But, no matter what or where we succeed or fail, we're trying. Our children see this and learn from it. Shannon is obsessive about litter needing to be picked up because he knows "it makes Mother Earth feel better." With the gardens, they see where fruits, veggies and herbs come from and can identify them, they're eager to be involved. Now, with the chicks, they'll see where meat comes from. We've been talking to Shannon about it for a while, but now he'll get to see it. No matter where we succeed or fail we're teaching our children about life, the reality of life, the circle of life, and that is something I can be proud of always.
For more pictures of the chicks, visit my myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/thrillbillygypsy - click on 'Pics' under my main picture, then click the "Our Chickens" photo album. We have photos of each type of bird, and I'm sure there will be more added constantly!